Monday, March 9, 2015

The Wonderful Wonders of the Written Word

You are, in a sense allowing me inside your head right now. It is quite likely I am using the voice of your internal narrator for my own. Meaning these words, which I have written, are forming in your mind with the very same voice with which you form your own thoughts.

Though these are merely abstract symbols on page that have no meaning but what you apply to them, they can not only convey emotions, but evoke them.

You are an accident, a happenstance, the product of only a random sequence of events. There are a billion more like you, with lives filled with no meaning, you fight to live but then you die, all that is you will one day very soon pass away.

You disappointed them, yes, you know who I'm talking about. You may even remember their face at that time, that time you profoundly let them down, didn't come through, weren't enough to save them or fulfill them and that's why they left or died or didn't show up. How could you do that? Why are you so weak? How can you be so cruel? Why are you so broken?

You are a treasure, unique in all of space and time, there has never been a one of you and no you will follow. You are not your father or your mother, your brother or your sister, or even your identical twin. You may have 97% of your DNA in common with the stranger down the street, but were you to share 100% your experiences and what you do with them have created and are creating YOU.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made and, even if you do not believe you were purposefully made, you are still a masterpiece; for not only do you exist, but you know you exist, know that you can effect your environment, affect those around you, have dreams and pursue them, believe in a cause and make the conscious decision to fight for it. You have self-awareness, can develop an attitude of self-sacrifice, you have the potential to not only give yourself in defense of your young (which many animals will do) but also to chose to die defending a helpless stranger, to rob death of the weak one nature seems to demand.

Did the previous paragraphs make you feel anything? Make you doubt or smile or smirk? All of that was communicated by squiggles on a page, typed in a messy room which may be very far away from you. All of that was conveyed through a few simple, written words.

Audible speeches inspire passion, can rouse crowds into a riot. Writing can do the same, but I think it's a slower build, more internalized and deliberate; perhaps more often brings about a lasting change in thinking. I wonder if a part of why this is so is because it is the aforementioned voice of your internal dialogue which is filtering the thoughts you read. Through the filter of this voice, those thoughts are at some level mistaken or taken as your own thoughts or, if they are in stark contrast to what we believe, to “hear” them uttered by that familiar internal voice is revolting, for that sentiment surely is not a part of us. Maybe it is for this reason that, sometimes, “the pen is mightier than the sword” for it more directly speaks into your mind and touches places a sword never could, that part which makes our self.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Interruptions in Heaven or God's Biggest Fans

First, in order for you to “buy this” I think I may need to point out some things about Heaven which you may not have thought of before. Do you realize our longest and most detailed view into Heaven is during what is perhaps the most important ceremony to have ever taken place? It is the revealing of The Lamb that was Slain and the opening of the seals which only He could open, it is “The End Times,” which are just that “times” that are temporary.

Now think for a moment about the most important ceremonies which go on in your church, for instance weddings or funerals, if someone were to only be present during those times would they have an accurate picture of what your church normally is? Would they not likely come away thinking it's rather formal or somber rather than a mixture of formal, somber, joyful, fellowshiping, and all the other circumstances which happen in your church's walls?

Keeping the above in mind, now read the rest.

I watched a recent interview of Taylor Swift. As she came out from the back and then periodically throughout the interview the cameras would pan the audience. In this video and in others I have seen throughout the years of different stars, I was utterly amazed that anyone can get so excited merely to be in the presence of another human being that, in reality, they don't even know. To have one of your biggest wishes to be that famous person just touch your hand or (gasp!) give you a hug; to have one of the things you want most in to have a picture made with this person standing next to you.

You've been around those types of people, those people whose excitement is infectious; who though they may not quite convince you to show as much enthusiasm as they, still cause you to show more than you ever would otherwise. If nothing else you smile at their antics and their delight. Their delight in seeing a friend's baby for the first time, of seeing a long-lost loved one, of going on a trip, to a concert of their favorite band, or even going to a place you've gone with them a hundred times before.

Though a small part of you may think they're ridiculous and silly, you still may cherish a memory where you caused that excitement in them, when you made it to the luggage area and where gathered in their arms or when they saw your first child and they seemed to really realize it was the most perfect baby in the world (unlike some other friends and family). One of my very favorite memories is from an “overly” enthusiastic greeting that I received from one of my best friends in college after she first saw me after break; she caught sight of me as I came around a corner, ran to me and almost knocked me over by jumping into my arms.

Some of us, when we get to Heaven, are quite likely going to fall down on our faces before the throne or at the very least hang our heads a little bit, because we can't quite accept that we're allowed to look into the face of God, need reminded we're perfect enough to actually be in the presence of Perfection. Likely, it will be Christ who approaches us and gently lifts us up, or raises our chin and looks us in the eyes with a smile on his face to assure us that we are, in fact, wearing his perfection and that it has become our own.

Then there will be the other type. The type who in death, as in life, have enthusiastically embraced their newness, who truly know they are perfect in Christ. I believe this type will burst into the Throne Room, oblivious to all the solemnity and almost bowl Christ over in their embrace. I suspect that the first few times this occurs after a more somber soul has just recently arrived, there is a sense of shock until they realize that this approach to Christ is just as perfect as their own.

Now, I know that some of you may have a hard time buying into this interruption thing but, if you allow yourself to think about it, can you really imagine Peter or Mary Magdalene first greeting Jesus in any other way? On earth Peter threw himself out of a boat (in his excitement maybe he briefly thought he would again be able to walk on water) in order to get to Jesus sooner and Mary wouldn't stop clinging to her Lord when she first saw him.

I can see Peter running towards Christ yelling, “I made it! Thanks to you I made it!” and Mary embracing and maybe even kissing Jesus (in a purer way than we can even understand before we are given new bodies not made of flesh) saying, “Now you have ascended, is there any reason now I cannot cling to you to show my thanks and love?”

If you still do not believe in these interruptions which I fancy sometimes happen, perhaps my last thoughts will convince you. Have you had anyone in your life who, though grown, has the mind of a child? Who has held onto a child's enthusiasm? Who never developed past a certain point? Have you seen their excitement when they successfully tie their shoes or button all their buttons all by themselves? Or finish a race (and it doesn't matter what place they come in)? Do you really think these innocents will care for propriety when they see something beyond their wildest dreams? See the one who created them and are finally able to understand how he has used their “imperfections” to make them into exactly who he wanted them to be and how their differentness help to shape so many others in their lives for the better? Do you think they will hang their head? No, they will probably shout “I'm here, look at me!” and demand high fives of the Heavenly Host on their rush to their Heavenly Father's throne.

Speaking of innocents. What of those children who knew no real family on earth, who left life early because of neglect or war or famine? While on this earth Christ said, “Let the children come to me for Heaven belongs to such as these.” Will he not say the same in Heaven? When one of those young souls are welcomed home, will his lap not be waiting? I think those starved souls will see Him seated and know exactly what he wants, for it is part of what they were created to want, to be loved and touched and cherished.

Yes, I believe Heaven is about worship and praise. Yes, Christ and his Father are more majestic than anything we can begin to imagine, more awe-inspiring than our minds can now comprehend. But also our God is Love and we are reminded again and again that we are the Bride of Christ. The Church's relationship to Christ is compared to the relationship of a husband and wife and I firmly believe that we are called to try to work on and perfect our relationships here because they can better teach us how to relate to our Creator and will allow us to have a better relationship not only here but also There.

I do not think I will run into Christ's arms or run to hug my Father's knees but I do not think I will be too shocked when I see some of my Family do those very things. Then I will know some of God's biggest and most enthusiastic fans have just walked or rather ran through Heaven's door.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Review of Sorts for The Hero of Ages: Book Three of Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

This is going to be more a “how I felt about the book,” than a real review, not because there isn't much to talk about or I didn't like it much (I thought it was great and want to buy the trilogy) but because I just don't think I can write much, if anything, about the plot without giving away major spoilers for the first two books.

If you've read my review of the first two books or read the books themselves, you know a major theme is trust. In the third book this theme continues, with Vin and Elend having to learn to trust each other even further in their relationship and how they respond to situations around them. It also deals with the flip-side, how some can develop a sense of trust only to use it for their own goals benefit.

In my last review I'm not sure how much I discussed that there is also a theme of self-sacrifice, especially putting the needs of your followers/people ahead of your own.

The third book develops the theme of sacrifice tenfold. Elend continually questions whether he is being too ruthless, that he is requiring his citizens to give up too much for “the greater good” but he gives up just as much in his own life. He is compelled to use force to relocate citizens to where they will be safer, asks his soldiers to expose themselves to a potentially deadly enemy they cannot fight (but allows those who wish to go the freedom to do so), and fears he is becoming like his ruthless father or even the emperor he helped to overthrow.

There is also a strong theme of servant leadership, with Vin, Elend, and Sazed (and other characters as well) putting aside the selves they are most comfortable being, what perhaps they even view as their “true selves,” to be instead the people those they serve need them to be because of their potential and the abilities they possess. This theme hit somewhat close to home with me, there are some jobs/volunteer opportunities I know I would excel at, in which I know I could do great good, but I shy away from those things because I know they would hurt me (emotionally) and they scare me (I'm scared I may break). The three individuals previously mentioned give their all for others, for those they know and those they don't. They know themselves well enough to know recognize their talents and, though it costs them tremendously to use those talents, they do so for the sake of others. And perhaps, as Christians or even simply human beings who feel called to give the best of ourselves for the benefit of humanity, the way we can most deeply fulfill our purpose is to seek opportunities in which we can most fully use our gifts...even if it will eventually use us up. I suppose the comfort in being a Christian is that, if or when we break, God can put us back together and, even if this world uses us up, we will be restored and made new in another realm.

Yet another theme is hope. How people can come to depend on you when you are the hopeful one when their own hope is lacking. How it is easier to face trials when there is a hope to hold onto and how it can give you strength.

As you can tell, though these books are fantasy, they are deep enough to cause one to think and wonder. The characters continue to grow throughout the trilogy, in themselves and in relation to each other. I highly recommend them and venture to say that those normally not particularly fond of the fantasy genre may find enough depth and character development to reconcile you to this fantastical realm.

A word of caution to all readers: Sanderson isn't scared to kill off important characters, so if that is a deal-breaker, consider yourself warned. Some authors kill characters off in such a way that you feel cheated and empty but Sanderson does it in a way as to leave you somber and thoughtful.  

For those interested, here is my review of the first two books in the trilogy...also, it's a little more of an actual review. :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Little Tangent About That Grocery Item You Always Forget You Already Have

I don't think I'm the only one that does this. I know at least one of my aunts told me she does (though her often bought item is sauerkraut). You go to the grocery store and get things you think you need and, even if you have a list, you pass by that one thing and think, “I'm not sure I have any of that, I think I may need it,” only to get home and discover you already have not one but multiple boxes/cans/etc. waiting for you.

For me that item is refried beans. I have not one but four cans of refried beans and, on the rare occasion I use them, one can can get me through two or three meals. Refried beans are about the least versatile food there is, it's basically have them in a tortilla, on a tortilla, or with tortilla chips.

Why can't my item be something like chicken? You can fix chicken a million different ways. You can invite friends over for chicken and not have your living room be filled with noxious odors if your friends stick around.

Or bacon? If it was bacon I could be one of the manliest men around. “You guys want to come over later to watch the game? Instead of chips and dip I'm serving bacon and dip. I even made some cups...out of bacon.”

I would probably have a troupe of man's best friend just waiting outside my door, because, well, one man can only eat so much bacon before he starts to share. Just think of all those wagging tails that could be waiting for me.

But no, my item is refried beans, so I shall sit here all alone and contemplate how much methane I can produce as compared with cows. And hey, I think the beans have lard in them, which is kind of related to bacon. Also, according to that wise old rhyme, they're good for your heart.

*Note: I actually went to my parents house tonight and fried a bunch of fish and had a lot of other stuff, too, so I'm not really sitting all alone with a can of beans...though I may be some time in the future. I also never watch “the game,” I'm just not that interested in any of them.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Brief Detour Into Frivolity: A List of Some of My Current Favorite Celebrities

Apart from a long-time crush on Natalie Portman (mainly based on roles from two of her movies) and an off and on crush on Rachel McAdams, I have never really followed or been interested in celebrities and watching their interviews. Even for the previous two, I have very rarely watched interviews with them but recently there have been a few celebrities whose interviews I search out and enjoy watching and even enjoy learning some about their lives. So here is my celebrity favorites list and what I would like to do with each of them (spoiler alert, it's not anything dirty), in no particular order.

  1. Jennifer Lawrence. I think this girl is one of the funniest, most ridiculous, and adorable actresses out there right now. I've heard she can curse like a sailor, so I know I wouldn't like that aspect of her, but I would like to find a really really bad/corny movie and watch it in a living-room group setting with her (with her providing plenty of narration of course). I love watching her interviews and enjoy her acting but I can't decide whether I would greatly enjoy hanging out with her or if she would drive me crazy. I think we would get along great in small doses. She would probably only tolerate me if she got my dry humor, otherwise I would be too bland.
  2. Emma Watson. I admire this woman, for the character she got to play in Harry Potter and the woman she is today. I would love to get coffee with her to talk about books, current world events, and her work with the UN. I think she is smart, charming, and lovely. The thing I think I would be most nervous of is appearing a little ignorant.
  3. Emma Stone. I think she is one of the most adorable and charming girls around. I would love to spend the day with her and Andrew Garfield (her boyfriend or past boyfriend) hiking or kayaking. I think they are cute together and genuinely think I would get along with both of them, especially if they were together.
  4. Logan Lerman. He just seems like a sweet, likeable kid. I thought he was perfect in Perks of Being a Wallflower and I'm looking forward to seeing him in Fury. I think he, Andrew Garfield and I share similar personalities and think they may be oddball enough for me to get along with well.
  5. And lastly, Taylor Swift. At certain times (especially when she does not have a lot of makeup on) I have thought she was quite beautiful but, and I know may seem odd, I never really developed a crush on her until I saw the video for Shake It Off. I love that even with all her fame, she doesn't take herself too seriously and isn't afraid to be a little dorky (which is one of the things I like about Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence as well). I also love that she is getting attention for being so supportive of some of her female friends. Speaking of her female friends, I think it would fun to make dinner with a couple of them and Taylor and then watch a movie. In high school and college I used to sometime be a part of “girl nights” and I think Taylor would be someone fun to experience this with. P.S. One day one of my sisters and I were talking about Taylor Swift and out of nowhere she said, “Your not allowed to date her.” So even if I ever got the chance, I guess I'd have to let it pass by. :)

A couple things I think all of these people have in common is that they are all sweet and intelligent people.

I know fame has a lot of advantages (and I believe some of the above people are using those advantages to help humanity), a lot of perks but I also know I probably would not handle fame well. I am a very passive and laid-back person but if paparazzi was getting in my face and especially in the face of someone I care about, I may have a hard time not throwing a punch or uttering a few threats. I know celebrity houses/estates are often very excessive but I can somewhat understand why so many indulge in that excessiveness. Those compounds are a refuge to attempt to keep prying eyes and listening ears at arms length. I think I would have to take the Johnny Depp approach and live in a place where not many people care about my fame.

I feel like I should say that if I were to make a list of favorite actors, as far as how well I like their acting, it would be a little different. Note: some of these people I do not like in “real life” I merely think they act well and typically chose good parts.

In no particular order:

  1. Dakota Fanning. I've thought this girl was an amazing actress since she was tiny (in I Am Sam and Man on Fire)
  2. Denzel Washington (good guy, bad guy, good guy who's ruthless, he can do them all)
  3. Tom Hanks (I may have thought Castaway was boring, but he still did an amazing job)
  4. Ashley Judd (she's so strong, I love her in Kiss the Girls)
  5. Morgan Freeman
  6. Will Smith (well, minus that After Earth or whatever one he recently did with his son)
  7. Tom Cruise
  8. Jennifer Lawrence (she made it onto both of my lists)
  9. Leonardo Dicaprio (there may be a lot of his movies I don't really like, but he does a an excellent job)
  10. Natalie Portman (if you think she always plays the same cute/adorable character then watch The Other Boleyn Girl, actually don't, it's a sad, twisted movie that makes you hate Ms. Portman)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Life and the Significance of Creating Earth

In my last post I spoke of our life on earth and how its significance pales when compared with the life that is to come and, in a way it does, but it may also be that our brief time here might be the most important part. Just think, something about our experiences here are so significant and worthwhile that God was willing to risk our eternal soul in order for us to have these earthly experiences.

He could have (and did in the form of angels and other heavenly beings) simply made us purely spiritual beings, could have skipped earth and just had us in Heaven (that's not to say that we couldn't have still rebelled, obviously some of the angels did, but I think our rebellion would have been less likely and maybe the angels rebellion as well). But he created earth and, though he may not have originally created it with death, decay, and temporariness, he knew it would become such. He knew that our bodies would break down, knew they were fallible, and the world we live in breakable but he was willing to risk it, risk us because there is something here which we can gain.

I won't pretend to know what that gain is, but I will attempt to guess. First, maybe it was just so the God-head could enact the ultimate display of love through the life and death of the Son on earth. If the world had never been created, if the eternal Heaven was all there ever was, God could tell his creatures “this is how much I love you, I would become temporal, fallible, breakable, 'temptable.' I would be broken for you, allow you to tear my heart to pieces, and then offer to save you. I would be a sacrifice for your sake” and it would be no less true than it is now, but in acting that out on this little ole earth I think it changed something about reality, about how heavenly creatures view the God they worship and creates a relationship for us to God that otherwise would be impossible (and I'm not just talking about how that Gesture solved our fallenness).

A life here on earth also perhaps allows us to appreciate certain aspects of God which we would not find as awe-inspiring had we not experienced decay, fallenness, the breaking down of all around us, and pain. Perhaps through our seeing so much imperfection, we will better be able to see perfection.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

God's Preparation For Work Here or for Life in Heaven

A few months ago someone in our church said something like, “I'm starting to wonder what God is preparing me for, I'm getting old.” Meaning that they don't feel they have accomplished a specific great work for God and they don't foresee that great work in their future.

Well, I think sometimes God does have a particular “great work” he is preparing us for, that he uses all other happenings in our life to prepare us for and causes all things to work together in such a way that we are “at the right place, at the right time” and have been prepared perfectly for just that situation, to accomplish that specific grand work.

But sometimes I think God “just” uses this life to prepare us for our life in Heaven, that in some lives there are no “great works” but just little, simple ones (in man's terms) that still have eternal significance, that still echo beyond time. And I think such a life is more than okay, for this life pales in significance, is a “mere breath” when compared to the Life that is to come. So all our preparation, even if it accomplishes nothing of grand significance while we are here, is no less important, indeed is even more important, than a preparation which prepares us for anything here, no matter how grand.