Monday, June 28, 2010

Music...

I've already done something very similar to this, but I wanted to do it again. :D
I know some of you have noticed this, and I'm curious as to what others think of it.
What am I talking about?
Love songs.
Mushy, romantic, beautiful... whatever.
And how they can illustrate our relationship to Christ.
I love hymns, but sometimes they just don't seem to say enough of what I'm feeling. This may simply be because it is difficult to find beautifully recorded hymns, or that they have become, if possible, overused, and so too familiar. But there are other songs, with beautiful music and sung by extremely talented singers, which I think can be even more special than a hymn sometimes.
Like...
"You Raise Me Up"
When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up... To more than I can be.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up... To more than I can be.

There is no life - no life without its hunger;
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;
But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up... To more than I can be.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up... To more than I can be.

You raise me up... To more than I can be.

Ok, this one I always think of as a hymn. And I know I'm not the only one, because if you type in "Is You Raise Me" into Google, immediately "A Hymn, A Religious Song, A Christian Song" pops up. :) I think it's pretty obvious.

"My Confession"
I have been blind, unwilling to see
The true love you're giving.
I have ignored every blessing.
I'm on my knees confessing

That I feel myself surrender
Each time I see your face.
I am staggered by your beauty,
Your unassuming grace.
And I feel my heart is turning,
Falling into place.
I can't hide
Now hear my confession.

I have been wrong about you.
Thought I was strong without you.
For so long nothing could move me.
For so long nothing could change me.
Now I feel myself surrender
Each time I see your face.
I am captured by your beauty,
Your unassuming grace.
And I feel my heart is turning,
Falling into place.
I can't hide
Now hear my confession.

You are the air that I breath.
You're the ground beneath my feet.
When did I stop believing?

Cause I feel myself surrender
Each time I see your face.
I am staggered by your beauty,
Your unassuming grace.
And I feel my heart
Falling into place.
I can't hide
Now hear my confession.
I can't hide
Now hear my confession.
Hear my confession

This song, I actually did not think of that way at all, but reading through the lyrics, I realized (after I saw how much the Bible talks about the Beauty of Holiness and began to see the beauty of the Lord) what a salvation experience song it is. We are blind until our eyes are opened to God's great love for us. We think we are strong, until we realize our need for the Lord. It is not until we surrender to Him that our heart "falls into place." And really, who else could be the very air we breathe and the ground beneath our feet? Jesus Christ is our Life, the Rock on which we stand.

"Bring Me To Life"
How can you see into my eyes like open doors
Leading you down into my core
Where I've become so numb without a soul
My spirit sleeping somewhere cold
Until you find it there and lead it back home

Wake me up
Wake me up inside
I can't wake up
Wake me up inside
Save me
Call my name and save me from the dark
Wake me up
Bid my blood to run
I can't wake up
before I come undone
Save me
Save me from the nothing I've become

now that I know what I'm without
you can't just leave me
breathe into me and make me real
bring me to life

Bring me to life
I've been living a lie, there's nothing inside
Bring me to life

Frozen inside without your touch without your love
Darling only you are the life among the dead

All this time I can't believe I couldn't see
Kept in the dark but you were there in front of me
I've been sleeping a thousand years it seems
Got to open my eyes to everything
Without a thought without a voice without a soul
Don't let me die here
There must be something more
Bring me to life

Bring me to life
I've been living a lie, there's nothing inside
Bring me to life
This one I actually just happened to see the lyrics for - and went wow, I can't imagine that one being sung to anyone but Jesus Christ. (Apparently some people think it would be a great song for Twilight...) For those who want new life in Christ, though, doesn't this fit? Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find one that I like to listen to, but what do you think of the words? I thought they were interesting. :)
"Bridge Over Troubled Water"
When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you

I'll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

If you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

And an answer. :) He will wipe all tears from my eyes, and He asks that I cast my cares upon Him, for He cares for me.

"All Love Can Be"
I will watch you in the darkness
Show you love will see you through
When the bad dreams wake you crying
I'll show you all love can do
All love can do

I will watch by the night
Hold you in my arms
Give you dreams where no one will be
I will watch through the dark
Till the morning comes

For the lights will take you
Through the night to see
All love, showing us all love can be

I will guard you with my bright wings
Stay till your heart learns to see
All love can be
And we will never know all that love can be until we know God, who is Love. He is the One who never sleeps, the Guardian of my soul, and the One who shelters me under His wings. Cool...
So, anyone else have similar songs that mean more to you than was originally meant in the song? I find music so very powerful and so very amazing, that I love to see glimpses of God's great love for me in songs that otherwise would really have nothing spiritual about them. I'd love to hear of any that you thought of!
Keep Seeking Him! :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010




Just some verses I really liked... I memorized the middle one, and thought it might be easier to memorize them if they looked really pretty. :) Maybe I'll memorize the other two now!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hope



blogger

Two thoughts... this can be surprisingly hard. :) Let's see what comes first...



Ah...
1.)Reading Jeremiah 18, I find myself realizing once more the need for action in our country. The need for obedience to God. The need to have true hope.


"O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them... Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good. And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart."


So often I look around me and say, "There is no hope." I see how very far my country, how very far the world, has slid away from following God, how close we are to the point of no return. The signs of the times are not indicating peace and prosperity, but rather, I truly think, the end of the world. I watch the swiftness with which we fall helplessly, hopelessly discouraged that I can ever make a difference. Then I read this and realize that it is never too late. At what instant God declares judgement, He is still willing to turn from punishing , still asking for repentance. His mercy is so great!

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

This is His promise. Why should I waste time mourning how far gone our country already is? Peter says, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." I truly can make a difference to every man that asks me. There is no place for discouragement in my life when I am following my Lord. All is does is take my strength, lessen my ability to work for Him. The darker the land about me, the brighter His light can shine through me. We don't have to give up on America. Even now, if we will all turn to God, He will still heal our land.



"But I will hope continually,and will yet praise Thee more and more."



2.) Looking for something beautiful, for something inspiring, I pulled one of my absolute favorite books off the shelf - appropriately entitled Hope Rising. I love this book; I received it as a gift years ago, and reading it gave me one of the first glimpses of how God could give a vision, and transform horror and pain into beauty and glory. The book is amazing. Suddenly I'm realizing these 2 thoughts are connected, but this excerpt might inspire you more than my own scattered thoughts. :) Read slowly, and see the goodness of God in these words, written by someone whose parents died in a murder-suicide when she was only 9.


"When our hope falls to its knees and takes its last gasp before death, there is an answer. It is simple. It lies free for every soul to choose. When you are surrounded, instead of anxiously looking from side to side, look up. Change your view with a new perspective.


Look up and see what the Maker sees. Instead of a destroyed circle, He sees a vital clearing where the light of truth can penetrate. Instead of a ring of ash, He sees previous snaring distractions burned into usable nutrients. Instead of barrenness, He sees a circle where something enduring can grow, something that is beautiful, something that is permanent.


God doesn't see wild flames on every side lapping at our souls. he sees cleansing fire that consumes the dross of complacency. he sees hearts tempered with strength, purified like gold.


God doesn't see a descending black fog encircling its shrouded victims with the icy grip of despair. He sees a temporary veil that encourages faith to rise out of meandering convenience and be galvanized with power into a force that moves mountains.


God doesn't see a hungry precipice yawning open to swallow us whole. He sees the perfect opportunity for hope to unfurl its wings and soar free over logic that tells us what is and isn't possible.


Even the utter devastation of death's finality before God is not final. It is His desire that our loss with embolden and motivate us to love those who remain with even greater passion and selflessness...


When we feel like we're surrounded, it is only because we truly are - we are surrounded by His love.


It is true, the pain that we feel in this life is certain. What is equally certain is how we choose to feel about the pain. It can destroy us - or define us.


Like standing on a mountainous trail, we can choose which way to go. We can choose where we end up. When confronted by pain, we can choose to take descending trail that most often leads to a dark and lonely place, pitted with mires of helplessness, hopelessness, despair.


Or we can select the ascending trail and, with some effort and perseverance, we can choose to allow our pain to motivate us toward becoming better people, to move us toward a better place. A place where love transcends selfishness, where faith bulldozes the "what ifs," and where peace enfolds the heart like a warm blanket. It is a place where joy takes on as many faces as humanity. It is a place where flowers bloom in ash.


Like an unstoppable wave of light pouring over the horizon, it is a place where hope rises."




May hope rise in you today, and may "the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Because of a somewhat crazy weekend, busy-ness, and poor Internet connection, my posts got little messed up. So, just pretend this is my Father's Day post. :D

With Father's Day this weekend and all, I'm kind of going backwards, looking specifically for some qualities in my dad that can remind me of God. I don't think I've ever tried that before, and I'm not totally sure what it will look like, but here goes.... I'll see how many I can come up with before I need to get off here. :)

He always tells me I can do it (whatever "it" happens to be.) He always tries to make sure that I'm not worried about accomplishing what I need to, and always reminds me of what I am good at and what God has made me able to do.

God tells us in His word over and over that nothing is impossible with Him. That we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. That we do not need to worry about the future. That we can trust in Him and in His power to do what needs to be done. That He is the only One we need to fear and that whatever He has called us to do, He will enable us to do it.

He's always willing to help - when it's important. :) If I don't understand my Calculus homework, he will take the time to help me figure it out, go over it with me, even if it's really late at night. If I need something fixed so that I can meet a deadline, he will try as hard as he can to help me out. Things I can do myself... he doesn't generally like to do for me. :)

This is actually something my family was just talking about... Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do. You know, if you are working for someone and they give you a job, it's perfectly normal to go your boss and say something like, "The printer at the desk is out of ink. Is it okay if I use the printer in the copy-room in order to print out that list you wanted?" Your boss is quite likely to agree to your request and give you what you need or tell you to do something differently (unless he happens to be Pharaoh, of course). However, if you go to your boss and ask something along the lines of, "I'm trying to use that printer at the desk so I can print out all the e-mails I ever received and that printer is out of ink. You really need to let me use the copy-room so I can keep working on that," he probably will not respond in a very positive way! Yet somehow we find it so easy to forget what James says: "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." We forget that the rest of that verse in John says, "that the Father may be glorified in the Son." That's why God gives us gifts and helps us - so that we can accomplish what really matters, not so we can have a perfect life and get everything we ever wanted!

He doesn't change (very much anyway, lol). My dad is a "Golden Retriever," a "steady." That was actually one of the first things that my mom liked about him - he wasn't a volatile, moody, up-and-down type of person. :) It's very hard to convince him of something, and once he has chosen a course of action, he follows it. Once he decides something, he sticks to it. If he tells me something one day, I can pretty much bet on the fact that he will say the exact same thing months - maybe even years - later. Of all the people I know, he has probably changed the least in all years I've been alive (not that I've been alive so incredibly long, but...) :)

It's so cool that God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is not a man that He should repent, or change His mind. I can know that what is in the Bible holds true throughout eternity. I can have be safe in the knowledge that God is not different each day when I come to Him - He's always the same, always perfect, always loves me. He doesn't have "moods" and no one can "convince" God that they are right and He needs to change His mind, or influence Him to be different.



Okay, there's the first 3 things I thought of, and although God has taught me some amazing things about Himself, about relationships, about... life, through my dad, there is actually quite enough for a separate post or even posts, so I am stopping now. :D

I'll just say Thanks, Dad, for being there, for being my dad, and for everything you have taught me. Happy Father's Day! Thank you especially for helping me to seek after God and His kingdom. I love you!

Monday, June 14, 2010

THE WORLD IS OVERPOPULATED?

Um... If every man, woman, and child in the entire world moved to the United States, they could each have just over 1/3 of an acre. That would leave the whole rest of the world without a single person, and give the average family an acre to live on. Pretty amazing...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fellowship...

I hope I'm not boring anyone with these... but again, somehow Rio helps me see spiritual truth.
Really! She does! :)


After her leg healed up a little bit two years ago, I stopped boarding her and brought her home for the winter. (The first winter in my entire life where I went outside every day - and hauled frozen water buckets back and forth and cleaned a horse stall every morning!! It also happened to be the coldest winter in the past ten years... or did it just feel like it?)

It was fun... (ever tried lunging a horse using a fishing pole with rope tied to the end for your whip? You actually can make those things cra-a-ck!) But when spring came, the mosquitoes in our woods were absolutely horrendous. (We've had the county-extention-for-pest-control-people (or whatever you call 'em) stand amazed in our yard at the incredible numbers of mosquitoes we have. It's bad.) She started looking like she had mumps, she had so many mosquito bites! So I took her back to board her again.

The first thing, of course, was to make sure that she and the other two horses in her pasture would get along. (As far as we know, she went through the wire fence at her previous owner's because she was running from the other horses.) So, we put her into the arena with one of the other horses. I'm standing there, tensely watching, like what's going to happen?!

She just stared at the other horse like she was seeing things.

Then she went tearing up to him like he was her long-lost mother, calling to him with such excitement that I suddenly felt really bad. I realized that the entire winter, she had been silent. Once in a while she'd whinny or neigh, but she ate in silence, followed me in silence, and walked her pasture in silence. I'd assumed that since we had four cats in the barn with her, two dogs running around, quite a few chickens and peacocks, besides all of us there so much of the time, she wouldn't be lonely.
Aparently she was. Really lonely.

The other horse ended up chasing her around a little bit, but she just wanted to get close to him. After that, every time I put her out in the pasture, she'd go running to find the other horses. Even though they weren't as thrilled to see her (one of them actually enjoyed biting her...) >:( she wanted to be near them. She'd eat by them, stand by them... In fact, if you want to see (again?) a video I made of her last year:

video

She wanted to be near them so badly! (Although I think she'd learned not to get too close.) :)

Yesterday I went out to the barn and was reminded of this all when I saw her and her pasture-mate standing together under the lean-to. All the horses turned to look when I came around the corner - it was so cute!

But I realized that I do the same thing to myself. I know the Bible says "let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Some Sundays that's all that makes me want to go to church (I have to get up because the Bible says so...). :/ But I tend to equate "going to church" with this verse. That's not what it's saying, though.
Consider one another, provoke unto love and to good works, exhorting one another... I need to be with other Christians so that, "if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up... And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

I tend to be a "Lone Ranger" type person - pretty happy by myself, able to be happy and enjoy myself and even get a lot more done when there's no one else around.

I'm realizing, though, that even the Lone Ranger had someone to help him out. "It is not good that the man should be alone." This is in the context of marriage, but Adam had no one.
He had God! But the first thing that was not good about Creation was Adam's aloneness.

I usually think I'm okay when I am alone - when I go to church and come home without having had been considered, provoked, or exhorted. When I see a few people and talk a little bit with them. When I'm around some family member or another.
It's not until I actually get together with someone and spend time with them, have a serious conversation, pray together, that I realize how much I've missed that!
I've always been someone who shares little of myself, with few people. I like to have a few very close friends (my mom being a major one!) :)

Some people have many friends,
are comfortable sharing a lot of themselves.

I don't really know that either is better or worse, but we all need other people, other Christians, around us. And obviously the people in Hebrews 10 were needing to get together with more than their family!

If we aren't in actual fellowship with other Christians, I think there is a real danger that we will become silent. Once in a while we'll be witnesses... but if we are continually surrounded by those who do not know Christ (cats, dogs, chickens, and humans?) we are un-ready to speak. Spending time with others who know Him, however, strengthens, prepares, and helps us to be His witnesses to others.

I've discovered that Rio isn't the quiet horse I used to own... Instead, she's learned to live with the other horses in her pasture and to interact well with me.

I hope you are enjoying good fellowship today as you seek Him together with other believers!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall

This week's is a little late... but today I got over and rode Rio again (maybe it's the only time I can think or something?) (just kidding) :D so, you can expect another weekly whatever-it-should-be-called. :)


I didn't have a camera, or I would have gotten a new picture, but this is from this winter - a year and a half after Rio went through a fence for the second time. It might look pretty obvious to you - but if you had seen her leg even as soon as I saw it (which was quite some time after it happened) you would absolutely amazed. I took a lot of pictures then, too, but... yuck.

Anyway... there has always seemed to be mostly "red" horses born at the barn where I worked for years. (They happen to not generally strike me as beautiful, not that there's anything wrong with them.) :) Every spring there would be a few sorrels and a bay and maybe a brown. Then a black horse was born. He was gorgeous - maybe the most striking horse I'd ever seen that close. (One of them, for sure!) I was very tempted.... but when I looked at him, I couldn't help but think, he was meant for something else. Somehow I could not picture him just hanging out in a pasture, waiting for me to find time to trail ride him once in a while. He would be an amazing show horse - trained by the best, out doing something in front of lots of people.
Then Rio came along.
I almost fell for her... but again, one of the reasons I didn't was a feeling that she could do so more much with someone else. (i.e. with someone who rides every day instead of once a month, anyone??)

When she went through the fence, that changed. She was no longer a perfect horse. Both hind legs had been ripped wide open, the right one (just before I got her) clear to the bone. She was hurt, unwanted, and - I got her.

Today I brushed her all up and was again amazed at how well she had healed. She looks (and acts)... pretty much perfect.
When I get a hold of a camera again, I'll have to post a more recent picture - it looks good! If you want to see what it looked like last winter (after several months of bandaging - meaning after it was mostly healed), I'm putting a picture of that up too - but way at the end of this post in case you don't share my fascination with medicine and healing. It isn't pretty, just sayin'. :)

Lately, I've also been thinking about scars that people have - emotional, mental, maybe physical. How they can define us (I come from a dysfunctional family - what do you expect from me?) - or how they can be used by God. Rio's scars make it possible for me to use her - or for me to be comfortable with her, to relate to her, you could say. (Even if that sounds weird, lol...) :)

Not only can God heal our scars, fix them so that they do not cripple us, not only can He still use us despite the scars - He can take them and use them in ways that we could never imagine! Because of them, others can relate to us, can be influenced by us, can be comfortable with us, in ways that they could not were we "perfect."

Everyone has different scars; some have only a scratch, others have been cut "to the bone." Some are easy to see, others are perhaps invisible to everyone else. When we see scars - or feel them- we tend to think something is less valuable, less wonderful. But it was because Rio was hurt that I got her. Every time I look at her legs I am amazed and happy at how good they look and that she's my horse. I never go "Oh, it's so ugly." We can go around thinking, "Oh, no, I'll never be able to be in a show pen because of this," or we can see what amazing things God has planned for us!


That just made me happy today, and I hope it encourages you as well!







and, if you want to see the picture...






it's coming...







I just don't want to gross anybody out. :)







Even though this picture actually looks good compared to the months before... :P



Romance...

What's really wrong with romance in stories? Truth be told... I think that I love romantic books and romance in general, best. If I could only read or write one thing - it would have to be romance. And, the more I think about it, it needn't even be Christian romance - simply romance would be enough.

"What is romance? I suppose the general idea of romance would be - stirring adventures, hair-breadth escapes, great deeds wrought, great perils faced, exciting stories. But these are not all. There might be all these, and yet no real romance. It might be a very exciting thing if a burglar were to leap from a high-up window with a lady's jewels under his arm - but would we call that romantic? I don't think so. We might call it romantic, however, if the house was on fire, and someone who knew there was a child asleep in the top story, rushed in, saved the child, and leaped from the window with it in his arms. Especially if, though he did not know it at the time the child proved to be a near relation of his own - his brother's or his sister's child - that would indeed be romance.
What makes the difference? The high moral qualities engaged. The exciting adventures and all the rest are but the outward adornments - these are the things by which God touches our hearts, and shows us that the men and women who did them were inspired by that "breath of life" which He breathed into us at our creation.
Take, then, our motto as the definition of romance - "All high deeds that make the heart to quiver" - and they do quiver when we hear or read them! But what are they? "Courage, high endurance, generous deed." And we must add something else. There would not be much romance in the world if we all stood separate, like grains of sand - near, yet apart from each other in mind and heart. No, it is the strong and tender human affections which make the most attractive part of all romantic stories. It may be the kind of love usually called romantic; or, just as truly, the deep, deep, love of friend for friend, of brother for brother, of parent for child, or of child for parent... All these help to make true romance." ~Deborah Alcock

Thursday, June 10, 2010

So... The Midnight Dancers



So... I said I might do a review of this book.
Well... here it is, though it might not be a typical review. :)
First of all, though, I want to quote the author, Regina Doman:

There's a deeper reason why you might not like Rachel. Some of you have picked up certain Christ-like elements in my portrayal of Paul. Well, this book was my first stab in fiction at the relationship the Bible makes its central theme: the relationship between God and His people: Yahweh and Israel, Christ and the Church.

So in a certain sense, Paul does symbolize Christ: a man overflowing with goodness, who didn't need to get involved with the petty squalid disagreements and rebelliousness of a family of girls, but who choose to get involved anyway.

And Rachel's feelings about Paul are probably similar to the feelings that many people have towards Christ: suspicious of His motives, wanting their own freedom, thinking they understand everything about Him so they can dismiss Him quickly, never really bothering to get to know Him, mocking his challenge to them to change their lives, being tempted to fly into a rage when He blocks their selfish desires.

In a very real sense, Rachel is like us: us in relationship to God. IF we are very honest with ourselves, we might be able to see this.

That's one real reason why she's not very likeable, I think. After all, how many of us are likeable when it comes to our relationship with God? God is the one who knows what a selfish jerk I really am: even though I can fool most of the people in my life, I can't fool Him.

But God loves me despite this. He loves us anyway, and one of my favorite parts of the book is that Paul still loves Rachel and understands her rebellion even while he's thwarting her. He's not "in love" with her, btw, until the last paragraphs of the book. He just loves her with a sacrificial love.

Obviously, as I posted here, I picked up on this. :) So you already know that I really did like that part. It was such a good illustration that when it hit me... yeah. :) Amazing.

But what was the book about? Short synopsis: Rachel Durham is an 18-year-old Protestant girl with 11 sisters and 2 brothers. Her father remarried 5 or so years ago, her parents joined a new church, and now her father is retiring from the military. Unable to reconcile her love for freedom, beauty, and excitement with her church's rules and hypocrisy, she begins to split her life between the day and night. Like in the original fairy tale, she and her sisters end up boating to an island every night to dance with boys, breaking rules right and left as they immediately begin to wear skirts as short as they can, play with boys, make-up, smoking, and everything they would never be allowed to do during the day. Their puzzled father, having exhausted the options regarding boys at his church (he senses something is up, but does not realize it is those very boys who are taking his daughters out), finally asks a young man he met during his last overseas tour to help him. Enter Paul Fester - soldier, medic, and juggling ninja. He is also Catholic, which makes for some interesting dynamics with girls who look down on him for being a pagan, even as their own behavior shows them to be unsaved themselves. Simple storyline, eh? :) I don't know, I don't think I've read anything like it, even the original fairy tale. :D

What did I think of it? That's a little harder... Because so much of the book revolved around the strictness of the church and how it drove the girls crazy, parts were a little difficult. I know the author did not mean to imply that all Protestant churches were that way, nor that no Catholic families have the problems that the Durhams did. Still, I felt that there was a lot more Catholicism in this book than in previous ones, which, since I'm not Catholic, did make it slightly less enjoyable, although it was very interesting to see the girl's questions and Paul's answers. The girls were very rebellious, and their struggles are quite plain. Their "badness" and Paul's extreme "goodness" would have been rather awkward had Paul not been a picture of Christ.

*spoilers* However, I did not like Paul's involvement in aikido - aikido's basic premise I find very cool, but the fact that is is extremely intertwined with the Ōmoto-kyō religion was disturbing. His bent towards alternative medicine... I hope to find out more in medical school. :D
There is a torture scene at the end, which fit the picture of Christ very well, but might be difficult for some people to read, and this book is definitely not for younger readers. The girl's behavior (which includes lying, swearing, smoking, and kissing boys they pretty much just met) and the attempted rape that their disobedience eventually leads to, make it for older readers only. In fact, I would say that, unless you have people like the sisters in your life or are already dealing with some of these things, it might not be a helpful book for you to read. If you have a background similar to the Durhams, without the problems that they encountered, you might find it un-enjoyable and a distraction, if you know what I mean...

Like I said before, though, I found the exploration of beauty and goodness very interesting. A lot of the things that the Durham's church did/stood for were not wrong. The disconnect that the girls felt, however (it's ok to wear fancy, beautiful dresses to a Renaissance festival, but absolutely nowhere else) was wrong. If you do believe that girls should only wear denim jumpers, then there really shouldn't be exceptions , should there be? Because the girl's relationship with their father was extremely strained, the book also illustrated the need for strong father-daughter relationships. (You have to show your daughters that you love them or they'll start looking for someone who will.) The book showed the hollowness of what the world calls "fun" - The problem was, he knew, that in the heart of the forbidden fruit was nothing but dust, an empty husk of life, its potential wasted, its soul shriveled into rot.

Personally, I have known girls who saw "goodness" as boring. Who saw "meekness" as an insult. Who saw nothing really attractive, nothing really beautiful, in "being good." Bo-ring. NO! At the end of the book is a note that says, "As human beings, we need goodness to be incarnated as beauty so that we can more easily love goodness." If we do not see the beauty, the awesome glory and joy, and absolute incredibleness that is our God, how can we love Him? You cannot separate out the beauty from God's perfection and holiness. Look and see how many times the Bible talks about the beauty of holiness and the beauty of the Lord! There is nothing more exciting nor more beautiful than our amazing God! The author says, "I had grown up knowing many jaded Christian teenagers who were sure that they know "all about that stuff," Christianity, and they were sick and tired of it. To them, goodness was truly boring. What could be done for them? To try to figure out the answer, I wrote this novel." Those are the ones for whom the book is written, the ones who be blessed by reading it.

Not to switch the focus here, but as I read this book, I found myself remembering another book that I read last year. Written in the late 1800's/early 1900's, it was a book by a Protestant author about a man who almost became a Catholic for some of the very reasons that The Midnight Dancers discusses. I had to go find The King's Service and look for the passages discussing beauty again, which I found very interesting.

"Why, he asked himself, had he abandoned his early faith? Because it had never quite satisfied either his intellect or his heart. But was that its fault, or the fault of his instructors, or of himself? Looking back dispassionately upon his early life, he thought Master John Aird had not dealt wisely with him. He had tried to silence his doubts and questionings instead of answering them. He had virtually forbidden him to think for himself by branding all independent thought
as either foolish or sinful... Moreover, the minister was cold and austere, both in his manner and his rule, which the Jesuit assuredly was not. The one prescribed amusement and indulgence, where the other would have used the rod...

He remembered standing outside the cathedral of Prague, and looking up at the coloured windows - mere blots, opaque patches of dull matter, broken into segments without order or beauty. But presently he went in, and then the soft light came to him through the rich medium of a thousand jewels - sapphire, amethyst, topaz, emerald, each a separate glory, yet all combining in the pictured and beautiful forms of saint and prophet and apostle. So to those outside the Faith there might be chaos and darkness, where to those within there was beauty, order, and light...

He lost himself in a dream of grand old cathedrals, their jewels of pictured glass, their sculptured monuments, their long, dim, pillared aisles, their chanted masses, with the pealing of solemn organs and the sweet treble of childish voices - all the spells which art and music and romance had woven around his heart. Was it these things after all that had made him a Roman Catholic?

Gifted with a rich imagination, an exquisite taste, and an intense love of the beautiful, he had failed to find satisfaction for those parts of his being in his early home or in the Church of his fathers. He was rather taught to think that they were vain, sinful propensities, which ought to be crushed and repressed..."


This last paragraph could have been written exactly about Rachel Durham! Somehow I think that if another book is written about her, this also will be true of her:

"It seemed to him as though he had lived all his early days in a close, dark dungeon, and the Roman Catholic Church had set him free, and opened for him the gates of an enchanted garden of beauty, music, and art. That within him which was - if not his deepest, truest self - at least very close to it, found at length the rest of full satisfaction."

As a Protestant, I found this part of The King's Service also very interesting:

"There may be more thrilling music in the Huguenot's Psalm than in the chanted mass, and more to touch the imagination in
the belfry by the grey kirk,
In whose shadow sleeps our dead,
than in the grandest of cathedrals. there is certainly more poetry in the faith of John Knox than in that of the Council of Trent: for the one gives the people a free Bible, that living fountain of inspiration, in the lower as well as in the higher sense of the word; the other feeds them on the dry husks of a dead theology.... In his early days he learned a great deal about Christ, but he never learned Christ. He knew
the truths of Scripture as a blind man might know by name the colours of the rainbow, their order and their relation to each other. He told me that the Catechism and the Confession of Faith seemed to him like unadorned, unsightly cups, earthen vessels, men taught him to prize because, as they said, they were full of living water, though he had ever found them dry and empty."

Once he came to see the rainbow, to learn Christ, he found Living Water indeed.

Since however, this is not Catholicism vs. Protestantism, but Christianity and beauty, I absolutely love how The Midnight Dancers ends.

"I know goodness. It has a name."

And that, I think, is the answer. How can we help those who are looking for beauty in all the wrong places? By living so that others can see God working in our lives. Showing them the goodness and beauty that is to be found in our Lord - the peace that keeps our hearts and minds, joy that passes all understanding. That is what I can take away from this book - a desire to be like Paul Fester in that I am a picture of Christ to those around me, willing to sacrifice myself so that others can see Him, with His beauty and His glory and His love, in me.

Friday, June 4, 2010

"If you have not done things worthy of being written about, at least write things worthy of being read."
- Giacomo Casanova (Pliny the Younger interpretation)


Earwen had this most interesting post which I had to bring to your attention. :D
Here are some of my favorites: (with my comments in []) :)

You know you’re a writer when…

You can’t read a book or watch a movie without thoroughly analyzing each character

• You find yourself critiquing books you read

• You know at least four synonyms for every word (Face - countenance, visage, features).
[Ahem. Or you secretly use a *shhhh* thesaurus and never, ever tell anyone.]

• You have more pens, pencils, and scraps of paper on your person than a ninja has weapons

• You get so wrapped up in stories that you find yourself talking to them (“How COULD he???” “What were you THINKING?” “This story is AWFUL!” “I wonder if they wrote any more books…”)

• You think you should invest in a cell pone or bluetooth so you can talk to your characters but nobody will give you strange stares

• You spend entire days talking, dressing, and acting like a character to ‘get inside their head’

• You automatically use your pen name more than your real one

• You have more character files than the FBI

• You would rather talk to your characters than the person sitting by you

• You’re upset because you grew up in a normal family with two parents, five kids, and a dog. What a gyp.

• You simply smile and nod when people say ‘you’re crazy’ because you know it and you’re proud of it

• You keep every notebook you’ve ever had with writing it because one of them might spark an idea some day

• You have notebook stuffed with funny, witty, or clever lines that you will change a little and use yourself (It is NOT plagiarism!!)

• You go into fits watching someone write with bad grammar

• You find yourself talking about your characters as if they were real. “So-and-so said… uh, I mean, I wrote…”
[*blush* and then people look at you really weird]

• You can’t stand it when nobody ever ‘says’ anything, it’s always ‘he retorted’ ‘she growled’ ‘he snorted’ ‘she pouted’ [Very distracting!]

• You can’t stand it when all anybody ever does is SAY things – ‘she said’ ‘he said’

• You’re always on the lookout for real models for your characters

• Getting the scene finished is more important than food, coffee, or the bathroom.

• You have a favorite line from every movie you’ve seen.

You can’t write because you’re mad at one of your characters.
You argue with said character.

• You have a folder on your computer labeled “Ideas.” Some of the files within this folder have only one or two words or sentences and while they made perfect sense fifteen years ago, between the software changes in that period of time garbling half the words and your own faulty memory, you have no idea what it means or where you were going with it. But you keep it anyway because you never know, you might remember it eventually.

•You wake up in the middle of the night and scrabble for the pen and paper you keep next to your bed to write down a scene to make the voices be quiet so you can get some sleep.

•You end an argument with someone by saying, “Oh, wait, I have to write this down–this is the perfect conflict for my characters! Now, repeat what you just yelled.”

[You think this is the most perfect quote ever, lol :D ]

Will: You lied . . .
Chaucer: Yes . . . yes I lied. I’m a writer, I give the truth scope!

• You know the difference between metaphor, allegory, and analogy—and you use all of them.

• The thought of sharing a computer with someone else horrifies you. What if they accidentally download a virus? What if they change the settings in Word? WHAT IF THEY READ MY STUFF???

• You live in a constant state of “What if?”


How about...

-Whenever something bad or just plain annoying happens to you, you think, "Oh, well, it'll make a good story."

- Your exercise time is filled with your story - you find yourself running against the clock thinking, "He's bleeding to death! Hurry, faster! You have to get help!" or whatever your main character's latest escapade is. (And you realize your characters are so much more in shape than you are that it's not even funny. :P :D )

-Research for your story is always fascinating and memorable, even though you cannot remember facts and dates to save your life.
- "That would make an amazing story!" is constantly running through your brain.

Go check out the rest of Earwen's and tell me, how do you know you're a writer? :)

And then, because it seems everyone likes Calvin and Hobbes:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

So... I read The Midnight Dancers by Regina Doman. Perhaps I shall do a review of it at some point; I did have some issues with it, but there were some very cool themes relating to the nature of goodness, beauty, and light running through it - I found it thought-provoking, if nothing else, though it was also interesting, exciting, etc. :) And of course, thinking about it, I decided to post my thoughts (we'll see if a review happens or not). :D


Now, from reading reviews/people's comments on this book, I knew that the hero, Paul Fester, was really supposed to be a type of Christ, which I always love to read about. Usually I like seeing it when I know the author had no idea of the strong picture they are giving me of my Savior, so it was interesting to read a book where the main character was purposefully given that role. Reading the book, I really did like that aspect and how it played out in the story. Still, I didn't quite see it as strongly as others had seen it, and when I finished the book, I was somewhat disgusted.

See, Rachel Durham, the main girl character, is not nice. Not nice at all. She's a rebellious 18-year-old with a rotten attitude. I was ok with that, but at the end of the book, I wanted repentance - serious, humble, horrified, completely changing, realization and shock at what had happened. I wanted her to see the extent of her sin. I wanted her to be punished for all that she had done. Others might not agree with me, but I felt like she got away with it. It turned out to her benefit. Sure, she cried and said she was sorry. Big deal. Look at all the problems she created, the pain she caused, everything she did to Paul, who deserved none of it! She despised him for his very goodness, for the help he so willing offered her. He was tortured for her stupidity and sin- and he cheerfully forgives her, acting like it was no big deal!

That's when it hit me. If he was a type of Christ... Rachel was a type of me. God told me what was right. He showed me what was good, and I despised Him. Know what? I get nothing like what I deserve. After all that I have done (and continue to do, even now, o wretched -girl- that I am!), I deserve punishment. I deserve to get the result of my sins. Yet Christ stepped in, taking my place, offering Himself for me. He received every bit of what was meant for me, what I deserved. Sure, I repented. I am sorry and I want to follow Him, forsaking my sin. But really? Does that make up in any way for anything I've done? Does that somehow make me worthy of His free forgiveness and full pardon? Not at all. Suddenly I saw so clearly just how great God's mercy is. It's so easy to allow pride to make repentance seem bigger than it is. Like it somehow makes me deserve something. My sorriness, my tears (and how often have I allowed myself to even be that sorry over my sin?), really mean nothing. I in no way realize the extent of my sin, the depths of my depravity in relation to the holiness of God. I can't "make it up" to Him. Yet He took away my punishment. All of it. There are consequences of sin in the world - but they are so little compared to what I deserve! Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. So little! That's it - and I am forgiven. I am not punished. I am not rejected. He brings me into a relationship with Himself and wants to be my friend! Unimaginable - but it is real.
In the car today while thinking about all that, I heard this song:

How can I forgive someone who has hurt me
How can I love someone who is my enemy
Can I just overlook it and let the healing begin
It's unlike me, but it's just like Him.

From the cross He said,"Forgive them
For they know not what they do."
When He said it is finished
He made that possible for you.
Calvary's where the hatred ends
And forgiveness begins
It's unlike me, but it's just like Him.
How can I forgive the past and just start all over
How can I forget my scars and pour in the myrrh
Is it really like me to make my enemy my friend
It's unlike me, but it's just like Him.

No way would I be able to forgive someone who did such things, who really did not even have an understanding or realization of the extent of their sin, simply because they repented. I mean, when you don't even really understand the seriousness of what you've done (and will we ever truly do that until we stand before God's throne, if even then?), how can you be sorry enough for it? But it's just like Him! That's what He did for me!
No matter what else was in the book... actually seeing it like that was amazing. I hope this all makes sense - sometimes those little "click" moments can be slightly difficult to explain. :)
He is so good, though! Wow. What a God we serve!
Keep Seeking Him!

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