Monday, May 28, 2012

The Icing on the Cake

The Restorer's Son Expanded Edition is the icing on the cake! For those of us who've come to love the folks of Braide Wood (& will admit to having gotten so thoroughly engaged in the stories, that we found ourselves praying for "Kiearan" and other characters in our daily quiet times!), RSEE (Restorer's Son Expanded Edition) is everything we loved about the original, and all that we secretly hoped would be added, since we couldn't get enough of the characters and stories the first time around! :-)

I admit to being a bit of a Kieran fangirl (he's a bit Mr. Darcy, a bit Han Solo...exasperating and enchanting all at once!), so this book is a particular favorite in the series.

I majored in English in college & took one whole semester of Lewis & Tolkien as my textbooks, so my taste in spec fic is pretty high & picky...!!

Sharon Hinck joins an elite list of my favorite authors who know how to use the vehicle of fiction to tell the One True Story & to tell it well. Thank you, Sharon!!

Monday, May 31, 2010

These Are The Times That Try Men's Souls

Hebrews 10:23-25

Hebrews 10:32

Hebrews 10:35-39

In short, DON'T GIVE UP!!!! :-)

(I had to encourage myself here...I've been in the fight of my life, recently...the enemy is trying to keep me in a fog! ugh! I hate that even worse than's like he's trying to "drug" me or gag me to keep me quiet! Too bad for him!!!...even when I can't sing or pray, the Holy Spirit in me is praying to the Father, in Jesus' Name & He is a faithful High Priest!)

I just reread these words that were written to encourage Washington's weary troops in the Revolutionary War. They were soooooooo weary...they'd been abandoned by many who'd stood with them at first. They were weary, worn, out of supplies & had rags for shoes...leaving bloody footprints in the snow. They could see no reason to keep fighting in a war that they had no human way of winning...they were vastly outnumbered...but there was one thing the enemy was NOT counting on...that these weary, broken soldiers would rally one last time & in the freezing cold of winter...ATTACK! And that's what WE must do, for we have a way deadlier enemy than the British troops & a much higher freedom to offer those we are fighting for...and OUR freedom has already been purchased -- not by our bloody footprints, marching through the snow, but by the Blood of Jesus!!

So, on this Memorial Day, I close w/the words of Thomas Paine, written on December 23rd, 1776, to encourage Washington's battle-weary troops:

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Waiting for the Lion's Roar

I apologize for the lengthy blog-absence and now, without any further ado, I want to plunge right in (If you don't know by now that I am a "Narnia" fan, gentle reader, you must've been subscribing to a different blog!) with some thoughts on walking in faith, based on the somewhat controversial portrayal of High King Peter in the new Disney film, "Prince Caspian."

If you've been following the "buzz" surrounding the characterization of Peter Pevensie in the film, you will note that many book "purists" are highly critical of King Peter being portrayed as having a "bad attitude" in the new Narnia film, when he is so unwaveringly noble in the book. I don't suppose that I previously had an opinion one way or another (I was more focused on the portrayal of Edmund -- more on him and a blog entry on "The Graciousness of Forgiveness" to come), but as I sat through a 2nd viewing of the film last night, I saw Peter in a different light. His attitude wasn't so much "bad" as it was "broken."

Aslan had not made his presence known in over a year (London time), and even after Susan's magic horn had been blown for help, the Great Lion has not appeared. If you have never known the woundedness of keenly feeling the seeming absence of God, especially in an hour of great need, I will go as far as suggesting that perhaps you have never really known God. And when we no longer sense His nearness in our situation, we are faced with a choice --- we can either dig past our feelings (or lack thereof) and cling to His promises; or, like High King Peter in the current film, we can give voice to our discouragement ("I think we've waited for Aslan long enough") and take matters into our own hands.

Some of the greatest heroes of the faith have, like this version of Peter Pevensie, briefly yielded to discouragement when, in the midst of seemingly impossible circumstances, they felt abandoned by God. The "horn" has been blown in a call for help, and not only has help not arrived, but there is no explanation. Just silence.

In Psalm 73 one of the sons of Asaph, in a moment of wavering faith says, "But as for me, my sure footing was almost gone; my steps had nearly slipped" (v. 2), and as he ponders some unanswered questions in his crisis, he confesses "When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me." (v. 16) And, in his dark night of soul, Job cries out, "Oh, if I knew where I might find Him! I would go, even to His throne!" (Job 23:3)

Lest we are further tempted to judge the High King of Narnia, Peter Pevensie, for his grief-stricken faltering in the current movie portrayal, I'd like to suggest that it is his very nobility of character that makes his struggle so real and poignant. In a recent sermon newsletter by New York pastor, David Wilkerson, entitled "An Eclipse of Faith," he points out that "Satan doesn't demand opportunities to break down people whose faith is weak or wavering."

Now, we know that just as the son of Asaph and Job did see God again and had their faith strengthened and restored, so does King Peter in this new film version of "Prince Caspian," and that being said, I do reccomend the film!

Meanwhile, what do we do when our own faith is threatened by an eclipse? We've called on God in prayer, done all that we know to do---we've blown the "horn," so to speak, but no help seems to have come. I'd like to close by reminding us that a seemingly delayed response from God and a brief eclipse of our faith do not mean that He didn't hear our cry and set His answer in motion from the very first moment:

Daniel 10:1-19

In the third year of Cyrus... a message was revealed to Daniel...the message was true, but the appointed time [of waiting] was long...In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food... nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled... Now as I lifted my eyes and looked... a certain man [appeared] clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold... his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.

...Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me...Yet I heard the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground...Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, "O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you."

Then he said to me, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and now I have come because of your words...When he had spoken such words to me, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless...And suddenly, one having the likeness of the sons of men touched my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke, saying to him who stood before me, "My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength. For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me." Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, "O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!" So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, "Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me."

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Extraordinary Ordinary

How many of you remember your parents’ responses when, as a child, you announced, “I’m bored!”??? You were probably met with at least one of the following: “Boring people are bored,” “I can find work for you,” and, my personal favorite, posted by a teacher, “Looking for fun, run away and join the circus!" I couldn’t help but grin at that one, but as I was wondering lately how my Heavenly Father felt about my failure to see His grace in mundanity, He has caused the seed of Zechariah 4:10 (“For who has despised the day of small things…?”) to begin blossoming in my heart.
For those of us who are fans of speculative fiction, one of the reasons that we read it is because of our attraction to the heroic, even as we live in a world that increasingly has no heroes. But, I’ve been thinking, recently, that perhaps we need to redefine “heroic” in our minds to include the “mundane.”
I realize that this is a blog about speculative fiction & how it relates to our own “story” as Christians, but bear with me for a moment as I dig outside the realm of spec fic a bit to mine a few gems from an underrated classic.
In her little-known book Rose in Bloom, Little Women author Louisa May Alcott deftly tackles our need to redefine “greatness.” In the following passage, the heroine, Rose Campbell, is receiving some sage advice from her uncle Alec in response to her lament that her life, compared to her “accomplished” cousin & friend, is insignificant:

“I know I ought to be contented, but I’m not. My life is very comfortable but so quiet and uneventful I get tired of it, and want to launch out as others have, and do something, or at least try. I’m glad you think it isn’t bad of me, and I’d like to know what my gift is,” said Rose, looking less despondent already.

“The art of living for others so patiently and sweetly that we enjoy it as we do the sunshine, and are not half grateful enough for the great blessing.”

“It is very kind of you to say so, but I think I’d like a little fun and fame, nevertheless,” and Rose did not look as thankful as she ought.

“Very natural, dear; but the fun and the fame do not last; while the memory of a real helper is kept green long after poetry is forgotten and music silent. Can’t you believe that, and be happy?”

And after some consideration and help from Uncle Alec, who remarks on the many unnoticed things Rose does in every-day life, Rose responds joyfully,

“I’ve learned to do without gratitude: now I’ll learn not to care for praise, but to be contented to do my best, and have only God know.”

“He knows, and He rewards in His own good time. I think a quiet life like this often makes itself felt in better ways than one that the world sees and applauds; and some of the noblest are never known till they end, leaving a void in many hearts. Yours may be one of these if you choose to make it so…”

As New York preacher, David Wilkerson put it in a recent message on 1st Samuel 30:21 (where David salutes and honors those who stayed on the home-front as supporters equally with the heroic warriors who went to the front-lines), “…God forbid that you should be agitated in spirit because you don’t believe you’re doing anything important to God’s work. Your prayers, your support…your charitable spirit – all are honoring to God.”

Perhaps one of the most profound echoes of this continuing admonishment not to “despise the day of small things” was something I discovered in the current-release movie, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (and my readers thought I was never going to get to a speculative fiction analogy in this piece!).
This gem of a film opens with a tale, not so much about Mr. Magorium himself, but about one of his beloved protégés, Molly Mahoney, a young woman who has worked at the Emporium since girlhood.
Mahoney was playing Rachmaninoff at the tender age of eight and thus expected by everyone (including herself) to become a piano virtuoso, eventually writing her own concerto. The problem is that Mahoney could never “seem to find the right notes,” and thus continues at Mr. Magorium’s, working on her frustrated concerto in the evenings after work.
As she tries, in vain, to give the wise Mr. Magorium her two weeks notice, she tells him, “I’m stuck,” to which the child-like Magorium assumes her feet are stuck to his floor. “No,” Mahoney responds, “not to the floor…as a person.”
Later, filled with self-doubts about her ability to continue the beloved Magorium’s tender legacy, and still convinced that “greatness” for her would mean writing that expected concerto and becoming a piano virtuoso, a confused Mahoney asks poignantly, “Do you see a sparkle in me…something reflective of Something bigger trying to get out…?”
And I think that’s a question that so many of us are asking deep down inside and desperately wanting – no – needing to know the answer to.
In “reality,” I’m no swashbuckling “hero,” I have no outstanding talents lending to fame and fortune and at the end of my “ordinary” day I need to know that I really matter.
Well, the Bible says that we do. In Ephesians 2:10 we read that we are “…God’s workmanship, created for good works in Christ…” The Greek word here for “workmanship” is poema…we are God’s poem, His masterpiece, His concerto. Not that we may necessarily ever write an epic poem or paint a masterpiece or compose a concerto…we are these things!
So many of us are missing the beauty of the every day miracles all around us – in, and yes, even because of the mundanity – because we are waiting for life to finally “start” and our definition of “start” is when we finally do and are recognized for some “great” thing.
And all the while, the One whose first advent on a cold starry night in an animal feeding trough in Bethlehem was the epitome of a “small thing” and “mundane,” wants us to realize that we ARE that great thing!
At the end of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Mahoney, in a visually stunning scene, finally realizes what Magorium saw in her all along…she was never meant to write that elusive concerto, but to blossom right where she was, as the manager of the Emporium, and as Mahoney sees this, we hear the music notes of her coming from her and touching everything in the store, bringing it to life. She was the concerto, all along!
In The Message translation, Romans 12:1 says, “Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him.”
As we celebrate this season of Immanuel, God-with-us, let’s be careful not to “despise the day of small things,” but to see His wonder in the extraordinary ordinary all around us.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A "Cuppa" with Lady Bronwyn

Recently I was at a local bookstore/coffee shop with my friend Wendy, enjoying a “cuppa” of my favorite beverage and as I savored my tea, the spicy/sweet aroma of Wendy’s Earl Grey White wafting across the small table to mingle with my subtler Lemongrass Green, the inevitable happened – great tea and great company led to a great conversation!
Wendy (aka “Bronwyn”) is active with the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), an historical reenactment group which recreates pre-17th century Western European history and culture, and she and I began to discuss the term chivalry.
I was musing as to why our society (particularly Christians) no longer seems to place any value on Story or having noble dreams, dismissing these things as “childish” and “impractical,” when Wendy shared that some members of the SCA even see it as a sort of calling to visit local schools and social groups in costume and talk about some of the more positive aspects of a knight’s code, such as chivalry, integrity and honor. As we pondered why these traits are so sadly lacking today, even within the church, our conversation drifted to one of our favorite “fantasy” books for some answers.
This book has everything a fan of the speculative fiction genre (and all of its sub-genres, such as fantasy, science fiction, adventure, etc.) could ever ask for – and more! There are dragons, sword fights and political intrigue. You want a good love story with a beautiful princess in need of a rescue, a glorious prince, who often disguises himself as a “commoner,” to walk freely among his subjects? It’s in here! Betrayal, good vs. evil, redemption and victory are all key elements to this masterpiece – it contains every element of our favorite stories, the types of stories that stir our hearts to noble dreams and heroic deeds – only there is one difference in this story…it is the One True Story.
With a book like this as our unshakeable core, why are most of us so weary on this journey through life, living colorlessly surrounded by the ashes of forgotten childhood dreams and touched by a vague sense that we should be “witnessing,” when, if we are honest, sharing our faith feels too much like trying to sell to others a vacation package to a destination we’ve never even been to?
In his marvelous book, The Divine Drama, Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre director, Kurt Bruner, shares a few thoughts from his own “walk through the fog”:

Like many who profess Christianity, I had done so without understanding exactly how my own life fit within the glorious story of God. I had learned to read the Bible as a collection of lessons and truths rather than the script of an epic drama that has been unfolding since before the dawn of time. I had failed to see history as more than a series of disconnected, random events or my life as part of anything bigger than my own routine.

Could it be that we lack enthusiasm in our faith and color in our lives because we’ve lost the child-like purity of the ability to dream big dreams? Dismissing those things as “childish” and telling ourselves that it’s “time to grow up now,” we settle for the lie that “it’s too late for that to happen,” stuffing our broken dreams into a “junk” drawer somewhere – never quite able to throw them out, but making certain that they are forgotten and hidden away. Would dusting those God-given desires off and holding them up to the Light really be “living in a fantasy world?” Or might it just lead to a re-exploration of what chivalry would look like in our own lives? Renowned fantasy author, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home?”
Kurt Bruner once again expounds brilliantly on that thought and I want to leave us with this question lingering in our hearts and hopefully, echoing in our souls:

What if, rather than trying to escape reality, our spirits are trying to connect with it? What if good stories are good not because they distract our troubled hearts but because they affirm our deepest aspirations? What if the dramatic themes we love are actually reflections of a true, yet transcendent, story being told on the stage of life? What if there really is a brave hero fighting the forces of evil in order to save the world from destruction? What if there really is a handsome prince in pursuit of his princess, trying to free her from the evil clutches of a seductive villain? What if, just when all seems lost, the hero actually will break free and save the day? What if “Once upon a time” is truly progressing toward an eventual “happily ever after”? How would your own story change if you knew the plot of the larger Story within which it is being told?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Opening Thoughts from a Burgeoning Insomniac & Beginning Blogger

It's 11:30 pm and after a steady diet of prodding (ranging from subtle encouragement to downright weekly nagging, "why aren't you writing?") from loving friends & family members, I decided to digest all the advice, take a mental Pepcid and plunge right into the whole blogging thingy!

The title of my blog comes from a beautiful portion of The Horse and His Boy, one of the classics in C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series. After a series of dramatic (& often, traumatic) events, Shasta (the "boy" from the aforementioned title) is on a regular, non-Narnian horse, attempting to navigate a physical mist while also invited by an unseen traveling companion to explore the fog that has surrounded the events of his life, thus far:

...The mist was turning from black to gray and from gray to white...Now the whiteness around him became a shining whiteness; his eyes began to blink. Somewhere ahead he could hear birds singing. He knew the night was over at last....a golden light fell...from the left. He thought it was the sun.
He turned and saw, pacing beside him...a Lion...It was from the Lion that the light came.
...Shasta...knew none of the true stories about Aslan, the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-over-the-Sea, the King above all High Kings in Narnia. But after one glance at the Lion's face he slipped out of the saddle and fell at its feet. He couldn't say anything but then he didn't want to say anything, and he knew he needn't say anything.
The High King above all kings stooped toward him. Its mane, and some strange and solemn perfume that hung about the mane, was all round him. It touched his forehead with its tongue. He lifted his face and their eyes met. Then instantly the pale brightness of the mist and the fiery brightness of the Lion rolled themselves together into a swirling glory and gathered themselves up and disappeared. He was alone with the horse on a grassy hillside under a blue sky. And there were birds singing.

So much of life on this Christian journey is like that, isn't it? We are walking through the mist and the darkness, alone (or so we think), and gradually we become aware of the soft, nearly-silent footfalls of the Son of God trodding the path beside us. He needn't explain Himself and the mist doesn't always lift immediately to reveal the blue sky and the songbirds, but it is enough that He is present.

What I'd like to do in this blog, more than anything, is share my love of speculative fiction, especially as it relates to the oft-mysterious paths our Christian journeys can take us through, to tell stories that echo deeply the One True Story.