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.