Rebekah is currently a homeschooled student. She likes to cartoon, program, and write in her spare time, but she also loves to spend time with animals. Keep a lookout for posts!
When we all tumbled out of the car into the bright, hot Texas Afternoon, I wasn’t impressed. I had seen cemeteries before. I had walked past the gravestones and looked at all the markers. It had been quiet and warm, like today, and had the same shapes and colors of stone. The only difference in my mind was that there were more fire ants here than in North Carolina.
My parents went up to a white-haired little man with glasses and a hat that said “U.S. Army. Vietnam” In my head I calculated his age to be about the same as my Papa’s, who had been a Telegraph Operator in the army and had died in 2015. We had visited his grave in April, when we drove down to North Carolina to visit family and spend our vacation at the beach. The man was holding an armful of flags and a flat-head screwdriver, and there was a woman with him, probably his wife. My dad asked the man if we could help decorate the graves.
It is May 28th. Memorial day Weekend. That is why we were at the cemetery. We were there to place flags by the graves of soldiers.
I teamed up with my sister Grace and my brother Sam. I looked for the graves, Sam poked a hole in the ground with a screwdriver, and Grace stuck a flag in. We wandered from one end of our corner to another, looking like patriotic grave robbers. It was difficult to tell which graves had been made for soldiers. The big, impressive ones that were easy to read had no useful information on them. They simply said the person’s name, his date of birth and death, and perhaps an inspirational quote. Nothing helpful.
After a while we realized that someone, probably someone in the government, had given the soldiers grave markers that were all the same size, shape, and color. The stone was a light gray, about three inches thick, and the size of a doormat. On each headstone was a black carved cross, the name of the soldier, which war he fought in, sometimes his rank and company, and his dates. The uniform stones made it easier to tell which ones to honor with flags, but it was still difficult. You really couldn’t tell until you were right on top of them.
A bit irritated by the heat, sun, ants, and mosquitoes, I wasn’t too interested in what we were doing until we arrived at a questionable headstone. There was the cross, all right, but the rest of the headstone had been covered with dirt. I couldn’t tell if this was a soldier or just someone with a cross on their stone. To make it worse, an ant hill had settled itself right in the corner. I brushed off as much yellow-white clay dust as I could without being bitten. There was a name, a date, and…no war. But there, under my feet, someone had been buried. Someone who had once been alive, and alive for a good while, judging from the dates. I wondered who he was. I wondered why they had let his gravestone become so….dirty. It was almost as if the earth was trying to swallow the marker, swallow the last evidence of this man’s life.
His wife’s stone wasn’t in much better shape, or at least, I guessed it was his wife’s. The earth had eaten it completely, leaving only the top exposed. I wondered what the etiquette of graveyards said about shovels. I wanted to get one and use it to clean up the stones. If shovels weren’t allowed, were brooms?
Other stones were covered in mold, mildew, and fungus. One had a bush growing over it, obscuring its inscription. Some were so old the carving had been worn away, leaving only a stone, with words so blurry that you could barely read them. I saw one stone that read 1869. The man who died had been born at the end of the civil war years.
As we continued our quest for soldiers, I looked for different wars on the tombstones. World War I. World War II. Korea. The Spanish-American War. Vietnam. That one made me think about the Soldier who gave us the flags. Did he do this every year, alone? Did he go through the cemetery, bending over to poke the hole, and carefully place every flag, every year? The cemetery was large. It took us about an hour to place the flags. I wondered how long it would have taken him. Why did he do it every year? Did he know someone who had died, and who was buried there?
I ran out of flags and borrowed some from Adam. Reality cut into my musing when I stepped into an ant hill on the way back to Sam and Grace. I had been skirting danger with ants since I stepped foot in that place. They had made their burrows all through the ground, turning it all from packed clay to turned-up sand. Any Texan knows that when the dirt is clumped into tiny circles, and starting to mound, you shouldn’t step there. But the tiny mounds were everywhere, and it was impossible to avoid them all for long. Ant bites make it hard to reminisce. Especially in Texas, where Fire Ants have a strange taste for revenge.
“Thank you for your help.” The soldier said, after inquiring about my ant bites. I was standing with one foot on his tailgate, trying to obliterate the little red demons scurrying about in my shoe and on my foot. “You’ve made this much easier.”
“You’re Welcome.” I said. I wanted to say something else but I couldn’t think of anything other than “I’m glad to help.”
The Soldier thanked us all before we left. We had decorated the graves of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen. It was a little cemetery. It didn’t take more than an hour to finish. I had broken my pencil trying to poke holes for the flag, and my foot was itching horribly from the ant bites. It was hot, and there wasn’t any shade. We climbed back into the car and attacked the cooler, pulling out chilled water bottles.
Mom and Dad and Adam talked to the soldier. Joel tried to beg a flag from him, but we didn’t let him have it. He wouldn’t really appreciate it the way it deserved. I thought about how passive we are about the flag. It’s just a symbol, after all, isn’t it?
A Vietnam veteran went every year to decorate the graves of his fellow soldiers. He told us emphatically to never let the flags touch the ground. To him it was important.
As we drove away, Adam mentioned a set of graves he had seen on his side of the cemetery. “Two boys.” He said. “They both died on the same day.”
“Were they soldiers?”
“I don’t know.” He admitted. “But they were eighteen. And they were right next to each other. I wonder if they were friends.”
There were so many mysteries in that graveyard. The stone for the unnamed infant, who was given a month and a year, but no days for his birth or death. The person in the back whose stone was so badly damaged by mildew, so that it couldn’t be read. A grave with a little cat figurine on it. All of these people were alive. But now they have been forgotten.
Except for today, when some of them, the ones who gave everything for their country, were remembered by a former soldier, who still honored their sacrifice, his flag, and his country.
And by us, who had never understood Memorial day.
This morning I woke up with ideas of thrillers and captures, fully planning to write up a delicious new story. I had watched something thrilling, broken, and breathtaking. But something on the radio woke me up, and now I have something else to write, something much more important than an adventure story to give me an adrenaline rush. I need to write something with a purpose.
The story on the radio was about our culture and how foreign the most basic of biblical information is to those who call themselves Christians. Questions like “Who built the ark? What was the name of Adam’s Wife? How many disciples did Jesus have?” could not be answered. People are convinced that Poor Richard’s almanac quotes are scripture.
This is our fault.
It’s really all of our faults. We cell ourselves up in little communities and don’t tell others the truth. We make little evangelism attempts but don’t tell people the whole scripture. We tell people that God loves them without telling them what he did in that love, and why. Kids grow up with the songs and the stories and then leave it all behind. And things aren’t changing.
Christians, what are you doing?
What am I doing?
Who I am.
I’m a Christian and a Bible Scholar. I read the Bible every day and I memorize scripture for my private use. I’m homeschooled and have been taught to think for myself and use logic to discern the truth in a maze of lies. I try to engage in discussions and tell other people what I know, but I’m discouraged by my own fears and sensitivity. I can talk to a boy about coin collections, or teach a little girl Spanish, but I can’t seem to tell someone stories from the Bible, the most important story of all time.
That needs to stop now.
Any storyweaver who can’t tell that Story is not worthy of the title. And I put myself on that list foremost. I am ashamed of this failure. But I am also grateful to God for convicting me of my failure. Now I can move on. Now I can turn around. Now I can make a difference.
In my Sunday School class we have interesting, intellectual conversations about government, history, science, and cults. But I don’t know if my teacher has once asked us a question from the Bible. We’re smart kids! If we don’t know enough about the Bible to answer questions from it…teach us! We need to know. If we don’t know now, we’re in trouble.
What I believe.
As a millennial, I’m in the minority. I believe that God is real, powerful, loving, and the creator of all creation supernaturally and out of nothing. I believe that Jesus Christ is Fully God and Fully Man, who was born of a virgin and lived and taught and did miracles and was unjustly accused and murdered, and who rose from the dead. I believe that when Christ died, the just for the unjust, he not only destroyed Satan but he also took the sins of the entire world; past, present, and future; and he has called us to live a holy life in remembrance and obedience to him. I believe that he truly came, and I believe that he’s coming again. I believe that the Bible is true, that what it says is true, and that everything that disagrees with it is error and and a lie.
And I’m not compromising on that.
What is your Foundation?
If we compromise on any of the things I just stated to accommodate our friends or neighbors, even for evangelism purposes, we sacrifice our foundation for the sake of the building. Where does a building go without a foundation? Straight down. Christian, where is your foundation?
In Geometry, there are three tools you can use to prove a mathematical enigma. These tools have special names: Postulates, Theorems, and Definitions. Postulates are universal rules and truths who have stood the test of time and are still true, self-evident truths. Definitions are clear statements of being and nature, which do not change and identify a thing for what it is. Theorems are built on the foundation of the Postulates and the Definitions. They are the weakest, but they are many. Postulates do not change. Definitions do not change. If they do, they threaten everything that relies on them.
If someone were to take out the postulates, and change the definitions, what would happen? If you change a triangle from a three-pointed shape to a four-pointed shape, would it make a difference? If you built your theorems on other theorems and broken definitions, will what you decide be truth or fiction?
How can we truly search for truth when we can’t even decide what it is?
Illiterate, and proud of it.
Christian, wake up! We’re dealing with an epidemic of illiteracy! We can’t ignore this! What if everyone in a city couldn’t read? What if they couldn’t read street signs or notices? What if they didn’t understand speed limit signs? What would you do? Would you dumb down drivers’ tests and school assignments and give them orally? Would you turn the street signs into pictures? Would you accommodate the illiterate? Is that really helping them? What is better for the person who is illiterate? Isn’t it to teach him to read?
Learning to read is hard! Learning to read isn’t fun! Learning to read is tough! But learning to read is essential for life! Why is the first response of our society to be sympathetic and accommodating? If a person is a disability, yes, we do help them and make things easier for them. But we also help them learn how to live normally! We work hard to help people learn to read, speak English, get jobs. We are passionate about helping them because we love them and are concerned for their physical success and welfare.
When did it become ok in our culture to accept ignorance and error? Why is it our natural response to tell them that they’re right, and that we won’t bother them or try to change their minds? Why do we accept what we know isn’t true? Why do we accept disabilities and handicaps that we don’t need to bear? If your arm is broken, do you just accept it for what it is? No! You take it to a doctor and have it taken care of. You heal it. Then you put it through physical therapy so you can use it again.
Why do we do differently in the Church?
Candy vs. Cardboard
Church for the most part is spoon-fed in feel-good doses. We assume that people aren’t smart enough to learn the hard things so we just give them platitudes and pats on the back and illustrations. We tell them nice stories and don’t ask them hard questions. We are sweet like candy; pleasing, but not substantial. We are kind to a fault, like fluffy pillows with no support. Where is our foundation?
I’ve been in both situations. I’ve been to a church where we had “bare boards” theology, where we were very clear about what we believed and we bordered on the legalistic. I’ve been to a church that was fluffy and sweet, kind to everyone and comfortably confusing. This doesn’t have to be an either-or, hard or soft.
Our church experience doesn’t have to be either candy or cardboard. It doesn’t have to be bare boards or fluffy pillows. There is a happy medium, a place where we tell each other the truth in love, not compromising on what we know is true from scripture, but not being divided on silly little things. We don’t have to sacrifice the truth to be kind.
This is the church’s call.
What should we do?
We need to be kind and helpful and inviting, but we also need to be firm and sure on what we believe! Do the people in your church know why Christ died? Do they know why sin is a problem? Do they know about Hell? Do they know about Satan? Do they know the place of pastors? Do they believe in the Holy Spirit? Do they get their information from God’s Word, or from their pastors, or from books, or from television? Do they know how to tell their neighbors about Christ? Do they know that God loves them? Can they trust the people in their church? Can they trust God?
Do you know the answers to these questions?
We need to talk to our friends about Spiritual things. We need to talk to them about these things like we do about other things. We need to be able to talk about them to our families and not feel strange! We need to be confident in God’s word, which means we need to know it! Studying scripture needs to be our priority. Prayer needs to be our priority. Witnessing needs to be a priority! These things go together!
Our sunday classes need to be informative and helpful. Our studies need to be based on fact instead of emotion and celebrity writers and cool graphics. Kids and adults need to be taught truths, not stories and examples, straight from God’s word and from the words of the saints through history, not just from the last ten years. We need to have a firm grasp on reality and truth and history even in the youngest classes. For a college-age class we should have college-level study. If the kids don’t know the Bible, then help them learn, and encourage them to read it!
Our sermons need to be full of God’s word, using not just emotion and wit, but also truth and history. Our pastors shouldn’t be afraid to speak the truth, nor should they worry that they will lose listeners if they talk about painful topics. Our people need to be loving, and to encourage each other and their leaders. This is our call. This is our prerogative.
Why am I so insistent, all of a sudden? What has changed? Why am I so suddenly worried? The answer is in statistics.
Walking with our Eyes closed
We are running into a bloc of children who are growing up with their heroes all following secular scripts. We are growing up and discovering that our parents’ worldview and the worldview of our friends are not compatible. We have no postulates in our culture so all truths are based on emotion and mob rule. We are being fed lies all day, and we’re beginning to repeat them in our sleep. Propaganda from the media, propaganda from the schools, propaganda from our entertainment, propaganda from our books and paintings and music, propaganda from our celebrities.
We are becoming strangers in our own country. We have won an election but we have lost a generation. We have compromised on the truth and we’re reaping the results. It is going to be very dangerous for churches in the years to come. We the Children will either be Giants of the Faith in an Era of Persecution, or we will fall away and quietly join the others in our generation, who believe everything and nothing.
We’ve been walking with our eyes closed as Christians. We have separated our faith from our lives. We live like faith is only a small part of us, like a hobby. We don’t commit to growing the church and discipling our friends, but instead spend our time growing our own little empires of education, fiction, or industry. And as we walk with our eyes closed, others are setting traps all around us, waiting for us to fall.
What can we do? We must know our Bible! We can’t fight this blindly! We need our pastors to speak the truth no matter what people think. We need to teach our children to know their faith and defend their faith, to know God and serve him and love him! We need to speak out. We need to be ready to defend. We need to know the truth. This is a problem with our churches, our families, ourselves. Do I know the Truth? Does my Family? Does my Pastor? Do my Friends?
When our modern heroes fail us, we need to know the stories of the faith! We must learn the stories of the martyrs and heroes who God used to do amazing things. We need to make Christ our example, not fictional characters or celebrities. And this life is going to have consequences.
John 17: 14-19 says “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” Christ came to us and taught us His Truth, a truth that will never change or decay. He died so that the blood-guilt of every sin from Adam on would be covered by his perfect blood. And because we guard the truth, the world hates us. They’re not going to stop hating us if we forget the truth or are careless in guarding it.
It’s time to fight, guys. It’s time to fight, Christian. Get your Bible. Get in the Word. Talk to your pastor. Get involved. Don’t be satisfied with what is! Let’s be the soldiers we are. Run the race given to you. Fight for the Truth. Love others and talk to them. Don’t be satisfied with a lie. Don’t tolerate heresy. Understand what is true and what is a lie.
It’s a lonely world out there for the truth. And if we don’t open our eyes, we’ll be swept away. Stand your ground on your faith. Figure out what that is.
My brother is thinking about heroes. But the heroes he thinks of aren’t very heroic. They are broken, bitter people who live for themselves. There is little of the sacred light in them. Any resemblance is accidental. Give me wisdom to see these “angels of light” as the shallow, dead things they are.
I was reading an old history and was appalled by the debauchery carried on shamelessly and written down in these books. Any idea of the “golden age” is dispelled by the truth of these accounts. These were called their highlights. I wonder what they might have called their decay.
In these stories, the gods are merciless and cruel, revealed to be the demons they are. Demons that require sacrifice and the desecration of your temple, our bodies. You once said that whoever did things even to the least of your children, did them to you. These gods devoured the “least of these” and wish to devour today. I bless the glory of your victory, O Captain, which sealed forever these spirits so that they are no longer powerful, but must wait in prison, doing only a portion of what they once could do, as lions chained. Let us not be afraid of the lions, but to trust in the one who not only forged the chains, but also made and freed us.
The decay and death in these stories, both ancient and modern, are depressing. What else could they be? But you have called us to put away what is evil, and to cling to what is good. There are many people who reflect the holy light, and while looking up create works of beauty and grace. Somehow even the most broken of creations can be redeemed. This is your call. This is a side effect of your battle.
We fight not only to reach others, not only to make things better, not only to become holy, but to know you most of all. All other things, even this battle, flow through this. Help me to remember.
In your name,
I am feeling a longing that I have not often felt before. It’s a stirring, a desire for more. Perhaps it is the Sacred Light, wanting to shine out through me, wanting to join those who have gone before. Maybe it is a desire to finally end this struggle, this war. Maybe it is a longing to go home.
Home, father, home! It’s a desire that I can hardly control. I want to go to my final home, where I will see you face-t0-face.
I was reading my orders today, reading about Abraham, who lived in the land promised him like a stranger. He was not content with earth, because he was constantly looking up and ahead to the land promised. He could not see it. He did not have any surety of it, no tangible sign, only the word of the Ever-True Father. But that was enough. For that faith he lived and died a wanderer, even being willing to sacrifice his only son, because he loved and trusted his God.
Just reading about my spiritual ancestor gives me hope. I want to be like them, who cannot see what is promised, but believe and continue in obedience.
Give me the faith to believe and long for the City that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Help me to always keep this in my sight, Captain, so that I may never be overcome by darkness and despair. Our enemy is strong, Captain, but you died to free us, and to give us victory. Even now you are going before us to prepare the home Abraham longed for. Now I long for it too. Please, my friend, take us home soon. Let this warfare end. Fill our hearts with your peace.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God….These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11: 8-10, 13-16)
Western Front, Southeast Squadron RPC
Camp S, Section 65B
We’ve had trouble on several fronts in our camp. Several of us are fighting among ourselves. Our enemy is profiting from our discord and has chided us into inactivity. This infighting must stop or we won’t be able to fight. My enemy Ego is telling me to listen to my pride and join the fighting. I’m finding it hard to fight him. I’ve failed twice already.
Our youngest soldier is very open to the message so far. I only hope that the Holy Light will infect him. I’m reading to him picture books about what you have done. Call him to your service, Captain, and make him one of yours. Make him truly one of your soldiers, not just an observer of the light.
I’m having trouble with my commission. I’m finding that I have more fear of what people might think of me than I have faith in you and what you have done. I want to speak to others about your glory, but I don’t do it in my time, and therefore am out of practice. I’m shirking my duties as soldier and lightbearer.
Remind me again, captain, that my purpose is to reflect the Holy Light coming from you. Let this take full preeminence over all my other passions. Let me not be afraid to speak for you. Fill me with your spirit, your courage, your light. Let me trust you again. Only then can I be a true soldier
Let me no longer fear men, Captain, but fear God
Western Front, Southeast Squadron RPC
Camp S, Section 65B
Enclosed is my first full report of the battle in camp S. The lapses of communication are not due to any ambiguity on the part of my orders, but result from my flawed misconception that my purpose here was to simply observe, to study, and not to engage the enemy.
The Holy Light has been put out, the one entrusted to Camp S, due to ill keeping. The Soldiers in Camp S have been acting in an advisory capacity, living civilian lives, while still carrying the royal name. Without guarding or engagement in the battles, the flame slowly dwindled. Now it is only coals.
I have failed you in watching my part of the Holy Light, and was lulled to sleep by the words of a traitor in the camp, Ego, who assured me that my part in the campaign was to watch and learn from senior officials. I have been reading the orderbook and the biographies, the latter books reminding me of my full purpose.
The reason this is my first report is because before now I assumed as an observer I had no right to speak to you, but that my orders would come soon. I was unwilling to believe that my orders came when I first joined the camp.
While carrying your Holy Name, and your Holy Light, I have kept silent when asked of my true colors. I have tried to hide the Holy Light, and because of that, the Light has faded away. Not only that, but my lack of participation in the campaigns I was supposed to be part of caused several heavy losses for our camp. The rest of the soldiers are likewise asleep. Only our Commanders nurse the Holy Light. And our Squadron seems more worried about maintaining structural activity than beginning any new campaigns.
We are on the defense, sir, because we have no hope. We feel that our job is simply to wait for you to come and take command, and that you will fix everything. Without the Holy Light, we have become timid. We no longer try to enlarge our ranks.
I ask that the Holy Light be rekindled in our Camp, and our Squadron. I ask that we may be given encouragement and aid as we begin again what we ought to have done long ago. I ask for a Captain to lead us in the conquest of the darkness. I ask for personal aid as I stand against demons of darkness and indifferent soldiers. How strange that my main discouragement comes from within our ranks!
Every night we close the day with this song:
Father, we come to thee, for day is done
And bring account for battles lost and won
For all the vict’ries, let us humble be
For all our power finds its source in Thee.
Give us Victory over our enemy once more, my King
Where we left off, Sméagol was contemplating the job of watching several little hobbits while “Fat Hobbit” Went with Rosie to see the Elves before they went over the Sea. Sméagol was left alone with Elanor, Sam’s oldest hobbit-daughter, and several little hobbits.
Gollum: We shouldn’t eats them, precious, but we is hungry. We has nothing to eat.
Elanor: Would you like me to make you some toast? Or bacon?
Gollum: Baconses, please. And raw.
Elanor: That doesn’t seem quite safe, mister….
Gollum: Sméagol is our name, precious.
Elanor: Mister Sméagol. You probably should cook your food before you eat it.
Gollum: One raw and one cooked, then?
Elanor: I guess I could do that. I’ll be right back.
Gollum: Would he miss one, I wonder? He has so many small hobbitses… (hears a knock on the door) I wonder if that’s him coming back. Good thing I didn’t eat any. (Goes over to the door and opens it)
Dwalin: Good morning. Dwalin at your service. Where’s supper?
Dwalin: Don’t dawdle, lad. Bring supper.
Gollum: All right…(goes over to Elanor at the stove) We is going to need more baconses. There are dwarveses in the parlor.
Elanor: Dwarves in the parlor? But papa isn’t home.
Gollum: We knows this.(Door bangs once more) And it looks like there will be more coming!
Fili: Looks like everyone’s here. Hello! Where’s supper?
Gollum: Why does everyone expect supperses?
Dwalin: It was in the message. Little fellow having the meeting at his house, providing supper, and going to come with us to help rob the dragon.
Gollum: DRAGONSES? What’s it talking about, precious?
Thorin: Everyone! Gandalf said we need to get going immediately. There isn’t much time. He’ll meet us in Bree. I’m sorry, Baggins, but we’ll have to leave now.
Gollum: Bagginses? What does it mean, Bagginses?
Balin: We got the message: Baggins, in the Shire, at Bag End, coming to help us get the dragon.
Gollum: This sounds familiarses…..wait, DRAGONSES! WHAT DRAGONSES??
Elanor: Excuse me…
Fili: All right! Let’s go!
Sam and Rosie come to their house to find it in complete disarray. All the furniture is topsy-turvy and the pantry is empty.
Rosie: What happened here?
Sam: I knew it wasn’t smart to let Gollum watch our house. Now look at all this.
Rosie: But where are our children?
Sam(to himself): Maybe he ate them.
Rosie: SAM! Look, there’s an elf. Sir, have you seen our children?
Legolas: They’ve taken the hobbits to Isengard!
Sam: (to himself) Better there than with that Gollum.
Rosie: How far away is Isengard?
Sam: Here we go again.
This Addition to the Sméagol series is the first one to be a two-part. The series is purely fictitious and is not canon, so don’t worry about it. For entertainment only.
After losing his job at the restaurant, Sméagol scanned the want ads in the local newspaper. The choice of employment for a creature such as him was very slim.
Gollum: Nothing for poor Sméagol. Nothing at all. No one cares that he is starving! No one cares that he might die! (Scans the paper again) What’s this? Sitter wanted to watch house for weekendses. What’s a sitter, precious? Someone who sitses? We must looks into this.
(Gollum goes down to the address listed. It is a good sized hobbit-hole with a green door. Seeing a hobbit nearby, he asks for directions.)
Gollum: Excuse us. Where are we, precious?
Hobbit: Why, you’re in the shire, strange looking creature.
Gollum: Shire? That soundses familiar somehow. Might as well knock. (Knocks on door)
Gollum: FAT HOBBIT!!!!!
Sam: There’s no need to be insulting. Why, Gollum! I wondered what had happened to you after you fell into that volcano. And then you were at that restaurant. Well, what are you doing here?
Gollum: I found this ad in the paperses. But I don’t know what sitterses mean.
Sam: Oh. Well, it’s someone who watches over a house and makes sure that no one comes in when they’re not supposed to.
Gollum: Is that all? Just watching houseses?
Sam: That’s it.
Gollum: Then we’ll take the jobses.
Sam: Wait, Gollum, it isn’t that easy. See, this is an odd house. Strange things keep happening. We haven’t been able to go on vacation for two months because people keep coming. We haven’t been able to get a sitter.
Gollum: Problemses solved. You need someone to watch the houses, and I need a jobses. Go ahead and take the little hobbitses with you.
Sam: Well, about that…
Sam: We haven’t found a baby sitter either.
Gollum: I don’t understandses.
Sam: This is a trip to Rivendell to listen to the elf music. I can’t really take the children. So I’ve been trying to get a babysitter.
Gollum: What’s the difference betweens a sitterses and a babysitterses?
Sam: I’m not leaving the kids with you, Gollum.
Gollum: (whining) But poor Sméagol just wants to be helpful. Fat hobbitses don’t understands us!
Sam: I understands just fine. I don’t mind you watching our house, but I do mind you watching my children. You might eat them.
Gollum: EATSSS THEM? FAT HOBBIT THINKS I’LL EAT THE LITTLE HOBBITSES? SHAME!
Rosie: Dear, I wish you would stop that noise. I just got the children to bed. Elanor is going to stay up with them. Is this the sitter?
Sam: Well, yes…
Rosie: Wonderful! Now, we must hurry if we’re going to make the coach.
Sam: But dear, I don’t know if this is wise….
Rosie: Oh, Sam, don’t worry so much. Elanor will take care of them. (Turns to Gollum) Thank you very much for coming.
Gollum: Um, you’re welcomses?
Rosie: Now we must be going.
Rosie: Hurry, love! This is one of the last times we can see The Elves before they leave on their over the sea tour! We’ve waited long enough! (Drags Sam away)
(Elanor, a girl hobbit, walks out. She blinks at Gollum)
Elanor: Who are you?
Gollum: What did we get ourselves into, precious?
Will Sméagol survive the job at Bag End? Are Sam’s kids safe? And why did it take so long for Sam to find a sitter? Stay tuned for part 2!
Setting: Gollum, after losing “his” ring, is homeless and out of a job. Out of pity, a Rider of Rohan hires him to work in his restaurant. However, working is not something Gollum is used to.
Helm: All right….Gollum? Is that your name?
Gollum: Yes, precious, poor Sméagol is called Gollum now.
Helm: Well, then, Gollum, your jobs will be simple. You’ll wash dishes, take food to the tables, and help clean up the restaurant. People will order at the counter, so you won’t need to take their orders, but you will need to make sure you give the right food to the right people. Is that clear?
Gollum: Very clear, precious. Poor Sméagol does his best.
Helm: Good. First you can help wash dishes in the back here. (Shows Gollum a large sink)
Gollum: What a lot of water. Are there fishes in here, precious?
Helm: No. Just a lot of dishes. And be careful! (begins to walk off)
Gollum: (Looking around) Augh! What’s it doing, precious? He ruins it!
Helm: (rushes over) What is it?
Gollum: He cooks it! He ruins the nice fish! Make him stop!
Helm: (shaking his head) Gollum, you need to calm down. This isn’t a sushi joint. We cook our food. Now maybe this is bothering you. Would you like to do a job where you don’t have to watch them cook?
Gollum: Yes, precious, Sméagol would be so appreciative. (to himself) Might not want to stay this job. Sounds sticky.
Helm: All right. Take this fish and this salad to the couple over there. (hands Sméagol two huge plates)
Gollum: Issss not right precious! (staggering under the heavy plates) They spoils the nice fish. Give it to me now, raw, wriggling….(sets the plates down on the table heavily) and keep the nassty lettuces!
The couple at the table are Eowyn and Faramir.
Faramir: What’s this? (Stares at Gollum) Haven’t we met before?
Gollum: What? This one again, precious? How!? (He ducks under the table.)
Eowyn: Peace, Faramir. He has as much right to work as anyone.
Faramir: No treachery, now.
Gollum: No…no not at all. (slinks away very quickly and goes to see Helm) You didn’t tells us that HE was here!
Helm: Sorry, Gollum. This is a popular restaurant. Speaking of which…(In comes a huge group of orcs) here’s the football team now! How was the game?
Lead orc: Oh! Ha, it was a killing! (all orcs rattle their weapons and cheer) We want something to eat! It seems like we haven’t had anything but maggoty bread in three days!
Helm: Now, now, you were here yesterday. Gollum, get some tables ready for these gentlemen.
Gollum: GENTLEMEN? They’re ORCSES!!!
Helm: Now, don’t be prejudiced. Go on.
Gollum: We goes, we goes. (Grumbling to himself) Helpsing orcses and elvses, no food for poor Sméagol! But must be kind to master. He gives us moneys to buy foodses and hotel roomses. (Does as he’s told)
Helm: Thank you, Gollum, you’re doing a great job so far. But we’re not done yet. Please take these baked potatoes to that table over there.
Gollum: But there’s too much, precious! There’s more taters here than in fat hobbit’s stew, precious! We must think this through, love! He gives us too much! These are….nine taters, precious!
Helm: You know, I could hire a dwarf…
Gollum: Coming, coming! Poor Sméagol does his best, even though he’s tired and hungry! We takes the nassty taters. (Strains to pick up all the trays) Nassty….HEAVY taters! (Gollum staggers over to the table and almost drops all the plates) There! Here’s your nassty taters, good riddance, I says! Takes them! Takes them all! (Looks up)
(The occupants of the table are a family of hobbits. Sméagol’s mouth drops open.)
Gollum: Fat hobbitses? A whole family of fat hobbitses! Augh!!!!!! (Runs to Helm) I can’t do this, precious! Is too hard!
Helm: (losing his patience) If you can’t work with the others, I can’t have you work here.
Gollum: Fine! We leave. And we’ll never come back! (goes off in a huff) Best decision we’ve made, precious. Can’t work there any more. It’s too much, precious. Too much. We work somewhere else.
In Matthew 20, Jesus tells a parable to those around him. Peter and the rest of the disciples have just said “Lord, we have left everything to follow you!” The Rich Young Ruler has just walked away sadly, disappointed in Jesus’ answer. And in just a little while, the sons of Zebedee will ask to sit at Jesus’ right and left hands. They didn’t understand. Jesus said that the first would be last, and the last would be first. They didn’t understand.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul asked if he was anything. He said that he was God’s fellow worker, and could not claim glory. He was simply a laborer, a gardener. He planted the seed, but God made it grow. It was time for the church to collect the harvest.
But how can we gather together if we are too busy fighting over who is first? Unity isn’t necessarily easy, but it is necessary. Whether we come to Christ as children or adults, we are in Christ, and together must work and pray. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
Men who are waiting
Just waiting for work
Not looking for it
Just standing alone.
Master comes searching,
Searching for workers
To pick his vineyard
And work his fields
“Come to my Vineyard
Gather my harvest
What I will give you
Will be good and right
Wage for the worker
Who works with good pleasure
Hurry and come now
Before the night.”
Workers start working
Glad for the wages
But master still searches
For more to come
Men are still waiting
Standing at market
For someone to come.
“Come to my Vineyard
Gather my harvest
What I will give you
Will be good and right
Wage for the worker
Who works with good pleasure
Hurry and come now
Before the night.”
Workers start working
Glad for the wages
But master still searches
For more to come.
Men are still waiting
Day’s almost over
No chance of pay.
“Come to my Vineyard
Gather my harvest
What I will give you
Will be good and right
Wage for the worker
Who works with good pleasure
Hurry and come now
Before the night.”
Sun is now setting
Work is now done
Time for the wages
From last to first.
Wonder of wonders!
All is made equal
The same wage for a day
As for an hour.
“Why do you grumble
You who came early?
Did I not promise
And did I not give?
‘Is it not my work
To give a blessing
Grudge not the free gift
Oh you who are blessed!”
Gather my harvest
What I will give you
Will be good and right
Wage for the worker
Who works with good pleasure
Hurry and come now
Before the night.”
Do you still worry?
Do you still grumble?
Angry at God’s Grace
To those who are late?
Bless him who called you
Into the vineyard
And grudge not the master
The gift he has giv’n!
Every year about June, something happens in our house. I can sense it coming when the air gets hot and lazy, and the chickens sit on the ground instead of pecking around in their yard. I can see it as I see the summer leaves coming onto the trees.
It is coming.
It is here.
I’m not sure how I gained my intense dislike for the flavor of blueberries. I used to like them. But something happened when I was small, something I can’t remember, and now I detest them. What makes it difficult, however, is that I am the alone.
Everyone in my home looks forward to Blueberry Season. They relish the idea of cold, crisp blueberries in pies, cakes, muffins, biscuits, waffles, pancakes, cobblers, and coffecakes. They like the huge bags of purple-blue berries in the freezer, and soon after a picking, flock to the kitchen to make their culinary conquest.
But what of me?
Oddly enough, even though my family loves to eat blueberries, they aren’t too fond of picking them. I understand, of course. Hot sun, fire ants, thick shoes, heavy buckets, clouds of insects, scratchy bushes, branches stuck in hair. I understand how those things are discouraging, because I’ve been there. I’ve even experienced guard dogs and all sorts of obstacles. But when it comes down to actually picking, my brother and I tie for most efficient. It doesn’t seem to register in my mind that each berry I pick means another blueberry-tainted dessert that I will have to pass on.
So in reality, I’m doing it to myself.
I like that my family likes blueberries. I like that they can now enjoy the harvest they (and I) worked to gather. I like that the sudden pour of berries inspires them to great things and new ideas. I like that. But I do not like blueberries.
So every year, right after the picking, it comes. All the normal desserts and breakfast items, like pie or pancakes, are covered with the berries. And every year I find a way to either eat them or eat something else. After about ten years of it, my family has caught on. But I can’t help it. I eat them sometimes, but as little as possible.
I’ve tried, of course. This is rather inconvenient for me, you know, and for the others. I try to like blueberries, for their sake (and for the sake of that pie) but I can’t. It’s not the only thing in the house, and frankly, if I take a piece and dislike it, then someone who actually loves it can’t have one. It isn’t worth the risk.
So now pie is on the table (blueberry, of course) and I content myself with memories of ice cream. They are enjoying their treasure as a family. That’s worth going without coffee cake.
It’s Good Friday. I’m not sure why we call it “good”. It certainly didn’t seem so 2,000 years ago. If I was to name holidays, I would switch the names of this Friday and Black Friday. Then we could have Black Friday (the day when the sky prematurely went black) and Good (deal) Friday. But I’m afraid no one would like that.
The thing is, though it was “good” when you think of the ultimate triumph of that Friday, no one thought so on the day when Jesus was crucified. Save, perhaps, some Pharisees, Sadducees and a guy named Herod. They were quite happy when Jesus died. The spirit world erupted into chaotic joy…like in the parable of the Tenants, where the wicked tenants said “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’’ (Matthew 21:38)
It seemed to be a very BAD Friday then. But even when things were darkest, odd phenomena broke out, hinting that the day wasn’t over. For one thing, the curtain in the temple separating God and Man tore from the top down. No one understood that this meant that a mediator had made the temple sacrifices obsolete. Some dead people came out of their graves and began to prophesy. No one understood that Jesus would very soon rise again.
On Sunday, the day we call Easter, (another odd name) all these things would be explained. But today, on Good Friday, we remember the cross, the pain, the sacrifice for sin. The beauty of Easter is preceded by the pain of Good Friday…God, be merciful to me, a Sinner!
Who is this man, who bears the scars?
What is his lowly name?
For surely he is a wretched soul
to be treated with such shame!
What was his crime, who suffers there
What was his great offense?
What is this burden he must bear
That he should die like this!
Has he no friends, to be alone
Why must he suffer there?
The awful load of sin and guilt
How hard it is to bear!
It is our God, who suffers there!
How hard for us to see!
As each professes, in his heart
“He suffered there for me!”
– Rebekah Hair
In some places the ice stuck out in stiff spikes, like tiny crystals of armor against footsteps. In others it covered the whole surface, branching out and joining together like crocheted lace.
If you walk outside you’ll see the diamond walkway before you. The weak sun sparkles on the grass, warning that soon it will rise to its whole height and warm the air, ending the reign of frosty magic.
I found a leaf on the grass that had fallen there from my potted poinsettia. Ice had covered every vein and panel, making a screen over the textured face. The beauty of the ice makes my frozen fingers worthwhile.
Ice is rare in south Texas. It’s usually dry in the winters, or raining because it’s much too warm for snow. I’ve only seen icicles a few times since we’ve been here, and none of them have been any longer than four inches. But frost is rather common, especially on cold, quiet mornings where the sun has yet to cross the sky and the air is bitterly frigid. During the night the dew turns to frost, and the frost to ice.
My camera has suddenly discovered how to blur and focus on different things depending on distance. Sometimes that’s annoying (birthday parties come to mind here) but other times it’s a blessing. Capturing the frozen morning takes practice. The light is so faded when the ice is out, but it’s so beautiful as it hits the diamond-hued ground. Even though you have to get up early and freeze, it’s worth it.
This year my favorite Radio Station suddenly decided to drop what they had been doing and begin a whole new set of music. I wrote them an e-mail to ask why they had made the change. They said that they made the change to Praise and Worship so that they would minister to the majority of their listeners. While talking to Mom about this, somehow I lost track of the conversation and began to talk about something completely different: our inability to change.
I’m not sure how we got on that track. Maybe it’s because the e-mail didn’t show any signs of changing direction. I understand. We can’t expect a radio station to simply change course because one person doesn’t like what they’re doing. That’s to be expected. Now if everyone listening suddenly decided they didn’t like the new music and protested, and the station still wouldn’t change, that would be a problem. Why, that station would be just like Americans today!
We have a problem in our day and age with making our minors absolutes and our absolutes minors. We stand firm on our nothings while making concessions for our everythings. How is it that we can be so protective of our preferences, but so lenient with our laws? We pass laws protecting our interests but let people strip away our rights.
We need to wake up, people. This is getting pretty insane.
I’m not saying that stubbornness is good or bad, because it is both. When my brother stubbornly keeps his little brother from pulling away from him and running into the road, his stubbornness is invaluable. When little brother just as stubbornly insists on his way, his stubbornness is sinful. The difference between young adult and young child couldn’t be more clear. The child was being stubborn with something he could afford to lose, that is, his right to run into the road. The young man was being stubborn with something he could not afford to lose, that is, his little brother’s life.
There seem to be many more toddlers than young men in this world when it comes to decisions. Both boys were just as determined to win, and neither of them were going to give in. The younger one insisted that his brother let go of his hand. He wanted to run into the road! The older brother insisted that he would hold on to the hand until all the cars had gone down the street. So while the younger brother could have afforded to make concessions, the older one couldn’t. You can’t have a partially ran-over brother and still come out on top in the negotiations. Younger brother didn’t care much about the cars and the older brother’s convictions, but he was vehement about his right to play in the road.
There are many things that we can give in on. We can let other people have the last piece of pie, or our place in line, or the best job. We can also let go of arguments over, say, what C.S. Lewis was thinking in the Last Battle, or whether Rich Mullins wrote a certain song for a certain person. If we don’t have the actual written answer, these things are just speculation and shouldn’t be argued over. These are the places where we should be peacemakers. We can be meek and let others win arguments over silly things, like (don’t get angry at me here) having candles in a church service or baptism. These kinds of conflicts don’t really achieve anything or improve the relationship between the people involved. There’s no moral issue in question.
However, when something that is true, like the existence of God or the value of human life, is questioned or attacked, we cannot sit back and allow other people to spread lies about the laws of God. In my example of the two brothers, my teenage brother was acting under the orders from his parents (the law-givers) that running out into the road was wrong, and that there would be serious consequences for them if they did so. My younger brother knew of the law, but he didn’t care, and my older brother had to restrain him for his good and for the good of the family. In the same way, sometimes we must take action to restrain bad judgment and bad laws, especially if those bad laws will hurt the nation and the people involved.
Our world is steadily streaming towards a fall. Our country has made bad choice after bad choice, and many people have not tried to stop it. Lawmakers get away with insanity because the good people are bickering and the bad people don’t care. Our culture is decaying, and we can’t get over our parking space.
God gave us free will to use for the good of ourselves and others, not to be used in a muscle match to try and bully the person disagreeing with us. We need to use the stubbornness given us to proclaim the truth, and to defend it. We need to find our backbone and not be afraid when people disagree! Our earthly enemies don’t seem to mind the “shame-on-yous” we use to try and change them, and we might want to take their advice. If you believe in something strongly, you should fight for it, but if it’s something that’s a preference, try and make peace. When we forget the true priority of life, we get into really sticky messes, like the one we’re in now.
Isn’t it interesting that we can become so callous to the wonderful?
That’s a bizarre thing to say, I realize, but by this time you’re probably used to my style. People who read me often probably skipped right over that statement, inadvertently proving it. We’re constantly bombarded by people who are trying to shock us. After some time we simply wander through life.
Christmas is a pretty good example of this. We hear Christmas music all the time and grow tired of it. We hear words and names and acknowledge them as part of the season, too busy to care about their meanings. One word that seems to have been stripped of its meaning is the word “Emmanuel”
Spelled with either an E or an I, the word Emmanuel means “God with us”. In a culture obsessed with people, it’s hard to understand the significance of such a bold and glorious promise. God had not dwelt with his people since before the time of the judges. God had been far off. He had given them his promise to be with them, but had also promised to hide his face if they turned away, which they did over and over. He gave his children second chances, and they spit in his face. For hundreds of years, God was silent.
But there were those who stayed faithful, and who studied the scriptures hoping for a sign of the coming Messiah, who would rescue them from their sin and misery. Imagine their joy as they read these words: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
Immanuel; God with Us! The messiah was coming one day, and he would dwell with them on earth! He would be able to interact with them in a way that had not been seen since the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve walked with God each day. Can you imagine the eagerness that possessed those who believed in this word? Can you taste their breathless joy?
Just because these verses are quoted around Christmastime doesn’t mean that they are exclusively Christmas property. Have a wonderful New Year, everyone! May you use the year to do wonderful and amazing things for God’s glory! But through it all, remember that God is With Us Forever! That is a reason to rejoice. Though my verse is clumsy, I hope that it brings you joy.
God with us! He promised
to never forsake.
God with us! His mercies
our hard hearts awake.
God with us! He’s coming!
Lift your praises high!
God with us! Forever!
He who came to die!
God with us! His praises
shall never now end.
God with us! He calls us,
our savior and friend.
God with us! He’s coming!
God here on earth!
God with us! Forever!
Rejoice at Christ’s birth!
God with us! He’s coming
to bring us all peace.
God with us! His kingdom
shall never, ever cease.
God with us! He’s here now!
From heaven’s high throne
God with us! O, Praise him!
He’ll soon bring us home!
Setting: Gollum and Frodo are wrapping Christmas gifts. Frodo apparently asked Gollum for help with his huge load of presents, and Gollum is obliging with the hopes of achieving something.
Frodo walks in and speaks to Gollum, who is wrapping presents. Gollum was originally muttering to himself and looking sour, but when Frodo walks in, he changes his expression and becomes flattering and “helpful”.
Frodo: Thank you for your help, Sméagol. These gifts were really piling up. They’ve become quite a burden to me. (Sighs and looks dramatically towards audience)
Gollum: Helpful Sméagol always helps master. Sméagol does his best.
Frodo: Well, I appreciate it, I really do. (Looks down at the pile of badly-wrapped gifts, hesitates) They’re a little messy.
Gollum(whining): Nice Sméagol does his best, he does! Always helps master! Can’t help it that gifts are tricksy.
Sam(suddenly appearing through a door): Look at this! What a mess. You’re making me sick. Let me see that! (Grabbing gifts, he proceeds to neatly wrap them) Now that’s the only way to wrap a brace of coneys.
Frodo(alarmed): What? Whose present was that?
Sam(glancing at the package): I’m not really sure. There’s no label on the gift.
Frodo: Oh dear. I must have misplaced the sticky labels. Sméagol, have you seen them?
Gollum(still whining): Sméagol does his best to help master! Sméagol would never take master’s precious.
Sam: (under his breath) Gollum probably ate them, he did. (Louder) I’ll go look for them, Mr. Frodo! (Exits)
Gollum: (Waits a minute to make sure Sam is really gone, then looks at Frodo with a crafty smile.) Nice Sméagol wraps gifts for master, but does not know how to label them without sticky labels, does he precious? Wherever could they be? (Cuts his eyes back and forth, moves in closer) It was him! The Fat Hobbit! He wants them for himself! It will soon have him!
Frodo: What are you talking about? (alarmed again)
Gollum: the precioussssss, love, the preciousssss. He wants it for himself. He’s taken those nice sticky labels all himself, and we shall never see them again. He is jealous of poor Sméagol.
Sam: (calling from the other room) Mr. Frodo! I found the sticky labels! You left them in the closet shelves!
Gollum: (exchanging glances with Frodo) Oopssess.
Sam:(Runs in and hands them to him) Here you are. And it looks like those coneys were for Mr. Gimli, if I’m not mistaken.
Frodo: Ah, Gimli. I’d forgotten. He does like red meat, if I remember correctly.
Sam: Yes, I believe so. (Sam stops and stares at Gollum) Why, Gollum, you’re not using a tape dispenser. You’re going to make everything all messy. Don’t you have one? (fetches a tape holder for Sméagol) There. You couldn’t do better than that.
Gollum: Yes I could! (snatches tape away) Spoils the nice tape. Sméagol likes it raw and sticky, good for wrapping presents in, and you can keeps the nasssty dispenser.
Sam: You’re hopeless. (Exits again)
Frodo: I have to run some errands now, Sméagol. Can you finish up here and put the presents under the tree?
Gollum: Oh yes, oh yes. Go along, hobbitses. Sméagol will watch over things for you. (Frodo exits. Sméagol continues to wrap presents in his own messy way, but now he talks to himself.) It isn’t fair, precious. They goes out to buy presents and don’t let us at all! And all these precious gifts, all going to elveses and orcses, when we wraps them! It isn’t fair!
(Evil Gollum suddenly enters and speaks to Gollum, dialogue)
Evil Gollum: No, it isn’t, love. They doesn’t appreciate us. They only look out for themselves.
Gollum (whining): But Master promised that he would get us a gift this year….
Evil Gollum: Master doesn’t keep his promises. Wicked! Tricksey! False! We must look after ourselves. We should takes it.
Gollum: No! Yess…? But no! They isn’t our preciouses. They are others giftses.
Evil Gollum: But no one is around, precious. They will never know. We takes it for ourselves.
Gollum: But the Fat Hobbit! He sees everything!
Evil Gollum: Then we do it now while Fat Hobbit is gone. Take the precious and let us be gone. Master doesn’t like you.
Gollum (suddenly picking up courage) No! Go away, and NEVER come back! (Hits him with the present. Evil Gollum flees) He’s gone! Yes! Freeeeeee! (He takes gifts to tree. Scene end.)
(Later, outside Christmast party. Gollum is outside of the festivities, feeling very sad. Sam walks up to him.
Sam: What are you doing, sneaking around out here?
Gollum: Sneaking! After all Sméagol does for you, and you accuse us of sneaking! Sneaking, indeed.
Sam: Well, it doesn’t much matter. I’ve brought you something. (holds out gift)
Gollum: Doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t like it. (Takes it cautiously and opens it.)
Sam: Well, Merry Christmas anyway, Gollum. (Stalks off)
Gollum: (Discovering something inside that he likes) My precious….you brought me my precioussss! Merry Christmas to you too, fat hobbit! And to everyones!
Based on actual events.
Caro strode forward, letting adrenaline take over. Things began spinning around him. Nya was in the throne room, sitting on his Father’s throne. Caro grew angry. Who was this person? Why did she think that she would be free from her conscience? She had Gino now. Did she have Opal? If she did, then the plan might succeed. Caro could use her pride against her. But what if she didn’t? What if someone else did, or if Opal was simply in hiding? Caro had to take the chance.
A few guards noticed him and rushed forward. Caro pushed them aside and held his pace. Nya’s eyes glittered. She was winning! Caro had come for his friends. Now she had him! What could his puny force do now? In her desperate grab for power, she had forgotten the Chosen. At this time one who had been Chosen, Andrew, was racing down the halls, followed by the twins, Simon and Tully. She had also forgotten the quiet strength within Opal and Gino. She trusted to her army, but Caro was trusting in something deeper.
Caro couldn’t be stopped. Guards shot at him with arrows, but the bolts missed their marks. A wave of fear swept over the crowd. What magic did this boy have? Did it match the magic of their queen? Would there be a battle?
Nya alone remained calm. “Well, who is this?” She asked. “It’s my little runaway prince.”
“Your mocking does not bother me.” Caro called. “What do you want, usurper?”
“You have come.” Nya told him. “Where are your rebels? Are they hiding in the rafters?”
“I’m here for Gino.” Caro said boldly. “Release him.”
“I don’t think so.” Nya told him. “If you want your friend back, you must first face me.”
“I will not fight you.” Caro told her. “It will not do anything.”
“Not fight me?” Nya seemed confused, but only for a minute. “Now, why is that?”
“I do not feel that it is necessary.” Caro replied. “At least, not now.”
“I know why.” Nya snapped. “You’re trying to keep your little prophetess safe. Well, it is pointless. I’ve taken care of her.”
“Where is she?” Caro asked.
“In good time.” Nya smiled. “In good time.”
“You aren’t going to tell me.” Caro realized. “You’re playing for time.”
“I am in charge of this meeting.” Nya snapped, losing her temper. “Why would I play?”
“Why does a cat play with a mouse?” Rocket muttered from his hiding place behind the throne. Oddly enough, Nya didn’t hear him.
“Because you’re afraid of me.” Caro guessed. “You’re afraid of what I have and what you once had. You don’t want to lose your kingdom that you have fought so hard to obtain. But you can never keep it, Nya. The Creator is too powerful for you to defy. Your reign is over.”
“You will not fight me because you say that I am afraid.” Nya hissed. “But you are the one who should be afraid.”
“But I am not.” Caro stubbornly insisted.
“We shall see.” Nya’s mind was reeling. She had not expected Caro to be so confident. Then she had a thought. Caro was a son of a king, but he was still a child. He had been stirred to anger and near-madness by the death of his sister. Perhaps Nya could replicate that reaction. But how?
Yes! The blind girl was so helpless, and so trusting. She was the perfect bait for the prince! Nya nodded to Dawes. Dawes gave an order to his men. Davis narrowed his eyes. What were they doing? Were they going to get Gino? Or were they trying to set up a trap for Caro? And what about Opal? The soldier wasn’t sure. He glanced at Rocket. Rocket shrugged. He didn’t know what was going on. All he knew was that if anything went wrong, he would be ready with his pistol.
“I am waiting, Nya.” Caro reminded them of the task at hand. “Release my friends now.”
“As you wish.” Nya smiled icily at him. Suddenly Caro realized that Opal had been there the whole time. She sat at the edge of the platform, nodding sleepily. Caro suddenly realized that the sleep-paralysis had struck her again. She wouldn’t be able to play her part in the drama. Caro suddenly realized that he had walked right into a trap. Nya’s command had been to her men, and now they were surrounding the room. Caro, as well as his men, were trapped inside of the throne room, and if he didn’t think of something quickly, Rocket and Davis would react and die. Opal might die as well.
Caro drew his sword once more, trying to buy a little time. “Let Opal go, Nya!” He cried, but Nya only laughed. Caro went very white. Nya had guessed his plans! But as Caro stood motionless, someone else moved. A large black, silver, and white dog burst through the doors, darting through the legs of the guards and standing, snarling, at the foot of the platform. With a wolf-like howl, he sprang at Nya.
Nya’s concentration was broken. She stared at the dog who was flying at him and lifted her arm to shield her face. Promise was growling like an angry bear. His eyes were red and wild. Caro had never seen him act so ferociously. But Nya was only distracted for a moment. She swung her trident and hit the dog on the side, knocking him to the other side of the throne room. Against his better judgment, Davis bent down to see if he could help the dog. Promise’s brown eyes gazed up at him pitifully.
But in all the confusion, Nya had forgotten about Opal. She stood up like someone in a trance. Then she turned sightless eyes to Nya. “I’m sorry.” She said softly, then raised her voice. “Hear the Word of the Creator God, who chose you before you were born. “I have forsaken you” says the LORD, “and you shall be cut off from the earth. No longer shall you live in the iniquity of your evil ways, and no longer shall you oppress the people whom I have called my own. I will visit the blood of the slain on your head, and you shall bear the punishment you have earned.””
As Nya heard Opal’s words, her face turned paler than pale. She took a step back, cried out, and fell to the ground. The trident fell from her hands. She faded away in their sight and slowly disappeared. Caro dropped his sword in grave sorrow. He hated Nya, but all the same, he was overcome by the thought of someone so evil receiving her due. As for the grim message-bearer, Opal sank to her knees and was silent. Caro thought he heard Gino say sometime, somewhere “So end all who disobey our God’s laws and remain unrepentant.”
A word of explanation: I wrote this for a class, and since I haven’t written much in the last few months, I thought I should put it up.
Growing up, my brothers and I loved to play games. We did not need a game board or cards to play them. Our game pieces were our toys, and the rules were made up as we went along. We liked our cars, because we had so many of them, and we liked our dinosaurs and legos, but we always had a tiny bit of favoritism for our stuffed animals. Our stuffed animals, and the kingdom they built, were what made our childhood special.
It was not hard to guess why. When something shares your confidence, you want to make it the hero in all your games. To three hyper-imaginative children, stuffed animals were perfect dolls. You could make them clothes, but that wasn’t necessary. They could be thrown and stepped on, but they would never hurt you the way the spiky plastic toys would. Besides, they all looked the same. This made history and family structure easy. Adam’s toys were the Dogginas, Sam’s the Doggos, and mine were the Cattianas. They conquered kingdoms, fought blanket monsters, and gnashed their teeth against the irresistible fiend, Goodwill, who had devoured so many of their comrades. There was intrigue and mystery as the armies of King Foxy fought against the villainous Lisechecks and drove them back to their borders. The fairies and the cars were all in their little areas, surrounded by the watchful stuffed animals. Wars were fought every year or so, but what can you expect with two little brothers?
Animal Land gave our creativity jumper cables. Not only did we draw pictures of our pets, but we gave them genealogies. The countryside had to be mapped, and cities and rivers were discovered that could not be found on any other chart. President Blackie Cattiana and King Foxy Doggina had a lasting truce, as they fought to chase out the wicked Shep and her children from their ranks. But all these adventures needed to be written about. Soon a newspaper sprang up, The Animal Enterprise. I was the editor and illustrator. Adam was in charge of the sports page. And Sam…well, Sam was the one whose animals’ exploits were read about in the stories. Sadly, most of the villains in Animal Land were of that notorious family, Doggos. His ideas were rather radical for our culture, and not always understood, but always tolerated. Our creativity knew no bounds!
There was no stopping the invincible armies of Blackie and Foxy, and in peacetime, think of all the competitions! There were the Animal Olympics, of course, and Animal Soccer, Basketball, Football, and cheerleading. Shops sprang up, with their own advertisements. Then we went through our “cardboard box” stage, where we commandeered boxes to create animal castles for the royalty. I kept our animals readily supplied with wedding dresses and flags, curtains and capes, all made from Grandma’s scrap-box. There was no defeating Animal Land. It would reign forever!
Somehow, though no one knows when or how, Animal Land seemed less important to us. For one thing, I was interested in a far more amazing realm, the animal country of Symettria. The Spy Club were testing the waters of mystery, and the human spies, the MPA agents, cautiously lifted their banner high in my imagination. Instead of playing with my toys, I created my own characters with my pen and pencil. As I began to write and draw, my playing became more and more infrequent. Soon my play-time was limited to outside, then only on the swings. It was so much more exciting to play our characters ourselves. Why would we want to play stuffed animals?
We moved on, I suppose. Lily the Leopard and Sam Houston the Teddy were replaced in my mind with Nala Fletcher, Jaycee Fox, and Agent R, who only existed in my mind and my writing. Adam left his animals to chase after sports stars, and Sam’s unquenchable imagination was filled with Jedi, Pokémon, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Our maps became wrinkled and torn, our advertisements were replaced by comic pages chronicling the latest adventures of the Spy Club, and Foxy’s army sat restlessly, waiting for an adversary. That adversary never came. Now it’s too late. We’re too old.
I miss the days when King Foxy’s armies ruled the animal world. It is not easy to grow up. We want to be able to stay little all the time, but that is not possible. When our childhood is over, we first see what we have lost. One day, perhaps, when we have children of our own, Animal Land will awake from its sleep. But for now, our younger siblings are playing, creating, and building their own imaginary world. Their creed is much different than ours, and they are writing their own stories with their own stuffed animals. Children should be allowed to build their imaginary kingdoms while they can, because one day they will look back on them with fondness and regret, as I do.
I’ve been watching too much kids TV. No excuses—this is not good! But somehow I feel so excited when a hero triumphs. I love the feeling I get when a bad guy is finally defeated, and when the world is once again safe. Since most superhero shows are weird and have questionable things, I have to be very careful what I look at. PBS is pretty good about keeping it clean, at least right now. I tend to go after PBS’ “Word Girl” episodes, because I like superheroes. Granted, even though the hero in question, Word Girl, is a little annoying, she is a likeable hero.
But it seems that the Villains in the cartoon series have more to say than the heroine. (Quite a feat, especially when the hero has word powers) Sure, the villains are exaggerated and ridiculous, not to mention lawbreakers, but they are also extremely insightful. Not only are they cool enough for my brother, who really loves to talk about “bad guys”, but they each have something to say. One teaches about synonyms, and another antonyms. One in particular always speaks passively, for with PBS shows, even superheroes must teach something. But one villain, Miss Power, teaches about bullying.
This might be rather strange for a show based on explaining proper grammar, if it wasn’t for the public campaign against bullying that is being led by celebrities and the media. I watched the four-episode series, and well…I came out almost frozen. Here’s what happened.
Imagine that we have a superhero who spends all her time fighting crime, yet never gets the appreciation or respect she wants. She flies around saving people, often giving up precious family time to do so, and the villains always get out of jail after about a week. She’s exhausted! Now imagine that someone shows up claiming to have the answer to her problem, and that that someone proceeds to follow through with her promises. Her tactics are intimidation: if the villain is too scared to leave the jail, the hero won’t have to fight him as much.
It soon gets out of hand. We now have a power-crazy, sarcastically cruel “hero” running around, with the hero of the show following her every suggestion! But eventually Word Girl’s conscience gets the best of her, and she refuses to go along with Miss Power’s sadistic “crime-fighting”. Angry at being crossed, Miss Power reveals her true nature, and Word Girl has to try and fight something that is more wicked than she ever could have dreamed. Humiliated, Word Girl flees the battle, and Miss Power begins her rule of the city.
In many ways, Miss Power represents a modern celebrity. She looked amazing and had the force to back up her looks. She was popular and helpful, and a good role-model. She was a hero. But underneath her fair features, Miss Power was hiding a disgusting, wicked heart. She wasn’t a good person at all, and definitely not a good leader! Instead of helping people, she started locking them in jail simply for disagreeing with her rule of terror.
It turned out that Miss Power’s beauty was only skin-deep. She wanted to be in complete control of everything, and she would stop at nothing to accomplish that goal. All it took was a little persuasion, and she easily ditched her disguise for her true, violent identity. Her “power” came from having “power” over the other characters. If they were not afraid of her, she would lose her strength. So to keep that from happening, she became crueler and crueler, hoping to keep her advantage.
But even though it’s only a silly show, this story has an interesting twist. Miss Power is really evil, so wicked that I regretted watching it at night. Her cold cruelty—though granted, she never did anything harmful to her enemies, but instead relied on her tongue and her strength—her cruelty sobered me. This is the natural result of the hunger for power. Miss Power could be me. It could be any of us. It could be any hero that we look up to. How fitting it is that one of our sayings is “Power Corrupts”! How sad that we often forget why the phrase was coined.
Strangely enough, this little cartoon taught me a lesson almost more than it taught my siblings. Miss Power used intimidation and power to subdue people to her will. If she couldn’t break her adversaries with her bullying, she would imprison them. This is how most dictators work. And strangely enough, they also seem good in the beginning, and only reveal their true colors after they have gained control.
I never thought of someone who was “bad” would look so….well, good. I wasn’t sure how to process that. If someone can trick people in tv shows, surely I would would be just as vulnerable. Worse still, if even the “best” people fall when given too much power, what about me? Would I pass the test, if I was ever given it? There didn’t seem to be anything I could do.
Or was there?
There are many things I have that the cartoon people don’t. I might not be extremely wise, or even close. But I do have some things that I can do to guard myself from being tricked, especially when it comes to teachings.
First, I can compare what someone says to the Scriptures. If I heard someone saying something that sounded wonderful, but then thought it through and wasn’t sure if I agreed with it, I could always go back to the truth and contrast it with what the person said. If the two don’t line up, I have decide who to trust: God’s perfect word, or Man’s interpretation. I don’t mean to be snobbish, but I think I will stick to God’s word. It has never yet been proven wrong, but those who contradict it are proven wrong again and again. The odds are good that God will stay being God, and therefore I will stick to his side whenever I can.
Another thing I can do is analyze a person’s actions. Does someone seem a little too attached to the limelight? Does she climb
ladders and take shortcuts to try and get a higher place? Does she go out of her way to get people to notice her? Watch out! People who live off of others’ opinions of them are usually bad candidates. At the very least, they can be easily swayed, and will not be firm in their convictions. At the worst, they can be serpents in disguise. I have seen far too many “heroes” crash and burn. No one is perfect, and anyone who tries to be is setting himself up for failure.
A last thing I can do is pray. It isn’t easy to process why power-hungry people seem to fly to the top of the government. It isn’t easy to fight them. But we are not alone in our struggles. When we pray to our father, we are no longer isolated. When we pray together, as a church family, we are united in Christ! We are an army, and though we don’t use our weapons to attack people, we do use our numbers and our voice to make a difference. We have that freedom now, and we need to be careful to not give it away.
In the show, things were looking blue. Word Girl was too weak to fight Miss Power, so she wisely decided to bow out and do some studying on how to defeat her. (What’s this? Studying her orders? What about us? Maybe little superheroes have something to tell us after all.) While she was doing that, all of her “enemies” were imprisoned, and wondering what had gone wrong. They were encouraged to team up and work together with their former foe, to put aside their differences and stop a common enemy. Using their various strengths and weaknesses, the ‘villains’ broke out of the prison (freeing quite a few civilians as well) and went off to do war with Miss Power. Encouraged by their collective abilities, the villains (even the kids) decided not to be afraid of this space invader, and instead helped Word Girl defeat her.
Now, granted, we can’t be teaming up with thieves, disgruntled employees, vandal-robot-wielding-boy-geniuses, mad scientists, and greedy little girls that tend to turn into monsters when refused. That’s just crazy. And no, we don’t usually celebrate our victories with pizza and sandwiches, some spare salami, and quite a bit of cheese. That’s just part of the cartoon. But what we can do is work together with some of the people that WE think are villains, namely, people who believe slightly different things than we do. It isn’t easy to put aside our differences. It never has been. But we’re at a time of crisis. It’s time to do something different.
While we aren’t superheroes, we are charged with the keeping of our world. We have enemies that we must fight. Sometimes, we must tackle things that are hard for us, and face our fears. Sometimes we will be tricked and will fall. But a true hero will push past the difficulties and do what’s right. Thankfully, we don’t have to be alone. We have the greatest ally in the world on our side, and he’s not sitting around on the sidelines. We serve a God of action, so we need to act!
Maybe this silly cartoon, meant to teach the dangers of bullying, can reach further than the writers intended. Maybe I can remember the dangers of “Miss Power” and become wise. Or maybe, if I happen to be a history lover, I might go back and survey the many dictators who came into power, crushed their opponents, and eventually fell to the ground. Maybe I can ditch the imaginary world and cling to the real one.
Real world Truth resides even in the goofiest cartoons. Listen and be Wise! Test teachings against the scriptures. Be sure of what you believe. Determine your friends from your enemies. Don’t be deceived by beautiful wolves in sheep’s clothing. Oh, and be careful what you watch, especially at night.
Ugh. Perhaps the wicked eyes of Miss Power will keep me from falling for other good-looking celebrities. With prayer, and a good amount of God’s grace, I hope to be wise from this point on.
I remember Oregon. It’s only a few scattered memories, lost in my mind like wind-blown leaves. I wish I could remember more. As it is I can only see a few broken scenes. A white pony, bought for me by Grandma. A vivid nightmare, and the only time I ever screamed in my sleep. A carousel. A princess dress, and older cousins that babied me. People talking in a room. A man’s laugh, was it my Grandfather’s? That rough feeling that comes from older furniture. A certain smell.
My second trip to Oregon happened when I was eight, but it’s still muddled. I remember my Aunt and Uncle’s house best. I remember that it was on a hill, and that it was large and very pretty, but still with that strange, otherworldly feel. I remember going down the stairs to the basement, and how cold it was. I felt like I was going down to the center of the earth! That was pretty close to the truth, I found, because the house was built into the hill, and the basement was dug out of it. I had never been in a dug-out basement before. That isn’t done in Texas, and I had only been in a few North Carolina houses that had them.
Uncle Al and Aunt Diane were so nice to me. I remembered that they had a pair of canaries, and that one of the birds had laid an egg! I was so excited. Perhaps it would hatch! But it did not. I remember two three-year-old cousins who played so nicely with me. Now they are almost grown up, and I’m half afraid of them! How the time flies! I remember when they wanted to have a sleepover. They both decided to turn over in the bed, and I was pushed out in the middle of the night. Not the best experience to have in a strange house.
These memories are fading. So are some of the others. Like what was my cousin Zach like before I grew up and “knew” more? I wish I could remember some things that are simply impressions now. I feel like my history is disappearing with each member of my family who has passed on. I feel like I’m losing my grounding.
North Carolina is so much clearer. I feel it whenever I feel the wind blow through the trees. Can you hear the windchimes? Can you breathe the cool air? Can you see the azalea bushes, and the old gazebo whose swing never quite seemed to swing enough? Looking up, you can see gourds that Papa put up for Martins. There is the playhouse, there the pond! There are the horses! Behind you is the porch, up the stairs and through the gate, and look! There is the kitchen, and that’s where you’ll find Granny more likely than not. Or at least that’s how it used to be.
But now even the familiar has become strange. My missionary Uncle and Aunt have retired, and now they are both facing serious health problems. Grandma has died of cancer. Papa is gone. And I feel like I have lost a huge opportunity. With my grandparents went my history, and now I am simply clinging to the present, hoping that I won’t lose anything else.
I can’t afford the loss.
I feel like an investor. I go through old things of my Grandma’s, hoping to find a bit of her writing. Can I see that old, loopy cursive? Yes! And my Grandpa….he died before I could remember him. Can I keep his memory alive? Perhaps. Perhaps if I go back and try to imagine, using my Uncle as my guide…perhaps I can hear his voice. But I’m afraid I’ll never find it. Papa is alive in the songs he once sung, in the stories he told, in that gentle way he would make us laugh. I miss him. I hold birthday cards as precious, because they have his handwriting on them. I’m afraid that if I go any longer, I will forget.
Every memory is precious now, even the painful ones. I went through my Grandmother’s files by accident, trying to access my stories, and accidentally found a love letter. I felt so ashamed. It was as if I had intruded in on an ancient tragedy, one that I hadn’t even known existed. A Love Letter I found from my mother to my father was much less painful. I wonder if I’ll ever feel that way. It’s too strange and wonderful for me right now, like these memories, except new and exciting. I don’t know how to process some of the things that have happened. They’re just blissful mysteries, and I hope they’ll stay that way.
I cling to old stories now, while still trying to be me. It’s a rough task. But I can still walk through my Grandmother’s house, placing everything where it once was. The house is gone now, but I can still recreate it…
the memories are beginning to fade.
We are spinning our own tales now. Our legacy is still being laid. An observer of the past, I am also an active player in the present. God have mercy on me! I pray that I can play my part well, and be a blessing rather than a curse.
One day I will be a memory. I hope I will be one that lingers long, and for good reason.
I wish to give people hope.
I like the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. I read them at least once a year if I can. Many people have. But few people have done the research to figure out where Middle Earth began. Tolkien’s legend, the Silmarillion, tells how Middle Earth began. I’ll try to summarize it in this post for you who don’t have enough time to read all the books. Warning: the results may shock you.
In the beginning of Middle Earth, God held his court in the heavens. He taught his angels a song that they were to sing in worship of him. But one of them, Melkor, the brightest of the Valar, decided that he didn’t want to obey God, and instead started his own song. Some of the Valar (angels) followed him in his rebellion. So God began a new song, and his angels sang with him. His song was stronger than that of the rebels, but they continued to sing and shame their brothers into silence.
Then God raised his voice, and all others were silenced. From that last song was created the earth and all that was. Melkor was cast down with his helpers, the Balrogs. Then some of the Valar went down to the new world to form it and keep it. They were hoping to make the world as perfect as they could, but Melkor, who was called by elves Morgoth, destroyed their work. Eventually the world was formed. And then came the creatures.
It started out softly. One of the Valar created the dwarves. Another, Yavanna, prayed for Ents. Manwë, lord of Middle Earth, asked for the eagles. Soon the elves came, blinking in the new light from Valinor, the home of the Valar. Of course, Morgoth hated them. He made imitations of them and called them orcs. None of the works of Morgoth were so heinous as the orcs.
The Valar invited the elves to see the beauty of Valinor, and to see the two light trees that lit the world, for at this time there was neither sun nor moon. And one of them, Fëanor, took the light of the trees and used it to make three gems which he called the Silmarils. He thought that he could keep them forever, and that they would be the greatest works of the elves. But Morgoth slew the glorious light-trees, and Fëanor refused to give them the light of the Silmarils to heal them. Later, Morgoth slew Fëanor’s father and took the three jewels for himself.
Fëanor was furious, and attacked everyone in his path to reclaim his work. He and his seven sons swore an oath that they would let nothing get in their way of reclaiming the Silmarils, no matter how dear. They slew their bretheren and wasted their ships, leaving most of their followers to die. Fëanor attacked Morgoth, and was subsequently killed. His sons began to all follow in his foolish footsteps, which resulted in some of the worst treachery in the history of Middle Earth. It might surprise you to know that most of this killing came from the elves.
Maedhros, the oldest of Fëanor’s sons, tried to avenge his father by attacking Morgoth himself. That only ended up in him being captured, having to be rescued by a friend of his, and ultimately losing a hand. This seemed to wise him up to how hard it was to hit Morgoth, and he gave up on revenge and instead tried to unite Middle Earth against Morgoth. Meanwhile, Morgoth put the Silmarils into his crown and dared the elves to come and take them.
A kingdom of elves that didn’t involve itself with all the bloodshed was the house of Thingol. He married a wood sprite and was very well off for his time. She protected his land and gave him counsel, and he loved her. They had a young daughter named Lúthien, whose beauty was unrivaled by any before or since. Her gown was blue, her eyes gray, her hair dark, her face bright. She was loved by an outlaw of men named Beren, whose parents had been murdered by Sauron. He named her Tinúviel.
Beren was homeless and penniless, and Thingol would not let his daughter marry him without doing something truly spectacular. So for a bride price, he asked Beren to retrieve a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth. Beren went, and was captured by Sauron. Lúthien was kept in her house by her father, who didn’t want to lose his daughter as she tried to rescue her lover. But Lúthien’s mother was a spirit, and clever Tinúviel knew how to weave enchantments. So she grew her hair long and wove a sleeping enchantment into it, then wove it into a cloak for herself that put whoever it touched to sleep. Using this, she escaped, and fled to find her lover.
Unfortunately, she was discovered by two of the infamous sons of Fëanor, who were still bound by their foolish promise. They held her captive, and it was only by the help of a great wolf named Huan. Huan helped her escape, and even defeated Sauron, who at that time liked to take the form of a werewolf. The elf-princess destroyed the island fortress of the dark spirit, sending him fleeing to Middle Earth. Then she was reunited with Beren and the two of them journeyed to Morgoth, so that they could be done with the Silmaril and marry. The two of them traveled in disguise to the gates of Morgoth, put the wolf at the door to sleep, and passed through.
Once inside, Lúthien Tinúviel charmed Morgoth and blinded him, giving Beren enough time to cut away a Silmaril. The two of them fled, but the Silmaril was devoured by the great wolf guarding the door, and Beren’s hand as well. After this, Thingol allowed them to marry, but Beren was slain by the wicked wolf, and Lúthien bargained with Mandos, guardian of the dead, to let them both return to Middle Earth as mortals. They died after bearing other sons and daughters, and the Silmaril, after causing much bloodshed, was taken by the daughter of Lúthien and Beren into the sky.
Many bloody deeds were done in this troubled time. Elf killed elf, man killed man, and the dwarves got on any side they could. It was a time for mighty deeds, but also for great wickedness. Eventually the Silmarils were lost to Middle Earth: One was set as a star in a constellation, another was cast into the depths of the earth, and a last was dropped into the heart of the sea. Sadly, the oath of Fëanor to reclaim the jewels led to the death of his sons.
But for the elf lover who feels like I have just killed their hero, don’t be discouraged! The creator of the elven rings was grandson to wicked, proud Fëanor. Lúthien and Beren’s descendants were Elrond and Elendil. Indeed, the Silmarils were like triple rings of power, spelling destruction for those who took them wrongly. But unlike the “One Ring”, the Silmarils were redeemed. Their origin was good, but twisted for evil. The Ring’s origin was evil, and couldn’t be used for anything else.
Reading the Silmarillion was like reading the history of Middle Earth. Before, Tinúviel was a just a name. Now she is real to me. The elves and men and dwarves who fought and died in Middle Earth can be remembered now for their heroics, and their legacies written in a book. Reading The Lord of the Rings is a daunting task. Reading The Silmarillion is something even harder. But once you get into it, I guarantee you that Tolkien will not let you down with the literary excellence found in this book of legends. Lúthien will captivate your heart, as she did the hearts of men, elves, and spirits alike. You will mourn the fall of Númenor, and cheer as Morgoth is dethroned. This is the world into which The Hobbit was born. This is Middle Earth.
A day of rest and peace. It is Sunday. It comes in the middle of our labors, sandwiched between our two busiest days. It is tempting to tread on it and treat it like an extension of those days. But Sunday is different. It is holy.
When the Jews worshiped on Saturday, they were remembering something amazing. Genesis 2:2-3 lets us know why. “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” The Jewish Sabbath, held on Saturday, consecrated the holy rest of God.
The Sabbath was never meant to be a burden. Instead it was a gift; a chance to rest and reflect on the promises of God. It was holy. It was wonderful. But sinful hearts either discounted or trivialized the sabbath. Judah forgot its sabbath before the exile. After the return, Nehemiah reinstated it. But the Pharisees turned the holy day into a burden, by putting unjust restrictions on God’s commandments.
Since the Sabbath was abused, did it lose its power? Has it been abolished by the coming of Christ? No! Matthew 5:17 says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 12:8 tells us quite plainly that “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” God’s sabbath has not lost its power. It is still holy. Jesus held it to be holy. Should we disregard something that he obeyed?
But we do not worship on Saturday. Why? Well, to a Christian, Sunday is more holy. Notice in the passage above that Jesus said that he came to fulfill the law. The Old Covenant Sabbath pointed to the New Covenant Sabbath, just as the Old Covenant sacrifice pointed to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. The Christian Sabbath is Sunday, the first day of the week. On Sunday we remember the resurrection of Christ. This is not something we only remember on Easter Sunday. It is what we remember every Sunday.
Saturday in our house is a day of work. Why? Well, many reasons. For one thing, Dad is home, and we can get more done. But the deeper reason is that we were created to work. We celebrate the creation week by working in the morning and resting in the afternoon. It might be a strange way to remember, but weren’t we commanded to “fill the earth and subdue it”? (Genesis 1:28) To work is to obey God’s command. In many ways, we were created for work.
But Sunday is different. As we remember the promises of God, we rest. We fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We break bread together. We listen to the Word of God. We sing his praises. We pray together. We confess our sins. We study His word. Sunday is not a day for catching up with sports or games or for finishing schoolwork, or even for work. Though these things are all good in themselves, Sunday is Holy to the Lord. Our thoughts, words, and actions should reflect this reality.
For me, Sunday is a time for study and reflection. Sunday is when I read books in the library and watch videos with my siblings. Sunday is when I take time off to think. Most of the time these articles come from Sunday reflection, or from something I think of during one of the services. Sunday’s quiet inspires me. I look forward to it all week. This may be strange, but I treasure the day. Sunday’s different.
How sad when we make Sunday a chore! How sad when we forget its power! How regrettable that most people see no difference between Sunday and any other day. How sad when we let tradition rule our day! It is truly tragic when Sunday is wasted by apathy or by ignorance. It is sad when God’s people forget its power.
Sunday is a day of rest and remembrance. It is the time that we remember that. It is a gift. Like any gift, it can be rejected. It’s your choice. But for those who accept the gift of rest, Sunday is the best day of the week. What is it to you?
One of the things I’ve been doing recently is reading. Reading is a fun hobby, especially if you have a vivid imagination. Reading can be better than a movie, because you get to pick the voices of your favorite characters.
The most impressive thing I’ve been reading isn’t a best seller, or a new popular novel. It isn’t going to be reviewed by a magazine as a children’s story, nor is World Magazine likely to do a spotlight on the author, because of his age.
The books I’ve been reading are two classics by fantasy writer George MacDonald. The Princess and the Goblins, and its sequel, The Princess and Curdie, are two books about the mythical kingdom of Gwyntystorm. It was ruled by a king who was very kind, and who had a daughter named Irene. The first book is about her adventures as she learns to trust someone no one else could see. It’s also about a miner’s boy named Curdie, who is the only one who can stop an invasion by goblins.
The amazing thing about this book, The Princess and the Goblins, is how it grows up its characters, but still retains its childlike whimsy. Irene, the princess, has to trust that the string she is following through all this danger is being held and guided by someone she loves and trusts, while Curdie has to decide whether to believe the princess, even after she saves his life. It isn’t until he is not believed that he realizes how wrong he has been to doubt her. Irene learns to totally rely on “Grandmother” to help her and is sent on dangerous missions with the knowledge that she will never come to harm. Curdie learns to help others regardless of his personal dislike of another character.
This book also rings true a sad reminder of times past, when girls were protected by their fathers and brothers. Irene, though she is the main character, is kept out of harm’s way, while Curdie is exposed to all kinds of dangerous situations in his quest for the truth. He can handle it, because he is the hero. But Irene, though she would willingly gone through any number of dangers for the sake of her friend, she was never given a chance. That was not her place. I wonder what would have happened if MacDonald had written his epics in this less chivalrous time.
His pure fantasy might have become tainted with our strange opinions of feminism and freedom. His shining lines would become dimmed and lose their sharpness. His theology might become muddled. And I doubt his works would be published now. To be honest, not all of the fantasy you find in Phantastes is carefree. You might find a were-wolf or vampire in the pages if you look hard enough. There is a whole story dedicated to shadows. But, shining throughout the writings I have read, is the heavenly longing that MacDonald himself yearned for.
In his stories, there is always someone looking after the characters. Strangely enough, this person is often female. She is said to be old and wise in most stories, and is sometimes associated with magic. Most of the time, however, she fits the description of the woman Wisdom found in Proverbs, and is the helper in the story as the characters make their climb heavenward. She is beyond time, but she does not ask to be worshiped. Instead, she is the guardian of the faithful as they try to do what’s right.
But something that I’ve discovered is that the farther in a book series goes, the more serious it becomes. Which of Lewis’ Narnia books is the most intense? The Last Battle. Which Tolkein? The Return of the King. The same is true of the second book, The Princess and Curdie. This time, the danger lies not in the outside enemy, but in the one within. Curdie, who is finally given a task of his own by “Grandmother”, is sent to save the King and Princess. Along the way he meets all sorts of wicked creatures, and is forced to fight to defend himself,
Curdie was told from the start that he would be serving the king. He just was never told how. He certainly didn’t think it to mean that he would be falsely accused and sentenced to death. He probably imagined that he would arrive at the castle and instantly present himself to the king. But it didn’t work out that way. He had to work for his goal. He had to fight for it, and ended up being slandered, threatened, mocked and cursed during his whole journey. Even through all that, he never gave up. Maybe Curdie and his travels represent us in our walk with Christ. When we hold to a higher standard, the world will hate us. They don’t understand our mission and therefore slander it.
I like a book that tells a story, but what I like even more is a story that tells the truth. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just wander around through life, do amazing things, and never get into trouble for it? Who wants to do boring or hard things like traveling alone with no way of knowing where you were or trying to get through a city of cut-throats when you were told you weren’t able to do anything about them! How could God want us to do things like that?
Unfortunately for our pleasure-loving hearts, He’s always done those kinds of things. Think of Moses, and how God told him in advance that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart and he wouldn’t listen. Or Ezekiel, who was told “They will compliment you for your prophesy, and might seem to have listened, but they won’t change at all.” Life is hard, and it sometimes seems meaningless. Why should we do these things? It makes no sense!
Well, it has a purpose. If you’re told to do something, you have to do it (Jonah comes to mind as a negative example) Another thing this tells us is the true meaning of faith. How could we ever believe in something we cannot see? Well, we believe in gravity, don’t we? We believe that there are wind currents, though they are invisible. We believe in God, though we have never seen him. But we see the effects of their power. Rocks fall down, due to gravity. Leaves scatter through the air, because of the wind. Our universe supports life, because God designed it that way.
One of my favorite characters in The Princess and Curdie is Lina. Not much is known about poor Lina, a monster with a head that is part snake and part polar bear, goat-colored fur with a bald spot under her chin, long icicle teeth that hang out from her mouth, elephant legs, and a tail as long as her body. Curdie discovered that she was once a person who had been so wicked that she turned into a monster, and must do penance before she could be freed. Lina became Curdie’s greatest ally and friend even though everyone else hated him. He could depend on her, and her on him. Imagine the poor woman who had been enchanted by her own wickedness, and who had locked herself inside a beast! How it must have been to have a friend again, who saw past her hideous form and to the child inside.
Curdie eventually became Lina’s salvation. He gave her the means to live again, without worrying about her guilt separating her from God. He led her home. What a beautiful picture! Curdie was no god. He had no ability to save anything. He was simply given directions and charged to accomplish them. But his journey and witness enabled her to do what was right, and to find forgiveness and redemption. We have all been in her place. We were made hideous by our sins and our mistakes, our rebellion and disgusting actions. Who would love a creature like Lina?
God would. God did. He sent his son to die in our place, because he loved us even in our ugliness. But he didn’t leave us there. He cleaned us up and made us into a new creation for his use. Lina didn’t stay a monster. She was freed from her sin, from who she was, and started on the journey herself. That’s something a lot of people seem to miss. God is love. He does accept us for who we are…but he loves us too much to leave us there.
Another thing: Curdie brought Lina to her transformation by caring enough about her to let her hang around, even though she ate most of his food and turned some of his friends into enemies. His example helped her. If Curdie was MacDonald’s Christian, then Lina was someone who was converted because of his example. Though these might only be the musings of a teenaged girl, but I believe that MacDonald, a pastor, brought what he knew to be true into his stories.
There’s something beautiful about MacDonald’s writing. It’s hard to read some fairytales around these days, whose dark content either disturbs you or is just depressing. But MacDonald’s legends are like little rays of light in the murky world of fantasy. We’re searching for The Golden Key, but cannot find it anywhere but in God. His writing points us to Christ.
This might be too long, so I’ll be brief. If you like fairy-tales but are irritated with our immoral fantasy, I invite you to look up the work of George MacDonald. This invitation is also for friends of Narnia and Middle Earth, for those lands were inspired by MacDonald’s fantasy. I like Curdie’s adventures, and many of the others that he wrote, and I think you might as well.
Andrew knew his orders: to find Rora and make sure she and Opal were safe. He was a little irritated that Caro wouldn’t let him go with them in their scouting mission, but he knew his job was important. The others were all busy on finding boats and planning the route for them. That would be much more exciting than trading pleasantries with two girls.
That morning, some of the non-military followers had joined the army, though they never planned on staying there. Caro and Davis had seen Dawes wandering about. His hand was still bandaged, and Caro secretly hoped that it hurt him badly. Dawes had caused a lot of trouble for his friends. Maybe some pain would bring him to his senses.
But Andrew was getting worried. Rora wasn’t at the meeting place. She was supposed to be at the back of the market, by the carpet seller. But she wasn’t there. Instead she was at the other side of the street, towards the back. “What is she doing there?” He wondered. “It’s too shaded. I can’t see anything.” He tried to wave to her, or get her to come over, but she shook her head. So he went over to her. “Is something wrong?” He asked.
“Run.” She said between her teeth. “Get out of here.”
“What?” Andrew asked.
“Go!” She said, louder.
Andrew turned on his heel and tried to see what she wanted. Soldiers were coming, and many of them. “Now I see what you were worried about.” He muttered. “Don’t worry, Rora. I’ll help you.”
“Where is Andrew?” Davis asked three hours later. “He was supposed to be here hours ago.”
“Maybe he fell into the ocean.” Tully said cheerfully. “But I doubt it.”
“He might have been captured.” Simon suggested.
“Should we look for him?” Caro asked.
“I think we need to go on with the plan.” Davis told them. “It’s getting late.”
“I guess we have no choice.” Caro sighed. “If we wait too long, Nya will hit us before we’re ready. We’re going to find Opal and get to Nya’s castle.”
“What if Opal was captured?” Rocket asked. “What then?”
“We could storm the dungeon.” Tully said. “But it’s not going to be easy. It would be easier if we could bluff her, though.”
“Now that’s the most sensible thing you’ve said all month.” Rocket exclaimed. “How will we bluff her?”
“Make her think we’re really weak.” Simon told him. “Then we strike.”
“Eclectic.” Tully agreed.
“That actually is a good idea.” Davis told Caro. “We can keep our original plan, just with some tweaks. We still hide our men. But then we use them in reserve. You, Prince Caro, will be the sole distraction. She will think you’re here for revenge. But it’s a distraction. If she has Opal, convince her to bring her out. Nya’s triumph will be her downfall.”
“I like it!” Caro cried. “Let’s do this.”
“Then let’s get going.” Simon told him. “Forward!”
The two boats sailed in through the cemetery that afternoon. They were blessed with a heavy fog that rolled in over the sea and filled the place with an impenetrable cloud. Rocket, though he would never admit it, was scared out of his skin. Tully asked him a question and he almost bailed over the side. The gunfighter was terrified of ghosts.
As soon as the boats came to the palace, the men split up. In twos and threes they scattered throughout the place, stealing servant clothes and using army uniforms to disguise themselves. Caro took his sword, took a deep breath, and walked in.
Simon and Tully, inseparable, wandered over to the dungeons. “This place is awful.” Simon muttered. “Why did we have to get this job?”
“I’ll tell you why.” Tully told him. “We have to fi…”
“Hey!” They stopped. Someone was calling to them.
“Who is it?” Simon asked.
A hand was thrust through one of the cell windows. The guard shouted and charged at them, but Tully drew his sword and charged him. Simon found the keys and unlocked the door. Andrew stumbled out. “Thank you.” He gasped. “It’s awful in there.”
“How did you end up in jail?” Simon asked.
“Never mind that!” Andrew cried, almost hysterically. “You have to find…you have to find…get Caro! Get Caro and get him out of here! It’s a trap, d’ye hear? It’s a trap! We have to get out of here!”
I didn’t know we’d run into weird stuff in Theater Kids this year. Sure, the plays can have some weird humor, but they’d been funny and clean as far as I could tell. Last year we did a western. This year we would do Pirates and Mermaids. It sounded fun. The only things I were concerned about were avoiding a mermaid role and getting a part.
I definitely didn’t think I’d run into a kid playing with the occult or another one with some superstitious thing against Macbeth. I made a friend, and had a friend who acted with me. We shared laughs and memories. I accidentally was bit by Dora, but that was more of my fault than hers. (I really shouldn’t march around the stage when there are people behind me)
While I could talk about a thousand things about Theater Kids, I might as well mention Macbeth. I’ve been studying it, and I think I know what’s up. First, some context. Here we go. One of the actors, who will not be named (Let’s call him Jake) was a little over-friendly to girls. I don’t know if he’s just getting over teenagerness, or if he is a flirt, but anyway, he was there.
As I was saying, this boy was in the show. Right before the dress rehearsal, when everyone was going “Break a Leg!” and all that stuff, he said to us “I know the bad-luck word for theater. Do you want me to say it?”
Adam and I glanced at each other. “What does it matter?” My brother asked. “Luck doesn’t exist.”
“Yes it does.” The boy insisted. “If you say Macbeth before a play, you’ll jinx it.”
“Oh brother.” I said. “Macbeth is just a play by Shakespeare. What would that have to do with luck? And even if it is “bad-luck”, who cares? Luck isn’t real. I don’t say that because I’m arrogant. I’m just stating the truth. God decides what’s going to happen in this performance, and if He wants it to go well, he’ll bring our lines to our minds.”
“Don’t say it out loud!” The boy protested.
“Say what, Macbeth?” I asked.
“Augh!” He groaned. “No more, please.”
“You brought it up.” Adam pointed out.
The dress rehearsal was pretty terrible. If we believed in curses, I think we’d be pretty discouraged by what happened. But I knew what was really going on. The mermaids didn’t know their lines. I tripped. And people didn’t speak loudly enough. That was because we didn’t listen to our director, not because of a curse.
Opening Night was tense. We were irritated by our failed rehearsal and the messy practice. “Don’t say it.” Jake kept saying. Not many people listened to him. As I said, he’s a little weird.
Melissa snuck over to me to say a quick prayer. “I’m a little nervous.” She admitted. “Are you?”
Melissa had been encouraging everyone on stage. If she had a nickname, it’d probably be Angel. Or fruithead. Depends on whether it was a nice one or a mean one. As I was saying, Melissa had been encouraging everyone around, but she was nervous herself. I prayed with her, asking God to bless our acting, and asking that we would use our talents for his Glory. Melissa went off to her part of the stage, and I went to mine.
Right before the curtain opened, Jake started up again. “Don’t say it.”
“Oh, for crying out loud!” Haden, another pirate, spoke up. “Knock it off.”
“Macbeth is just a play. There are no such things as curses or bad luck, Jake.” I told him again. “Do your best. Don’t worry about curses.”
“You said it?” Jake whispered. “I gotta tell Mr. Mark.”
“Shhh!” Riley hushed him. “It’s time!”
“Have I not commanded you?” I whispered. “Be Strong and Courageous! Do not be afraid! Do not be dismayed! For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go! He only is my Rock and my Salvation, my Fortress, I shall not be shaken.” The lights turned on, and the curtains began to open. “He is my God, though dark my road, he holds me that I shall not fall, wherefore to him I leave it all.” (Joshua 1:9, Psalm 62:6, “Whatever my God ordains is Right” by Samuel Rodigast, translated by Catherine Winkworth)
That night was great. Contrary to Jake’s superstitions, we did the best we ever had. I don’t think it had to do with our talent. I think it had more to do with our short prayer before the show. I think it had to do with God blessing us. God is not bound by ancient curses. He isn’t stopped by jinxes or bad luck. He encourages us through his word.
What I know for a fact is that Jake, even if he wasn’t in earnest, was wrong. I did some research into the Macbeth curse, and found out that Jake wasn’t the only one who makes a big deal about it. Most of the time, to break the curse, people have to do an elaborate show and curse. People think that the reason for the curse is because Shakespeare used real witchcraft in the script. It seems fishy to me.
I’m not discounting the power of darkness. I’m extolling the power of light. There is a spiritual battle going on, and I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t exist. But instead, I think I’ll go on the offense, and pray. I know that prayer is stronger than cursing, and I know that God is much stronger than a witch’s spell. It’s too bad I never was able to convince Jake.
I have a book in my house that has been banned in several different countries. Its content can be graphic, its philosophy radical. No one can read it without being affected for good or for bad. It will certainly attack any views already held by you. It encourages people to disobey governments at times, and other times makes them fiercely patriotic.
Proponents of this book have long been looked down on as radicals. In some cases they completely overthrew the government of a country, other times they changed it thoroughly. Its claims can sometimes border on the maniacal. It is very dangerous, and very potent, more deadly than propaganda. Most try to get it out of their country, but it is only powerful when its faithful followers foolishly follow its words. Thankfully, though, there are very few “true believers” who are willing to turn the world upside down. As long as they stay passive, we’ll have no trouble. Who knows? We might be able to get this dangerous book banned in our country as well.
That book is what a Christian calls a Bible.
No one can truly understand the deadly effects of this book. When someone believes it, truly believes it, they tend to do strange and unexplainable things. They breach a person’s personal space to try and tell them the “good news”, or publish it in whatever magazine they can get a hold on. They aren’t afraid of prison, they seem uncannily happy, and they tend to sing often. Indeed, the littlest things seem to set them off in singing. Sometimes they even set their dangerous doctrines to music, making them even more deadly.
But others, as I have said before, don’t think enough about this book to let that happen. They hold to some of the teachings, but would rather avoid the others. Not really dangerous, they are often sleeping giants, and not as much trouble as the other group. They can be easily discouraged, since they usually don’t know enough about what they believe to defend it. But they can be roused to anger unexpectedly, so it’s probably better for them to all be chased out. And there’s one thing you need to know.
I’m one of them.
You might think it’s a little strange that I would write so roughly against my own rulebook and hope, but I think you might be able to see my point. This is how the world sees us. But there’s something they have right: there is a difference between those of us who believe what we believe, and those who only say they do. Will we just let ourselves go through life halfheartedly? Or will we keep to our first love?
The Bible is a funny book. When it rules your life, you are not your own. Your own wants and desires are dethroned in favor of a divine plan. You can become irrationally chipper, even in strange places like a funeral home or a prison. If you read the Bible several times a week, you might even find yourself putting scriptures to music, just like William Kethe, the Scottish Psalmist who used his pen and ken to put ancient psalms to modern music. It’s inevitable. A love of scripture will lead to a love of nature, of others, and of music.
But it’s understandable why many people don’t want to take the time and read it. After all, there are many things that could go wrong. First of all, they might take it too seriously. They might also be affected by some of the side effects: hatred, persecution, and distrust, with great misunderstanding. To some people, it’s easier to get the nice parts of the religion and avoid the painful ones.
Oh brother. With that reasoning, babies wouldn’t ever grow up.
We’re told to “Long for the pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up into salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2) In other places, we are told “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the had, into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:14-15) In modern terms, “Grow up! Children are vulnerable! Children are gullible! We need children to grow up into soldiers!”
We are supposed to be “child-like” in our faith, not childish doubters. We start to compromise the scriptures, and therefore become wishy-washy in our theology. If you don’t believe the beginning of the Bible, then why would you believe the end of it? If you don’t believe the end, why believe the middle? Why not just make it a nice story, or a guidebook, or a sort of almanac?
Because this isn’t a “nice story.” The Bible is the inspired Word of God. It can’t be sold as a peddled ware to be taken or passed over. With God’s word, there are no other choices but yes or no. Do you believe? Do you believe all of it? If you don’t, don’t bother believing at all. So what’s the big deal? What’s wrong with worshipping God only partway? It’s still worship, right? Well, let’s see what God’s word, the always-true scripture, says about it. “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:8-9
All right. So there isn’t that much leniency for good intentions. In fact good intentions, without the right heart attitude, is little more than a pharisaical practice. I wonder if some of our churches have been little more than synagogues. We are told that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 )
Notice that it isn’t compared to a blanket, or a suggestion. What’s with all the war analogies? Maybe it’s because we’re soldiers? But if we’re soldiers, and we are said to be, where are our weapons? Why do we seem to be waiting for orders, or going AWOL? I suppose it’s because we don’t trust our orderbook, our history, our Bible.
God’s word is powerful. Our enemies know that. They’re trying to neutralize us. Other people know it too, and they hate us and want us destroyed. It seems that the only group in this battle that is underarmed is ours. Some don’t even know that we’re in a war. We need to return to the Scriptures, to hold them all to be true, and do as they tell us. We need to let God’s word work through us. We need to prepare for spiritual battle.
There are people, young and old, who are even now on fire for Christ. They are being rewarded for their zeal and their carful study of the scriptures, by punishment on earth and blessings in heaven. Many Christians are unwilling to follow them in their quest for what’s right. But as the days ahead come and the battle intensifies, those who are unprepared will be vulnerable.
Strap on your sword, soldier. Hold fast to the faith, and to the Word of God. It will bear you through, if you take it for what it is. Read your Bible! Psalm 119 has more than a hundred descriptions of its power. Read Ephesians! Paul will inspire you to action. But no matter where you start, stay constant. We are at war with the enemy, and we will prevail. But to be a good soldier, you must stand strong.
A creative preschooler once drew a picture of three imaginary lands. On one she drew a person with red crayon. On another, she drew a blue person. On the last one, she drew a yellow stick person. After drawing more stick pictures, she left the room. And for some strange reason, the picture came to life.
No one knew what happened or why, but for some reason the blue people began to fight amongst themselves. So did the reds and yellows. Then the three groups discovered that the little girl had drawn another piece of land, and they all drew little boats and sailed over to it.
That is when they met.
Since they had been fighting for the whole time, just with each other, they continued it when they found different colored stick figures. But it was a little different. For one thing, they started grouping by color and attacking the other colors. It began to be rather ridiculous. Instead of fighting each other, they ganged up on the color that really was having trouble fighting. That one color began to be chased around.
Though this is a silly story, it has a tiny purpose. We as humans like to group together. But our sin makes us fight amongst ourselves. And people like to fight as groups. So they group according to the things they have in common. That can be by language, or by common beliefs, or by color, as in the silly story above.
But that’s where the similarities end. No silly child created us. We were made by the all-powerful, all-wise God of the Universe. We were made as one people, one race. If we are different, it is only because of our environments. Sometimes light plays with our pigments, and sometimes our lives involve activities that change our appearance over time. This is not evolution. This is the creativity of our God.
The problem is not that we are different colors. If we weren’t, we would be less likely to survive in hostile habitats. The problem is that we think ourselves to be perfect, and don’t like anyone who is different from ourselves. We tend to dislike people who don’t live up to our standards. This is the problem with sin: it divides and destroys.
When Jesus died on the cross, he created a new world; a new way of life for those who followed him. There was a main barrier according to the Jews: you were either a Jew and part of the Promise of God, or you were a Gentile, and fit only for hell. Sure, there were a few nice gentiles, but unless they embraced the Jewish traditions, they wouldn’t be saved. And there was an even greater barrier that no one could cross: a wall between the Holy God and sinful men.
But suddenly, as Jesus died, the wall between God and man was breached. A way was opened for man to come to his Creator. And with the falling of that wall, another fell as well: Jew and Gentile. And Paul capped up the difference in Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Right now there are many people hurting. The church needs to be there and help those who feel broken. This isn’t a political problem. This is a heart problem. No amount of campaigning, or speeches, or even laws prohibiting this or that, will ever make a permanent change. It isn’t the government’s job to make sure people think the right things. It’s up to us to choose to love one another, even if they’re a little different.
There are many things we can learn from one another. The wealth of creativity and cultures are just some of the treasures we have on this earth. But whether or not we will find the treasure depends on how we treat each other. If we insist on our own perfection, or are too stubborn to admit that others are people too, we’re going to have trouble.
We knew three weeks in advance that Saturday wouldn’t be normal.
After all, Mom had been talking about it for a long time. We wanted to put together a Bible study using our Sword Study curriculum, put together by Tammy McMahan. We wanted an alternative to the Bible Bee, because it wasn’t going to work for us this year. We invited three families to come over and let us show it off a little.
But we’re homeschooled, so three families plus ours equaled about 40 people. I’m not saying that all homeschoolers have big families. Maybe we’re just weird. I don’t know. But we had over three large families, plus our family, which made a LOT of people.
Seeing as how I’m a bit of a “Jill-of-all-trades”, Mom and Dad put me on the activity committee, being the leader of a team of…well…me. But that was Ok, because my “assistants” ended up being part of the activity, and if I had let them help, they would have known where the treasure was. See, the activity was supposed to be a treasure hunt. I wanted to go through the whole genealogy of Jesus Christ. But after realizing that there were over forty people mentioned, and I only had an hour, plus I didn’t know that much that I could interest a five-year-old about, say, Asaph.
After trimming down genealogies to some well-known ancestors of Christ, I made up clues and hid them. But let me tell you, trying to think of 21 hiding places far enough from each other to make it hard is hard in itself.
Then people started showing up. The first family came and the house got a little loud. Then the second one came and we got redirected outside. But when the third family came, it was like a strange family reunion. I knew people from all three families. But none of them knew each other. That’s when it started to get fun!
A few of the girls there were older than me, and it was really fun watching these older kids trying to figure out my clues. But the best part was watching the parents and kids alike make new friends.
I guess there had to be a downside to such a fun event, so it happened to be a hot and sticky afternoon full of mosquitoes. We tried to chase away the mosquitoes, but nothing would work. They just stuck around.
After a while, when Mom and Dad had made their plans, we came in and sang a hymn. One of the boys from one of the families was a great pianist. We sang “How Great Thou Art”. Even though one of the families had to leave, it was still cool. Three families working together as a group, worshipping the savior! What could be nicer?
Things aren’t always perfect, though, because we’re still sinful. I have a pretty good idea that we’ll fight before the summer is over. I have a good idea that we’ll fight before the day is over. But that’s fine. We can disagree, but as long as our friendship isn’t broken, it doesn’t hurt us. We can still be friends.
I like being able to talk with people who are studying the Bible with me. It makes it a little bit more special. I think that the more we work together, the better we’ll do. Godly friends can encourage us to do the right thing. And I hope that someday we can get together again. Maybe this time, though, we can do the meeting in a building, away from all those pesky mosquitoes.
In case you are wondering, I feel poetic. It seems to be much easier to write a poem than to actually think out an article. I also was going to enter a poetry contest, but two things stopped me. 1: I’m not a poet. 2: I didn’t like the assignment. I could also add 3: I forgot to mail in the form. So here goes. Perhaps this is self-condemnation. If it is, it’s in a nice way.
Waiting in the car one day,
I pulled out my sketchbook to sketch
It’s much better to hide in the images of mine,
But what I should draw is a stretch.
I think I should draw up a field of flowers,
Or a Castle hewn out of cold stone.
Perhaps a dancer with joyful steps,
Or a cave filled with carven bone.
I pull out a pencil and ready the slate,
But my mind has suddenly gone silly.
Instead of picturing a figure or place,
I can only sketch up Water Lily.
With anger and resentment seething within,
Outwardly, my pencil is still.
I can think of a thousand things to sketch,
But somehow, they are outside of my will.
I love to draw almost more than I love anything,
But what actually comes out is bland.
I can think up the most amazing of drawings,
But somehow, they don’t come out as planned.
I finally give in and draw the same character
I’ve drawn at least seventy times.
I know that I’m losing the battle within,
But I’ve tired of holding these lines.
They think I’m an artist when they see that sweet girl,
They say my skill has become great.
But it’s only because I’ve drawn her so much,
And can’t think of another as of late.
I’ve grown to love my sweet Lily-Fair,
Though our partnership has been rather forced,
I still bring out my sketchbook all cluttered with notes,
And I admit, they really aren’t the worst.
Look after all that you can do
Be it sing or paint the Lily-Fair
Remember that God picked your talents for you,
And each one has a reason to be there.
I wrote this after church one night. It had been stormy, and the dark clouds frightened me. But God is with us even through the hardest storms.
Storm clouds rise
Fill the skies
With dark clouds all around.
Storms will come
And cause some
to fear Thunder’s drum.
Do not fear!
God is here!
He will help you even here.
Do not take fright!
God will fight!
For your cause day and night
Fear not the flood
For the blood
Of Jesus Christ claims your life
You won’t be lost
For your cost
Has been paid on the Cross.
Fear not the fire!
For his desire
Is that your soul be refined.
Though it may burn
You will learn
Your faith grows when it is tried.
Watch and Pray
Seize the day
He has promised to be with you always.
Lift up your heart
Do not fear the deadly dark.
Lift up your hands!
Don’t fear to stand!
He is with you in this land.
Lift up your voice!
Make your choice!
Make a stand against this noise.
Lift up your eyes
and see the skies,
For the sun will surely rise.
The clouds won’t stay
Light finds a way
To make a new and brighter day.
Lift up your head!
Your God’s not dead!
He bore the scars for you instead.
Lift up His Name!
He stays the same!
He will come just as he came!
Look to the Sky.
God is Nigh.
He will return,
Our praise to earn.
Fear not the End
God is our friend.
He will bring justice to the end.
Do not fear!
God is near!
He is with you even here.
Fear not the night!
He makes all things right!
For your cause he will fight.
The young men couldn’t believe their good luck. Now they would be able to enter the city without being noticed. But Davis, Simon, and Tully’s military background made them suspicious of the sudden order. “Nya doesn’t just make a random census.” Davis warned. “This is because of Gino, make no mistake.”
“Gino?” Simon laughed. “How would he be so important?”
“Hold your tongue.” Davis growled. “You don’t understand.”
He was right, though. Most of those who followed Caro were young men who wanted in on the action. They wanted a military strike. Very few of them had guessed the true significance of the Chosen, and some had mistakenly thought Opal to be Caro’s sister. Caro had tried to explain, but it seemed to be beyond them. However, Caro had no complaint, for everyone there was fiercely loyal, brave, and valiant.
Rocket the gunfighter soon discovered one of Nya’s hidden motives. “The temple has been sacked.” He reported after a scouting mission with Andrew.
“Say that again?” Tully asked.
“The priests are all gone. Completely shipped out. Most people said they were sent to the core. Nya must be tired of them.”
“Why wouldn’t she be?” Caro muttered. “She detests anything that reminds her of being Chosen; she wouldn’t let the priests and priestesses join the True King.”
“Our Creator is our King.” Andrew said quietly. “And He delegates power to those whom He chooses. But this is a bad turn. How will the priests offer intercession on behalf of our people from the core? Will the Creator forsake us, when we are so close? He can’t! Will the nation have to keep suffering for its leader’s wickedness?”
“I’m afraid so.” Davis agreed. “We’re in a war now. The Chosen are gone. Opal, or Iya, or whatever you called her, has gone ahead. Maybe she’s gotten there already. We need to make a distraction and make sure she makes it to the palace and to Nya. We cannot rely on Gino. We must act quickly.”
“It’s not like the people themselves are innocent.” Rocket interjected. “If this “Creator” really cares, I’m sure he won’t be happy with me, or any people right about now.”
Andrew shook his head in frustration. “You’re talking about things you don’t understand.” He began. “None of us are good enough to be right with our God. But that is why the priests muse intercede. If they cannot…will He understand? I think so. There is a prophecy…”
“We’re getting off the point.” Davis interjected.
Caro agreed. “Andrew, tomorrow meet Rora in the place we agreed on before. I want to make sure she and Opal are safe. The rest of us will enter the city by groups and pairs. Some will even pretend to do the silly census. But that’s going to be a ploy to get us unnoticed and past the gates. Once inside, we should head for the sea. I found something a few months ago that no one knows about. A way to the castle.”
“”What?” They asked in surprise. “How do you know this?”
“Because I sailed there, before I came here. We’re going to use boats to get to the shore on the other side of the cemetery. No one will be there. Nya’s people fear ghosts.”
“It is a cemetery. And Nya’s people have plenty of reason to fear the dead.” Caro explained.
“But are there really ghosts?” Rocket wanted to know.
“No, I don’t think so. And if there are, we have no trouble with them. Most of them are my family, anyway. Let’s hurry.”
“I have a question.” Andrew ventured.
“Is it about ghosts?” Caro asked, half-smiling.
“No…it’s how I’m supposed to meet up with the others if I’m going to go to the town square and meet Rora.” Andrew explained.
“You’re not.” Caro tried to explain. “You’re going, the rest of us are getting things ready. We’ll come back to one of the inns in the afternoon, trade information, and then head out together. Try to get back around lunch time. We’re acting at one o’clock this afternoon. If Nya is to be stopped, it has to be before her army masses for the attack planned against Lithia, if I remember right.”
“Who is going against the queen?” Rocket asked.
“Opal is. Our job is distraction.” Davis sighed, as there was a collective groan.
“A blind girl?” Tully asked in disbelief. “Next you’ll be telling me that the dog is going to take down Dawes.” Caro turned and looked at Promise. Since Gino had been taken, the dog had been almost savage. Davis had tied him up, but the dog was obviously agitated. Some of the men had suggested leaving him behind, but Caro couldn’t bring himself to do it. Gino had loved the dog too much.
“He might.” Rocket said sarcastically. He had no idea what Caro was planning, but he would do anything for his captain, and was irritated at their hesitancy. “Now shut your mouth and follow orders!”
Maybe this is just us, but our family loves to sing.
Both of my parents sang, and we’ve been singing ever since. Our ideas of good music vary from person to person, but we all enjoy listening to and making music. At any given time, six or seven people might be singing. One might start off with “Do you want to build a Snowman?” From Frozen. Then her sister will chime in with “Let it Go” and her brother, trying to drown them out, will start singing “Hope in Front of Me” by Danny Gokey. Finally, their older brother will get fed up with all this noise and start singing a weird version of “Kung-Fu Fighting” from Kung Fu Panda.
Actually, I think the noise aspect of this house could be summed up in this little ditty taught to us by our Theater Kids director.
Sing, Sing, Sing
I like to sing
I like to sing a song
Sing, Sing, Sing.
In some cases, however, it comes out like this.
Scream, Scream, Scream
I like to scream
I like to scream a lot
Scream, Scream, Scream
That’s when our mom starts to wonder if we’re really all worth the trouble. But we like singing. We like to sing. We sometimes play games where we talk in song, or make parodies of some songs we don’t like so much. This comes in handy when the song in question has questionable material. No problem for a family of jokesters. We’ll just warp the words and make them say something else. If the song is kinda rocky and we have no idea what it’s saying, but we like the movie it comes from, we’ll just change some of the words up and make it applicable to the film in other ways. “Immortals” becomes “We could be Portals”. And that’s just the beginning.
After some time, and years of refining, we’ve discovered that music is a deadly weapon. Some of the rhymes we have come up with are rather crude. Others were hurtful to the person listening. Music has a strange way of creeping up on a person and turning off your senses. I sometimes wonder if music isn’t just distilled emotion put to sound. Whether this will be poison or medicine is up to the writer.
I suppose that’s why our parents have to be so careful with what we listen to. I remember a particularly rocky tune that I couldn’t get out of my head for weeks, simply because a friend was playing it. The lyrics were ridiculously awful, but there was something in it that was so captivating.
Maybe girls have this harder than boys. I just keep thinking about that short story by Mark Twain called “A Literary Nightmare” about a little rhyme that the author couldn’t get out of his head. Maybe it’s just a little thing about how music and rhythm that makes us go on autopilot. Plato saw it, and many have seen it since.
We communicate with music at our house because it makes our contradictions softer. No one wants to hear someone yell “Sam! You haven’t finished your job yet!” But if someone sings those same words, somehow it’s different.
Singing also makes memorizing easier. Even just a little rhythm to the presidents can make them easier to remember, and with so many of them, that’s a good help. Singing helps many things. Singing can also make things worse.
Why is it that singing is such a large part of fairytales? The princesses sang to lure in handsome princes. So did Sirens, but they were thinking about lunch. Speaking of lunch, a bunch of goblins were going to try and eat a miner. What did he do? Sang to them. Some witches in the old stories used song to work their evil, and C.S. Lewis picked up on this when he was writing the Silver Chair. So I guess music isn’t harmless.
To tell the truth, music opens us up and makes us vulnerable. This is another warning: We need to be careful what we say and what we do. But we need to be careful of what we listen to, too. It’s not harmless.
No, I’m not saying to riot or burn cd’s. Some music is just plain rotten, but in this country we have free speech. All we are responsible for are our own actions. Those two options might seem more fun, but they don’t solve anything. After all, they aren’t attacking the heart of the issue: ourselves.
As Christians, we have the obligation to guard our ears. We need to guard our hearts from garbage. We also need to be considerate of others when we make up rhymes. This might not be your problem. But what about making rude comments, or posting terrible things online? That hurts just as much.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, be considerate. It’s Ok to want to sing your own tune. But be considerate! There are others singing with you. Don’t introduce something that will bring discord. And I really do mean discord.
What began as a casual reading of WORLD magazine turned into a soul-searching that I had never experienced before. It all started when I had some free time in the afternoon. I flipped through the pages, reading of the fight for Cambodia and the battle for religious freedom in our Nation. But as I was going through it a second time, I found a story that I had missed. The story was from Burma. This interested me, because I’m praying for a Missionary named Ngun in Burma (Myanmar) and I think the country is very interesting. That was where Adoniram Judson served, after all.
But the story turned sickeningly horrible within seconds. Two young women, missionaries, had been tortured and killed. I read, almost in shock, as the story revealed a battle no one is talking about. These two girls were martyred, abused terribly… all for their faith. Throwing down the magazine, I asked myself “Why?”
The age old turmoil between what I see as just and what I see as merciful flared up again. These two girls were murdered. They were senselessly brutalized, and for what? What could God possibly accomplish in the death of these two workers? Why would He let this happen? They were His. Why didn’t God protect them? And those men who did it…how could hey be so cruel? Why didn’t God just strike them down where they stood?
All these questions and thoughts rushed through my head like a hurricane. Louder and more frightening by far, however, were the thoughts of revenge. I didn’t even know these girls. But I wanted those men to die. I wanted them dead and I wanted them to suffer for what they did. This thought scared me, so I turned to God and asked him to take away these thoughts. Then, like Job, I began to ask why he had let it happen at all.
My drive for justice and vengeance was as sinful as their rampage. I had to be reminded that Christ died for their sins as well as mine. Though I didn’t want to, I prayed for them to repent. I prayed that they would turn to God before it was too late. After a while, I realized I didn’t want them to suffer for their actions. Who would want anyone to suffer in hell? Just another sinner, I suppose.
Slowly, painfully, I had to come to grips with the fact that I don’t know everything. Me, who had been raised in the Church to the best parents in the world! Me, who knew all the answers! That hurt, maybe even more than anything else. That I was even thinking like this scared me even more. Was I becoming a Pharisee?
If I was, I was in good company. Paul called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee” (Philippians 3:5) These were the people who thought themselves perfect. Strangely enough, the people who act most like them today are those who condemn them. But that’s something for another post.
It’s so hard to not condemn. I know, I know that we are all sinners. But why is it that everyone else is such a great sinner compared to me? It sounds silly, and perhaps it is. But when Jesus told us that we wouldn’t be able to see the beam in our own eyes, he had a very good point. We are so blind when it comes to our own faults. It’s so easy to think of ourselves as perfect. But we’re not. We’re so far from perfect.
But what of this….this atrocity? Was it wrong to want justice to be served? Well…I guess even Justice can be twisted to be used as an instrument for revenge. So it’s a good thing that I am not God. But oh, why do we have to struggle so hard? Why do we have to suffer through life? In my disbelief, I wonder if Heaven is really worth it. But in God’s word, I discover that it is.
Why does God take his servants, those who do his holy will? Why doesn’t he save them? Why doesn’t he let them live? There are thousands of sinners around who deserved to be treated that way. Why would God allow his gems to be violated? Why is it that only the good die young? Is it because they are the ones ready to go home?
In a scene from one of my favorite books, Rebel’s Keep by Douglas Bond, a Scottish leader named Cameron prayed that God would “Spare the Green and take the Ripe.” Perhaps God knew that these two girls were ready to go home, and he took them. But why then? Why that way?
As my mind rambled from topic to topic, it kept returning to the same question: why? Why would God allow this to happen? Why would he take away two young women who could have done such good in their ministry? They could have strengthened His church!
But something else echoed through my head. The blood of the martyrs grows the church. God uses his saints, even through their deaths. In fact, God uses martyrs to break the hardest hearts, and who knows? Maybe the murderers would remember them and God can use that to break their hearts and save them. God doesn’t always destroy. Sometimes he takes captives. These captives are people who are dragged kicking and screaming into salvation in the beginning, but in the end become some of his best workers. Paul is a good example of this.
The things that we call Mysterious Ways are named well. We don’t understand God’s purposes. I don’t know if we ever will. But it doesn’t matter. As far as we know, Job never found out about why he ran into all of his troubles. But God doesn’t have to tell us what he’s planning. It’s his plan, not ours.
If we knew about them, they wouldn’t be called mysterious, would they? We’re so curious about things we simply cannot understand. Curious to a fault.
It’s hard not to know what’s going on. It’s hard to pick up the pieces after a tragedy. Right now Baltimore is erupting into chaos, and Nepal is picking itself up from a massive earthquake. Bad things are happening. But they will not overtake us.
After a while, I came to realize that no matter what happened to these two missionaries, they are safe with God now. They have joined the company of white-robed martyrs, and their sufferings probably don’t seem that bad now. God is a God of justice, and those who hurt his children are hurting him. If they refuse to listen to Him, their justice will come to be after their deaths. And that is a pain that no one envies. That is a pain no one should wish on another, and I confess with shame my reluctance to forgive. God save me from my wicked passion!
To be truthful, I have no idea why God wanted to take two of his workers home early. I don’t know why he let them take them in this terrible way. I, even I, don’t have all the answers, and I probably never will. Job, as far as we know, didn’t until he died. But I know God had a reason for the events turning out the way they did, and I need to be content. God uses sin sinlessly: though he doesn’t orchestrate it, he knows that it will happen, and he turns it for the good of his Church. Even when it’s hard to understand.
Thanks for bearing with my rambling. If you have some free time, please pray for the families of these two missionaries. The murder happened in January, but their hearts are still broken. And if you have some more time, pray for those who did it. If we get some prayer pressure on them, perhaps they will finally come to see God’s love. It’s tough praying for those who persecute us. But it’s something we’re commanded to do.
Oh, it never gets easy. Even for me. Especially for me.
Philippians 3:4, 7:
Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more…But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
The man and his wife were guilty, and there was no way to argue with it. There was nothing they could do to hide. They were guilty, sullen, and already decaying into the same corruption found in the outsider who had destroyed the Father’s perfect paradise. They knew they deserved death. That was what had been promised.
But their Father unexpectedly showed mercy. “I am providing you with a way of escape.” He told them. “One day, one of your descendants will finally destroy that wicked serpent who deceived you.” Then, he gave them another mercy. He clothed them with the skins of animals, so that they wouldn’t have to be ashamed. But the animals had to die. They were the substitute for the Children’s sin.
Years passed, and the children of men continued to try and try again to make things better. But even their best efforts were futile. Even the best of them could do little more than terrible. Nothing they could do would ever make up for their sins. But God, in his Mercy, provided animals who would be sacrificed in their place. Without blood, their sins would still be unpaid.
Then came Moses. He was the Father’s instrument of showing his children once and for all what was right, and what was wrong. But even Moses fell, and animals had to be sacrificed for his sins.
His brother Aaron became the first Priest to the Lord, the one who mediated between God and His People. But Aaron was fallen as well, and every time he offered a sacrifice, he felt his own sin staining his hands. He knew that without blood, his sin would drive him to judgment.
Then came the Kings. David, a king after God’s own heart, fell wickedly and forsook him. But when God gently reminded him of his sin, David repented, and was forgiven. But not forever, because without blood, he could not be made clean. The priests offered sacrifices daily, knowing that each sin needed to be atoned for.
Then came the prophets, for the kings forsook the Father. The prophets warned the kings, and the children, that God was just. They reminded him that perfect sacrifices must be made, sacrifices without spot or blemish, sacrifices that would reconcile God and man. They must be made with sincere repentance, not hypocrisy. But even the prophets were kept from seeing who it would be who would destroy sin at last, and they died.
Then came exile. Upon return, the people cried out to their Father, and resumed the sacrifices, for they knew that without blood, they would die in their sins. The scribes who led them reminded them of God’s justice, but also of his mercy in promising a Messiah.
And then HE came.
The Last Adam, the firstborn of His new race, yet still a man.
The Law, who was perfectly obedient in every way and a standard of righteousness.
The Priest who would at once mediate between God and Man.
The King set to rule His people.
The Prophet of the new age to come.
The Scribe who knew the Law perfectly.
When he spoke, they were amazed. But when he acted, they were affronted. Pleasant words were all good and well, but this man lived by them. He was perfectly good, perfectly loving, perfectly just.
Perfectly dangerous, in the eyes of men.
Corruption took root in the hearts of the children. They saw Holiness, and couldn’t stand it. He made them feel wicked, they, who were the best! He must be stopped. So they took Him, they tried Him, and they crucified Him.
But while they didn’t know it, this man was more than just the fulfillment of prophecy. He was the one and only Son of God, the only one who could ever pay the penalty for sin. Only a sinless substitute could satisfy sin’s stain. But that substitute had to give himself willingly. And on that day, Jesus did.
Imagination cannot describe that moment. Suddenly, the unbreakable became broken, as Father and Son were torn apart. On Jesus, the Messiah, the only Son of God, was placed all the sins of the world. What you did yesterday. What he did last night when no one was watching. What she said this morning. What I will think tomorrow. Every wicked word, every sinful thought, every vile deed, all were placed on his soul. And the Father, who in His holiness could not see any unclean thing, looked away.
In the body of one man dwelt the curse, full and vile as it was. And then, that man died, for without blood, there will be no forgiveness of sins.
When he died, the sky went black. The stars came out, and the constellation Aires, which had long been thought of by Jewish philosophers as a sacrificial lamb, shone brightly in the sky above a blood-stained hill. The ground shook. The veil in the temple, the one thing that had kept Man and God separate, was torn to shreds. “It is Finished.”
Suddenly, the dead rose from their graves and went about rejoicing. But among the living, there was a ghostly silence. Some mocked. But they were soon silenced. Something had happened. Something huge. But after a few hours, life went about as normal. They tried to forget.
Late Friday night, that man was buried in a tomb, for the Sabbath was at hand. Those who buried him did so without hope. And indeed, it seemed a shallow victory. The sacrifice had been given. But at what cost? What did it matter that sin was taken care of? Now they had no ally, no mediator, no friend. No Savior.
Early Sunday morning, however, that changed. Something stirred. A tremor shook the earth to its core, and suddenly the serpent felt wary. Something was going on. He thought of his victory. What had gone wrong? Jesus was dead.
But he wasn’t. Quietly, though all of the spiritual forces cried out in joy or terror, the SON of GOD sat up, quietly folded the grave clothes, and walked out of the tomb. And ever since, we have been waiting for our call to follow him out of the tomb, and into a new and glorious life.
Once, not so long ago, two people lived alone on an island. No one else was there, except for the person who owned the large island. He had planted a garden in one corner of the island, and there the people lived. It was a wonderful place. The man and his wife had endless sources of delight. The animals were tame. The island had hills that they could mine in, endless forests to cut down and make into lumber, and enough land for them to spread out over many generations. It was bliss.
There were no clouds in this perfect place, but they never were burned. It never rained, but instead a cool mist rose in the morning and refreshed the land. There were rivers, pools, waterfalls, and even mountains. It was truly amazing.
To make things even nicer, there were no poisonous plants in this paradise, so they could be at ease. The man and wife became wiser and wiser. The owner of the island, their father, told them many things: about the stars, the sea, the mountains, and the animals, birds, and fish that they took care of. There was no centralized government. The man looked after his wife, and both were looked after by their father. He had only one rule: a special tree that grew in the center of his orchard, which had fruit that he had made for himself, must be left alone. They were content. There was a whole island to explore, and they were just getting started.
Then one day, an intruder landed on their island. He was not the kind of person the father wanted in his paradise. As soon as he arrived, he caused chaos and discord: first between the husband and wife, and then between them and their father. In direct disobedience to their master, the people listened to the newcomer and stole some fruit. Instantly, they changed. They had traded the real for the counterfeit. Miserable, they fled from the father, but instead of hating and despising the one who had caused them such pain, they followed him as their leader.
Soon after, the island began to decay. Thorny and poisonous plants sprang up in the rocks and the ground. Life was hard for the rebellious ones. But their pain had one positive effect: it reminded them what they had lost. Repentant and hopeful, they turned back to their father, master, and former friend, praying for forgiveness. And he did forgive them, and patiently bore with them even as they fell deeper and deeper into sin. Finally, though, they stopped seeking him. When this happened, he had no choice but to start afresh. But remembering his promise to his undeserving creatures, he spared a family to be saved from destruction.
Now we live in a world after Eden. We’ve been trying to find it since we lost it. Every time a new island is found we want to conquer it, to make it a tiny bit of what it once was. But the curse works against us. We cannot combat it. But we try anyway.
It isn’t hard to find dreams of Eden. What about The Swiss Family Robinson? Or Robinson Caruso? Or a thousand others? Reality TV shows, video games, movies, and comic books all do their bit. It’s always an island, always a place where the characters have to conquer the place. They are alone, and they learn to be good stewards of what they are given. Sounds like a reflection of Eden.
Well, I suppose this is just another proof that as much as we try to deny it, we were made for a purpose, and consciously or unconsciously, we’re going to emulate that. It’s like our fascination with flight, the stars, and other gifts God has given us. We want them. We’re longing for God, our Father, but are too stubborn and foolish to admit it. So we turn to fake counterfeits like reality TV and novels to quench our thirst for dominion.
Resolved: That Books and Videoplays are very different. With this knowledge, then, let us treat them as such.
Book lovers have seen it all the time. A book that was beautifully, carefully, and thoughtfully crafted finally received the attention it was due. A producer picked it up and used the characters and story to create some sort of reproduction on the screen. And everyone is disappointed.
It’s not like the producers didn’t try. Unfortunately, sometimes their effort isn’t enough. They aren’t trying to make a precise copy of the book. They’re looking for something that will make a good movie. This is what usually makes all the book lovers revolt. This is also why they revolt.
Granted, some movie producers aren’t even trying. They don’t care about the story. They want the big money and prestige of a book adaptation. But even those who are deeply in love with the story come to the heartbreaking discovery that there is no real way to represent the book the way its’ mastery deserves.
The similarities of books and Movies are easy to see. Both are judged by the quality of their story, characters, and setting. That’s where the similarities seem to end. Books are also judged by their ability to describe and touch the reader with gentleness or conviction (or both). They rely on dialog and narration to entrance the reader. Most of the times, books are written to be read alone, unless you have a family with small children.
Movies are different. They add to their story with visual stunning, choice music, and a score engineered to elicit a response from the audience. While the story is flying through the audience’s mind, it is also being amplified by the musical background. Movies are like art projects, and require much trial and error, as well as some tinkering with the finished project. Their credibility is determined by their visual appeal. These can be watched universally, and hopefully evoke discussion about the different aspects of the story.
After studying books and videos, it’s easy to conclude that they are as different as cats and dogs, with no transitional forms at all. But there is one transitional form that imperfectly clings to both mediums, and that is the one known as Graphic Novella, or comics.
I discovered how hard it was to use this when I decided to transfer a portion of my story into graphic novel form to show to my brothers. Naively, I believed that it would be easy. It wasn’t. I realized that some parts of the story wouldn’t be able to make the transition. Other parts just didn’t make sense. And those parts left gaps in the story that had to be filled with new data. I almost rewrote the whole story, and when I finished, I looked at the graphic novel and thought “What have I done?”
If I had fans (which I don’t) they might have been horrified at the changes. I had deleted a character, taken out or rearranged most of the dialog, and changed the periods of time to make the story shorter. Since I had written both versions, I forgave myself. But what if someone else had done it?
Then I realized that these things have happened, pretty much every time that a movie has been adapted. Most of the time an author dies without getting much attention for his stories, and then some producer gets into it, and changes everything. This usually angers people. The only times I can think of that the author was there are Mary Poppins and How to Train your Dragon, though I’m sure that there were more.
So even though I’m still a little miffed at those lazy producers wasting their money and talent for counterfeits, I’m willing to forgive others. I’ve figured out that this is a hard line to walk. I know how hard it is to change things! Though this is tough to understand, I’d advise that book lovers understand that these ‘transitions’ from book to movie are really hard to make.
I don’t have the nerve to be a feminist.
Don’t get me wrong; I understand where they’re coming from. But the way they are going about it exactly the opposite of what needs to happen. They seem to be attacking their own team.
The main platform of the feminist movement is to stand up for the rights of women and prove their equality with men. This is good, in its way. History has revealed a pattern of oppression, abuse, and mistreatment of anyone who happened to be weaker than normal. Women, because they were formed differently than men, were usually the objects of this abuse. Notice that I said that they were formed differently! Though neither is more important than the other, men and women are not equal.
I wouldn’t want to live in the ancient world anyway, as a girl. If there’s one thing that history has taught me, it’s our intense need for something more. In the ancient times of Greece and Rome it wasn’t that great to be alive. When I was little, I would read about all the killings of the soldiers, and I’d breathe a sigh of relief that I wasn’t a boy. At least I would have been safe, right?
I wish I still had that innocence. No, actually to be a girl in that or any time period would be a nightmare. No rights. No freedom. No protection. If you had a good father, and later a good husband, you could live a quiet life. But no one is free from the ravages of war. If those people were killed…who protects you? No one.
They lived in a strange time. People were objects. Property. Slaves. Most of the time women made up most of that last category. What else could you call them? They were thought of as wicked. As trophies. As servants. As toys. Never people. Being born into royalty didn’t help much. For a while, you would be secure. But imagine what would happen if your kingdom was taken? Master would be slave. Kings had some strange pleasure in making former princesses into slaves. The Iliad cued me in to that practice.
If I had been in that story, I might have been in the place in Cassandra. The Iliad is an ancient poem about the destruction of a proud city called Troy. The Greeks built the famous “Trojan Horse” to infiltrate the unbreachable walls. I don’t have time to go into the whole story, but Cassandra has always been a special source of grief to me. Her story is truly tragic.
In the midst of this strange and magical story came a young priestess, probably the youngest daughter of the King of Troy. She was young enough to have been innocent in relation to the war. It wasn’t her who had kidnapped Queen Helen of Sparta, nor did she have anything to do with it. She was probably a young child at the time. Over ten years later, she was given a special curse: the agony of knowing of the coming disaster, but having no one believe her.
Here and there she flew about, crying “Doom is Near! Please, please, stop!” But the drunken crowd would not. They had won. Inside the horse was the sign of their victory, and the means of their defeat. Did the poor princess know? If she did, she was unable to do a thing about it. By a cruel trick of the many deities that flit through the poem, she was stripped of her credibility. Perhaps it was then that she fled to the temple to try to entreat the deities that had forsaken her. At the end of the story, innocent Cassandra is punished for her older brother’s sin, and forced into a life of slavery and ill use. There her story ends.
But our story didn’t. All of us, even the feminists, are searching for something. We’ve tried to get it ourselves. Oneness. It’s what were were made to be. One. Perfectly complete. But Sin breaks into that. It makes things like slavery and adultery enter into the perfect family that God created. We can’t get away from it. We can’t rule it. We can’t stop it. Like Cassandra, we are helpless before a wave of evil. Unlike Cassandra, we are often the cause of it. In some cases, we’re more like the crowd below. We hear the warnings, but we don’t care. How many of them were left alive in the morning?
Of course the way they try to get Oneness is by proving that somehow women are superior to men, and therefore don’t need them. The One they are thinking of is themselves, a horrid object called Self that lurks inside each person, waiting to manifest its horrid face. That is why many feminists are rather mean. They have told themselves that they are sufficient, when they know they aren’t. All they have to cherish is that which lives within them, their sinful hearts, and that eventually destroys whoever tries it.
Perhaps the one thing that these people are most afraid of is the thing that would give them peace. They fear being under authority, for that would make them slaves. But they will continue to be slaves of themselves until they submit to someone higher. They hate the idea of being sheltered because they think that takes away their freedom. But without protection, are they truly free? They fear being accountable because they don’t want to feel guilty. But the true guilt that they fear every day can only be escaped through repentance. Foolish, wretched people! Who would choose this life?
Praise God, He didn’t leave us this way! Instead He chose to be our protection, our salvation, our guard. He promised to protect those who are helpless, and to avenge them when they are abused. He is the only God in all of history. He is also the only one who ever showed any love and grace to women. His pagan counterparts all were wicked, debauched, and instruments of slavery. But He alone was alive: was, and is, and always will be! He didn’t leave us drowning in ourselves and in our sin. He rescued us.
With that new life was also a new love. For the first time in created history since the Garden, people were treated equally. “In CHRIST there is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor Parthian, nor Scythian, nor Slave, nor Free.” All are equal in the body of Christ. And for the first time, this meant that women were respected. They were loved. They were free and equal servants of the Lord.
For the first time, women were valued for who they were. Notice that this didn’t come from lobbying. It wasn’t the result of an organized protest. This hadn’t come from years of careful planning. It was spontaneous. It was deep-rooted. It was supernatural. And it’s been the driving force for the “equal treatment for women” movement years before the feminists thought up a name for themselves.
What’s sad is what my feminist friends don’t understand is the thing they’re running from is the very thing they should be running to! Our Religion isn’t one of domination and supremacy. I can think of a few religions that would qualify that description, but not the True Faith. And what really hurts is when our women, who could be the Church’s greatest ally, seem intent on tearing it to pieces. Why try to destroy our closest ally?
In a book I’m writing, the imaginary kingdom of Symettria is having internal trouble. The king has suddenly grown hostile to the nomadic tribes that rove the plains to the south, and decided all “natives” should be restricted from interacting with the “True Symetttrians.” The leader of the armies was really annoyed with this. “I’m supposed to be keeping out the evil from our land, when it keeps seeping in through the borders. How am I also supposed to also defend us from our own people? Why are we making war inside our country?”
Why indeed. It seems as if we are standing against an order that hates us, that religion that is called Islam. It wants the world subjected under it, a world dominated by men. In their eyes, women are evil. I would be killed for writing this. Just because I spoke out, and because I am a woman.
Why are the feminists so quiet against them? Why are our media ‘friends’ so ignorant at the threat of war? The one thing they’re fighting so hard to get away from they have nothing to say about. They’re attacking their allies and flattering their enemies.
That’s really frustrating. Sometimes I see the TV anchors in their dresses, and wonder if they’re really thinking through what they’re reporting. But I guess their eyes have been blinded to Cassandra’s message. “Doom is Near, Doom is near!” No one will believe her. Instead, they mock and side with those who want to destroy them.
The scene comes straight from a novel: a evil villain captures a good guy, but just as he is celebrating his success, someone he loves falls deathly ill. The good guy might be the only person who can save her, but would he let his enemy help? He could either make peace, and get his friend back, or be right, and risk losing her.
All right, so I made up the scenario, but the idea is the same: at what cost peace? Everything has a price, and those who tell you otherwise are selling something, as someone sarcastically commented. Peace is precious…how precious?
When we’re living our lives, at leas in our family, peace seems to be the chief end of our family. I mean that, of course, in the best way possible. But think about it: 7 kids in one house with two imperfect parents, two awful dogs and two flawed cats, a messy house and a stressful extended family….it’s a recipe for discord.
In this time period, we usually treat peace like the One Ring: we buy it, though at great pain. Or, if we don’t buy it, we end up killing each other anyway. Peace is lucrative: you can’t be sure that it will “stick” with you or whether it will fly away.
Of course that choice is based on what you choose to do. In most cases, you have a choice: press the point and chance winning the argument or quit early and avoid that person. I’m not sure if that’s good for peace, but it really has helped us out. Ignore the people, and they’ll forget the quarrel.
Actually, that doesn’t work too well. Normal kids don’t forget quarrels. They let them go but bring them up at the best possible moment. How can we truly achieve lasting peace?
Perhaps history can give us a glimpse of what is needed. Does being at peace come from prosperity? From self-sufficiency? From power? Not really. A nation might be strong and rich, but full of turmoil. Without peace, those things soon pass away. Almost all things will.
I suppose we’ll get out into the world sometime and realize this struggle is ongoing. We realize that this choice of “right” or “peace” becomes harder and harder to choose. We might not have to make life-altering decisions like the made-up one in the front, which is straight from a novel for a reason, but on the other hand, isn’t every choice we make life-changing?
In our house, we want to be right. Is that normal? Is it right that everyone must be…well, right? Not really. The chances that everyone could be right at once are ridiculously low. How could they be? In every argument, there has to be at least one person at wrong, and usually both people are.
The biggest problem is mediating between the two arguing parties. It’s hard to tell which side to side with, without actually seeming to side. If you do, your status as mediator is over. Digging through the layers of hurt and wrongs is difficult. But someone has to make peace. It won’t be easy, but it’s needed.
In our history, we’ve been mixed up in hundreds of these conflicts. We’ve tried to save all the world with our…I’m not sure what. We need to think of what it’s worth. Smaller countries pay for peace. Larger ones fight for it. People barter, bargain, quarrel, and quibble for it.
Some people justify paying off larger countries for peace. They say that they are keeping the peace. In the end, they’re simply putting off war. There is no peace if both sides are unwilling. That’s the thing that we seem to have forgotten. Peace only comes when the person on one side of the issue comes forward to sacrifice and say, “I was wrong.”
That’s the real issue. Which is better, to be right, or to have peace?
I’ll let you decide.
Nya turned and glared at her servant. “What do you mean, by coming to me this way? Where is the prince? And what has happened to your hand?”
Dawes bowed and cast a wrathful glance over his shoulder. “My Grace, the Prince is running himself ragged, trying to gather support for his lost cause. My guess is that he plans to try and take over the government. But he would be hard-pressed. The people do not listen to madmen.” “They listen to you.” The false queen said archly. “And there is little difference.”
“We were able to capture one of his band.” Dawes said quickly. “Gino. The shepherd.” Nya stiffened and turned to face him. “Gino? He is here?” “Yes, my lady. I have brought him.” Nya grabbed his bandaged hand and tore off the cloth. Then she laughed. Embarrassed, Dawes quickly replaced it; as quickly, that is, as one can with one hand.
“So he has gone that way, then.” She said, more to herself than to anyone else. “That is useful. A weak boy like Gino shepherd’s-son is easily managed. Bring him here, Dawes. I wish to speak to him. Immediately.” Dawes bowed and walked off. Nya laughed to herself. “Our shepherd friend has done us a favor by his foolishness. Quite a favor, indeed.”
So Gino was brought out; tired, sad, but determined. “What do you have to say for yourself, then, Gino?” Nya asked sharply. “What have you been doing?” Gino said nothing, but glanced at his feet and examined closely the wood trim on the floor. “I asked you a question, boy. What have you been doing?” Nya said more loudly, stepping forward.
Gino looked at her. “Begging your pardon, ma’am, but I’m not a boy anymore. That was long ago.” His eyes almost made Nya despair of her purpose: they were so sad, yet so calm. But Nya would not be turned easily.
“Only a day in the reckoning of the ancients.” Nya said lightly. “But in truth, you have something there. Twenty-seven is quite ancient.” She mocked. Gino again was silent. His silence irritated her. Gino had always irritated her. Once it was because he was so frightened, and she despised him(though what child wouldn’t be, after being thrown into prison alone and unprotected?). Now she wished he was frightened. It would make things easier.
Nya glanced at him again. He refused to look at her. Even now, they were defying her! The Chosen would never give. Chosen… “What happened to Dawes’ hand?” She asked, pretending to study the roofing tiles. “I shot him, God forgive me.” Gino muttered, already guessing her plan. His pride was gone, but his wits stayed about him.
“But you know the writ of Chosen. Revenge is for the Creator alone. So you have broken from that, as I have.” Gino said nothing. “And are no longer Chosen.” Again, nothing. Apparently, Gino had been thinking about this the whole time. She wasn’t making any progress here.
“Why are you so stubborn with this?” She asked, almost exasperated at his silence. “There is nothing for you here.”
“Yes, nothing!” Gino said loudly, surprising her. His eyes were like black coals, burning with inner fire. “Nothing, you say, but your service. I may be in chains, dear Nya, but I have my heart. My mind is made up. There is nothing for me here, nor anywhere else, because of my actions. But that does not mean I have given up the fight. There is no place for me in this kingdom, but there is for others, and I’m striving towards that goal.”
Nya stepped back as if she had been stunned. So did Gino. The fire died, and he hung his head, ashamed. A slow smile crept over the wicked ruler’s face. “He does have power in him.” She mused. “And a bad temper. Perfect.”
“I’m sorry.” Came a soft voice. “That was wrong of me. Will you forgive me?”
Nya laughed. “Forgive you? Why would I do that, rebel?” “I don’t know.” Gino said sadly. “No one will, I’m afraid. But I will not help you, Nya. You might as well not try.”
Nya stalked out of the room and went after Dawes. “Where is everyone? Dawes! Where is he?” She yelled at a lady maid. The girl shook her head and began to arrange flowers on the table. Nya dashed the flowers off the table. “Tell me!”
The maid bowed. “Dawes is with the soldiers. What would I know about soldiers?”
Eventually, Nya found the missing Dawes. “I want you to tell me what he said to you, and I mean exactly.” She hissed, banging her fist on the table. Dawes looked surprised. “He simply said that it was his duty.” He said lightly.
Nya stared at him. Her eyes twitched. “Do you mean that they are going to use their ‘Chosen’ religion to gather followers? He actually told you that, and you let them? Weren’t you listening, or are your ears made out of rocks?” She shook her head. “Never mind. You know nothing of this.”
Dawes stood up. “What do you want me to do?” Nya tapped her trident against the wall. “We can’t let the clergy join this rebellion.” She said, turning severely towards the temple. “We need to make sure that those who are still true to their fictional creator don’t get involved. And we need to make sure the people stay out of it too.”
Shortly after the girls left, Andrew ran over. “Read this!” he said quickly, handing Davis a sheet of paper. It was a notice. “From this day forward, the Queen has established a festival in the capitol, in the temple, where all will…pledge allegiance?” He looked up in disbelief. “What is the Queen doing?”
“No one will go for that.” Rocket laughed, but Andrew shook his head. “They’ll have to. Read on.” Caro took the paper. “All who refuse are traitors, basically, and would be accused of helping us. They would be wiped out.” “The queen is making sure she doesn’t have anything to worry about.” Davis growled.
Caro shook his head. “Think about it! Thousands of men, traveling to the capitol!” “I think as soon as the get there, there will be forced conscriptions.” Davis sighed. “The army would grow exponentially.”
Cory and the twins looked at one another, frightened. “If we go, they will arrest us for being traitors.” One twin worried. “But if we don’t go, they will destroy our families.” The other added, folding his arms. Caro shook his head. “We’re going. Nya has provided us with the perfect cover! We don’t have to worry about entering the city, because there will be so many people there that we can slip in. It will be perfect.”
The men hesitated. Rocket stepped forward. “I have neither family nor friends to worry about. Let’s go to the capitol!”
I went to the funeral of a soldier not long ago. The ceremony wasn’t that much different from any other. It seemed as if there was none. But then, at the very end of the service, something happened that made it different that any I had ever seen.
Just as we were wondering what would happen next, (we had forgotten to get programs) a loud clear song began to play from somewhere we couldn’t see. Taps.
I heard that Taps was written during the civil war. That makes a lot of sense. There’s a sweet sorrow in its notes, a feeling that is very hard to grasp or control. I suppose that’s why it’s played at funerals.
But music aside, there was a strange difference to it as well: there was a soldier in the front of the church. I didn’t get it at first, but it soon dawned on me that she, and the soldier playing Taps, were paying their final respects to the deceased soldier. Included in this service was the folding of the flag.
Never have I seen such thorough, caring, loving handling of the emblem of our nation. When I thought of what those soldiers did for us, it became even more amazing. These people, and many others like them, risk their lives defending the sacred honor of the flag we think so lightly of.
Every fold, every star of that flag had to be carefully considered as they folded and unfolded it. The church was still as everyone watched. Perhaps they caught the spark of patriotism that instantly enflamed me. Why are we so ashamed, anyway?
As I study history, I begin to realize how special we are. We were so small, so insignificant. We fought. We failed. We fell. But somehow we succeeded and built this nation. From the beginning it was fraught with trouble. We did the wrong things many times, trying to figure out what to do. For some reason, You still visited us, pouring out Your spirit on us even though we didn’t deserve it. God, why here? Why us?
I suppose we’ll never know. But God uses the weak to shame the strong, which brings us to the chilling reminder that we are not safe on this pedestal. Believe it or not, we were not promised freedom to do what we wished. Our country is beginning to fade.
But as those soldiers showed me, America isn’t dead. Faith isn’t dead. Duty isn’t dead. If God wills it, we can once again thrive in his word. But that means obeying the authorities, even when we feel like they’ve lost their brains somewhere outside of the capitol.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t protest wicked laws or obey them if they clash with scripture. What I’m saying is that we need to have a little more pride in our country. We should try and take better care of it. The blood of patriots stain our flags if we slip into decadence. Honor the flag, and remember.
All right, I admit it. I’ve written three things about dragons, and I know that they aren’t for everyone. It’s hard for some people to get excited about giant fiery reptiles.
Or is it? Dragons have been around from the beginning, it seems. Mesopotamian legend involves a dragon named Tiamat. Ever since that rather strange beginning, legends have exploded about these creatures. One of my favorites may not be legend: an ancient carving depicting a man riding on some sort of long-necked reptile. The discovery of flying serpents further whets our appetite for flight, as do those of giant eagles in fossil layers.
One thing I can’t help but wondering is if Dragons have become the scapegoats, and have been given attributes that they never had. Or could it be that legends are simply distant memories long forgotten?
There has to be some connection between the dinosaurs we unearth and reconstruct and the dragons we laugh at or cheer for. After all, people didn’t just look at an alligator and make up one with wings. There has to be some sort of reference. Unfortunately, that’s a story for another time.
When you think of dragons, what do you think about? Here are some common ideas.
- Massive Size
Greed: Everyone has seen it, from Beowulf to the Dawn Treader: Dragons are greedy creatures. I wonder how this legend came about. Perhaps our ancestors knew something we didn’t, and observed the dragons hoarding something. Perhaps like magpies, the reptiles were attracted by shiny things. Maybe our fathers used these strange creatures as an object lesson against greed, and the image stuck.
Whatever the reason, we’ve always seen dragons as greedy and wicked creatures, full of cunning. One of our culture’s new favorite examples of this is Smaug, the fearsome worm from J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Hobbit. Notice that I did not say villain. In truth, Bilbo and the others realize that they are their own worst enemies. But again, that’s another story.
Smaug has no need of his amazing horde, but he cannot give it up. He knew it, piece by piece, and it gave him no pleasure. He would not permit it to be lost, even though it did nothing for it except glitter in the emptiness. Beware, ye who strive after riches. All greed is blessed with a dragon’s curse. That’s why I value Galadriel’s blessing in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Galadriel, a powerful elf-queen, gave gifts to the company at their parting from the fading world of Lorien. Her words were uncertain, but hopeful. “I do not fortell, for all fortelling is now vain; on one hand lies darkness, and on the other only hope. But if hope should not fail, then I say to you, Gimli Son of Gloin,that your hands shall flow with gold, and yet over you gold shall have no dominion.” For a dwarf, a fitting gift indeed.
Grace: You have to admit that there is a certain grace about any creature in flight. The slow dive of the falcon and the flittering flight of a sparrow attest to God’s creativity at making these streamlined creatures. But what of a dragon?
To be perfectly honest, we have no idea of the grace of a dragon. When we dig up a skeleton, which comes up in bits and pieces, we can’t tell if the dinosaur moved easily or clumsily. Some clues are left, like how the bones connected and moved. But unfortunately, we’re left to our own devices for the most part.
However, we’ve been told from our legends and histories that dragons are serpentine and lithe. Think of the flying dinosaurs, Pterodactyl and his friends. I seriously doubt that he moved in a clumsy manner.
Pride: The portrayal of dragons as prideful is interesting. I suppose it has to do with the fact that dragons, like all serpentine creatures, were associated with Satan, whose pride is mentioned several times. A particular dragon, known in Job as Leviathan, says this about the powerful creature: “He sees everything that is high;
he is king over all the sons of pride.” (Job 41:34) Something that big and strong has a good reason to be proud. Through the ages, this attribute has lived on.
Massive Size: From the skeletons we’ve dug up, we have a pretty good idea of the size of dinosaurs, or dragons, but as I’ve said before, those are not very good examples, because most of the massive ones were very old, just as alligators are biggest after they’ve been growing for ten years or so. However, even as youngsters, these creatures were huge! For all it’s worth, dragons could have been the largest creatures of God’s creation.
However, we’ve also found dragons…I mean dinosaurs…the size of sheep. And even of chickens! These are not as well known, but were there all the same, and were the natural exception. Even now, modern dragons can be found in all different sizes, through the imagination of writers and animators.
Fiery breath: Job 41: ” His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn. Out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth. Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth.” (Job 41:18-21)
Though we haven’t found any fire breathers in the fossil record, it’s not like we have any clues. From looking at a skunk skeleton, we can’t see that it’s anything more than a cat. Chemicals and organs, unfortunately, aren’t preserved. We have no idea what color dinosaurs are, or if they could breathe fire, but from the stories and record left for us by
those who went before, I think there’s a pretty good evidence that dragon fire is no legend!
Destruction: Everyone knows that a dragon isn’t to be messed with. Massive size and fiery breath leads to a lot of trouble! Though in the beginning, this wasn’t a problem, dinosaur/dragon fights would cause a lot of damage to the area around them. It’s pretty easy to see why most people would consider them a nuisance, and would try to drive them from the land. But with their scaly hides, this was easier said than done.
Flight! By far the most amazing of all the dragon attributes, God in his creativity made them with an amazing variety of wings, tails, and bodies to help them soar. Why did he make these strange creatures? Who knows! But I’m glad he did, and the fascination with dinosaurs and dragons go on. Imagine…flying!
Evil: Since the beginning, the dragons have been associated with evil. It’s because of the snake-lizard-dragon difference. It’s not hard to see why. With wings and scales and a reputation of being magical, they would seem terrible. Let’s not mention that they were probably nocturnal, like Bats and some other flying animals. Going out on silent wings under the cover of darkness, they would have seemed work for the evil one. They might have even been used in his worship, as other animals have over the centuries.
Cunning: “Now the serpent was more crafty than all the beasts of the field.” (Genesis 3:1) It’s not hard to imagine how this image would transfer to dinosaurs or dragons. Perhaps people believed that they were simply winged snakes. But there have never been any stories of stupid dragons. That would be strange.
All the same, I believe that dragons would have the kind of intelligence we attribute to Dolphins or monkeys or however we measure brainpower. Just as other creatures are sneaky to catch their prey, meat-eating dragons could have been feared not only because of their size, fire, and fear factor, but also because of their extensive trapping power.
Magic: Throughout history, dragons have had a magical reputation. As time went on and the stories became more and more fantastic, magic has seeped into the legends. Though I
doubt dragons ever had magical powers or any abilities beyond those of other animals, the magical reputation remains. Maybe, if we find any hiding somewhere today, the magical aspect will fade away.
All the same, Magic is a large part of dragon mythology. Stories of enchantments and fairytales of cunning and wicked dragons are ingrained into our history. I have a feeling that if we found a dragon, several people would be disappointed.
Companionship? Imagine! Living with dinosaurs and dragons in a perfect world! Imagine flying with them and not being afraid. Now that is something that the dragons franchise has done so excellently. It feeds on our longing for something greater. But as I’ve already touched on this, I’ll paint you a picture.
Large reptilian creatures, no longer to be feared, living in a perfect world even more splendid than they. With no enmity between creatures, the serpent and the lamb rest together. A lion steps forward in a reverent yet confident manner and bows before his king. That’s what we have to look forward to. A world where dragons aren’t even noticed because of the wonder that the land holds. Who lives there. Who has called us.
Isn’t that better than an island full of dragons?
Caro shook his head. “I still can’t believe this? How could Gino do something so…so…” “Stupid?” Davis suggested. Caro glared at him. “Thank you. I was thinking foolish.”
Davis held up his hands. “Don’t blame me; I’m just as confused as anyone here. Opal, are you sure that this is true?” Rora bowed her head and stood up. “Sir, Gino went back to the building after Pussy. He wanted to make sure we didn’t forget her, knowing how much she meant to…Opal.” Opal put her arms around her beloved cat protectively.
Promise growled and his ears shot up. Caro rubbed his head. “Promise senses something wrong.” He sighed. “He’s like an alarm clock for danger. But this… this disrupts everything! What is the plan now?”
Davis wheeled around and faced them. “I think we’ve been running too long, Prince Caro. We’re so close to the capitol. It’s time to act.” Opal lifted her sightless eyes to his. “And what would you have us do?” She asked.
Davis thought for a moment. “What if we sent you and Rora ahead to the capitol? As long as you travel with us, you will be in danger. But alone, who would notice you? You could wait in the city until we arrive, and then if something happens to us, you’ll be able to go on.” Pussy climbed onto Opal’s shoulder and licked her ear. Opal gently lifted her off. “That is an idea.” She said slowly. “But whether it is a good one or not is beyond me.”
“If only we had Gino.” Caro grumbled. “Why did he have to leave us for something so foolish?” “Gino had troubles few knew about.” Opal cried. “I do not justify his works, but only ask for understanding. You can only see a portion of what is happening.”
They were silent for a while. “You’re right.” Caro said softly. “I’m sorry, Opal. That was out of turn.” “I am as well.” Opal sighed. “Sorry that this had to happen at all. Sorry that we don’t have a chance without his advice.”
“We might have lost one person, but we still have some left.” Davis said stubbornly. “I came to help take Nya from the throne. And I intend to finish that purpose as far as I can help it.” Caro laughed, took Opal’s hands, and helped her up. “That’s good for me. I think we can try that plan Davis came up with.”
Opal sighed. “I don’t know. The capitol is such a chaotic mess. I can only see tiny snatches of what’s going on, from tiny things that Gino sends me, but even that is becoming less and less frequent. He’s scared. That scares me.” Caro sighed with her. Both Opal and Caro knew what Nya was like. “What scares you, that Gino is scared?” He asked.
Opal laughed. “Gino is always scared.” She said softly. “Even when we were small children. My memories are so vague from that time, but I remember one thing. Grown-up Gino coming to me and asking me what I see. I don’t see anything. He says he is worried about his parents. Then I tell him. And he starts to cry.” Opal began to cry herself and sat back down. “I’m scared that he’s alone. Gino is strong. But not that strong.”
Promise slunk over and laid his head on her knees, as if to say, “I miss him too.” Opal rubbed his head. “Don’t worry about Gino, Opal. Someone is watching him, just like He’s watching us.” Caro said, looking out towards the rest of the camp. “But what do we tell the others?”
“To be perfectly honest, Prince Caro, most of them had no idea of Gino’s real job here. In fact, a few of them wondered why he was here at all. We don’t need a mapmaker, we have some professional scouts now, and Gino couldn’t fight or lead.” Davis explained. Caro nodded.
“Why bring a shepherd? Why not a soldier? I don’t know why The Creator chose, or why he chose us. But there has to be a reason. We’ll continue on. I think you’re right, Davis. It’s getting too dangerous for the girls. We should send them on. Well, if Rora is willing.”
Rora was willing, and the plans were made. They needed a good time to enter the city, and it hadn’t come yer. But they were impatient to begin. The faster they got there, the faster they took out Nya. Davis, Caro, and Opal had another reason: the faster they stopped Nya, the sooner they found Gino.
Opal seemed reluctant. Though she never said anything, something was bothering her. She shook her head, as if to clear it, but the doubt remained. Caro noticed. “Are you frightened?” He asked one day, almost right before their departure.
Opal’s eyes turned blank. “No.” She said softly. “I’m not frightened. I’m just…worried. Those of my order were powerful, and I am young. I have no training, and no sight. How, if I were to face Nya, and she resisted, would I fare?”
“But what about the words of promise?” Caro asked. Opal tilted her head. “There is that, yes. If I can speak in her presence, I will say that. But it will be difficult. And heartbreaking.” She covered her face with her hands. Caro had been thinking of her statement. “Your order? What does that mean?”
Opal laughed, in spite of herself. “Did no one tell you of the schools of the prophets? My order is the Iya. My mother, in fact, was of the priestly line. Her father was furious when she married mine, a peasant. She named me Iya, after the order I was born into. My father called me Opal.”
“Nya is also an Iya. Strangely enough, her name was once Iya as well, but she changed it, as you know. The other Iya are gone. I can’t help but wonder if Nya had something to do with that, and that my father changed my name to protect me. Dear Father! I miss him. But I worry. Nya’s power is stronger than mine. Much stronger, like a child compared to a giant!”
“A child slew the giant, when the Creator was with him.” Caro mused. “I don’t think you should worry about that. He is with you. He has left her.” Opal sighed. “But did that weaken her, or make her stronger?” She worried.
The next day, the two girls set out. “It’s better this way.” Caro assured Opal. She looked at him in that strange way that made him feel like she could see right into him. She smiled sadly. “Until we meet again?” She said timidly, holding out her hand. “We’ll be there soon.” Caro said again. Opal shook her head, and turned to Rora. “I’m ready. Let’s go.”
Rachel has quite excellently written about the insanity of book-writing. However, her experience was based on a historical fiction. I would like to lend my experience in the often misunderstood realm of Fantasy.
To different people, Fantasy can mean anything from “Alice in Wonderland” to “Star Wars”. To me, Fantasy is writing that dabbles with the fantastic, that is, realms beyond our knowledge. Fairies, mermaids, tree spirits, water nymphs, creatures of my imagination, and of the imaginations of countless others throughout human history.
From the beginning, creatures have been imagined and recorded in mythology, from fauns and monsters to wicked serpents. Some of these legends stand knee-deep in truth, but they are a good basis. However, because of those who wrote them, most stories about these creatures have been dark, disgusting, or disturbing. Or, as one former classmate imagined, “all of the above”.
There is a definite difference between the writer of a historical fiction and the writer of a fantasy. Now the research takes on a quite different type. Science fiction? You have to know something about computers and technology. Fairies? What about plants? But the most troubling bits of fiction are the kinds where the worlds themselves are fabricated.
I like to think of myself as an architect. With my keyboard, I build landscapes. With my pencil, I lay out cities. And with my imagination, I produce…people! Characters, all with their strengths and weaknesses, their loves and hates, their struggles and their triumphs. But that’s when it gets interesting.
When you are building your own world, you have to populate it. Where are the mountain ranges? Should there be rivers, or should this be a vast plain? Where is the ocean? And who lives where? In most books, all you need to find out about these things is look at a map. But when you’re the one building the world, you’re the mapmaker. Cities pop up like wildflowers. Forts and castles raise their stony heads from the earth, as each is bestowed with its own name. Countries form slowly, until they emerge from their chrysalis, new and wet and vulnerable.
Then the characters emerge. That’s when pets are especially helpful, because in this world, in order for the characters to be unique, they are animals (in the broad, fantasy sense). Tall, reserved cats and their enemies, the quick-tempered, yet loyal, Flash-Dogs. Bats the size of Dragons, and rabbits with wings. Dogs who can transform, werewolf-like, into dragons.
But before you go into ecstasy about the simplicity of it all, this type of writing requires almost more research than historical fiction. At least in that case, the information needed is a little easier to find. Here, we need to know about how mountains are formed. Can lava form on top of water? Is it possible for water to be moved organically, through some sort of chemical process? What would have to be in fur to keep it from burning? What kinds of substances melt in water? These are the strange questions that we have to think about.
Unfortunately, the thinking part is what usually gets us in trouble. Sure, I might be washing dishes on the outside, but on the inside I’m going through a dialogue between Gino and the evil dictatoress, Nya. (Which is coming soon to Chosen Ones in a week or so)Around this time, someone asks me a question, and I break both trains of thought to try to answer it. Some would call this daydreaming. I call it plot development. But that’s a very different point all together.
One of the strange things about all this is that you become protective of your story. If you tell someone, and they seem uninterested, you mentally check them off the list. Eventually you split up your friends between those who support your world and those who are more…practical.
But in all this foolishness, there’s that ever-present question: am I writing something worth reading? My stories now are better than they were a year ago, or even six months ago. I’ve aged in my writing. But are my stories pure? Are my characters true? Are my countries and creatures realistic?
The true danger with fantasy is that the laws are self-imposed. You, essentially, are the creator, and must decide what is right and wrong. Because of this, fantasy can get us into worlds of trouble. Is it right to fight for what we believe? Is it right to defend ourselves? Is it right to lead? Your worldview translates into that of your creation. Those who read your work can see that instantly.
As with all things, our writing must be “whatever is true… honorable… just… pure… lovely… commendable… if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think(write) about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 abbreviated) Whether the character is wielding a sword or a pen, he/she should act honorably at all times. I’m not saying that they are perfect. I’m saying that they should act as we do, and follow their creator’s bidding, which is good and right. Our stories should reflect our faith.
That’s the really hard part of writing. All these things we need to think through, all the problems with our stories, all the things that have to be accurate, even in our own creation, make authors some of the rarest people in the world…the published ones. Many never finish. Some good talent languishes because the person is too scared to act. I call them sleepwalkers; dreamers who never wake up and fulfill their dreams.
And of course, there is the tragedy of the great authors who never were allowed to live because they were an inconvenience when they were small. Our literature might have been changed dramatically, but for that tragic fact. The authors have disappeared from history.
To make up for that, and all the garbage that assaults us from every angle, I believe that more young people should write! The brain is like a muscle, and needs to be exercised. Trust me, my first story was about a cat with superpowers. It was rather strange, had over ten characters, and a really weird plot. I’ve learned since then.
So what are you like? Do you want to re-write history, in a way, like Rachel? Or would you rather make your own, like me? Maybe you’re into neither, and would rather write about the Constitution. Or toasters. Or anything!
My brother received a Matthew West CD for Christmas. I really like the lyrics. “If you’re living, if you’re breathing, you have something to say. If you know your heart is beating, you have something to say.” You do have something to say. It’s time to write!
I have a new fascination with the DNA in the human body. Sure, it’s super complicated, and even the tiny bit I know befuddles me. It’s hard to understand how DNA and its twin, RNA, can form the intricacies of our bodies down to our eye color. It all has to do with the proteins that they make. God planned it well.
Of course, this would mean you’d need a little practice with DNA. Everyone who has heard the term associates it with the weird loopy thing that some scientists call a double-helix. Each of those strands are made out of four chemicals, and those are called adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine. I know, I know. Those names seem crazy. It gets a little strange. Especially since A only links to T, G to C, and vice-versa.
Now before you fall over dead, give me a little time. Those strange little double-helixes unravel easily, and the twin, RNA, likes to hold on to the strands. Because of those weird little chemicals, the RNA holds on to the DNA like a photo negative.
Who cares about photo negatives?
Don’t leave yet. The more I read, the more fascinated I became. I knew that proteins were made out of amino acids, which are made into really, really, weirdly long strands of them. I still didn’t understand how the DNA was used in making protein. I mean, I knew it was important, but I didn’t get it. The RNA negative was used really strange, and seemed to just hang around. I didn’t get it. Why did we start out with DNA and just copy it backwards? What’s the point? God, I think you need to add a few more steps to the process.
Of course what I didn’t know is that certain type of RNA has a strange habit of attracting amino acids. Or that that tiny piece of RNA can only attach to a certain acid depending on the chemicals making it (which there are only three spots to fill, but with four choices,
that’s 4! or 24 different possibilities). This is called tRNA, and looks somewhat like the crudely-drawn model below. There are three bases that attach to one big circular acid.
So why is this important? Like a magnet, our negative draws these little floaters to itself, and they latch onto only a specific section of it. As they latch on, their acids are dragged with them. Amino acids. You might guess how this is going to work out. When every space is filled, we have a long train of acids under our negative. We have a protein.
Now consider how complex this is.
If I was in charge of our genetic material, aside from the massive headache I would have, life would be exterminated. But in a strange, improbable world where I was in charge of a new reproductive system, I might be able to find these chemicals. Under the right stimulation, I might make them bond. But how would I know that the ‘c’ bonds to the ‘g’? I can’t even see them!
When I get to the DNA itself, we’d really be in trouble. If it was at all possible for me to somehow build DNA, and to be able to make enough to make one protein (which is really an underachievement) then I would have to match it with RNA. Oops, what if I’ve forgotten to invent that? And what rule would I have for the amino acids? Do you realize that the simplest protein in our bodies, ribonuclease, has 124 amino acids, and that it’s an anomaly? The ‘average’ protein has several thousand.
I’m not ignorant. I’ve studied physics. I’ve done some chemistry. I know anatomy. I have algebra 2 and geometry experience. My brother thinks I’m a…I’m not going to repeat the word. In our house, an insult to me is telling me I’m smart. He knows that. It’s a bit strange.
All the same, there’s that little issue that my brain can’t get around. To have the knowledge to form a single strand of protein would take me years. To have the tools and machinery to accomplish that would take a research grant. But what did it take God? “Let there be life.” And it was.
Instantly all the laws of life and order were formed, and all these things were taken care of. Wisely, justly, and perfectly. When we study this, we are forced to admit like Einstein that there is a God, and he speaks the language of math
Or, after all, we could believe that random fate somehow formed all this. Now that that would take some faith.
I think one of my favorite movies of the year was How to Train your Dragon 2. After all, it came out near my birthday, so I had fun watching it then. Yes, I realize that I warned against sequels. That bias continues to stand. But there are some exceptions, and those are the best.
In the movie, Hiccup isn’t a confused boy anymore, but almost an adult. His dad is preparing to hand the leadership of the island over to him. But Hiccup would rather pursue his dream of discovering and cataloging new islands and dragons. He confided his frustration with his father in Astrid, his first friend. “That’s his thing. It’s not me.”
But a villain is on the loose, someone who threatens to destroy everything they hold dear. Unfortunately, this only makes the wedge between father and son larger. Stoick is determined to fortify Berk as much as possible and prepare for an attack. But Hiccup disagrees. “We can’t just wait for him to attack.” He persists. “We can change his mind.” Stoick, however, is firm. “A man like that can’t be reasoned with.”
Hiccup disobeys his father and ends up getting into trouble. He continues to protest that he has to try and change the villain’s mind. Eventually, he gets his chance. But he soon realizes that his peacekeeping skill wasn’t as strong as he thought, and someone gets hurt.
The problem is, who was right? One person said that people can’t change, and another said that they can. “If I could change your mind,” Hiccup explains to his father, once a dedicated enemy to all dragons, “I can change his.” But both of Hiccup’s parents tell him the same thing. “There’s no talking to Drago.” His mother laughed. “Some people don’t change.”
While I could go on with the movie forever, I really do have a point to all this. The question of a person’s ability to change his nature has been debated for years. Can people change? I mean, what on earth does it mean?
To get into this, I should explain both sides of this argument. The father, being older, believed that people could not be convinced. He had seen this particular man and his nature, and knew that he was not to be trusted. The son was more optimistic. He had mixed success with changing people’s minds through showing them what Dragons were really like, and believed that this new challenge was no different. He assumed that inwardly, this ‘Drago’ person could be changed, because all people are reasonable on the inside, right?
According to most people, a person is essentially good. This leads to the idea that we can get into heaven by our works, because we start out with a clean slate. That’s a cheerful idea, right? Well, it should be, but it’s not.
The problem is, that’s not the way it is. If we believe what the Bible teaches, we have to admit that we don’t start out with a spotless record. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5) We are sinful from birth, and it only goes down from there.
The myth about “choosing to do right” is that there is no possibility to do so. When our first parents ate the forbidden fruit, they were promised the ability to know good and evil. Instead, they lost their ability to do good. If we do something, it’s either the wrong thing, or for the wrong reason. Nothing we do is good.
It isn’t until God opens our eyes that we become able to change. It has nothing to do with our ability, but with the heart-change caused by a new life.
But what Stoick’s side of the story? There the lines are blurred a little. It becomes hard for someone like Hiccup, for example, to understand how everyone else was so prejudiced against this certain person, that is, until he saw firsthand how ruthless he was. Unlike his beloved dragons, some of them can’t be changed by kindness.
There will always be the kinds of people who can’t be reasoned with, people who are so wicked they will not be stopped by reasoning or anything other than force. Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood how Hitler couldn’t be stopped by mere talk. They had been talking and talking for years. Nothing happened. Finally, they had to act, and though they failed, they tried.
Of course, there’s the sneaky side effect to not believing people can change that we tend to call prejudice. Another one is misunderstanding. It might be easier to talk it out, but what’s the point? They won’t listen, right?
In the end, both Hiccup and his Father were right, and both were wrong. Some people choose not to change. Others have a change of heart. But it can be hard to tell which one it’s going to be until you meet the person.
Here’s a tip, Hiccup. Even when it feels wrong, you should always listen to your Dad. It just works out better that way.
Gino looked worried, and dropped the basket. It rolled off and he could hear Pussy clawing from the inside, very upset at being dropped. “Now this is a surprise.” Dawes spoke, his eyes locked on Gino. “Why on earth are you in the city, so close to the capitol? Shouldn’t you be off with your sheep?”
Gino shook his head. “I have a duty beyond that, Dawes. I’m sure you know of it.” Dawes laughed. “I’m sure. You’re here because of Opal. Predictable, as always.”
Gino found himself getting angry. Dawes, once a close friend, had betrayed his comrade for a share in Nya’s empire. It had been him who had tracked down the two Chosen long ago, and it had been him since who had pursued them so mercilessly. Indeed, Dawes now held in his hand Opal’s consciousness. The betrayal kept getting worse.
Dawes realized Gino’s mixed feelings and began to take advantage of them. “You know how easy you’ve made it now, Gino. If I have you, and I already have Opal, what will these rebels do? Wander around in the dark, most likely, making bad decisions and eventually falling off a cliff.”
Gino didn’t say anything. If anything happened to Opal, truly the band would be directionless…and purposeless! But if Nya’s henchman knew that, he would test them sore. He couldn’t take that risk.
Suddenly, Dawes turned on him. “Why won’t you say anything?” He asked, angrily. “What could I say?” Gino asked meekly, before answering his own question. “Nothing. I will say nothing.”
Dawes laughed. “This silence becomes one of your class. Of course, you probably think that you’re perfect, with your ‘secret religion’ and your ‘special gifts’. It makes me sick.” He spat on the ground. “You used to believe in the One True God, just as much as I did.” Gino said quietly, though inwardly chafing at the rude remark.
Dawes shook his head. “And I also used to believe in sprites. What matters it? Your ‘strange’ friends won’t be able to get by without you. And believe me,” He thrust out his hand and grabbed Gino’s arm “I intend to find them, every last one of them, and destroy them. Men and women alike.” He hissed.
What happened next surprised both of them. Gino suddenly felt the ground spinning under his feet, and Dawes turned red in his eyes. He pulled his right arm back, while at the same time reaching with his left behind him. There was an explosion.
The next thing they knew, Dawes had fell back, and was shrieking and cursing. Gino stood there for a second, triumphant, with a pistol in his hand. “You took my fingers years ago, Dawes. How do you like it now?” He cried, stepping back.
The sky had been overcast for a few hours, but now lightning sparked its way across the sky. The sound jolted Gino out of his triumph, and he dropped the weapon as if it had been made of fire. Then he collapsed, and hid his face in his hands.
“No! No, Lord! I….” He sobbed, shaking violently. The slight pattering of raindrops mixed with Dawes’ curses and Gino’s sobbing. “Ruined! Oh, Creator, forgive me! Forgive me!”
Dawes’ men came running up and stopped at the strange sight. “Don’t just stand there, fools! Help me up!” Dawes yelled, half-ashamed at the cowardly way he had been carrying on. Gino didn’t move. “To fail now, and for such a thing as revenge.” He muttered. “Ruined.”
The rainstorm met the rest of the band under the grateful cover of the great forest that led into the capitol city. “We’re so close.” Caro remarked wistfully. “If only Opal would awaken, and we could continue our purpose.” Davis, who had been following (and indeed seldom left the prince out of his sight) agreed. “If the princess would awaken, and bring peace to this land, even I would believe in fairytales. But what’s all the ruckus down there?” He asked suddenly, as he heard the sounds of a great commotion coming from the camp.
They descended the hill that had given them a view into the city, and were met by Rora. She looked as though she had seen a ghost. “Donnae blame me, sirs.” She panted, “Because I know nothing of it. One leaves, one comes back, and then she’s out of bed and babbling like…I don’t know what!” Caro and Davis exchanged worried glances. “What?”
Rora pointed behind her. There, pacing back and forth through the ranks of surprised men, as if life depended on it, ran Opal, with her cat in her arms. Puss had scratched her way out of the basket and had returned to her mistress, who was now awake.
Caro ran to Opal, who was weeping and whispering at the same time. “Woe! For hope to me means death to another.” She cried, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Prince Caro, Gino is taken, and all is lost.”
Prayer is a major part of life for a Follower of Christ. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, wrote “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” (I Cor 10:31) However, there’s a lot of trouble when we go about and actually pray.
It’s all well and good to talk about praying. After all, that encourages others and can add their prayers to yours. But the act of praying isn’t something to gossip about. As James said, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
One of the problems people have with prayer is they feel reluctant to ask for something. Maybe they grew up with parents who never said yes. Maybe they are used to doing things themselves; whatever it is, people struggle. For me, it’s the same thing I struggle with concerning my parents: asking them for something that benefits only me.
Jesus said “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find, knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you is his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or of he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:7-11)
Like the poor father who cried in agony “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” we know that we can ask him, and should, but like frightened children we dawdle at the door. “Praise the Grace whose threats alarmed us, roused us from our Fatal Ease. Praise the Grace whose blessings charmed us, praise the Grace that whispered peace.” One hymn reads, while another says “’Twas the same love that spread the feast, that sweetly drew us in, lest we had still refused to taste, and perished in our sin.”
One of the things that God planted within us, as his children, is diligence. When we diligently seek him, pouring out our souls to his perfect will and pleading desperately for mercy, his heart is touched. Though we may not see the answer then, that day, that year or even that lifetime, God hears us. El Shama, God who Hears.
Though I could use more verses, I’ve found that one of the most effective ways of getting my point across is a story. If Debbie will forgive me, I will use a Narnia story and hope she doesn’t get too angry.
In The Magician’s Nephew, Fledge the Flying Horse, with two children on his back, have just set off on a long journey to bring something back to Aslan that will protect the land from the witch Digory(the boy) accidentally brought in. But when they stopped to rest, they realized that they had forgotten something in their rush to leave. Food.
“Well, I do think someone might have arranged our meals,” said Digory.
“I’m sure Alsan would have, if you’d asked him.” Said Fledge.
“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.
“I’ve no doubt he would,” said the horse (still with his mouth full). “But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”
Another reason we can be afraid to pray is we don’t want to be rejected. We’ve tried so hard…will you deny us what we’ve been dreaming about for so long? It’s not fair! But while sometimes his plans are contrary to ours, it is always best to talk to him, even if it seems pointless.
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
(Matthew 15:21-28 ESV
In this story, Jesus first ignores the woman, so much so that his disciples are disturbed by her cries (this is no gentle pleading) then insults her….twice! But, even through all that, she refuses to give up, and even uses his insult against him. He called her dog, she calls herself “little dog” or “pet.” In Ancient Israel, a “dog” was more like my doofus Tanner: a large dog, or a smaller skulking, unclean, dangerous dog. But a “little dog” as she called herself, was more like the little dachshund dogs that my friend owns: pets. She said, “You are right, but have mercy on me anyway, even though I don’t deserve it.”
She had faith.
That is how we all come, all undeserving. We know that we shouldn’t have this blessing, but we know that we must have it. For this woman, it meant the life of her daughter. But God is even willing to give us smaller things, if we ask. Here’s an example…
In the Book Prince Caspian, Lucy, using her magic cordial, healed Reepicheep of his wounds from the great battle with the Telmarines, but she couldn’t fix the tail, because it wasn’t there to heal. Aslan and the mouse had a discussion on whether or not he needs a tail.
“I am confounded,” said Reepicheep to Aslan. “I am completely out of countenance. I must crave your indulgence for appearing in this unseemly fashion.”
“It becomes you very well, Small One,” said Aslan.
“All the same,” replied Reepicheep, “if anything could be done…Perhaps her majesty?” and here he bowed to Lucy.
“But what do you want with at tail?” asked Aslan.
“Sir,” said the Mouse, “I can eat and sleep and die for my king without one. But a tail is the honor and glory of a Mouse.”
“I have sometimes wondered, friend,” said Aslan, “whether you do not think too much about your honor.”
“Highest of all High Kings,” said Reepicheep, “permit me to remind you that a very small size has been bestowed on us Mice, and if we did not guard our dignity, some (who weigh worth in inches) would allow themselves very unsuitable pleasantries at our expense. That is why I have been at some pains to make it known that no one who does not wish to feel this sword as near his heart as I can reach shall talk in my presence about Traps or Tasted Cheese or Candles: no, Sir-not the tallest fool in Narnia!” Here he glared very fiercely up at Wimbleweather, but the Giant, who was always a stage behind everyone else, had not yet discovered what was being talked about down at his feet, and so missed the point.
“Why have your followers all drawn their swords, may I ask?” said Aslan.
“May it please your High Majesty,” said the Second Mouse, whose name was Peepiceek, “we are all willing to cut off our own tails if our Chief must go without his. We will not bear the shame of wearing an honor that is denied to the High Mouse.”
“Ah!” roared Aslan. “You have conquered me. You have great hearts. Not for the sake of your dignity, Reepicheep, but for the love that is between you and your people, and still more for the kindnesss your people showed me long ago when you ate away the cords of the Stone Table (and it was then, though you have long forgotten it, that you began to be Talking Mice), you shall have your tail again.
Before Aslan had finished speaking the new tail was in its place.
In this story, Reepicheep had a very vain demand: a tail. He was already healed, and could have alone just fine without it. But because of Aslan’s mercy, his friends’ loyalty, and the whole situation, he had it.
Now there are many things to prayer I do not understand. Like why is it that husbands and wives seem to have different rules? And why is it that we seem to ask and ask about things but do not receive? Can something truly be wrong if you want it so badly? What if it’s something good?
Well, as Peter Kreeft said in his dialog (in the character of C.S. Lewis) “Do you think I carry God in my pocket?” Though I admire Kreeft, I think C.S. Lewis said it better himself, “He’s not a tame lion.”
I don’t know why some prayers seem to go unanswered. But I know there’s a reason. Because I know that our God, the God who is greater than our intellect, always keeps his promises. Even when that means someone is killed in an accident, or even martyred like Stephen (or worse). There are the things that we can’t understand.
Praises to his name, though, God does. I trust him. Do you?
Oh, let us come; singing carols stand,
And with our songs rejoice,
Kindness and favor are in his hands,
And goodness and mercy his voice.
For he has forgiven the unpayable debt
And promised to take us home
Let Christmas not be the time we forget
For whom he had to come.
With grace God became a man,
And was born on the earth,
The ending of creation began,
It started with his birth.
For he who knew nothing but love
Was born trembling in the hay
The sweetest gift from above,
Was forgotten on Christmas day.
Oh let us remember him today,
The day that bears his name,
For the one who started every day,
Was not born into fame.
Was not born in a castle great,
But in a cattle stall,
He died to finally destroy hate,
He died to save us all.
It’s getting alarming how our nation seems to be in one place to some and another to the others. We all would rather live in our own little worlds than try and stop the ticking time-bomb that is being tampered with by non-professionals. At least, that’s what you have to conclude when you look around at all the turmoil in our backyards.
Where’s our sense of nationalism? My chickens might be smarter than those in power. I don’t doubt that these men and women are intelligent. I just wonder if they’re behind their time. I have pet chickens. To me they are pets. To Mom, they are egg-producing wonders. But they are fiercely loyal to their pen and will fight any chicken that invades their privacy.
For those of you who don’t have chickens, consider this example. Poor, poor Sparkle was being picked on by her sisters, who are meaner than mean(she is too, but this was before she grew up). We had two little delicate hens in a cage all by themselves, and they never pecked each other. They had raised our chicks and were tolerant and kind little mothers.
Of course, that was before they began to lay. Suddenly they realized that any chicken that invades their space might try to be the leader. She might destroy their eggs. She might set up a dictatorship. So what did they do? They chased her around until we decided that Sparkle would be safer back with the persecutors.
Now I’m not saying that politicians should act like chickens. That would be increasingly strange (though some people wonder if the people they elected suddenly turned into chickens when they have to make a decision) and rather cruel. Just because a being is nationalistic doesn’t mean it should be elected. Hitler was, and no one has him on their ticket.
But there is something to say about being loyal. This can be played both ways, as can everything, but let’s use a small example. First of all, did you know that one of the ways the Soviet Union kept their territories under their control was splitting them along ethnic lines? Suddenly, all reason to band together was lost. These people weren’t your friends or even allies…they were enemies! Why should we help them?
Secondly, how do you identify yourself: as a person or as a part of a family? To us, it is obviously a person. To an Asian, it’s obviously a family. They are loyal to their heritage, and we are loyal to…what?
Are we loyal to our community? The color of our skin? Our nation? Our state? Or nothing? That question must be asked. Those who formed our nation were amateurs. They had never run a country before. Indeed, at first it wasn’t a country, but simply a confederation of states. No state had dominance over the others. A Massachusetts man couldn’t order a Virginian to do something. They lived as separate countries.
But war has a funny way of either uniting or dividing. Suddenly they had an enemy. Should they fight or sue for peace? It divided them at first, but they soon realized that those armies weren’t going to go away on their own. The feuding states, like their delegates, must “Hang together, or we will all surely hang separately.”
Our forefathers learned very quickly that rich or poor, white or black, Northern merchant or Southern farmer, we need to work together. Some things that were big problems before are suddenly very small. After the war, the delegates had plenty of time to argue over whether slavery was right or whether representation should be proportionate to size or equal. But during the war, things were dropped.
Today we have reached a dangerous point in our nation. The parties, both R. & D. have been corrupted by those who claim to be our friends. People no longer trust our leaders, and consequently, don’t trust those whose job is to keep peace, namely, the military. Hypocrisy flows from Washington, and We the People are angry and upset.
My study of history has led me to believe that parties have always been more political than useful, but that is a story for another time. We’re facing a dilemma. Our nation is confused. We want peace, but those who are supposed to lead us are only pouring gasoline on the fire. No wonder we’re being burned.
It’s at times like this that we are particularly vulnerable, and those who want us destroyed can rise. Maybe they’re already there. I believe that the only thing we really can do is remember. This is my land, my Father’s land, my Home.
If I can’t be proud of anything else, I can be proud of this. In the end, these leaders will bite the dust, and be forgotten. No one cares who the Secretary of Treasury was under the Washington Administration (Alexander Hamilton) I doubt more than a dozen people know who the Attorney General was either. They are long gone. Soon these names will be just that, names! But the great story goes on.
We have to remember our ultimate loyalty. God First. Family second. Country third. No matter who you are or where you live, these things matter. Our ultimate loyalty is not to those who look like us. It’s to our God in heaven, who set up laws and officials. And he said that stealing was wrong, no matter what the cause.
I’m not going to pretend that we are perfect. As a nation, we have had our triumphs and our shames. But stirring up old wrongs to serve your own motives is disgusting, no matter who you are or what the excuse is. Some people have forgotten that.
It’s not a surprise that loss is felt the hardest on holidays. After all, the holidays that lasted throughout history hurt. Christmas? The first one was far from romantic. Friendless and alone, a woman had her baby in a world that had forgotten her. Easter? Even worse! Before the glorious resurrection, there was the agonizing day of waiting and thinking and praying “What went wrong?”
Even Thanksgiving had its problems. The year before the one we celebrate, half of the Pilgrims either froze to death or died of sickness. Most of the women died. There was hurting on all sides, and the grim knowledge that “There is really no other way.” People died. Indians, both the helpful and the hurtful, surrounded them. They feared for their lives.
But they never gave up hope. They knew that God was their anchor, their protector. The brave Pilgrims who survived called a feast to thank their God, who had kept them safe throughout their first year. Yes, many died, but there was hope. Many more died the next year, but they knew that God was faithful. “Though he slay me, yet shall I trust him.”
He still is.
Guess what? Holidays hurt. They always did. They always will. Holidays are when you celebrate those you love. It’s when you remember those who have gone before. It’s when you look forward to the time to come. This is the time that matters.
But loss stalks you, and the memories bring tears. Every year, Grandma would decorate for every holiday. She had a collection of Pilgrims, one for each of us. I remember when I got mine. I thought she was so pretty. The little carven face seemed so kind. I love that pilgrim. I guess Grandma went to a lot of trouble picking her for me.
And this year, the first year without her, we didn’t even have dinner at home. No pumpkin spice candle, no reading of the story, no Thanksgiving music. I had practiced a song for the piano, but somehow…I couldn’t play it. I wasn’t ready. Sometimes surprises backfire. Nothing was the way it should be, and nothing would be for a very long time. Things are different.
I’m starting to realize that there is no end to the things that can stir your memories. For me, it was the Christmas Waltz. I never really thought about it until now, but the words hit me like a bullet. “It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love, every song you hear, seems to say….Merry Christmas! May your New Year’s dreams come true….”
Holidays, when things should be their best, they’re the worst. They’re terrible! The closer you try to stay together, the more it hurts when things you can’t control tear you apart. Sometimes, when you can’t blame anyone else, you just want to ask God, why?
Why did this happen? Why did they have to die? I mean, it isn’t fair!
But the thing is, the very definition of ‘Holiday’ is Holy day, day of God. Those who have gone before us are remembered. And yes, that means there will be some crying. There are those who try to drown out the hurt, but become more like Frozen‘s Queen Elsa: frozen stiff in her fear of showing any emotion. For those people, sometimes it will take years for them to finally overflow, and start crying. But there are the more normal ones who realize that “It’s ok to cry.”
So if you’re hurting this Christmas, and food allergies and friends seem to make your day even more strange, there is hope. This day was created to give thanks. This is the day that the LORD has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. Thank you, God, for the time I had. Be with Mom. We’re entering the season, starting tomorrow, where we wait for your coming. Be patient with me, if I’m becoming impatient at your return. It’s been a rough year.
Rora soon wasn’t the only straggler who joined to them. After her were Simon and Tully, twins and scientists from Nya’s front lines, who had deserted when they realized their job would be against civilians and not soldiers. Then came Cory, and Andrew, and then Rocket, a former gunfighter. All had been called in some way, shape or form to join, though Gino expressed doubts about Rocket’s calling.
“What would our Creator do with a Gunfighter?” He asked. Caro laughed. “What would he do with a prince?” Gino fell silent.
So Caro and Gino soon realized that while the Creator hadn’t given them all visible gifts, he had chosen them to small tasks, just as he had chosen Rora. Caro’s band was growing. Some of them had deserted. Some were farmers who felt called to protect their families. One was a lawyer. Davis didn’t quite know what they would do with him, but Gino thought he might be useful in the future, so he vouched for him. If the situation hadn’t been so grave, it would have been comical.
Yet in all this, the silence that Caro had felt since the snakebite was growing. It was little things at first, but then Gino began to get irritated at the strangest things. And once Caro found him with Rocket’s pistol, simply staring at it. He immediately dropped it and walked away, but Caro wasn’t convinced. Something was up.
What Gino was thinking, he didn’t say, but Caro had plenty of people to talk to. Simon and Tully had been from one of the seaward provinces and knew plenty about boats and piloting, something that Caro missed immensely. And Cory was a historian, strangely enough, and could tell him more of his past than even Gino could. They were closer in age to Caro, and began to take precedence. Gino noticed.
But even though they might have had good talks, the way was far from easy. Rora, though Caro had his doubts, took care of Opal, and made sure that she didn’t unexpectedly take a turn for the worse. And Dawes constantly chased them. To make it worse, they were leaving wilderness country and heading into the capitol area. This was good for their mission in one way, but that meant that they couldn’t hide in the woods anymore. They needed to find shelter in the city.
So Andrew, a former soldier who used to be a scout, was usually sent off with Davis to find abandoned buildings for them to stay in, or more precisely, one for them to hide the girls, and a boarding house to keep most of the men. In these things, Caro would hide somewhere with Gino, Rora with Opal, and the others would pretend to be going to a conference. They went to a lot of conferences.
Suddenly, Dawes was right on their tails. Caro and Gino were heading out when Caro felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Rocket, his black-and-white dyed hair nearly standing straight on end. “Dawes!” He whispered, and walked quickly off.
Caro ducked back into the building and collared Gino. “Quiet! We need to go right now.” Gino went blank. “Opal!” He whispered, and without warning tore himself from Caro’s hand and ran off towards the back window. “What are you doing?” Caro hissed, then looked around. “Oh boy.”
Gino tore through the street, stayed still a moment to avoid a policeman, and then ran as fast as he could to the old firehouse that Opal was resting in. He climbed on top of the old wagon, slipped over the sidewall, and ran over to where Rora was making a small meal. “None of that! Hurry! Dawes is coming. He might be here now!”
Rora instantly swept all of the food into her pack and slung it onto her back. Then she grabbed Opal’s bed and pulled it. Pussy mewed from the corner. Gino helped her get Opal down to the tiny door at the back of the building and then further on to the wagon that Davis had bought.
But just as they were preparing to set off, Rora froze. “The cat!” Gino’s eyes rolled back into his head. “The cat? She’s not here?” Rora shook her head.
Gino thought quickly. “Ok. Go on to the others. I’ll get Opal’s cat. Go on!” Rora nodded and began to go off. “Are you sure?” Gino stood there, staring at her for a moment. Then he rubbed his face with his sleeve and turned away. “Aye. Now go!” He turned and ran back to the building. Rora clicked to the horses and they moved away.
Gino looked around. “Here, pussy pussy pussy!” He called softly, trying to see where she had gone. The brown and black spotted cat finally emerged from the shadows, with a mouse in her mouth. “Silly cat. Now get over here! I need you to come with me!” Pussy turned her tail and walked slowly away.
Gino dove for her and grabbed the tiny cat. “Come here, you turkey in cat’s clothing!” He put her in the basket and slung it over his shoulder. Pussy was not amused. “Don’t look at me that way. This is for your good. Now let’s go.”
“Who’s in here?” Gino froze. Behind him he heard the tramp of boots on the gravel outside. “I got them out just in time…” he realized, walking quickly out of the way, “but I think I’ve just trapped myself!”
The door was only a little way off, but it seemed like eternity. Gino finally reached it and turned the knob. But it opened unexpectedly outward, knocking him over. He scrambled to his feet, in time to see who had opened the door.
“Hello, old friend.”
Gino blinked and backed up a step. “D-Dawes!”
I have a little brother named Sam. He doesn’t like me calling him little, because he thinks that he will grow up to be a seven foot tall person. But I don’t care: he’s still younger and shorter than me so I can call him little.
Sometimes I play games on my computer. Sam has gotten it into his head that if he sits and stares at me enough, I’ll give in and let him play. So I started this post about words and it sort of got hi-jacked by my brother refusing to leave the room.
So because I’m not going to write anything useful while he’s here, I might as well mention how weird we can be. At least then I won’t feel so claustrophobic. He has a habit of breathing in my ear.
And now he’s whacking me on the arm because nothing is happening.
The upside to this is that I have a two year old brother who is also watching, and he has distracted Sam so that now they are having a fistfight. Now I realize that this is wrong, but I’m tired. We installed a microwave and had our pictures taken. Meanwhile, my little sister Mel is carrying around my cat and pretending she’s a…I don’t know, a bean-bag.
Now Sam has fled the scene because it’s late. Now Joel, the “terrible two” is trying to help Mel torture the cat. Adam, my closest sibling, is watching football, and Mom and Dad are discussing what we are going to do for Grace’s birthday. As for the remaining siblings, Grace and Aaron are reading books. Not much going on.
I like my family. Even though I have an overbearing older brother and a scheming younger one, my sisters drive me nuts and my little brothers won’t stop making noise, I like them. I know I have my problems. Maybe it’s easier to see them in others than it is to see in myself. I have the tendency to think one of two things 1: that I’m perfect, or 2(more likely): I’m terrible. I have an addiction to computerized things.
And I am writing a column to help with that.
Not really. To be honest, I’m a sneaky theaving liar and exaggerator. I lie about my siblings. I make snap decisions without much evidence. And I tend to compare myself with others and get discouraged and encouraged routinely.
But with all that’s wrong with this family, we click. No, I’m not happy that Sam is breathing in my ear and fidgeting because I am writing instead of playing a video game. And no, I’m not proud that I wrote my own comic book instead of working on the one I started for my sister’s birthday. But all the same, I would miss them a lot if they ever went away.
Makes me think of Horatio Spafford, who wrote “It is well with my Soul”. In one year he lost all his children: one to a fever and four more when their boat was hit by another and they drowned. He didn’t have a perfect life. He had arguments and his daughters bickered. But then they all were gone, and there was nothing he could do. No time he could get back. But it was well with his soul.
He wasn’t perfect. At the end of his life he lost his mind and thought that he was the Lord Jesus Christ. But the words we write last forever, not just on the internet, but in the minds of our readers. No matter who they are, if they read this, I think they will get a taste of a very imperfect life.
It’s late. We’re tired. There’s going to be some yelling. We love each other. But there are still the little things: a sister screaming because someone is brushing her hair, a brother you accidentally step on late at night when you need a cough drop and he’s too scared to sleep alone…little things that can ‘rile’ you.
But family means pushing through those things. And sometimes that means enduring Sam’s closeness and elbowing because he wants to battle robots.
But I’d rather skip them. It’s hard not to want to, I guess. I’m still learning.
Now if you would excuse me, I have to leave. I need to go rescue the cat. The kids need to get to bed, and I need to fish my Sonic Characters from Joel before he makes them go off on a quest to save the galaxy. And Adam has the TV turned on so loud that I can hear all the drums. If we’re going to go to sleep, we need a little less noise!
No Sam, I’m not going to play robots. Go to bed.
With no other real option, the three boys packed up their meager camp and set off. With the axes they cut some strong saplings and tied them together with ropes to make a kind of litter for Opal. After all, no one wanted to carry her. That would be rather awkward.
After some argument, they decided to chance taking Opal to a doctor. Caro disguised himself and took her, but the doctor became suspicious and they had to flee. The unwanted side-affect to this was that not only did Caro have to carry her out very quickly, but also that Dawes found out where they were and began to pursue them. The first problem wasn’t that bad, because Caro was strong for his age. But the second was a big problem, and Davis and Gino had great difficulty keeping Dawes off their tails. And Opal was fading.
Davis took an accurate look at the situation and realized that they would need help. With the chase taking all their attention, Opal needed someone to look after her: another girl. So he decided to go find one. Caro laughed. “‘Twill be trouble just to find someone we can trust, Davis! I don’t think that this will work at all.”
Davis shook his head. “I’m no nurse, Caro. You aren’t either, and Gino’s got enough on his mind. If someone is to look after Opal, it has to be a girl! Think about it, Caro. It wouldn’t be right for one of us. Yes, it’s difficult, and it shouldn’t work…” “The last one didn’t.” Caro commented.
Davis sighed. “No, it didn’t. That wasn’t my best idea. Still, I think that this is necessary if we’re going to keep going! Dawes is hot on our trails, and we’re going to need help.” He turned on his heel and walked off towards the nearest village.
Caro shook his head. “They’re going to think he’s a lunatic. What’s he going to do…go up to a girl and ask her if she wants to come with him? They’ll think he’s looking for a wife!” He laughed.
But when the soldier returned, he did indeed have a young woman with him. She looked to be about peasant class, but with keen eyes that flashed in the sun and took in everything. “Caro, this is Rora. She’s going to help us.” Davis said triumphantly, as the girl bowed. “Yes, sir. I am Rora, and I am willing to help you, even if it is to the hills of Carcorus.”
Caro looked skeptical. He was about to say something, when he felt very strange. Almost as if he understood why Rora had come willingly. Was she Chosen as well? Or was it simply a fantasy? Gino would know. But Gino had gone off again, and Promise had gone with him. They went off often, to see where Dawes was and where they should go next. As Davis had to admit, he did know the land, even if he knew nothing about war.
Or did he? Caro wasn’t sure.
Rora went up to Opal and bent down over her sleeping form. She placed a thin, tanned hand up to her forehead. Opal smiled in her sleep. Davis looked relieved. Caro wasn’t sure what to think. “How do you know this is safe, Davis? Gino won’t be happy about this.” Davis laughed. “Don’t worry, Caro. I think Gino will understand.”
Gino came back late that night and didn’t look like he wanted to talk. His dark eyes were narrowed and calculating. “Did you find them?” Caro asked, seeing him come down. Promise growled. “We did.” Gino said, sullenly. “And they’re still coming. We’ll need to scatter again.”
He stopped suddenly. “Oh.” Davis hastened to explain. “This is Rora. She’ll help care for Opal.” Gino didn’t say anything, but stood there as if he had been frozen into place. Rora rose and brushed a wisp of dark hair from her face. “Who are you?” She asked.
Gino found his voice. “I’m sorry…I was startled. I am Gino…where did you come from?” “The village.” Rora answered. “I felt called to come with this soldier. And I’m afraid you don’t have much tact for a gentleman.”
Gino looked worried, but only for a moment, and not about her words. “This will be a hard journey.” He challenged.
“I can do it.” Rora said quietly. “I’ve taken many in my time.”
“But they will hunt us!”
“Aren’t we on the side of justice?”
Gino laughed. “Sometimes I wonder. But I am convinced: you will come with us.”
Not long ago I was volunteering with the THSC Homeschool conference. I had about twelve kids to take care of with my teacher/helper/mental compass Avrie. In case you don’t know how to say that, it’s Avery, just spelled differently. Sometimes I would teach, sometimes she would. I don’t think either of us was ever officially in charge.
We had a pretty good agreement: we would split the lessons and projects between us. I’d like to think that mine were sillier. In the agreement, she was the ‘teacher’ type and I was more of the goofy one that had a pair of crazy siblings trying to knock me over because of a small stuffed dog, and had brought more bandanas to that place than you would see in a homeschooled pirate play.
We had a pretty good class too: two girls named Sophie, one named Barret, (who thought he was too old to be in the Kids program) Jacob, Luke, Mariah, Grace, Faith, etc. Ours was one of about six teams in a large room that I believe was some sort of Sunday School room for a mega-church. It had a large disco ball on the ceiling, and we figured out very quickly that there were some switches that should be kept away from children.
But as time was wearing down on the last day, the teachers made a non-verbal, mutual agreement that it was time to let go. The kids were bored/excited about what had happened throughout the day and wanted to run around. So the room erupted into spasms of red-light-green-light, and all team divisions were tossed to the wind until the parents picked the kids up.
While most of the kids were playing red-light-green-light, some of the kids began to branch off and play superheroes. I’m guessing that it had to do with Avengers because I think one of them was Batman and another was Black Widow. No, I’m not exactly an expert on superheroes. But that was when I first noticed Faith.
No, wait, let me rephrase that. That was when I had first noticed something about Faith. The evens and odds in the convention had different time-clocks. Her team was on the same time as mine. I had noticed her before, but since she wasn’t in my team, I wasn’t paying much attention. But when she began to run around, I noticed something very interesting.
Faith had blonde-blonde hair, almost white, and before her mom had taken her to the children’s program, she had given her a French braid down her back. She had pretty long hair, white hair, braided, and she had been running around, making her hair stringy and frizzy and sticking up in the front.
She looked like Frozen’s Queen Elsa.
I couldn’t help but sketch her, since Avrie had her eyes on the kids, and all the other teachers were talking amongst themselves. I drew her and her main antagonist: a dark-haired boy that kept trying to drag her off into jail. After a while, I saw that Mister bad-guy was being a little too rough…my goodness, he had the whole team on his side! It seemed as if Red-light-green-light had been forsaken for a game of “Everyone chase Faith!”
I couldn’t help it. I didn’t know her name yet (I later read it on her nametag) so I didn’t know any other way to get her attention. “Elsa! Over here! You’ll be safe here!”
I really shouldn’t have called her Elsa. Frozen was still big when this happened, and as soon as I said Elsa, everyone who saw her suddenly realized “Oh my goodness! She looks just like Elsa!” and began to shout “Let’s capture the Ice Queen!” Faith, for her part, was very brave and quick-thinking, and stopped running to adopt her new part. “Come any closer,” she dared “and I’ll attack you with my ice powers!”
So with one idle name, I completely changed the game.
I didn’t mean to make it a Frozen Bash, or to make Faith target #1. I was trying to help. But I said the wrong thing.
It’s interesting how a name can change so much. We’ve all had experience with a name that has stayed with us and made us feel either less than who we are or feel special. We can remember times when we were made to feel foolish, or when we felt loved. I remember one time where I was at a church event and an older boy was watching me write. Writing was a big deal for me and I felt important about it because I was only about five. But he was much older than five, and criticized me about not dotting my j.
I don’t know why I can’t forget that. It’s a simple J! All he said was “You can’t just leave it there. If it’s lowercase, dot it, if it’s capital, you put a line on the top.” But somehow, it made me feel silly: a little kid pretending to know how to write.
Maybe you have a name that you can’t forget, that’s been nagging you from when you were little. Someone who made you feel worthless. A friend who turned on you. But there’s something more to it than that. Why is it that the very thing that makes you hurt the most is the thing that you use against others? I can tell you. Because it makes us feel better.
We need to be careful with what we say. We need to work on being loving. But it’s not just us. There will always be those who live to put others down. We can’t heal those things by ourselves, but we have a God who can heal scars.
Bottom line? Careless words are like knives. “Like a madman throwing firebrands, arrows and death, is a man who deceives his neighbor and says ‘I am only joking!'” Proverbs tells us. But even though our words can hurt others, like my name accidentally made Faith the object of a reenactment of the scariest part of a kids movie, we do have an upside to them.
We can make our words give life to others. We can reflect the love of God through our words, and that means weighing our speech carefully. And even when we fail, God is merciful.
I need to be more careful about what I write. I sometimes forget that this is public, and begin to ramble. So when I was swamped with comments on one of my last ones, I was rather overwhelmed. To avoid that happening again, I’m going to stick to something more basic.
I don’t exactly like taking tests. The thing about tests is that grading is always crazy. See, the problem is that the grading system expects you to get a majority of the problems right or else you won’t get a good grade. If you only do about half, you’ll still get an F.
What I don’t understand is how people have gotten used to the way of grading tests, but not with grading our lives. What? Yes. As Christians, we are called to do what’s right…not to earn salvation somehow, but to obey God out of love and gratefulness for all that he’s done. That’s what we are called to do. Works do not earn Salvation: all the same, the law is important. So why do we think we can only do half of it?
Think about it: if a few kids were told to clean up a room and the parent leaves…will they do it? Maybe, but I doubt it. If they do, they’ll do the ‘bare minimum’ of it and leave the rest undone. Sure, you might say, but they’re just kids.
We do much better….right?
Well, don’t we?
Unfortunately, no. The shirking is a big problem for us. While we all might understand the “Love your enemies” we don’t plan on inviting them over for dinner. We don’t “murder” in our hearts, but we also don’t love them, and we don’t “steal” but we also don’t work to protect their property. Legalism all.
Before I get on a soapbox and start preaching, let’s think for a moment. Each commandment has both a positive and a negative. So “Do not Lie” as a negative has “Do speak the truth” as a positive. Here are the ten commandments and their negations.
You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall worship me as your only God
You shall not make any false image for worship.
You shall worship me the way I have perscribed
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
You shall keep my name respected and Holy
You shall remember the Sabbath day and make it Holy.
You shall not forget or disrespect my Holy Day
You shall honor your Father and your Mother.
You shall not despise and disobey your parents
You shall not Murder.
You shall preserve life
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall keep and cherish what is given to you
You shall not steal.
You shall protect the belonging of others
You shall not lie.
You shall tell the truth
You shall not covet.
You shall be content with what you have
How could we possibly keep that list? Easy. We can’t.
It’s impossible for us do all that. We break His law by Omission and by Comission (leaving stuff out or doing what’s wrong) and we have no possible way of keeping it. But we are justified by Grace. So does that mean we can live however we want? Ha ha, no. Accepting Jesus into your heart isn’t a ticket to a fun life. Look at the early church, or the church now. In Iraq, girls are being kidnapped and their brothers are being murdered, for the only crime of being Christians. Adherence to God will produce two things: hostility, and a renewed sense of gratefulness and purpose.
Because of this we should try our best to keep all of the things commanded to us. We’re not perfect, and we can’t do anything, but the last thing we should be doing is picking four we like and ignoring all the others. Since when has that helped you in your homework?
Like it or not, every deed we do will be judged someday, and to each will be given according to his work. It’s not something you can lose salvation over, but beware…do you want to be shamed because of stinginess? How about to be thought of as a hypocrite by those who you’re trying to evangelize? What we do has consequences, and when we forget our duty, we become ineffective soldiers…forgetful Cinderellas. We have been chosen for so much more than to sit around and argue about theology. It’s time for us to live what we preach, to stand with our brothers and sisters, because they’re the ones on the front lines, and those on the homefront realize that they’re in danger too. For if the front lines fall…
We’re done for.
Caro wasn’t gone for long. With all the impulsiveness of youth, he was back within fifteen minutes. “Hi. Gino back yet?” Promise barked. “No.” Davis answered for the dog, standing up. “One’s asleep and one’s ran off, and I don’t know what to do. Any ideas?” “Nope!” Caro laughed bitterly. “Isn’t strange how everyone is looking to me and I know the least about this than anyone? I suppose that’s why Gino ran off too. Goodness, what are we going to do?”
“You’re the king, Caro. I know that you are still young, but that’s not something you can change. You can change how you act. Opal and Gino have been speaking all this time, for what I know, and if you were listening you would know more.” “I was listening!” Caro said, indignantly. “But I can’t make heads or tails of most of it. I’m not a spirit, and all this mystic stuff is starting to scare me. What on earth happened to Opal?”
Davis didn’t answer but looked at her for a moment. She DID look asleep, with her hands on her lap and her little cat curled up on them. “I have no idea. But it seems like a…curse of some sort.” “Curses aren’t real. They come from superstition.” “Then what has happened?” Caro didn’t have an answer. “That’s what we need Gino for, I guess.”
“We could find a doctor, Caro. That might help, though I don’t think this is sickness. There is something too strong for me here, and I don’t like it. Even though the swamp has been safe for us and kept us from Nya, I think we need to leave here soon. Let’s get everything set up so that when Gino comes back we can get out of here.” “But how are we supposed to get Opal? I don’t think we can carry her. And that would be awkward.” “We could make a litter. But we have to leave this deadly place.”
Promise wagged his tail and turned in a circle. “I don’t know how that harness thing works. Can you do it, Davis?” Davis stared at Promise. “I suppose. This should be…where is it?” Caro pointed, and Davis tried to put the harness on, but Promise took it in his teeth and ran off with it. “No! Bad dog! Bring that back.” Davis made a dive for him but he avoided him and stood a little distance off, thumping his tail and grinning. Caro began to laugh. Davis tried and tried to catch Promise, but he kept darting off and running into the muck, until he and Davis were all muddy.
That was when Gino decided to show up.
Davis had finally caught the dog, but both he and Caro froze when they saw Gino. They weren’t sure what he would say. But Gino didn’t say anything. He just stared at them.
Then he began to laugh. “What on earth are you doing?” He finally panted, motioning for Promise to come. Promise stood at attention and licked him. “Down, boy. Stay.” He easily hooked up the harness. Promise turned and looked saucily at Davis, with his pink tongue lolling out, as if he was saying “I know my master, and you aren’t him.”
“Whoever’s idea it was to move camp was a good one. We need to get away from Dawes before he follows up this attack with another.” Gino spoke quietly, as if he had thought through it for a long time before he spoke. He was scared to leave the swamp, but his fear of Nya’s attacks weren’t as great as his fear of Opal’s safety. Dawes was a student of Nya, and a favorite of hers. It only followed that he would have some knowledge of dark things, maybe even enough to be a conduit of Nya’s stolen power.
“But to stop in a city would be futile. Nya hates us, and once the news of her success reaches her, she will stir up the countryside to search for us. Small towns will be our only hope, and we’ll have to leave this area first. They might know me even here.” “Then to the capitol’s direction we must go.” Caro sighed. “I don’t think that it would be good to go the other way when we’re in a hurry.” “Right. But not too close. Now let’s figure out a way to get Opal up without hurting her.” Gino sighed. “It’ll only be a matter of time. She must be trying to destroy one of us, and Opal was our eyes into her heart. But now it’ll be much easier, and if we don’t get out of Dawes’ reach, Opal will die.”
Once upon an allegory, there was a little girl named Prism who loved colors. The child loved the beauty of every color, and would pick different colored flowers and line them up in the order that she liked best. Being a girl, she liked pink, and put that on the top. When she painted, she would swirl the colors around and make new ones. Pink, yellow, and blue could be purple, orange, and green. Then her parents, seeing her delight in colors, decided to give her a special gift on her birthday: a real prism.
Needless to say, Prism was enchanted with her gift. She could make light colors out of her prism and project them on the walls, ceiling, and ground. She would play with it as much as she could. Then something peculiar happened.
A group of activists had chosen the rainbow as their symbol, without Prism knowing. One day, a few of them were walking down the path and saw her playing with her prism. She had become quite good at it and could make wide sweeps of it and make “real rainbows” around the walkway.
But the activists thought that she was perfect as a mascot. So without her knowing it, they took pictures of her and used her as their image.
Prism grew up, never knowing what had happened. When innocence slowly fell away, she realized the double meaning of rainbows, hit by sin, and twisted by greed. Prism was appalled how her favorite colors could symbolize something so strange and unnatural. When she left for the city, to seek her fortune, she knew the truth.
But she was in for a terrible shock when she saw that not only her favorite things but also her own image had become a signet of theirs. She herself had been twisted to fit their agenda, and she didn’t even know it.
Now what is the meaning of this sad story? Good things, like rainbows, pumpkins, bronze serpents, and even the sacrifice on the cross can be twisted and warped into something evil. It’s man’s sin nature to defile and destroy. We are guardians of the beautiful. We are Light, reflecting like moons the creativity and love of the Creator, refracting like prisms to pierce the darkness. We are called to defend that which is precious, because as we stake our small claims on the world, little fortresses for God, we resist the surge of evil.
It’s more than just rainbows. It’s protecting everything that is precious and beautiful, even life itself.
Not long ago, my parents were gone for the night and Susanna was in charge. If you don’t know who Susanna is, I can’t explain her to you. How could I? Susanna is like your best friend sometimes and is like your boss in other times. She’s great. We all like her. And she likes her phone, so on this particular day she was playing music on it.
I was doing dishes and wasn’t really paying attention to it, until I heard some very familiar words. “In my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be. On the wing of my fancy I will fly anywhere and the world will open its arms to me.” I stopped what I was doing to listen. I had heard that song before.
Years ago, when life was so simple, surrounded by friends and family, I was on stage in a choir concert. But this concert was different. Though I didn’t quite understand, something was shifting, changing. That something was Chealsea. She’s another one of those people I can’t quite describe. I haven’t seen her in so long…I hope her memory isn’t tarnished in my forgetful mind. She was taller than me, with dark curly hair. She seemed to be the very definition of beautiful. To me, a young girl who judged beauty in a flawed way, she could have been an angel(though I doubt her brother and sisters thought her as one). She was almost grown up to me, though if I’m honest she couldn’t have been much older than I am now.
She was too old. She was going away. It was as if Aslan had just told me that she could no longer return to Narnia. She couldn’t be in the children’s choir anymore, because she wasn’t a child. I couldn’t really fathom it. How could anyone go away from choir? It was amazing. Sure, there were those who came and went, but there were girls there that were always there, and I expected them to be. Gabby, for one, and her sister Madeline, and Chelsea and Colin and Lauren and Lindsay, and Carly, and others that my memory has failed on. We were a group, a unit. She had the sweetest high voice. She couldn’t be leaving.
But she wasn’t leaving all the way. At the end of the concert, she and Lauren, her closest sister, had a duet. “In my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be.” Their voices, one high, one lower, blended together so blissfully that in that cathedral-like church I thought I heard angel voices. It reminded me of when we would sing Latin songs that we could barely grasp the meaning, “Ubi Ceritas et amor, Ubi Ceritas et amor.” The sound would bounce off and I felt like I was no longer on earth. I miss that church. For all of its dust, it was beautiful.
I have held those voices in my head for all these years, and I can’t stand it when I hear the original version anymore. Who is this cockney girl, and why is she butchering the song? No, this song is now and will forever be a tribute to the love between these two sisters, at least to me. Angel voices, singing back to them, reminding us that we are not alone. Stained glass windows, and the harmony of children’s voices.
Years passed. We aged. One by one, we began to slip away. Soon I realized that there might not be a choir. Our magnificent instructor, Ms. Pickering, got married, and then she hurt her back. I waited for the news of when choir would start again, but it never came. Choir was over. Words cannot describe that feeling. I knew that my friends, with whom I had spent so many years and memories, were going to be isolated from me…maybe forever.
I saw Gabby not long ago. There had been facebook hints that she was changing. I suppose I was too. But I saw her at the PSAT, with her amazing black hair cropped short, and I was afraid. Suddenly it hit me that I didn’t know her anymore, and it scared me so much that I couldn’t speak to her. I lost my chance, and I’ve regretted it since. I wonder what she is doing, and Colin and Lauren, Lindsay and Chelsea, Carly…their names are in my mind, but if I ever saw them again I might be afraid again. I wonder if the world has opened its arms to Chelsea, and how she’s doing. She’s probably all grown up.
There is a light in one thing: Mrs. Pickering might have changed her name, but she didn’t change anything else. I saw her this year, and she looked exactly the same as she had when I left her…didn’t look different at all. It was refreshing, to be honest. So much else has changed. I wish I could have talked to her more, because I’m not who I was, even if she is the same. I’m an artist now, and a writer, and I’m no longer a follower…I’m a leader.
Memories are all that I have now, of people who have left my life for a time. Some have gone to a better place, like Grandma and Elsie Gene. Others have just gone their own way. One I have seen several times and I’m not sure what to say to her. She was once a close friend, but now I can’t think of anything we have in common. I miss the bliss of ignorance, of childhood. I’ve always been frightfully aware, but the realization that it was the end was almost too much. That last concert was a sign that the end was coming, and if I had known, I might have tried to remember more of it.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child. I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But now that I am a man, I have put away childish things.
Things have died from my childhood. I’m severing the ties. But even now, I can hear twin voices in my head, of my old friend Lauren, singing with her older sister.
God Bless you all, old friends. May you find rest in this troubled world, and please don’t forget the wonderful broken memories we made in choir.
I’ve been through life now for sixteen years, and I am just as clueless as when I started. Admit it: even though teenagers always act like they have it all together, they don’t. I would like to propose that teenagers are the most confused people on the earth, right up there with toddlers. And that isn’t even calling to account Peer Pressure.
There’s all sorts of peer pressure in this world, and it doesn’t stop when you grow up. People just don’t have a name for it. But for kids, it’s easy. We call it peer pressure: where a group of kids pressure their peers to do things, either for good or bad. Unfortunately, it’s mostly bad. The devil is in the details, they used to say, though I’m not sure that people are allowed to say that anymore. Spiritual matters have been all but eradicated from our society. Though we might think that this makes their power less, it actually increases it.
But since I started this column on Pressure, I think I should go back to it. Peer Pressure, as it is called now, is a predominate part of our lives. It tails us in the schools, the groups, workplaces and many other places. Most of the time the pressure is directed against those who want to do good, or those who are reluctant to do what’s wrong. Yes, pressure is one of our enemy’s greatest weapons, I would say, and there are many, many examples of this. The grid that is placed on the shoulders of the students and business people in the name of “tolerance” or “diversity” is one of the worst types of pressure: the deadliest pressure that comes not just from your “peers” but from your “superiors” as well.
I almost wish that the “tolerance” people would be more…well, tolerant! It’s easy to foot the tune of equality when it gets you what you want, but when someone gets in your way, tolerance is conveniently put away or worse: brought out against the “intolerant ones.” I wonder if they ever think about what they are doing.
The littlest things stimulate my imagination. I wonder sometimes about the correlations between my thoughts and those of others. When this happens, I usually go to the lyrics of Christian Songwriters at this time, and search my mind for something that matches. I realize that most of the people reading this site would not be familiar with my brother’s favorite artist, TobyMac. But some of you might know Keith Green. Both of them wrote songs that were “letters” written to the devil. Odd, and slightly creepy, I know, but it gets interesting.
Though I don’t have the Keith Green lyrics memorized (or the TobyMac ones) one thing, the bridge, actually, from the TobyMac song stood out in my mind. “You’re Beauty and the Beast, You’re the pressure never cease, You’re the strength of a sigh, and they say you never sleep…
I suppose our adversary being characterized by pressure is a good description. It isn’t an accident that pressure is almost always used negatively. There’s a reason, and that reason is there is someone who hates us and wants us to try to desert our faith. If we are cowered into doing something we know is wrong, or not doing what we know is right, he wins. So what can we do to stop him
First of all, pray. Second, if you are under pressure, remember that God is with us, and nothing is impossible with him. Third, if someone else is being pressured, don’t be afraid to stick up for them. Both sides know that there is strength in numbers, and even though making a stand will be uncomfortable, remember that those on the side of truth are seldom happy. I’m learning Hebrews 11:30-40 during my vacation, and it part of it goes like this.
35 Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
Be brave! Don’t be afraid to stick up for your Faith or your friends. Remember that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
If you live in or near Oregon, you may have heard of the Whitman Mission. It was a famous historical landmark near the Oregon trail which served as a grim reminder of what might have been. Years ago, several men, boys, and a woman were killed by Cayuse Indians, and all for a misunderstanding.
There have been many things said on either side. The Whitmans were missionaries, and the massacre set off a chain of killings and crimes against the Indians, justified by the deed to do that and worse. In these times, the side of the Cayuse is the one taken, the “politically correct method” I suppose. But in reality, both sides were wrong, and both sides caused the terrible tragedy that occurred at Whitman Mission.
To begin with, I must first tell you the story of the Whitmans, because you Texans have most likely never been to this place or heard of it. But don’t be embarrassed or insulted because before this vacation, neither did I. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman were missionaries who wanted to bring salvation to the natives. But instead of preaching love, mercy, grace and salvation, the Whitman preaching was all fire and sulfur. To the Cayuse, who came from a different mindset and culture, it seemed as if these people were cursing them. The Whitmans were half right, but they forgot to spread the good news of the gospel, and lost their audience.
In addition to this, the Whitmans weren’t exactly the most patient of people. They thought they were being kind and merciful, but to the people they were trying to convert, they were bossy and harsh. They tried to change who they were. The only link between the two “tribes” was Alice, the three-year-old daughter of the Whitmans, who spoke both English and Nez Perce, the language of the Cayuse. If she had lived, she would have been a peace-child between them, but she drowned, and the ties between the missionaries and the Cayuse were broken.
With both sides suspicious and unwilling to bend, trouble was bound to come, and it did. The Whitmans had some success teaching the Cayuse how to farm. But the Cayuse used that information and incorporated it into their normal lifestyle of constant rotation. This did not please the Whitmans. They knew that when the settlers began to come and to claim the land, the Indian land would shrink by the day, because of the roving nature of their culture. They knew that if the Cayuse continued to travel, they soon would have conflict with the settlers over land, and were hoping to save them trouble. But once again, their tact was…not well done.
When the settlers came pouring in, the Whitmans opened their mission to them as a wayhouse. They opened their doors to people, wagons, and deadly diseases. Because of these new diseases the untried Cayuse began dropping dead, and there was nothing Dr. Whitman could do to save them. They had no immunity. Soon the grieving Cayuse noticed that the emigrant children were living and theirs were dying. Could Dr. Whitman be poisoning them to get them off the land?
So that is what led to the Whitman massacre. Grieving Cayuse who wanted revenge for the deaths of their friends and family killed most of the men and held hostage over 50 pioneers. But there was no win in this battle. There was once a gread general named Phyrrhus who won a battle against Rome, but lost almost his whole army. We now call this kind of battle a Pyrrhic Victory. The tragedy was a Pyrrhic Victory to the Cayuse who suddenly realized that they had signed their own death warrants in the blood of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman.
There was little left of the Cayuse after the fighting and sickness cooled over, and even less of the mission that could no longer fulfill its purpose. Marcus and Narcissa had come to try to win them to God. But when they lost sight of the Image of God in every face, they became arrogant and suspicious, and turned their mission for the Cayuse into a church for settlers. The room they had once dreamed of filled with worshiping natives was now crowded so that no Cayuse could come if they wanted to. They had failed long before they were killed.
No one knows what might have happened if they had lived, or even if their daughter had lived, or if they had turned around, back to God, and back to the Cayuse. We’ll never know because Sin and Passion turned the grass red. Remember the Whitmans, and turn back to the one who called you.
Opal couldn’t see the snake, but she could hear it, and started to her feet. “Hello?” She tried to hear the others, but they seemed very far away. Finally, she could hear the hurried pad of Gino’s worn out shoes, and the metallic tramp of Davis’ boots. “Stay, Opal. Don’t fall in trying to get away.” Opal turned her head and tried to hear him better. Caro was the first one there. He hit the snake in the middle, and it hissed and squirmed, but didn’t die.
Gino grabbed Opal’s hands and tried to pull her away from the edge, but the snake slipped out from under Caro’s hoe and stuck at her leg. Opal became frightened, and losing her balance, tumbled down into a small patch of thistly branches. As Gino tried to pull her out, Davis and Caro engaged the snake in a deadly game of tag. The seemingly invincible snake skin would not cut under the hoe, or even under Davis’ sword.
Finally, Caro plucked up all of his courage and stomped on the snake. It darted its head out of the way in time, but Davis thought he found a weakness. “We have to smash its head. That seems to be the only way to kill this awful reptile.” Caro tried to get it to stay still so that Davis could crush it, but he wasn’t fast enough. Finally, Caro slammed his foot directly in its face. The surprised snake didn’t have time to avoid his foot, and was crushed into the ground.
He stomped on it several times before he was sure that it was dead. “Good work, Caro.” Davis said, pushing it into the muck with his hoe. “I’m glad it didn’t bite you.” “So am I.” Caro laughed, but the sharp fangs of the snake had unnerved him. “I figured it didn’t expect me to stick my foot in its mouth. All the same, I never want to do that again.” “Why didn’t the hide cut, do you think? It was such a strong piece.”
Gino had been helping Opal out of the briar, but he spoke up. “It was one of Nya’s serpents, and like all things of that sort, you must crush their heads. I’m glad that it didn’t bite you, but I can’t say the same about Opal.” The girl’s chin was resting on her chest, and she didn’t move. “It didn’t kill her, did it?” Caro asked, alarmed.
“No.” Gino said, bitterly. “But it has accomplished its purpose. Opal can no longer be our eyes, because she is sleeping. I’m afraid that she won’t wake up…ever.” He sat down and buried his head in his arms. Promise, who had been helping with the snake by snarling and barking, came over and licked his head. Puss scampered out of her basket and curled up on Opal’s chest, purring. “Poor thing thinks that she’s just sleeping.” Davis remarked sadly, as Caro burst out “Can’t you help her?”
“No!” Gino shouted, starting to his feet angrily. “Why must you all look to me? I am a shepherd, not a doctor, not a warrior, not a pioneer, nothing! I know my sheep and Promise. I’m so tired of you all expecting me to know everything!” “But you are Chosen.” Davis said quietly.
“Well so is Caro. Ask him, if you please, what we are to do. He has about a good of an idea as I.” Gino turned and stomped away, to think by himself: unsure of his emotions. Opal stirred in her sleep and muttered words that no one could understand. Caro glanced at her sadly. Something, almost like the feeling that he had when he buried Julietta, stirred in his heart. He couldn’t take it. Soon Davis was alone with a dog, a cat, and a sleeping girl.
When he realized this, he sat down, scratched Promise behind the ears, and asked “Well, boy, what are we to do now?” Promise wagged his tail slowly and licked his hand.
It’s interesting that one of my first posts was called “The Drover Generation.” Some of you might remember it, and some might not. I would encourage you to go find it with the search engine. But since this is my 101’st post, I thought I should return to Drover for it.
That Drover has been a key literary figure in my teenage life is a bit of an understatement. Sometimes I feel like comparing my brothers and sisters to this chicken-hearted little mutt. And yes, I repent of it. It’s not right. But today I’m not going to talk about Drover.
I’m going to tell you about Drover and Teaspoon.
For an intro, I should tell you about Theater Kids. Theater Kids is a small 2 week camp where kids learn to sing, dance, and act. But the production changed this year. Instead of being a variety show, it’s a play with a real script. Not knowing this, my brother and I schemed a year ago about entering a dialogue called “Drover gets a job.” In it, Drover has a job interview with a blue-heeler named Teaspoon.
The dialogue was hilarious, and I thought that it would be perfect. But when the play was started, I realized that Drover might get pushed around a little. So I made sure to mention it to the writer. She said she thought it would work. Because of this, neither Adam or I tried out for any big parts because we had Teaspoon. Our mistake.
See, we didn’t understand that even though we didn’t change, the play did. It was a first time thing, and it kept getting more and more characters to give everyone a part. As for Adam and I, we became corral leaders for the backstage, and Teaspoon was forgotten.
At first I was bitter. “I don’t want to be a McCoy and a townsperson. I wanted to be Rose, or at least be Drover, and now I’m nothing.” But as the play went on, I began to realize that Teaspoon really wasn’t what the play needed. The play needed people who are used to being teachers and who will always be staying on course. The play needed leaders to help it get moving. If I had done Teaspoon, I might have missed out on that, and it could have been sloppy.
My favorite co-op teacher, Mrs. Dunn, always spoke of a “moral compass” in the stories we read, like Helen Burns in Jane Eyre. The moral compass set the standard for what is good. Instead of a moral compass, I want to be an anchor. I want to show the others what is right, and do it, no matter who forgets. And maybe, if I had been preoccupied on what I thought was best, I might have missed my true place: backstage, behind the scenes, making a difference.
One of my favorite hymns is “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” I love how the first verse goes
God Moves in a Mysterious Way,
His Wonders to Preform,
He Plants His Footsteps in the Sea
and Rides upon the Storm.
Isn’t that cool? But here’s something that I think is so much stronger.
Ye Feeble Saints Fresh Courage Take,
the Clouds ye so much Dread,
are Big with Mercy and will Burst
in Blessings on your head.
I don’t understand everything, nor am I expected to. God moves in a Mysterious way, but he knows best, just like Mr. Mark and Ms. Janice did about Drover and Teaspoon. I don’t know why only seven people persevered in the Bible Bee, why Grandma had to die, why Joel had a tooth knocked out yesterday, or even what I’m going to be when I grow up. But God knows, and he always does what’s best for me, even when it hurts. There is a Reason, like in that Caedmon’s call song that Dad and I like so much,
He makes all things good,
He makes all things good,
There’s a time to live and a time to die,
A time to wander and to wonder why,
There is a reason.
Entertainment is a good business to be in right now. Let’s face it: video games are super popular, even among Christian Households. Sure, we cringe when we pass the Walmart video game aisle and see large posters of computer-animated terrorists with huge guns and scarves over their faces. But games based on movies, games that seem harmless, and older games like Mario, Sonic, Zelda, and their respective universes are more allowed.
The problem is, these games are actually made by the same people who make the shoot-em-up games that we’re so leery about. They make the games that mention drugs, alcohol, and other things, but since they stick a name that is unfamiliar to the other games (a nice name like Minecraft might work) it is snuck in.
And yes, I might have just killed the Cat of Bubastes by mentioning Minecraft, and the angry natives might chase me, but my brother thinks that it is worth it. For several months we had been hearing from homeschooling friends about this block-building game. “Oh well, it’s not like it’s bad or anything. You’re just digging around and making stuff.” Ok, Minecraft fans, don’t jump on me, I’ve never played it. But there’s a hidden danger in these ‘harmless’ games, one that makes them even more lethal.
If you think about it, games that look harmless are usually more dangerous than the ones that you know to be wrong. My brother was recently told that Minecraft was bad. Why? Because it is telling you to make your own universe. “What? How is that bad?” Because you’re creating something from nothing. It said that you are the master? Bear with me.
In the book, Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and Hopeful were on their way to the Celestial city, when they saw a man named Flatterer, who said he knew the way to the Celestial city. They followed this man, who had the appearance of a Shining One, but were unaware of his true nature.
“And as they were thinking about the way, behold a man, black of flesh, but covered with a very light robe, came to them and asked them, “Why they stood there?” They answered, “They were going to the Celestial City, but knew not which of these ways to take.” “Follow me!” said the man; “it is thither that I am going.” So they followed him in the way that but now came into the road, which by degrees turned and turned them so from the city that they desired to go to, that in a little time their faces were turned away from it; yet they followed him. But by and by, before they were aware, he led them both within the compass of a net, in which they were both so entangled that they knew not what to do; and with that the white robe fell off the black man’s back: then they saw where they were. Wherefore there they lay crying some time; for they could not get themselves out.”
Later, they were rescued by a true Shining one, who was perplexed with how they had let themselves into that mess. ‘He asked, moreover, “If the shepherds did not bid them beware of the Flatterer?” They answered, “Yes; but we did not imagine,” said they, “that this fine spoken man had been he”.’
It’s said in the Bible that our adversary appears to be an angel of light. It only seems natural that his tricks should seem harmless. In all the stories I have ever read, it is those who seem the fairest that do the most terrible things. It was really Tolkien who summed it up for me. “You have frightened me several times tonight, but never in the way that servants of the Enemy would, or so I imagine.” Frodo said, looking at the Ranger, Aragorn. “I think one of his spies would-well, seem look fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.”
So there it is. It is a very tricky game to play, one that means the difference between victory and defeat. It’s a crazy and confusing trick, but games that include acting like God, destroying others, or participating in magic don’t help. They’re like parasites that eat away at our defenses. Beware of the things that look fun (or fair) but are truly foul.
A day or so ago I was reading an old book to see how bad it would be when I needed to write a book report on it for literature next year. It was The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and I had heard conflicting reports about it. If you are around High-School age, and you need to read a book that was written before the American Revolution, this could either be a drudge or an enlightenment.
To be honest, I thought that it would be heavy and painful to read. A story about the result of two people’s sin and the secrets that neither would reveal, the hatred of man and the Holiness of God…what could be more painful? Yes, there was no happily ever after. But how could there be? The corruption of sin marred all.
Oh, for a day when we could accept that the world isn’t “And they all lived happily ever after, The End.” The end of The Scarlet Letter proposed a stark contrast to that: it is a Romance where one of the lovers die; it is a tragedy that ends with hope; it is a satire that somehow has no sting. Could you call it Gothic writing: romance, spiritual, horror? Maybe. But under the surface there is a strange light, a light that pierces the muck of the sinners.
Hester Prynne, Chillingsworth and Dimmersdale were all sinners. All were filled with lust, though one’s was not for love or intimacy but for revenge, and one, being the pastor, should have known better. But the forgiveness that was extended from heaven towards the sinners who longed to make retribution for their sin but could not is a lesson for us as well. Romans 3:23 tells us that “All have sinned, and fall short of the Glory of God.” Maybe a passage like this was what tortured the learned priest as he struggled to conceal his sin. But the next verse would give him hope, for if he continued on he would read “and are justified by his grace, as a gift.”
Unfortunately, we are disappointed by stories like this: stories where the ending isn’t what we think is best for the characters. Their plan fails, their boat is sunk, or one dies. But the wonderful Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ shines forth in these dark tales. “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” says Romans 5:20.
We want everything to be fantasy, fancy-free, happily-ever-after, but it isn’t. The classics, let’s face it, are dark, evil, and painful. Some of them I would say not to read until you are “rooted and grounded in faith” because of their particularly dark nature. But there is one thing that I would like you to see.
Literature is one of the ways our culture shows its need for God. Some works are more pathetic than others, and Hawthorne’s classic is a striking example of sin in a puritan community. Hypocrisy, greed, lust, and worse sins stained the “holiest of the holy” just as they did the Pharisees in the days of Christ. Let us take heed and beware. But one other thing that I want you to see is this: though Hawthorne was not a Christian, he realized his need for salvation, and his characters express that longing for forgiveness and reconciliation throughout the pages of his book. Though he mocks the puritans severely and even makes use of a “Spirit Child” to do so, he seems to say that though he does not agree with them he knows that there is a Diety, somewhere, that he cannot find.
As the sin-stained Puritans started at the scarlet letter, so we chafe against our guilt and desperately try to hide it. But as the characters found, “If we confess our sins, He is Faithful and Just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Gino came out from behind the marsh grasses, his dark eyes full of worry. “What’s wrong?” He looked down and took in the scene quickly. “Right, I suppose that would be it. Come, this way. I found another pad. It’s the heat. It’s making everything decay in this area.” He looked at Opal, who was nodding slowly. “Yes. This weather change is Nya’s work. She was quite trying to drown me. If it hadn’t been for our soldier, I and our animals would have drowned.” To back up Opal’s words, Promise grinned and thrashed his tail. Davis half-smiled, but then grabbed hold of a tree branch that broke off in his hands. “I think we can talk later! Shepherd, if you’ve found us a new place, let us get there before the earth dissolves.”
Gino took Opal’s hands and helped her onto the path. Caro jumped on behind them, and Davis and Promise came last. The two Chosen said nothing, but kept their eyes down, as if they were thought-talking. Caro wasn’t sure what it was, but the two had done it often, and it usually worked. “No!” Opal suddenly shouted, breaking the thought-barrier. Gino stopped and searched her face. Her eyes were contracted into tiny slits. “Tis a serpent. I heard it. A wicked snake.” “I saw a snake as well.” Davis volunteered. “Though here that is no surprise.”
Caro kept quiet. He had never seen a snake, or a serpent, and the talk of them was beginning to get on his nerves, as it had when they spoke of magic. He knew nothing of magic, but Opal’s words haunted him, and he wondered how far Nya had really left the path of the Chosen.
After they came to a nearly identical looking pad, Gino, Davis and Caro went off to fish out the supplies. Contrary to his usual practice, Promise curled up near Opal’s feet and refused to move. Gino looked at him with worry, but went with the others to find the supplies.
Gino and Opal began to make Caro feel strange, though not on purpose. Neither spoke much, but instead began to do things that they had never done before. Gino began shivering uncontrollably, even in the heat, and Opal began to mutter to herself. Confused, Caro and Davis began to talk about what to do.
“They’ve been doing this for days.” Caro said, sadly. “What are they doing?” “I don’t know.” Davis shivered as well. “Oh, goodness. Now I’m shivering too. It’s something they’re doing, like they’re picking up—radio signals, signals that we can’t read!” He began to think. “Wait! Dawes did that too! His aides sometimes said that he would sit alone and talk to no one.” Gino’s head came up, and he stared at them. “Dawes? Why are you speaking of him?” His voice was quiet, but it trembled as he looked into Davis’ eyes. Davis looked away. “Nothing.” Caro sighed, but Gino didn’t give up. “No, I heard his name. Why are you speaking of Dawes?”
“I mentioned that he seemed to talk to someone, like you and Miss Opal do.” Davis said slowly, not sure of what the reaction would be. Gino closed his eyes again and muttered something that Caro didn’t hear. “You think we are talking, don’t you? Well, you’re right. We do talk this way, maybe because it’s easier. I forget sometimes that it disturbs people. Maybe that’s why the myth that I was insane and Opal a witch had such a market.” Davis looked at Caro, who shrugged.
Gino continued to speak to himself. “Aye. So Dawes is one of the ones behind this. I should have known. That monster seems to want to be Nya’s lackey, by destroying us!” Davis and Caro traded looks and exclaimed “How?” “These snakes. They’ll be back. I can feel them sliding around. They’re creepy, to say the least.” Promise began to bark again, growling at a coiled up form in the muck that was rearing its head at him. “Like that one?” Caro asked, recoiling.
“Aye! And that one is headed towards Opal. Grab that hoe! If this is Nya’s work, which it is, it’s trying to get to her! Hurry!” Gino scrambled to his feet and grabbed a stick, Caro following close behind.
If you’ve missed any of the Chosen Ones, you can find them in order Here.
Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I’ve always wondered about the success of DreamWorks’ Dragons franchise. Is it the fact that we are obsessed with dragons? Maybe. A good example of this is the success of The Hobbit trilogy, based on a children’s book about a small hobbit who was charged with saving 13 dwarves from eminent destruction at the claws of a vicious, enormous jeweled reptile.
I would say that this is a good time for fantasy, especially that which involve large, fire-breathing dragons. And that’s only the beginning. The books from which the series is based depicts dragons that shoot smoke rings, jets of boiling water, a sonic blast, bolts of electricity, and in one case, waves of ice. The imagination of the writer and the animators blend so sublimely that it makes a breathtaking display.
That’s another thing. Animation has opened up a whole new world for fantasy. From Star Wars to Lord of the Rings to Maleficent, this is the age of imagination. Some fantasies are wicked and misleading. But others can be beautiful and amazing.
References to Norse gods aside, the success of DreamWorks’ Dragons isn’t hard to see. Breathtaking scenery, amazing flight scenes, beautiful, life-like characters and places, and wonderful stories: there’s so much to like! But there seems to be more to this success story than meets the eye.
What is it about these dragons that captures the imaginations of so many? I have a friend whom I affectionately think of whenever I think about dragons. She loves them even more than I do. Yes, these dragons have made a name for themselves in our culture. They have soared into our lives and have become symbols of freedom and what is possible. So far they have also been clean, and I hope that they stay that way, despite the influences of those who think marriage is only what you want it to be.
But there has to be something! The popularity of these flying dinosaurs is due to more than their amazing designs, their lovable characters, and their breathtaking fight scenes. Hasn’t every other fantasy tried to do the same?
I cannot say that everyone loves dragons for the same reason, but I will relate my own experience. When I first was told of a sequel to How to Train your Dragon, I was skeptical. As a girl who has two brothers closest to herself, I am as squeamish about romance as any boy. Though I don’t cover my eyes, as do some of my brothers, when they see a kiss, I’d rather not see one. So I decided that it might be good to skip it. “I’ve got the series to look forward to. Why should I waste my time for something that might turn out to be a cheesy romance?”
But my mind was changed. As I sat in the theater, getting ready to watch God’s Not Dead, they played the commercials, and I thought “Great, more nothing.” But as coal-black dragon blasted onto the screen, I watched in spite of myself. This was the first time I had seen a flight on a large theater screen (We relied on Netflix for the first one) and I couldn’t tear my eyes away.
As Toothless soared, I felt like I was soaring as well. This was more amazing than anything else that I saw that day. Through the whole movie (which was amazing, in case you are wondering) I thought of that five minute or more commercial. As the altitude grew, my spirits soared. How could I refuse? The natural inclination of man to soar above his surroundings was awakened, and I longed to leave this earth behind.
Not on the wings of a dragon. Not in the seats of a jet or aircraft. Neither of these is high enough. Not even a space-ship could fulfill this longing. I think I understand the builders of the Tower of Babel: “Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4)
Our souls want to go above, but our sin keeps us from God. It seems like we are unable to fulfill this desire, because of our lack of wings. Maybe that’s why we are so drawn to Dragons: to fly on the wings of a dragon, high in the clouds, so close to God. But since the dragons have died out (as far as I know) we don’t have that option. I suppose that our craving for flight will never be satisfied by these fake substitutes, and it shouldn’t be. I suppose it will never be completely satisfied until death, when all things shall be satisfied.
Have you ever seen a patchwork quilt? I’m not saying the ones that are completely planned with brand-new fabric straight from the fabric store, or the ones that are on display in shows.
I’m talking about a patchwork quilt. After making clothes for their families, pioneer women would have some scraps left over. After saving the scraps for a while, they would combine them with worn out old clothes and other people’s scraps to make a large, beautiful quilt. They would put the cloth in a pattern and often it would last longer than the clothes that it was made out of.
In the last couple of weeks, I have been with several people, working with them, learning with them, and in some cases teaching them. One thing that can make people get together is a play. What a colorful patchwork that can be! Homeschooled and Public Schooled, from Corpus-Christi to Houston and everywhere in between. Some are obnoxious, a few have diseases or mental issues, and a few have (horror!) crushes on other actors. All these things can grind down on your ‘togetherness.’
But the director won’t let it fall apart. He wants to put this play into motion even more than you do, and he’ll make sure that everyone can work together. People fight, accidents happen, but our director was able to pull people from all backgrounds and of all talents together to make a big picture. Like patchwork. There were actors, good dancers and a few who could only sing, but they were all used in one way or the other.
And, Ok, it wasn’t perfect. My brother spent most of the first week saying how terrible it was and how it couldn’t ever change. Some people (including me) didn’t get the part they wanted: in fact I didn’t have much of a part at all. But we made a place for ourselves by putting a face on a character that otherwise would have been unknown. There were also the parts that nobody sees: meaning the people who make sure the others come out of the doors at the right times. Those small “parts” kept the production clean, even though you will never get credit for them.
Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in his sight. We live all over the place. Some of us will never see each other again. For some of us that’s good. But the two weeks that we worked together will all be impressed in our minds. Whenever we find a program or wear our tee-shirts with the play name, we’ll remember. When we see each other again we’ll remember the wonderful patchwork that was formed, when so many different children came together.
When the phrase “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it” was coined, I wonder if the world was in as much trouble as it is now. Admit it, we seem to have forgotten our history. If you asked a child to tell you who walked on the moon, or who Adolf Hitler was, they might not be able to tell you. What happened? Are we so caught up in our History that we have forgotten that of the rest of the world? Why have we let history slip through our fingers?
Is it because we refuse to listen to those who have gone before us? Or is it because the past was so painful that we would rather forget it? There is pain and heartbreak with every era of the world; that’s just a result of the fall. But to forget that pain is even worse. If we let the evil fade into nothingness, you will also lose the good. You’ll lose the heroes who quietly and not so quietly made a difference, who put everything on the line and sometimes died for their cause.
Why would we be so ready to forget these heroes? Corrie Ten Boom, John Bunyan, Richard Wurmbrand, etc. The heroes of the American Revolution, the martyrs of the Reign of Terror in France, the Cheokee who died on the Trail of Tears, the Jews and Christians and other “undesirables” who were slaughtered in the Holocaust and Soviet Concentration Camps. Those people had hopes, dreams, identities, and names. Most of them have been forgotten. The only one we remember is the one who started it all, a depraved and terrible man named Hitler.
There was once a movement to preserve history by keeping some buildings destroyed, some sites unchanged, some land unsold. There was once a time when we remembered all that we had done, the good and the bad, as a model for our children to look upon and be wise. Like the monuments that Joshua set up in his time, these sites were preserved as a warning of what might happen.
But memories are painful. Sometimes it’s easier just to pretend that it didn’t happen. Maybe if we erase history, it will just be a bad dream. Forget the pain, that didn’t happen anyway. Those people were bad, so we will erase their memory.
But in truth, our world stands on their shoulders.
Whether for good or bad, each person’s life makes a difference. We cannot help it: our lives affect others. Our society, and that of other nations, stands on the shoulders of imperfect men. By trying to forget them all, we dishonor the heroes and empower the ideas of the villains. Though they are dead, their legacy, whether of death or life, will live on as long as they are remembered. However, the bad ideas are more potent, because of sin, because when they are “forgotten”, it is not they who are forgotten but their effects. Forgotten Evil will always return, that is why it must be thought of as a warning.
Because of sin, we cannot afford to forget those who fought and died for the Truth, because if we do their lives would be in vain. Never, never let that happen! It would be better if we had never been born, than if we live to dishonor the deaths of those who lived for us, the next generation, on whose shoulders we stand. The good, the bad, and the extremely wicked all leave a mark. Let’s hope that the mark of the righteous stands, long after that of the ambitious evil fades. Remember the Rangers who defended you, and the Innocents who died for you. Do not forget your history.
Suppose for a minute that you’re me and you are in Sunday School. Not that the lesson is boring, but your mind starts to wander and you begin to read the whole chapter 8 of second Corinthians because well, it’s there. If you’re not the kind of person who does this, this will seem irrational, but if you are, you understand completely.
But while I was reading chapter 8, I came to a strange little verse. The chapter is about giving, but this verse just seemed to pop out at me. “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.” (2 Corinthians 8:7) It’s interesting that this letter, which seems to be an argument in progress, should have a verse about the people excelling in everything. Was he kidding?
Isn’t this the same church that was always arguing inside itself? The one that had so many problems? Well, it sort of makes sense when you read that the chapter is about a gift for the Jerusalem Church. The Corinthians were wealthy, and they seemed to be best at everything. But it was Grace that they needed, mercy for their brothers, and that Grace manifested itself in giving.
In this world, Grace is rare. In this world we try to replace it with tolerance, but anything is a bad substitute for Grace. We try to be the best, but Honor and Grace are the best things that we should excel at, not knowledge and power and wealth or wisdom or anything, if we can only choose one, it should be faith, but Grace is close. So what is Grace?
Grace used to mean gift. In Greek, it would be charis, a gift, not earned, a thing that brings joy, pleasure, sweetness, the kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them. What an amazing word. Grace is a gift that you give to others because of your love for them, whether or not they deserve it. Actually, true Grace can only be undeserved.
In this fallen world we need to be gracious, not tolerant, loving, not selfish, honest, not shrinking. We need to be willing to take a stand for what we believe, but not like someone on a soccer field. If we are victorious? Be gracious. If we lose the battle (though we will never lose the war, because our champion is with us) we will be discouraged, sure, but we cannot take that out on the victors. We must excel in this Grace. What is Grace? Speaking the truth in love is a good start. Yes, I think that it fits just fine.
Though the swamps were terrible, they were safer than any other place they suggested. Safe from the soldiers, the small team made the most of their resources. Though Gino was reluctant, it turned out that his argument was not needed. He tried to hold a sword for Caro’s sake, but he couldn’t. The narrow handle slipped out of his grasp no matter how Davis tried to help. Finally, Davis gave up and taught him to shoot: a skill that he wasn’t proud of but was good at. Often he would sit staring at it, and quite a few times he almost threw it into the mire.
Caro liked working with Davis. His training in warfare had been limited, because the only skill Nenya had known was fencing. She was only a girl when she was taken, but she had racked her brain until she remembered the practices of her brothers. Davis was pleased at what he knew, but pushed him to branch out. Under Davis’ instruction, he began to become a skilled warrior.
Strange things were happening in the marshes. They began to become hot, a change that frightened Gino. “It never gets this hot!” He protested, feeling the ground. “Not at this time of year! If it doesn’t go down soon, we’ll be in trouble from the insects and snakes.” Caro stared at him. “Snake? What’s a snake?” Gino sighed. “When you see one, you’ll know it.” Opal bowed her head. “There’s something definitely wrong here. I do hope the heat goes away.”
But the temperature only rose, and with it came insects, as Gino had predicted. They buzzed and swarmed and bit, and the people were tired of them. From the heat and the insects, Promise and Puss spent most of their time sleeping in hidden spots to escape the swarms. Gino was puzzled by the fact that the swamp only seemed hot in one place, and went off to find out why. Caro and Davis were used to the paths by then, but neither planned on exploring, remembering well their trouble when they had last left the path. They stayed with Opal and continued to train.
By this time Opal had a small house to herself, and she stayed in it and spun, to avoid the insects and the air rising off of the swamp. Caro was rubbing his hands and Davis was standing a little ways off, staring after Gino. “How long will he be gone?” “No telling. It’s Gino: he doesn’t tell me much. I think I’ll go get some water. I’ll be back.” Caro ran off, leaving Davis alone staring after Gino. Though the soldier would never admit it, he had trusted Gino to make sure that nothing bad happened, because he felt very uncomfortable about the swamps.
Behind him he heard a crack, creak, crash! He turned to see a snake slip into the water, and Opal’s little house collapsed over her. “Caro? Gino?” He called, running over and trying to see where she had gone. It seemed like the house had swallowed her. “Miss Opal, ma’m. Are you all right?” There was a sharp intake of breath, and her voice came out softly. “I think the floor is giving way.” Davis swallowed. “Calm down. You’re a soldier, for goodness sake!” He told himself, and began to pull the structure away. He saw her hands, and they were clutching tightly to a basket. Promise barked and struggled to get out of the muck.
“Ok, a girl, a cat, and a dog. Caro! Hurry!” He reached in and grabbed Promise’s tail, the closest thing to him. He pulled him out, and the dog shook himself, licked Davis, and began to bark furiously. The soldier tried to reach Opal, but she was still too far under the wood. “Dog, help me dig her out.” He panted, trying to get more planks under her than above her, while still holding onto the solid ground with one hand. Promise barked and began to dig.
Finally, Davis found her hands. Pussy took one look at him, hissed, and bounded onto the pad. He grabbed her and pulled her out with both hands. “There.” Davis sighed, and Promise wagged his tail. Opal’s sightless eyes were dilated so much that she looked like her eyes were dark. “We’re being pursued.” She whispered, comforting her cat. Promise jumped on Davis and began licking his face, just as Caro came back. “Agh, stop! Stop it, crazy dog! Get off!” He pushed him away, and Promise skipped over to see Caro.
“So, I guess you like dogs.” Caro joked, as the thankful dog once again tried to lick Davis’s face. “No, sir, I do not. Especially not this one.” Davis said, with great conviction and embarrassment. Caro gaped at the broken house. “What did you do! Look! The pad is beginning to break up!” Davis stood unsteadily. “We need Gino back at once.” Caro nodded and ran to the edge. “Gino, where are you? Hurry!” Off in the distance they could hear the boy’s feet quicken, and they listened anxiously until he appeared. No one wanted to be stuck in the swamp without him.
In stunned silence the children of Israel watched as the waters opened and the massive winds split them right down the middle. What was it that Moses had said? “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord that he will work for you this day. For the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The LORD will Fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Ex 14:13-14) They were silent now. They had been so absorbed by the miracle that they had almost forgotten about the attacking army behind them. But they remembered and made for the watery path. However, their pursuers followed closely, unwilling to let them go no matter what Moses conjured up.
After frantic trudging and trying to get all of their belongings through the watery chasm, the frightened people turned to see that the chariots were beginning their trek as well. But just as the people were beginning to complain, they stopped in silence. “The LORD will FIGHT for you, and you have only to be SILENT.” They heard again, as they watched the wheels break in the mud, the horses spook, and the wind die down. The waters crashed into place, and the Egyptians were dead, just like Moses had said. “For the Egyptians whom you see this day you shall never see again.”
God had killed them all. The Israelites had done nothing. As the people once again sat in silence, but Moses had other plans. Instead of being silent, he began to sing a song of thanksgiving. “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.” As the song went on, Miriam and the women took it up and began to dance. “The LORD is my Strength and my Song, and he has become my Salvation. This is MY GOD and I will praise him, my FATHER’s GOD, and I will exalt him. THE LORD IS A MAN OF WAR, THE LORD IS HIS NAME.” (Ex 15:1-3)
Deborah and Barak knew that the LORD is a Man of War. They had watched a whole army succumb to his power as once again, the wheels of the chariots became mired in the field. The struggle was so one-sided that it seemed like the STARS were fighting for Israel. After the LORD defeated the enemy, Deborah and Barak began to sing in thanksgiving, singing a song that reflected that of Moses. “LORD, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the region of Edom, the earth trembled and the heavens dropped, yes, the clouds dropped water. The mountains quaked before the LORD, even Sinai before the LORD, the God of Israel.” (Judges 5:4-5)
David knew the Warrior Elyon. He often was beset with hardship as he fled from Saul and later when he was King. Often his life was only safe through the watchful eyes of his God. He wrote that “God is our Refuge and our Strength, an ever present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46) He saw the Lord as he was: Loving, powerful, jealous, mighty, good, pure, just, merciful. Often we forget these in our emphasis on the first.
The Church through History has trusted in their Warrior-God. Though he has many, many attributes, this one gave them hope as they remembered that everything that happened to them was for His glory. They remembered that if they were about to be destroyed, their Warrior would defend them. “The LORD is a Man of War, the LORD is his Name!” May we not in times of peace forget that our God is a Warrior, as well as all those other things.
If I had created the virtues, then I would have puzzled over a pair. What can I say? My tiny mind is too small to comprehend the mystery of Justice and Mercy. They are inseparable, but they seem to contradict each other.
If I had created them, I would make the two Sisters. Wisdom would be their mother, the Law would be their father. Justice would be a strong, unswerving girl, who would not stop for anything. Her indignation at the wickedness of the world was descended from her solemn father, and she does not shrink from death. She becomes furious when she sees the rich oppressing the helpless, and would like to slay them on sight, but her sister must hold her back.
Mercy will be still during these circumstances, tears running down her cheeks. Like Justice, her bold sister, Mercy wishes that she could stop the wicked, but her own nature makes her wait and chain back her sister to hope against hope that they will repent. If they do not, she reluctantly releases Justice, who swoops down upon them in her nature and destroys them.
Also, if I had created Truth and Love, they would be Brothers. By themselves, they were good, but when they mesh together they become a force that only the hardest heart can overcome. Truth would lose its sting, and Love would lose its gullibility. Together, they would be invincible.
How can it be that such strange characters are intertwined? They were created together, work together, and do not clash once. It is only when we leave the path of Godliness that these siblings begin to quarrel. Justice tries to overrule Mercy, who in turn forgets to hem back her sister and tries to save everyone. Love and Truth become at odds with each other and are quickly overpowered. It is only when we seek the Lord that these four can invite their little sister, Peace.
And maybe, even though these are the foolish musings of a young girl, there really is a place for these characters. Though we will never truly understand the Mystery of Justice and Mercy, Truth and Love, or even Faith and Works, I think that we will someday, when the apparent contradictions melt away to reveal their true unmasked natures. When will that be? In Glory.
As life takes on its milestones, birthdays are certainly big ones. The coming of a birthday is very important for everyone, but there are certain ones that are more important than others. 10, 16, 20, 50, and 100, for example. Sixteen years ago my life in this world had its dawn, though I was alive long before.
Being what people call a “teenager” is difficult. We’re doing the jobs of adults while still growing into our brains. I hate to say it that way, but it’s true. We’re learning all the time, trying to make it in the world. It’s a war we’re stepping into, with new weapons and shiny armor, to join those whose shine might have faded but their skill grown.
As warriors and warrioresses, we must be very careful to fight and live in a way that glorifies our Captain. There are so many added burdens that can slow us down and make us less effective. The lure of the world does not grow any less when we pick up the sword; it actually becomes stronger!
We give our everything for the cause, but there are some things that shouldn’t be left behind. Innocence can be left behind, but faith is too valuable to lose. It might be too much to ask that we will be unchanged by this battle: there will be casualties. But pray that you stay faithful in the cause. I want you to read this.
Reject the worldly lie that says
That life lies always up ahead
Let power go before control becomes
A crust around your soul
Escape the hunger to possess
And soul-diminishing success
This world is full of narrow lives
I pray by grace your smile survives
For I would wander weary miles
Would welcome ridicule, my child
To simply see the sunrise of your smile
To see the light behind your eyes
The happy thought that makes you fly
Yes, I would wander weary miles
To simply see the sunrise of your smile
Now close your eyes so you can see
Your own unfinished memories
Now open them for time is brief
And you’ll be blest beyond belief
Now glance above you at the sky
There’s beauty there to blind the eye
I ask all this then wait awhile
To see the dawning of your smile
For I would wander weary miles
Would welcome ridicule, my child
To simply see the sunrise of your smile
To see the light behind your eyes
The happy thought that makes you fly
Yes, I would wander weary miles
To simply see the sunrise of your smile.
These lyrics go to a Michael Card song called “Sunrise of your Smile” about an older Christian’s hope that his ‘child’ will remain pure after his/her course in this war. We are still children, and we’re trying to grow up, testing new paths, trying new strategies, trying to build our kingdoms. But don’t forget that there are some things about childhood that should never be left behind. Don’t go so far in building the kingdom that the castle is lost. Be careful to guard what is most precious to us: our souls.
Though these words were written to a younger person, it can apply to any war-worn Christian crying out for rest. Be reassured: there are those who will come after you to take your place in the battle. But who will train them?
Can I encourage my elders today without sounding cheeky? Maybe not, but I’ll try. We are still rookies, raw recruits ready to take the world by storm, but we don’t have the experience to do anything worthwhile. Can you help us by giving us your wisdom? And to the other recruits like me: listen to those who take the time to teach you. Listen to that fatherly figure who only wants the best for you. Don’t be raw, but don’t go the other way and become hardened in life, either. There are so many obstacles for a Christian to face: the rocks of ignorance and the desert of apathy, and not much of a trail in between. I pray by grace your smile survives, untainted by the war, when we stand in glory.
The marshes of Agur’s wetlands were no place for a military campaign. The boggy ground and unstable terrain were a bane to any traveler unfortunate enough to wander in. There were tufts of stunted grass growing everywhere, and reeds and rotting pieces of wood that had fallen ages ago but still remained. It was also very cold. All told, it was the most dreary place Caro had ever seen, save the courtyard cemetery back at the capitol, but the strange place seemed to cheer Gino, who kept his eyes on the ground and nimbly discovered ancient paths through the muck that were safe for Opal.
Sargent Davis was waiting near the mouth of the swamp, and he also looked cheerful. “This will be a simply beautiful place to hide out in for now. There’s no way a regiment could come here without a guide. They would be dead in a minute. But who is our guide?” Gino looked sheepish, and glanced at his dog. Promise wagged his tail and flashed a dog-grin. “Us.” Gino answered, grabbing Opal’s hand as she almost fell off the path. “I’ve explored here, I mean I did, a long time ago. The land has changed, but I can still pick out the trail.”
Davis shrugged. “Well, if you know as much about frontier work as you do about map-making, then I’ll follow you.” Gino shook his head. “I know more. I’ve actually been here, but I’d never made a map before this. I’ll show you a secret place. It’s small, but it could be a base?” Davis smiled. “That’s the spirit! Lead on, then, shepherd. We can do this.” Opal stepped off the path and Gino and Caro had to grab her before she fell in. “Maybe we should get to solid ground.” She laughed, but her face was pale.
They helped her all the way through the twisting paths to a small hut. Years ago there had been a village of people who lived off the swamps, but it had been deserted. The huts were in terrible decay, as the moist environment corrupted the wood, but it was a start, and they were built on solid clay, covered by a hard-packed layer of split reeds woven together.
Davis and Caro began to talk of going back for lumber to repair the houses, but Gino dropped the bag he was holding and ran to them. “Stop! Are you insane? You’ll never find your way. I’ll prepare a path. You two stay here and unpack.” He went back and talked softly with Opal, who smiled and pointed. Gino took a small pot of powder and opened the lid. “Look at this! See this powder?” He tossed a small bit into the air. It landed on the ground and stained it red. “It will wash off soon, but until you find your way by yourselves, this will mark the safe path.” Caro smiled. Even if Gino wasn’t a fighter, he definitely was a thinker, and he knew what he was doing.
Gino had soon marked a path with the red dye, and Caro and Davis took their hatchets and walked back to the drier land outside the trees. They were able to find several strong trees to split and use for wood. Davis was used to the work, being a soldier, and Caro had always been using an axe to shape wood for pieces of his boat one way or another, so he knew how to use one. They soon had a small pile to take back.
They took it in trips, but on the third trip, Caro noticed that there was a different path that Gino had not marked. It was shorter and seemed to be as solid as the one they were on. Caro jumped over a small pile of rotten wood and took it instead. Davis called to him. “Don’t leave the path! These bogs are unstable!” But Caro looked down. The ground seemed firm enough. “It’s fine! I think I’m figuring this out. I’ll be there in no time.” Davis’ brow furrowed in frustration. “That boy has been given his own way too long. He needs to learn things the hard way, I suppose.” He leaped off the path and followed the Prince at a distance. The rotten limbs above them creaked and showed signs of breaking, but Caro didn’t notice. Just as he had almost reached the end of his path, one of them fell almost on top of him, shattering the “trail”.
Davis grabbed him by the collar and pulled him back. “This path is breaking apart and sinking! Let’s get back quick!” They ran back to Gino’s trail, with Caro’s breaking under their feet. Both were relieved when they were on the red trail again.” “Let’s try this again. Davies panted. “No more leaving the path.” Caro nodded, scared and embarrassed. “Leave the trail? I never want to leave this trail again!” Their return trip was uneventful, and they repaired the huts without further accident.
But that night Davis brought out a tool that made Gino shrink back into a corner: a sword. “Why did you bring this?” He asked quietly, not taking his eyes off the bright steel. “I thought you would need the practice.” Gino glanced at his dog again, and he growled. Pussy climbed out of her basket and curled up under his paws, which quieted him. “You can train Caro, but do not look to us to fight. We can’t.” He held up his hands. “See?” “I see a perfectly good left hand. If you can’t use your right, do the next best thing.” Davis countered, looking narrowly at him.
Gino scowled, trying to come at a different angle. “But…” Caro looked at Gino too. Suddenly a thought crossed his mind. “He’s scared. He’s scared of that sword. I wonder why.” He tried to remember what Gino had talked about that first night before his house went up in flames. “Is it right to kill?” Gino asked, once again looking to Promise for support. He wagged his tail. “Do you always consult your sheepdog when making decisions?” Davis asked wryly. Gino sighed. “When one has been alone most of his life, he finds it more easy to confide in animals than people, especially when that person has been mistreated by them.” His comment silenced Davis, who looked uncomfortable.
“Please don’t argue, both of you. Gino, would you fight to save Caro? Or me? Or even Promise?” Gino knew that he was beaten, and nodded slowly. “Aye.” “Then at least train so that the fight will not always be a losing one. You can defend yourself, you’ve just never tried.” Opal’s gentle words broke him, and he buried his face in his hands. “Fine then. If that is the service required, I will pay it. But it feels as if it goes against my very being.” He spoke, and Caro was moved. If times were not so desperate, he would have sided with Gino, but they needed all the hands they could get.
Even if Gino could only give one, it was something.
While Caro was discovering his painful history, Nya was angrily pacing the golden halls of the castle. She was furious that her project had failed, but she refused to give him up, and sent soldiers after him. In the back of her mind, she knew that there were still Chosen Ones alive, and it drove her to near distraction. She was already feeling the blood-guilt from Julietta, or Nenya, who had she been?
The Blessing of the Chosen writ that those who had been Chosen were protected from death in two ways. One, that if they died, they would immediately go to glory. Two, that whoever killed them would be cursed forever, sentenced to never-ending guilt until the death was made right. This is why those who murdered them usually killed themselves trying to escape the quilt through death, but instead found only more.
Nenya had a unique gift, the gift of purity, though her parents never guessed that it would be kept in the way it was. She was destined before birth to lead a life of silent worship and service, and she never wavered. But for Nya, the pure girl’s blood was on her hands, and she could not get the thought out of her head. Only the madness of battle would ease the pain that she had caused, but battle without her greatest weapon, Caro, would be defeat.
She called one of her soldiers to her. “Have you not yet found them?” The soldier saluted but shook his head. “He has escaped us and fled to the mountains. There are reports that he had help from a shepherd.” Nya had been pacing again, but she stopped and turned slowly. “A shepherd, named Gino?” The soldier nodded. Nya ground her teeth and turned on her heel. Her heavy copper trident seemed to glow green in her anger, and lightning flashed through the window.
“I should have known. After all that I have done to threaten and to scare that timid man he still persists in defying me!” She muttered, sending the soldier away. “I knew he was Chosen. I saw it when he was brought before me, but I could not kill him or his baby friend because they were chosen, and I could not afford that. But now he has grown up. He’s not a timid boy any more, he’s a man. He can’t fight, we took care of that, but he sees everything with those dark eyes, and if Caro has found him he will lead him astray. I have to get him. But wait.”
Nya sat down and held her head in her hands. “Then there’s the girl. She will do what she can. I never should have let her go, because there was always something queer about her. She was always trying to speak to me. Then there is her to think about as well. In order to retrieve my pupil, I must first capture those two meddling brats so I can reach him.” She straightened and her eyes took an unnatural light. “I know!” She stood up and strode into the hall, where she hailed the soldier. “A message to Dawes. Man, write this down.”
Promise barked the two boys awake the next morning. Gino stood up and went off for more wood, while Caro stretched and rubbed Promise’s head. Opal was already scurrying about in the small kitchen with a large bag. Her nimble fingers would search through the cabinets until she found what she was looking for, and then she would reach back in for something else. Pussy was busy as well, chasing a mouse that had escaped her detection by hiding in the cabinet. It was not long before dawn, and Caro’s two friends wished to be off as soon as they could. Caro’s head was spinning from the revelations of the night, and he said little.
Opal and Gino soon realized that they had a problem. “I will not leave her here. She can’t survive out here alone, and if the soldiers come here they will kill her.” Gino looked down at the spotted cat and sighed. “How are we supposed to bring a cat? It will be enough trouble bringing Promise along, without bringing Puss. She’ll run off in the marsh, and we’ll never see her again.” “I can’t see her anyway, but I’m taking her, and that’s final.” Opal persisted putting her hands on her hips. “Or I’m staying here.” “Fine! Bring the silly cat, but you have to be the one to carry her.”
Opal had already thought of this, and took out a small basket with a lid that could be latched on and a small hole cut in the top. “I’ll wear this, and she can sit in it and look around. Come on, we’re losing the light!” Gino looked sideways at Caro, as if he was saying “Girls!” But Caro lost the point, and Gino let it go. He called his dog and took one last look around. “We have blankets, and tinder, and the other things? You have food, did you bring the mats?” Opal waved her hands in the air. “The harness is on the mantle. We’ll have to make Promise carry as well, because I cannot carry the mats, and you two already have more than you can handle.”
Gino did as she suggested, and tied a little harness to the dog attached to a sort of sled, on which he tied some of the provisions and the sleeping mats. “There. We better be getting down. There’s a snowstorm coming from the north, so we need to go down as fast as we can. Come on, Opal, here’s your staff. Don’t trip now.” Promise didn’t seem thrilled, but he trotted ahead obediently. They traveled for half an hour, and made it to a green hill that was untouched by snow. Caro looked back at Opal, who had stopped. She was faced away from the sun, with the light streaming behind her. She looked very lost, but she also looked as if she was seeing someone that the others couldn’t.
Gino went back and pulled her arm. “Come on, Opal, we’ll leave this mountain behind. We’ll go down to the marsh and meet that soldier, and then we shall go on with our journey. Every step will bring us closer to Nya.” Opal nodded but kept her face to the west. “Yes, but when we meet Nya, what then shall we do?”
When a soldier takes off the uniform and begins to live quietly, there are many things that will change. Though his family might stay the same he isn’t and with good reason: he has seen the deaths of many close to him. As a soldier fades into twilight he comes closer to death and begins to wander.
J.R.R Tolkien once wrote that
“All that is gold does not glitter
And not all who wander are lost.”
Though this small poem was about a fictional character, it has weight. The best things are often disguised as undesirable, and often people wander even when they know where they are. This poem was written about a warrior, who seemed dark and evil but was truly the best friend they could have had.
Still today we have wandering warriors: those who risked everything to defend the “simple hobbits” who in turn look upon them with suspicion. If the character in the book, Strider, would have told them what he did to help them, they would have scoffed in unbelief. No one would have valued his sacrifice, even though he had protected them for years.
Forsake not the wandering warriors who cannot escape the sting of battle and the pain of death. Don’t be ashamed of those who embarrass you because of their age, for they carry our nation on their shoulders. Though we should be thankful, like those simple Bree-hobbits we look with suspicion on those who fought and died to save us. May it not be so! Even if they were called to be in a fight that made them “villains”, they did it because they were commanded to and because they signed up to obey their commanders. That determination makes them heroes. And we should treat them as such.
Let’s face it, death isn’t a fun topic. It scares us, it handicaps us, it changes us. We can’t stay the same ‘happy’ people after we have seen the death of another human being. Death is a shock that stops our frivolous lives in their tracks. There are those who try to ignore death, going to ridiculous lengths to try to hide the effect of death.
But death is always there, unavoidable, unstoppable, especially at the battle field. A more ruthless place for death’s rampage has never been invented. It has to be true that death was never part of God’s plan. It reminds us that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
The horrors of battle scars whoever comes near it. The soldiers that fight in the battles went through unthinkable hardship and training, but some still didn’t make it past the battle. There were friendships made and broken, there were families that lost one, two, even three of their number. But the brave soldiers continued on because they knew what had to happen and believed that they were doing the right thing.
Yet we forget. We spend our time trying to forget, but we shouldn’t try so hard to pretend it didn’t happen. There were men and women who were born, had dreams, families, and plans for the future, yet heard duty’s call, went to the battle and died. There was a hole made in each family where death took its toll.
Remember the fallen. Don’t forget those who gave everything for their country.
I’ve never thought of those older than me as once soldiers. Before yesterday, I probably never would have. But two things happened. The first was a tape of my mom singing. It was about a year before she met my dad, and she confided in her church about being uncertain, just like me, and wondering if she’d ever get married. My Dad had never seen that part and it tickled him greatly. Younger Mom talked about everyone getting a “friend” at college but her, but Dad was secretly happy because that meant he didn’t have competition.
The second thing was that we went to a retirement home for Memorial Day, to attend a service for those whom they had known who had died. There was a picture in the hallway of a young woman with curly hair, and standing next to it was an older woman with a baseball cap. They were the same person. It was a revealing thought.
We read about history as kids, because that’s our job. But waiting, and falling into twilight, are those who Lived history. They saw those battles with their eyes. They met those people made immortal by the sands of time. They die, and the younger generations forget them. Our History, our Heritage, slips through our fingers. May it not be so!
Though the soldiers who were once warriors are slipping, they are not yet extinct, and they are survived by family. But Memorial Day is not for the living but for the dead. Or is it? Maybe Memorial Day is a wakeup call to the living, to heed the dead but to also remember those who are fading. There are so many of us who do not remember nor do we care what happened. There are others of us who care, but instead prefer to invent stories, instead of listening to the real ones that our elders have to tell us.
Psalm 71:17-18 has this to say. “O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” This is the older soldier’s prayer, and it should be ours as well.
Remember those who have died. But do not forget the living. Each person who dies in anonymity is a little piece of history lost. Do not squander our history for silly things. Memory: that is our Memorial.
Davis unfolded the map and tacked it to the table. Gino moved closer and began to laugh. “You have a reason for laughing?” Davis asked, and Promise barked. “Do you have a pen?” Gino pointed to several different spots on the map. “That goes there, and that doesn’t exist, and there…” Davis pushed his hand away. “Look, I already said the map was terrible. But it’s all I have, unless you want to make one for me.” Gino shrugged. “Sure. I’ll make you a map. I’ve been all over this land with my sheep, and I know where everything is.”
Davis laughed. “I’m sure you have. Now, unless you can think up a map in a few seconds, I’ll use this useless one. Let me see. Here we are, and here is Lithia, the kingdom to the north.” Caro was interested. “I never knew that Agur was so big! What’s this here?” “Those are the swamps.” Gino volunteered, stifling another laugh. “Though they aren’t half that large.” Davis sighed. “Here is the pen. Make your map, and please stop distracting me!” Gino smiled and said nothing, for fear that he would begin to laugh again.
Caro looked at the map again. “Where is the capitol from here?” “Not far, in distance, but far below us. We’re up really high, and these mountain ranges go on all the way to the Comeros, to the east.” Davis pointed to a spot on the map, then frowned. “All right, shepherd. The capitol is in the wrong place too. Who made this map?” He looked at Gino, who had been writing, but had stopped to rub ink off of his hand. “Maybe we should wait until yours is done.”
Opal spoke up for the first time since the map had been brought out. “Gino, what news is there in the village?” Gino rubbed his head with his right hand. “Maybe this isn’t the best time. It has to do with soldiers.” “I don’t mind.” Davis protested. “Say what you will.” Gino looked up at him. “All well, then. There are rumors of raiding parties destroying the border cities of Lithia. They stopped talking when I came closer so they could jeer at me, but I heard what they said before. It’s no secret that the soldiers doing it were wearing green and black.”
Opal drew in her breath sharply. “Nya is attacking Lithia? But this will mean war!” “Aye, and forced conscriptions into the army. At least it does not touch me. But Nya would be foolish to rouse Lithia, with the relations between us very strained by her takeover. We would be crushed. Unless…” Gino stopped writing and sighed. “Unless what?” Caro asked, fascinated by the political intrigue being spoke of.
“Unless you were heading the army.” Davis finished. “Yes, there were rumors that someone would someday come and lead the army, someone even stronger than Nya. But these rumors were not well-spread and were discouraged. But come, we’re running out of light. We need to make a plan.”
Davis, Gino and Caro figured out a scheme, with Opal chiming in when needed. They decided to pull back and to run, so that Nya would be distracted. “If she pulls her soldiers from the border, those people will be safe.” Davis said. “But we won’t be. We’ll really have to run fast.” “We have to do this, Gino.” Opal chided, putting down her needles. “There are more people at risk here than you and I.”
The lamp began to waver, and the fire was choking. “Promise, get some wood.” Opal commanded, and the dog trotted out the door. “It’s time to rest.” Gino yawned, and looked at his hand, which was as black as his hair. Opal found some blankets, and she went to bed. Gino and Caro spread the blankets on the floor, and Davis left for the night.
“Gino, how large was my family?” Gino had been sleeping, and he woke up with a start. “What? Aye. You have…what did you say?” Caro repeated his question, and there was silence. Caro was almost sure that he had fallen asleep, when he heard Gino’s soft voice. “Why do you wish to know? Some wounds shouldn’t be reopened.” Caro didn’t like the sound of that.
“Well, it’s my family. I don’t know anything about them. I never met them, so I guess…” His voice trailed off, and neither one said anything for a few seconds. “You had…five brothers, and three sisters. Two sisters were already married when you were born. Then, ah, the oldest was a boy, the heir. There were a few brothers here and there, after the sisters there were two boys and then Nenya–Julietta. Then two more boys and you, and you also had nieces and nephews, some older than you, even.”
Caro’s hopes rose. Surely, with so many of them, Nya couldn’t have destroyed them all. “What happened to them?” Gino didn’t say anything for a while, and he struggled to find words to say what he wanted. “Your older sisters married into the royal families of Comeros and Lithia. But Nya, well, Nya came and killed everyone in the castle. The king, queen, and all of the sons, except you.” Caro grabbed a handful of the blanket and crushed it in his fist as tears came to his eyes.
“But my sisters and their children were safe in the other countries.” Caro said, hopefully. Gino said nothing. “Nya couldn’t have gotten them, without being destroyed.” “Nya had to make sure that no one could claim the throne.” Gino said softly. “Just days after the royal family died, Nya waylaid the princesses and…” Caro pressed his hands on his ears, and Gino stopped. “I’m sorry. I said that these wounds shouldn’t be reopened, and then I opened them, foolish!” He glared at the ceiling.
His voice softened. “You’re the only one left, Prince Caro. You’re the only one who can change anything. Comeros and Lithia were just as devastated as Agur, but there was nothing anyone could do. Now Nya is trying to take them for good, and that is why we must stop her. That is why we will run.”
Apollos, Peter, Paul. Well, Rebekah, you must be at a loss for titles. No, don’t leave yet. There’s something important to see here, something that I believe is dividing us.
We are the body of Christ, with each part having a purpose and a place. Together we stand, divided we fall. The feet try to break away and the whole body tumbles down, while the head wonders what’s wrong with the world today. Does this sound like anything you’ve heard today? Maybe this is why we have four churches every mile, some half-empty.
Our world is dying. We try our best to rescue anything we can, but we start to divide and argue. How can we work together with someone that believes differently than we do? Easy: don’t talk about it. It works great, and unless they want to pick a fight, they won’t mention it either. As a fantasy character once said, “The thick of battle is no time to bring up
quarrels.” And aren’t we in a battle?
What if a country was falling, and the defenders spent more time arguing with each other than fighting the enemy? The obvious answer is: they will be defeated. Until the leaders are willing to work together, how could the armies know what to do? How could anyone know what to do?
This is the mess we have gotten ourselves in: attacking our brothers in the middle of the struggle. Are we not all one in Christ? And yet through the years we have a history of persecuting one another during peacetime, when one who has no knowledge of God takes control of his church. Again and again, we drive away the closest allies we have been given: each other.
The Corinthian church faced that problem. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul had some sharp words for some Christians who had become divided on the smallest of things.
“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:1-9)
The Corinthians were all picking their own little apostle to follow. They were trying to split themselves up by which apostle they followed. Some of them thought themselves very smug and said “I follow Christ,” making everything more twisted then ever.
“So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)
Let’s not fight over which apostle or which candidate is the most awesome. We are all one in Christ! Let us resolve this peaceably, or we risk losing the integrity of the gospel.
We were abnormally quiet as we left the theater. Usually after watching a performance we would discuss it, but I was in no mood to talk. We had come to see my sister’s Melody’s little dance routine, but what we had seen was different.
Those sequined and silkily clad dancers had put on a show, for sure. There were dances, so many that I have lost count, all a blaze of color, all a wave of activity. It was a dancing studio’s recital, and everyone was there, from three to sixteen. The dancers started out clumsy, but as they got older you were able to see what they were learning. By the time they came to the oldest girls, my breath was taken away at the beauty.
“These girls have a real skill. I could never do that.” I remember thinking, as I watched friends and friends of friends dance. These girls were my age and younger, and by all accounts I could be with them. Doubt started to seep in. Had I made the right choice?
I had thought about this as soon as the performance was over. I saw my friend, looking so happy with her family, and everyone congratulating her. Again I began to feel regret for a choice I had made when I was Melody’s age, just six. I was so busy thinking about it, I almost didn’t hear my mom’s question: “What did you think about it?”
How do you answer that question?
Once, long ago, I had taken ballet, and I hated it. I was like my other sister Grace: I set my standard too high and when I failed to meet it, I shut down and burst into tears. I couldn’t stand for them to see me make a mistake: if they wanted to see me, they could see me cry. I was miserable, and when my parents asked if I would like to quit, I took the chance gladly, and never looked back.
Until years later. It’s almost been ten years, and I wonder if I would have been a dancer, if I had just finished instead of shutting down. Those girls up there are so pretty. They can do so many things. They have a talent that could take them to wonderful places. And I quit. I was thinking about that a lot. But then there was this one other thing.
I don’t think I could ever be a dancer. The girls wore sleeveless outfits with short ballet skirts, something that I unfortunately could never convince myself to wear, at home not even speaking of on a stage with hundreds of people watching. I would need all of that makeup to hide my embarrassment. No blush for me, thanks, I’ve got that one covered!
I’m also really tall. I read somewhere that the best dancers are small, and they’re also the most graceful. From my personal observation, I can agree with that statement. Maybe I was just never supposed to be a dancer, and ten years ago my stubborn perfectionism put up a barrier to learning. I fit in better with the girls in denim skirts, who look like they don’t do anything special but are exceptional on the inside. We might not have the glory road, but we fight to develop a talent and make it up there anyway, beside the dancers. They have to practice and work for their greatness, and so do we, just not on a dance floor.
I found an answer for my mom. “No regrets.” Maybe I look silly in every picture that I have seen. Maybe my hair is too long and stringy, and maybe I wear glasses. I don’t look perfectly put together or glamorous, and I’ll never be a dancer. But I can do other things, and while I may not get the dancer’s dream, I will someday stand next to them, satisfied that God let me to make the right choice.
It’s possible someone will see me there. They might start fighting with themselves too, about a choice they made when they were too little to care. “Man, look at them. I hope I made the right choice.” Accept who you are, don’t regret the past, and press on for what you can be. Greatness is achieved by so many paths, but remember to give glory to God who planted those hidden talents deep inside of you.
When the figure got close enough to the house, Caro shouted “Who goes there?” and watched the confused man fall over in the snow. He scrambled up and called up “Is this the house of Opal the Prophetess?” “Might be, depending on who wants to know.” Opal called out. “I’ll take that as a yes.” The soldier sighed, making the rest of the trek to the house quickly.
When he arrived at the door, Caro stood still, and looked him over. Though his uniform was wet from the snow, he was still a soldier, even though he looked rather ridiculous. “May I come in?” He asked, and Opal nodded. Caro watched him closely, to try and see what he wanted. Promise growled at the uniform, but whapped his tail on the floor and rested his head in his paws.
“My name is Sergeant Davis. I’m not really sure why I came, but I heard that you knew something of the coming of the king.” His eyes shone. “I know what you think, I’m a soldier. But my father was one of the old guard, and he told me a little about what really happened when Nya took over, not the story spread to the media.” Gino turned his head to Opal and said something no one else could understand, but she nodded.
“I’ve heard so many things, that I’m not sure who to believe. I don’t trust the paper or the radio, obviously, but I was asking around and a few of the villagers said that a young man lived partly up the slope and a young woman at the top. But they also said ridiculous things, so I decided to find out for myself.” Gino, who had not spoken since the soldier’s arrival, spoke up. “Why were you looking for us?”
The soldier bit his tongue and seemed to be searching for words. “I remember my father’s stories of glory in battle, but this is just…murder, murder and worse that the soldiers are doing, and to their own people! I didn’t understand, how in a few years things could deteriorate so quickly, but I do now. The leadership is rotten all the way to the top, Lady Nya. I heard that there was still one left of the royal family, and that you knew where he was.”
“Why, so you can kill him? So you can tell Nya so she’ll imprison him in the core again? Or maybe so your battalion could capture him.” Caro accused, from where he stood by the door. “Nothing you say makes us trust you.” Gino started and looked up at him. “Isn’t that what you were thinking when you first saw me? Hold your tongue please, we’ll never know if we keep interrupting.” Caro blushed and held his tongue. Davis didn’t seem to notice.
“I want to follow the king.” Davis stated, dropping his hands. “I want to follow him and make a change from this…insurrection.” Opal turned to Gino, and said nothing, but he understood. “Sounds good to me too.” He turned to Caro. “What do you think?”
Caro sat down by Gino and rubbed his head. “I don’t know what to think. He’s a soldier.” “But a good soldier.” Opal protested. Caro rolled his eyes. “Those words don’t go together at all.” “Then don’t think of me as a soldier. I want to be on your side.” Davis spoke up. “I know you do.” Opal turned her sightless eyes to him. “I’ve seen you before. He is a friend, Caro. And we do need a soldier.” Gino laughed. “I’ll agree with Opal.” Davis looked confused.
Caro stood up and Opal did as well. “He is the prince. If you truly wish to help, help us plan for Nya’s downfall.” The soldier was confused, and narrowed his eyes. “Let me see.” He stood up and looked Caro over. “Same age, right height…” He stepped back. “You must be. No one has eyes that bright silver.” He bowed. Caro had never seen his own eyes, but he knew his sister’s had been silver, so he wasn’t surprised.
Davis took out a map. “If you need planning help, here we are. This is a map I took of the area. It’s terrible, and I could barely find you, but it’s a map. What do you have in mind?”
Hey, Southeast Texas! There are several good things that I enjoy about living down here, among never having tornadoes (well, almost never), earthquakes or blizzards. One of the other things is the friends that we have and the freedom to live what we believe. I’ll be frank: I’m a Christian, and I believe that memorizing the Bible is a very important activity: one of the best. Even Psalm 119:11 says “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
With that in mind I want to invite everyone who is wanting a Christian Summer activity that is going on this year, and has been for a few years. It’s called the National Bible Bee, and it was created in 2009 because of the inspiring story of a young woman named Shelby who was dying, but spent her last days memorizing scriptures, because she knew that in the end, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:7) It’s a wonderful story, and the beginning of the Bible Bee.
After her death, Shelby’s friends remembered the difference scripture had made in her life and decided to start the Bible Bee in her honor, so others could get closer to the scripture like she did. The Bible Bee was born! You can read the whole story here.
But since 2009, many changes have been made. At first there were like 600 verses and 4-5 books to study. I have no idea HOW people did it that year, but my brother must have figured it out, because he made it to the next level. He didn’t place in the finals, but he had a nice tour or D.C. Don’t worry, the book is down to 1 five-chapter-average epistle and the verse count is down to 24. Every year the contest changes, so if there are any Bible Bee’ers from the early years, be comforted. The new contest is designed to be fun and doable, but it still has the basic idea: study God’s word!
I kind of wish that we didn’t need a contest to study the word of God, but people work better with incentive. The prizes are awesome, but usually by the time you’re done, you know what the real treasure is. I mean, for nothing else, it’s a pretty great feeling when you can place the verse your pastor is quoting even before he says the reference. But that’s selfish. I’m afraid I am not the best spokesman for them, but if you want to check out the website it’s www.biblebee.org.
Why I’m writing this to you people in SETX, is because there is a Local Bee in Beaumont this year, if you are interested. (For you non-Texans reading:) There are Local Bees everywhere, for whoever is reading this outside of Texas, from Alaska to Florida, in almost every state. At Nationals, you can meet people from all over the USA, and I have to tell you, it’s pretty neat.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. In previous years, people have been intimidated by the verse list. But this year, the majority of points is in the book study. That means everyone who can read has a chance to go to Nationals, which is in Orlando this year, in case you are wondering. But I talked about Nationals in another post.
I hope you are interested in participating in the Bible Bee, Texans. There is plenty of room in the Local, and there will be fun games and opportunities to study together. Sound fun? Go to the Bible Bee’s website for more info.
All right, everyone knows what I’m talking about. Anyone who has seen a movie, read a book, or listened to an audio drama knows that the basic formula is good vs. evil. Anything else is pretty boring. We see good versus evil in animated movies, live action movies, and everything in between. Without a good bad guy, the movie starts to fall apart.
Everyone loves these movies, which is probably why they dominate our media. Kids know what they are even before they know the core values of good and evil, and years later adults still watch them, because they are just good. However, these characters are fake.
Why videos and books are so exciting is because we could never ACTUALLY have a robot take over the world, because we wouldn’t know how to fix it. The characters are built to be able to overcome, and let’s face it, no one is really born with, say, ice powers, or force fields. We don’t inherit magic weapons and we don’t live in the Middle Ages, or in Middle Earth. If we’re honest, these stories would never work in real life.
However, it is thrilling to take an idea and run with it, to imagine all the things that can happen. What if? is a big part of imagination, the mother of movies. What if evil really did run wild? Who could stop it?
It’s a big thing. Before we forget, we need to step back and remember what the true battle between right and wrong is. We need to remember the one who has truly overcome, and the enemy that we really should fear. Everyone knows that without a good bad guy, the movie is a bit boring. You need someone so evil that you know for a fact that he (or she) will do exactly what he says he will, and that he needs to be stopped. The best bad guys want to destroy everything, and usually aren’t human.
Maybe it’s because we think that humans aren’t capable of ruining the world. I’m not sure, but I think the frequent use of robots, monsters and aliens as villains reflects our unconscious awareness that we are not alone, and hilariously outgunned. There are things much greater than us, and we can’t defeat them alone.
Praise God that we finally get it! I only wish that movies like the ones I’ve referenced (Without saying any names) would not just point in random directions when they ask what is greater, but that they would point to the creator. We can believe in robots and aliens that are all-powerful, why can’t we believe in a sinister accuser who has been corrupting and destroying from the beginning of time? We can believe in superheroes who overcome, why can’t we believe in a savior?
Jesus fought the battle that no mortal could. He was beaten and mocked, like a hero in a MARVEL movie. But instead of fighting back, he held his tongue, and waited for agonizing hours until it was his time to overcome. On the third day, he destroyed the enemy so thoroughly that he is only a shadow of his former self, and must content himself with whispers, because he power is broken.
That’s the true version of Good versus Evil. More action than a superhero film, and with a better ending than any Disney film. All good heroes start out weak but win anyway, a reflection on the fact that our Hero was born as a BABY when he was the all-powerful Lord of all, and became one of us.
No movie, no matter how hard Hollywood tries, can ever rival that. Nothing even comes close.
You’re a kid, and you just watched like the “best movie ever” and are driving home from the movie theater and are driving your parents crazy talking about it. Most likely your thoughts will wind around to the thought of a sequel. Or maybe you’re a teenager and you just saw the most awesome superhero film, and are thinking the same thing.
Yeah, it might be the “best movie ever” but let me give you some observations.
- Sequels are often bad compared to their predecessor.
- Most people don’t watch sequels.
- Sequels have this weird habit of jumping time either years after the first or smack in the middle the first movie.
- Sequels are usually inferior because if a movie was good enough to have a sequel, it probably tied up any loose ends needed to continue.
See, sequels are often disappointing. This does not usually apply to series of movies, like Star Wars or something, because the writers planned to continue. However, sequels are usually based only on the base movie’s success, and require a good deal of rushed writing, which explains the inferior plot.
But sequels make good money. Fans of the original will come out to see the sequel to “see what happens next” and will pay to see it. Also, people who were little when the first one came out are older now, and might pay for all the themed merchandise that Hollywood tosses out with each new film.
In this year, three sequels have come out already, and about three more (that I know of) are going to come out. Of these, two are superheroes and at least three are animated. These all have good stands because they are standing on the shoulders of their awesome masters. However, a movie has to make its own stand in the world if it wants to be great. In my family’s opinion, Cars 2 was better than Cars, but it will be forever tied to it because without the first, the second makes no sense.
But I’m not saying not to watch the Planes movie, or How to Train Your Dragon 2, I’m just saying to be aware of the sequel syndrome and be prepared.
Caro looked at Gino in unbelief. “If you could stop Nya before, why didn’t you?” Opal shrugged. “She hid away to make sure that you weren’t found. Unless I speak to her face to face, it will do nothing.” Promise barked. Caro looked at him. The silly dog always was wanting to bark at nothing. Then again, the last time he had barked was when the soldiers were coming. He snuck a glance out the window: nothing. Opal had been talking to Gino quietly while he had been distracted, and he left the room.
Opal turned her clouded blue eyes to Caro. “Tell me about my friend. Tell me about Nenya!” Caro looked at her. “Nenya?” “Your sister?” Opal cocked her head. “Nenya Julietta? My friend?” “Oh!” Caro became uncomfortable. “She’s gone.” Opal’s face paled. “Gone? Gone to glory?” Caro had never heard that phrase, but he felt that it was speaking of death. “Aye. She’s gone.” He didn’t say anymore, but Opal continued to talk.
“I was afraid of that. I couldn’t see her anymore. I dreamed of her.” She sighed and looked up as if she could see her friend in front of her. “She was a true princess! The true thing! With hair like gold, and a face like a king’s. She had been mistreated in life, but death, though it came in pain, and stole her last breath, brought relief and peace to a weary soul, And now, with her loved ones, she is whole.” Her voice turned into a song, then ceased.
Caro had never really thought about what would happen after death. His only thoughts had been bitterness and anger against Nya, and longing for his sister. Gino re-entered the room with what Caro guessed to be a workbasket. The girl begun to spin and talk of plans.
“Of course, Nya isn’t going to just invite us in. If I’m going to see her, it will have to be in His timing. So how are we going to get to her, and more importantly, how are we going to make it alive?” Gino sat down and rubbed Promise’s ears. “I really don’t know. I haven’t talked strategy with anyone but a three-year-old.” Opal laughed. “That was a ridiculous idea we thought up. But really now, what do we do? Should we make a stand, or retreat for better ground?” “What is better than a mountain?” Caro asked.
“We could be surrounded.” Gino pointed down and around. Opal nodded. “Right. But the… but the… well, ” She waved her hand in the air and Caro felt cold inside. “–her magic. We must not forget that.” “Magic?” Caro asked, scarcely wanting to know what she meant. “Witchcraft would be a better word.” Gino commented, running his hand through his dog’s silky fur.
Caro felt sick. “What do you mean?” Opal’s face clouded. “Dark magic. Actions and powers never ordained by the creator. Mystical evil. Changing of seasons. Changing of minds. Enchantment, you might say, against the people. It’s a grave and terrible thing, but it must be counted in our plans.” Promise barked again. “No, silly dog, we’re not listening to your opinion!” Opal laughed, then froze.
Gino looked up sharply, and froze as well. Caro looked around. He didn’t see anything. “What is it?” He asked, but they didn’t move. Promise growled and trotted to the door. Caro followed him, hoping for an explanation for the actions of the others. Through the window he could see a figure trudging through the snow. And he was wearing a uniform.
Caro looked at the dog again. “Good dog. What do we do now?” “Let him in, of course!” Opal shouted. “I have heard of him.” Caro walked back to them. “What does that mean?” He asked. Gino was silent, but Opal’s sightless eyes pierced through the silence. “He is searching for us. We should see what his purpose is.” She picked up a poker. Caro wasn’t sure if she was still in her right mind, but he obeyed, and opened up the door.
The man hadn’t seen them yet. He was about as old as Gino, with dark hair, dark eyes, and freckles. His face was likeable, but he was a soldier, and soldiers were the enemy. Caro found it hard not to challenge him, as he watched the green-black uniform ascend the peak. Was he a scout to an attack? Or was he sincere, and wanted to find them for good reasons? Whatever it was, Caro would be ready.
If you missed any of Caro’s adventures, you can find them here.
Have you ever been on the stage? In a play, or choir, or have you ever watched a friend do one?
Though my theatrical experience is limited to singing, I have a good friend who can be honestly described as theatrical. She likes to act and she’s good at it. However, while she’s doing the play or musical, she is as tense as can be, and almost wishes that it was over. There are so many things to think about! You want to do your best, and you also have to make sure the people around you are doing their best too, or else your play will fail.
I’ve only done it once, and I was in charge (unofficially) of a bunch a little kids to keep them quiet while the others moved around the props. I had like five to work with. She does it several times a year and has 15-30 people to worry about. She’s a pro. But I can empathize with her when she confides in me that she is scared, because I would be too.
It’s kind of interesting how the success of a play counts on everyone learning their parts. In order to do it right, you not only have to memorize your dialogue, but you also have to come in and go out at the right time, or it looks sloppy. And you should listen to the director, or else you might mess up both of those things.
Plays and movies are hard, but plays are unanimously harder to put on, because there is no retake in a live performance. Sometimes we wish that we could just go through life like a movie: “Cut! I made a terrible decision. Let’s run that scene through again.” Wouldn’t that be great? But that’s not the way it goes. Every mistake, every word you say, has an audience.
Life is a live performance. We can’t change it when it’s done, and we can’t go back and re-do it. But one of the things I have noticed is that live performances often touch you more. You can’t interact with a TV screen, but with real people acting in front of you. A play can not be described, because who can describe a flow of emotion? No, plays are wonderful things.
And after the stress of the performance, you say, “Glad that was over.” Yet you want to do another, because it, even though it is crazy and stressful, is rewarding. If you don’t get to do another you feel regret, especially if it was a very good one. A play well done is felt by the actors.
And I think a life well done is even better, because you get no practice. You can’t practice going through trials, but if by God’s Grace you overcome them anyway, you deserve a crown of glory, simply because he loves you and loves to see you succeed. Bow, smile, and turn away. The play has ended, and real life has begun.
I’m just a girl, but I’m growing up. I’m literally trapped by the already and the not yet, stuck between childhood and adulthood. I don’t want to conform to the ‘teenager’ mindset, but I’m having struggles finding my place in life. I’m young, but I’m old. what do I do with this mess?
I’m being pulled two different ways. I both shun and cling to my childhood, while I long for and fear adulthood. I want to be responsible, but I want to be fun. I want to grow up, I want to be able to make a difference. But that seems so far away.
No one said that teenage years would be easy. I would argue that they are the most confusing time in a person’s life. You want to say that you are an adult, but you are still a child. See how confusing this is? No wonder we aren’t considered very trustworthy. We have to meet two expectations if we have brothers and sisters younger than us: grow up and stay young. That alone is enough to make anyone jump into a pool and scream, like the kid did in that ridiculous Lowes commercial. At least then no one can hear your rant, and you can pretend it doesn’t exist when you’re done.
Not to mention the fact that you, and the world, is changing. Suddenly, you’re wondering what the proper way of having friendships is. You’re wondering if you should change your actions like your mind has been changed, especially to people of the opposite sex. And it’s hard, as you realize how old you are, to try to defy the ‘teenage’ mindset. Unfortunately, people take that to mean you have to be ‘perfect’ to avoid being ‘rebellious’.
But the hardest thing, in my biased opinion, is deciding what to do with your life. I know I write about how we can change things, but I still can’t help but think that my part is so small. Right now my energy is spent on the most foolish of things, like absurd stories and video games.
I feel like that poor father begging Jesus to heal his son. “”If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”” (Mark 9:22-24) But my cry would be more like “I believe that you can use me; help my unbelief!”
But I have to remember that every job, every gift, is precious to God, and can be used for his glory. So I keep writing. And I keep learning Spanish. I’m not sure why, but it might prove practical someday. More than elvish anyway. I’m trying my best to be a good sister and daughter, and friend too. I try to cut back on video time and to read my Bible more, and I know I’m not perfect, but also that I’m not expected to be.
That sort of takes the pressure off a little, doesn’t it?
Caro, Gino, and the large black-and-white sheepdog, Promise, traveled a good way up the mountain before they stopped and looked back. The flames had died down from lack of fuel, and the small wooden structure was completely decimated. Gino looked around. “Here, boy!” The dog came over to him and sat down obediently. “We need to sell the sheep again. You know what to do.” Promise bent his head and wagged his tail.
Caro watched as Gino took out from his pocket a small piece of paper, scribbled on it, and then fastened it onto Promise’s collar. The dog stood up and ran off. Caro watched it. “What is he doing?” “Fetching the sheep. We’ll stay here tonight. A fire is too risky, but I doubt that they’ll search in the caves, so we’ll be safe.
Though both boys were tired, Gino stayed awake even after Caro had drifted off, watching closely the valley. He looked up at the stars, and then down at the prince. “I wonder if this is really the answer. I wonder if he’ll ever be king.” Then he shook his head at his own doubts. “Of course he will. That much has been revealed. I just wonder if I’ll be there to see it.”
Caro woke up the next morning to a strange feeling. A wet, pointy blunt thing was rubbing him. He opened his eyes. Almost on top of him was Promise the sheepdog, and the rubbing object was his nose. Caro almost jumped in surprise, and Promise barked. Obviously he wasn’t used to having strangers so near his master.
Gino jumped up and rubbed Promise. “No, silly dog. This is a friend, hear? Now, let’s see what you brought for us.” Promise wagged his tail and lolled out his big pink tongue. Then he trotted off, and returned with a small pouch in his mouth. Gino knelt down to take the pouch and opened it. “Well done, Promise. See this?” He held up a small silver coin. “Passage through the mountains and supplies. That’s what my good friend has given us.” He rubbed Promise behind the ears and stood up.
“Well, Caro, we’ll have to make the trip to see Opal now, or it will be too dangerous and we’ll have to wait until next summer. ” Caro nodded. “Then now! I really don’t want to wait if I don’t have too. If your friend can help me defeat Nya, then I would like to see her.”
Gino turned and looked at Caro. “Defeat Nya with weapons? With real strength? Impossible! Though she is evil, she was chosen. She really can’t be destroyed with…” he gestured around “earthly stuff. Only a word from her creator can undo her. That is why we must see Opal.”
Caro wanted to ask more, but Gino walked on, and he had to run to keep up on the rugged terrain. Though Gino was weaker than Caro by far, he was older and more experienced. He knew just where to walk to avoid becoming exhausted in the climb. It wasn’t easy. The mountain began to shower them with rain, and then snow, but they didn’t give up.
After a few days of climbing, Gino pointed up ahead. “Do you see that snow bank?” Caro looked up. “What? That one on the side of the hill?” Gino nodded and smiled. “That’s Opal’s house. We painted it white so that it wouldn’t be easily found. It’s almost always snowy here. Come on!” He began to run towards the house, and Caro followed.
He opened the door and walked in. “It’s me, Opal. How are you?” Caro hesitated at the door, and Promise growled at him. He butted the back of Caro’s legs with his head. A girl was sitting by the fire. Her dress was a light blue color, and her hair a pale blonde. It was pulled back into a loose braid over her back. Her whole appearance was pale, but there was a lively flash of light in her eyes, that betrayed a free spirit. Near her was a black-and-brown spotted cat, who mewed tolerantly at the intruders.
The girl heard and looked over her shoulder. Then her blue eyes glistened. “I knew you two would be coming if I gave you enough time.” She smiled and stood up. Caro looked harder at her. “Have I seen you before?” he asked. “Yes, Prince Caro. I was at the fishing docks, when you took your boat and went looking for Gino. You have seen me, and I have seen you in dreams.”
Caro looked at Gino, who shrugged. “Opal is a prophetess.” He explained. “She can see better blind than many can see completely healthy. And she is the one to defeat Nya.”
Hi there, Rebekah here. I’ve been sick, so I was able to do a lot of reading over the last couple of days. What was I reading? Well, fantasy. Lewis, Tolkien, MacDonald.
We all know about C.S. Lewis, and due to the recent films, most of us know about J.R.R. Tolkien. These spectacular writers, one an apologist and one a linguist, set the world of fantasy spinning. However, did you know that they had a master in their trade, a person who inspired so many beloved stories, but has been relatively forgotten?
His name was George MacDonald. If you read his work, you might think about Hans Christian Anderson, because of their similar writing. MacDonald wrote fairy-tales, to put it simply, and was good at it. His works have a spiritual side that is unparalleled in earlier stories.
This man was a pastor, poet, and writer. He also happened to be Scottish. He wrote about love, and life, and magic, and things that we only dream about. His students were many, though he only met a few. One of the ones he did meet was the preacher later known as Lewis Carroll. Carroll wrote that it was MacDonald who convinced him to publish his fantasy story, Alice in Wonderland. Another was Mark Twain, who didn’t like MacDonald, but still was at least slightly moved by his work.
How did this man become such a father of fantasy? Why did he impact so many now-famous writers? And why is he still unknown?
Well, I don’t know why his work has been ignored so much, but I think it must be because we don’t really appreciate fantasy anymore. It has become synonymous with bedtime stories for little children, like Cinderella, Rapunzel, Hansel & Gretal, etc. But if you think about these stories, they are very mature, even a little dark.
But MacDonald’s work was different. I’m not saying that it had different characters, but a different tone. He had witches, princes, princesses, fairies, even a werewolf and a vampire. But there was a theme to his work. He showed mankind as it is, and portrayed fairies as silly, tricky creatures, goblins as sullen, obnoxious beings, and as some things that looked like mortals to be wise. His characters were good and clean, his magic was steeped in richness, and his evil characters were unpitied. He had a soul, a theme of his fantasy that later writers like Lewis and Tolkien mirrored in their works.
He showed the day to be glorious, but the night not to be feared. He wrote about cowardice, and about bravery. Of stories that could be true, and of those so ridiculous they make Alice in Wonderland look believable. They speak of shadows as something that is not necessarily evil, of fairies that are not evil, but are also not wise. His girls had a grace and virtue to them that is mirrored in Tolkien’s elves (Galadriel comes in mind) while his boys were brave, but had weaknesses that they had to overcome, like the kings of Narnia, Peter and Caspian.
Fairy tales are not necessarily for children, but for those who still cling to thoughts of a world beyond ours. Though fantasy invents strange things, it should ultimately point up. Each character had one more powerful than it, and each character had one weaker. The strong bore the weak, the weak helped the strong, and they point with glittering hands to the God who gave us Imagination, to dream.
I did not catch her name
I did not catch her tears
Hit me like a chain
When the story hit my ears.
We live in a world full of evil. We read about and see the worst things happening. People starving, being sold into slavery, being killed because of who they are, or because they don’t have enough money. It’s going on all over the world. We read about it, we watch documentaries, we see pictures, and we want to help. But we feel so small. What can we do against so much evil? Where is God? Why do we feel so useless?
Why do people die ‘over there’ while we sit and worry about lunch plans? We’re all little Marthas, too busy working and doing our own thing to listen. But we’re worse than Martha because she was actually serving the Lord. We’re serving ourselves.
When we figure that out, we begin to panic. How can I do anything? Is there any way that I can change anything, or am I just sitting idle? Should I be doing more than just reading and watching things about it? Should I, you know, go over there?
And then of course we look inward and see all of the evil that is here among us. Forget about going over there, there are people dying right here. If we look at all of this wrong, we can get discouraged. What is one person against so much trouble?
But we’re looking at this all wrong! Instead of seeing all these problems as unconquerable, we need to treat them as opportunities. Christians have been pitted against evil for years, Even in the beginning, there were slaves, kidnapped children, severe sickness, war, prejudice, and racial killing. But the Church has always had a choice, either make a difference or quiet down and hope for the best.
There have always been those who were content to build within their walls, but there have also always been those who, filled with the Holy Spirit, reached out to the wicked world around them. These were the martyrs, the heroes of the faith, those who lived and died with a purpose, “of whom the world was not worthy.” (Hebrews 11:38) When John wrote his Revelation, he wrote about the church in Pergamum, he said ” “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.” (Revelation 2:13)
When we hear their stories we long to be counted among them, but we feel like it will never happen. But what is the difference? We’re dealing with the same problems, unfortunately in the same kind of culture. Time hasn’t changed that. So what has changed? Is the difficulty only in our hearts?
Think about it, people. We have been called to do great things, but the greatest things are also the smallest. You have a voice, and though we live in Satan’s shadow, we CAN make a difference. We can change the world by reaching out from our homes. From our keyboards. From our classrooms. Whoever has a gift, let him use it. Don’t give up in fear! Take a step, no matter how small, and watch as the gates of hell quiver with terror. When God is in the midst of us, we cannot fail.
“All I need/I did not catch her name” Song lyrics by Caedmon’s Call, 2004
Genesis 10:8-10, 11:1-2
Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
When the ring was destroyed, Sauron’s power crumbled. His armies were scattered like ants whose queen had been destroyed, and all the enchanted beasts that had been tricked into coming ran away to their homes. J.R.R. Tolkein, in his book, The Return of the King, wrote that the losing armies were like witless animals running in circles.
In another fictional account, The evil Cecil was finally arrested. The people that he had imprisoned rose up against him and destroyed his ships, until his men fled. The kingpin was destroyed, and no one could rally the men.
In one of my courses, I had to finish a game. It was a Jail Break game, two players, and consisted of good guys, bad guys, and a Kingpin. If you knocked out the kingpin, you would win. If not, they would win.
The tendency of human nature is to follow men. Nimrod was a mighty hunter, Sauron a sorcerer, Cecil a rich crime boss. They had power and resources to boast many followers. Some followed by choice, others by compulsion. But we want to have someone to follow, someone to pledge allegiance to.
Even in the church, we have a habit of following one person. We trust them and want to be able to look to them for our example. We forget that we are only fallible human beings. Men cannot be our examples, because they are fallen as we are. But we still try to pledge allegiance to someone famous, because it makes us feel better.
Paul ran into this problem when he was trying to preach in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 1: 12-13, he wrote “What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
One of the reasons that this is dangerous is when we elevate people to places that they never belonged in. When they become proud and fall into sin, we are crushed, because the hero has fallen. And Satan loves it.
We need to be careful not to put our faith in men, but in God. Men are Mortal, God is Perfect. It seems like a clear choice to me.
Caro was rather disturbed by the outburst, and backed up a step. The young man looked up and the fire that was in his eyes died as soon as it had come. “You don’t believe me. Is it not enough that I know who you are, your name? Caro is your name, son of kings. We waited for you, prayed for you, suffered for you. You do not believe me!?!” He stood, his dark brown eyes showing only anguish.
Caro had never seen madness and did not know what it was quite like, but he knew that it meant that people did queer things. “Still, he knew my name…” He thought, then corrected himself. “Maybe many know my name. If I was a prince, anyone would know it.” He was not sure who to trust in his search for his sister’s friends.
The young man waited, but Caro said nothing. All hope had left his face, and he turned away. “Well, then, I suppose that this veil of lies is still too thick for anyone to really believe me. If you decide to talk to me again, I will be in the mountains. Call for me at the home of Gino, the shepherd.”
Caro was struck with a sudden thought. “Gino! The house of Gino?” The boy turned on his heel, annoyed. “Aye! What does that have to do with anything? My name is Gino.” Caro’s face lit up. “Gino, called the wise?” Gino (for that was who it was) nodded. “I haven’t been called that in a long time, though.” He turned his tongue, as if he was trying to remember who had called him that. “The only person who had called me that is…”
“Then I can trust you. My sister mentioned you before she…well, she died. Anyway, I was sent to find you.” Gino’s face changed immediately. “Nenya? Yes! Finally! I was wondering how long it would take before you would get it.” Caro shrugged. “I’m sorry that I didn’t believe you. I’ve only known two people in my whole life, and they were both girls.”
Gino asked if Caro had a place to stay, and when he said that he didn’t, Gino took him home. It was only a simple hut built onto the mountainside, but it was sound. Gino had built it by himself, and though he was missing a few fingers, he had built it well.
Caro told his story to the sympathetic shepherd, then asked what had happened while he was in the core. Gino’s dark eyes glistened, and he stared into the small fire in the fireplace. “I’m not sure when to start. After she had you safely tucked away, Nya started brutally stamping out all resistance to her dictatorship. Many were killed or imprisoned. I was twelve, Opal was only three.
‘But Nya even sent guards to arrest us, only children, and to question us about what we knew of you and the princess. Opal had told me of it, and I knew what had happened, but we refused to tell. So they locked us up. Opal eventually went blind from the unhealthy atmosphere, and finally we were released.”
Caro looked quickly at Gino. “Blind?” “Aye. She can’t see anything but bright light, but she gets around all right by herself.” Gino didn’t notice his companion’s uneasiness. “But we watched out for each other, in a manner of speaking. She lives up in the mountains, where Nya doesn’t dare to send soldiers, but sometimes she comes down to earn money by mending nets and to buy food. We make it through.”
The door opened suddenly, as a large black-and-white dog rushed in, barking furiously.
“Down, Promise!” Gino shouted, trying to calm it down. The dog spun in circles, pointed, and continued to bark at the top of his lungs. Gino looked out the window. “Soldiers? But how did they find us? Oh, no. We were followed.” Gino ran out one of the doors, and the dog followed. Caro waited.
In a few minutes, Gino returned. “It’s not safe here anymore, I’m afraid.” He panted, grabbing some things and packing them in a bag. “Promise will round up the sheep, we’ll have to sell them, of course. Come with me out the back door. No, bar this one first, See? Good! That will give them something to play with. Now hurry, sir!”
The two young men made it out the back way as the front door began to shudder from blows. Promise, like a good sheepdog, had herded the sheep away up the mountainside, and the boys followed. “Has this happened before?” Caro shouted. “Aye. I’ve rebuilt my house in different places, but they always seem to find it.” “What now?” “We’ll go up to Opal. We need her anyway.”
Caro looked back. The soldiers were running this way and that trying to find Gino. One of them carried a torch and a can of something. “They’ll burn the house.” Gino called, matter-of-factly. Caro looked back again. Gino was right: columns of flame were beginning to lick around the corners of the house.
The outside world was not like he had imagined it at all.
Click Here to read the previous installments of Chosen Ones.
Caro wandered about the streets all night, trying to make sense of the conflict inside of him. Everything that he had known was a lie, and the truth seemed so unreal. Could the tender servant that he had known for so many years really be his own sister? And was she really dead?
He finally came to his senses with a new feeling of resolve. “I don’t know much of anything here, but this one thing. Nya is my enemy. I saw her hurt my Julietta a few times, and then she killed her. Julietta must have been telling the truth, then, but I never thought…” he shook his head “…I must find Gino, whoever that is. Gino the wise.”
He returned to his boat at daybreak, and saw a group of girls mending fishing nets on the rocks. “Excuse me!” He called to them, and they looked up. “Have you heard of a man named Gino?” One of them wrinkled up her nose. “Never heard the name.” She giggled. “Are you sure it’s right?” Caro nodded. “Sorry! I don’t know anyone by that name.” The others nodded and went back to talking amongst themselves and mending nets.
Caro asked many people on the shore that day, but no one knew anyone named Gino. They all remarked that it was an odd name, but didn’t volunteer to help him. He was about to leave when he heard a soft voice. “Who did you ask for?”
Caro looked back and saw a girl dressed in a grey dress and a pale blue cloak sitting on a rock, mending a net. Her eyes were sightless and blank when she turned them on him, and he knew that she was blind.
“I need to find someone named Gino.” He explained again. Her eyes widened. “Really? Why do you seek Gino?” He sighed and wondered what to say. “I was sent to find him.” The girl reflected a moment.
“You will find him in the town. By the warehouse, I would believe. He usually is around there at this time.” Caro thanked her. “Thank you. I didn’t know where to find him. Trust me, it is important.” The blind girl waved farewell and sat still for a while, as if she was watching him, though that was impossible.
Caro made his way into town and found a large warehouse district towards the south side of town. There was a large crowd of people going in and out of the building, and a few of them had stopped to listen to a man who seemed excited. He was about to get closer when a man stopped him.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” He asked. Caro shook his head. “Well, avoid that one. He’s out of his mind. They’ve had to lock him up a few times because he is such a nuisance.” Caro thanked him and moved up to hear what the youth was saying.
He was in his late twenties, with thick, curly black hair and dark skin. His clothes were simple, and he truly looked like a peasant. But he spoke excitedly, and attracted a crowd. “How long? How long will we allow this injustice? We must get away! There are spies here, even here! And look at what has happened. This child is forced to beg on the streets because his parents have been killed. And this girl wears the shameful badge of slavery! Why do we allow this?”
The slave girl ran away, cheeks burning: he was right. Caro looked at the young man. Something about him seemed different than the other people. “Maybe it is madness.” He thought. The man who had first warned Caro shouted “Go back to your flock, shepherd, before the guards come! They have already had to lock you up to keep you from making a nuisance of yourself. Do you want to lose more than fingers?”
Caro started, and stared at the youth’s right hand, which was missing its first two fingers. But the speaker didn’t blink. “I am willing to lose more, if someone hears.” He turned, picked up his staff and a sack, and walked away. Caro hesitated. “Should I stay and wait for him? Maybe I should ask someone here.”
He turned to leave, but had not gone a few blocks before he found himself face to face with the crazy boy. His eyes were kindled with…something, maybe madness, but it looked more like joy. He looked into Caro’s eyes, and clasped his hand. Then he knelt, and to Caro’s surprise, cried “My prince, my lord!”
For previous posts about Agur, Click Here.
Ok, so we know now that St. Patrick’s day is a celebration of a really awesome man, but where does all the other stuff come from, and is it really wrong? No, many of the things that we have as rituals on Saint Patrick’s day are simply symbols of Ireland, and are completely harmless.
We wear green because it reminds us of the green of Ireland, and we hear about leprechauns, fairies and giants; a major part of Ireland’s heritage. We do many things that are simply part of remembering Ireland, and that’s great. However, even though I have dug in pretty far and I’m starting to make enemies, I need to object to one symbol of the 17th.
I personally do not agree with ‘luck’ or with the significance of four-leaf-clovers. Luck, or fortune, is not real. The Bible tells us that God controls chance in Proverbs 16:33: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
Four-leaf-clovers are symbols of St. Patrick’s day, but they really have nothing to do with it. They are considered “lucky” but are actually upstaged by their smaller cousins, the shamrocks. After all, church tradition tells us that Patrick used a shamrock to teach pagan Irish about the tri-unity of the trinity. Its three leaves stood for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I love green, and I love legends. But I don’t like luck. The idea that an impersonal, all-powerful force decides the skills and abilities of people just seems…well…wrong. After all, we believe in a PERSONAL, all-powerful GOD. And clover is thought to convey luck. So unfortunately, I don’t like this symbol either.
So after these two posts, I leave you with a decision. Will you continue to celebrate the way you always have, or do these posts stir you to think about what you believe? I hope they do. You may disagree, but I believe that everything that we do has a purpose. We are called to take every thought captive. What about our actions? Aren’t they important too?
For the kids: I know that studying is no fun, but I challenge you to dig into the traditions and holidays that you celebrate, and to find out what you’re really believing. Some holidays had good beginnings and have been commercialized, like Patrick’s day, and others started out evil and were watered down, like Halloween.
What are you celebrating?
Greetings from wonderful New Bern, North Carolina! It’s St. Patrick’s day, and as my family was eating breakfast, the topic of this holiday came up.
My little siblings had some misconceptions about the holiday, and I don’t blame them. Day after day, we are flung advertisements for green clothes, hats, chocolate coins. We are told stories of leprechauns and giants, and how luck is king on this day. For adults, this day is also for drinking and doing other worthless things, all because of a saint.
St. Patrick did not wear green, was not from Ireland and most likely never owned pots of gold. When he was a boy, he was kidnapped from his home in the relatively safe Roman-Briton outpost in the British Isles and taken to Ireland to work as a slave.
After years, he escaped and ran back to his home, where he became a leader in the church. He preached to his people, but one night received “The Macedonian Call” and was told to come to Ireland and preach the good news of the gospel to a dark world. Though it probably was a hard decision, Patrick left his comfort zone and went to the dark land of Ireland.
The Celts were pretty immoral people, who made women fight, believed in spirits, and made sacrifices to…just about anything. They worshipped what they saw, and then, satisfied that they were safe, did more terrible things. Like kidnapping kids.
Like Jonah, Patrick could have said “No!” and ran off, but instead he followed God’s call and preached to the dark world around him. It seemed hopeless, but the light of the gospel shone through the darkness, and Patrick’s work was instrumental to bringing Ireland to Christ.
That is why he got a holiday: he followed the call of the Lord, and the Catholic Church wanted to remember and honor him. Though I disagree with the Catholic Church on some things, I respect their commitment to those who did great things for God, and their desire to remember them.
So this St. Patrick’s day, remember who he was: a person just like you and me, who followed the call of God and did great things. Don’t think about luck and magic, but about the God who controls everything and cares about us enough to send us prophets to alert us of our sin.
Nya’s interview with Caro did not go well. Though he said nothing about the sudden revelation, Nya guessed that he knew more than he should, and she grew irritable. She sent him away and called for Julietta to come to her.
Standing face to face, it was amazing to see the difference between the two women. Nya was tall, with striking black hair and piercing eyes that glittered with malice, and a mouth that was often twisted into a smirk. Julietta was slight, with hair the color of gold, and quiet silver eyes that studied everything.
“I need to know what you have been telling my ward, girl.” Nya commanded, looking down at her. Julietta held her peace. “I taught him almost everything I could. I know nothing of warfare or swordplay, and little of advanced algebra, but I did teach him the language, history, and geography, of our country.” “History? What kind of history?” “The lines of the kings of Agur, and how we were given the land, and so on.”
Nya was angry. “And I suppose you told him that I was a rebel who overthrew the dynasty.” “No. He has no idea of what you really are.” Julietta smiled to herself. “I called her a usurper and she didn’t notice!” She thought. “You lie.” Nya spat, turning on her in rage. “I always knew you were trouble. Now I will finish this once and for all!”
Caro failed to find Julietta in the house, and wandered about calling her name. He had just about turned to go back, when he heard a low cry, and turned on his heel to see what had happened. Bursting through the locked doors, he ran inside…then froze.
He saw Nya, standing on one side of the room, talking to Corporal Dawes. On the other side of the room, he saw the form of a girl, and knew who it was. His sister, Julietta. He ran over and caught her up, crying “Sister! Wake up!” Nya turned with a start and gawked at Caro.
Then a bright light blinded them. Caro looked down, and saw years of worry and abuse erased from Julietta’s face. She didn’t look like a servant. She looked like a princess. And she was going home to be reunited with her parents, and her God.
Nya’s face contorted with rage and horror. “She was chosen!” She cried, jumping back. Corporal Dawes stared and said nothing. Caro looked at them and understood. “You did it!” He cried, blinking back tears. “It was you who killed my family! Now you’ve killed the last one, my only friend, my only sister!” He turned and ran away from her, back to his boat. The guards shouted and tried to chase him, but his mind was full of what he had seen and he did not heed them.
That night he arrived on the shores of Agur. He saw the palace, and how beautiful it was. Then he saw behind it was a cemetery. He buried the daughter of kings in the family graveyard, and looked up. The moon was bright above him.
“I will find Gino. It was the last request of my sister, and I will follow it. Nya will pay for what she has done.” Determined, the boy left the cemetery, and walked toward the town. A new life was beginning for him, and a new light was beginning to shine in the dark, sad country of Agur.
For more about Agur, Click Here.
Ever since the fall, sin has abounded. One of the worst ways it has reared its head is in the form of slavery. Slavery is the reality of taking away, to put it in our terms, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
It originated before the flood, like most evils, as a result of unchecked evil, and soon spread. It has had a stand in every civilization in history, and unfortunately still goes on today. I believe that slavery breaks God’s heart, and that it should be stopped. Some people think that slavery died out with the Civil War in America and William Wilberforce in England. But it lives on, breeding in poverty and corrupting millions.
Sometimes the slavery is ritual, like the caste system in India, where the people feel as if they have no choice. But most often, slavery is forced. War, kidnappings, and debts can all be causes of this evil trade. Though the system is a little different it is so sadly routine: strip them of their rights and dignity, force them to serve you, and then, if need be, kill them. So it has gone on for centuries.
But there is a stirring among us. Small beginnings are sprouting all over our nation and all over the world. The love of Christ is prompting people to not be satisfied with a normal life and to make a difference. Let me make up an example.
Cici LeBlanc was a normal American teenager who volunteered with several missions around her city. In one of them she found a girl who had been taken from her home and sold to men who used her terribly. When Cici realized what was going on, she gathered her closest friends around her and started a group to help save the young men and women who did not legally exist.
She met with opposition. Most of the girls did not know English, and they were all terrified. Plus, the “buyers” weren’t too happy that their business was being tampered with. Cici’s brother pleaded with her to stop her work, but she could not.
“I have seen them with my eyes. Can I forget them? No, I will fight on, because I know that my work is making a difference.”
Though I made the story up, (it’s part of a science-fiction series that the world will probably never know) the idea is true. There are millions, millions of people who are hopeless and die in despair. People like ‘Cici’ are around everywhere, trying desperately to make a difference. There are several groups dedicated to saving kids and adults from slavery. But they need a lot of help.
Will you help them?
I am going to tell you about something you have probably never seen in Southeast Texas: a mountain. Sure, Beaumont means “Beautiful Mountain” in French, but my dad thinks that those poor explorers were stuck in the swamp too long. As a rule, our landscape is very flat, with some artificial hills here and there.
We used to live in the Carolina mountains, and we knew mountains. Not the ones you could see the top of, but the ones that looked like they were planted by giants. They were a part of our life. We were used to having to drive carefully, used to ice, used to seeing cliffs and drop offs. Because we were so familiar with them, we never noticed how truly wonderful they were. We never saw their majesty. But of course, we’re not there anymore, and we are starting to appreciate rock formations, simply because we don’t have them.
For us, mountains are a glimpse of what is to come. We know what lies on the other side of those peaks: friends and family. But the mountains are not at all kind. They are dangerous. Along the sides of the wall, you can see the sides of the rock wall veering up from you all the way to the sky. It gives whole new meaning to that verse that says “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt 17:20)
When you are at a distance from the mountains, they seem so big and imposing. Some are so high that their tops are in the clouds. Others have wooded, grassy tops that house a few families and sometimes even large buildings.
But when you begin to drive up the mountains, the ‘big’ factor is multiplied. You can see a whole city below you and know that one wrong step might send you tumbling. But there is a jubilation when you can see so much, a feeling that “Never leaves you alone,” as Caedmon’s Call once sang about a volcano.
There has been a lot said about mountains, so I won’t go in depth. In a day or so I will be driving through them, seeing mountain springs and beautiful woods. But until then, I’ll leave you with this.
This journey is dangerous. It is like a mountain road: slick, unsure, with boulders the size of cars just sitting there, waiting to fall on anyone who disturbs them. It is dangerous, sometimes heartbreaking. But the wonders you find when you scale the mountain are so worth it. We are hidden in a cloud, we see nothing but white. But there is a break in the mist and a destination waiting for us.
So even through all the treachery, when it is almost over we can cry with the old hobbit “Mountains, Gandalf! I want to see mountains!” Before I go off on a tangent, I’m going to stop writing. But before I do, I just want to say
Don’t Give up!
The warriors of the Old Testament were no weaklings. Well, some of them. There were a few who were, well, scared. In fact, a few had to be told several times to fight. However, there were a few things that we do not understand about the times of the judges. Since my pastor is running through Judges, I learned some things.
1. The judges were needed. The world at that time was a mess. A BIG mess. They needed to listen to God, and to teach their children how to believe in him as well. But, instead, they disobeyed God and though they served him with their LIPS, their HEARTS were unchanged, and the children could tell. Each new generation became worse than the last.
2. Their ‘neighbors’ were not nice at all. They sacrificed children, had inappropriate relationships, kidnapped, stole, and sold people into slavery. They worshipped fake gods, and were all too happy to invite the children of Israel to join in, if they had a chance of taking over eventually.
3. Their world was very violent. It was dangerous for anyone: boy or girl. The atrocities committed there were so awful I’m not going to mention them. Literature back there was very violent as well, which explains the “Slow-motion” (as my pastor calls it) killing scenes.
4. God was merciful. He loved the Israelites even through they scorned him and did things that grieved him terribly. Because he loved them, he hurt them by raising up powers to make them turn back to him. And he raised up judges to save them.
We’re a lot like the people of Israel. We have our own land but we seem to have forgotten to honor the God who brought us here. Let us be careful not to forget all that he has done to give us this nation.
And read Judges. It has some of the best battles in the Bible. And that last verse: “In those days there was no king in Israel, and every man did what was right in his own eyes” is still applicable today.