The Lord of the Fantasy.

Yesterday I saw “The Fellowship of the Ring.” For the first time.

I know, Christian; millennial; homeschooled; how is it possible I’ve never seen it before?

I haven’t read the books either (gasp.)

Honestly, the story just didn’t appeal to me. The ring creeped me out, and there weren’t a lot of girls in the story. Up until recently, I really didn’t have an interest in any story without girls in it. Girl Power and all that.

I’m sure some of you haven’t seen or read the series either, but I’m  not going to recap, I’d never fit all that into one post, or two.

The point is, now that I’ve seen it, do I like it?

Sort of. I actually only decided to finally take an interest because I’ve been reading a lot of J. R. R. Tolkien, and what better way to understand a writer than through his material?

but reading about his creative process is very interesting. Did you know he never knew much about what would happen in the legend before it actually did happen? HE always had  a sense of the story being given to him, not imagined.

And knowing some of it, I completely agree that no one could make that up. It really happened.

No, I don’t mean I think it actually did, (though If I were told it had historical base, I might,) but it would make you think so.

Genius.

And it just the thing to make you feel how little you actually know about writing.

I can easily feel smug about my talent when I compare it to most modern authors, who don’t know how to really write. If I have even an inkling more than they, I’m ahead. But next to real genius, my efforts still look like child’s play.

Nothing wrong with that of course. Plenty of good books are written n that way, and it’s not a reason to stop. But it is a reason to be more humble.

I think we get lied to a lot about our abilities. Not everything we crate is beautiful just because we created it. Being unique does not equal beauty. Some of the ugliest and most disturbing art I have seen was unique, because it was unhealthy.

See, rarity works both ways. It can either mean you have an incredible gift and are using it well, or that you are creating something horrid, that only people who have a flaw in their soul will like.

That is not an exaggeration. It is hard truth.

Now, it may be a rare person who will create such bad art, but it’s not so rare as it was, because we’ve started letting them off the hook by saying they are expressing themselves. (As if any of us would want to know the self they are expressing, if that was the case.)

But this is not a post about that, I think I’ve made my point.

But most art is on better footing. Not all of it is about pleasant subjects, but it will at least be making a healthy point about the sadness of a more tragic subject.

Tolkien’s work is very much a blending of both, and a skillful blending because he does it without shifting the overall tone of the story.

No one should read fantasy without considering its tone, and its message. Anyone who thinks fantasy is for pure entertainment and has no real life point, is reading it wrong and does not understand the genre.

See, if I may wax Tolkien-like for a moment, fantasy is far closer to real life than we think. But because we have no guard against it, we accept truth in fantasy easier than we will in real life.

Think of you favorite books, mine are all fantasy or fiction, and I know that the truth I learned from them became a part of me because it was ins tory form, and that was much easier to take in and retain than any “real” lesson would be.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus constantly used stories, known as parables, to teach the people. But only to his disciples would he explain the full meaning.

The reason he gave was that it was for his disciples to know the things of the Kingdom, but he people had shut their ears, and eyes, and hearts.

This makes more sense to me now than it did when I first heard it. Someone recently expounded on it, saying that the stories were so even the people could understand the way to have an abundant life. (I paraphrase.)

As we all know, many people consider Jesus to be a moral teacher but not the Son of God, and that being the case, they will only accept his teachings on that basis, so the stories are an effective way to convey that.

In this case, the motivations of Jesus and of fantasy writers is the same. Both wish that the people would understand them if they spoke plainly, but people don’t like that for the most part, so in order to get their message out, they use stories. Because they want people to have a better life, even if they stubbornly refuse to have the best life.

You might compare it to how, in stories, the heroes will have the best life (if they win) but the people who helped them along the way will still have a better life than otherwise. No good author likes making everyone in their story miserable just because they aren’t the hero. (Not that some don’t do it. Check out Les Miserables, though I don’t know if Victor Hugo liked it, so much as though he needed it.)

So, the first thing fantasy teaches us is that if we want to be happy, we have to be good. That is the foundation of all healthy fantasy, because any that says otherwise is lying, the real world will prove that.

There’s plenty more about this subject to be delved into, but for now, I’ll sign off.

Until next time–Natasha.

The appeal of evil.

I have an unusual subject for you all today. (At least I hope it’s unusual.) What is the alluring power of evil?

Believe it or not, this was sparked by a chapter title in The Ever After High book “The Storybook of Legends.”

In this particular chapter, Shannon Hale takes a rather startling turn from the rest of the book, which has dealt with our protagonist, Raven Queen, feeling unfit for evil. WE all feel bad for Raven, but in this chapter Hale shocks us with a rather long inner battle in Raven’s mind about whether evil might actually be an intoxicating thing. There was a lot of power at Raven’s fingertips. (Literally.) A whole army of evil servants willing to do whatever she wanted. And she could even take revenge on everyone who “had ever made her feel like dirt.” While shes’ thinking this, Dexter, one of her few friends, comes up to her and says he almost didn’t recognize her because she looked so angry.

Personally, this chapter made sense to me. Right from the start of the day Raven feels the pressure to sign the book and seal her fate. She dresses up in her mom’s cape, puts on striking make up, and looks the part. She even feels the part, mistaking the inner turmoil shes’ feeling as evil, when in reality, it’s her uncertainty mixed with her fears of both signing and not signing.

But is the power of evil really so appealing?

Many sources recognize that evil appeals to our desire to control, to have absolute power, to manipulate others and ourselves. Pretty much any book with magic in it will deal with that part of evil and power at some point. (And if it doesn’t; frankly, I question how relevant it is.) Take the ring in the Lord of The Rings. It isolates the person wearing it, and tempts them to keep using it, to keep having control. Another example is The Green Goblin, whom I mentioned in my post about Spider-Man. The Goblin offers Osborne more and more control, but the price is to do evil. We all know which he chooses.

But though it’s easy to identify what desires in us prompt us to give in to this kind of evil, I rarely hear it discussed whether the desire itself is not evil to begin with.

A lot of kids, sad to say, are rooting for Raven to be evil. Why? Because it’s so darn cool. (I don’t speak for myself, here, of course.) Because she’s so much more intimidating when she’s evil. Even people in the story are rooting for her to be evil. Which is infuriating both to her and to the fans.

Girl Meets World pointed out the fact that just when we think we’ve seen the worst of it, someone finds a new way to do evil. Why? “Because it’s evil that fascinates us.” Heck, there’s a whole movie about that coming out on Disney Channel, and I am not endorsing it. Seriously, no one watch Descendants 2, it’s terrible. Whatever you’ve heard about it, if you’ve heard about it at all.

Girl Meets World actually tackled the subject of evil in another episode, and Riley’s dad said something wise, that evil changes our idea of what fun is.

The fact that evil is a kind of thrill is a sad fact of life; but it does not give us a pass.

Let’s go back to Raven. She has always felt like evil is not a good fit for her. But she knows other kids at school who are destined to be villains who like it. They have no pressure on them to be nice, in fact, they are applauded for being nasty. And Raven could have gone that way. It was tempting.

And what is it that makes it tempting? Is it not our desire to control things? And is that desire good?

Because when it comes down to it, it’s all about motive. Evil would not be appealing to someone who had no evil desires, and every human being has evil desires. As James 1 tells us, and as any honest person will have to admit. I’ll admit it right now, I sometimes have desires that I know are bad. I get angry, and I don’t always want to let it go, though I know I must. I feel like hiding the truth. And I give into fear.

I don’t do any of this as much as I used to, but I still feel like doing it sometimes. Something is wrong with some part of me.

This doesn’t make you a bad person, in as much as any human being can be a good person. But it does present a problem. It means none of us are perfectly good.

And if so, aren’t we all evil?

I don’t need to protest, you’ll all probably do it for me. Because nowadays our immediate response is “Don’t judge me.” Or “Nobody is without flaws.”

And yes, I am not one to judge. But I can at least go so far as to say, it is not good to have evil desires.

But does that mean Raven has already lost? And does that mean we all have?

Yes and no.

We are none of us good by nature. But neither are we completely bad. The mistake the Ever After High books are highlighting for us is that is it wrong to think anyone is automatically all good just because they are supposed to be, and it is wrong to think anyone is all evil just because they were taught to be.

Raven Queen has the purest heart of just about any modern character I’ve encountered, but even she was able to see why evil can be tempting. So why did she decide not to choose it?

Why did she give up control?

Well, Raven is smart. She figured our that by giving up control, she was really taking control for the first time. But not of her destiny, per sec; but of herself.

Raven saw more clearly than most of us that signing away your life to evil will never be a happy fate, no matter what perks it seems to have at first. One big part of it was she didn’t want to become full of hatred. Which she would have been, because she’d always blame her destiny for her unhappiness. (And not unjustly either.)

Unlike the foolish Apple White, who put aside all misgivings in order to do what she thought she was born to do.

In conclusion, it is the desire to give in to evil that we all need to guard against. It is what prompts us to do wrong, and it needs to die. Every time it comes back. I know of only one way to accomplish this, and that is through Christ.

But even so, any of us can choose to resist it. We should.

Hope you enjoyed, until next time–Natasha.

Going back to the basics.

I revisited My Report Card post, someone just looked at it recently. Of course, the reason I re-read it is because, as I said in the post, I need my own advice.

Disappointed again.

Boy, it’s hard not to just let this become your attitude toward life, isn’t it?

Funny story: back when I was a kid, I got disappointed frequently for awhile, and one day I got it into my head that if I said I hoped for the opposite of what I wanted, then what I actually wanted would happen. It even seemed to work.

But what’s not funny at all is how many of us still think that as grown men and women.

I realize now that my negative thinking was more likely to prevent what I wanted from happening than to allow it, but at the time I had a rather negative view of myself. It wouldn’t be the last time I felt almost like I was cursed.

If you check out Genesis, you’ll find that the original human beings were indeed cursed, but it was for trying to get what they wanted by doing the wrong thing.

The Man was cursed with thorns and thistles and constant work.

The Woman, which to us at least sounds worse, was cursed with painful labor, even though of course, it’s not constant.

As John Eldredge has pointed out in “Wild at Heart.” The curses are more than just what they sound like on the surface.

Men were cursed with futility and failure. Which I think doesn’t mean things like work are futile, or that men will constantly fail, a curse is really a lot more about your perception of what’s happening.

And don’t men feel like their lives are futile a lot of the time? And like they are failing?

So do women of course, but for us it’s even more personal, I think.

It’s not just having kids, it can seem like whatever women do, it ends up being a long and painful process, and one we never really feel ready for.

And of course there’s the part about having desire for, and being ruled by, your husband.

Relationship difficulties, am I right? Not fun.

Women feel like their desires contradict themselves, after all. We want this, but we also want something very different. Ah! Why can’t we be simpler?

Well, where’s the fun in that? But my main point is this all feels like a curse… and it is.

But not completely. Like I said, it’s your perception.

The reason I think that is because Christians like to say Jesus freed us from the curse of Adam and Eve; which is true; but not in the way we think.

At bottom, a curse leads to sorrow and suffering. Jesus was cursed if you can believe it, because the Word says “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Which is what a cross is made from. Major suffering.

But Jesus does not free us from having to suffer and know sorrow. He knew plenty himself, and part of the deal of being a Christian is learning to be like Jesus.

I’d venture to say 90% of our problems as Christians come from not understanding what being like Jesus entails. Maybe even more.

I like better the answer I heard from another source, that Jesus’ suffering redeemed our suffering. The thing about a curse is, it never makes your life better. (Read “Ella Enchanted.”) But suffering can ultimately make your life better, if it is in the right hands.

So in a sense, maybe my younger self was right. But now that I know this, I know that my disappointments don’t have to make me bitter, or just plain delusional. (Why do we use delusional as a word to apply to people who believe things are better than they are? IT’s far more often the other way around.)

All that said, will disappointment hurt? YES!!

Does it have to break you? No.

It might, being broken isn’t as bad as being bent. Broken is fixable.

So is bent, but it’s harder, definitely.

But once you’ve cried, or ranted, or whatever you do to feel better; it’s time to pick up the pieces.

Because as bad as I feel, and as much as  might want to quit, I’ve come to far to give up now. I’m finishing this thing.

Frankly, I can’t accept defeat because I’ve staked everything on victory.

You can’t quit when you realize what you have to lose.

And looking at the bigger picture, I see that one disappointment is not worth throwing away everything.

In a way, I needed to write this more than any of you needed to read it, because I had to remind myself of all that.

Still, I hope it was helpful to someone else besides me, thank you for reading, and until next time–Natasha.

Give or Take?

Hey everyone, get ready to dive down deep.

In my post about Spider-Man, I mentioned something about being given something or taking it.

I was specifically thinking of power of course, since that was the thing in question. Spider-Man was given power, if you don’t believe in fate, at least you have to admit that technically the spider did give him its power.

And I mentioned Elsa.

Now, there’s been a lot of movies and books that explore the idea of whether all special powers are evil. I mean, a lot, it’s a huge theme now.

So, what’s my take on it?

Better yet, is there a biblical take on it?

Because the first mistake many Christian kids make is thinking that it’s entirely up to them whether this stuff is okay or not. People have justified horoscopes as being harmless.

But are they?

Okay, no one wants to hear the Christian freaking out over invisible demons type of thing on a blog, so I won’t. But I can’t avoid it either when talking about power.

We all have seen or read, or heard of in real life, a story about someone grasping for material power. Authority; wealth; strength; sway. Some of us think that’s dangerous, some of us are still grasping.

Assuming for the moment that we all agree that it’s dangerous, than good. WE won’t try for it. But I notice another trend that’s prevalent in our culture.

Magic. Real or fake, magic sells. Kids think it’s cool. And I think it’s all right in a fantasy context.

Magic, however, is all about power.

Which is why it can be a great symbolic way to teach us about the follies of being power hungry, but it can also masquerade as something harmless and fun. This happens even in stories.

(Ever see Disney’s Sword in the Stone? All the magic in that ends up backfiring in several ways, despite how harmless or fun it seems. Merlin actually teaches Arthur that in a way, magic is no toy.)

Plenty of people think there are powers we can’t understand in the real world. Some are even scientific. That’s no great leap of logic.

But is power given or is it taken?

You’ll find that in real life and in stories, the villain often brings the tale to just that sort of crux. Where the hero must choose whether they take power, or whether they use only what they’ve been given. In Prince Caspian, this amounts to calling up the white witch, or using the forces they have and believing Aslan will show up in the end, with help. We all know what the right choice was.

The truth is, real or not, things like horoscopes; and Ouija boards; and tarot cards; and magic tricks; they all are rooted in the same thing: Wanting power. Often sold as wanting knowledge. Knowledge of the future, mostly. After all, our greatest fear is not being prepared for the future. But as the saying goes, knowledge is power.

We think if we know, we’ll have the power to control it.

Like in Macbeth, where Macbeth finds out the future from three witches and tried to make it happen, only to be killed in the end. Because you cannot control your fate.

Even in Frozen, when Elsa is told fear will be her enemy. I don’t think it was wrong for the troll to warn her of that, but her parents immediately tried to control her fate. Elsa learned to do the same.

Often in The Bible, and in old myths, people are told the future without asking for it. And that is a given thing. Usually in the form of a prophecy. You might notice that it rarely has the same negative outcome as seeking out such knowledge does.

God may choose to reveal to people what will happen, often the knowledge only prepares them, they can’t do anything to prevent it.

That’s the difference you see. Control is different from preparation. Or even prevention. In the end, somethings in the future are changeable, but most aren’t.

We’re told to focus on the present, and that is a wise thing. Live in the now, even commercials will tell you that. I’d just add that there’s a lot your better off not knowing or thinking about.

But one final not on power: Everyone has some. Everyone is indeed born with certain powers. The power to choose being the most famous one. That is a gift. Use it wisely.

And it’s okay to have the gift of music, or athletic ability, and to build on those gifts. I don’t want anyone thinking I meant that was a bad thing.

It’s going outside of your natural talents that leads to harm, in whatever form you do it in.

That said, I’ll end this here. Until next time–Natasha.

What I hate (and love) about superheros.

Not the first time I’ve talked about this I know, but I actually have found a couple of superhero films that I like, and the new Wonder Woman came out this month, so let’s go for it.

First of all, start with the negative.

What I hate about superhero movies is how darn depressing they are. Seriously, there’s some pscyo villain who has some non-relatable reason for wanting to destroy humanity, and we’re all supposed to sympathize with them, even when they’re point of view makes no sense. And the hero never has a really good answer for them.

At least in the last decade and a half of films.

But when they do it right, the villain is tragic or at least someone we won’t feel sorry for; and the hero is not shaken by the villain’s warped world view.

Not all superhero movies are depressing, they were originally inspiring.

What I like about superhero movies is they can give us a cool story, with plenty of unrealistic action and science and powers; but they keep it grounded in real life. The perfect combination some would say.

In my personal opinion, “The Incredibles” nailed this one in every way. The heroes never stop being normal people with their own quirks and problems to work out.

In contrast, the Avengers never stop acting like superheroes. I have never seen any of them really loosen up and turn off the charm and bravado and wise cracking, and just be people.

The whole idea of a superhero is a person with special powers, who uses them unselfishly. The MCU can’t even decide whether it’s heroes are heroes or villains.

What shocks me is how many people are applauding this, even while many are horrified. People find a movie boring now, if the villain is not just as compelling as the hero.

I don’t mind an interesting villain, but if they aren’t going to reform by the end, I don’t want to get attached to them.

This will sound sacrilegious, but I have never made any connection with any modern superhero except briefly for Captain America. (In his first movie.)

But, what I do like about the superheros I actually connect with, is how they never let anything stop them from doing the right thing.

It’s like Superman says of his friends in one episode of the animated Justice League, he tells the bad guy he’s fighting that none of them will stop fighting as long as they ‘re breathing, and able to move. (I paraphrase.)

I appreciate the teamwork they exhibit. It’s what makes they’re powers are attractive, because the team shows the best of everyone.

But it’ how they are with each other in ordinary life that really makes it work.

I think Guardians of the Galaxy was better in  this regard, even though they all start off as enemies and end up with rather dysfunctional family–friendship dynamic, it worked.

Anyway, there’s no formula for making a good superhero flick…which is the problem. Personally, I find movies where there has to to be a violent action sequence every five minute to be boring.

I’d really start to think superheros just don’t have self control.

At least when Mr. Incredible loses it, there are serious consequences.

I really hope that this new Wonder Woman film sparks a new trend, because I think this genre had a lot of potential if people figure out how to use it right.

In the end, though, whenever you have huge quantities of something, the’res only going to be a few really good products to choose from.

I think some people see it as stuck up to even complain, the masses like the total crud that studios pop out every two years, why not we? What makes our opinion so much better?

Well, I can’t really say. I have my reasons, my concern is that the majority of us don’t use reason when we’re judging a film or any other thing we like. We want to be entertained. Not taught.

(I know folks who won’t even try to hide that this is their perspective.)

And if that’s what you want, than even a really well-made movie is lost on you. Take Frozen as an example. I know for a fact that despite its popularity, not even half of the fans fully understand why it’s a great movie. They like the songs, the cool clothes, the funny scenes, and the wishy-washy message about love; but they miss the real deep message about true love, and the really important stuff the movie is telling us about ourselves.

And many just can’t stomach the format.

Personally, I don’t care about formatting.(Most of the time.) My tastes go from those super-boring-to-most-people real life story movies, to a few of the notoriously bad Christian movies, to Disney, to obscure movies very few people have ever heard of and movies that were supposedly made to sell toys.

I don’t care. I just want the movie to speak to me. Otherwise, what’s the point? Literally.

Now, it is possible to get caught in the trap of assigning meaning where meaning clearly wasn’t intended, which is why I think movie reviewers are important in moderation. Just like book reviewers are. I’d be hypocrite if I said that’s a bad thing.

But I do think there is too much credit given to the movies that are huge successes. Frankly, a lot of them are trash. Except the ones that are not.

But, there are legit reasons people like even the Superhero movies that I despise. A lot of the times they can overlook the flaws because the heroes are just so cool, and I suppose that’s fine to a certain point.

But you can’t just excuse every problem because a movie appeals to your personal taste. Per example, I used to like Pocahontas the best of any Disney princess movie, but though I don’t hate it now, I admit it’s pretty flawed. (Sorry to any fans out there.)

Anyway, I risk shooting the sacred cow just writing this, but I think people will see where I’m coming from.

Until next time–Natasha.

The Lost Art.

Hello

Hola

Bonjour

Sak Sabai (phonetic spelling.)

Aloha

As you noticed, all of these are greetings. These are the words you begin a conversation with.

But what comes after that?

For most of my life, the conversations I’ve had with people I’d just met have centered around school, grades, and age. That’s what kids ask each other about…and adults.

I mean, it doesn’t really change when you get older. “Where do you work?” “What do you do?” “How’s business?”

These are just common questions, and they aren’t bad, they just aren’t super inventive. But I don’t really want to talk about those conversation starters, because as rote as they are, they are getting rarer.

I feel like there’s no real established mode of getting to know someone anymore. You can go and meet people, but it’s often hard to really get a conversation going with them. The main reason tending to be that they pull out an electronic device within two minutes.

I  have found a welcom exception to t his patter in the groups of people I’ve been hanging out with lately, but before that, I found it difficult to connect with anyone new. Who wasn’t way older than me. I honestly don’t know if this is because of me, or becuase the older generation is jsut better at communicating, or both. Whatever the case, it’s been a lot of work to learn how to talk to my peers.

I think people who grow up in tight knit communities don’t appreciate how difficult it is when no one lives near anyone else, or is likely to have much in common. Thankfully there are things everyone knows about, like movies and music.

What I see a lack of is genuine interest in other people’s lives.  It used to be the case that even though most people were not consideed remarkable, they were at least consdiered worth knowing about. Some take this too far and turn into busybody’s, but a healthy interst in others is a good and rare thing.

Have you ever just sat and listened to someone talk about their life? Probably. And Probably they were far older than you. not to marginalize anyone. It’s very lucky to find a younger person who will listen like that or be listened to.

Recently I was asking someone about themselves, not wierdly, just casually; I almost thought they were pleasantly surprised that anyone would do that.

I am not the best lsitener either, but I try.

All this to say, Conversation was once called an art.

I have an example from Kim Possible, the’rs an episode, I think it’s  called “Job Unfair.”

Init Ron and Kim are praparing to jusmp from a plane (I think, or a helicopter) and Ron asks one of those questions that your’e supposed to politely reply to with curiousity. Yo uknow “Do you want to know where I got__?” And Kim responds by asnwering the question herself. As people will do when they don’t want to hear about it. Ron mournfully says “The Art of Conversation is truly dead.”

Of course, Ron is mostly kidding; but I think that does hit the proverbial nail on the head.

We all have so much going through our minds at all times. We start to think we’ve seen and heard it all, because every situation is probably in a movie, or a song, or something we’ve been through a hundred times. I have to wonder if movies are doing us a huge favor in the long run. At least the ones that all ahve the same basic plot.

The problem is, you have to find people intrigueging to care about them. I don’t mean they’re partciuclar personalities have to be intersting to you, but human beings in general need to be being disinterested in that sense is cold and cruel.

A disinterested party is thought to be one that can judge fairly in a dispute, but beyond that, they can’t help you much, they have no reason to.

I have to wrap this up now, I hope you enjoyed this post, until next time–Natashsa.

Lessons from a five year old.

I consider myself a spiritual person. I pray, I worship, I read my bible. Which is all great. But every now and then I run into something I haven’t thought of before, that somebody else gets.

My cousin just recently discovered church and she loved it. The child came alive at each service, and I was loving watching her.

But she went farther than I thought possible. And watching her, I noticed a few things.

One was that she always prayed using the words “I hope,” instead of “I ask.” If you pray you know the drill, everyone has their way of beginning and ending, and I wouldn’t say one way is better than another, but I thought “I hope”? Is that right?

Then I thought, on the other hand, maybe the kid’s got a clue. I mean, why do we pray if not for hoping it will affect something? That’s why people who haven’t prayed in years may do it when they’re at then end of their rope.

A lot of people don’t like the idea that people only come to God when they’re desperate, they think that they should be able to use logic, reason, knowledge; things like that, to find God.

Which is all well and good, except the majority of the population will not use any of those things to make most of their decisions. (You know what I’m talking about.) And no matter how smart you are, you’re never smart enough to understand God. At some point, you have to be humble enough to admit you need him if you’re ever going to accept Him. That’s the plain truth.

Which, bringing it back to prayer, means that you need to admit it even to yourself, what you’re really asking when you pray is for things to get better, and to get better in ways you can’t do yourself.

A while back I saw the movie “Bruce Almighty” for the first time, hopefully the only time, I didn’t like it. It wasn’t all bad, but it was close. In that movie, the grand solution Bruce finds to his problems, after being God for week or so, is that people have to solve their problems themselves, and help each other. I agree that we should help each other, and try to help ourselves when it’s appropriate, but beyond that, I don’t think there’s a worse conclusion the movie could have come to.

Praying is not about helping yourself, but about recognizing that you can’t. Until you do, your prayer is empty. My cousin gets that prayer means hope. That’s something I didn’t really grasp before.

There’s one other thing she taught me:

The Bible tells us that Jesus makes intercession for his followers, which means He intervenes on our behalf when we’re in trouble, whether of our own making or of another kind.

I knew this already, but my cousin discovered it in a unique way, and made me realize what it actually means, if you think about it.

To have Jesus sticking up for you would give you so much more confidence if you believed it. But Christians generally don’t think about it much because, honestly, it sounds too good to be true. And a non-Christian might scoff at such a notion, or just think it sounds cool, but not believe it.

Frankly, most of us don’t think of Jesus doing anything except dying; but according to our faith, He’s not dead still. Check out some Revelation Descriptions of Him and see how dead He sounds in there.

It’s easy for people to see why my cousin would buy all this, she’s five, anything is possible. But it’s more puzzling why someone my age, who’s supposed to be jaded and apathetic and disconnected, can believe such things.

I really think the majority of us spend our lives trying to hide from those ideas, in one form or another. Whether we live in a country where appeasing spirits is the normal thing, like cleaning house; or we live in a Western civilization where believing in them at all is enough to make you  a freak.

But freak or not, that’s the way I think. And it doesn’t bother me that a kid can believe the same thing, because we are told to be like little children in our faith. It’s not that we put reason on the back burner, no, just ask C. S. Lewis about that, it just means knowing that our reason is limited but there are more answers out there than we know. Every kid knows that.

Being Christian means buying the whole package,  just like anything else worth being. There is no pass, no get out free, and that’s fine by me.

And my cousin is a smart kid, I think I’ll probably learn a lot more from her before we’re through.

Until next time–Natasha.

Speed Limits

Lately I’ve been studying my Drivers Manuel so I can take the test–yippee.

I just want my license, but it’s a slow process.

Anyway, I noticed something yesterday, not reading the manual, but just thinking about cars and trucks in general:

Every single vehicle has the ability to go almost twice as fast as it’s allowed to go.

That’s true with other things. Ovens can go up into 500+ degrees, whoever cooks stuff at that? Have you ever used all the levels on an electric beater? Microwaved something for longer than five minutes straight? You can. But you don’t.

And if you have done those things, God help you.

As far as I know, those temperatures or times aren’t ever used for practical purposes. And it’s illegal to drive faster than the posted speed limit, as we all know. (If you have one.) Of course everyone breaks that law out where I live, unless they are superbly law abiding citizens.

I started to think this was odd, that they even make cars to go so much faster than they should, or build other things to go over the safety limit.

But then I thought, they’re actually wise to do that. There may come a day when people will make stupid laws that cars cannot be built to go faster than say, 80 miles per hour, but if that day comes, we’ll be no safer for it.

Driving is dangerous, but necessary, (as I have found out in trying to find a job without having a set of wheels available.) A lot of things are like that.

And it’s good that things are dangerous and have risks. Because in the end, it’s safer to have a known danger and to teach people how to deal with it responsibly, than no have little or no danger, and give them free reign.

It’s good when we teach each other a fundamental truth about how God works.

The way God set it up, living is dangerous. Not always in that it can kill you, but of the risks you take of falling. Of messing up. Of sinning. God set us a speed limit.

If you want a happy life, you have to balance it, you have to stay within the speed limit. And as oversimplified as that sounds, in the end, it works.

But here’s the thing, you need to have the ability to go faster than you are supposed to go, because, as we all know, different roads have different rules. And the criminals won’t follow any of them, so it’s important to be able to switch gears.

Parents, teachers, government officials; all of them can be quick to try to make a safer environment, and to an extent, I’m okay with that, but you have to allow for some amount of risk.

The risk is there whether you see it or not, so to tell children there is no risk is to lie to them, it’s better to let them face some risks and learn how to deal with them so they’ll be able to face the ones we don’t see coming.

The reason cars can go faster than they should is so in an extreme circumstance, you’ll be able to protect yourself, or you’ll be able to switch gears on a different road. It’s the same with guns. The same with fire.

Good things aren’t generally safe things.

Heck, I painted my nails today with deadly poison, called nail polish; but it’s harmless once it’s dry, and if you do it outside where you won’t breathe it in too much. (I wouldn’t do it every day though.)

Even germs are actually healthy for you in the right amount. Because the only way to protect yourself from danger is to embrace it, and you can quote me on that.

That’ll be it for this post, until next time–Natasha.

Sick day

So, I’m not feeling so hot, well actually I do feel hot. I’ve been fighting a lot of allergy symptoms and even a slight fever yesterday.

I don’t even know why.

To be honest, I hate allergies. They are your body’s reaction to a perceived threat, like a toxin, only without the threat being real.

See, a real threat like smoke, requires a reaction to get it out of your system; but something like pollen, or dog hair, or peanuts, those aren’t toxic, but foe some reason your body thinks they are.

In my case it’s hereditary. Some people develop food allergies because they were fed whole foods too early in their infancy.

It’s just something you deal with, you don’t really have an explanation.

But it was kind of a big week for me and getting sick was not on the agenda.

Of course, I know things happen unexpectedly. I know you can’t control life. But knowing that can make it frustrating. The temptation is to blame God, or life, r chance, or your own poor luck, for dumping these problems on you that you weren’t ready for and couldn’t prevent.

Or maybe you could have, and then you start blaming yourself for being so stupid.

The thing is, I am way healthier than most of the people I know. No one in my house has serious health issues, that can’t be managed easily at least.

But if all I have is allergies and an occasional cold and once in along while the flu or some other unexplained minor illness, I’m doing pretty well.

Still no one likes it, whatever they have.

But I do have a lot to be thankful for. I can be thankful that this only happens every so often. I can be thankful that I no longer get migraines or bad eye headaches on a frequent basis. I can be glad that I don’t have asthma or any lingering heart problems from when I was a baby.

Sure, I’m miserable, but I’m not dying. And I can do stuff, it’s just a matter of how comfortably I can do it.

I get a few minutes of relief every now and then thanks to medicine, which I have access too.

Much as I’d rather complain, I know it could be so much worse. Also, complaining makes you unhealthy, it’s a proven fact.

So this isn’t an in depth post about a movie (though I did just re–watch the original Karate Kid) or about a social problem. But it’s about my personal life.

And my faith is involved. I know better than to wallow in self pity. I do look forward to the day when my health will not even be a matter of caution, but in the meantime, God doesn’t promise perfect health all the time. Just that He will give you enough strength for whatever you need to do, sometimes more, sometimes not.

I believe in healing, but I know it doesn’t always happen, and not always when we want it to. I also know sometimes we have to deal with other issues before we can be healed.

Most of all, I know that the best testament to the power of faith is being able to smile even when you feel bad. A real smile. I

I

m still getting there, and some days I get close than others, but the point is, I at least have that option now.

That in itself is enough to be a miracle.

I remember, sometime last year, I had a night where I was throwing up at least three times, and again the next morning, and though I was tired and miserable and thinking I had eaten the wrong thing; for awhile at least I was able to praise God even while sitting next to the toilet. (And if you’ve done it you know how uncomfortable and lonely that is.) IT didn’t stop the throwing up, but it did give me peace. And that’s more than I used to have.

So, it’s good to look back and see how far you’ve come.

This isn’t just another happy–slappy testimony about how God brought me through something, it’s about how HE’s bringing me through it. Even while I’m still suffering. I hope that count s for something more than the normally criticized too–happy–to–be–relate-able stories.

Maybe you have a similar experience, or you’re going through something rough yourself, I hope this post was a slight encouragement then, until next time–Natasha.

The Croods

Okay, this movie was on the list of Movies I will never watch.

Why? Because the name says it all. Or does it?

Well, one of my siblings saw it and said it wasn’t as bad as we expected, then I saw the end of it on TV and thought “This doesn’t seem so bad.” So finally I sat through the whole thing. (At least I think it was the whole thing.)

Now, the whole premise is based off evolution, which I don’t buy in the least, so I kind of had to ignore that. I thought “It’s like any other fiction setting. It’s not supposed to be taken seriously.”

Well, I certainly hope that was the case. Let me just say I never saw so clearly why evolution is repulsive and not a really nice kind of fictional idea. You’d either have to believe it was true, or be utterly disgusted that anyone could hatch such and idea. Or lay such an idea, which came first? Laying or hatching? (Ha ha.)

There is something disturbing about watching human beings act like animals, and not as a joke, but because they are just animals, in that ideology. And once Guy, the one normal person, came on the scene, the contrast just got worse. The one thing that helped was Guy pretty much was speaking for the audience the whole time as he was freaked out by the Croods behavior. Which was sort of funny, sort of.

Guy also is initially afraid of them because they are cave men. Which is interesting. because we don’t usually think of more evolved, i. e. smarter, people being afraid of less evolved people. But brute strength is just that, brutal. And I can understand why he was freaked out. The scary thing about brutality is that you can’t reason with it.

But the Croods don’t turn out to be quite as bad as he (or we) thought. Though the way they eat is truly terrifying to watch, and honestly gave me the same sick feeling as “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” did. They are stupid, but it’s clear that the father (I forget his name) cares about his family and is unselfish about providing for them and protecting them. His wife is also a pretty nice mom character. Who sticks up for the other characters when she sees fit. Thunk and the Mother-in-law I have little to say about other than they get better at the end, but are pretty annoying and gross through the beginning and middle of the movie. The baby had one sweet moment when she said her first word, the rest of the time she acted like a dog. Literally.

The most important characters are Eeb and Guy. Eeb is kind of annoying at times, but we feel bad for her because she hates living in the dark and doing the same thing every day. Just surviving. The first real moment of connection between her and Guy is when he says, half pleadingly, “I hate the dark.” At first, Guy doesn’t particularly seem to like Eeb, but since he’s all alone in the world save for his pet lemur–monkey thing, he gives her a shell to signal him with. After all, she is human, and he wants her to live through the disaster he’s seen coming. The disaster turns out to be the Continental Drift. (Ice Age anyone?)

Eeb goes on to tell her family about Guy, which immediately makes her dad suspicious, then their cave gets destroyed and they have to run out into the more fertile and uncharted territory beyond. Of course they immediately get into trouble and Eeb signals for Guy. (And if you’re thinking the Adam and Eve thing was intentional, I totally agree.) Guy, albeit it reluctantly, saves them and gets thanked by nearly being suffocated and then imprisoned in a hollow log. however, after a while Eeb lets him get out because he’s hungry and he offers to let her help him hunt. Since she’s been grounded form tis, her favorite thing to do, she accepts readily.

But this movie never loses an opportunity to be crude, within the PG limits that is. You won’t find any sex humor or half cursing in here, that I remember, and it can be really gross, and also frustrating to watch people be idiots the whole time.

Still, there are some moments where we feel like we’re watching a real family. There’s one important scene in the second half of the movie where Guy and the Dad are both stuck in tar, and Guy finally reveals why he’s alone, this was how his family died. They were clearly more evolved, since he is, but no one knew how to get out of tar. Guy then says the last thing his dad told him was “Don’t hide, live.”

Yep. That’s the whole point of the movie.

And while I’d not say the movie makes it in any brilliant way, the setting does illustrate it fairly well. What better way to show the futility of the survival mindset than with a hypothetical cave man story? I’ll even admit that it probably breaks it down in the easiest to understand way.

The point is profound even if the characters are not particularly so. And for once, the simple, three word way of making it actually works. Especially since the way Guy says it really sells the line as important.

After this, the dad finally accepts that even though Guy is sort of a threat to his authority, he is also lonely and needs a family, even if they are a lot less smart than him. Something Guy himself has realized by this time.

Another really important moment is when Guy is the first to support the dad’s plan to save them all. It is really cool to watch the dynamic of the new guy respecting the father, in the most literal sense, as well as figuratively.

We even get a kind of Noah’s ark reference.

The movie closes with the Croods and Guy all deciding to live out in the open and follow the light. In Eeb’s words.

The verdict?

I neither recommend or discourage seeing this movie. You can get a cool message from it, but you can also be left with a lot of unpleasant images running through you mind. A lot will depend on your tolerance level. There are better movies to watch about really living, but few that will cover it in a simple enough way for kids to understand, so there is that. But I suggest parents screen it in advance.

Until next time–Natasha.