God (or the Universe.)

Time to get controversial:

So, I notice this trend going around (and by trend I mean it’s an accepted rule,) of replacing God with “The universe.” In both books and movies.

Even books written by people who claim to be Christians.

What took the cake was something I saw yesterday on a kid’s show in which a character referred to the universe by saying “May the universe have mercy on you…” or something like that. It was clearly a phrase that is supposed to have the word “God” in it.

Now, this is just stupid. There’s  no other word for it. Not even because of the compromise implied here, it’s because it’s as cheesy as substituting all those mythological exclamations for normal ones in modern fantasy. It might be kind of funny, but no one can take that seriously.

The reason I’m complaining about the above incident is that many people are completely serious about this whole universe thing.

Do I have something to say about this? You bet. (Sorry, I’m in a sassy mood.)

First of all, if you want to believe the universe is somehow conscious in some abstract way no one ever defines, that’s up to you, but that is not the same thing as believing in God.

People act like it is. Like we theists need to be pacified with the fact that movies deign to mention the most important fact of life, instead of ignoring it as most do. I mean, they should get the badge of courage right? It’s only something everyone thinks about.

The people of our culture puzzle me. The God-question is by farthe most important one any of us will have to answer, and yet we’ve made it taboo to even admit to wondering about it. Like it’s a weakness.

“Oh Adam’s sons, how carefully you guard yourself from everything that might do you good!”–The Magician’s Nephew.

Can I just say right here, it’s not weak. It’s actually smart to wonder about God. Even Atheists do. (A TV atheist will never admit that; but in real life you get different degrees of each belief.)

But I don’t think my readers will argue with me on that point. It’s a question worth asking, but it’s how we answer it that really matters.

And to answer with “the universe,” is really vague. What does it even mean?

As far as I can make out, it’s supposed to mean fate, things happen because somehow, something causes them to happen, and for some people it works out better than for others, because for some reason, the universe shows them more favor.

At first I  couldn’t see the appeal of this. “Just call it God, people,” I think; but as I pondered it more, I saw that there are some benefits to this point of view.

First of all, the universe has no personality, therefore, whomever it favors, it favors by mere chance. Which means all the horrible things that happen are just accidents, and no one ahs to be blamed for them. No one has to worry that there was a Divine Being punishing them, and they also aren’t’ burdened with explaining why God would allow bad things to happen if He’s good.

This seems way easier to me than Christianity, which often is like a set of contradictions. (So are the best people, I notice.)

But then I thought, if the universe has no real consciousness beyond this vague causing of events, then we have nothing to appeal to.

Think about it, if the universe is just basically pushing buttons on the machine of life, then we’re all basically experiments. And not planned experiments, but experiments that happened as a result of the universe just doing what it does.

I guess that gives us leave to live however we want, knowing it makes no difference in the Grand Scheme of things.

It sounds kind of depressing to me. Complete freedom with complete lack of reason to be free.

I guess that ‘s why so many people are depressed now.

But if we venture to say that the universe does care about us, then we’ve just put a thin veil over something that really is theism, monotheism at that.

It’s nothing new, this universe idea. It’s just another excuse for human beings to live the way we want.

And that’s not even seen as a bad thing any more. “Do what you want,” the movies tell us. Even if it’s tearing your life apart, be selfish, be cruel, be self-centered. What’s the real harm?

I’ll tell you, the amount of disregard for the feelings of other human beings that is portrayed on most TV shows, it’s terrifying to me.

Why do your feelings matter anyway?

If God is the universe, than nothing you feel matters. Why do you feel at all?

But, what if God is actually God? I’ve already listed some cons to that, but what at the pros?

I mean, if God is real, than maybe there is some way to get Him to help you. That’s how all religions start.

But Christianity takes it further and says God is real, and He is so real that He has placed signs all around us to show us who He is. That He has taken pains to make us believe in Him. And even that we have no excuse not to.

The Truth is, sometimes I don’t like what God is doing, but I can’t argue it with Him. Not because He’ll stop me, but because I know better.

What excuse do I have no to believe in God?

(If any of you have a different point of view to offer on this subject, I’d be glad to hear it.)

But as for me, I just can’t accept he idea that the Universe can just have sprung into its own entity. The thing is, we can look at the Universe and know it’s a thing of time. We can measure that. But time had to start somewhere. And the only answer that makes sense to me is that there is Something outside of time. And that’s God.

I’m not ashamed to admit I believe in God.

So, you won’t hear me ever saying “Or the universe.”

Until next time–Natasha.20160426_155712100_44464-26-12 046100_1573 (1)20160625_123317_001cropped-3-forest.jpg100_2914100_1770 (1)

Growing cold.

I’ll be getting back to my Justice League stuff soon, but today I want to talka bout a verse that has intrigued me for a long time.

Maybe you’ve heard this “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will grow cold.”

That verse is from Matthew  24:12

Just for context, that whole chapter is about end times.

Which is a big theme nowadays.

But what most of us who haven’t been in church a long time don’t realiz is that the Bible calls all time after the ascention of Christ the End Times, or The Last Days. We’ve had 2,017 years of the Last Days.

But a fun fact about God is that he says a thousand years is the same as a single day to him, so with that view of it, it’s been two days and a few seconds since Jesus left.

Witht hat perspective, Jesus could show up at any minute.

But this post is not about that, I;m merely setting the stage for my actual topic.

The reasib the context is important is because whenever the End Times are referenced in Scripture, they usually are getting progressively worse. For instance, it is said it will be like the days of Noah, then like the days of Lot. Lot’s days were worse than Noah’s.

What this means is that the cooling off of love that the above verse talks about is going to increase more and more as time goes. It won’t just stop and then plateau.

Whether or not you are a Bible fan, I think you’ll agree with me that there is a big loss of love going on in the world today. And that it has gone on for some time.

What I never really thought about before was the first half of that verse. “Because iniquity shall abound.”

In the Bible Iniquity is a word used to not just mean sin, but to mean sin that is like a disease, sin that spreads and infects everything around it. (My personal take on it, I don’t think that’s the official definition.)

There’s a lot of iniquity to go around now. Always has been since those words were first spoken.

But did you know that the love Jesus is referring to in that verse is the Unconditional Love that the Church is meant to show?

And by Church, I do not mean a gathering of believers. IT’s great when you can find that, but most often you’ll find that the actual church is only a percentage of the people in the building. The ones who are actually godly and care about living holy lives. That’s who I’m referring to.

So, in summary, the Love of these Christians will grow cold because of all the sin around.

Now for the shocker: I always thought this verse was a warning to those who took their faith too un-seriously. Now I think this verse is a warning to me.

That’s right, me. The person who’s been obsessed with her faith ever since she was a kid.

But lately, I notice I do have a problem with love.

You see, I find sin to be an annoying thing. Not that I expect perfection, but when I discover people are lax about the most basic principles of Christian Living, I get kind of…testy.

I’m just telling you all the truth here. I do have a vindictive personality.

I have high standards for myself, and while I do not hold others up to that level, I do expect more from them than they do from themselves.

What irritates me is that I like it when people expect a lot of me (within reason,) but the majority of folks do not.

How many of you have felt the same way? I know some of you have. You look around and wonder why everyone else has lost their minds, and you seem to be a lone sensible person in a sea of stupidity.

And to make matters worse, these others will constantly tell you that you’re just better than they are, but you shouldn’t expect them to be like that.

At this point, smoke usually starts coming out of my ears.

But even if I’m right to be angry and disgusted, I do face a danger here.

It’s true, many people are less moral than I am. It’s not pride, it’s fact. But that doesn’t mean I get to stop seeing hem as people.

That is the temptation. Once we feel someone is lower than us in some way, we cans tops seeing them as full human beings, who deserve love and compassion.

We’ve all done this, we warn someone about doing something dumb, they do it and come back crying, and we just shrug and say “I told you so.” And don’t help.

Because obviously the fact that we told them so means we don’t need to help them any further.

Well, maybe if people were like dogs, and lived only to do what their master wanted and occasionally get a bone or a toy in return, that would suffice.

But people are not dogs. And when we got he extra mile with them, sometimes it’s only then that they can understand what we were trying to say all along.

Jesus actually said “If someone compels you to go with him one mile, go with him two.”

We’ve all seen it in movies, a person forces another to help them, the other person eventually comes to care about them, and even when they no longer have to help, they decide to stick around anyway.

Life is really no different.

And the hard truth is that even if you go the extra mile, you may never make any lasting change in someone’s life…but they will change yours.

We still need to do it.

And though sin makes it easy to despise people, as I know only too well, it does not make it right. Sin never made anything right.

Christian or not, your life is going to be better if you learn how to show Unconditional Love. Love that can’t be driven off, duped, or disowned. It just is.

I have to go now and get ready for a driving lesson, until next time–Natasha.

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.

Willingly Ever After.

So, my siblings and I recently discovered this YouTube Channel called “Overly Sarcastic Productions” and I’m just recommending it here because it’s both entertaining and instructive (hopefully like my blog posts.)

That aside, let’s talk.

In my previous post I told the story of how a book changed my life, and it’s not  new thing either. Lots of people have similar story. (I read a book once about it, but I wouldn’t recommend it necessarily.) I didn’t get too much time to elaborate on it though. I do have  limit for how long I make my posts.

What I wanted to talk about more was the idea the book introduced to me. That of Submitting to God’s will. In the story this is always represented by obedience to a difficult command, and/or building an altar and sacrificing the will power. (Usually these two things happen simultaneously.)

This has to be the most unpopular idea in the history of humanity. It takes a brave person to make it the whole turning point of their book.

But Hannah Hurnard is just being honest with us, because it is this act of laying down the will that our human stories all turn on. Will we or Won’t we?

C. S. Lewis recognized it too in “Till We Have Faces.” Orual comes to the point where she says there was no rebel in her anymore. She finally does that the gods say.

Christians can all too often sell Salvation as a way to ease all your troubles. To finally get what you want. Peace. Joy. Love. Eternal Life.

Since the Fall, men have wanted Eternal Life, and God actually had to guard it from them with a flaming sword and two cherubim. (See Genesis 2-3, I think.)

The problem is, we like the Eternal Life idea, but not what goes with it.

Eternal life, if you are a corrupt being, is actually tormenting. Several movies have touched on this idea and also some books, like the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan.

Many people have concluded that living forever isn’t really what we want, like “the Fault in our Stars” basically says, that it’s a fantasy.

The one tiny detail they always leave out is that it is entirely possible that one could exist forever, but in a terrible, torturous place, typically known as hell.

Bringing up hell is not a very safe thing to do. No one likes to think of it. (Well, some people do in an obsessive way I find unhealthy.)

God was doing mankind a favor. Eternal life with no cost would have been horrible, nightmare-ish, for evil people.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t want Eternal Life, the cost is a trade. We havwe to give up our own small, mortal lives. Not in that we die the minute we choose Eternal Life, but that we no longer live as if we’re in control.

That’s the price we are afraid to pay. And many people miss out on eternal life for that very reason. The thing is, controlling our own lives makes us cynical. We’ll scoff at eternal Life and the idea of Christ crucified, not because it’s actually mockable, (what about the story is at all mockable even if you think it’s made up?) but because we get mad that we couldn’t make ourselves immortal.

I actually know this song, maybe you’ve heard it, that’s not even a Christian song, but the first line nails the idea. “They say we are what we are, but we don’t have to be.” (It’s Immortals by Fallout Boy, and for the record, I chose to ignore some of the lyrics for the sake of the ones I think are profound.)

A lot of us see that idea as saying we could change who we are, but the truth is, we can’t. We don’t have to be what we are, it’s true, but it’ll take more than ourselves to change us.

It’s simple logic. You cannot give what you don’t have. I, being human and mortal and flawed, do not have perfection or everlasting life, so I can’t give it to myself. I have to get it from someone who has those things.

A lot of old stories get some of this truth in there in that the hero will have to find a magical item or complete an impossible task with help from a supernatural being (a fairy or elf will count here) before they can live happily ever after. Which means forever, by the way.

To get back to my beginning point about laying down the will, God isn’t making this demand out of a desire for control. He just knows that only He has what we need.

People still get mad at God for making them dependent on him. (It’s happened, even if you’ve never done it, and good for you then.) To which God replies “I am the potter, you’re the clay. Can the clay say to the potter you’re making me wrong?”

I don’t know still why God does all things the way he does, but the whole lesson of the book is that I don’t have to know.

People will always mock Christians, and other religious people, for believing in something they can’t fully understand. And accepting that even when it looks like that something is being cruel. But they don’t understand faith. Or they hate it.

And that’s not going to change my mind. But I have no hate for those people, there’s no point in that. Heck, I hope they are the ones who read my stuff even if it’s just to disagree with it, because it’s important that people know what they are actually against.

I have to go now, hope you enjoyed this post, until next time–Natasha.

Hinds feet on High Places.

I like to talk about movies a lot on this blog. It’s fun, people have watched them so they know what I’m talking about, and I learn from them.

But if there’s one thing that’s been even more important to my spiritual learning process than movies, it’s books.

There was one book in particular that shaped my life in a huge way, and it’s not very well known.

That book was Hannah Hurnard’s “Hinds feet on High places.”  The title is taken from a verse in Habakkuk, “He maketh my feet like hind’s feet and setteth them upon mine high places.” That’s the whole premise of the story. The main character must travel to the High Places and develop hind’s feet.

The first thing to know about this book is that it is an allegory. The backdrop of the story is purely spiritual. Mountains; deserts; the ocean; the meadows; the valleys, every place people use when they are being metaphorical. And why not? It is an unabashed allegory.

In case you don’t know what an allegory is (and I didn’t till I read this) it’s a story about inward realities, but told like a regular fiction story. But all the places and people are symbolic. They have names like “Much Afraid” “Mrs. Valiant,” and of course “The Shepherd.” The most famous allegory is “The Pilgrims’ Progress.” I’ve never been able to get through that book all the way, even I have a limit for old English speech. But the book I’m talking about has very quaint and simple language. Easy to read and entertaining.

But the most important thing about it is that the main character, Much Afraid, was me. Literally, if I had been called by a name depicting my inward state, Much Afraid would have been the perfect fit. If you’ve read any of my posts about Frozen maybe you know this. Let’s just say Elsa would have identified with this book.

Much Afraid is one of the Fearing clan, and she has fearing in the blood, as we are told. And only the Shepherd can really help her. Much Afraid is also disfigured. She has a crooked mouth and crooked feet. She can only limp along painfully and she is ugly. But it is her fears that are her real trouble.

We are not told exactly what she fears except for pain and her relatives. Who bully her and plague her and try to kidnap her. She is weak, and they are all cowards. Much Afraid needs no object, she just fears period.

How well I know the feeling. Well, I can’t tell the whole story here, but after the Shepherd offers to take her to the High Places where she can be cleansed of her imperfections, Much afraid accepts, and even allow shim to plant the seed of Love in her heart. Though it hurts. Immediately she feels different.

When I read this the first time, I was not yet a Christian, though I believed in it. I have never not believed it was true. That was why the book made so much sense to me. Everyone in that book knows who the shepherd is. Some of them hate him, others love him. But they all believe, in that sense, that he is who he is. No one at any point denies that the Shepherd is real. Because everyone can see him.

That was how I grew up. There was no question of whether God was real, or whether Jesus was, but of where I stood with them.

That’s the only real question when it comes down to it.

Anyway, so I read the book and honestly, I did not understand it. Oh, I got the point about overcoming fear, but I had never felt real love, or been free from fear for longer than a few hours for most of my life. But Much Afraid has the same experience. She feels bold for a short time, and then she is ambushed by all her relatives and in the end faints dead away. To make a long story short, she is still able to go with the Shepherd, and she sets out, with his two helpers Sorrow and Suffering as her companions. They undergo many obstacles, dangers, and attacks from her enemies, and at the very end of their journey Much Afraid is asked to give up what she ahs staked her whole hope and life on, the promise she was given about having new feet and a new heart. And she asked to give up her human love that is in her heart like a weed, its roots going deep into her soul.

Much Afraid can hardly believe it, but in the end she does as she is told. After both these things are removed and burned on an altar, she faints and wakes up feeling different. Then she washes in a stream and discovers all her blemishes have been removed. Then the Shepherd calls her and she bounds up, with her new feet, and joins him.

More stuff happens, but I’ll stop there. When I first read this, I didn’t know you had to surrender your will to God. Maybe I had heard it, but I hadn’t made the connections. My fear was a terrible thing, but I still chose it over God so I could protect myself from having to do things I didn’t want to do. Fear was an excuse.

It was really to the point where I had no will at all except to resist God. I couldn’t resist fear. I was foolish, as everyone is with their besetting sin, but I didn’t know it. I wanted to be free but I didn’t want to pay the price.

God will set you free, but He demands that you give up your chains, and yourself. and give it all to Him. The reason people hate that idea is because they want control. Fear is a huge problem for all of us. I count myself fortunate that I at least knew it was my problem, many of us don’t.

I didn’t really become saved till I laid down my will to God. And I only knew to do that because I had read this book. To this day I still learn new things from it.

I know it wouldn’t mean as much to anyone else, but it would still mean something, so I recommend checking it out.

Until next time–Natasha.

Running away from Sadness.

Continuing from my previous post…

Now that I have defined Joy and explained how we find it, I need to expound upon it.

This, more than any other topic, is a Church related one, because it’s in the Church that the word is mainly used; and many people are frustrated that they can’t find it.

If it were as simple as I made it sound, than more people would have joy. Because accepting sadness is totally simple…right?

Wrong is probably what you all thought, but actually, it is simple. It’s just not easy.

We run from sadness. From our own and other people’s.

I know people who will cry over nearly every movie they watch, but they don’t talk about what’s going on in their life so much.

I also know people who seem to be perpetually depressed, and by choice, not medical condition; it offends these people if you tell them to cheer up.

You know, Pollyanna actually had a sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up, and in that sequel Pollyanna tells her friend Jimmy about a man she heard say that every time someone said to be glad, he just wanted to go out and shoot someone.

A rather extreme way of reacting, but how many of us have wanted to scream when someone makes light of our sorrow?

Which is the last thing I want to do, I’ve had sorrow too, and I’d be a horrid hypocrite if I pretended it was minor.

I handle sorrow in an unusual way, when I experience real loss, I am oddly unshaken by it. I am sad, but it is not crushing. I suppose it is because I have never lost anyone close to me. Another thing is I constantly hear false alarms, one side of my family is always having one problem or another health wise, but they get over it.

but when I have relational pain, it can be very depressing to me.

I think because all our self worth issues get mixed up in that sort of pain.

I won’t say either type of pain is less selfish, or better than the other, but it is true that the latter often makes us act very selfishly.

The worst is when we don’t feel the pain, but it remains there, undealt with, and affects all our behavior.

Which, if I go back to Inside Out, is what happens to Riley. Though she can’t feel her pain any more, it remains there, buried or lost in the subconscious.

Years of living like this are what make people develop neurosis and sometimes psychosis; it is also the source of anger issues, difficulty in committing, and submitting to abuse because one feel like they deserve it. Pain turned to hate against ourselves is lethal.

And it turns to self hate when we neglect is.

But there is hope. Through counseling, or our own personal journey, we can go back and grieve over what we have lost.

After that process, or even during it, comes the time to have joy again.

There is always a reason to be glad, no matter how bad things are, they are never without some silver lining, but it’s hard to find. Plus that is not exactly joy.

Joy is, as I said before, bittersweet, when it first starts. It begins as the feeling of peace after sorrow, or during sorrow. after you have stopped running from it and have chosen to embrace it.

But one cannot live in sorrow, Ecclesiastes says in chapter 3 that there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, there is a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to laugh and a time to weep.

I can’t really explain how you know when the time of mourning is over, I think it comes if you are waiting for it but not rushing it, you just know.

When this time comes, you put away your mourning clothes, so to speak, and you start enjoying things on purpose. You open your heart to new love, you might start a new hobby, or devote more time to an important person in your life. You move on.

It’s okay if it takes a year or two to completely move on, sometimes it takes longer, the idea is never to stay in one place too long, but to keep growing.

I think it has been said that the joy is in the journey, and I think that is true. Joy can be present when you stand still, but usually you need to be in motion.

That’s why joyful people dance, sing, paint, and write; or do whatever they do to express themselves, joy wants to be shared.

In fact if you are hogging your happiness, that’s a sure sign it’s not joy.

We will all run into sadness, but the key is to then run out of it, and leave it far behind. Though we will not forget, nor should we, because the sadness will eventually turn to joy if we are willing.

Those are my thoughts for now, stay joyful–Natasha.

Running after Joy.

I thought I’d do a different style of post today, I wouldn’t want to get entrenched in the same subjects all the time.

I want to talk about that elusive quality known as Joy.

I say known as, but if you google it, look it up in the dictionary or read about it, you’ll find that no two definitions of joy seem to be exactly the same.

C. S. Lewis thought Joy was a longing, or that a longing was how we experienced joy in this world.

Most people think of joy as some type of ecstasy.

The more practical of us think it is just another word for being contented with your life and your work and your family. (I am not using practical as a good thing in this instance.)

My guess is most of us don’t think about it at all, or not frequently if we do. I myself don’t give it as much consideration as I could.

To many people e, and I have felt this myself, joy seems to be a joke. Something people talk about but no one has found. If anyone claims they have, they are delusional. Maybe, we think, joy is just a delusion. Which is worse than an illusion.

We think joy only comes when we can forget our troubles, which we can’t, and that it is fleeting. Maybe we felt it at one time. It’s odd how it is such a strong feeling while it lasts, but it is so easy to forget once it’s gone.

It’s not like we’re left alone once the euphoria we think of as joy dies away. Trouble inevitably comes.

Now if you’re a Disney fan, perhaps your mind immediately went to Inside Out when I brought up Joy. I watched that movie once or twice, I had to give it credit for doing a good job of explaining joy and sadness. I’m gong to reference it in a second.

If there was no trouble in the world, we suppose, perhaps everyone could be joyful. Or I could be, but who can be happy knowing there is so much wrong going on.

The truly sad thing is most of us aren’t unhappy because of the sufferings of others, but because of our own problems. We could ignore the rest of the world if our world was fine. But the rest of the world affects our own, whether we like it or not.

In A Walk to Remember, the movie, Landon, when still pessimistic and bitter over his dad leaving, tells Jamie he has no faith because “There’s too much bad — in this world.” Jamie replies “Without suffering there would be no compassion.” Landon says “Tell that to those who suffer.” Jamie looks away. We later find out Jamie suffers plenty, and tries to stay cheerful and kind despite that.

However, I’ve never really bought that line that we need suffering for compassion, or rather, that we need to have compassion anyway, because if no one suffered, compassion would be useless. Don’t misunderstand me, I believe compassion is very important, but it is the compensation for suffering, not the reason for it.

The reason I went off about suffering is because there will be no discussion of joy if suffering is not dealt with too, even if I tried to leave it out, everyone would think of it anyway.

As is pointed out in both the book and the movie Pollyanna, the Lord tells us to rejoice over 800 times in his word. It would be hard to find a book of the bile where rejoicing was not mentioned in some form.

It’s a saying in the Church, though no any I’ve been to in my memory, that God wants you happy.

Many people have attacked this phrase because it’s used as an excuse to do whatever stupid thing you want in the name of happiness. Which it shouldn’t be.

But though God does not always want you happy, in the way you think of it, He does always want you to rejoice. He says so.

This is where we get to the big difference between joy and happiness.

In Inside Out, Joy starts off as what I would call happiness, a positive attitude, fun loving, goofy character who keeps all other emotions in check. Joy also avoids Sadness like the plague and always feels like Sadness is intruding on her turf, and complicating things. Sadness feel bad, but can’t seem to help herself, she knows that Riley needs her, but she doesn’t know for what .

But after some really sad stuff happens to their kid, Riley, Joy finds it harder and harder to keep control, and eventually she ends up lost, along with Sadness. Sending Riley into a crisis.

The big moment at the end of the movie is where Joy finally feels sad, which seems oxymoronic, but it helps her to see what she needs to do. Sadness finally is able to help Riley, and a new kind of feeling if forged, the bittersweet sort, Joy and Sadness mingled.

Which is the type of feeling C. S. Lewis called Joy. A deep sadness that it is happy to feel. Another oxymoron.

True Joy comes only when happiness has been baptized in sadness. Bapitized is kind of a religious word, but it means a thing has to be purified, usually be dying to itself, and then being reborn as a newer, better version of itself. (Basically what the idea of reincarnation tries to accomplish and fails because it uses the wrong kind of dying and rebirth.)

In other words, you will not have joy until you have accepted sadness and grief and allowed them to make you a bigger, better, kinder person; because let’s be honest, we all know people who won’t ever cry or admit they’re not dong so hot, and they are often the least compassionate people of all.

Or we may be that person, and that’s what bothers us.

The heart of Joy is to overcome suffering. Not sorrow, which is where we get confused, sorrow is good in the right amounts, but suffering if only good when we treat it properly, and that involves pursuing joy even through suffering.

I can get more into this in my next post, until then–Natasha.

Home Sweet Home

You guys know I went to a foreign country last year and it changed my life. I suspect in way I won’t fully realize for years yet.

Well, today I was reading something by one of the other girls who went on that trip with me, and I marveled at how similar we were feeling in some ways, and how different in others.

It is for privacy’s sake I don’t post pictures of myself or any really personal information here, so I can’t show you what the trip was like, but I have talked about it.

You learn a lot from another culture, and in my case, you learn that different as it is, in many ways it is more comfortable for you than your own.

I really feel out of place in the Western World. I value my rights as an American, and I thank God I was born here, and had the freedom to learn about Him without being arrested, or fined, or laughed at. But that aside, I’ve never really felt I belonged in this country.

You ever get the feeling you were born for somewhere else?

I think everyone gets that feeling at one time or another, before we get old enough and cynical enough to be convinced we deserve what we’ve got and there’s nothing better available. Am I the only girl my age who still believes she’s going to live in a palace one day? Probably not, but in another ten years, who knows? I may very well be the only one who thinks so.

Is it normal to be seven years old and think you just don’t fit into the world around you?

Well, maybe the better question is, is it normal not to feel that way?

We all do, sooner or later, but we usually dismiss it. Or we blame it on the wrong thing. The truth is, we are not meant to be perfectly happy on this earth.

It would kind of be wrong if we were, given all the horrible things that happen daily, I’m not one to focus on them, but it’s like Reason tells Milo in The Phantom Tollbooth. “When you are sad, no one else in the world can be truly happy.” I wouldn’t go quite that far, but no one else can be totally happy while there is suffering in the world. And that is as it should be, we are meant to bear with one another, and if you will not do it willingly, your life will still be affected by the world enough for you to do it subconsciously.

But this begs the question, if we are not meant to be perfectly happy here, where are we meant to be happy?

See, wise people know that a perfect thing on earth will not last, and they do not hold onto to it too tightly, but the wisest of all know that though earth is not the place for perfection, there must be a place.

We all yearn for the perfect, the complete, the finished. There has to be a time when we will or are meant to have it.

Imagine what it would be like to feel in your bones that it was time for perfect joy. I don’t know how, personally, I could stand it; like the sweet water from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, it might kill me, but it would be the death I would have chosen. (FYI, the water doesn’t kill, it actually heals, but that’s all in the book, you should read it if you haven’t.)

I believe that we are meant to have increasing joy in this life, because I believe that God gets better the more you know Him. I believe God may even give happiness to people who do not believe in Him, because He never leaves anyone without something of Himself, whether they choose to acknowledge it or not.

I believe that one of C. S. Lewis’s greatest achievements was how, in books Five and Seven, of the Narnia ones, and in “Till We Have Faces” and “The Great Divorce,” and also “Perelandra” in some ways, he managed to make the reader see a tiny glimpse of what heaven must be like. Only the tiniest glimpse, but even in that, it’s like Alice looking through the keyhole of the tiny door, into the garden, and already wanting to go there. (Alice’ Adventures in Wonderland.)

You want to go there, so badly, it scares you.

Whenever we want something with all our being, it is scary.

“My heart and Flesh cry out for the living God.” Psalm 84:2

Wow, this got deep.

What’s interesting is that you don’t have to be a Christian to get what I’m saying, you just have to know yourself.

Actually, plenty of Christians wouldn’t get this, because it is so easy to forget that first love and joy of being one.

If I may say so, one of the biggest problems we believer shave is forgetting what it was like to first be one. For me, it was as if I’d never seen anything before, or heard, or felt, it was all so much more vivid and vibrant. I mean even material things, not just the internal kind of sight.

That’s why I can’t be convinced it wasn’t for real. Nothing before it was as real as what came after it.

I’d like to end by going back to what I said about feeling out of place. I think once we accept that sorrow, it no longer is a sorrow. It is just a reminder of what we are to hope, it keeps us form getting too bogged down by stuff that is just not important. It brings to mind this other song I know, I’ll just quote the chorus here:

I’m going home, to the place where I belong, where Your love has always been enough or me.

I’m not running from, don’t think you got me all wrong, I don’t regret this life I chose for me.

But these places and these faces are getting old, so I’m going home.

Until next time–Natasha. 100_3137

Experiences.

I am re-uploading this post because it’s been several months and I think I can say it better now.

I want to get more into why we have experiences in this reboot.

Brushing your teeth is an experience, but it is not really memorable; versus going to another country, which you will probably remember as long as you have a sharp mind.

Though experiences themselves are easily defined by the facts, what they do to us inside, that is not so easy.

It’s funny how a seemingly terrible experience can later in life prove to be a good thing. one you are even grateful for. Like having a bad tooth pulled. Or getting disciplined by your parents. Or it can be a far worse experience, traumatic even, yet later, it makes you stronger.

I want to share with you guys something I got into this week, it’s an old comic book story, by Jack Kirby, about Scott Free and Big Barda.

AS yo may know, I don’t read a lot of comic books, but here and there I have one I like. This actually was all a tory I read online and saw pieces of on Justice League Unlimited, I only rada little of it in an actual comic book. I am not endorsing the show, but id o recommend reading the comic book saga if you get the chance, it’s an amazing story.

Not just because it may be the most romantic one in the DC universe, and it has a functioning couple to boot, but because even individually the stories of these two characters are poignant and surprisingly real.

Raised on the hellish planted of Apocalips, Scott and Barda are very different. Scott is the adopted son of the ruler of the planet, Darkseid, while Barda is a selected child who is being groomed to be the head of the furies, horrible female warriors who have no mercy, no pity, no remorse. It’s not really their fault, they are all brainwashed, hypnotized, and severely punished for doing anything remotely good or beautiful that Darkseid doesn’t like.

To make a longs tory short, Scott and Barda both witness one injustice too many, and Scott decides to flee to Earth, Barda, for reasons she does not fully understand, decides to help him, but does not follow till later. When she does they are happily reunited, and after a lot of adventures together come to realize they have fallen in love, they get married, and continue to have adventures. Though the most memorable may be the one where they go back to their “home” and face their nightmares (almost literally.)

Now I bring this up because the amount of experiences both these characters have is huge, and most of the experiences, at least early on, were bad.

So, it’s just a comic book, right?

Never!

Something about this story rung true with me. I have not had such a horrible life thank goodness, but I recognized something about it.

see, though we don’t live on a world that has no hope, many of us live in a kind of personal misery where we feel no hope. And we are brainwashed by many sources, hypnotized by entertainment, and severely punished by circumstances or possibly other people if we dare go against the norm.

I’ll bet most of us would look at Scott and Barda and say “that would never happen in real life, two people raised like they were would never be able to live a healthy lifestyle.”

Come on, is our modern phycology so very different from the kind of messages I’m sure Scott and Barda both heard? “You are meant for this, you can never be anything else, hope is pointless.” And I do not mean the lack of self esteem, but the lack of awareness just of what life is really about.

You might say, and honestly I would have agreed with you, that Scott and Barda would both be really messed up. Haunted by their past. and for awhile, they were. It literally cam after them. But they protected each other.

Until the fateful moment when Scott decided he was through running. He would go back and face it. And Barda, though she believed they would die, went with him. And they didn’t die, though they came close.

And this is how I feel like I relate to this story. Facing your past, and the fears that go with it, can be terrifying. You can feel like you’re going to die. Pain hurts. That’s what pain does.

But here’s why I don’t find their story unbelievable and I do find it real: I have been on the same journey. I continue on it. I do not feel as fearless as Barda, or as clever and optimistic as Scott; but I have had to learn to be brave, wise, and hopeful. I love Barda because she tells Scott right before they go into a dangerous situation, which she compares to a shark. “We’re jumping down that shark’s mouth together–and then I’ll beat it to death from the inside.” Who doesn’t want to marry someone with that kind of devotion?

Having a rough life may suck while it is rough, but one thing is certain, you cannot become so tenacious as to beat a shark to death, unless you’ve had a rough time of it.

And it takes tenacity to love, take it from someone who once had the backbone of a jellyfish, at least when it came to facing my own demons.

Scott understands, as he tells Barda, that they are proof Apokalips can fall. Not because they have defeated Darkseid himself, but because they defeated the darkness that he tried to instill in them. They overcame it with love and justice.

Usually we think of love, but you need justice too. Justice is what tells you when it is time to face your fears, justice tell s you when it is not fair to other people to act the way you do. Justice tells you that you should have a better fate than what you’ve been assigned by your enemies. (Whatever form they take.)

I think we are apt to get tired of hearing about the inner battle, but it is the one we have the most active part in, and it affects more than you know. More than I know.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to fight, ladies and gentlemen, and if you find a person who will jump down that shark with you, keep them around.

Note to self: Marry somebody who has no problem beating a shark to death if  it should ever be necessary.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this unabridged post from DryBonesTruth. Until next time

–Natasha

I really Lived.

I have heard many times that we need to live life to the full. We just need to live. Period. I may actually be sick of hearing this message. The reason is , no matter how often I hear it, I never know quite how to apply it.

I want to live well, to use my time wisely, but how? How do I know what’s worthwhile?

And even if I know, what if I don’t want to do it?

And even if I want to do it, what if I can’t?

Why does this have to be so hard?

Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it just seems hard because we make it so. That’s probably not news to you.

There’s this song that I happen to really like, and it’s not a Disney sequel one. This one is by One Republic is I am not confusing my band names. Perhaps you’ve heard it, it’s called “I lived.” I read on Wikipedia that one of the band member wrote this song for his son, and such songs are typically the best, because though we don’t know what we want, we have much clearer vision for what we want our children to have. (Even if they aren’t our children, but just children we care about.)

But I love this song because of what it exhorts the listener to do.

Hope when you take that jump, you won’t feel the fall.

Hope when the water rises, you built a wall.

Hope when that crowd screams out, they’re screaming your name.

Hope if everybody runs, you’ll choose to stay.

Hope that you fall in love, and it hurts so bad, the only way you can know is give it all you have.

And I hope that you don’t suffer, but take the pain.

Hope when your moment comes you’ll say: “I, I did it all. I, I did it all. I owned every second that this world could give. I saw so many places, the things that I did. And with every broken bone, I swear I lived.”

I literally get chills just typing these words out, they are so good.

There’s a verse in the Bible that has been made into a song, (as many of them have) but also expanded upon. It goes like this “Teach us  to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

The song tweaks it to “Teach me to number my days, and count every moment, before it slips away. To take in all the color, before they fade to gray. I don’t want to miss, even just a second more of this.”

What these two songs are telling us is very true. And the reason they use the analogies they do is because we understand better that way.

The first song is talking about how we need to live. We need to take jumps of faith, and if our faith is in the right thing, we won’t feel the fall. We need to face the storms of life and build walls to protect ourselves and those close to us. Now, the crowd screaming your name thing can be see many ways, but the best light to put it in, is that we will do so much good that we will be cheered on.

It is so important to me that the writer of the song used the word hope. No parents can make their child do any of these things, they all involve wisdom on the child’s part, and courage, and faith. But it is what a parent should want and prepare their child for. But it get even better.

To hope that falling in love will hurt sounds strange, but it is wisdom. Love, when it is purest, strongest, and most unfailing, hurts the lover. It won’t hurt all the time, but the ability to love so much that it hurts is the ability to have perhaps the highest human connection. I speak of true love, not the pain of unmet desire, that is something else entirely. That kind of love requires you giving it all you have, and that is a great thing.

To stay when everyone else runs, to not suffer, but to view it as taking the pain. Why, that is encouraging bravery, and not being the victim but the hero.

Seriously, I love this father’s prayer. It is like a prayer.

In the chorus of the song we get to the end goal, that the child will one day look back on their life and say “I lived.”

There’s a movie “Secondhand Lions,” which I recommend. It tells the story of two men who had an  amazing life, and passed on what they learned form it to their nephew, Walter. At the end of the movie, the grandchildren of one of the two uncles old foes, a wealthy sheik, show up at their house, and one of them says to Walter. “So those two men form Grandpa’s stories, they really lived?” And Walter says the most powerful line of the movie “Yeah, they really lived.”

I hope that will be said of me when I am gone. Or that I will be able to say it of myself.

It’s not what you do so much as how you do it. If you put your whole heart into it, that is living.

But there is the possibility of living for the wrong thing, and that is where the second song comes in. We only live for a short time. And even if we have good motives, we can easily direct them into the wrong pursuit.

That’s why it’s so important for the Christian to live for God. To do what is right, and what is helpful, not just what we enjoy. I maybe just lost you there. “Another message about how I can’t do what I want, yada, yada, yada.” Well, sorry. I don’t pretend never to struggle with this myself.

But I think that is because I forget the message of these two songs, (and every other form I’ve been told it in.) You don’t give your life meaning, but you can make it meaningful.

See, God gives life. He gives it meaning. But what you do with it, that may be left up to you.

“I lived” get to this as well.

Hope that you spend your days, so they all add up.

And when that sun goes down, I hope you raise your cup.

I wish that I could witness, all of your joy, and all of your pain. But until my moment comes I’ll say…

When all your days add up it should amount to something. Read that again.

Let me repeat, God gives your life meaning, you make it meaningful. That is not saying you have to make an effort to be important. You already are important, and many of us actually wish we weren’t because we see how we negatively affect other people without intending to do so.

No, what I’m saying is, you can pursue worthwhile things, like making other people’s lives better, and even more crucially, worshipping God; or, you can live your life like it was a credit card given to you with no max. You may use it all up on conveniences, but in the end the credit means nothing because there is no such thing as infinite provision without you working for it somehow. You’ll only run up a debt of time.

If you owe something your time, and don’t pay up, you lose your soul. That’s because time is the medium through which we even come to know and grow our soul, it is what God has given us to use for this purpose.

We, as the songs say, need to allot time for many things. For love; for adventure; for serving others; for Faith, foremost of all; and for enjoyment; and for taking in the colors, the rich beauty around us, if we only have eyes to see it.

“That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Yes, if we realize how our time is precious to us, we gain wisdom. I don’t know about you, gut that’s a kind of wisdom I’m still acquiring, I don’t think I have it yet. But I hope I will continue to learn it.

Maybe there will be some broken bones along the way, I am positive there will be broken hearts, but those can heal. So, when the moment comes when you’ll look back on your life, I  hope you’ll say “I really lived.”

–Natasha.