Circle of Life.

Lyrics of African lyrics:

Here comes a lion father

oh yes it’s a lion

we’re going to conquer

a lion and tiger come to this open place.

 

From the day we arrive on the planet

and blinking step into the sun

There’s more to see than can ever be seen, ‘

more to do than could ever be done

there’s far too much to take in here

much more to find than cane very be found

but the sun rolling high 

in the sapphire sky

keeps great and small on the endless round

It’s the circle of life

and it moves us all

through despair and hope

through faith and love

till we find our place

on the path unwinding

It’s the circle, 

the circle of life.

Anyone else get chills when they hear this English part? I used to love this intro.

It’s just so great. I always though it captured the feeling of being in Africa and being one of the animals in the film.

Something about it. IT just suggests wisdom and steadiness with life.

Well, I doubt it surprises anyone that I like the Lion King. Who doesn’t?

Though to be honest, Simba was never my favorite part of it. I like Mufasa, and Nala, and kind of Timon and Pumba.

Well, everyone loves Mufasa.

And I also hated Scar, which most people don’t seem to. Though at the last you almsot feel sorry for him…almost.

Actually to my mind the whole scene where he hyenas kill him while the fire starts burning them is one of the creepiest Disney deaths ever. But poetically just.

Anyway, why one earth would I make this song the subject of a post?

Well, I always thought this song was embodying some tribal philosophy. Don’t take that the wrong way, it just seems like Disney selected an African culture to base the film off of. (Plus Hamlet.)

Now, maybe it is, but if so, now that I know the lyrics, I’m not convinced that philosophy is so bad.

Again, this song just has a rich tone. That’s what really makes it work. The lyrics aren’t spectacular, until you combine them with those awesome vocals and background music.

Then you get something that basically makes you feel like you’re on the African Savannah watching life happen.

The best things about the animation for this film as that everything in it seems royal. It just spells it out for you. Every beast is portrayed majestically and proud, except for the hyenas and Timon and Pumba. But especially in this opening number, you really feel like you’re that young giraffe we see, or Simba himself. Seeing all this for the first time, and being overawed by it all.

You feel the wonder of being young and new to the world.

And that is a good feeling to have. Especially to us older and often more cynical folks.

also I could feel a sort of appreciation all the beasts have for their world.

And that’s another factor of this film, it’s very simple. The circle of life is easy to explain. You are born, you die. Lions eat antelope; but antelope eat grass, which grows from dirt which the lions turn into after dying. The sun moves over the Savannah and provides light to all the animals, enabling the circle to continue.

It gets even more interesting if you start looking further in the the symbolism in the film. It’s no accident that we see a birth, a death, a coming of age, another death, and finally another birth; all in the course of the story. (nor that we see similar things int he sequel. If you’ve watched that.) It’s a circle.

Now I am not one of those who thinks that thinks just progress in a certain way because of some abstract Mother Nature, or some pattern that just proceeds because it has to. OF course I think God established the rhythm of the world. (It has since been tweaked a lot, and not for the better.)

But because I believe that, I don’t find the circle of life idea offensive. I think it’s very true that things proceed in a circular pattern. This has been pointed out in “The Fourth Turning.”

The reason it simple enough. Human nature doesn’t change, and Nature itself has to operate the way it is designed to. So you have events always repeating themselves, though never exactly in the same way.

Mufasa and Simba are not the same. But they have to take the same role in life.

But it should not be lost on the audience that the movie, though showing deatht o be a real and important thing, supports life as the goal and proper state of the world. Showing how Simba restores life and order to his kingdom.

The whole thing with the Sun even in the song lyrics is pointing to life and health and prosperity.

Also, in true Disney fashion (and much like Frozen) the song is foreshadowing the movie’s events.

Through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place, int he path unwinding.

TO be honest, I neer understood those lines, I fully expected the last part to be “to fulfill our dream” or something like that.

It so would be now.

Simba goes through despair, and then hope, he finds faith and then love. Then he finds his place. (The path unwinding part comes more into the sequel.) The landscape of the film mirrors his journey. From the dry canyon and the thorny bramble, to the lush and lazy jungle, back to his home, and ultimately we see that home restored to it’s lush state also.

The beasts and other lions also experience despair at losing their king, then hope when Simba returns, they put their faith in him, and in the end things are right again.

Symbolically, we hear the song again at the close of the film. (You remember that thunderclap sound that  everyone got pumped up after hearing?)

Things come full circle.

That was subtlety, back in the day.

There is so much to unpack from this film, but that’ all I can fit into this post. Until next time–Natasha.

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Stranger than fiction.

Stranger than fiction.

It’s the title of a movie, I’ll bet there’s probably a book called that too. It’s also an old saying “Real life is stranger than fiction.”

You know what’s funny to me? How demanding we are now about our entertainment. There are still folks who aren’t picky. But especially among millennials and younger, we’ve got a lot of critics who want to find their fiction believable.

I’m guilty of this too, and hey, it’s not exactly wrong. I’m all for having standards. It’s not that that bothers me.

It’s that these standards are often ridiculous.

Fiction creators are held up to almost impossible standards. Everything that happens in their imaginary world needs to line up with everything else. They get criticized if there’s a detour into a subject unrelated to the main plot, even though if all of a story is just about one main plot, it can be flat and lacking in depth. If their characters aren’t funny or really emotional, than they’re flat. (It couldn’t just be that not everyone has to be either really funny or really volatile. Or stoic.)

They get accused of making characters stereotypical or cliche, but are also expected to play into certain stereotypes like “strong female character” or “doubtful hero,” or “compelling villain.”

We put a lot on these poor folks who just want to tell us an interesting story. Some of the most beloved stories of all time don’t make sense, that’s part of their charm.

And we’d be wise to take a look at why that is, and learn from it.

Take “Alice in Wonderland” for example. If you are western European, you have heard of this story. It used to be the number one required children’s book in England. It may still be. (Google it someone.) This story is famously nonsensical. But I like how Jim Weiss described such nonsense. “It makes sense, but in it’s own whimsical way.”

Alice runs into a lot of silliness, but mixed in with all that are some important lessons in humor error and in logic and the value of certain things. IT also turns a lot of the phrase we use on our own heads, and so teaches us that words ae important. In fact books like the Alice books, and the Phantom Tollbooth, and Mary Poppins, all foster a love of words in the reader. I sound like the prolouge to a classic by an editor, but it’s true nonetheless.

But what I find most important of all about these books is that they challenge the persepctive on life that even children may take too seriously. Alice i a know-it-all, Milo
(Tollbooth) is bored and finds nothing around him to be worthwhile, and Jane and Michael tend to be close minded about new things. The whimsical things that happen to all of those children teach them to enjoy life more and see wonder in things that they never paid attention to. The Narnia books do the same thing in a more gentle and subtle way.

And it’s good for all of us to have to stretch our minds to see things a different way. To understand that there may be different rules than the ones we know, or that we may just only know part of the story.

Okay, so what do my two subjects have to do with each other? I’m getting to that.

We have two choices in life, ladies in gentlemen, and all our important decisions will fall into one of these categories. Good and Bad.

But good doesn’t just mean moral, it means good for you.

And our attitude toward fiction is way more important to our well being than we give it credit for.

We can either demand that we understand every little thing, in every single part, after just one time with a story. Or, we can let it sink in a little deeper, and move us; or puzzle us and thereby cause us to think and hopefully to grow.

See, all this criticism and nitpicking, it’s our way of trying to protect ourselves. Not even from bad ideas, but just from liking things that it would somehow reflect badly on us to like. We don’t want to be fooled again.

There is some wisdom in that, but we have carried it way too far as a culture. It’s really just used to keep us from ever being challenged in the way we look at things. Because as long as we can pick something to pieces, we don’t have to admit it has a point. And as long as we can assign whatever meaning we want to it (whether it be less or more than the creator intended) then we don’t have to ask ourselves what the actual meaning was.

If we can explain it, then it can’t hurt us.

That’s what we think.

But if everything must be explained, then I’ll be the first to say fiction is fiction indeed.

Nothing in fiction is more unreal than when it all makes sense. Because if you haven’t noticed, real life does not make sense.

In real life, things happen for a reason, but it’s not always a reason we know. Or like. In real life phenomenons take place that we can’t understand or explain. In real life, outcomes are not always predictable. Most of all, in real life things cannot be dismissed just because we disagree with them or find fault with them. We actually have to work out problems in real life.

That’s why I take fiction seriously. Because it ought to be helping us deal with real life, since fiction is actually far simpler.

So demanding it be perfect is demanding something you are never going to see in this life. And demanding it be compelling is pointless. Because most fiction can’t force you to be compelled, you have to choose whether to care or not. And it’s no big surprise that those who don’t care about fictional events on the basis that it’s boring will not care about real events in a deep way.

Life is most definitely stranger than fiction, and the best fiction reminds us of that fact so we can become more flexible.

Those are my thoughts for now, until next time–Natasha.

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