White Privilege: My Hot-Take

I’m sick of hearing about white privilege. Not because it doesn’t exist. But because it shouldn’t be a privilege. Being treated like a human being should not be a privilege. It’s incredible to me that I live in a world where people are treated as less than human.

This is clearly not a new problem, but that does not make it any less of a problem. People have been oppressing each other since at least Cain and Abel. But this is the first sin recorded outside of the Garden of Eden. The first thing people turn to is treating each other as not worthy of bearing the image of God.

We have human trafficking for sexual slavery and forced labor, we have genocide, we have injustice in our legal systems, in our social systems, in our economic systems. We even have injustice within the Church. How can I stop this? I know I can’t alone. But I also know God calls us to be instruments of His justice.

When we traveled to Cambodia for a mission trip, one of the things they told us was that being white Americans meant that people would treat us with a lot of respect. They were really clear that we were to use this in order to build people up, and mindfully, but it was still incredibly uncomfortable for me. Here I am, a bumbling white girl incapable of even speaking the language, and people were treating me like a celebrity when the entire point was for me to serve them.

On Being

Everyone’s been shocked by how our fast-paced lives have seemed to screech to a halt over the last while. But we found ways to fill them back up again – Instagram, games, reading, walking, phone calls, working from home, picking up part-time work, baking, gardening, and computer games. Now is the time to get in shape or start eating healthy or finally write your book.

I went backpacking for four days, and let me say, it was a completely different pace from my quarantine life. We walked, talked, sat, stood, slept, and ate. And that was pretty much all we did for four days. And amazingly, it wasn’t boring. For some reason, in nature I was content to sit and watch the squirrels and the deer, to look at the clouds and the plants, to rest for a while. I didn’t feel compelled to be doing something productive – the tent was already set up and I didn’t need to eat yet. At home when I have time to rest, I fill it.

But what if I didn’t? I can only imagine the space I would have for creativity, for processing my relationships, for building healthy thought patterns and schemes. But even this seems to be me trying to force my relaxation to be productive.

Josef Pieper (and many other philosophers as well I’m sure, but he’s especially known for it) talks about the importance of leisure. Not as something you do so you can be productive tomorrow at work, but as an end in itself. As something that says I trust God to provide and I have hope that I don’t need to always prepare for the future. As the goal of life. Not in a hedonistic sort of way, after all, it seems Pieper would include funerals in leisure, but as a pause to appreciate life and to affirm the value of creation and God’s good works.

That all sounds really nice, but how am I expected to live it out? On one hand, this seems sort of like the wrong question. It’s me being Martha and seeking to do good works rather than being Mary and simply accepting the gift. But on the other hand, I need to ask how to chose to live like Mary rather than Martha (in the extrapolated allegorical sense).

Given the way that life works, it seems like these choices consist in the little things. Choosing not to work on Sundays. Attending Church without my phone. Electing to stare out the window or into space rather than open Instagram. Sitting in silence when the conversation slows rather than finding excuses to move on. Leaving enough time to walk somewhere slowly rather than in a rush.

In the heat of the day it’s so hard to chose rightly. Perhaps that’s why God promises to send us His Holy Spirit. But honestly I don’t know what that means. So I pray and hope that God will reveal some of His mysteries to me and to the world, just as He has been doing since the beginning. And I suppose we’ll keep seeking Him as we are meant to do.

How do you create space in your life or how do you wish you did? Comment below if you’re willing.

Does God Bop?

This crucial theological question came up during dinner tonight. So without further ado, let us address the question: Does God Bop?

What does it mean to “Bop”? Generally, this term implies moving, often to upbeat music, and often with a bouncy quality. But it also seems to imply general enjoyment. I can’t imagine God wouldn’t enjoy his creation, seeing as how that seems to be part of the point.

We are God’s image bearers, and we bop. So is bopping part of bearing God’s image? Well, bopping is clearly a good, and all good is a reflection from God so it seems that bopping may indeed be a part of bearing God’s image.

The biggest obstacle to God Bopping seems to be that God is not confined to space. However, our understanding of God’s bopping is probably just not fully correct. Probably God bops in more dimensions and at a higher level than we can comprehend.

Ultimately, I just can’t imagine that God hears songs like Toto’s Africa and doesn’t jam to them at least a little bit.

Perhaps sunsets also reflect God’s bopping

Tea by the Sea

Adelaide lived a quiet life. She passed her time trying to sleep, trying to eat, and trying to ignore the pain. Sometimes she was able to paint a little, but never for very long. She loved to paint the birds that flew past her house. Their freedom and mobility was beautiful, and Adelaide envied them. She would’ve enjoyed watching TV, but the signal was never reliable, and there was nothing good on anyways. She lived in her house near the beach with her cat Gancho, who was grey and fluffy.

The highlight of her day was usually drinking a particularly unique type of tea, which changed each day.  Her favorite yesterday was called banana nut, and her favorite today was called Wonderland and was made from sassafras. Perhaps tomorrow it would be dragon red chai spice with some goat milk and honey. Some days, she felt well enough to bake, and would make quick breads that were flavored with the used tea leaves.

The highlight of her week was either a visit from the friendly neighborhood llama, Chaz, or a visit from the friendly neighborhood grandma, Gemma. No one knew where either one had come from, or why either one lived this close to the beach. Gemma wore exotic silks and obsessed over her garden, and she told stories of daring adventures from her younger days. When Gemma came to visit, she always brought Adelaide some yarrow from her garden, and insisted on making her some yarrow tea. Despite the honey Gemma would add, Adelaide always despised the medicinal flavor of yarrow tea. Why drink yarrow when other teas tasted so much better? But she held her tongue and swallowed the tea, enjoying a chance to see someone besides Gancho and her own reflection. She usually had lower pain days after Gemma’s visits, though whether it was from the tea, human interaction, or simply coincidence Adelaide couldn’t say.

The highlight of her month was when Jeffrey the lighthouse keeper brought her groceries. He would stroll up to her house in his clack turtle neck sweater, nose buried in a book. He always knocked, and she always spoke first. She would ask him how he was doing, he would say he was doing “just fine, thank you, how are you” and she would lie and say “I’m doing great, thank you” and then she would tell him her grocery list. She always wanted to ask him what he was reading, but the words never even got far enough to get stuck in her throat. Then Jeffrey would leave and come back with her groceries plus a bottle of goat milk, still reading his book.

The highlight of her year was when she was able to go down to the beach and sit in the waves. She waited for a day with calm waves and cloud cover to match up with a day when her pain was low. Then she would gather her paints and make a pitcher of iced tea and a towel and watch the ocean. She loved to touch the ocean for as long as she could, feeling the life in the water. She loved the birds flying in the never ending expanse of sky, the never ending roar of the ocean, and that life was a whirl of change. Gemma usually came down around noon, and Chaz always put in an appearance too.

But this time, Jeffrey came instead of Gemma. They stared at each other for an eternity, the color draining from her face and rising in his.

Where is Gemma”

“She asked me to come”

The ocean roar grew in strength, and the squawking songs of the birds rose to forte. Jeffrey clutched his book tightly, and sat down in the sand a little too far to be next to Adelaide. Each heartbeat stretched painfully. Adelaide’s questions finally made it to her throat, but she didn’t push them out.

“What a gloomy day to visit the beach.” Jeffrey squinted towards the sun. Another eternity passed, perhaps two. “Perhaps I should be going now.”

And her questions refused to be quashed. Today was her beach day and she intended to enjoy it.

“What book are you reading? Why do you always read while you walk? How do you avoid running into things? Is that a new book since yesterday? What do you do in your lighthouse all day long? How do you –

“Moby Dick.” And Jeffrey stood and left.

 

Quarantine

I’m done hearing about it. I’m done talking about it. I’m done thinking about it. I’m done stressing about it. We all are.

Somehow though, it’s one of the most unifying experiences of my life. We all have so much in common now – uncertainty, confusion, time for recreation we haven’t had, zoom fatigue, and a recent enjoyment for walking around our neighborhoods. And this unification is despite the fact that all the measures taken, despite what people may say, are the most emotionally isolating measures I can imagine.

We are encouraged to wear masks, which is great but then you can’t even smile at people. People turn away from each other to avoid breathing on each other, but the body language communicates distrust. We are supposed to stay six feet apart, so it feels like grocery stores are full of extremely skittish people.

And we are encouraged to connect with our friends, family, churches, schools, and work places through our devices. To me, this is such a hard thing. Typically, it seems best to me to plant roots where you are – interact with the people that you are around, build relationships with people you can actually interact with. All the interactions I have with people are based on the hope that we will see each other again in person, and they are designed to preserve the relationship until this is over, but so few of them actually breathe life into the relationships.

After writing that, I wonder how I wrote that this is a unifying experience. But it is because I am forced to be so much more intentional about my friendships. I have to want to talk to someone, I have to organize a zoom game session or coordinate a time to call and check in. We have to intentionally read the same books so we can talk about them, or search out an online game to play together.

Another reason why quarantine is so unifying is because we all are suffering together. Now I’ll be the first to admit I’m hardly suffering comparatively. But suffering isn’t comparative. I really can’t complain, and I don’t mean to, but a lot of the experiences of being socially isolated and disoriented because of a sudden displacement and a loss of routine are now shared experiences. Quarantine memes will be historical documents for a reason, and while I’m sick of seeing them almost exclusively, they’re popular for a reason: everyone can relate.

Finally, there is a sense that we all need to contribute to the societal good. Typically we have a hard time seeing our good as tied into the good of society, but in this event we see the importance of taking less toilet paper and wearing a mask and limiting grocery trips as valuable because it helps society rather than simply because it is good for us as individuals.

None of us want this to last. Because this isn’t what Life is. Life is loving and doing and creating and touching and smiling and talking and hugging and crying and Being. Life is not Life when we are apart. But the paradox of these times is that we must put Life on hold in order to preserve it. We are learning that online life will never replace Life, and that Life consists in community.

Reformed by H.L. Burke – Author Interview!

Reformed: Supervillain Rehabilitation Project by [H. L. Burke]

Once a villain, always a villain?

Optimistic and idealistic superhero Prism is determined to redeem her father’s legacy by rebooting his super villain rehabilitation program. To do so, she sets her sights on Fade, the relapsed super villain who was the reason the government canceled the original program in the first place. However, when she petitions for Fade to be released into her custody, she finds out things might not be as simple as she thought.

Convicted of an unforgivable crime, Fade received a choice: surrender to trial and possible execution or endure a memory erasure so he could start fresh. Now with no recollection of his time before incarceration, Fade doubts he has the ability to be anything but the villain the public believes him to be.

A series of attacks by a mysterious power-swapping villain points back to Fade’s past and the crime that cost him his freedom and memory. With her father’s legacy and her own reputation on the line, even Prism has to wonder: can a villain truly be reformed?

Pre-order on Amazon, only $0.99! https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B085X8N8FL/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52389618-reformed

Super Short Review:

I really enjoyed this book. Maybe it’s the quarantine talking, but I really don’t think so. The characters and their relationships were adorable, if a bit over-the-top at some times, but that’s really not all bad. If you liked Renegades by Marissa Meyer, this is also probably something you’ll enjoy. It’s a lot like Renegades except that it is much lighter. Prism is such a bubbly, optimistic person its impossible for this book not to be! Reformed is a great book with memorable characters and fun scenes, and I really enjoyed reading it.

Now, on to the fun part –

Author Interview!

Most of your books tend to be more fantasy genre – why a superhero book?
It was probably inevitable. I watch a LOT of superhero movies. I have always been fond of the subgenre, and every time I watch one or read a comic, I do my “if this were my book …” thing, so I’ve been collecting tropes and superpowers and team makeup ideas for a while. Honestly, the difference between superpowers and magic is just the explanation behind them … also the modern day setting, but I’d wanted to write something set in the “real world” for some time, so it was kind of fun to play with that and get a chance to throw in pop culture references and whatnot.
Do you have a favorite thing about this book?
Fade. I almost always fall a little in love with my male leads. I like to write guys who I like to hang out with and who my main female characters can develop healthy relationships with. However, Fade is kind of something extra special. For one thing, I let him be the same MBTI type as my husband (ISTP), which always dooms me to completely smitten-hood. For another, I gave him a tragic backstory, a goal of redeeming himself from past mistakes, and a great sense of humor. He’s chill and smart and quiet, and when he does speak, he’s clever. Plus when he decides that he’s a part of the team and starts to fall in love with the main lady, Prism, his protector instinct activates, and … man, the guy is sexy. I just like to write about him.
Are you planning to write more in this universe?
I have three more books planned out in the series. The next one, which I’ve slowly started working on between finalizing the first, is called Redeemed, and features team member Tanvi AKA Forte a lot more. I also have plans for books titled Reborn and Related (though Related is a really bad title and also a terrible pun because it’s about Fade finding out that his father is alive and on the scene as a supervillain, so I might change that). I don’t have plans past those four, but I try to stay open to ideas.
I have to know – what would Prism’s actual bubble tea order be?
Matcha, though it does depend on her mood. She also really likes chai, but she finds the green color of the matcha cheary. If she’s just looking for a quick guzzle, she might do the chai, but if she plans to savor it, maybe take an instagram, she’ll do matcha.

Sanity

What is Sanity? We call people who seem crazy insane, we call really good music insane, we think artists and saints and philosophers are all at least a touch insane.

Insanity and religion seem to correlate often. Think of the old testament prophets, who would’ve seemed insane to their peers – they prophesied with confidence about the future and claimed to be sharing the very word of God. But then they also did crazy things, like go about naked or not move for extended periods of time. Things like going up on a mountain and fasting for forty days seem likely to make someone crazy and cause hallucinations. David danced before the Lord and his wife called him crazy. There’s also Julian of Norwich, who had visions from God that are nearly too crazy to be believed. Joan of Arc seems to fall into the category of religious lunatics as well.

At this point, it’s tempting to assume religion comes from people’s inability to deal sanely with the world around them. Maybe. But what does it even mean to live sanely?

We see pictures of Albert Einstein and think him insane. Picasso seems crazy too, with his obsessions and mood swings and bizarre artwork. Frida Kahlo and Vincent van Gough were pretty insane too, by most standards. Cantor literally went insane.

People say Genius requires a touch of insanity. Yet we treat insanity like it takes people and makes their creations a touch less valid, or at least far more unreliable. But perhaps that’s an important distinction – just because someone is mildly insane, that doesn’t make their experience or contributions less valid, simply a bit more unreliable.

But the experience and contributions of sane people are unreliable too. So does this distinction elevate the musings of insane people to the level of sane people, or lower then musings of the sane to the level of insanity? It almost seems to make the distinction unnecessary. But there must be a reason why we make the distinction, I simply cannot tell what.

I’m not convinced that we really know what sanity is, but I think we as humans tend to slip towards what is called insanity when we contemplate things that are true, good, and beautiful. The classical idea of the beatific vision seems rather insane to our modern world, and yet it was the goal of those who used their minds most. As we approach what we are made for, perhaps we slip from what we call sanity. And perhaps, terrifying as the prospect seems, that is actually a good thing.

Is Hand Sanitizer Good For You? - SiOWfa12: Science in Our ...

Patience

Quotes On Patience In Love - 15 Best Ones Ever!

We all want a Cinderella story. We want a night at a ball that changes our whole lives. We want a perfect prince to take us instantaneously out of our suffering, and we want our lives perfect now.

So we make New Year’s resolutions, choosing to become idealized versions of ourselves. And inevitably, we fail. We try to become healthy overnight: “New Year, New Me,” we tell ourselves.We watch life hack videos and read articles titled “This One Habit Will Change Your Life!”

And when, two weeks after making these decisions we have failed to live up to them, we encounter what is called “Blue week” – the week with the most divorce proceedings, more people signing up for counseling, and a huge increase in seasonal depression and overall dissatisfaction with ourselves and our lives.

So if real change is not made overnight, how is it made?

If we look to Aristotle, we find his hypothesis that virtue is created through . If someone wants to eat healthily [virtuously], this is only accomplished through changing his habits.

But what is a habit? The world Aristotle uses here is ethos, which is the root of our word for ethics, and refers to one’s character. Our habits, or things we do because we have done them many times before, are the basis of our character, and yet our character is the basis of why we do what we do.

So the question is, if our character forms our habits, and our habits form our character, how to we transfer from a cycle of poor habits and poor character to one of good habits and good character? This brings us back to the question we asked at first – how do we shape ourselves into virtuous people?

Lots of ancient philosophy suggests that we do this through effort and contemplation. It suggests that we do it through willpower. Sometimes, it emphasizes the efforts of the individual, but often it suggests that we can improve ourselves through community, and that other people can strengthen us and guide us into living well.

Some strands of modern psychology often come across as suggesting that no change is necessary except a change to acceptance of yourself and others. Sometimes it parallels ancient philosophy in advocating for more of a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps approach.

But what do we do when we can’t even muster up the desire to want to change? What if our communities are as corrupted as we are? Perhaps this is a part of why we need a savior.

But I do not intend to communicate that accepting your savior will change you into the ideal version of yourself instantly. The process of developing virtue is exactly that – a process. A process requires time. But because it takes so long to develop virtue, it is also not so easily demolished. Because of the time and suffering through which we develop virtue, we can trust that even in the midst of everything, progress is being made. So I will leave you to contemplate the words of  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, which are so applicable to this process of growth:

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”

Rock

Rocks are solid, unchanging. Yet their colors seem to run hither and thither, bleeding, oozing over the surface and through the pores of the rock. If you get too close, a mostly red rock can look like a mostly black rock, because you are looking at just one aspect of the rock and missing the whole picture. The different colors add interest and dimension, and characterize the rock as something more than a slab of hard stuff. The colors of rock don’t shift, and yet they give the appearance of motion. The lines don’t move, but they draw your eye this way and that. Perhaps God is like this.

Time Thoughts

What is time, exactly? Is it a progression of space? The fourth dimension? Does it “exist” in the technical sense?

Robert Cheney | Skinner Inc.

Why do we live in the past so much? We write books in it, we think in it, we wonder about it. Perhaps it’s because we can’t live in the future, exactly, and living in the present is difficult. It’s important to reflect on and learn from the past, but perhaps we ruminate on it far too much.

Only in the Bible can we read about the future, but wow it makes zero sense. But we sure do like to think about the future a lot. And for every twenty different scenarios of the same conversation, always always always the conversation will go differently than expected. We like to think we know the future – we say “see you tomorrow” or “next week” or even “next year” – as though we know we will have next year, or even tomorrow.

Is this strange outside of time feeling what separates us from animals? They seem to live in the present. Not because they don’t have memories. But do they worry about the future? It seems like they don’t, but they do seem to have some conception of it, what with storing nuts for the future.

But then don’t we need to live in the present more? The past holds guilt and if only and I want to go back – but we can’t, while the future holds maybes and I hopes and fears and stress. Lots of stress. Living in the present is certainly a great secret for combating stress. Maybe because I only live in the present when I’m grateful. We interact with others, we pray, we live in the present. Perhaps we have peace when our mind matches with our body. One of the greatest benefits of dance is that it requires you to be present in the moment, and fully. Even if people are fainting backstage and our family is in the audience, if the world is falling apart, all we can do is perform, dance, emote.