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.
What is time, exactly? Is it a progression of space? The fourth dimension? Does it “exist” in the technical sense?
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.
Is this a post just because I haven’t posted in a while? Maybe…
I decided to try and read 100 books this year. That is almost 100% not going to happen, because apparently I would have to read 3 books a week for the rest of the year. However, I’ve currently read 46, which I actually feel pretty good about. The ones I read for school count for sure, but there have been a lot of books that I’ve read for fun that have been amazing. So here is a super long list of short-ish reviews for some of my favorites.
Daughter of Sun, Bride of Ice by H. L. Burke
What wonderful characters in such a rich backdrop! Arynne is as fiery as the land she comes from, while Kay is probably more like a marshmallow – hard and incomplete when surrounded by his Homeland of ice and perpetual night, but soft, sweet, and sometimes a bit mushy when he’s next to Arynne’s flames. This book grabbed me and sent my heart on a roller coaster, which is exactly what I wanted from it. I really liked the magic system and the world building. I struggle to relate to Arynne, because she just knows so well what she wants and she won’t back down, but I admire her fortitude. The other characters are wonderful too (I’d say more but… Spoilers!). I need book two now, maybe yesterday 🙂 Overall, a highly enjoyable read that beautifully explores autonomy, desire, and self sacrifice. (posted previously on Goodreads)
Eldest by Christopher Paolini
I had intended to drop this series after reading the first book, because often the writing style catches me as a bit pretentious, and because my friends were complaining about Eragon becoming over-powered. But some other friends generously gave me a copy of Eldest, so I decided to read it anyway. And I’m glad I did. This is the kind of book I would love to write – a book with a grand scale, colorful characters, different cultures and languages, and an epic feel. Maybe the writing isn’t the best writing on the planet, because sometimes it comes across as self-important but really, I think we could deal with a little more writing that says “look at me! I’m here!” and doesn’t try to pretend to be unbiased and nonexistent. As for my friends’ concerns that Eragon is overpowered – they are entirely valid. However, I have not found that to be a large problem, at least in this book. If Eragon could move on and not moon over Arya forever (I mean, we basically know they’ll end up together that’s been set up since book one!) that would be great, but I’m glad it gives him another internal struggle I guess. It’s also kind of nice to read about it from the guy’s perspective instead of the girl’s. Nasuada is the most incredible person ever. Also Roran, despite being defined by his love for his fiancee, is amazing too. I really like the idea of him. This book is a bit slow and does the annoying thing where it traces two story lines at once, and I can’t say I absolutely love the manner in which it tells the story. But the story it tells – that I really like. It’s twisty, grand, and important, full of lofty ideals, impossible feats, and gritty reality.
Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
I can’t describe this book well, despite the fact that it describes the indescribable so well. It definitely helped me grow in my understanding of the world, and I cannot over-recommend it. It explores the Garden of Eden, the problems of sin and pain, and the impact that Jesus has. It explores selfishness, our desire for control, and the joy of taking life as it comes. Please please do yourself a favor and read this book. It’s convicting and transformative – true literature.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
This was a nice book and I’m glad I read it. It seeks to clarify a lot of misunderstandings about Christianity. I like how C.S. Lewis tries to take lofty concepts and make them understandable, and overall I think he does a great job. Honestly, Lewis is just a word master and has such a great mind. I am glad we still have his books today.
The Empress by S.J. Kincaid
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! My heart, my brain!!!! Just like the first one, this book leaves you reeling. It talks a lot about the science and religion conflict, but really it focuses on the struggles of taking power without becoming just as corrupt as those you wrested it from.. I also really appreciate the Hamlet references. But what I still can’t decide is if this series is a tragedy or a comedy. There’s a lot of very ruthless action on both sides, and our main characters need so much help. I only wish they could get it. I absolutely need the third book and I need it now because the cognitive dissonance this book caused me is way too much for me to handle.
Arch Enemies by Marissa Meyer
Honestly, it was pretty good. But I was expecting more. Maybe it’s just because nothing will ever live up to Heartless, but I was a bit let down by this one. So much of it was a focus on Nova and Adrian’s relationship, and I really wanted it to just focus more on the politics. The scenes where they are working together or out fighting (or even fighting each other) in the first book were my favorite, and that was what I wanted more of, and barely got. The ending was climactic, but wow it took a long time getting there. For being superhero books, I think the stakes are not as high as I want them. However, the internal conflict that is building in both Nova and Adrian regarding the definition of what makes someone good or bad is enough that I definitely plan to read the third book.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
This is a beautiful work of children’s lit, and I really want to read it to my kids some day. It interweaves fairy tale style stories with a larger narrative of the young protagonist who goes to seek good fortune for her parents. Her purity of heart and understanding of the stories her father has told her all growing up combine to help her save her family and grow to understand herself and her world along the way.
Wonderling by Mira Bartok
This is probably the best fiction book I’ve read all year (except maybe Perelandra). The world-building, characters, and gorgeous narrative make it a beautiful, simultaneously heart-rending and heart-filling story about an adorable misfit fox-like creature called The Wonderling. The story speaks to the power of friendship and especially the importance of hope. The Wonderling transforms from a terrified abandoned fox-boy into someone strong enough to help others make that same transition, and it is one of the most beautiful coming-of-age stories I have ever read. Ever.
Remember when you were a kid and you ran around outside for hours, just looking at things?
Not thinking about how your relaxation was preparing you for future careers or how it was developing your fine motor skills or building your relationships with people or how much you were learning or how soon you would have to stop and be somewhere else or when you would have to go get food, not fearing the scrapes or bruises that inevitably came. Just being.
This is the essence of a celebration, the heart of leisure: Trusting that God will, just like a loving parent, tell you when you need to come inside and get dinner, or will wash off your injuries and kiss them better.
This living in the present moment allowed you to smell the grass, pluck the dandelions, crush them even. You looked around and took it all in, feeling no compulsion to repay what you were given. Yet you did give back as much as you could – you appreciated the uniqueness, you really truly saw it. And that’s all artists ever ask for – appreciation. attention. And little kids, though they give it in small doses, give it completely.
To look at the dandelion and delight in it, to say to it, “It is good that you exist,” in the words of Josef Pieper, is to fulfill your purpose as a child.
May I propose, as others have before me, that this “loving affirmation,” which stems naturally from a hopeful contemplation of the dandelion, is the true purpose of humanity. To look at creation and rest with God on the seventh day, and to say with Him, “It is good.”
But wait! Humans were created to work, to tend the earth, weren’t we?
Well, is not looking at the earth and seeing the goodness, and encouraging the goodness to grow even greater, the truest sense of tending to the earth? And in this labor we operate out of loving affirmation, and so it is truly a celebration. Nearly all ideas of an idealized world involve feasts. Perhaps this is why Jesus commands us to partake of Communion – to join in fellowship that spans the globe and the centuries in a celebration of God’s redemption of His creation.
But, you say, we can’t just feast all the time can we? Surely we have to work?
Well, yes the curse is a real thing. But perhaps we may be a part of the answer to the prayer “Let Your kingdom come.” Can we live in a celebratory fashion? Trusting that God is watching the clock for us, that God has prepared/is preparing the feast, that God has already provided and will continue to do so, that God has already won and His victory extends to us? Can we live from a place of victory, and perform our work as a part of this feast? Can we return to our original purpose of affirming and celebrating all the good that God has made in this world, and restoring that which He empowers us to restore?
Of course we will fail. But that does not make the striving less nobler, but rather more so. We strive after unattainable ends already, why not make them noble ones? As one of my professors signs his emails, “It is noble to strive after noble ends, no matter the outcome” (Plato, Phaedrus, 274b).
Perhaps this is what Jesus means when He says that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to children – those who live from faith and victory, trusting and hoping in God, and who celebrate the feast that He has laid out before them.
O Me! O Life! by Walt WhitmanO ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
She asked me for something philosophical. No one really knows what philosophy is, but the usual definition is a love of knowledge. And knowledge is usually viewed as a way of living in line with reality. What is reality? Now that, my friends, is the question of philosophy.
Without further ado…
What makes writing good? Grammar? Vocabulary? Plot? Characters? That’s what they tell you in school. But the writing I’ve read that has been the best was the writing that made my laugh, that made me cry. As Larry the Cucumber would say, “It moved me Bob.” What makes us respond that way to writing?
We respond that way when we connect with characters. And we connect with characters that are vulnerable. Characters that reveal to us their inmost thoughts, and with whom we feel a shared identity. Characters that we look at and say, “mood” or “ahaha. I do that.”
We crave vulnerability. We want to know people’s secrets, and we want to understand them. We want to relate to them, to empathize. But even more so, we crave others’ understanding of us. Our deepest longing is to be fully known. But then why do we hide so much?
Because our greatest fear is to be fully known and not fully loved. To be vulnerable and yet to be rejected. So we box ourselves off, hiding from our insecurities. Then we forget who we are, and we numb the pain with sleep, YouTube, vapid conversation, drugs, alcohol, empty pleasures, school, sports, money, workaholic tendencies, and perfectionism. We plan the future or lament over the past – anything to avoid dealing with the present. We tell ourselves “I’m an introvert, I don’t need people, I’m independent, I’m finding my own bliss, I’m dancing to my own beat, I don’t care that much.” Why are we the kings and queens of denial when we know it’s just poison. It’s just a little poison to numb the pain, to get us to tomorrow, as it slices off the potential that each today holds.
We hide behind technology, we hide behind excuses, we hide behind discussions of the weather and what we did last weekend and where we went on vacation. The closest we ever get to discussing how we feel is when we talk about our emotions as they are expressed through proxies – through books, movies, shows, music, plays, paintings – through art. The function of true art is to let us know that we are not alone. We are not isolated in our love of chick-fil-a and our irrational fear of clowns. In this way, perhaps social media is art. But great art takes us deeper, to things we are too afraid to post permanently to anonymous people behind a screen. It tells us we are not alone in our imperfection, our self hatred, our self aggrandizement, our inability to remember the past, in our sin. Great art reveals our sin.
But it cannot end there. It can’t! (Unless you’re Niche…) The greatest art tells us there is hope, that even though only a hobbit remains to stop the great darkness, the hobbit is all that is needed. That even the horrendous beast can learn to love, that even the death of the great Lion is not final. Great art shows us that in the midst of our viciousness, grace saves us.
And so, each little story tells of miracles. And this telling of miracles…is itself, a miracle.
A collection of three short stories devoted to the love of cats … and love itself.
“Cap Plays Cupid”—when a pampered feline decides to take his owner’s love life into his own paws, nothing will stop him. Not even barky, bitey chihuahuas.
“Whisker Width”—an aspiring cat lady gets more than she bargains for when a shelter cat mysteriously appears in her apartment.
“The Unfinished Business of Mystie Whiskers”—a recently deceased feline goes to extreme, paranormal measures to ensure her human finds companionship.
Purrfect tails for the cat lover and hopeless romantic.
This lovely collection of short stories about cats an loves had me laughing and smiling. If you like cats, you’ll love it. If you don’t like cats, you’ll probably still like it. The first story is adorable, and the cat is named after Captain America, which ends up being incredibly fun. Cap’s human is a super nice artist girl, and the love interest is high quality. At first I was a little put off by the first person narrative style, but in this case I think it worked well, because it helped to establish Cap’s character more. This story was probably my favorite, because I really liked all the marvel references and the characters were great.
In Whisker Width, I really enjoyed the imaginative quality. It was definitely not something I expected at all. At first, I thought it was about a were cat. It wasn’t, but there was definitely some magic going on. My biggest complaint with this one is that I felt like it stopped too soon. I wanted to know more about the love interest, because he shows up later in the story, and I felt he was a bit underdeveloped, though he had so much potential.
Finally, “The Unfinished Business of Misty Whiskers,” while a bit strange, was highly amusing and rather sweet. It begins with Misty’s death, which makes this one less sugary than the other two, and adds some depth.
If you want some fantastical light reading, look no farther than H.L. Burke’s Match Cats.
That’s right. I’m claiming that William Goldman does not understand one of his own characters.
This post is about the book, so some things are different than the movie. Also, spoilers.
First, let me say that Goldman gets a lot of things right – We all know that Princess Buttercup is the most beautiful woman in the world, and we all know that she loves Westley. She is somewhat naive, perhaps a little lacking in trust, at least initially, and certainly far from perfect.
But she is not stupid.
Goldman presents her as someone who struggles with math, and is unable to come up with useful plans. She agrees to marry Prince Humperdink, saying “I can live without love,” jumps into shark-infested waters, pushes Westley down a hill, expects Prince Humperdink to take Westley to his ship safely, and then expects Westley to save her from marriage to Humperdink.
None of these actions are necessarily a result of her lack of intelligence.
Goldman says, “If you read back into Florinese history, it did happen. The facts, anyway; no one can say about the actual motivations” (Goldman 47). In fact, the entire book is presented as Goldman’s abridgement of a Florinese history. So, not only do we have the inherent bias of Goldman’s abridgement, but also the bias of S. Morgenstern, the fictional writer of the history. So, I feel free to explore alternate explanations for Princess Buttercup’s actions.
1. Marrying Prince Humperdink
Prince Humperdink gives her an ultimatum – marry him or die. Buttercup agrees, but only with the promise that their marriage will be loveless. She says “I can live without love.” The Princess Bride would have you believe that “true love” is life, as shown by a) the remark that “true love saved her in the fire swamp,” b) Westley’s ability to withstand torture by thinking of Buttercup, and c) Westley’s return from the dead in the name of true love. I think Buttercup is actually showing remarkable sense here – her true love is dead, and so she is honest with the Prince, but has the tenacity to go on living without Westley. Perhaps this act though portrayed as a character defect, really should be seen as a demonstration of Buttercup’s tenacity, honesty, and wisdom.
However, Buttercup does finally decide that she cannot live without love, and upon her marriage to Humperdink, plans to commit suicide. At this point, she knows that Humperdink is a coward, a liar, and not someone she should be married to, and so she is not willing to suffer the injustice of being married to him. Also, at this point she thinks Westley is alive (and he is). She is being loyal to him in the only way left to her.
2. Jumping into Shark-Infested waters
Maybe this is not the smartest move ever, but she would not have known the water was shark-infested. She grew up on a remote farm village. Also, this action further demonstrates her tenacity and her willingness to take risks. She would likely have succeeded, too, if there had not been sharks. Besides which, it was certain death if she had simply stayed in the boat, because Vinzzini had been hired to kill her, so the swim to shore was a sensible risk.
3. Pushing Westley down the incredibly steep hill
Again, Buttercup shows some agency, and everyone just blames her for her stupidity. There is no way she could have known that pushing Westley down the hill would force them to go into the Fire Swamp – she is from Florin and she is in Guilder, there is no reason she would know the geography. Perhaps we can blame her for not knowing that the Dread Pirate Roberts is Westley, but she thinks Westley is dead, and is probably not staring into the masked pirate’s eyes nearly enough to know that he is Westley.
4. Her trust of Prince Humperdink
She does not know that Humperdink is not to be trusted – how could she? He is nothing but understanding towards her. Granted, he has a Zoo of death, which is highly disconcerting, but other than that he seems, externally at least, like a pretty upstanding guy. Buttercup uses what bartering power she has to try and at least get something out of the hopeless exchange.
5. Her trust in Westley
While it seems naive and impossible, she ends up being right. Looks like she learned her lesson that Westley would always come for her.
Why would Buttercup be expected to know math? She grew up on a farm with parents whose only encouragement to her was that she bathe more. It would be more strange if she did know math.
7. Solving Problems
Buttercup’s solutions to her problems do not always pan out (see points 1-4), but by the end she’s grown enough that she is the one who is able to get the whole group out of the castle – she tells the exterior guards to go save Prince Humperdink. As a result, the whole group is able to escape without further casualty.
Essentially, whenever Buttercup’s actions seem to be a result of her stupidity, they are actually not as ridiculous as they may at first seem. She is naive, but she is also trusting, tenacious, and a victim of her circumstances. I can only hope that I would respond with as much trust, tenacity, and courage if I were in her place.
I love how a dance well performed becomes not about the dancers or the choreographer, not about the technique or the lighting, but about the message. As a dancer, my job is to be a vessel, to lay myself aside and do as I’m instructed. The best dancers are the most humble, the most willing to allow the choreographers to completely manipulate them. This is my job as a Christian too – get out of the way and let God work his miracles.
Perhaps the audience may not understand the piece consciously, but there is something about a dance well-choreographed and well-performed that sinks into the emotions and the subconscious that God may use to work on the audience’s hearts that we will never know about. To me, this is the power of dance.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)
The king is giving a party, showing off his wealth, and feasting his nobles and officials. In fact, they have been partying for a full 180 days, half a year! The king has finally decided to draw the celebration to a close, but not before a grand finale – seven days for feasting for all the people of the citadel of Susa. He invites everyone into the garden, decorated with white and blue linen, bedazzled couches, and costly mosaics. He serves food with no limits, and wine in golden goblets. Everyone is drunk and ready for a new spectacle. Including the king – King Xerxes.
Now, thinks King Xerxes, what do I have that I know no one else does? Aha! My queen. So he orders his officials to go and take her from the banquet that she is hosting for the women of the palace, and bring her to his palace. Wearing her crown – and quite likely nothing else.
What does Vashti do? She refuses. And the whole kingdom goes into an uproar.
Why does she refuse? Often this refusal is portrayed as insubordination and a refusal to obey the king, her husband. In fact, the advisors say that the whole country will view Vashti’s refusal as disobedience.
But perhaps, she was simply trying to protect the reputation of the king. Sleeping with a man’s concubine(s) was one way that men would claim each other’s stations in life. So, showing off his wife, the queen, to drunk party goers, could be construed similarly. If Queen Vashti were paraded in front of the spectators of all social classes, and they were allowed to feast their eyes upon her, that is somewhat similar to the king giving her to his people in a way that he should not. In a way, Queen Vashti is protecting her husband from making poor decisions in his drunkenness.
Additionally, Vashti demonstrates self-respect. She refuses to be seen as a trophy, to be seen as merely part of the king’s vast riches. Culturally, that is what she was, but she takes agency and holds onto her dignity. She sees herself as worthy of more than fodder for the lustful fantasies of drunk men, and acts on that conviction.
Though Vashti’s actions lead to her removal from the position of queen, Vashti’s actions may have provided inspiration for Esther. The removal of Vashti from power demonstrates the danger of disobeying the king, but her actions demonstrate a willingness to value human dignity above her life and her position. This ordering of priorities may have served as an inspiration to Esther to visit the king uninvited.
This is part three in a three-part series based off of Esther.
Role models are important, and we choose role models whether we think we do or not. So, it is beneficial to choose role models purposely. One Old Testament woman, Esther, is consistently held up as a role model for women today. What qualities did Esther have that enabled her to win “the favor of everyone who saw her,” and of generations who came after (NIV Esther 2:15)?
Esther is introduced to us first as Mordecai’s younger cousin, his ward Hadassah. We learn that she did not reveal “her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to” (NIV Esther 2:10). We also see that, when her turn came to go to the king, she brought “nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested” (Esther 2:15). Esther obeyed those who gave her good counsel, even though she was no longer under Mordecai’s direct charge and she was in a higher position than the eunuch Hegai.
Through Esther’s obedience, we see her humility. We also see her humility in the way that she reported the conspiracy against the king’s life – she gave all the credit to Mordecai (Esther 2:22). Her humility is further exemplified in her way of speaking to the king.
The Bible flat out states “This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful” (2:7). She basically wins a beauty contest to become queen.
Esther is taken away from her community and relocated to the palace, where she retains enough presence of mind and strength in the face of that chaos to become a favorite of the eunuch in charge of the Harem. And of course, there’s the classic example of the courage of her visit to the king. She goes to speak with him uninvited, which is punishable by death in Persian culture. She literally puts her life on the line. And she throws Haman under the bus while he’s in the room, rather than behind his back.
Esther is full of wisdom. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord and a humble heart. She has the wisdom to work on a relationship with Hegai. She has the wisdom to seek and obey good counsel. She has the wisdom to feast the king twice before she tells him her request.
Esther has confidence. But not in the sense that she knows she can do anything, and is a “strong independent woman” – rather, she has confidence in God. Having her confidence in the right place, as evidenced by her insistence on praying and fasting, enables her to be an effective tool for God to use to save his people.
Finally, Esther accepts the place where God has placed her. She does not fight against being summoned to the court, but rather continues to live as she has been taught – in humility, obedience, wisdom, and most importantly, reliance on God. Mordecai tells her, “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Because Esther accepts God’s calling on her life, and chooses to live up to her potential, God uses her to rescue his people.
This is part two of the three-part series based off of Esther