Monthly Archives: January 2016

I Get It!

Over the past year I’ve been working on reading the Bible cover to cover. Right now I’m in the book of Jeremiah, and man, that is not a happy thing to read. It’s all about how God is going to punish his people for betraying him and not adhering to his laws and teachings. He’s angry, and he speaks of his anger through the prophet Jeremiah. There’s not a lot of hope to be found there at first glance, especially if you don’t know where this story is ultimately going, and it’s literally scary to read. What I’ve found, though, is that God’s anger is relatable. There are little moments in what he says where one finds genuine hurt. In these moments he’s really saying: “I love you, and I just want you to love me back. I love you so much, but I don’t know what else to do. You’ve abandoned me, and the only thing left for me to do is to show you what that feels like.”

Today I found this: “I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering. You will turn back to me and ask for help, and I will answer your prayers. You will worship me with all your heart, and I will be with you and accept your worship.” Jeremiah 29:11-14. God repeats over and over in this book that he will punish his people, but he makes sure to promise over and over that he won’t punish them forever. Even in his anger, God’s love shines through. He likens Israel and Judah to an unfaithful wife. I don’t know a whole lot about infidelity, but I have witnessed it from a distance, and I’ve seen how it hurts people. Forgiveness in that situation is hard.

Still, God wants, more than anything, for his people to love him back. He refuses to give up on them. He makes this very clear when he goes so far as to sacrifice himself and suffer real, physical betrayal and pain. Jesus took God’s judgment on himself. Said differently, he took on our betrayal. We can never pay that back. I don’t think it has ever hit me quite this hard. It is a love that cannot be reciprocated. I found myself actually thinking, “That isn’t fair…”

I guess that’s the point. No one will ever love God the way he loves us, no matter how hard we try; no matter what we do; no matter how nice we are; no matter how much we scripture-spam our Facebook friends; no matter how much we talk about God’s love, we can never come close to what he’s done for us. That’s just not fair, and to be perfectly honest, it’s a little hard to process. It’s unthinkable. There are no words to describe it. I can’t even say “Thank you,” because that would be inadequate. The only thing I can offer is genuine worship, and I think I understand a little better now what that is. I’m not sure I can put it into words yet.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

 

Categories

My last post was about belonging and acceptance. Part of that, as I said, is about being able to identify certain categories which make us, us. I also mentioned that I might be able to give you an exhaustive list of all the “buckets” or categories I fit into, and I figured it would be fun to try. In thinking about this, I realized that there are also subcategories that are worth mentioning, so I’ll include those, too. Also, there will be some things that are not on this list because they are not significant, or particularly defining.

Christian
-Roman Catholic

Political Independent
-Conservative (generally)

Musician
-Guitarist/Violinist/Ukulele-ist(?)
-Singer
–Alto

Self Employed
-Writer
–Blogger
–Novelist
–Songwriter

Asexual

Nerd
-Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan
-Gamer

American
-Bostonian
-French/English/Irish/Czechoslovakian/Danish/Italian

White

Millennial

Woman

“Disabled” (still working on a better word substitute)

Camper

Procrastinator

Nocturnal

Optimist

Animal Lover
-Pet (bird) Owner

College Grad
-English Major

Introvert

Economically Dependent (Grr)

Single

Really short (if this counts as a category…)

Perfectionist (with some things)

One-of-those-people-who-are-cold-all-the-time

Peacemaker

Pacifist

Superstitious (somewhat)

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Own It

Belonging is a high priority for people, made more complicated by the fact that our minds and hearts can comprehend issues like religion, politics, and philosophy. The more things we can belong to, the more things we can be excluded from, and the more difficult it is to figure out precisely where we fit in. Sometimes we simply don’t want to put names to things, but ultimately, identity comes down to categories. We are all unique individuals because of the unique combination of buckets we fit in to. Of course it isn’t always simple. Sometimes our buckets don’t fit together perfectly for whatever reason, and sometimes we fit better in certain groups than in others. Being human is complicated.

I could probably give you an exhaustive list of every bucket I belong in, but it would be a pretty long list. Furthermore, the list might raise some red flags for certain people. I just read an article about a conference held in Houston for LGBTQA Christians. Several different views on many topics were represented, and it seemed like the whole thing was very balanced. Then I read the comments. They were snarky, cruel, and judgmental, and pissed me off royally. I bring this up because I am asexual and Christian, and that might freak some people out, but in my mind, there’s no issue when it comes to bringing these two aspects of my Katie-ness together. In the same vein, as you all know if you’ve been following me for a while, I love stories, particularly fantasy and science-fiction stories. I’ve read accounts from people who have been judged harshly by their churches for their interest in such things. In fact, at my college, I know that some students’ parents took issue with the fact that we were reading mythology in some of my classes.

Obviously some aspects of our personalities are more important to us than others. My sexuality almost doesn’t matter to me at all. It can complicate things here and there, but it’s otherwise not important. The fact that I’m a total nerd is important to me. The freedom to watch sci-fi movies and play RPG’s is something I value very highly, and I don’t find that it clashes with my faith. These stories take place in different universes, so the rules of this one don’t apply. It’s as simple as that, as long as we are able to distinguish fact from fiction, which is, or at least should be pretty darn easy.

Of course belonging isn’t simply a matter of identifying the buckets we theoretically fit into. it’s also a matter of acceptance. We long to be accepted for who we are by the people around us, even if those people are very different from us. Sometimes we’re the black sheep in our immediate families, or in our schools, but we find friends in odd places. Sometimes we fit into the category of weirdos who don’t have much in common other than the fact that we’re weird. Sometimes we’re just the odd ones out, and in that case, we just have to own it. That’s important. Acceptance is often a matter of recognizing confidence. It seems to be natural. Confidence in one’s self is a sign of strength that people will see and appreciate.

Lastly, it’s important to recognize where we belong and how valuable it is. It’s easy to disregard the fact that, although we may not belong in one “cool” or interesting group of people, we are loved by God, and the people we grew up with, and the new friends we make over time. It’s easy to forget what we already have, and we don’t have to strive for something we don’t need and ultimately might not want. Acceptance that is freely given is extremely valuable and should not be taken for granted, though it seems to be a natural human impulse to do so. Of course it is most important to be comfortable with who we already are, while remembering that we can always be better. As long as we strive for our perfect selves, we are the best we have ever been up until this moment. As cliche as it sounds, the most important person to be accepted by is yourself, so own it.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Language And Culture

Over the past year or so, as I’ve been writing my book, I’ve been paying more attention to characters that are underrepresented in popular media. The first I noticed were people with disabilities. We’re hardly even on the map. Hopefully my novel will help fix that to a degree. The other I’ve noticed are “normal” people who happen to be Christian. What I’ve seen in TV shows and movies is that Christians are generally represented in two ways. The stock Christian characters are almost always either Bible beating, ignorant jerks, or intellectually stunted, and thoroughly content.

When I was a little kid, my dad told my brother and me lots of stories–stories he made up, old Greek myths, as well as stories from the Bible. I learned about Echo and Narcissus at the same time I was learning about Adam and Eve and Noah. I grew up on mythology, science fiction, and fantasy, and I made it through the public school system intellectually unscathed. I learned (or at least tried) about Chemistry, math, biology, evolution, and physics, and I don’t question the facts regarding those subjects. The point I’m trying to make is that the largely agnostic and atheistic culture has a tendency to stereotype. I want to see Christian characters who are smart, funny, and nice, because a lot of us are.

I have a friend who is very into social justice–women’s rights, LGBT rights, race relations–if there’s a social disparity, she knows and cares about it. I admire her for it, but at the same time, she’s so militant and angry about it sometimes that it can get tiresome. Last night she was talking about how there is so much corruption in our country’s justice system, regarding racism and police violence. She has mentioned before that she is very wary of people in positions of authority, especially when those people have access to weapons. To be fair, at least right now, I feel like the people in authority in our country are kind of useless, but I don’t distrust them per se.

It’s easy to stereotype, and we all have a tendency to do it. While some authority figures are corrupt and untrustworthy, some, in fact I’d say probably most, are good people. The same can be said for Christians. People notice the jerks and publicize them because it’s easy and because they make the most noise. The truth is that most of us are reasonable and nice. I would just love to see a moment in a movie or TV show where something good happens because a Christian character was kind to someone or gave them advice, or because they prayed. It doesn’t have to be corny. It can be done artfully.

I will say that sometimes an issue I have with Christian culture is that it has a tendency to lag behind the culture of the Country in general. This is partly out of necessity. We can never deviate from the core teachings and beliefs of the Church, but we need to be more willing to adapt without compromising our faith. We’ve done it since the Church began, but culture changes with such increasing speed in the 21st Century, that it’s harder to keep up. One thing that I think should be an easy fix that the Church has largely neglected, however, is the language we use. For example, I still pray the ye oldie version of the Lord’s Prayer because that’s how I learned it: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” I mean it when I pray it, but it’s the only time I talk like I was around when Shakespeare was writing Hamlet.

How a person expresses him/herself has a large impact on how that person and their ideas are viewed. Many Christian ideas are considered cliche or uncool because we’ve been using the same language and motifs to express our beliefs since the beginning of time. It’s why I often can’t listen to Christian music outside of worship for an extended period of time. Artists just recycle the same stories, images, and metaphors over and over. This is due, in part, to the of fact that many ideas and images are taken straight from the Bible, which again, is relevant in a worship setting, but isn’t going to be helpful when it comes to bringing people to the Church, which I’m much more interested in doing, at least when it comes to music.

However, I think there aren’t many actually interesting Christian characters in popular movies and TV for similar reasons. I think part of the issue is that Hollywood at least is largely secular, and the people who make the best movies honestly just don’t know how to write good Christian characters. What would that character be like? Maybe they’d be like me–a dorky writer who  plays pen and paper RPG’s and teaches religious ed once a month. Maybe they’d be a physics teacher who chose that job to try and expand his students’ intellectual horizons. Maybe they’d be someone with psychic powers, trying to figure out if using those abilities encroaches on God’s authority, while at the same time, trying to save the world from certain doom.

A character’s religion does not dictate their entire personality. In terms of characteristics, it is equal to their interests, their profession, their education, their upbringing, and everything else that makes a person a person. It is another factor that makes them unique. I bring this all up because I’m tired of seeing Christian characters that are nothing more than the designated annoying Christian character. I just want characters that are interesting human beings who happen to believe in Jesus, just as I want to see more interesting characters who happen to have some kind of disability. I’m tired of factors like these being defining characteristics above all else. I’m tired of annoying stereotypes that put me in categories I don’t belong in.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Accidents

Earlier today I accidentally said “I love you” to a friend before hanging up the phone. He said it back, and it didn’t seem to phase him, but to me at least, it’s still a little awkward. He has a fiance, and he knows I don’t “like” him in that way, but I don’t think I’ve ever said that to him. It was just automatic. I say “I love you” to certain people when I hang up the phone. It’s just a little weird for me because I used to have a crush on him, and I don’t know if he knows that. Furthermore, he’s been my guitar teacher, a spiritual mentor, and for a short time, my boss. For the record, he was calling to reschedule my violin lesson because he’s commandeering my lesson room to work on a recording project with another client and the studio needs to be quiet. I’ve been told I make an awful lot of noise.

Earlier this morning I had a little talk with God. I’ve been trying to let him drive, and in doing that, I’ve been trying to figure out what he needs me to be doing. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I don’t entirely control my own fate. My Muscular Dystrophy keeps me from doing a lot of what I would consider “heroic” things. I’m not a hero in the way I would like. For a long time I’ve thought of myself as a minor character in someone else’s story, though whose I’m not sure. I’ve thought that I’ll always be the harmony to someone else’s melody. You get the idea. This morning I had a different thought. I’ve been trying to be the main character in a story that isn’t mine. I have to figure out what my story is.

There is a part of me that has always wanted to counter evil. I’ve never entirely figured out how. There are a lot of reasons for this. I’m still financially unstable, I’m not physically capable of doing a lot of things, and admittedly, I have short attention span, among other things. The leaders in the Church, and people all over the world and all over the internet emphasize the power of prayer. I know it works. I’ve seen miracles happen, but I’m impatient, and it seems counter-intuitive to think that just asking for something means you will get it, even if it’s not in the way you had imagined.

My story will never be a grand epic. At least I don’t imagine it will be. This morning I told God that there are important problems in this world that I just don’t and can’t care about. One simply cannot care about every single world problem. We’d all fall apart if we did. I care the most about two things: the salvation of my friends, and the destruction of ISIS–eventually, an ultimate end to war. Neither of these things are easy to achieve, and I’m not sure how much I can do about the second issue.

I’ve been trying to understand the Holy Spirit a bit more, and I’ve come to realize that he doesn’t give power to humans, at least not in the way we think. The way I understand it is that in this world that God has created, there is a physical realm and a spiritual realm. God can work in and manipulate both on his own, but in the physical realm, he often prefers to use physical means of doing things. He uses people to get his work done. He doesn’t give us power. He uses us as vessels of his power. I’m hesitant to say he works through us because to me that sounds like he kind of works around us, which isn’t exactly true. What I’m trying to explain is that we can’t just do whatever we want with the power that he gives us. It’s only “helpful” if we follow his lead.

I’ve been praying about it for at least three years now, but I constantly have to remind myself that I can’t save my friends. Not only that, but God can’t save them unless they choose to believe. Changing the spiritual opinions of five very smart, very opinionated people is not an easy task. I just wish I could get inside their heads and figure out what keeps them from believing. I’ve only been a Christian for five years or so, but I can’t imagine going through life, especially going all through college and adulthood not knowing that I’m being cared for and that, no matter what, everything is going to be okay. If nothing else, it makes me so much more comfortable with the fact that the future is uncertain, at least from my point of view.

I became Christian when I accidentally said “I love you” to God. I believed in his existence before I knew him, and I prayed about things with increasing frequency, especially after my first semester at a Christian college. I’m starting to think that that accidental “I love you” means something. “I love you” is something you say when you’re being your most honest and your most vulnerable. Come to think of it, I’ve been saying it to my closest friends more overall lately. I often find myself hesitating to say it because it’s corny, or because I question whether it’s an appropriate thing to say in certain situations, but I’m starting to think that life is too short, and you should never hold back those words.

I will never be the hero in a traditionally epic story, but there are five lost souls that I could have a hand in finding. Whether or not a story is important or interesting is largely a matter of semantics. The size and actual scope of this story seems small, and I haven’t taken a close enough look at what’s at stake. The setting of this story is largely in words on the internet, in my house, and in our heads. I’m not taking up arms against demons, and I’m not magically saving anyone. It’s not a story I would likely read. It’s my story nonetheless, and I will gladly be its hero. That accidental “I love you” is my weapon. I am God’s ambassador to the dark souls of my friends. I can do that because I’ve studied theology and philosophy and writing. I know how to debate, and most importantly, I know how to love.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Characters

On New Year’s Eve I gave one of my friends a general synopsis of the first half or so of my novel. Then something occurred to me. I have a lot of female characters. It’s not so much the number that might end up being a problem when it comes to reaching certain audiences. It’s their personalities. I have more dudes in my story than ladies, but the ladies are beasts. With the exception of a minor character who I’ve already killed off, there is no “damsel in distress.” My girls all have their issues, but they don’t need a guy to sort them out. In fact, three out of my four main female characters have psychic powers where only two of my seven male characters have these abilities. None of this was intentional. My main characters almost completely invented themselves.

The real problem will most likely be my Super Soldiers or Clone Army, if you like. They’re all female. They’re barely human at this point, but they are female nonetheless. Admittedly, it was intentional. The evil army is always male. Why not make them female? The person they cloned just happened to be a woman. While it was intentional, I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, especially since the person who is in charge of the cloning process, and the highest in command, is a dude. I am quite positive that someone will hate this. Someone is going to whine and tell all his friends to boycott my book. It’s just kind of a bummer because I think it’s a fun story. Furthermore, the gender of my Super Soldiers really doesn’t matter. They’re basically mindless, and aren’t even going to appear until late in the story.

I’m more of a feminist than I used to be, and honestly, I think it’s because I see a lack of strong female characters in fantasy and science fiction. In fact, many of my favorite stories have very little female presence. It’s hard to explain because I don’t really mind, but at the same time I do. I have no problem rooting for male heroes. I will forever have a weird sci-fi crush on (young) Luke Skywalker. At the same time, rooting for only male heroes gets tiresome. Honestly, the only real reason I have is that I’m a girl, and I want to be able to empathize with a female hero. Sometimes it just makes it easier to get into her head space, if nothing else. Furthermore, I think it makes it easier to insert myself into a particular universe and make my own story if I have an easy starting point, even if it’s just that the hero happens to also be a lady from a boring town, or what have you.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons, and a game we adapted from Dark Heresy with my friends. I’m the only lady in the group. Most of the time I don’t care except that I eventually notice that, a lot of the time, there aren’t even that many female NPC’s (Non-Player Characters). Sometimes, depending on the DM, there aren’t any. It’s like I’m the only alien to escape from a desolate planet and land on Earth. I guess it must just be natural to make certain characters in certain roles be a certain gender because of factors like your own gender, your upbringing, tradition, etc. There must be a million different factors that contribute to this. I don’t blame my friends. More than anything else, I’m looking for an interesting story. If I’m the only girl, then so be it. I happen to be our group’s designated Jedi, so clearly I’m the best.

To be honest, it kind of annoys me when people get all up in arms about gender issues or race relations or what have you. I know there are still bigots of every kind out there. I just don’t entirely understand why. What I mean is that, I don’t think that stuff should matter. It just seems to me that sometimes people put far too much emphasis on their gender or their sexuality or their skin color. Sure, I’m a woman in a still somewhat patriarchal society, but that’s not the most important thing about me. In fact, I really don’t feel like my gender matters that much at all. I’d say, more than anything else, I’m a Christian and a nerd. I think those are the most defining parts of my personality. Literally anyone can be those things. It’s not particularly special.

I guess my sentiments about all this come partly from cultural automatics, but also from the fact that I’m a pacifist and an optimist. I live in an extremely tolerant part of the country, in an affluent, boring suburban town. Furthermore, it takes a lot to actually get me angry. Most of the time, my initial reaction to problems is “that can be fixed,” or even, “I can fix that.” As I’ve mentioned before, my story is partly a thought experiment in a few different ways, but it started as a fun idea I had while on a wander last spring. I don’t have an agenda. I have some strong female characters, and some disabled characters because I want to. Those kinds of characters represent who I am in some ways, and part of the point of fiction is to be able to make a new world for yourself. If people have a problem with it, it’s on them.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Things I’ve Learned

Do not hate the haters. Hate feeds hate.

Do not withhold from the ungrateful what they do not deserve. Give anyway. Charity feeds love. Love feeds gratitude.

Do not be negative. There is always hope.

Do not judge yourself. Have faith.

Love everyone. Forgive everything.

Hey, Why Aren’t You Trying To Save Me?

To be honest, I’m very bad at sharing my faith in public or in person, so I stick to the interwebz mostly.

The Isaiah 53:5 Project

Uh, hold up. Stop for a minute.  Whaaaaat?

“Yep! If you really think I’m in danger of burning eternally, why aren’t you trying harder to convince me?” said the Atheist. “There should be a line across the street from my house!”

I found it very weird, when I came across this (paraphrased) question by an Atheist on his blog.  I could think of quite a few reasons why more people were not trying to break down his door to save him from eternal damnation.

  1. I’m quite sure a few good messengers had already been sent to him, who he disregarded and probably chewed up and spat out;
  2. There are many more people like him in desperate need of salvation, and if you had a choice between going to get chewed up, or going where you are more likely to get received, many would prefer to go where the grass is greener…

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