Tag Archives: Games

The Big Things And The Little Things

I have writer’s block, so I’ll write about this. I thank God for words. I thank God for air conditioning. I thank God for water. I thank God for the internet. I thank God for my technology. I thank God for my stupid bird. I thank God for all the random, pointless little things that I enjoy. I thank God that I can learn, and I thank Him for the occasional times I beat my dad at Checkers. I thank God for art, and I thank Him for his mercy. I thank God that I have easy access to food, even if it’s not exactly what I want to eat. I thank God that I’m alive. I thank God that I can think, and I especially thank Him that I can talk to him.

Thank God for the big things. Thank Him for the little things, too.

 

Fear Is A Lie

I realized something recently. When I’m working, I listen to Christian music almost exclusively. I’m talking about bands like Tenth Avenue North and Rend Collective. When I’m hanging out with my dad (my mom doesn’t really like music), we almost exclusively listen to secular music. My preferences in both categories don’t cover a hugely wide range of genres because I know what I like. When it comes to movies, I’ll watch almost anything, from romance to action to horror films, as long as the story is good. I don’t mind what some might consider vulgar language, and I don’t mind portrayals of faiths or belief systems that contrast with my own. I’m not afraid of these things.

Similarly, I am beginning to care less and less about what people think when I say that I am Christian, and I believe the Christian God to be the only true God. As I said, I am beginning to care less. As a teenager, I purposefully separated myself from others, but it was not for faith reasons. I had no faith back then. Still, I didn’t care what people thought of me. It was out of spite. Now I have faith, and my God has taught me to love, and now that I do love, I care what people think of me. It’s odd, and ironic. I care what people think because I love. I need people to understand that I believe in absolutes and in objective morality, and though I’m not perfect, I try not to judge. What I am trying to say is that I care less about my image now, and more about whether or not people can see the real me. The real me is Christian.

The world breeds fear. It’s hard to overcome it because the world is just so complicated. There are wars, there is violence, there is hunger, there is sickness, and there is a multitude of other problems, not to mention the supernatural factors. I’ve learned that fear is probably the Devil’s most powerful weapon. The most important thing to remember is that Jesus has already won. That means we’ve already won. My mom and I are listening to a story right now that’s told largely from the perspective of a seventeenth century Jewish woman living in London. At that time in London, apparently the leaders of the Jewish faith condemned theater because it was vulgar. I remember hearing that Christians had very similar sentiments about early Rock ‘n’ Roll, thinking that it was downright evil. They said the same about games such as Dungeons and Dragons when that first came out.

Such fear is nothing but a lie. Of course there are lines that need to be drawn. I don’t listen to certain bands or even just certain songs by bands that I otherwise like because they insult my Lord or my religion, for example. However, fearing something and ignoring or condemning it are two entirely different things. There are things we as Christians can ignore, tolerate, and even enjoy, even when these things are not explicitly Christian. There are also, of course, forms of entertainment or other practices that should be spoken against. Obviously this requires discretion, and I believe there are plenty of people braver and better equipped than myself to do this. My aim in this post is to speak against fear. I’m not a warrior, and I’m not a coward.

I started thinking about this recently because I’ve started getting bored of the same phrases and imagery that are used over and over in so many worship songs. I want real worship, and I want real artistry, not a bunch of lines that are copied and pasted from Scripture on top of yet another new melody. This is done because it is easy, but also because Scripture is the Word of God, and we love it. We trust his word, and it gives us comfort and hope. It is understandable, but it is also overdone. God himself is an artist. His plan and his way of doing things are totally strange, yet beautiful. We are made in his image and likeness, and as Christians, and especially as Christian artists, we should aim to mirror that. Be bold, be strange, venture into the absurd, do not be afraid to love, and above all, do not give into fear.

My Christmas

Yesterday was pretty sweet. My cousin from Montreal was home for Christmas, and my grandmother got me a super competitive board game called Cathedral. The point is to place more buildings on the game board than your opponent by strategically blocking off territory. I love games like this because for whatever reason, I’m obnoxiously competitive. We also played a game called Password. We decided that we would do sibling teams because we knew it would end badly. It was my two cousins against my brother and me. My two cousins think nothing alike, and my brother and I think nothing alike, so it was hilarious. I got a lot of great presents from my family, but I’m most excited about my new bass guitar, and my copy Saint Faustina’s diary.

I realized something rather embarrassing when everyone had left, though. I had gone to Mass the night before, but I had not had a particularly Christ-centered Christmas Day. In my defense, my grandmother had stayed overnight and we had had company all day, so I didn’t exactly have much time to sneak off and do much. I had some, though, and I should have recognized and used it. I started reading Saint Faustina’s Diary today, and she wrote something that I think is helpful. I don’t remember the exact quote, but basically she wrote that the future scared her and that she realized the past is unchangeable and not really worth thinking too much about. I empathized with her being a little freaked out by the future, and I’ve realized over time that I have a tendency to dwell on the past. It used to drive me crazy, but it has died down quite a bit. When I went to bed last night I prayed through the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, and then I crashed. My mistake bothered me last night, but that was last night, and I can’t do anything about it now.

One really cool thing was that my cousin (not either of the cousins I played Password with) told my mom that he really liked the Christmas Mass because our Priest’s homily was basically a history lesson. Apparently there has been preserved, what is believed to be, the wood from the manger that Jesus was placed in as a baby. My cousin asked my mom why they didn’t teach that kind of stuff in history class at school because, he said, it might convince more people to believe, even just a little bit. I’m my cousin’s Confirmation sponsor, and unfortunately, I’ve never really been able to figure out what he believes or how much he believes. This sounds to me like he at least wants to believe. I’m going to start being more of a pest, I think. By “pest” I pretty much mean Catholic nerd.

Anyway, I’ve had an otherwise pretty relaxing day today. I was going to work on my book, but I’ve decided to take a little vacation. As I said, I started reading Saint Faustina’s Diary, but I also wrote a little in my own “Honesty Journal,” which I will be sharing with no one, and I started teaching myself the bass part of “Man On The Moon” by R.E.M. I may not have it exactly the same as the original, but I’ve figured out a fair amount of it primarily by ear, which has been great fun. It took me forever, though. I was using a pick instead of finger picking because I’m just used to that, but it actually sounds right, and at least for now, I might stick with that style, just for goofing around. I haven’t just sat in my room and played music for several hours in a long time. The crazy thing is, it seems like I almost forgot how much fun it is. Ironically, I’m wondering if I’ve accidentally become a bit of a workaholic, and in some ways, a perfectionist. I think taking a break will be good.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Moment Of “I Love You”

I’ve tried to write this several times over and haven’t been able to. Partly, I haven’t known where exactly to begin, partly I haven’t known what to include, partly, I find this kind of thing a bit cliche, and partly, it’s a bit of a novel. All that being said, I’ve decided to start with a preface. As I said, More often than not, I find a lot of “coming to faith” stories at least somewhat annoying. A lot of them have the same, or at least a similar notion that the writer was so terrible before, and drastically better, morally speaking, immediately after their conversion. I also find it problematic when a person shares their story and neglects basic rules of writing style, spelling, and grammar. While it may be more important on some level to simply get the story out, the neglect lessens its credibility. More could be said, but I think those are issues for another post. Now I will share my story.

I grew up Catholic, largely because of a promise my mom made. When I was a year old I was diagnosed with a kind of Muscular Dystrophy (MD) that would kill me by the age of five if I was lucky. I don’t really know the time frame for all this, but when my parents got the news, my mom started praying like a maniac. I had tests done, and the news continued to be bad. I need to pause for a moment to explain a Catholic peculiarity here. A common misconception is that Catholics worship the Virgin Mary. The truth is that she has a very high place of honor, being that she is Jesus’ mother, and we recognize that her prayers are helpful and influential. Now to get back to my story, the news was bad, and eventually my mom gave up. Rather, she stopped praying to God, and asked Mary to pray for her because if anyone in the world knew what it was like to lose a child, it would be her.

Circumstances continued like this for about six months, if I remember correctly until one day my dad called my mom. He had taken me to an appointment and inexplicably, things had drastically changed. What had seemed like a ritual reiteration of a death sentence for six months had suddenly turned to a promise of life. Somehow the test results had drastically changed. I had a kind of MD, the effects of which were not entirely certain, but I would grow up, go to school, and do “normal kid stuff.” I did mention that my mom made a promise. When she asked Mary to pray for me, she promised that she would raise me as a “good Catholic girl,” so CCD was included in the “normal kid stuff” I ended up doing.

The truth is I have always been a believer in the sense that I want things to be true; I’m a bit gullible; my natural impulse is to trust people. As a child I believed in God, but when I was very young I knew him only vaguely as the Creator of the universe, and even then, not necessarily one who had a conscious mind or paid any attention to us. Eventually that changed. I came to believe that he paid attention to us, but mostly like someone watching an ant farm. As an older child, particularly in my middle school years, I just lost interest in God. I got busy doing more “normal kid stuff,” as does everyone.

In particular, my friends and I became very busy defending Mythic Island, an invented universe that was under siege from the wolf demon Agorauth. One of my friends and I created a comic for the school newspaper. I wrote the story and she drew the pictures. Every Friday night we would all congregate at my house, eat terrible pizza and play Star Wars Battlefront. Of course, since it was middle school, it wasn’t all fun. We can only assume that our group was comprised of the most unpopular kids in school. We all got picked on in one way or another.

High school changed things drastically and quickly. The summer before our Freshman year, we ended our Mythic Island adventure. That same year, one of my closest friends got incredibly busy with sports, so much so that we could hardly hang out. He also got a girlfriend, and I realized that boys could be more than just friends. Towards the end of that year I got a guitar who I named Francisco. You can probably imagine why.

At that time, I was still in CCD, and for a reason that was inexplicable at the time, I was hating it less and less. Most of my friends’ parents had allowed them to drop out years earlier, but my mom was not going to break her promise. CCD classes in ninth and tenth grade were structured towards getting students ready to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, should they choose to receive it. A “Yes” signifies that a person is an adult and active member in the Church. The odd thing was, though I was becoming more receptive to what we were learning, there was little emotion in it. It was just another class.

Another friend of mine was enrolled in the program after his parents divorced in the middle of our Freshman year because his dad thought it would be helpful for him. He hated every second of it. He had changed after the divorce. It had made him a completely different person. He was dispondent and reclusive. He stopped doing homework; wouldn’t hand in projects; intentionally failed tests. He was also rather disrespectful to our teacher in CCD, which I did not appreciate. I only mention these details about my friend because in part, I think it made me want to make up for it, so I participated more in class and I really listened. I wasn’t passive during that time.

We completed the Confirmation class at the end of our Sophomore year. It concludes with an all-day retreat at which we had discussions, weird spiritual activities which I didn’t exactly understand, and a mass, if I remember correctly. There was also a lot of free time, and my friend and I spent that time silently playing cards. At the end of the day we were given a letter written by our parents. I don’t remember much of what mine said. I do remember them saying they were proud of me, and that from this point on, my spirituality was my business. Finally, we were asked, “Will you be confirmed?” I said I would.

At the beginning of my Junior year I went through the actual ceremony, and I did keep going to church, but had I been asked at the time, I would not have been able to tell why. For the next two years I can, I think, accurately say that I was a Catholic in practice, but an agnostic in belief. I still didn’t really know who God was. I knew what he did, but that was it. During that time, I had begun to feel an increasing sense of loneliness. One of my friends had already had a girlfriend and a break-up. My other friend had been in a relationship for three years. I had never dated. However, this loneliness was more complex than the desire for a partner. I constantly needed to be around people. If I couldn’t find someone to be with on Friday nights, I would sit alone and cry. I felt unneeded, and I hated it.

Inevitably, we all graduated, and my friends went away to college. Because I need help with a few basic things, I commuted to school and lived at home. It so happened that I applied to two schools, and was only accepted to one, so that’s where I went. I had hated the school search. The whole thing felt wrong to me, but something about Gordon was different. Their campus was really nice. The people there were really nice. They had a creative writing program, which sounded really nice. I somehow felt at home there. Gordon is a Christian school, and I think normally I would have had reservations about that, but unlike every school I looked at, it just felt “right.”

Starting classes at Gordon was like stepping into a whole new universe. We started classes by praying. We were required to attend chapel three times a week, and I enjoyed it. People freely talked about having a relationship with Jesus. This was all great, except that it made me more lonely. The one thing I hung on to was that my classmates and teachers and chapel speakers had taught me to pray in a way my church hadn’t. Don’t get me wrong, now that I’ve been Christian for five years, I appreciate and use the more formal Catholic prayers quite a lot, but first I had to learn how to talk. It was shortly after we had begun classes in mid August that I had begun praying that God would help me find someone to love me. I prayed this almost every night before going to sleep with increasing desperation.

I don’t remember the exact date, but I can conclusively say I truly became Christian one night in October, 2011. I was lying in bed, and I was crying. I was praying from the darkest, lowest, smallest, loneliest part of my being. I don’t know what would have happened had it passed like any other night, but for some reason I said, “I love you,” and I felt an overwhelming sensation of comfort and peace and warmth, and I felt like I wasn’t alone in the best possible way. It was spontaneous, and my only explanation is that he was saying, “I’m not going to find someone for you. I love you.” A lot has happened since then. I almost left the Catholic Church, but have since fully embraced it for a number of reasons, which I won’t explain here. I’ve never dated and have become perfectly content being single. What was sparked at the moment of that “I love you” has turned into a real relationship. I have a writing career, and am studying theology independently. I don’t necessarily know where it will go, but I trust God.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly

A Shared Story

When my mom and I got back to our neighborhood from running errands, my friend was outside his house, so I had my mom drop me there. We hung out in his yard for a little while, and then we went for a wander. Somehow we ended up talking about Mythic Island. It had nothing to do with what I’ve posted over the past few days, but by the time we got back to our neighborhood we had decided to go back. We used to play Mythic Island with a huge group of friends, but we’ve decided to keep it between the two of us. We’re going to treat it both as a story and as a real, significant world, as if it really does exist. After every adventure we’re going to talk about what happened and record our conversations so we can post it as a podcast.

This got me thinking. When we played Mythic Island, we treated it as real. We would bring things from this world into that world and vise-versa. We agreed that it would probably be a bad idea to allow things from that world to come into this one. This is really just for logistical reasons. We want to be able to shut the game off, as it were. We didn’t close the door to this world when we were in middle school, so we would often see dragons flying around on the highway and such.

For weeks now I’ve been trying to get my friends together to play through a D&D campaign I’ve been working on. We just can’t seem to get everyone together at the same time. I suspect I will be in charge of coming up with a lot of the Mythic Island story because I have more time, and I think I can use a lot of the same ideas. I’ll probably have to alter the plot quite a bit because my friend and I are largely coming up with the new chapter of the story together, and we’re basing it off of where we left off about ten years ago. Can you feel the nostalgia?

The idea of my D&D campaign was that several hundred years before the characters even come in, there was an epic war. The children of two brothers who were very prominent nobles became the rulers of two opposed kingdoms, and at one point, one of the kids killed his uncle. His father cursed him and created the Darkness. That kid’s soul was then tied to the Darkness and was not allowed to die. The ultimate goal of the campaign was to first find out that there is something more abstract called the Light, and then to find out that there is a soul tied to the Light. Once they learned this, the goal of the campaign would be to find the soul of the Light. That soul would then lead you on a mission to either destroy the Darkness along with the soul that is attached to it, or to convince the soul of the Darkness to befriend the Light, thus destroying the Darkness, but not the soul.

Of course I’m over-thinking the whole thing. I think the idea of playing a story instead of simply writing it is strange to me. When we played Mythic Island as middle school kids it was only natural. It’s like it’s foreign to me now because I haven’t done it for so long. I’m going to have to get used to it again.

We stopped playing this when we went to high school. That year I took an acting class, and I felt like I was terrible at it. I guess I never equated playing the story with acting, and if I had, I still don’t know how I would have graded myself. Granted, in that case I was playing myself in an imagined situation. D&D definitely has an aspect of role-playing, but we really don’t try very hard at it. We spend a lot of time just trying to figure out what the heck we’re supposed to be doing. I think the Mythic Island scenario will be interesting because we’re the Dungeon Masters as well as the players.

When we played it as kids we spent a lot of time running from the bad guys. We made our own lives difficult, but that made the game more fun. We know what’s going on in Mythic Island now, and once again, we’re intentionally making our lives difficult. The battles will be harder, and the bad guys will be scarier because we’re older, more sophisticated, and more creative. Of course this also means our solutions to problems and our schemes will be more complex. I’ve been wanting to do this and I’ve been trying to talk my friends into it for a year now. I’m so happy we’re going to be doing it.

I’m still going back and forth a little on how I feel about keeping it between the two of us. At one point in time we had a small army of friends with us. At the same time, we were the most invested in the story, and sometimes our other friends didn’t take it seriously enough. The nice thing about it is that this friend and I don’t often hang out without other people any more. The truth is, we really don’t have that much in common other than our shared obsession with Star Wars and our history with Mythic Island. The game started with just the two of us anyway. I don’t think it’s at all a coincidence that I started thinking about this more, lately.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Our Cockamamie Quest

Yesterday I worked for several hours on the first leg of a journey my friends will soon embark on. I’m going to be the DM for my friends while my brother’s at school. I think I have some fun ideas to work with. It’s actually kind of terrifying being in charge of a little universe, and working on this kind of story is very different than working on my novel. I can only plan for so much because they might do something I didn’t see coming at all. I’m starting them off with a fairly obvious premise, but they do have to figure a lot of stuff out.

I’ve been having kind of a hilarious email exchange with my cousin. It started several weeks ago and our initial question was whether or not Jesus likes little kids. It was just a silly, hypothetical debate, but it’s since moved into some actually serious questions. It’s awesome because my cousin lives in Canada, and since texting country-to-country is expensive, we don’t talk much except for at camp and at Christmas. The whole thing is funny because we’ve been simultaneously having a Star Wars debate about whether or not the Dark Side of the Force is inherently evil. My position is that it is not.

I also started playing Skyrim yesterday. Anything involving dragons is automatically epic in my book. I’ve thought dragons were awesome since I was five. I’ve also started reading the Wheel of Time series, which is a humongous monster, but a huge story is no longer intimidating to me. I read the Bible cover to cover. It took me ten months, but if I can stick to that, I can most certainly stick to a long fantasy series.

I’ve also been more seriously working on my book again. It would be simply unfair of me not to dedicate this thing to God because my strategy for dealing with writer’s block or simply for coming up with ideas has been to say, “God, I’ll type, you write.” Quite frankly, he’s written a lot of my book, whether literally or not.

The point of all this is that I am completely immersed in stories lately and I love it. The other night, my friend and I watched the first eight episodes of Stranger Things, which was so great because the main characters are a group of four middle school boys who play Dungeons and Dragons and get wrapped up in a very real extra-dimensional, good-versus-evil battle. It reminded us so much of when we were kids. When other kids were doing whatever it is normal kids do on Friday nights, we would ditch the “real world” and head for Mythic Island where we plotted and fought against the wolf demon Agorauth.

It’s funny. When I was a kid I wanted nothing to do with the “real world.” I made up stories and tried so hard to escape into those stories. I guess I like stories so much because I can predict what’s going to happen a lot of the time. The real world is much more unpredictable. I love stories for what they are. I love stories about different realities where dragons are real, but I love them as stories in the real world. They make the real world better.

For a long time I didn’t like my own story because I didn’t understand my own story. Maybe it’s cliche to call a life a story, but that’s how I think of it. I like my own story. It’s unpredictable, and the world it takes place in is scary, but the worlds of all the best stories are scary. Some of the best stories take place after the end of the world, or some catastrophic meltdown. Realistically, most of the stories I like–most of those worlds–are a lot scarier than this one. This one’s just the scariest to us because we’re living in it. What also tends to be true of my favorite kinds of stories is that humans (or other humanoid creatures, elves, etc) are more powerful than they are in the “real world.” Characters are a lot more capable of taking care of themselves.

In this world God says “surrender.” It’s the most counter-intuitive thing a person could do. Our instinct is to armor up, grab a sword and fight against whatever evil confronts us. We want to fight because we think it’s our job. We think we’re the main character. In Mythic Island, my friends and I were the main characters. In this world we’re only seeing our little pocket of reality in a finite blip of time and space. At the same time, we’re not insignificant. In church on Saturday we sang a song, the chorus of which was: “Long have I waited for you coming home to me and living deeply our new life.” We’re not the main characters in the epic story that is reality, but we all have an important part to play. We matter and what we do matters to the story. God made us because he loves us.

God says “surrender.” We have to surrender to something. We may not be the main characters in The Story, but we’re the main characters of each of our own individual stories that are significant to The Story. Ultimately, everyone has a destination and their own mission to complete. I like thinking of it that way.

Surrender means listening. Surrender means trusting. Surrender means embarking on the cockamamie quest that is your life. In the best stories; the ones that matter; the one’s that really influence you, the characters are asked to do seemingly ridiculous, impossible things, but these things are asked of them by someone they respect and maybe even love, and they wouldn’t be asked if it wasn’t of utmost importance. You’ll also notice that they aren’t told all the details at the start. They are presented with a problem, they are told what to do, and the details become clear as they move along. This is true in the Gospels. It’s true in real life. Jesus says “Follow me.” His first followers didn’t ask why. They didn’t ask where they were going. They didn’t ask what they were supposed to do. They trusted him. If you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons or a game like Skyrim, your character is presented with the same kind of scenario. You’re given something to start with, and as you move along, things become clear. Our first “quest” as Jesus’ followers is to learn to surrender; learn to trust.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

What Christianity Is Not

To figure out what Christianity looks like, I think we have to figure out what it doesn’t look like. What actually makes someone a Christian? What are the duties of a Christian? What does it mean to practice what we preach? Why does it sometimes seem like the church is dead or ineffective? As I said, I think the best way to answer these questions is to first figure out what Christianity is not.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christians have to prove that God exists, yet the Church spends ludicrous amounts of time, effort, and sometimes money to do just this. The fact of the matter is, it’s not our job. It is our job to tell people the “Good News.” However, I think even Christians themselves have lost their sense of what this actually is. Salvation is not about where you end up when you die. It’s about knowing that you are a sinful person, and that you are forgiven, you are loved, and you will never be alone.

Being Christian does not give you license to judge anyone. Look at the U.S. in particular, however, and you will find that some of the most judgmental people call themselves Christians. In fact, many will judge other Christians very cruelly because they belong to the wrong denomination. The Church is supposed to be the unified body of Christ, not a house divided against itself. Every denomination has something about it that is imperfect. We can not adequately emulate Christ if we are fighting among ourselves or even being downright cruel to people who adhere to different ideologies than us.

Christianity is not at war with philosophy or science. It can and should inform our understanding of both, and both can give us a more concrete understanding of how God works in the world. God wants to be known, and the fact that the world and the universe can be studied and understood by the human mind is a testament to this. He can never be known completely in this life, but he gives us clues through philosophy and science as to what he is like. For example, Jesus says that he is the light of the world. Genesis says that the universe was created when God said, “let there be light.” I once read that at the moment of the big bang, there was most likely a tremendous flash of light. I also recently read that scientists discovered a zinc spark–a kind of flash–that occurs at the moment of conception. Every human mind is unique. It’s like it’s own little universe. Chew on that for a bit.

In a similar vein, Christianity should not be afraid of art. I am unashamedly very Catholic. I am also a science fiction writer, I hang out mostly with atheists and agnostics, I watch movies and play games in which religion is out of the question, or other gods exist and have real power. Art never, under any circumstances, brings God’s  truth or omnipotence into question. Some genres portray sinful behavior as normal or even good. It’s up to the individual to decide whether these portrayals are personally problematic on a spiritual or emotional level. If they are not, then there’s no reason why the story as a whole should not be appreciated and enjoyed. Art should be primarily judged for its artistic quality.

Lastly, Christianity is meant to be personal, but it is also meant to be active. The reason why the Church often seems boring, outdated or “dead” is because many have completely internalized and abstracted the faith. It is true that Christianity encompasses a philosophy or a set of “rules” by which an individual should live. However, Jesus said that the most important thing is to love God and to love our neighbors. Love is communal and concrete. At the very least, two people must be actively involved. Love obviously can take many forms, whether it’s a work of charity, the act of forgiving someone, or a selfless personal relationship with another. Love involves giving of one’s self, but it is often misconstrued as something like an abstract, impersonal respect, particularly when it comes to acquaintances or strangers. Put simply, people just don’t pay enough attention to each other. Christianity demands that we start paying more attention.

People have lost faith. There are plenty of reasons for this, but I think the simplest is that we are no longer willing to believe the unbelievable. Why don’t we see miracles happening anymore? It’s because we doubt their validity. We see them as “magic,” and magic is directly opposed to what we know and are capable of through science. We have more faith in doctors and engineers than we do in God. I am absolutely guilty of this, so while I’m pointing the finger, I’m pointing at myself, as well.

Further, society has lost its sense of what sin is. Sin is a refusal to do what is right, and what is asked of us by God. By extension, it is separation from God. God is the ultimate good, and the true manifestation of love. Therefore, separation from God is separation from love. Sin isn’t always as concrete as people might think. It’s complicated. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect….” Obviously no one is nor can we be perfect, but it is something we must strive for. Union with God brings peace and joy. I’ve realized that something I have to overcome is impatience. Sin does not only refer to specific actions. It encompasses sentiments and ideas as well. What I want to emphasize is that being sinful does not make someone a bad person. It just means that one is imperfect and therefore, apart from God.

So what does Christianity look like in an actual, practical sense? We are given specific duties. I think these duties can be summed up in three commands.

1: Love God. Worship him and honor him, and pay homage to his kindness and greatness.

2: Tell people about God and about salvation.

3: Be kind. In other words, be self-giving.

It sounds straightforward, but actually, the way in which we do these things involves some creativity. This makes the task more personal, but can also make it more difficult. Furthermore, they are all intertwined. In doing one, we tend to accidentally, or intentionally do one of the others to some degree. Truthfully, we can’t love God without loving other people because God has infinite love for all people. Therefore, worshiping God involves spending time with people and being kind. Then there is communal and informal worship. Communal worship is what we do in church. Informal worship is more personal. Prayer is a kind of worship, and again, this is somewhat structured, but is still more personalized. Completely personal worship is when we do our work or create something in order to honor God. Loving other people and loving God requires that we tell about salvation because we should want people to know about the greatest love there is.

This is often difficult because people have been force-fed the wrong message and mistreated by those who claim to be followers of Jesus. The message that we ought to be spreading is actually rather simple. All we really need to tell people is, “What you believe is between you and God, but I want you to know that the God of the universe loves you, and you can know him and he will always be with you because Jesus paid for all the evil in the world and he is alive now. Everything will be made right.” The point is there is nothing negative in that statement. We can’t start with sin. Starting by telling a person that they are sinful does not work in a relativistic society. People have lost their concept of objective morality. We have to start with love and move towards a concept of sin, emphasizing all the way that we must strive for the good, but that we are safe.

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!

Just Some Holiday Banter

Every year my parents ask my brother and me what we want for Christmas. My brother is still in school and I’m working on my novel, so we both still live at home. I feel like it would be weird if we had our own places, but as it is, it’s nice. Every year, my Christmas list gets a little more eccentric, and generally, a little shorter. This year, there are three things on my list.

1: A day of sleep. I want a day in which no one comes into my room, tells me what time it is, or asks me if I want to get up. I want to stay in bed all day, or at least until I’m starving or really have to pee.

2: 1 month of violin lessons. I bought a violin in July, expecting to be able to teach myself. That didn’t happen. Admittedly it’s because I was feeling musically lazy for a while, but it’s also partly because it’s a freaking hard instrument to learn. I really do love my violin. It’s pretty, its’ sound is unique, and I want to learn to play it. I just need some help.

3: A wireless plug-in thing (whatever it’s called) for my guitar. I run over guitar cables, and thus, wreck them. It’s just one of the little annoyances of being a musician who uses a wheelchair.

I don’t know why I felt like sharing this. It’s actually been a pretty laid back Christmas season for my family and friends and me this year, and it’s been nice. I like it that way. Even our decorations are much simpler than usual. I usually only exchange gifts with one of my friends, and sometimes I’m at a loss for what to get her, but it wasn’t a problem this year, so that’s done. I’ve really liked how simple it’s been. It’s allowed me to focus more on the spiritual aspect of it, which is obviously the most important. Of course I’ve also been freaking out about Star Wars. I’m going to see it with my friends tomorrow night, and with my brother and cousin the following night because I’m a dork. I absolutely love movies, and I love my peeps. I love the crap out of my peeps. Maybe it’s just sentimentality, but I really do feel like part of the spiritual aspect is related to the time I spend with my family (chums included). I don’t see some of them for months at a time, but it changes nothing. In fact, it makes the time we do spend that much more memorable and that much more important. It doesn’t really matter what we do, whether we’re watching movies or playing D&D ’till sunrise (which I’m sure will inevitably happen as it always does). I guess that’s all I really have to say at the moment. I’ll probably write again next week or even earlier, but if I don’t I’d like to wish you all a very happy Christmas.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Hot Air Skyway

A couple nights ago I was playing an old racing game with my dad. We always go to the same 5 tracks and use the same characters. Last time I decided to be a penguin instead of a tiger, which was quite out of the ordinary, but nothing exploded. My dad and I always do a best-of-five tournament when we play this game, and we almost always end up having to do a tie-breaker race. We always go to the same track for the tie-breaker.

Well, the game was tied 2 to 2, and Dad said, “I bet if we went anywhere other than Hot Air Skyway the world would start turning in the wrong direction,” to which I replied, “Let’s test that theory.” I chose a different track, to which Dad jokingly objected, and I won. Then I said, “would you like to play Hot Air Skyway so time won’t stop working properly?” We played, and I won again.

I realized that we played Hot Air in part because it was funny, but also because a little part of me believed or wanted to believe that time really would get messed up if we didn’t. I thought as we were playing, “Wow, I actually am pretty superstitious. I want to believe all of the things!”

I’m not gullible, and in many cases I’m actually rather skeptical. I do try to have an open mind, but I tend to disregard things that disagree with my personal religious beliefs. I also know that I could be wrong about a lot of things. As I said, part of me really wants everything to be true. I think it might be because it would mean I had more understanding of how the universe works, and maybe even a little more control over my own little part of it.

I really did used to believe in magic. I also believed in ghosts and spirits. I guess it was partly because I was young; younger anyway. Still, I am very willing to believe things after I assess them intellectually. Something I had to learn however, was that it is impossible to believe all of the things, and one needs to choose something to guide one’s beliefs, whether that’s a particular faith or philosophy or what have you.

When I was in high school I went through an intellectual hurricane because I just believed whatever sounded interesting at the time. However, many things I learned about and wanted to believe often disagreed with each other. I also learned the hard way that I didn’t necessarily need answers, but I needed to have definite opinions and beliefs. It’s difficult for me to say I know the Truth. I believe I know what is True, but I also know that I know maybe 5% of things about God, Heaven, absolute morality, the afterlife, or even this life.

I have had dreams that have convinced me that God is real and that Jesus loves me and wants me to follow him. So many of my prayers have been answered, and I have had so many awesome spiritual experiences. I just wish I could somehow show my best friend what I’ve seen so that she could believe too.

I think part of the reason she doesn’t believe is because of things Christians have done and continue to do. We can’t hide from our past or present for that matter, but what people forget is that it isn’t the religion that is wrong or evil, but it’s the people who skew it and use it to further their own agenda or fuel their pride. Anyway, I could go on and on about this stuff.

I guess what I’d like to leave you guys with is that you should believe things. I know it can be difficult when so many things contradict each other, but faith in something can do so much good and can be so empowering. You don’t have to believe what I believe, but please, have faith.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!