Brave movies and story telling…

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” G.K. Chesterton

Last night I took the boys to see the movie Brave. Yep, three boys off to see a movie about a girl.

I had heard mixed reviews. Most of the reviews from friends were that the movie was fantastic in its animation, but dragged in the story. Some said that they were bored through parts of it. So, I approached the time with a bit of low expectations.

Maybe it is that we were at the end of a full day of swimming and activities and I was in a mellow mood. Maybe it is that I like a story that takes its time in the telling and doesn’t rush through to get to the action. Maybe it just was a good story….but I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. And I did notice that all three boys at one moment had their hands to their mouth waiting to see what would happen.

We knew what would happen. We’ve read lots of fairy tales, lots of tales of bravery and courage. We know that the good will win. Sometimes we need to be reminded, though…and as Chesterton says above, kids know already that the dragons exist. They know that there are terrors in the night, they know that there are things to be afraid of. Sometimes they don’t know how to overcome those terrors.

Sometimes we don’t know either.

There are terrors. No one has to be taught that. Fires rage, literally, on the doorsteps of friends this morning. Babies have lived their whole lives in a hospital bed at almost 5 months, waiting for their bodies to understand how to work with the heart given from another who did not survive.

Rape. Murder. Drug abuse. Robbery. Abuse. Violence. Fear. Death. Poverty. Disease.

We do not need to be told these are real. They terrify us in our imaginations and in our realities.

I have known the quotation from Chesterton above for some time, but I found a fuller expounding on his thoughts that brings this out more clearly:

Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.

Every night, or as close to that as I can get, I read to the boys while they lay in bed. They all sleep in the same room (their choice), so we all tuck in and read. We’ve  read through most of the Chronicles of Narnia, Wrinkle in Time and the first book in the Wingfeather Saga from Andrew Peterson. We are almost through the second book (we got sidetracked for awhile) and the third book is loaded on the IPad to read during our roadtrip. These are all fantasy tales.  I think the Hobbit is next on my list.

These are stories that take time in the telling. They do not rush to the conclusion. They take you on a journey. They ar tales of darkness and light…but more than that.

Brave was a good story, but it didn’t finish. The fairy tale tells us that the strong of heart will win…that there will be a knight that will conquer. But the terror comes back. There is always another dragon, there is always another danger.

The Christian has more to tell…there is an end to the story.

But we are given the mighty blessing of living in the wake of Christ’s resurrection. We can see the beginning of the story, when all was truly well, and we can read of the darkest day when Jesus died, and the holy morning when he rose again. We live in the meantime, when the Church is charged with unraveling the curse, pushing back the Fall, proclaiming not that “All is well”, but that all shall be well again.

We shouldn’t mock the pain of the world by telling the wounded that everything’s fine. We remind them that if there’s pain, it points to healing; if Creation is groaning as in the pains of childbirth, it points to a new Creation.

-Andrew Peterson

 I love a good story. I love being carried away. The fact is, though, we know a greater story. All these fairy tales and stories point to the deep longing that is part of who we are.

One more thing this sparked in my mind…this song from David Wilcox…

The Carriers of Memories and History….

“Will you take $10 for it?”

“I’d take $15”

We both hemmed and hawed.  We were discussing a 12 year old wicker chair. I had it priced at $20 in my first-ever yard sale event.

She liked it, and honestly I probably could have done $10 without any problem, except…Mom had bought it for us in our house in Canada just before Zach was born.

Mom and Dad had come out, entering the door arm-in-arm and singing “We’re the Doulas, We’re the Doulas…” and then proceeded to scrub that house clean, make meals and generally spoil Steve and I as we awaited our first child’s birth.
I’m trying very hard not to be so sentimental with everything we own. We have lots of “stuff”. We’re not necessarily materialistic, although I freely admit I like my gadgets…but for the most part we are not too hung up on stuff.

Except the things that are tied to people we love.

I have a plate rack sitting across from me that I received as a wedding gift from a woman Mom taught Bible Study Fellowship with, a woman who had always been kind to me. I use the pasta bowls my pastor’s wife gave us as a wedding gift. They are now 15 years old. So many things…

“I’ll have to chance it and come back tomorrow. I’ll probably end up buying it.”

“Sounds good.”

I’m not eager for it to go, but the fact is we don’t ever sit in it. It’s more for decoration….but it still carries meaning.

It is a little like what I wrote about the other day….how sounds and smells and sights can trigger our memories. So can stuff. Our things carry with them memories and meaning. Many of us live in houses that don’t carry much history and with things that don’t have as many stories…but I can walk through my parent’s place and touch the things that have been in our family for generations.

I like that.

I am learning to rest more in my spiritual “reality”…knowing that my home is not here, and thankful that my ultimate home will be a place without pain or sickness. And yet….while in this sojourn, it is good to know that we are anchored by the memories and the foundations of those to whom we are connected. Even their stuff. It brings us not just memories, but place and history…and that is good.

We’ll sell some of the things, and give some things away…but the plate rack will stay. And the wicker chair may just find its way back into Maddie’s room.

The News of My Death…is on Facebook.

I had the strangest experience yesterday.

I sat down with my cup of coffee, The Meaning of Life, and opened FaceBook. There were the usual updates from friends, and then I glanced in the corner where birthdays are listed.

Gail. I smiled just seeing her name. This was a woman I have never met face to face, but had shared many thoughts and stories with through online communities. I have known her for probably ten years. She grew up in Santa Barbara, where I went to college, so we had connected through the experience of that town. Seeing her name listed under birthdays sparked my thoughts that I had not talked to her, or emailed, in quite some time. I always enjoyed our interactions.

So, I went to her page to wish her a happy birthday.

That is how I found out that Gail passed away in November of pulmonary embolism on her son’s 14th birthday. 

It was surreal. I read through all the posts on her page. 7 months worth of posts that I had been oblivious to. 8 months of sorrow and sadness over someone I knew fairly well as far as internet connections go.

Then I came to the day she had died. She had a post about needing sheet metal in a game she was playing. She posted that morning a quirky image of suns and stars and moons with this quotation: “Once you have seen this, you have been sprinkled with Peace, Love, & Happiness! Now go forth and sprinkle other people too!”

A post on her page, from her, to her son about his 14th birthday and how proud of him she was.

And then nothing more from Gail. 

I had not communicated with her in months, and yet I feel such a deep sorrow and grief and ache to talk to her. I knew her only through the internet, but she blessed me greatly.

And it is all there…all in posts from her friends. All their thoughts and emotions and desires and wishes. 

And I thought that Facebook has changed more than we can imagine. We can leave notes on the page of those we loved when they are gone. There is a memorial there of 7 months of thoughts from friends and family. 7 months of mourning.

I also read a post from a friend the other day who had called home on Father’s Day to hear the sound of his father on their voicemail because his Dad has passed away. Others commented about how they called their loved one’s voicemails for a year after they passed, just to hear their voice.

I miss Gail. I am glad that I was able to spend time reading through all those comments yesterday. I wonder at how our social media has changed things. It left me feeling odd, to find out about someone that way. I am left wondering how all these things matter and how we live and move and have our being in Christ in the midst of such a world of images and information. I haven’t sorted it all out yet….I’m still thinking about Gail for the moment….but I know there is much to think on in all of this.

We Are Marked…..

Almost midnight here in Tennessee and I am making spaghetti.  I plan to stay up tonight to work on my closet, which is frankly a bit frightening.  I needed a snack.

I am often amazed when a sight or a fragrance will trigger a memory. Tonight simply the process of boiling water and immersing the pasta brought memories of being just pre-preteen. My brother Matt would come home from a date and I would wait until I heard him in the kitchen, then I would sneak down and we would eat spaghetti in the middle of the night.

I wonder what memories my children will have of each other…what things Maddie will do that will imprint on her brain and spirit memories that are connected to sights and sounds and smells.  What conversations she will have with her brothers late at night when everyone else is sleeping.

And of course, as these things go, this sparks another awareness.

There are sights and smells and sounds that trigger remembrances of God. Some are remembrances because He has emblazened them on our spirits…..

A rainbow. How can we see a rainbow without thinking of promise.

A Cross.  We cannot see without thinking of Christ, of sacrifice, of salvation.

A Dove. The Holy Spirit springs to our thoughts.

Incense. For those who have been involved in high church, incense brings worship as a community to mind and that experience of having a hush before the worship begins.

Grape Juice. Okay. Could be wine. That tart taste and strong smell….a flood of thoughts of communion, of mystery and community.

Our lives are infused with memories and icons and touchstones….so many words we can attach to these things. They are witnesses….some witnesses of fear and anxiety and wounds that have been imprinted on our spirits by those who have abused us. Some are witnesses of joy and comfort and belonging and peace that have seeped into our being in moments of wholeness.

Above all, for those of us who believe in a Creator who has made us in His Image, we are marked by the touch of a Living God. The sunset, the dove, the rainbow….everything we encounter…can bring Him to our thoughts and remind us of Who has made us and who we are.

We are His. We are marked and sealed and held in the care of a Living God. That changes everything.

Summer seems to bring it out in me….

The couch was blue corduroy at one point, I believe. The carpet was light colored. There was a pool table in the room for a long time. A fireplace. A sliding glass door and wall of windows.

The family room in the house where I grew up. It was off the kitchen, and the kitchen had an enormous table tucked into another wall of windows, by the door that led to the backyard. The backyard, of course, held the pool.

I’ve been swimming with the kids this year after last summer not seeing a pool even once. Maddie was too little last year, the heat to strong and my body not quite feeling friendly toward bathing suits.  This year, though, we’ve decided that we will swim even if we have to sneak into friend’s yards and jump into their pools. There is something about being in water that changes the day.

I love the holidays and winter time to evoke wonder and memories of times as a family spent forming traditions.  Summertime, though, brings out the nostalgia in me for some reason. There is something in walking about the house in shorts, barefoot, that stirs memories in me. Memories of padding around my childhood home after swimming all day. That feeling of contentment physically and satisfaction emotionally.

Vivid memories are stirred….images and even the taste of eating 5 bologna sandwiches in a row after swimming all day one summer day. Memories of family spending unhurried time together. The picture is of myself with my beloved Uncle Jerry who passed away a few years ago and his son Ryan.

There is a peace that slows things down in the summer, and although there are more children in the house as friends hang out and the noise level seems to grow…there is a contentment that saturates summertime. The lack of schedule, the lack of homework and deadlines….the sounds of laughter and splashing in the pool, of eating outside and letting our voices stay in outside mode.

The charm that is part of childhood. Summer seems to bring it out in me. I’m thankful. I’m not even bothered that I haven’t written for a week when I had hoped to write every day this month. I have read books and I have splashed in pools and I have walked around barefoot most of the time. That doesn’t always provide great fodder for blog posts, but I hope it instills memories that will sneak up on my children when they find themselves swimming with their children some in some distant summer in the future….

The Way We Live Is Killing Us….

I didn’t post anything the last couple days because the computer died. Well, to be more precise, the power cord died and I was unable to power-up the computer. This caused a slight hiccup in the daily routine, and I found myself a few times reaching for the computer when needing information and realizing I had to go through the arduous task of looking for the information in the phone book.

Yes we still have one.

Then I read this post from my friend Michael Newnham on FaceBook:

“We are an exceptional model of the human race. We no longer know how to produce food. We no longer can heal ourselves. We no longer raise our young. We have forgotten the names of the stars, fail to notice the phases of the moon. We do not know the plants and they no longer protect us. We tell ourselves we are the most powerful specimens of our kind who have ever lived. But when the lights are off we are helpless. We cannot move without traffic signals. We must attend classes in order to learn by rote numbered steps toward love or how to breast-feed our baby. We justify anything, anything at all by the need to maintain our way of life. And then we go to the doctor and tell the professionals we have no life. We have a simple test for making decisions: our way of life, which we cleverly call our standard of living, must not change except to grow yet more grand. We have a simple reality we live with each and every day: our way of life is killing us.” – Charles Bowden

I know that as I move through my day when I am simply focused on the tasks that have to be done I treat people differently. They are in my way, or they are a commodity to help finish my task. I do not notice the things around me, I am impatient and irritable. I am self-focused.

The comment above about how we no longer raise our young…that has sat with me over the last several hours since reading this. It comes on the heels of reading an article about raising our children to be spoiled or responsible. The fact is, often I find myself just existing with my kids and not raising them. I do too many things for them rather than teaching them to do the things, and they then expect me to simply do everything for them.

It goes deeper, though….not just teaching them to be responsible and be part of taking care of the home and the family, but teaching them about the stars and the phases of the moon. Teaching them that when the lights go off we are not helpless. To do too many things for them means stealing their wonder and their creativity and creating instead a mind that waits to be entertained rather than exploring and imagining.

Teaching them that there is wonder and imagination is as important as reading…although sometimes reading leads to imagination. Teaching them to live, not to simply exist.

In teaching them this, in raising them with a view that the world is to be watched and interacted with and participated with, we are teaching them as well that they are not alone and others are important. People are not commodities or annoyances, they are part of the Creation of a Creative and Loving God who has called us to participate in this life, not to simply consume.

Oh, and this morning I was greeted with this and it seems to tie in nicely:

Yep, growing things in the garden of our mind.

All of this is still percolating in my mind. It’s finding its way into the thoughts about homeschooling and about family and about life. I am not completely sure how it will all play out, but I am sure that these things were needed in my thinking this week. And I am sure that the computer going down sometimes is a good thing.

Neighborhood Walks with Babies and Dogs…..

I’m trying to lose weight. It’s that 20 year college reunion that is hitting me and making me realize I have some work to do on this body.

One of the things I am trying is to walk a few miles a day. Usually this entails walking the loop of our cul-de-sac multiple times while Maddie is napping and the boys are occupied. Tonight, though, I walked the neighborhood with Maddie in her stroller while the boys were playing with Steve.

I spoke to a few neighbors I know by sight, and I met a new person…new to me. He was coming toward me with a big German Shepherd off leash, coming at a pretty quick clip. I watched and noticed him speak to the dog and instruct the animal to move to the man’s other side so he wouldn’t be coming straight toward Maddie.

When I got close enough I asked how old the German Shepherd was. He told me the dog was 4. He immediately relaxed. I knelt down and the dog came and greeted me. I told the man how we had lost our two Shepherds over the last two years.

That did it.


We were bonded. I spoke with him for about 15 minutes and can tell you that he has a grandson who just turned 1 a week ago, he had a collie who passed away last Christmas. Oh, and I can tell you his address and his name and that if I ever need anything at all I can go and knock on his door and he would help me. I have no doubt that he would prove true to that offer.

A walk through the neighborhood. A new friend met. A new human who connected with me and who I could turn to if I was in need.

Neighborhood.  I have to admit…I miss out too often on walking and being physically present in this place God has placed me, meeting people and speaking with eye contact and physical connection. Babies and dogs tend to be great additions to break the ice. In a world that tends to offer fear and confusion and hate and distrust and anxiety, it is good to know that a walk through the neighborhood can still mean conversations and connections that simply cannot be had any other way.