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.