Fiction to the Rescue…

WardenandWolfeking

I am thankful for good books. Thankful for books which have enlarged my thinking, enlarged my imagination, others introducing me to characters so rich they have become friends through the years. Books I read as a child and return to as an adult, finding the delight of childhood imagination now mixed with the awareness of a depth of wisdom I didn’t even realize was being revealed to me as a child.

I am thankful for boys who like to have books read to them. They have not become overwhelming readers in their own right, unless something truly grabs their attention. That’s alright, the seeds are there and they will grow. I like reading to them, anyway. I love anticipating their reaction as we make our way through Lewis and Tolkien, L’Engle and right now…Rowling.

Yep, we are speeding our way through the Harry Potter series, and thoroughly enjoying the roller-coaster ride.  I love reaching the end of reading time and having them demand another chapter. I love a story that grabs their attention and carries us away.

Sometimes, though, I want a story to grab their attention and carry them away, and then take that attention and somehow speak a deep truth in the moment when they are so alive and awake and caught in the story. Speak about Aslan being not being safe but being good. Or like the moment when Eustace is changed from a dragon back to a boy…only when Aslan tears through the dragon skin. I remember when that story soaked in to my understanding, and the Truth it conveyed made me stop and pay attention.

I watch my boys sometimes as I read and I anticipate these moments, even as I know I cannot force them to happen. Most likely they will happen when they find the books on the shelf and read while tucked away in some cozy spot. I just have to keep them on the shelves.

There is a series I somewhat stumbled upon a few years ago, mostly because I stumbled upon a singer named  Andrew Peterson. He is one of those multi-talented folk who carry themselves in a way that their talent does not diminish those of us who struggle to find one talent. They enlarge our capacities for wonder and imagination, for worship and for celebration. Yep, he is rather unique, but I am sure there is a list running through your mind of those fill this category. Some well known, some known only in our small circles.

I found out about Andrew through a concert he hosts at Christmas time called Behold The Lamb of God. I don’t remember who told us about him or how we found out, but Steve and I so enjoyed that first show and we went again with friends the next year. I have appreciated his music for years and when I found out he was writing books for young readers I was cautiously eager.

Is that possible? Being cautiously eager?

Well, I wanted these books to be good. I wanted to have something I could read to the kids that spoke to them in the ways so many authors have spoken to me. I wanted them to be drawn in and have their imagination excited; I wanted them to have those moments when the truth grasps them in the midst of the story and they realize the Truth is greater than any imagination.

I wanted them to be mad when the book was closed each night, demanding more chapters.

I love that.

More than that though, I wanted this person they had heard singing about a Gospel they knew, singing about a God they are beginning to catch glimpses of, I wanted him to come through. He was more of a reality to them than C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and some of the other authors we read, because they had actually heard his voice.

Here’s the great thing: He came through.

We read the first book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, when our boys were 8, 6 and 3. Just before we finished the first book I was able to take Zach to see Andrew in a small concert setting. After the show I was so pleased to see the genuine excitement as Andrew and his children asked Zachary what he thought the “Jewels of Anniera” were, and how they encouraged him with being so close to the end of the book.  That sealed our love of the series.

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We anticipated each new book in the series.

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Now the final book has been released. We have waited for it eagerly…with no caution.  We are zipping through Harry Potter and enjoying the ride and the fun, but I want to revisit the beginnings of the Wingfeather saga before we open the final chapter. Nate and Sammy were too young to remember the beginning of the story, so we will begin again.

And we will not zip.

 

There are great things about much fiction that takes us on a ride and teaches us a bit along the way. I’m thankful for the Harry Potter stories and Eragon, for 39 Clues and others that draw my children into reading. I am all the more thankful, though, for an author who understands not only a wonderful adventure story and the joy of children, but who also understands the deep pain of brokenness. More than that, I am thankful for an author who is caught up in the wonder of the Gospel in a way that informs and enlivens the story he has created.

There is conflict and fear alongside great courage and hope in Warden and the Wolf King. I simply cannot tell  you much in detail because I won’t give away any spoilers. It is enough to say I am glad I read the final chapters alone before reading them to the boys. I am thankful I have some time for the ending to soak in with me as we revisit the first books before I present the ending to the boys.

I might be blubbering and whooping too much to read if I didn’t know in advance.

There are moments when life is simply overwhelming and times when the reality of our Creator can evade us in the midst of dirty dishes and broken-down cars. There are moments when the grey around us clouds everything. Those moments stories can carry us out of the fog, alongside music, in a way almost nothing else can. If you are looking for a series to read to your children, or a series for your kids to read…The Wingfeather Saga will not disappoint.

Or if you are caught up in too much of the mundane and the weariness of life…grab a cup of coffee and start the saga. I never said it had to be only for the kids!

Boxes of Stickers

I know I am a few days behind writing about Easter, but, well…life has been crazy. Allergies have not helped.

 

A box came yesterday, though, and brought together some of my thoughts.  Do you remember when I spoke of the Power of the Sugar Cookie? Well, this box was similar.

 

Dad has moved into a new house with Mom. They moved from a two story house into a one story, mainly to guard against falls and trips. The result is also that they have to simplify life. Moves will do that.

 

Boxes must be gone through. Years of treasures must be sorted. Mom was a collector. Yes, I’m being kind.

 

I know that this is not an easy process for Dad, because it is taking a giant highlighter and marking the decay that has happened over the last 5 years. She has no connection to these treasures…and she would have considered them just that. She no longer is possessive of them, when she would have been just a few years ago. She would have guarded them even if she couldn’t quite pinpoint why she needed them. Now she lets them go more easily, because there is no connection.

 

I hate that.

 

I received an enormous box of scarves. Another with purses. Another box with white china cups and plates she used when her Bible study ladies came over. Boxes that come with little glimpses of her personality.


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Mom dressed impeccably. She was, and still is really, gorgeous. Tall and stately. Stylish. Her scarves show how she could pull off all kinds of colors and styles.

 

She was bold.

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Her purses? All kinds. She was full of life.

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Now Dad dresses her and always makes sure she looks just right when she goes out. He makes sure she looks how he knows she would have wanted to look.

 

The last box that came, though…it was such a stark reminder of who she was.

 

A box of stickers.  Hundreds of stickers.

 

I remembered them, and anyone who had known my Mom would have remembered them. They were attached to birthday cards and notes and letters. They were bought with purpose and with thought about each person. And I realized how much Maddie would have been loved by her.

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I realized these stickers would have come attached to birthday cards and notes to the little girl who carries her name. Jane. Madeleine Jane. I can almost picture the notes she would have sent, and the delight she would have had in sending little gifts of coloring books and goodies.

 

What does this have to do with Easter?

Everything.

Watching Mom slowly fade before our eyes, watching her personality change from vibrant colors and bold choices, to greys as she loses more and more of herself…leaves me hungry and aching for healing. Aching for home.

 

Easter was a wonderful celebration. Wonderful music. Wonderful fellowship. Fun decorating eggs. If that was all it was, though…there is little hope in the mourning as we watch the brokenness around us. We need more than some pep talk.

 

Buechner:

“For Paul the Resurrection was no metaphor; it was the power of God. And when he spoke of Jesus as raised from the dead, he meant Jesus alive and at large in the world not as some shimmering ideal of human goodness or the achieving power of hopeful thought but as the very power of life itself. If the life that was in Jesus died on the cross; if the love that was in him came to an end when his heart stopped beating; if the truth that he spoke was no more if no less timeless than the great truths of any time; if all that he had in him to give to the world was a little glimmer of light to make bearable the inexorable approach of endless night – then all was despair.”

 

Opening these boxes and finding each new piece as Dad sorts through Mom’s life, it is another statement of her fading. Another statement that she is a little farther from our grasp. She is physically in our midst, but we continue in this strange limbo of her presence without her personality. I know that I am more of a spectator living a thousand miles from home…and I continue to be amazed at how my Dad cares for her with such strength and kindness.

 

Easter tells us there is more, and that the suffering now will seem as only momentary when we reach home. Easter tells us Good Friday has power.

 

It doesn’t make it light and easy, but there is a foundation to stand upon. There is a strength to be held, and we do not despair. We hope.

 

 


I believe in the holy shores of uncreated light 
I believe there is power in the blood 
And all of the death that ever was, 
If you set it next to life 
I believe it would barely fill a cup 
‘Cause I believe there’s power in the blood ”

Andrew Peterson

 

 

Because of that hope, because that life overcomes death, we are able to live with a joy and a wonder even in the midst of grey and suffering. Even in the midst of sorrow. Because of a Savior who conquered death, because of an Easter that is a reality, I can take a box that signifies the decaying of a mind…and turn it into a celebration of life.

 

These things continue to carry her personality, and although they are just things, they are little glimpses of this woman who helped form who I am. And even though she cannot delight in Maddie…I can delight in Maddie for her. Part of that is watching Maddie enjoy these things that were part of Mom’s life. Like having coffee and crackers on white china, and wrapping up that hair in scarves from the 70’s.

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Resurrection life. The reality of Easter…the Power of Easter, gives us the freedom to embrace this life even in its painful moments, because we hold on lightly to this life. Our true home is one where no tear will fall and no mind will decay. 

 

He Did Not Wait

12 months. 365 days. An anniversary.

Today, here in our home I hear the laughter and giggles of little children. They  paused the in their delight of Christmas season with a sense of being stunned that a year has passed since the shooting at Sandy Hook

Yesterday another shooting. I learned of it when a friend posted on FaceBook that her child was okay. I hadn’t heard anything because rarely is the news on in our house during the day.

The debate will turn to gun control and to safety and to…well, all the things we can focus on which we can feel some sense of control over.

Here’s the thing. We can’t control evil. I am not one to engage political debate on these pages, and surely not when I am trying to focus on Advent and the turning my attention, and hopefully bringing you along with me, on a journey toward Bethlehem. However, on the Anniversary of the tragedy in Sandy Hook, we have to pause for a moment and reflect.

These tragedies remind us that there is evil. There is right and there is wrong, and there is terrible, terrible evil. And it is beyond us to control it. We cannot sanction laws to make evil behave. We cannot, because we know in our own lives we do not behave the laws ourselves. The laws against pride and selfishness. We do not love as we should. We lust, we sin. And even in our very best moments, in our most generous moments, in our most true moments…we know that we are not completely true and good.

There is brokenness that betrays us when our minds do not allow us to think properly. Brokenness which causes our emotions to turn upon us, bringing depression and fears and anger.

In that brokenness, in that tragedy and in that sin…in that mess is where God stepped. He did not wait until we cleaned it up. He did not wait until all was at peace. And although we all have our own pain and our own unsteadiness, and our own imperfections…now is the time for us to share our song.  The tragedies are still around us, and all oh we need to weep with those who weep and acknowledge that pain. And yet…we have the hope to share, we have the One who stepped into tragedy and overcame.

Now, in the midst of this season especially, is the time for us to rejoice and share and say that God has come…and he has not asked evil to behave, he has overcome. He has healed, he has made the way.

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.

He did not wait till hearts were pure. 
In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Madeleine L’Engle  First Coming

Tis the Season…for Flashmobs and Orchestras.

Part of Advent for me is the music.

Poetry, music, stories…these are part of what move us, part of what reach us in a different way than logic and working out our salvation with diligent thinking. Both are necessary, but during this season, there are so many opportunities to participate in worship and in some form of music which draws us in. So many different forms…there has to be some that you can find that will inspire and reach you.

We have always enjoyed going to see Handel’s Messiah, and the symphony hall here is wonderful, however, there are countless versions online:

People are more open to hearing the Gospel … and yet we also know that there is an ache and a loneliness in so many around us during this season as well. Still…this is one of my all-time favorite flash mobs:

One of the most outstanding Christmas presentations for us has been Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God. It would be much better for you to watch this short video and let him explain:

The really awesome thing, is that every year Andrew puts up a player online so that you can listen to the album online. For free. So, go listen.

Of course, this is also the season for some just joyful, wonderful music. Sometimes, it is nice to have music which simply brings a smile…and yet also carries with it the reality of the Incarnation.  Truly, it is rather amazing that as we go around through the shopping centers and we go through restaurants and all around…everywhere…we might complain that the stores are flooded with Christmas music constantly, but it also means that words of truth are being shared. I know, I know there are some very cheesy Christmas songs, and there are some that hold little to no truth. Still, every year the classic songs are played and sung and the reality that Christmas is about a savior who was born as a baby cannot be escaped.

Even if everyone says Seasons Greetings.

So, take the time to immerse yourself in some of the music of the season. Even if some is simply just for the joy of the music. Like this one that is bouncing around FaceBook…

Music that moves my soul…

The other day I wrote about the care taking of our souls. Part of that is simply paying attention, part is making room in our routines for silence and for meditation…for listening. There is another part, as well, though, and for me this has always been an important element.

Music.

I wish I could say that I was a great songwriter or that I played an instrument well, but I do not. I have, however, always been moved by music, and now as I am well into my 40’s I find that to be all the more true.

There are songs that can move me to tears within just a few chords, and songs that can make me want to dance. Songs that bring joy and songs that bring a release to the emotions that sometimes I keep at bay.  There is something rather remarkable about music, and there is something about those who create.

I firmly believe that we are created by a Creator who among other things is marked by an amazing imagination. Imagination that created all that we see…the colors and the plants and the animals and the birds and the fish and the….countless things. Imagination that created belly laughs in babies and tears that release not only cleansing liquid but cleansing emotions.
We have a Creator. And we are marked by His image. Part of that mark is imagination and creativity and…music.

Music that moves our emotions and gives us all a vehicle for worship. Music that can make a two year old light up and dance, and music that can bring us to our knees in wonder with a burning desire to express that wonder to something beyond us…to the One who created it all.

There is so much I could say on this, but for now it was simply this. In the midst of the season of Lent when things are more stark and when we contemplate the sacrifice made by Jesus…when we face with Him toward Jerusalem and we recognize how broken our world is and how sinful and broken we ourselves are…we look forward to that moment on Easter Sunday when we cry out and rejoice that He Is Risen! Part of that rejoicing will be enabled by music.

Part of my caretaking of my soul is enabled by music.  And so I am very thankful for those who are diligent in their gifting to bring us chords and words and melodies that move our souls. That’s what I wanted to say the other day, but it would have been a bit too long!!

Just for kicks, here are a few artists moving me at the moment…

Andrew Peterson, because, well, he combines story telling with music in a way that captures even my kiddos imaginations. There is the range of playfulness in his songs, to the understanding of what it is to feel the Silence of God. His Behold the Lamb of God tour is a staple for bringing us into focus for the Advent season.

Charlie Peacock. Another story-teller, and one who gets me moving. Somehow Charlie’s music is always connected to events in my life and when I hear a song from him I can place where I heard it first and what was happening in my life. There is great joy in much of Charlie’s music, but it is paired with understanding of the struggles of life. Check out his new music, like Let The Dog Back in the House

Over the Rhine, because, well how can you not be moved by Karin’s vocals?!

Sam Moran. Okay, this one takes a little more explanation. Most of you who have kids probably know who Sam is…he is, or, er, was, the Yellow Wiggle. Yep. The Wiggles. We watched them some with the boys, mostly with our Sammy which was about when Sam Moran took over that position (long story…google it on your own). Well, Miss Maddie has been completely taken by the Wiggles. She lights up with joy at certain songs, and yes I firmly believe the music moves her. Sam put out a solo album a few years back and I thought I’d listen to it just for fun because I enjoy his voice. The album has become one of those that are marked in your playlist because of the timing of their discovery…this album has brought not only a bit of laughter in the light hearted songs, but also a soothing backdrop in some of the moments of thinking about Mom’s decline. I don’t know if he’ll ever put anything grown up out again, but I’m thankful for this project…and Maddie is thankful he sings kids songs.

Classical music is always part of the mixture for me and I am slowly introducing the boys to various composers as we work through our home school day.

Bedtime Stories as a Discipline

I am reading a bit of a horror story at the moment.  The real horror is that it is not fiction. A Train In Winter tells the story of a group of women from France who were resisters and who ultimately arrive in Auschwitz. They had hidden Jews, had helped others escape, had printed newspapers that urged resistance. They had taken a bold stand, and they pay a horrendous price.

There are moments of humor, moments of grace and moments of terror.

I just finished reading a different story to the boys at night. That story is about three children and their mother and their grandfather. They face terrors of their own, including a reptilian army of bad guys called Fangs of Dang who are under the rule of Gnag the Nameless. There are moments of escape, moments of terror, moments of captivity and fear and lots of humor.  But this story is not true and so we are able to hear it and not be as afraid.

I think and feel strongly that it is important to expose the kids to stories. Lots of stories. Sometimes they will be better written than other times, but each story we have read has expanded their imagination and their thinking. Most have led to discussions about God and about hope and faith.

There will be a time when they will realize that there are real terrors and there are those who are deeply evil. There will be a time when they will know that there are horror stories that are not fiction.

They will have a foundation, though. The best stories have suspense and have a mixture of fear and hope…they capture our attention and show us that there are choices to be made and there is courage to be grasped.  The story we’ve just finished up was the third in the Wingfeather Saga, written by Andrew Peterson. So far this series has been the favorite of the boys, and we eagerly anticipate the last book in the series coming out this Fall. Andrew is a Christian and he weaves deeper truths throughout the story…hints of a greater story.

And that is where I’m headed. I want my kids to have an expanded imagination that gives them groundwork for imagining the impossible. Three children fleeing from an army of lizard-men…facing crazy, imagination filled obstacles. Their eyes light up as we read and they never want me to stop because they are engaged deeply.

One of the things that I love about my faith is that it is based so richly in story. We are called to imagine the impossible…God becoming man and saving us.  Better than that: God creating everything out of nothing. Everything. Grass that is not only amazing shades of grey, but fragrant. The colors of the rainbow and the sunrise and the sunset and the mountains. Ostriches and pufferfish.

God has laced our lives with imagination that created reality. We serve a Creator.

And so when the horrors come, and they will…there is story to hear and to give understanding. Story of Falls and of sin and of brokenness. Stories still of redemption and of hope and of salvation.

Stories.
They require us to be patient and hear how they will play out. As we are three books into this series the boys have had to learn that not everything will be explained in the first pages of a book. Wait and see what answer might unfold.

Reading to them and teaching them to listen well and pay attention is not just a bedtime routine. It is a discipline that is foundation…listen well and pay attention is the key to making it through this life.

Listen well and pay attention. Part of the mark of our Maker is in our stories and in our imaginations. Pay attention. Don’t rush to the last page because you’ll miss too much…be patient and listen to the Story.