The Lie of Dystopia

It’s no secret I love to read.  I once heard a Christian writer speak a number of years back and her advice was to read and read and read some more.  She encouraged us to read everything under the sun.  At the time she was reading Stephen King.

One of the genres I love is young adult fiction.  I never outgrew it.  There’s something about the innocence of that period of life that is refreshing.  So I’ve been reading a number of those books the last year.  I started partly because my son is an avid reader and reads well about his grade level.  He began to ask to read some of these books and I said, I’ll have to read them first.  (The hardships of parenting!)

Lately I’ve been reading some of those popular dystopia novels.  There are some brilliant writers out there because they had me hooked.  I felt like I lived and breathed with these characters.   I took the plot lines personally.  The books are packed with action.  Dystopia is not a happy place.  I have been emotionally traumatized.  It bothered me.  A lot.  I know I’m sensitive but this was a little ridiculous.  I couldn’t figure out why.

I knew much of it had to do with the brilliant writing.  To be able to reel a reader in like that and twist their emotions; man I wish I could write like that!  But there was something else.

I finally figured it out last night, talking to a friend about these books.  It’s this: In these books there is no hope.  Some would disagree with that but I would argue right back.  These stories begin in a dismal place and by the end I’m not sure the world is any brighter.  There’s so much loss and wreckage.  Can one recover fully? I felt robbed because the reality is the world we live in today is filled with bad stuff.  Just watch the news.

It’s a lie.  To say there is no hope.  To live with no hope means you are already dead, inside.  It’s hope that keeps us going.  The days I feel hopeless are the ones I want to go back and hide in whatever escape I can.  Bed, busyness, food.  To numb myself to the senseless world around me.

This isn’t what we were created for.  We were given life to go live it.  The child who was born two thousand years ago brought hope to the world.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11 NASB

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The baby in the manger brought hope because he brought life.  In a world that was a doomed dystopia, he pushed the darkness aside, ripped the veil in two and ushered in a new and brilliant hope.  Eternal life. Relationship with God that didn’t require sacrifices and priests.  We were now able to approach the throne, freely.  The gift wasn’t for the elect few.  It was for all people.  Everyone.  No one left out.

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A beloved babe, the one and only son, was sent as a messenger of hope and everlasting love by the Father.  He looked past what we were and saw what we could become.  His love sent forth life.  Hope.

In the light of His Life, we too should shine our lights, especially as we enter this Advent season.  We know the hope but others don’t.  Shine His light into this world of darkness and fear and grief.  In the places where people think this stinking world is as good as it gets.

I think that’s why Christmas transcends race, religion and social status.  People are looking for a hope they can grasp with their world weary fingers.  All they want is to stop the insanity.  They desire something real.  It doesn’t come brightly wrapped with a pretty bow.  The babe in the manger.  The man-God on the cross.  He came crying as a newborn and died on a gory, bloody cross.

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The world around him went dark but He was not defeated.  The victory He won on the cross brought us hope, not just of eternal life but abundant life here on earth.  So we could say, even in the dark, “Joy to the world” and mean it.  And the world would know it.

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Silent Doesn’t Mean Absent

All I can think about is Veggie Tales.  Their version of Esther, I mean.  The Girl who Became Queen.  It’s stuck in my head.  My kids loved it.  So did I.  I like those clever veggies!

At some point, we’ve got to let go of the cartoon character.  Esther.  What do you remember about Esther?  A beauty queen in a beauty pageant to outdo all beauty contests! The crown to be won was  literal and the losers, well it was back to the harem, not freedom.  Some serious themes in this small book.  Common knowledge right?  As my bible study group came to a close last week after studying Beth Moore’s Esther, we were discussing what had personally stood out to us.

One of the main themes Beth talks about was how God seemed silent, invisible but His presence was very evident.  He wasn’t sitting idly by, watching the show.  The more I studied, the clearer this became for me.  I was struggling with a similar problem.  God’s been kinda silent lately.  I know part of the problem is me.  I got caught up in my busyness.  It was hard to find time to pray and be quiet.  It meant stopping.

Esther was challenging me, precisely because God isn’t named, not once in the book.  It wasn’t like studying the life of Jesus or other figures who had a dynamic relationship with God.  You had to look for Him.  At first I felt uninspired.  I was done with chasing.  I was too tired.  I felt like I was doing everything wrong and so I stopped.  Why bother?

The thing is, He’s there.  On those pages.  Beth (I’m on a first name basis because I feel like I know her!) points this out again and again.  You don’t even have to look hard.  God didn’t intend to let His people be destroyed. They had assimilated into Persian culture.  They had forgotten Him.  But God did not forget them. God saw a people who didn’t see Him.  He saved a people who weren’t even looking for Him.  Because He still loved them.  They were unfaithful.  He was not.  God doesn’t lose us.  Even when we can’t see Him or don’t look for Him.  He is there.

Once the edict went out that all the Jews were to be slaughtered and Mordecai urged Esther to do something, there was a turning back to God by his people.  They returned to the Home they knew.  The covenant they broke. God did not abandon them.  He waited for them.  He did not leave them to their destruction.  He saved them.  He poured out His blessing on them although they did not deserve it.

It reminded me about the prodigal son.  How the father let his beloved son go off and do his own thing.  Let him reject his home.  What he knew.  How the father did not abandon his son but waited for him by the end of the lane.  Hoping to catch a glimpse of him returning to those who loved him.  How the father did not give the boy what he deserved but saved him.  Took him back not as a slave but as a son.  Rejoiced over him and poured abundant blessings on him.

It made me think about how God treated the Jews like the prodigal in the book of Esther.  Though he seemed silent, He wasn’t.  He was working in their lives, wooing them home.  He works like that in our lives too.  We are like the prodigal walking away from our true home, into our busyness, our distractions, our problems our stuff. We don’t have time for God.  He might be silent because we aren’t listening but He never stops working in our lives, wooing us back to him.

For those who have prodigals who haven’t’ just been distracted but like the Jews have left home, faith, and assimilated into the world, there is hope in the story of Esther.  Although the wait seems long and God seems so silent on that front, he hasn’t lost sight of our prodigals.  He’s working.  He loves them too.  He wants them home.

It was this revelation about God seeing us even when we don’t see him that turned “meh” into obedience.  A couple of sermons about the same thing brought me back to prayer.  A “why bother” mentality isn’t going to change things.  Prayer can, even if it’s just me that is transformed.

Mostly love wins the day.  God loves us and sees us even when we don’t see Him.  I’m reminded He’s trustworthy.  He’s present.  Even when I don’t feel it.  Can’t see Him.

For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.  2 Chronicles 16;9  New American Standard version

Happy One Year

Happy One Year!  November 15th marked one year of starting up this blog.  I had blogged a bit on my husband’s  but it was clear I needed my own.  So I launched Whole.

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Where did that year go to?  Some seasons I had lots to blog about, others not so much.  It’s been a learning curve, sometimes steep.  I love that blogging makes you a better writer.  Hopefully.  It’s a craft that needs to be practiced.  The more you do it, the better you are at it.  I think my writing has improved.

It’s been hard to always have something to write about.  Some days I had nothing and I kept silent.  Because really the last thing I want to do is waste your time.

Other days I kept silent because I was afraid I wouldn’t have anything to write about or that God wasn’t enough. Understand that most days, I have just a hazy idea of what I am going to write about.  I always start by asking God “What do you want me to say?”  Why I get afraid, I don’t know.  Because whenever I’ve asked (all my blogs for the year!) He answered.  Yet there are still days I don’t believe.  Fear wins.

There are other days when I think I have a good idea where I want to go, only to end up in an entirely different destination.  It’s kinda fun.  I guess.

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I have done many things wrong according to many bloggers.  Like not charting out what I will write about a month in advance!  I decided to start out small and cheap.  Like free.  I’ve been told if you want to make money from your blog (it’s possible!) then you have to spend some on it.  It’s like a business.  I could spend an entire year doing this and that to improve it.  I know.

I’m grateful for all my readers.  I have had people from nineteen different countries visit my blog.  That blows my mind.  Most are from Canada and the US.  I’m thankful for the many comments and encouraging words that have made their way into my inbox or on the comments blurb.  Thank you!  It is really exciting to hear from my readers.  Thank you for taking the time out of your busy days to read Whole.

As a way of celebrating one year, I thought I’d take a page from Oprah and write about a few of my favourite things I discovered this year.

Fav Nonfiction Book: I would have to say Chasing God by Angie Smith was a favourite.  It really made me think about my faith, who God is and do I really know Him?  It’s stayed with me.  A runner up would be Atlas Girl by Emily Wierenga.  This book too makes you work through your faith.

Fav Fiction Book: My fav non-Christian book is The Hunger Games.  Love Suzanne Collins.  Gregor the Overlander series is still right up there as my favourite series.

Christian Fiction: I really like Sandra Orchard’s books.  Her Port Aster series which I read this year would have to be a fav.  I can barely wait until the third installment comes out in June 2015!  I’ve also met her at Write Canada! and she is super nice!  She was more than willing to help me out with a question I had.

My Fav Blog that I follow: Wellness Mama   I mostly read blogs that people share, however the Wellness Mama has some good tips and recipes to keep us healthy.

My Fav Blog that I wrote: Mmmm that’s hard.  Sometimes I write them and they leave my mind completely! It’s weird I know.  Someone will say they read it and I have to think hard what I wrote about.  I think my mind is always busy, onto the next thing; that’s what I keep telling myself!  Anyway my fav blog that I wrote this year – Being Called Out of the Cave and Why We Need to Play.  Okay so there are two.   These are things I’m still working on and are a part of my journey these days.

Highlight: Taking part in Reading through the NT in 40 days with Margaret Feinberg.  Having Margaret Feinberg comment on my blog made my day!  I have also enjoyed when a reader shared a little bit of their journey with me.  It makes me feel less alone.

My blog has taken over as my main source of journalling.  It’s a record of our lives and how we’ve grown.  And weaved throughout it, is a faithful Father who is always good and who loves us no matter what.  Even in our messes.  And in our triumphs.  Happy One Year!

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5 Minute Fridays: Still

5 Minute Fridays is when a blogging community comes together to write about one word.  For 5 minutes.  No editing.  No rephrasing.  Nothing to make it better.  It’s a great writing exercise!  Today’s word is STILL.

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Ready!  GO!

Still.  In the still of the night.  Last night as I lay awake it came to me there are many stills of the night.

Some nights the stillness of it is welcomed.  Especially as a new mom, once the kiddos were in bed the still hours were peaceful.  I could get a bit of time to gather my sanity!  I could do something for myself.  Like get some sleep.

Other times the still of the night is like being in a sailboat with no wind.  Absolutely still.  No movement.  Not even a slight breeze.  You wait for anything.  Any sign of life.  You are in wait mode.  And nothing is happening. All you can do is wait in the stillness.

Then there is the early morning stillness when there is an expectancy for the day.  Waiting in the quiet for something good.  It’s time to move and see and experience life.  There is joy in this stillness.  Waiting in hopeful expectation.  Everything spread open before you.  The world at your feet.

Stillness is good.  It may not always seem so but it’s a time to regroup.  To rethink.  To wait and expect.  And through it all God is with us in the stillness.  He may not seem like he is but he is.  And still He loves us.  In the stillness.  In the wait.  In the expectations.

For My Dad…

It’s Remembrance Day, today in Canada.  When I lived in Ottawa, I spent a few November 11’s at the War Memorial.  It was usually freezing cold, sometimes rainy and overcast, others sun shining bright in the cold air.  We watched the wreaths laid, the children’s choir sing and royalty stand by government officials.

War Memorial, Ottawa
War Memorial, Ottawa

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Grave of the Unknown Soldier, Ottawa
Grave of the Unknown Soldier, Ottawa

But the most awesome thing I witnessed?  It was the parade of veterans along the street after the ceremony.  Many were in their eighties and nineties, but they marched proudly while we clapped, cheered and cried.

Remembrance Day is important to me.  I blame it on my Dad.  He was in his forties when my twin sister and I were born, the youngest of eight.  Both my parents remember the war.  I always knew my Dad was in some kind of soldier regiment.  His picture in his uniform hung on the wall, growing up.  This year, I want to remember and write them down so I don’t forget.  This is my Dad’s story.

My Dad joined the Canadian Technical Training Corp.  Their motto: They served to learn, they learned to serve.  The Canadian Technical Training Corp enabled seventeen year olds to join the service although they still couldn’t go overseas until age eighteen.

My Dad learned about the CTTC from a friend, who was home on leave.  In September 1944, my Dad, along with another friend, took the train from Woodstock to the London (Ontario) Recruiting station which was located on Dundas Street.  They recruited for Army, Air force and Navy.  The boys were given forms to fill out.  School marks, their teacher’s signature and their parents’ signatures were all needed. They returned home and filled out the forms, then mailed them back to the Recruiting Office.

In mid-October Dad received word, along with a train ticket, to report to London, Ontario.  His friend did not pass for medical reasons.   Dad had to continue this adventure on his own.  When he got off the train in London, there were Army trucks waiting for the new recruits. They headed for Wolseley Barracks.  They were checked in for medications, documentations, and assigned a barracks and a bunk.

On November 2, 1944, Gordon Arnott (my Dad) was sworn in as a Boy Soldier.  He was seventeen years, three months old.  He was paid 70 cents a day.  Over the next few days mug shots were taken, he was issued equipment, uniforms, regimental number, identification card and dog tags.  There were drills to take part in on the Parade Square.  When this initial registration was complete, he was given a 48 hour pass to go home.

My Dad, Gordon Arnott
My Dad, Gordon Arnott

Upon returning after that forty-eight hour pass, he was drafted to Hamilton for his basic training and remained there until May 1945, becoming a Private in February.  He was now paid $1.30 a day.   In mid-May of 1945, he was drafted back to Woodstock for training as a truck driver for six weeks.  The war in Europe had just ended but it continued on in the Pacific.

Dad was sent back to Hamilton at the end of June.  They wanted volunteers for the war in the Pacific but Dad was still not 18.  War with Japan ended in August 1945, just after his eighteenth birthday.  He was sent back to Wolseley Barracks in London and was discharged on August 18, 1945.  My Dad has never forgotten this time and would not change one day of this memorable experience.

He has read much over the years about both world wars that he could teach on the subject.  He loved putting together models of war planes and they hung in our basement for years. My Dad is well into his eighties now but his respect and love for our military has never waned.

Remembrance Day, is a day to remember and thank those who fought for us in the past and present.  Because of their sacrifice we can love, worship, educate and travel in freedom.  Although my Dad didn’t get to go and fight because of his age, he still gave of himself.  Willing and ready to go and fight for freedom.  Thank you Dad.

Beautiful Clouds

The sun rose this morning behind some clouds.  Pink was peeking out from behind bilious clouds with dark smudges in them.  Just above the rooftops the orange and yellow and red was there but was quickly being drowned out by the clouds.  Beauty was there, just not in the way I wanted or expected.  I wanted a sunrise in all it’s glory.  I was disappointed.

It took me a few minutes to adjust my eyes to see the glory that was there dancing in and out of the clouds.  The pink that was reflecting off the clouds.  The white wispy fluff mottled by darker more brooding fluff.  The clouds added a new perspective to the beauty.  You had to work a little harder to see it.  Open your mind to something new.

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Beauty in the clouds.  Beauty in the mess.  Beauty in the ashes.  There is beauty to be discovered like a hidden treasure in almost all areas.  It takes the right kind of lenses to see it.  I’m not talking about rose-coloured glasses either.  Rather it’s eyes open wide, to the raw light of reality.  Open to newness, rebirth and rejuvenation.  Finding hidden beauty in the mess, like finding treasure, invigorates us, renews us, filling us with hope.  Filling us with gratitude.  Filling us with praise.

Some days I expect my life to be beautiful.  Bright and shiny.  This is unrealistic.  Gazing through rose-coloured specs!  For most of us, the bright and glittery days are there, they just don’t make up the majority of our days.

Many other days, the clouds roll in.  It doesn’t seem remotely pretty let alone beautiful.  It’s a matter of perspective really.  The clouds create a different beautiful.  We have to look for it.  Turn our thinking around.  It might be the varying shades of grey and white that create a silvery mosaic.  Or the dark clouds that blot out the sunset only to have the colour spill out from all sides of the cloud.  Like smashed jelly.  Maybe it’s the shadows jumping in and out of the light that causes joy.  Whatever, there’s beauty to be seen, received.  Are we willing to reach out and take it?

Five Minute Fridays: Turn

Five Minute Fridays is a community of bloggers who write for five minutes on one word.  That’s all you get.  Set the time and write for five minutes.  It’s a good writing exercise.  So here it is.  Unedited.  (except spelling – I couldn’t seem get my fingers to the right keys!)  Take it with a grain of salt.  The word today is Turn.

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Ready?  Go!

 

Turn.  In a dancer’s world, there are many twists and turns.

Turns can set you in a different direction.

Turns can also be a pirouette.  It’s one of the coolest dance moves ever.  It’s also one of the hardest.  It takes focus.

To execute a properly turned pirouette one must find a spot to look at and stay focused on it.  It’s actually called spotting.  Your eyes stay on that spot the whole time and when you turn you bring your eyes right back to that spot.  If you stray you will lose your balance, fall off your pointe and out of your pirouette.

It also keeps you from getting dizzy.  If you spot you will be able to turn your pirouette.  Properly spotting also keeps your body up and not tilting.  Turning in ballet is like a perfect storm of body, mind and spotting coming together and creating beauty.

Keeping your eyes on Jesus is like spotting.  He is our focal point.  If we keep our eyes on him, we don’t get unbalanced by all the stuff in our lives.  We don’t get dizzy in the whirlwind that is our lives.  We stay on top of our pointe.  We are focused on the spot that never moves.  That never changes.  It gives us balance.  It creates beauty in our lives.  It is an eternal pirouette.

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