Hello Again


This blog has been silent for a year and a half. A lot has gone on in my life that pulled me away from posting here (both in time to produce content and motivation) and a lot has changed. 

For one thing, last December I accidentally colored by hair bright neon orange. It pretty much glowed in the dark, y’all. I had made a slight miscalculation with the blonde to red ratio for my strawberry blonde. After many tears and panicked moments of “WHAT DID I DO TO MY HAIR??!” and the loving support of my family and church family, I became reconciled to the color. So many people loved it–with even strangers remarking on how much it “suited” me–and within a month I loved it too. 

So I kept it. With each fresh color the bright orange softened to a true red. I have embraced the red-headed persona albeit with the ironic acknowledgement that it was a blonde mistake that landed me a redhead. 

In March, my family and I took an 11 day cruise to Panama, and in June, I traveled to London and Scotland as a nanny then drove a car-full of friends a week later to the Building Tomorrow’s Church (BTC) Conference in Flagstaff, Arizona. In July, I began cosmetology school at Legacy Beauty Academy in Tomball, TX. I am now a full-time student. (If you’re in the area, stop by and ask for Emily!) In August, I had my hair cut short for the first time and began teaching music theory again with a co-op in Spring on one day a week.

I have read painfully little in the last year and a half. This is not only because my schedule is busier but also, I must admit with some chagrin, because I lack the focus. It’s much harder for me to get into books now. I procrastinate starting and often take months to finish, losing my interest in the story along the way. And then, when I do finally finish, I struggle to bring my thoughts on the book to a level of coherence fit for a review. 

This is partly due to that lack of focus I mentioned but it is more because I struggle with finding resolution to my questions on a personal level than I used to. While my doctrinal convictions have grown deeper and more defined, my perception of life has grown more complicated due to the painful and unresolved things I have gone through in this past year+. Things don’t fit into neat boxes anymore. I ask questions far easier than than I give answers. My tastes and perspectives have changed even while my convictions have stayed the same. I now love the vampire stories I used to abhor, I de-stress with Viking Death Metal, and I shoot my whiskey straight. I wrote this post on an impulse tonight and published it just three hours later instead of sitting on it for months of revisions as has been my pattern. Oh yeah, and I’m a redhead now.

I have a low tolerance for stories that have a simplistic, Hallmark-style view of the world. “Christian” films like The Redemption of Henry Myers are no longer merely “annoying” to me but completely and utterly unpalatable. You won’t see any more reviews of films of that kind here because I won’t watch them. I would not even be able to sit through something of that kind anymore. 

I crave hope and redemptive answers in the midst of a real and broken and confusing world. I want a story that is honest and doesn’t make light of the suffering this world has to give and offer me cliche answers devoid of any real healing. Heck, I don’t even like my own upbeat, overly idealistic title-giving essay for this blog anymore. I’ve taken it down in hopes of eventually replacing it.

But I’ve not been completely unproductive on the writing front. I’ve got a new About Me page up. After two years of working on a new stoem, I have a first draft that I’m sending to my beta readers. Through my personal Instagram account I have kept a traveler’s journal for my trips and am now turning them into a series of blog posts to share here. I have also been heavily involved as a beta reader for my friend Abby Jones over at A Gentle and Quiet Spirit and I drafted a 14-page social media marketing plan for the IRBS Seminary fundraising campaign when I was reached out to for feedback by the fundraiser coordinator.

My favorite books right now are: Dracula, The Fiddler’s Gun and The Fiddler’s Green, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, the Wingfeather Sagas, Anne of Green Gables, The Dun Cow, The Rise and Fall of Mt. Majestic, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, and Abby’s WIP books.

My favorite tv shows are: BlueBloods, NCIS, Agent Carter, Sherlock, Band of Brothers, Firefly, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

My favorite films are: LOTR, Saving Mr. Banks, Bridge of Spies, Cinderella (2015), Forrest Gump, Secondhand Lions, Wonder Woman, The Monuments Men, The Village, A Beautiful Mind, The Dark Night trilogy, The Road to El Dorado, The Lion King, the Toy Story trilogy, and Inside Out.

My Favorite Podcasts are: Lore, Myths and Legends, and Mortification of Spin.

If you stopped by, I’d appreciate a comment below. I’d love to hear who all still has an interest in this blog of mine!

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A Quote Off My Shelf

These are more and longer quotes than I typically post but they were too beautiful to abbreviate or reduce. A.S. Peterson’s concluding sequel met and exceeded all of my expectations. The book will shatter your soul then gently, tenderly mend it together again.  The motif of music is strong throughout the book and captures best the book’s themes of redemption, of beauty coming out of suffering and sin, and of longing for home and a Love that conquers all.

“Turn it all to beauty.

She walked to the rail. When she turned and sat upon it, she heard a sailor in the crowd murmur that she might play them a tune. She hoped he was right. She needed the voices to be wrong. Fin raised the instrument to the cleft of her neck and closed her eyes. She emptied her mind and let herself be carried back to her earliest memory, the first pain she ever knew: the knowledge that her parents didn’t want her. The despair of rejection coursed through her. It fathered a knot of questions that bound her, enveloped her. Waves of uncertainty and frailty shook her to the bones. Her body quivered with anger and hopelessness. She reeled on the edge of a precipice. She wanted to scream or to throw her fists but she held it inside; she struggled to control it. She fought to subjugate her pain, but it grew. It welled up; it filled her mind. When she could hold it no more, exhausted by defiance and wearied by years of pretending not to care, Bartimaeus’s words surrounded her.

Got to turn it beautiful.

She dropped her defenses. She let weakness fill her. She accepted it. And the abyss yawned. She tottered over the edge and fell. The forces at war within her raced down her arms and set something extraordinary in motion; they became melody and harmony: rapturous, golden. Her fingers coaxed the long-silent fiddle to life. They danced across the strings without hesitation, molding beauty out of the miraculous combination of wood, vibration, and emotion. The music was so bright she felt she could see it. The poisonous voices were outsung. Notes raged out of her in a torrent. She had such music within her that her bones ached with it, the air around her trembled with it, her veins bled it. The men around fell still and silent. Some slipped to the deck and sat enraptured like children before a travelling bard.

…It throbbed and pulsed, channeled by elemental forces of fear, love, hope, and sadness. The bow stabbed and flitted across the strings in a violent whorl of creation; its hairs tore and split until it seemed the last strands would sever in a scrape of dissonance. Those who saw the last fragile remnants held their breath against the breaking. The music rippled across the ship like a spirit, like a thing alive and eldritch and pregnant with mystery. The song held. More than held, it deepened. It groaned. It resounded in the hollows of those who heard. Then it softened into tones long, slow, and patient and reminded men of the faintest stars trembling dimly in defiance of a ravening dark. At the last, when the golden hairs of the bow had given all the sound they knew, the music fled in a whisper. Fin was both emptied and filled, and the song sighed away on the wind.

Peterson, A. S. (2010-12-07). Fiddler’s Green (Fin’s Revolution) pgs. 79-81, Rabbit Room Press.

 

“What do you know of the Knights?” he asked.

Fin shrugged. “I thought knights were only in children’s stories until a few days ago.” Jeannot smiled.

“A man could do worse than to live in the stories of a child. There is, perhaps, no better remembrance.”

“Until the child grows up and finds out the stories aren’t true. You might be knights, but I don’t see any shining armor,” Fin said.

Jeannot stopped near the gate of the auberge and faced her. “Each time a story is told, the details and accuracies and facts are winnowed away until all that remains is the heart of the tale. If there is truth at the heart of it, a tale may live forever. As a knight, there is no dragon to slay, no maiden to rescue, and no miraculous grail to uncover. A knight seeks the truth beneath these things, seeks the heart. We call this the corso. The path set before us. The race we must run.

Peterson, A. S. (2010-12-07). Fiddler’s Green (Fin’s Revolution) pg. 147 Rabbit Room Press.

 

She chased the song like a hound fast upon a scent. She pursued it through a forest primeval: a dark land planted with musical staves and rests and grown thick with briars of annotation. On she went and on still until she caught sight of the song ahead of her, fleeting and sly. “I see it,” she said aloud, though she didn’t mean to.

…And then she caught the song. She fell upon it and music poured from the fiddle’s hollow, bright and liquid like fire out of the heart of the earth. Pierre-Jean drew back and stood mesmerized. The room around Fin stirred as every ear bent to the ring of heartsong. It rushed through Fin and spread to the outermost and tiniest capillary reaches of her body. Her flesh sang. The hairs of her arms and neck roused and stood. She sped the bow across the strings. Her fingers danced on the fingerboard quick as fat raindrops. Every man in the room that night would later swear that there was a wind within it. They would tell their children and lovers that a hurricane had filled the room, toppled chairs, driven papers and sheets before it and blew not merely around them but through them, taking fears, grudges, malice, and contempt with it, sending them spiraling out into the night where they vanished among the stars like embers rising from a bonfire.

And though the spirited cry of the fiddle’s song blew through others and around the room and everything in it, Fin sat at the heart of it. It poured into her. It found room in the closets and hollow places of her soul to settle and root. It planted seeds: courage, resolve, steadfastness. Fin gulped it in, seized it, held it fast. She needed it, had thirsted for it all her days. She saw the road ahead of her, and though she didn’t understand it or comprehend her part in it, she knew that she needed the ancient and reckless power of a holy song to endure it. She didn’t let the music loose. It buckled and swept and still she clung to it, defined it in notes and rhythm, channeled it like a river bound between mountain steeps. And a thing happened then so precious and strange that Fin would ever after remember it only in the formless manner of dreams. The song turned and spoke her name—her true name, intoned in a language of mysteries. Not her earthly name, but a secret word, defining her alone among all created things. The writhing song spoke it, and for the first time, she knew herself. She knew what it was to be separated out, held apart from every other breathing creature, and known. Though she’d never heard it before and wouldn’t recall it after, every stitch of her soul shook in the passage of the word, shuddered in the wake of it, and mourned as the sound sped away. In an instant, it was over. The song ended with the dissonant pluck of a broken string.

Peterson, A. S. (2010-12-07). Fiddler’s Green (Fin’s Revolution) pg. 174, 175 Rabbit Room Press.

I noticed that Goodreads only had one quote from this beautiful book. That simply wouldn’t do, so I added 22 more. 😉 You can see more quotes here. 

The Soul You Loved

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“I know a man in Hell now.” That’s what the Preacher should have said if he were honest. But no one wanted an honest preacher today. Instead he talked of the good parts of the man’s life, how generous, and kind and caring he was, and what a shame it was he died young–all the things everyone wanted to hear. Old women daubed their eyes and a young lady softly whimpered.

The funeral home was unbearably warm, the small room packed. The preacher loosened his neck tie for the third time and talked of heaven and angels, hoping no one noticed the abrupt transition. He didn’t say the man was there, exactly, but he didn’t say he wasn’t there either. Best to let people think he might be.

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Revisionism and Reductionism

This is the second post in a five-part series on Aesop’s Fables. You can read this post independently from the others or you can also read the introduction here for more background on the history and use of Aesop’s Fables.

THE MAN AND THE LION

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A Man and a Lion once argued together as to which belonged to the nobler race. The Man called the attention of the Lion to a monument on which was sculptured a Man striding over a fallen Lion. “That proves nothing at all,” said the Lion; “if a Lion had been the carver, he would have made the Lion striding over the Man.”

One story is good, till another is told

Most homeschoolers have run into this problem at one time or another in their education: revisionist history.

It’s what distorted Christopher Columbus’ voyage of discovery and evangelism into a revolutionary attempt to prove wrong the flat-earthers.
It’s what distorted the Pilgrims into Indian land-thieves.
It’s what distorted “the War of Northern Aggression” into “The Civil War”.
It’s what distorted the long legacy of creation scientists into an embarrassing lineage of frauds and anti-progressives.

The list could go on and on. True is it said that “he who wins the war writes the history books”.

And those who have been a faithful student of history will also have recognized a sub-category of revisionism that is subtler, and that is: reductionism.

Revisionism is the complete refabricating of a historical event. In brief: it’s making things up. The men of Christopher Columbus’ crew did not believe in a flat earth–no one did–they were starving to death and feared their supplies would run out before they reached land. So much for battling against Christian anti-progressives.

But reductionism on the other hand, involves the telling of true facts…selectively.

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This problem plagued me when I studied American History in homeschool. “Founding Brothers” by Joseph Ellis, demonstrated by many proofs and direct quotations from the founding fathers the heavy influence of the enlightenment on their ethics, values, and worldview, but also quietly discredited the Christian faith of these men. This wasn’t a prominent discussion in the book–more like something running in the background. There was one section where the author claimed that Jefferson and Adams looked forward to Heaven not because they would be with God but so they could continue to debate. The author quoted several of their letters. Then there was one off-handed, unsupported comment about George Washington believing that Jesus had possibly been buried alive. I almost missed the comment because it seemed to come out of nowhere. I kept thinking that Joseph Ellis would bring it back up later but he never did. So I looked it up online. Though I could not find any source material about George Washington’s stance on the resurrection I did discover that Joseph Ellis believes that George Washington was not a Christian.

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George Washington in Prayer at Valley Forge (public domain)

I then pulled out “Christianity and the Constitution” by John Eidsmoe, thinking to lay the matter to rest once for all. But I was shocked to find that one of Mr. Eidsmoe’s primary sources for his statements about Washington is the Rev. Weems! Weem’s biography on George Washington is where “The Cherry Tree” and other anecdotes originated.

In “Rediscovering George Washington” Richard Brookhiser points out that “the only problem with these stories is that, in order to tell them, Parson Weems had to first make them up, since we know very little about Washington’s education or his father.” He said that Weems responded to the needs of the public for an emotional bond to the austere president and that he assumed, like many people over the course of history, that George Washington was born with the qualities we so admire rather than that they were cultivated over a lifetime. “We treat what was a result as a natural condition, as if Washington had been carved from the same stone as his monument” says Richard Brookhiser.

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Gilbert_Stuart,_George_Washington_(Lansdowne_portrait,_1796) Public Domain

Yet, John Eidsmoe uses Parson Weem’s book as one of two primary sources for his chapter on George Washington, arguing that just because Weem’s account is unsubstantiated does not mean it is false.

This is an unpardonably sloppy assertion for a historian to say, an argument that would hold no ground amidst serious historians. Yet John Eidsmoe’s book remains a popular source among many Christian homeschoolers because it gives them the Christian nation they desire to claim as their heritage and uphold as a precedent in modern politics.

I am just as wary of Christians with an agenda as I am with secularists. When you have an agenda, you will always see what you want to see.

But this is an instance of reductionism not revisionism because there were, in fact, enlightenment thinkers and Christians both among the Founding Fathers. I believe that there is no denying the strong humanistic convictions of Thomas Jefferson and the lesser influence humanistic ideals had on others of the Founding Fathers. But, that is not all there is to the story because you also find Christian men seeking to apply their Christian principles to the constitution and establishment of America. It’s not one or the other but both. Any position that denies the influence of either Christianity or humanism in our nation’s founding is guilty of reductionism.

History is rarely as clear-cut as we’d like it to be.

My favorite book on George Washington ended up being “Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington” by Richard Brookhiser quoted above. Though written by one whom, as far as I can tell, is a secular author, I found in it the historical integrity I was looking for. The author pointed out the opposite errors of historical traditions in making George Washington the epitome of piety on the one hand and on the other, renouncing all marks of a Christian worldview on the man.

It did not personally matter to Richard Brookhiser that many historians say George Washington “never referenced the Bible” but because he desired truth, Mr. Brookhiser took these historians to task for their suppression of the truth–then went on to discuss the famous president’s lesser-known affiliation with the Freemasons, a back-door entry to enlightenment principles blended with Christianity, a fact which best explains the duality of ideas present in George Washington, evidenced by this famous quote:

“[Americans] are, from this period, to be considered as the Actors on a most conspicuous Theatre, which seems to be peculiarly designated by Providence for the display of human greatness and felicity.” GW, First Farewell Address, Circular to the States, June 14th, 1783

Christians leap on the references to Providence and the stage metaphor but sail over “the display of human greatness and felicity”, a statement which, if closely examined, demonstrates the blending of enlightenment ideals with Christianity that marked both the man and his time.

What is the solution to overcoming revisionist and reductionist history? –Reading the history books of both man and the lion. Read original documents. Look for historians who love the truth too dearly to sacrifice it on the altar of their agenda. This gives them credibility because it demonstrates integrity. If a man defends a lion’s show of strength though he ultimately disagrees with his mission, mark him, for that is a man of integrity.

In addition to the proverb: “the story depends on the teller,” I would also add: “An honorable man acknowledges the truth even when it’s not in his best interests.”


You can read the rest of the series here:

The Snail and the Statue – The Injudicious Eye

Wisdom, Virtue, and Reputation – The Guardians of Reputation

The Redbreast and the Sparrow – To Imitate the Strains I Love

Reviewer’s Digest//Fantasy and Sci-Fi

The Book of Dragons, selected and illustrated by Michael Hague

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Read August 24th-31st

This collection features several delightful dragon stories I’d never heard before or heard only in part. My one critique is that the illustrations didn’t always fit, the dragons often being more cartoonish and whimsical than fierce and magnificent as the stories describe them.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson (Wordsworth Classics)

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Read from October 20th-27th

The featured and famous short story “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is refreshingly Calvinistic in its eloquent and provocative portrait of human depravity. I give it five stars. The other short stories in this collection range from 1 star to 4. One crossed the line into useless and awful horror for its own sake (“Thrawn Janet”), several were dull and dragged, lacking the refinement of Stevenson’s later mastery of the short story form but still containing several lines worth underlining, and two stories, “The Merry Men” and “Markheim”, I found almost as riveting and intellectually stimulating as “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.”

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton

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Read November 6th-8th
5 Stars

The story opens and moves with the kind of childish silliness that makes you purse your lips, roll your eyes, shake your head, then smile despite yourself. Despite my grown-up sensibilities I caught myself laughing at wandering mangrove trees, giant poison-tongued tortoises that drop out of willow trees on unsuspecting victims, an imaginative girl determined to save the world (from–whatever it needs saving from!), a 12-year-old King who works to tears the citizens of the Island-At-The- Center-Of-Everything to provide a steady supply of pepper to satisfy his inordinate appetite for the spice, a man so long accustomed to shrinking from danger that his body has begun to shrink inside his now-oversized clothes and–of course, at a giant that is asleep under the island and may at any point wake up. Especially if the Leafeaters keep digging around his toes.

But underneath the ridiculous is a current of serious thought that will take you by surprise. You never stop laughing but somewhere along the way, so subtly that you don’t know quite when it began, you start thinking as well. You think about bigness and smallness. Of fear and adventure. Of strength and weakness. Of mystery and life’s frailty.

Life is both more terrifying and wonderful than we realize. It is “a mess and a miracle. So pick up a broom and dance.”

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

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Read October 30th
The first couple chapters were exciting. I loved the style of narration and was immediately draw into the unfolding story. But in the end, the story left me burdened by the sadness dystopias always bring me.

I am increasingly leery of the dystopian craze among my own peers. I think that the occasional dystopian novel is helpful to the Christian because of its unique ability to explore the implications of secular worldviews in a way abstract arguments can’t. Instead of telling you that communism is a dead- end road, they make you feel the oppression, ride the roller-coaster, and recoil in horror as the oppressed pigs of Animal Farm come to take on the likeness and behaviors of the Farmers they overthrew; instead of telling you that Darwinian evolution offers a hopeless future, they make you feel the coldness, the despair, and the emptiness of a godless universe deep down in your bones.

I need these reminders now and then, of just how hopeless the world is without Christ, of just how hopeless the espoused beliefs of many of my neighbors are. But I also think that if this kind of literature and film becomes our main staple and dominates our minds and affections, despite our cognitive disagreement with the worldview presented, the coldness and darkness of it will still subconsciously creep into our own worldview. We’ll begin to accept their view of reality as congruent with our own. I see it in young people of my generation manifested in a profound skepticism that there is hope for the world on the horizon, forgetting that Hope has arrived and He’s coming back and that that has profound implications for humanity. The future we face is neither dark nor cold nor uncertain and we need to be reminded of the hopefulness of our faith at least as often as we are reminded of the hopelessness of all others.

Other Fantasy and Sci-Fi books read in the second half of 2014: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, the Harry Potter books 1-4, The Hobbit (again)
Other General Fiction books read in the second half of 2014: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (click for review)

It’s Ok to Ask For Directions (Reflections on The Scarlet Letter and Reading Classics in General)

Are you ready to hear something possibly surprising about this book reviewer? Here goes: sometimes, I read a book and I weigh every word, I analyze the themes and motifs, let the plot sink in, evaluate the characters, then I close the book and…have no idea what I just read means. Sometimes the scenes of the book tumble and jumble in my head, noisily knocking around like Mexican Jumping Beans and I can make no sense of them. I can grasp no common thread or foundation to build on.

This must mean, you might say, that it’s a badly written book. But what if this book is a classic? What if this book is universally recognized by literary scholars as a Madonna of American Literature? Then, you would be forced to say what I was forced to see, that this blogger was missing something and needed help.

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Rapunzel and Mark Antony Get Tangled

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When I first heard that Disney was bringing my favorite princess to the silver screen I was excited. Rapunzel was always one of my favorite fairy tales. As a little girl, I dreamed of having floor-length hair like hers by the time I was 20. But as I reach behind my back and feel the ends of my hair brushing just beneath my shoulders I am reminded that not all dreams come true.

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