Thursday, December 17, 2009

Waiting for Good Things

Last week in our church bulletin, I saw a mention of Advent as a season of waiting. I started thinking of how long people waited for the Messiah, whose presence we now take for granted. But there were long, dark days, and years, and centuries, when people had to begin to wonder if God had forgotten them. I started to write a blog post on that topic, and then started thinking it sounded vaguely familiar. Sure enough, I wrote something similar awhile back. So in the spirit of recycling and going green and destressing and all that, I decided to share that one with you again:

Do you ever feel that Christmas comes rushing at you like a locomotive--even worse, a locomotive you didn't expect?

How does that happen? One minute, it's October and I'm snickering at the Christmas stuff in stores, because it's still AGES away. And it seems like a few days later, I'm rushing around in a panic because I can't possibly get everything done before the big day.

It wasn't always that way, though. I remember when I was a child, Christmas seemed to take forever to arrive. Even in December, even as we sat at school making construction paper ornaments, the days seemed endless. Three more weeks? That was practically a lifetime, especially when I was waiting for a new Barbie doll and a stack of Nancy Drew books.

Twice in the past week, my church has equated the Advent season with waiting. Tom Anderson, one of our pastors, wrote a beautiful article in our church newsletter, the Pipeline. He said,"Advent is a time of waiting in a culture that has grown impatient, it is a time of hoping ina dark, dangerous place where despair seems too often just around the corner, a time of preparation in a 'fast food, microwave' driven world. It is a time to stop, to watch, to wonder, but most of all, a time to wait.

"We wait for the birth of God into the world, for what the prophet Isaiah longed for, when from exile he cried, 'O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence.' We wait for nothing more and nothing less than God in the season of Advent, knowing that above and beyond all of our needs, none is more radical, moreprofound, and more essential than this One..."

Our bulletin/worship program last Sunday featured an excerpt from The Worship Sourcebook, (Calvin Institute for Worship): "The season of Advent, a season of waiting, is designed to cultivate our awareness of God's actions--past, present, and future. In Advent we hear the prophecies of the Messiah's coming as addressed to us--people who wait for the second coming. In Advent we heighten our anticipation for the ultimate fulfillment of all Old Testmanent promises, when the wolf will lie down with the lamb, death will be swallowed up, and every tear will be wiped away."

This reminds me I need to slow down, to enjoy that sweet season of anticipation. To remember the "reason for the Season." To acknowledge the beauty of waiting on God.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Stirring up controversy: Harry vs. Bella

I can feel a backlash coming even as I write, but decided to pose this idea anyway. I know there are a lot of Twilight lovers out there, and I'd especially like to hear your opinion on this. I have only one request if you respond: please don't kill me.

Most of you know I started reading the Harry Potter books a couple of years ago and fell in love with them. Since a lot of Harry Potter lovers also seem to be Twilight fans, I decided to try those books as well and read Twilight and New Moon, but so far I'm not hooked. At first I thought it was mainly because the Twilight books are first and foremost about romance. I enjoy a good love story, but I frankly don't want descriptions of the hero's godlike perfection to be the main focus of my reading material. (Like I said, please don't kill me.)

But then I realized that something else bothers me--and this is where the main comparison between Harry Potter and Twilight comes in for me. And this isn't about something fluffy like romance. It's about the very big issues of death and immortality that are the focus of both books, but in different ways.

In the final Harry Potter book, Harry finds his parents' graves, and there's a Bible verse carved on the headstone: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Considering the rogues that raised Harry, he hasn't exactly had a church upbringing so he doesn't recognize this as a Bible verse and is disturbed. He tells his friend Hermione that the idea sounds like something the evil Lord Voldemort's followers (aptly named Death-Eaters) would say. These bad guys are all about defeating death and achieving immortality through any means--dark magic, murder, power, whatever. But Hermione explains to Harry that the verse doesn't mean overcoming death their way, but is about living on after death.

In the Harry Potter books, it's clear that physical, earthly death is not the worst thing. And living forever on Earth is not the best thing. The best thing is love and overcoming darkness. In the very first Harry Potter book, an alchemist has developed The Sorcerer's Stone, which has allowed him to live for hundreds of years so far and will keep him alive indefinitely. But when the alchemist learns that Voldemort is trying to acquire the stone and use it himself, the alchemist destroys the object and calmly prepares for death.

There's another symbolic object in the last book--one of the Deathly Hallows, as a matter of fact--that could possibly be used to bring people back from the dead. When Harry first hears of this, he has an intense longing to find that stone, so he could bring back his parents and other loved ones he's lost. By the end of the book, Harry has the stone, but he has learned that using it this way would be a terrible mistake. Instead, Harry uses the stone in an amazing way, that affirms love and sacrifice and "living beyond death."

Which brings me to Bella and Twilight.

From the time Bella learns of the Cullens and Edward's true nature, she longs to become a vampire. She's obsessed with living forever on Earth with Edward. She comments that she's not interested in heaven if Edward's not there. I found this disturbing when I read Twilight, but I figured this was just the set-up. Eventually Bella would come to her senses. Maybe they would find a way to help Edward and the Cullens be "cured" of their vampire state and returned to normal, mortal life.

Because let's face it. Even though the Cullens have a kind of immortality, at least in my humble opinion, they're not exactly living an earthly Paradise. Though they've chosen not to kill humans, it's a constant temptation--to the point of their having to be careful not to lose control and kill their beloved Bella. Would any of us really voluntarily take on a condition that would make us struggle not to hurt or kill our loved ones at any moment?

Frankly, I don't even relish the Cullens' way of having to rip apart animals and drink their blood for nourishment. Or never being able to sleep. (Yikes, definitely not my idea of paradise!)

I admit I've stopped reading after New Moon. But from what I heard, Bella's becoming one of the undead and achieving this kind of immortality remains the goal. So maybe she gets to live with Edward forever, but at what cost?

Accepting that sort of earthly life for eternity is just not a goal that I can identify with, and hence my trouble with Twilight. I frankly don't see Harry going for anything like that either.

So now, Twilight (and Potter?) fans out there--tell me what I'm missing.

But please don't hurt me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What if you lost everything--and got it back?

Can anyone help me out here? I saw a powerful quote on one of those church message boards a few weeks ago, and with my Swiss-cheese-like memory, I can't quite remember how it goes. But the point of it was this: You know all that stuff you're worried about right now? All that stuff that drives you crazy? Your kids, your job, your car? What if you lost all of it--then got it back? How would you feel about it then?

I already thought this was a pretty profound way of saying that we shouldn't take things for granted. Something we all know, but need to be reminded of. And then I recently got a real-life example of how this idea works through a harrowing experience of a close friend.

This friend lost her job awhile back and had to sell her house for financial reasons. She ended up moving in with her sister in another state while she's trying to get back on her feet, so almost everything she owns is in a storage facility here in Georgia. That in itself has been pretty depressing to deal with as the months drag on. Just think, when the seasons change and you'd like that coat--oops! It's in storage. Suddenly have an urge to sew? The machine is in storage. That book you'd like to re-read? Well, you get the point.

And other things haven't been going well. There are health issues. There was a car accident. The new job is extremely stressful, and another layoff is possible. So my friend's nerves were nearly at the breaking point.

And then came the horrible letter. It was from the management of her storage facility, telling her there had been a break-in, and that they hadn't been able to reach her by phone when it happened. They told her the police had come out and taken extensive pictures and were working on the case.

Frantic, she tried calling the management, but naturally they were closed for the evening. She called the phone number they had provided for the police and spoke to someone who wasn't actively involved in the case, but who told her that if they had sent someone out to take pictures of a storage facility break-in, that usually meant one thing. Everything was gone. Sometimes, it seems, thieves simply take a truck to a storage facility, load everything into it, and worry about sorting through it later.

Everything was gone. Bear in mind, for my friend this meant more than furniture and sewing machines and clothes. She lost her parents when she was a teenager, and all the photos of them would be gone. A fellow writer, she had hand-written and type-written manuscripts from pre-computer days that she would never be able to duplicate. All gone.

Or so it seemed.

She was devastated. She could hardly speak or breathe when I talked to her that evening. Then I called her the next morning, after the storage facility in Georgia had opened and she was able to talk to someone. Now she heard the incredible news: nothing was missing! Yes, there had been a break-in, and some of her knitting yarn had been scattered on the ground, but it appeared that everything else was intact.

Suddenly, her situation was just the same as it had been a couple of days before, with health issues and job stresses and all the rest. And yet, everything was different. She had her photos and memories, and her manuscripts. Things she had taken for granted, but that now brought her such joy. Just by going through this with my friend, I felt more grateful for everything God had blessed me with and allowed me to keep.

I'm sure life is still hard for my friend, and it will be hard to hold onto that moment of joy. I know it's hard for me not to slip back into ingratitude and whining.

But wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all live as if we had lost everything, and gotten it back?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cut Scenes from Sci-Fi Faves

How have I gone this far in my life and not seen these? Maybe a couple I KNEW about, but not sure if I've seen any of them. I haven't watched them all yet, either, because there are, like, 40 of them! Yay!

If you love sci-fi, enjoy!!! (Courtesy of IO9 and

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Quick Word on Terminator: Salvation

I've been trying to paste this in for a while, and it's not working. Thus, I will link to my facebook note, and hope anyone who wants to read this can read it there. I apologize. Not sure why the copy/paste was not working.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Little Fish in New Waters

This weekend I had a great adventure! I met about 20 cousins I have never seen before, and went to parts of California I have never been to before...including the infamous Rock!!! That's right...Alcatraz.

Pictures and details are forthcoming! (I just need to download them). I got back into town tonight and was welcomed by my two sweet kitties, Bundles and Leo.

I missed my bed and my guitar so much. I played on my guitar until my fingers ached. Only 2 1/2 weeks until I head home for Christmas- back to Georgia. Thanks to my wonderful family (Robin) for the ticket!!! It's one of the best presents I could receive. I've never been five months without seeing my family, to my knowledge.

I'm curious as to how others spent their Thanksgiving. Robin, how was Mississippi?