A Gelatinous Skeletal System

You know those moments when you’re in a group and everyone is calm and listening to one person speak, the ones where you get an attack of giggles that fights harder to burst forth as you struggle to keep it inside and quiet? Often this fight involves another person. When that’s the case the intensity of the struggle is doubled, because as one of you gets control you accidentally make eye contact or see the other person momentarily losing the battle and it gives your own attack renewed energy.

Maybe it’s because I grew up as a child of people who worked at a church, so we were always there, but this seems to happen to me most often in a church or worship setting. A couple of weeks ago was no exception…. In fact, worship is what caused the giggles, and I thought I’d share because it’s about time there was a fun, lighthearted post here again! 🙂

I may have mentioned before that I am fond of deep voices. If not, now you know. In fact, a deep bass note sung well can turn me into a puddle on the floor faster than almost anything else.

On a Monday morning recently, Peter Hollens, an a Cappella artist released an album, and one of the tracks features Avi Kaplan, the bass from Pentatonix.

I’m telling this story now because the video for this song was finally released, and I am including it in the post for your enjoyment.

The best way I can describe the effect this song has on me is to say that it turns my skeletal system gelatinous… particularly during the parts that Avi sings.

Now, back to my story. Upon my discovery of this song, I promptly added it to my iPhone and pressed the repeat button. Peter and Avi sang to me the entire 20 minute walk to worship that morning, and when I arrived I told the other girl on staff with the school I’m working with about it. As the students struggled to get the worship music playing, I told her that I could offer my music, but I would likely be the only one who was moved to worship with that particular song.

We laughed a little bit, and turned to pay attention to the girl who was now explaining the plan for the morning’s time of worship. She said that we would be watching a short video talking about the detailed design of creation and creativity of God, and then she wanted each of us to go outside and just enjoy that creativity. She encouraged us to bring all of our senses into worship by experiencing and enjoying all the sights, sounds, smells, textures and even tastes God has created for our pleasure.

As the instructions for our worship experience were being given, it struck Tatiana and I  as funny that I had just been talking about worshiping God for the beauty that is well executed bass notes. We both knew what sounds I would be worshiping along with during my walk that morning, and we got the giggles.

Telling the story now, I realize it lacks the hilarity that we found in that moment, and it strikes me that this may be one of those moments where “you had to be there” is a fitting disclaimer. However, even if I’m no longer lost in uncontrollable giggles, the idea holds true. Worship takes many forms, and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation and thanking Him for the ability to see, hear, touch, smell and taste the wonders He created is one of those forms. The above song may not have you praising the Creator of vocal chords that can reach those notes, but if there is a beauty of some sort that turns your bones to jelly, take a moment to thank God for it today. 🙂

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Jeremiah & The Rings of Akhaten

If you’re a Whovian, you may have recognized the Doctor Who reference in the title. If you’re familiar with the Bible, you probably noticed an Old Testament prophet as well. If you knew both, I’m guessing we would be good friends. If you didn’t recognize either, no worries; I’ll introduce you. 😉

A ministry leader told me once that when you’re praying for a word from the Lord, Jeremiah is one of a few books from which you don’t necessarily want to get a reference. I don’t remember the others, but I think Isaiah and Revelation may have also been on the list.

The reason, he said, is that there is a good chance it’s not going to be an encouraging word. As I’ve made my way through the first 1/3 of the book this week, I can tell you that there is a lot of uncomfortable stuff in there. Uncomfortable though it may be, I’m learning a lot, and being challenged. – Don’t be surprised if Jeremiah shows up in other posts during the next few weeks.

Before I share the bit of Jeremiah’s book that pertains to this particular post, allow me to explain where the Doctor comes into the picture…

Doctor Who returned to television with new episodes last week, so of course, the Whovian in me felt the need to review a bit after the 8-month hiatus. During the last couple of weeks, I have watched most of the previous season’s episodes, and an episode called “The Rings of Akhaten” has planted itself firmly in my mind for some reason.

I wasn’t terribly wowed by the episode when it first aired, but over the past year it has become one that I go back to on occasion. I’m guessing one reason for this is that music is a major part of the story, and I love music. Two of the songs from the episode have been on repeat in my head for days now. Here is a little taste of the episode.

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If you are not a Doctor Who fan, you’re likely confused. That’s okay. I’m not going to waste time trying to explain it, not because you (and the Doctor) aren’t worth it, but because you would still be confused after any explanation I could offer and the particulars of the show aren’t important to this post.

The important stuff to note is that the Doctor and his traveling companion have come to this planet for this festival that occurs every millennia or so. The inhabitants of the seven planets orbiting their sun, believe a golden temple on one of the planets is the place where all life in the universe originated, and they worship a god they believe to be housed in the temple.

The currency used on the planet is objects that hold meaning to the owner. The more sentimental value an object holds, the more value it has as currency. The same goes for the objects the residents were offering to “Grandfather” or the “old god”.

The inhabitants of this particular star system offer these gifts to this “god” to keep him asleep. He feeds off of the stories and memories of others, and it is important to keep him asleep lest he devour the souls of the entire system. Apparently, it is inevitable that, should “Grandfather” wake, it will always be on the wrong side of the bed.

The girl offering the song is the “Queen of Years”, the vessel of her land’s history. She knows every song, poem, legend, and chronicle of her people. The thing she doesn’t seem to know is that she is, in fact, a sacrifice to the old god so that he will go back to sleep after he wakes. Because she knows the whole history of the culture that serves this “god”, she will slake his appetite for the memories and lives of others and prevent a feeding frenzy on thousands of others.

The thing that struck me as I was watching this story again last night, and then reading Jeremiah this morning, was the simple truth that there is none like God. In Jeremiah 10: 1-16 a clear case is made for the fact that idols cannot compare with God.

6 There is none like You, O Lord;
You are great, and great is Your name in might.
Who would not fear You, O King of the nations?
Indeed it is Your due!
For among all the wise men of the nations
And in all their kingdoms,
There is none like You. Jeremiah 10:6-7 (NASB)

As I watched the story of this ravenous “god” who was really nothing more than a parasite, feeding off of the lives of others, I realized again how thankful I am for a loving God. I found it interesting that they used “Grandfather” as a name for the “old god”. Whether the writers meant to relate in some way to God being our Father, I don’t know, but the imagery connected in my mind. The difference being that instead of sacrificing a young girl to appease the being into staying asleep, Christians rejoice in the fact that our Father never sleeps. He is always watching out for us.

It also struck me that the people were offering things of value to them to appease this “god”, in fear of the wrath that would awaken if they didn’t. I don’t know about you, but that reminds me of nearly every world religion, every false god that is served on this planet. I am so grateful that I serve a God who gives me life instead of taking it. I serve Him, and yes, offer my life to Him, but it is out of love and gratitude instead of fear. I think of the people in India trying to assuage 300,000,000 gods, or those in Africa trying to satisfy the spirits, the people in China feeding their ancestors, or even the people here in the British Isles leaving money and other offerings for the spirits of those long dead or of the rivers, trees, or rocks.

SPOILERS… In the end, “Grandfather” is defeated by a story – a story of love, the infinite potential of a life ended too soon , and what might have been. I also know a story that can defeat every false god, whether a fictional parasitic planet, or an idol made of wood or metal, or an ideology that is a perversion of the true God. It is the story of the true source of all life in the universe, of Love, a life sacrificed for all, and a resurrection to abundant life given to anyone who will accept it.

Yes, Jeremiah is rather discouraging at times. At times, the God who is speaking the words contained there even sounds more like “Grandfather” – a vengeful God of wrath, than a loving Father longing for His children to come home. Yet in this same book, we find words of love and reassurance that He has good plans, “plans to prosper and not to harm” (Jeremiah 29:11-14), that He has loved us “with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), that He will answer us and speak great and mighty things (Jeremiah 33:3).

This is the God I serve. He is jealous, not to steal our lives, but to be included in them. He wants relationship with us. He wants to consume us, not to feed off of us, but because it is in Him that we live, move and have our being. In Him is the only place that we can be fully alive.

Too many people are going through life trying so hard to follow the rules closely enough that they won’t awaken the wrath of God. I pray that my life will be an example of the freedom and life that comes from offering my story fully to the Father. He is Love; He is Life itself.

A Few of My Favorite Things

As I was listening to Christmas music yesterday, I heard the song “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music. It got me thinking about what would be in my song if I were to sing my own version. So, below is my attempt at rewriting the words to reflect my own favorites. I hope you enjoy, and I would love to hear about some of your favorites in the comments below. (Feel free to write your own version of the song.) 🙂

Writing and Pirates, adventures and reading
Puzzles and Merlin and Josh Groban singing
Colored pens, journals, A Tale of Three Kings
These are a few of my favorite things

Travel, and cultures and language and people
Churches in Europe, just look at that steeple
The Wingfeather Saga, Redeeming Love too
No room for all of them, these are a few

Smaug is defeated and Sauron is beaten
Cold winter days with some soup to be eaten
Christmas with family and Doctor Who
These are my favorite things, how about you?

Pentatonix
Harry Potter
C.S. Lewis too
I simply remembered my favorite things
And wanted to share with you

I hope you enjoyed reading “My Favorite Things” as much as I did writing it. I will leave you now with one more of my favorite things. I just discovered this version of “Hallelujah” by Cloverton, and it has quickly become my favorite Christmas song (for the moment). Enjoy!

Stories & Fandoms

Last night was awesome! Hanging out with my roommates, a delicious dinner of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, & bread, Tollhouse pie with ice cream, “sonic screwdrivers”, and BBC America airing “The Day of the Doctor” and other shows… (A huge “thank you” goes to my parents for letting us crash at their house and use their cable television to experience this worldwide event!)

As I looked at Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and even the increase in traffic on this blog today, I realized again just how fun it is to be part of a “fandom” – a global community united around a common interest. In the case of us Whovians, we may disagree about favorite Doctors and companions, whether Rose or River is really the Doctor’s true love, and which of the monsters is the creepiest, but we are all still Whovians. We remain part of the global community, and we are at least a little invested in the story. (Perhaps some of us more than others.) Many of us are passionate about our love for the Doctor and want to share his story with others every chance we get, (and there is a great sense of victory when we manage to bring another person into the fandom).

This isn’t limited to Whovians either. Others fandoms are built around the stories of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Sherlock, Narnia, Merlin, Atlantis, the Hunger Games, etc. (There are many others, but these are a few of the ones I am currently a part of…)
There is another fandom, though, that I am a part of, and yet too often I lack the excitement about it that I feel for the others. I get swept up in these epic tales and forget that the reason I love them so much is that they speak to me of His story (and my part in it). The most epic story of all is that of God and His love for us. Everything the human heart longs for – beauty, adventure, romance, significance, and much more – can be found in that story!

Yesterday, the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of a television show, making news globally in celebration of a fictional story (albeit a great one). I began to wonder this afternoon how many people would tune in to a global simulcast celebrating the 2000+ year old story of Christ. Christendom is in many ways a fandom. We may disagree about details here and there, but we are all still a part of a global family united by this story that began before time did – the story of the true Lord of time. 🙂

The question I am asking myself today is: why don’t I anticipate the next “episode” of His story the way I anticipated “The Day of the Doctor” over the last 6 months? Do I get as excited when I see God doing something in a neighbor’s life as I do about seeing a new adventure involving the Doctor? Do I try to share my passion for the object of my beliefs as enthusiastically as I share quotes or stories from a favorite episode of Merlin or Atlantis? Do I feel the thrill of gaining a new brother or sister in Christ as much as I enjoy bringing someone into a fandom centered on a fictional story?

Stories….  They awaken dreams, fears and courage; they bring together people from every culture, generation, class, race, etc. Some of them give meaning to events in our lives in a way that nothing else can. They draw us in, teach us, touch us, and move us.  For me, the true power of stories is captured in a quote from G. K. Chesterton, “Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten,” – as quoted in Coraline (2004) by Neil Gaiman.

What might happen in the world if we began to share our stories with each other, as passionately as we share our favorite episodes? I know that “dragons” can be beaten because I have seen God defeat the dragons of insignificance, inferiority, and worthlessness in my own life. How might the world be different if others in this global family began to believe those same dragons could be defeated in their lives? How many new members would join the “fandom” of Christ if they connected to that story and realized the truth it contains?

I am, and always will be, a fan of Doctor Who (among many other things). But first and foremost, I am a fan and follower of Christ, one who strives to be a part of His family around the world. His story is the source of all of the truth we find in the other stories we love. We love them, because whether we realize it or not, they point to him! His story is the one that includes each of us, and our stories have meaning, beauty, adventure, and romance because of HIM. After all, “we’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”