Friday, July 27

OSC does it again

Again, Orson Scott Card hits the nail on the head. Note: this is pretty much a spoiler-fest here, but if you've read the book, go read hs article:
I tend to agree with him. I'd much rather live in a world surrounded by people who grew up informed by the Potter books, rather than one where the main literary influence was, say, Sweet Valley High, Goosebumps, or the Babysitters' Club.
Harry Potter not only allows for heros (a rare thing in YA literature these days, believe me!), but also for sacrifice, mercy, remorse and forgiveness (oh, how remorse/forgiveness plays out in book 7! a major theme, and well done, Ms. Rowling!), justice, compassion, and....well, I won't say the last one. But the epilogue will give you an idea of the other values.

Sin and Soda

Most of those who read this blog will remember my hospital trip last year. Due to the shameful amount of soda I was drinking daily, I had several kidney stones that were making their painful exit from my body.
After the experience, I vowed to drink more water. Finally, to judge my progress, I printed up a sheet with twenty-five glasses of water marked on it. 5 glasses a day, 5 days a week (I don't keep track when I'm at home, but I try to drink a few glasses there, too) When I drink a glass, I color in the glass on my sheet. Right now I've completely filled three sheets, and am on the last row of the current one, meaning that if I drink all my water today, I will have fulfilled my goal all month long, a first!
I have realized that I am losing my taste for soda, at least for the dark syrupy kind. I still like Mountain Dew, Sprite, and ginger ale, but they no longer quench my thirst. I drink them for fun, not for nourishment. I have also discovered that if I do make myself drink a whole dark soda, I will start craving them again, and have a harder time drinking water.
I think virute and sin work this way. You start acting virtuously because you know you need to, even though you don't want to. After a while, you begin to want virtue. But I at least end up thinking "Well, I'm doing ok, this one little indulgence won't hurt." What I forget is that that one little slip will reawaken that thirst for evil, that desire for sin. If I don't keep drinking the water and refusing the soda, I will end up with another kidney stone, or worse.
So, am I equating sin with Coke?
No, sin is obviously Dr. Pepper. :)

Reading Intelligent Books

Argh, I'm not smart enough to understand the books I read! I just picked up a sci-fi classic, van Vogt's The World of Null-A, and while it's fascinating, I know I'm missing a lot of the main stuff because I don't understand enough Aristotle. SIGH. I guess I get some credit for attempting the book, then? I think I'm about average among Torrey students; I have to keep reminding myself that I'm actually smart. I almost never feel that way.

Wednesday, July 25

good reviews on HP book 7

Orson Scott Card and Patrick Rothfuss--dialogue:  go back to the
John C. Wright:   warning: Here there be spoilers!

Dang it

I want my Harry Potter book back. Wanna re-read it. Maybe twice.
This is what happens when you spend your downtime at work reading the excellent reviews by John C. Wright and Orson Scott Card.
Grrrrr.....want book....

Tuesday, July 24

Rich Mullins pt 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, Rich Mullins wrote numerous articles for Release Magzine. These are online at; I am putting key quotes from my favorite articles here, along with the date and title so you can read the whole thing on the COYN website (see link above). Please do read them; it's good stuff.
Summer 1992: Washing at Dusk (my favorite of the articles:  "Right now it is dusk and far in the east the sky is already being inked with the shadow that our earth makes of itself and some nearer stars are waking there. I am in a park in Indianapolis, Indiana and right now these great trees are casting no shadows; the greens of their leaves are holding the last rays of sun already set and the sky in the west is bright and turquoise and it shines like a semi-precious stone - as if any stone could be "semi-precious". And over all that I can see, over my motorcycle and the trunks and limbs of these hardwood giants, over this close cut lawn and the now abandoned tennis courts and baseball diamonds, over the sky (still fading, still and newly exquisite) and over me, a great peace washes. It comes up from the ground and down from the heavens - a deep peace breathed out by a universe that surrounds itself again to the embrace of its Creator - its God, who is to be sought by His saints in the hours of early mornings but condescends to seek out even sinners at dusk and washes them at evening in the peace of His presence and throws round their shoulders the cloak of His acceptance and puts on their fingers the ring of His pleasure - the pleasure He takes in them when He meets them here on the road even before they could get home, when He echoes in the evening the hymn He sang for them at dawn."
Fall 1992: Making/Being Made: "Of course, what we make of the Bible will never be as great a thing as what the Bible will - if we let it - make of us."
Spring 1993: The Way We Were: "And if the cross is more than a symbol (and it is), and if grace is more than a sentiment (and, thank God, it is), if Jesus Christ is really God's revelation of Himself and not the product of human imagination (and He is), then we will become the children we once were and must become again. Stables will be temples, stars will be guarantees,'the trees of the fields will clap their hands and the mountains and the hills will break forth in singing...' We will pray and run and work and give ourselves over to faith. And God will be our Father and His Kingdom will be our home, for we will be those children we once were, and 'of such is the Kingdom of Heaven...' "
Summer 1993: The Flight of the Philistine: "We walk by faith and not by sight - not because we are blind, but because faith gives us the courage to face our fears and puts those fears in a context that makes them less frightful. We walk by faith and not by sight because there are places to go that cannot be seen and the scope of our vision is too small for our strides. Faith is not a denial of facts - it is a broadening of focus. It does not deny the hardness of guitar strings, it plucks them into a sweetness of sound."
May/June 1994: Playing Second Fiddle:
"Now, although a fiddle may never be fooled by the folly of human thinking, very much like us, they have pain. Their necks are stiff and their nerves, their strings, are stretched. They feel the friction of the bow and inside their beautiful brown little bodies they have only a little stick called a soundpost and an emptiness that seizes every inch of space - top to bottom, side to side. Their emptiness is for them (as it is for us) a nearly unbearable ache - an ache that is fitted to the shape that makes its tone. And sometimes a fiddle is tempted to fill that void with rags or glass or gold, even knowing that, if it should do that, it would never again resonate the intentions of its fiddler. It would never again be alive with his music. It would dull itself to the exquisite heat of the fiddler's will, the deliberate tenderness of his fingers.

And so, they resist. They resist so that they can respond.

Some fiddles have lived without eyes or ears or innards for a couple hundred years. They would die, though, if they were denied a fiddler."

Go read the articles.
For further reading:
Reflections of a Ragamuffin, by Rich Mullins
The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning
An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, by James Bryan Smith (bio of Rich Mullins, quite good)

The Music and Words of Rich Mullins

So, as most of you know, I love listening to Rich Mullins' music. For those who don't know who he is, he was a contemporary Christian singer/songwriter, who died in a car accident in 1997. Some of his better known songs (though not my personal favorites) are Sing Your Praise to the Lord (first recorded by Amy Grant), Awesome God, and Sometimes By Step (you know, the one with the chorus: "And step by step You lead me, and I will follow You all of my days."
I don't remember when I first started listening to him. I think it was sometime in junior high. I remember reading an article about Rich Mullins in Release magazine, along with an essay by him, that was oddly moving. I remember borrowing a cd of his from the Amarillo public library, and falling in love with the music. The cd was The World As Best As I Remember It, vol 2. I especially loved the songs Everyman, Growing Young, and The Maker of Noses. Over time, I grew to love The Just Shall Live, Sometimes by Step (the whole thing, not the badly overused chorus), and Hello Old Friends.
I remember hearing about his death in 1997. It was sad, but I remember feeling that he himself was not sad, but happy beyond any happiness in this life.
Over the years, I got more of his albums (Songs, Canticle of the Plains, and A Lturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band) and read the essays he'd written for Release magazine. I think his music and writings have influenced me more than any other music, with the exception of the hymns I heard growing up.
His music was deeply influenced by folk songs and Appalachian hymnody (there's a phrase for you, Anne!).
Here are some of my favorite quotes from his songs. Some of these hit me right away, and some got into my blood quietly, laying dormant for years before the profound insights really hit home. They will not have the same impact without the music; if you like the quotes, I encourage you to listen to the whole song. There are quite a few on Yahoo's Launch, and I'm sure they are available for download on iTunes.
Please note: I do not have special permission to use these quotes, but they are all online at  Please visit the site, it's a great reference.
Calling Out Your Name:  Well the moon moved past Nebraska
And spilled laughter on them cold Dakota Hills
And angels danced on Jacob's stairs
Yeah, they danced on Jacob's stairs
There is this silence in the Badlands
And over Kansas the whole universe was stilled
By the whisper of a prayer
The whisper of a prayer

And the single hawk bursts into flight
And in the east the whole horizon is in flames
I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

I can feel the earth tremble
Beneath the rumbling of the buffalo hooves
And the fury in the pheasant's wings
And there's fury in a pheasant's wings
It tells me the Lord is in His temple
And there is still a faith that can make the mountains move
And a love that can make the heavens ring
And I've seen love make heaven ring

Where the sacred rivers meet
Beneath the shadow of the Keeper of the plains
I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

From the place where morning gathers
You can look sometimes forever 'til you see
What time may never know
What time may never know
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
And shakes us forward and shakes us free
To run wild with the hope
To run wild with the hope

The hope that this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain
And I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And with the prairies I am calling out Your name
Sorry, that's the whole song, but there's no way to take selections from that. It's too good.
From Elijah: This life has shown me how we're mended and how we're torn
How it's okay to be lonely as long as you're free
Sometimes my ground was stoney
And sometimes covered up with thorns
And only You could make it what it had to be
And now that it's done
Well if they dressed me like a pauper
Or if they dined me like a prince
If they lay me with my fathers
Or if my ashes scatter on the wind
I don't care

But when I leave I want to go out like Elijah
With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire
And when I look back on the stars
It'll be like a candlelight in Central Park
And it won't break my heart to say goodbye.
Growing Young (another full song, this is one of the best songs I have ever heard.)
 I've gone so far from my home
Seen the world and I have known
So many secrets
I wish now I did not know
'Cause they have crept into my heart
They have left it cold and dark
And bleeding,
Bleeding and falling apart

And everybody used to tell me big boys don't cry
But I've been around enough to know that that was the lie
That held back the tears in the eyes of a thousand prodigal sons
We are children no more, we have sinned and grown old
And our Father still waits and He watches down the road
To see His crying boys come running back to His arms
And be growing young
Growing young

I've seen silver turn to dross
Seen the very best there ever was
And I'll tell you, it ain't worth what it costs
I remember my Father's house
What I wouldn't give right now
To see Him and hear Him tell me that He loves me so much

Everybody used to tell me big boys don't cry
But I've been around enough to know that that was the lie
That held back the tears in the eyes of a thousand prodigal sons
Well we are children no more, we have sinned and grown old
And our Father still waits and He watches down the road
To see His crying boys come running back to His arms

And when I thought that I was all alone
It was Your voice I heard calling me back home
And I wonder now
What it was that made me wait so long
And what kept You waiting for me all that time
Is Your love stronger than my foolish pride?
Will You take me back now, take me back and let me be Your child

'Cause I've been broken down, I've been saved
Learned to cry, and I've learned how to pray
And I'm learning, I'm learning even I can be changed
Everybody used to tell me big boys don't cry
But I've been around enough to know that that was the lie
That held back the tears in the eyes of a thousand prodigal sons
Well we are children no more, we have sinned and grown old
And our Father still waits and He watches down the road
To see His crying boys come running back to His arms
And be growing young
Growing young
From Hard To Get (this one made me cry the first few times I heard it)
Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can't see what's ahead
And we can not get free from what we've left behind
I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All these words of shame and doubt, blame and regret

I can't see how You're leading me unless You've led me here
To where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so You've been here all along I guess
It's just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get
From Here in America (the first time I heard this song, I didn't get it. Now I think it's beautiful.)
And once I went to Appalachia for my father he was born there
And I saw the mountains waking with the innocence of children
And my soul is still there with them wrapped in the songs they brought
And the Holy King of Israel loves me here in America

From Hold Me Jesus
Surrender don't come natural to me
I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I've beat my head against so many walls
I'm falling down, I'm falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin

Oh, hold me Jesus, I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace
From If I Stand:
So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can't, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home
From The Love of God:
Joy and sorrow are this ocean
And in their every ebb and flow
Now the Lord a door has opened
That all Hell could never close
Here I'm tested and made worthy
Tossed about but lifted up
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God
From The Maker of Noses (I get some laughs when I mention the song name, but it's beautiful)
And oh, I hear the voice of a million dreams
Then I wake in the world that I'm partly made of
And the world that is partly my homemaking
And oh, I hear the song of a heart set free
That will not be kept down
By the fury and sound
Of a world that is wasting away
Boy you just follow your heart
But my heart just led me into my chest
They said follow your nose
But the direction changed every time I went and turned my head
And they said boy you just follow your dreams
But my dreams were only misty notions
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses
And the Giver of dreams He's the one I have chosen
From Sometimes By Step:
Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit for me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that, no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days
From While the Nations Rage:
Where are the nails that pierced His hands?
Well the nails have turned to rust
But behold the Man
He is risen
And He reigns
In the hearts of the children
Rising up in His name
Where are the thorns that drew His blood?
Well, the thorns have turned to dust
But not so the love
He has given
No, it remains
In the hearts of the children
Who will love while the nations rage
Coming later today: excerpts from Rich Mullins' magazine articles.

Monday, July 23

You’re St. Theodora!

Theodora was the wife of the ninth-century emperor Theophilus and mother of the future emperor Michael III. Theodora ruled the lands after her iconoclastic husband died. She labored to overturn his heretical policies, chiefly by summoning a council that upheld the veneration of images of Christ and the saints. For this, she is herself honored as a saint by the Orthodox Church. Her feast day is February 11.

Find out which Byzantine ruler you are at The Way of the Fathers!

Harry Potter

So I read the last book. Here's some thoughts. No spoilers--I am passionately anti-spoiler. But gosh darn it, one of my friends had best finish the book soon so I can talk about it with someone!!!!!!!
1. I thought I'd be sad that the story was over. And I kind of am...but not really. She ended it so well, and so completely, that I am really ok with no more Harry Potter stories.
2. Harry finally becomes a man. Not a "grown-up", not a "guy," but a real man. No more whining, excues, or procrastination (no, this isn't a spoiler, you can see it in the end of the 6th book). This book really brings home the fact that these characters are of age now. They have chosen their side, and are paying the price, but they are adults now. Very well done, Ms. Rowling, it's been so long since we've seen real men and women in young adult fiction!
3. The themes. Oh my goodness! Such wonderful themes! This is the payoff of all the other books, and all the other great conversations. The famous "it's our choices, not our talents" conversation from book 2? This is the payoff. The great scene between Dumbledore and Harry at the end of Book 5? This is the payoff. The excellent part in book 6, when Harry realizes that walking into the battle of his own accord is a greater, more noble thing than being forced into it by a prophecy? This is the payoff. The loyalty of the friends, the bravery of the Order, the sacrifice made by loved ones, all those themes that Rowling's been playing with come to fruition here.
4. Kleenex. You will need it. Lots of it.