I Lied – Sorta

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Yesterday, I sort of lied to everyone in the blog. I was going to continue to write about my favorite things, but, something more important seemed to happen today and I have to write about it.

Yesterday, I had a leadership meeting at church with other leaders of various committees and all and though it was good, it left me feeling that because I have had some failures in some of the roles I have tried to take on, that I really just need to quit. I felt heavy-hearted, like I’ve let everyone down, especially my pastor who I sort of look up to. That’s the way I saw things. I was listening to the negative voices in my head that have taunted me all my life and said, “You’re not good enough. You can’t do that. You don’t have what it takes.” Not only was I listening, I was believing them.

After a restless night last night, when I woke up, God lifted my burdens. I don’t know how else to describe it, but I felt a weight lifted from me and I was full of joy. I made a decision to believe that God loves me, that I won’t know if I can do something until I try, and that risking failure is better than doing nothing. It was an important breakthrough for me.

I went to church feeling happy, happier than I’ve been in awhile. I talked to my pastor about how I was feeling and we prayed. We had a great service. The choir knocked it out of the park with our song, “Revelation 19.” It sounded awesome, and I really was feeling the words, “Hallelujah, salvation and glory, honor and power unto the Lord our God, for the Lord our God is mighty and the Lord our God is omnipotent. The Lord our God is wonderful.” The music to this song is absolutely gorgeous.

To top it off, a great friend was at church today. I hadn’t seen her in a few months because she works a lot. It was a wonderful joy to see her and I was reminded of how much I like her. Then, the pastor preached, and boy, did she preach!

She spoke about the portion of Matthew 5, where Jesus is teaching that his followers need to turn the other cheek and to love their enemies, asking, (and I paraphrase) “If you only love those who love you, what does that prove? Anyone can do that.” The pastor talked about how unnatural it is for people to forgive enemies and to love them. It’s impossible, and Jesus knew that no human being could do something like that without divine help and divine love. Instead of seeing people as the enemy, she said, Jesus wants us to see all of them as brothers and sisters and friends, not enemies. She talked about how Jesus changed the world by letting people kill him. He laid down his life in response to hate, and he was raised by the power of love. What he did, by refusing to fight hatred with violence, and instead, conquering it with love, was a miracle. But, Christians can do that too, if we really want to follow him.

I realized that I have failed so many times at seeing people through God’s eyes, and not loving them no matter what. I have often let my pride get the better of me, and taken offense to things people have said or written to me, and responded in unloving ways. It really shouldn’t matter what anyone says or does to me. I will love them, hoping for the best for them, praying for them and remembering what Christ did for me. Remembering that helped really energize me and I’m thankful for the reminder.

Later, because it was our church’s turn to host a community meal at Christ Episcopal Church downtown for homeless and needy people, a bunch of us went there and worked together to feed many people. It was a blessing to serve side by side with such fun, loving folks.

After that, I went to visit my friend Louise at Rolling Hills and her son and his dog Jane were there visiting as well. It was wonderful to see Louise because I’d been prevented from going for awhile and I missed her.

I got home late and tired but happy. So, maybe I didn’t lie exactly. I am writing about one of my favorite things, it’s just that it has nothing to do with TV shows or books. I love Jesus, and he is more than a favorite pastime to me. He is a necessity, a real savior who keeps changing me and helping me grow and heal more every day. I feel like I can transcend the pain and sorrow of this world, and the struggles I have with fear, low self esteem and all the other garbage that I have let hold me down for so long.

So, there you have it. My favorite thing in this world is Jesus because he makes it possible for me to enjoy all of my other favorite things without the baggage that tends to get in the way of real joy and happiness. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write about TV shows or books.

Favorite Things, Part II

Oliver!

Yesterday, I started blogging about my favorite things and only was able to point out my favorite actors and actresses before my fingers gave out on me. In an effort to stay positive and focus on things that are good, excellent, praiseworthy and admirable, I’m going to continue.

My favorite films
I am a member of a great Facebook page for movie lovers, so that’s why I have been focusing on this part of life to begin with.

Oliver! – it is my favorite movie. I saw it when I was 8 years old at a drive-in theater with my family. I fell in love with it, the story of the sad orphan, Oliver Twist, and his quest to find a place to belong, tugged at my little heart. It still does. I loved the music as well. I liked being a little scared too, even back then. Bill Sykes was one wicked villain! And, there was the sadness about what happened to the kind-hearted Nancy. I became a big fan of Shani Wallis after that. Her voice as she sang “As Long as He Needs Me,” was just wonderful.

Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness – yes, this is dangerous for me to post, but I have to be honest, and am not going to let fear stop me from expressing myself. I love these movies because I love all Trek. These films reinvigorated my love of the world and the characters. In my mind, they captured the spirit of what makes Star Trek such and enduring sci fi universe — the spirit of adventure, of relationships, of danger and of action. Kirk is the bold captain again, young and vigorous. Spock is more than just a cold punch line. His back story is moving and makes him a more complex character, in my opinion. Uhura is more than just a nice looking woman, she is useful and just as competent as anyone else on board. She was always my hero as a kid, and she is once again. The ship is beautiful and has become a living thing again. I don’t usually get much emotion for inanimate objects in movies, but the Enterprise, just like in the TV show, becomes a beautiful living testament to friendship and survival against all odds. When I saw both films in theaters I wanted to stand up and cheer, my heart was so moved and excited to see my old friends back again.

The Hobbit Trilogy – (well just the first two obviously ;)) they are just a whole lot of fun for me. Yes, again, I will draw the ire of people who hate them for whatever reason, but that is the chance I take when having an opinion. I love everything about these films. For one thing, they are beautiful cinematically. The characters are lovable and feel like old friends. Bilbo and the dwarves, Gandalf and the elves, and yes, even Radagast. I love them all. I watch these films like I am 12 years old, and I am filled with wonder and joy. I can’t wait for the final one, and then, I will be sad that it is the final one.

The Chronicles of Narnia – I love fantasy, but this film has much more than that. The wonderful Pevensie children were perfectly cast, and it was evident that the filmmakers went to a lot of trouble to find just the right kids for these parts. This film was a labor of love and that is what makes me love it so much. Also, Tilda Swinton is most amazing as the wicked White Queen. James McAvoy was a wonderful Mr. Tumnus. I read that the filmmakers took great pains to ensure that young Georgie Henley, who played Lucy Pevensie, did not see James McAvoy in his Faun costume until her scene was to be filmed, so that her look of astonishment was genuine. She had met McAvoy and gotten to know him, so when she saw him looking so magical, her reaction was priceless. That’s what I love about this film – that it was so real and at the same time, so magical. The beautiful job they did with Aslan will make him one of my most favorite non-human film characters of all time.

From here on out I’m only going to list a few other favorite films, because I love movies and there are so many of them. I will, in all probability leave some out still. But, here are a few more favorites:

A Trip to Bountiful
Scarface
Moulin Rouge
Scent of a Woman
Open Range
True Grit (John Wayne version)
What About Bob?
Elf
A Christmas Carol (in all its variations)
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Bells of St. Mary’s
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Silence of the Lambs
Dances With Wolves
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Alien
E.T.
The Princess Bride
Rebel Without a Cause
Yellowbeard
Ladyhawke
The Stone Boy
Edges of the Lord
Blue Like Jazz

Tomorrow, I will talk about my favorite TV shows and then I will discuss books.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things!

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I haven’t written a blog post in awhile. Forgive me. I wanted to jump back in again with stuff that makes me happy! So, here goes…

Favorite Actors
Ewan MacGregor – first, he is Scottish and that is the culture of my ancestors that I most identify with, mom being a McIntosh and all. But most of all, it was his performance in Moulin Rouge. His voice, combined with his wonderful, full smile, really made me swoon a bit. He has charm and style.
Leonardo DiCaprio – yes, I know he was a teen heartthrob after Romeo + Juliet. My daughter had a huge crush on him, and I approved. He was, and is, talented. He has a power and intensity in his acting that is undeniably brilliant. He turned a movie I didn’t want to watch – The Aviator – into a movie I couldn’t stop watching. I have loved every performance.
Al Pacino – His performance in Scarface as Tony Montana, and then as the blind colonel in Scent of a Woman made him one of my favorites. He has courage in how he attacks his roles, and I find the mix of vulnerability and machismo very enticing.
Anthony Hopkins – to me, he is a consummate actor. My favorite of his roles was as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. He lends dignity and power to any role he takes.
Chris Pine – those baby blues! Since taking on the thankless role of Capt. James Kirk in the reboots by J.J. Abrams, I have adored him. I watched the new Jack Ryan movie because of him, and I am not normally a big Jack Ryan fan. He made that movie for me. I think of Paul Newman when I see him. It’s not just his eyes either. He has a style and charm that reminds me of actors of the Golden Age of film.
Hugh Jackman – he is handsome, definitely. That’s only part of what makes him a favorite. He is a wonderful actor. He is best known as Wolverine, I would guess, and that is a great role, but not my favorite of his. I loved him in the movies Australia, Les Miserables, the quirky Butter and the intense thriller Prisoners. He is a winner in my book and I always enjoy seeing him in anything, even the terrible Movie 43.

Favorite Actresses
Michelle Pfeiffer – I first saw her in Scarface and her performance blew me away. (That is not an intentional pun about the cocaine use or the violence in that movie.) She infused the character of Elvira Hancock with such understated pathos, haunting in her beauty and tragic in her illness, I was amazed. She held her own against Al Pacino very well. Then, as the enchanting and enchanted Isabeau in Ladyhawke, she had my vote for a favorite actress.
Jennifer Lawrence – one of the newer actresses on my radar. I liked her spunkiness in The Hunger Games and its sequel. I admit to having missed her Oscar-winning performance and the new movie American Hustle. I want to see both because I respect her more for her down-to-earth candor and efforts to not let fame warp her values. I expect her to have a nice, long career and can’t wait to see her in more films.
Meryl Streep – I have not seen all of her films, but I love her in the ones I have seen. I loved her in Mama Mia! Yes, I know there are people who hate that film, but I love her sense of humor. I really love her grace on screen, how she exudes authenticity and a command of the craft. I loved her in The Hours, caring for her dying friend, interacting with her daughter, and her general struggle with her own quirks and longings. When you think of great actresses, most people will think of Meryl Streep first thing, and that is for good reason.
Nicole Kidman – another great actress from The Hours. She deserved that Oscar she got for that role, indeed. I admit that my favorite role of hers, however, is still as Satine in Moulin Rouge. She is just so beautiful. I also love her in The Others, a very good horror movie. It is actually my favorite horror film.
I also loved her in Australia. She makes any movie better by her presence, in my opinion.

I’m sure I missed a few, but that’s okay. I am also very open to the joy of discovering new favorites. I’m not done yet though! I have a lot of favorite things, and I suppose I could write an entire book about all of them if I let myself go, but, I will try to keep it at a minimum. Looks like this blog post, however, will have several sequels, just like some films.

Stay Tuned for Part II.

Plaguing Teron — Journal of Krindar Hammerfall

KRINDAR
Recently, we Guardians of Teron have realized that our efforts in Teron needed to take a different path. Nothing comes of continuous head-butting with entrenched systems, and nothing is more entrenched in Teron than slavery. That does not mean we decided to give up. Not at all.

As we discussed our situation and began to put our minds to the task of re-imagining our strategies, we came up with several new approaches. Some of our most effective tools are our growing knowledge of the town and creative lying.

The groundwork had already been laid for me to make periodic health and welfare checks in the mines. When I arrived at the mine with my brother, now known as Tarkus, we found that several slaves were badly wounded from the attempted slave revolt that happened recently. A fire had been started and lives had been lost. These slaves suffered from horrific burns and so I did my best for them. We had come with a plan, however, one that included more than healing. We had come armed with knowledge and lies and we aimed to use these weapons to free as many slaves as we could.

You see, we heard that last summer, before we arrived, there had been a terrible plague that started with the slave population and wiped out quite a few of them. With hopes of transporting many slaves away, I told the guard who was with us that these slaves were showing the beginning stages of the Withering Disease, which is what the plague is called. He was shaken, and had me remove the slaves and take them back to the temple, with the promise that I would return and check for more plague symptoms.

I was thrilled the guise worked. Soon, I was back again, but this time, the trick was not quite as easy to pull off. You see, they had called the mine physician who refuted my claim that slaves were showing plague symptoms, which included chalky skin, loose teeth and withering limbs. One of my main goals was to use the plague ruse to free Britnee, since I knew there was no other way to free her from a life of slavery – feeling guilty and protective of the woman we had helped free from slavers when we were on the island. She had been accused of murdering the man who abused her in the port city of Barcen, shortly after we returned to civilization. My brother and I had taught him a painful lesson. We had no idea Britnee would be charged with attempted murder because of that. So, you see, I felt I needed to do everything within my power to help free her.

I had to do some mighty fast talking to convince that physician that he was wrong, and that Britnee was showing signs of being sick, as were several other slaves. I was unable to remove any of these slaves to the Temple, however, except for Britnee. The mine officials had a quarantine site set up across the river, they said, and the “sick” slaves would be taken there. Britnee was allowed to go with me, however, thankfully.

Finally, I had rid my conscience of this horrible guilt. We waited until the next morning, early, and I loaded Britnee and the other slaves into a wagon, hidden, and took them off to Abos, where I hoped the injured could be healed and they could all have good lives. The priest warned me that Britnee was the sort who was apt to get into trouble again, but I asked him to do his best. She cried when I left.

The priest sent a wonderful young initiate, Brother Meyer, back with me with a sacred box that was sure to add prestige to our reliquary of the bones of Tarkus. When I returned, I informed the mine officials that Britnee and the other slaves had died from the disease, but that because we caught it early, there would be no further problems. Not only did they believe what I had said, but they thanked me for catching it early and saving lives. I had to work to keep a straight face. Even the mayor brought us a flagon of wine as thanks for thwarting the plague.

Later that day, my brother wanted to go hang out with a guard he had befriended at the mines. This guard had expressed quiet support of our work freeing slaves. Inside the Dancing Crow, Dekin is insulted by a man who dropped his trousers, turned around, bent over and displayed his bare buttocks to him. Dekin challenges the brazen fool to a fight inside the pit. We immediately take bets, the odds being 2-1 against our cousin.

Dekin fought well, thankfully, and we all raked in a victory. My brother, who had been bragging about being Tarkus to the folks inside the bar, decided to prove it by challenging all comers to pit fights. we made some more coin betting on him, as he handily defeats two men in the pit.

In a bold, or perhaps mad, gesture, brother challenged the undefeated hulk of a man called Markel, a former slave. I am not exactly sure this fellow was completely human. He stood at least seven feet tall, and bore gigantic muscles. He wielded an axe with a blade as big as a table. I was scared, and, I think that my brother was unsure as to what the outcome would be. His drive to prove he is Tarkus, reincarnated as a toughened, scarred dwarf, was great indeed.

It was a bloody, terrible battle. I was terrified and tempted to use a spell to help. Tarkus (as I am required to now call him) had decided to wear his leather armor in the pit, instead of his plate, hoping that he would be faster on his feet and harder to hit. Indeed, he was nimble, but the hulking champion was able to land some devastating blows. Somehow, my brother managed to hang on, but Markel seemed to not even feel the blows my brother landed.

I began to pray, though Tarkus begged me not to use any spells. Finally, beaten and bloody, Tarkus landed a massive blow, seemingly willing every ounce of his might into it. The champion was thrown back out of the ring to a crowd of shocked onlookers. They had not expected their champion to be beaten by a delusional dwarf, let alone thrown out of the pit. My brother, with great respect for this mighty man, spared his life and I did what I could to heal both of them. In the end, the two parted as friends.

To celebrate the victory, and as part of our campaign to show a different side of The Face of the Free, we threw a festival in the town square. The mayor attended, bringing with him a gift for us – six slaves that he freed. They were sickly and feeble folks, broken by years of slavery, and of little use to the mine, but I profusely thanked him anyway and let him have his moment of glory. Markel showed up as well, and presented my brother with a special dagger as a sign of friendship and respect. Touched, Tarkus offers his new friend his beautiful belt buckle. I remember what he said that day afterwards. “I am gonna miss that belt buckle. I liked it. But, it’s much better to have a friend.”

After the festival, we went to the quarantine area to check on the slaves there, and we were told that some would be returned to the mine. I didn’t feel I could push the plague thing too much further. I told them that all were healed, but I used the winnings I got from betting on my brother’s pit fight to buy the freedom of six of the weaker slaves. All in all, I believe our strategy worked and the tension in town has eased. We freed more slaves in these past few days than we have ever been able to free before, all because we got smarter. I pray we can continue to find ways to whittle down the slavery operations in Teron.

Our next venture will include danger for all of us, but we all are ready for some adventures that don’t include convincing people they’re wrong. We are going to confront the bugbear gang Keegar’s Hand and try to free the people they have taken, as well as get some revenge for the raid they inflicted on the people of the way station. If all goes according to plan, we will come back heroes.

Something Has GOT to Change

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Again. I have once again been confronted with finding out about a woman I know who has been abused and is living in fear. You know what? I am sick of it. I am furious. I should not know this many women who have suffered the following: being thrown around, having heads banged against walls, being sexually molested as children, being held at gunpoint, being beaten so badly they’ve needed surgery, lost unborn babies due to being beaten, lost ability to ever bear children again due to violence, being victims of attempted murder, having a hand shot off, being murdered, being terrorized, having to climb out of a second story window to escape violence, being choked, kicked, punched, stabbed and shot. Enough is enough – isn’t it?

Yes, I know men also suffer. I know men who have been abused as children, and molested, but I don’t know personally of any men who have been beaten or injured as adults, so I cannot speak to that issue. Of course, when it happens, it should be dealt with and stopped. Perhaps men suffer in silence more, but the women I know who have suffered, for the most part, were hurt so badly that there was no way they could be silent. Their abuse screamed loudly from hospital beds and even from the morgue.

What has to change besides people learning how to resolve conflict without violence? I’d say that people who are in positions to speak up need to stop staying silent about it. What gets me steamed is whenever someone finally gets the courage to speak up, to leave, or even after they’ve been killed, there will always be people who will say that they deserved what happened somehow. After my friend Sissy was murdered by a co-worker of mine, there was actually at someone who indicated that this murdered girl had asked for it because she left him and took their child back to live around her parents. This was after he had cheated on her and systematically destroyed her self esteem by many acts of belittlement. Yet, she asked for it because she finally got the courage to leave. Right.

My own mother was refused communion by her church for being divorced (non-Catholic btw) after 32 years of enduring abuse and fear. People blamed her because they had no idea what had happened. It wasn’t as if this was something she wanted to broadcast. Dad was charming and seemed like a nice guy. He WAS a nice guy when he wasn’t flying into rages. They never saw it, so they blamed her for leaving.

You see a pattern here?

Not only was she refused communion, but, in another church, while we were still kids, she had mustered up the courage to talk to a pastor about the situation she was enduring and got this for advice, “God hates divorce.” Really? That’s what you say to someone who is suffering and needs help? That is what you think is God approves of? What do you think he feels about someone who uses his word to keep a battered woman in a destructive relationship (who also has three kids)? Do you think he approves of pastors who turn a blind eye and use Bible verses to justify their lack of concern and assistance? I hope not.

I can’t candy coat this sort of subject, I’m afraid. I would love to not ever think about it, but I can’t turn my back on people who suffer without saying something, at least. If you’ve never been the victim of abuse, first of all, I’m so happy about that. But, please don’t shut up your hearts and minds to people who have. Please don’t blame the victims for what they have suffered. Please don’t use snarky comebacks to justify crimes.

And, please don’t see this as an attack on men. I love men, and know so many good men. I am so pleased to be related to, and be friends with men who are gentle, kind, loving, protective, understanding and princely in their treatment of women. I know so many men who treat women as equals, who are fair, who would never harm anyone, and who are sensitive to issues like this.

Mostly, I am just venting because my heart is very full of pain and outrage. When I think back on all of the women I have known who have been so mistreated, when I remember their suffering and realize that many still suffer wounds, physically, mentally, spiritually, I get sick and sad. I have to say something. I just urge people to do whatever they can for someone they think might be a victim of abuse. I can tell you from experience that what they often want most is to be believed and valued.Too many times they’ve been dismissed and too many times they have believed the lie that they deserve nothing better.

I heard a great podcast sermon last night by a man named Greg Boyd, talking about the submission that is written into the Bible. He says, and I am paraphrasing, that in a kingdom marriage there is mutual submission “as unto the Lord,” which means you do it freely, not because of fear but from love. When men are exhorted to lay down their lives for their wives they are urged to be like Christ. Women of that age were already taught to submit, so his teaching, that men should also submit, was new and provocative.

In the kingdom of God, Boyd says, it’s not about who is the boss. It is more about how to we serve each other, wash each other’s feet, how we put the needs of others above our own. He said that in the kingdom there are no coerced submissions in relationships. Women are often nervous about these verses, he said, because they’ve suffered under men who have used coerced submission on them, and often abused them in doing so. But Boyd reminded his audience that Christ submitted freely. If you are abused into submission – that is not kingdom submission. “It is never God’s will for you to be a doormat,” he said at one point (and this was a healing sentence for me). It’s not loving to you and it’s not loving to the person you’re letting walk on you because you are communicating to them that it is okay for them to treat people like that, and it isn’t. You are enabling their sin. That has got to stop, Boyd said emphatically. I can tell you, it was refreshing to hear someone say something like that from a pulpit. (The podcast was a recording of his preaching at his church, Woodland Hills Church).

He had a lot more great things to say, but this was the part I needed to hear. I only wish I heard more teaching such as this especially coming from pulpits. The church should be known for fighting for the abused, the underdog, the wounded and the oppressed. It should shine a light in the dark places and show people God’s heart here. And, it should never let abusers hide behind scripture without challenge. To those pastors, leaders, celebrities, etc., who speak up against domestic violence, I am grateful. I only hope more will follow suit and help abusers know that abuse is not acceptable, and to let victims know they are not alone.

If you want to learn more about domestic violence and how to get help, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website at — . Their phone number is 1-800-799-SAFE(7233). If you want to help fight the problem, you can find ways to get involved on that site as well. People who need help can also chat live with trained advocates online.

There are many other places where you can get help for yourself or for someone else. Don’t let the suffering continue in silence.