Monthly Archives: September 2012

Storytime Friday: East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Part 6

She hid the candle under her mattress and tried to forget about it.

For the most part she succeeded. She did her best to distract herself over the next few weeks. She explored the palace slowly, and started to map all the rooms. Or at least all the rooms she had found; the palace seemed endless, and each room brought some new delight or wonder. On days she didn’t feel like walking she’d have fun with the silver bell and try to think up new things to summon with it. She had it bring her intricate jewelry, exotic fruits, extravagant dresses–

–just about the only thing it couldn’t conjure was someone to talk to.

The bear was gone almost every day now. Which was fine. He was just a bear after all. A kind, playful, and charming bear. But still a bear. Possibly a troll, she reminded herself. Not that she really thought he was a troll. Still, on the rare occasions she did see him, she didn’t feel as comfortable around him as she used to. What exactly was he? She was too afraid to ask. What could he possibly say to reassure her? A troll would deny being a troll too if he was just fattening her up to eat. And what if she asked and he said that he was a troll? What could she do? It’s not like she could outrun him.

So she didn’t say anything. She didn’t play with him anymore either. The bear seemed somber lately as well. She was pretty sure she knew why. He was worried that she would to look.

And so was she.

She told herself she wouldn’t. Every day she reminded herself about how happy she was. She had everything a girl could want. There was no way she was going to risk it all just to satisfy her curiosity. It would be foolish in the extreme.

But when night came, and she woke to hear quiet breathing in the dark, she felt differently. Some nights it took everything she had to keep herself from reaching for the candle. To pull it from it’s hiding place, light the wick, and finally see for herself. It wasn’t because she was scared. I mean she was scared; terrified, actually. But she didn’t really believe that the bear could be a troll. Not deep down. She was just so lonely. She had everything a girl could want…except someone to hold. Someone to laugh with. Someone who would stand by her side, and never let her go. And she was terrified that she would never have that. She needed to know. Who was the bear? A troll? A man? Did he love her?

Would he still love her if she looked?

She didn’t have the nerve.

So she spent her days vowing not to look, and she spent her nights trying desperately not to. Until one day something strange happened. She woke up couldn’t find the will to get out from under the covers. She just stared at the empty chair at her bedside. She stared, and wondered, until a voice deep within her said “I’m going to look tonight.”

She told herself that she wouldn’t. She went over all the reasons not to. She recited them from top to bottom until she was satisfied that looking would be the stupidest and most irresponsible thing she could do. Then she got out of bed, and summoned breakfast. All through the day she renewed her vow not to look. With every step she took she swore she would just go to sleep and ignore any nightly voices. That evening, as she crawled under the covers, she congratulated herself for staying true to her promise.

A few hours later she woke to the sound of steady breathing. She thought very hard about all the reasons she shouldn’t look. And then she calmly slid out of bed and fetched the candle from under her mattress. She stepped outside of her room into the pitch black hallway, and quietly made her way downstairs to the great hall whose fireplaces never stopped burning. She lit her candle and made her way back to her room. She only paused a moment at the door. This was it. Time to find the truth.

She opened the door.

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Mark’s Scrapbook: There’s a Twist at the End, but You Will Probably Only Get it if You’re a Child of the 90s.

I’d like to announce the inaugural post of a new section here at The Page Nebula: Mark’s Scrapbook. The Scrapbook will consist of me putting up a little bit of writing that I wrote back in high school or middle school, or even elementary school if I can even find files that old. Then I’ll talk about it a little (or a lot, depending on the story). Most of these stories aren’t what I’d call “particularly good” or even “mediocre” but they are written by me, and they might give you a good barometer of how far (or how short) I have come.

This first Scrapbook actually has a little piece that I was quite proud of when I wrote it, though I only ever shared it with one person. So now you can all take a look at it. It doesn’t really have a name, and as the title indicates it does have a twist at the end. A twist that is only apparent if you were a particular kind of kid growing up in the 1990’s. A kid like me. I wrote this in High School, I’m not sure which year. It must have been after I discovered Terry Pratchett or I wouldn’t have used a word like “susurrus” in the second sentence. Originally it was going to be part of a longer work, but I never wrote any more because it stood well enough on it’s own and I had better things to do (i.e., play video games).

I hope you enjoy it.

            The crunch of dry leaves beneath Derik’s feet was the only sound in the deep forest. It was a constant susurrus that seemed to be swallowed up by the undergrowth. Derik’s pace was steady, mechanical, the stride of a man used to walking all day. But if you looked close, under his grim and weathered face you would see that he was not a man at all but a boy, no more then sixteen. He wore a ragged red flannel shirt under a worn leather coat. His jeans were dirty and faded with threadbare pockets, held up by a cracked leather belt. His shoes, once red, were now muddy brown and black, stained with the memory of a dozen landscapes. The only other possessions he had was a faded red and white baseball cap and an old backpack stuffed almost to bursting. Other then the constant crunch of leaves and the steady thump of his footsteps he made no sound. He did not whistle or hum and his eyes never wandered from his path.

He’d been walking through this forest for three days now. It was his fifth time through, having fled here before when trouble came his way. And trouble came more every day. Derik wasn’t one to complain. A simple soul, he lived with only one motto: life is hard and death is worse. As long as he was alive there was reason to keep living.

Suddenly he stopped. He cocked his head, as if hearing a far off sound. He stood for a minute straight, frozen still.

Derik dropped to one knee. He had definitely heard it. A distant buzzing. He kneeled there, listening to the change in pitch as the sound’s source moved throughout the woods. Farther. Farther. Closer. Farther. Closer again. Sweat began to bead upon his forehead. His hand clutched a chipped metal sphere that hung from his belt. He kept vigil on his knee for fifteen minutes, tensing as the sound came near and relaxing when it grew soft until finally it faded away completely. He stood then, and listened for a while longer. When he was sure the sound was gone for good he hitched up his bag and continued at the same pace as before, as if nothing had happened. In these woods you couldn’t give in to fear or you’d be consumed by it.

Derik made his way up a gentle slope, aiming for the summit of a small hill. He’d been there before, and knew it would give him a good view of the surrounding territory. The path winded here in a series of switchbacks. It would be shorter to cut through the brush and the tall grass but Derik knew better. Things lurked in the tall grass. Some of them had venom that would kill you slowly. None were afraid of man. Derik stuck to the trail.

After a half hours climb he finally reached the top. There was a small clearing that rose above the thick underbrush. Derik stuck to the edge. He didn’t like the open, not around here. Anyone flying around above this forest wasn’t someone you wanted to meet. He walked carefully to the far end where the trees parted slightly and you could see above the forest ceiling. For a moment he paused. The view was stunning. Acres of forest stretched out for miles before thinning out among the foothills of a huge mountain range. The mountains themselves were tall and rocky, with little life on their slopes. The peaks were shards of granite reaching to cut the starry sky, peaks surrounded by sheer cliffs and barren slopes. But it wasn’t the mountains Derik was looking for. He let his eyes slide down the foothills until he found a cluster of light. A small town, his possible destination. He stood there and watched. Though no sound carried he could see that something was happening down there. Small pinpoints of light popped in and out of existence. There was a tiny burst of flame, and smoke trailed into the sky from some burning edifice. Derik recognized the signs clearly. The pinpricks of light was the muzzle flash of machine guns. As if to confirm his suspicions a small explosion plumed from the far away lights, followed by a dull boom a moment later. He sighed. He was hoping to resupply in town but it looked like they had trouble of their own. He considered his options and decided to swing around the long way and arrive there in a week or so. It would give him time to hunt and if there were any survivors then he’d get a good price for the meat. If there was only Rockets then he’d just have to make do. Life is hard and death is worse. He turned and began to descend the hill. No use thinking about it too hard, he thought. Facts are facts. I’m all alone, and there’s some trouble going down in Pewter City.

Possibly relevant.

Also possibly relevant.

…so yeah. It’s Pokémon. A friend and I got the idea that it would be fun to write a story that was set in a post-apocalyptic Pokémon universe. Not cutesy like the series. I mean just imagine what a world with actual Pokémon would be like. They attack people constantly, with absolutely no natural fear of man! Most Pokémon have powers and abilities that would make our fiercest predators seem downright wussy. I mean just look at Beedrill. It’s a three foot tall bee with GIANT STINGER ARMS. I get freaked out over regular bees buzzing around me. If you lived in a world with Beedrills then you would start to panic too if you heard the buzzing drone of their wings headed your way.

The point is that if you really think about it Pokémon are scary.

From a writing standpoint, this piece has some major issues. Nobody had told me about comma splices at this point in my life, and it shows. And what’s up with “Derik”? Was “Derek” too mainstream a name for me? Did I really need to switch up that “e” with an “i”? Apparently. Overall this piece is unpolished, crude, and full of stylistic mistakes.

I hope you liked it! Tune in Friday for some more recent writing by yours truly. With any luck it will be a little bit better then what my high school self could dish out.

Busting Writer’s Block

 

They say that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. If you write long enough you’ll find something to talk about.

I think they’re right.

You just got to start writing. Get ideas flowing out onto that blank white page. Fill it up with whatever’s in your head. Something good will come out eventually.

In a very fitting way writing a blog is like making conversation with people you’ve just met. It’s awkward and quiet at first. You’re not really sure what to say beyond empty small talk. Inside you’ve got lots of great stories, interesting insights, and funny jokes that would really liven up the party; but somehow you just can’t seem to remember any of them. You can’t let yourself think “Quick! Say something clever” because you’ll end up drawing a complete blank. It all has to flow naturally, one thought leading to another. That’s what small talk is for. You start out with banal statements about the weather or the quality of the food because you need to start somewhere. It’s the same way with writers block. You can’t look at a blank page and say “Now think of something really interesting to write about!” Unless you came to the page prepared with an idea you’ll just end up drawing a blank. The best advice is to just start writing. What you write might not be good but that’s alright; it’s just empty small talk paving the way to a real conversation.

Writer’s block is a very natural for the human brain. The same phenomenon can occur in many different forms. I want to do a little exercise with you. Open up Word, or Notepad, or grab a dead tree version and a pencil. Then find some way to roughly time yourself. After you’ve found a clock (or a partner to count for you) here is your assignment: write down as many white things as you can think of in thirty seconds.

How did you do? Here’s my list (hey, how could I tell you to do something if I wasn’t willing to try it myself?).

 

Milk

White Paint

Chickens

Paper

Receipts

Snow

Halibut

 

Seven things. Six really; I mean “paper” and “receipts” are pretty much the same thing. How did you do? Did you ever have a moment where your mind just went blank? I know I did.

Now here’s the second part of the exercise. Get ready to time yourself again; but this time write down all the white things you can think of that you might find in a refrigerator. Ready? Go!

How did you do? Here’s mine:

 

Milk

Eggs

Mayonnaise

Margarine

Ranch Dressing

Halibut

Mozzarella Cheese

Baking Soda

 

Eight things. And none of them are thinly veiled copies of each other! Did you do better than last time, or at least as well? If you did, don’t you find that weird? I mean there are obviously more white things in the entire world then there are in your average refrigerator. The world list should be much, much longer. And yet it usually isn’t. That’s because in the second test your brain has something concrete to latch onto. There are so many white things in the world that your mind has trouble picking them out without more criteria. It’s the same effect that comes into play when someone asks you “Hey, tell me a funny joke!” You know funny jokes; you probably know hundreds of them. But if someone puts you on the spot you’re probably going to come up with nothing.

So whenever you find yourself facing writers block try to find that concrete connection. You’ll never come up with anything if you ask yourself “Come up with something insightful and interesting and clever and entertaining. Now!” Instead try to find something concrete and simple to start with; or just write whatever pops into your head. Once you’ve started writing you never know what kind of interesting places it will take you. For example; twenty minutes ago I was staring at a blank page and had no idea what to write about for my Monday post. And now I have this.

Writing about writers block is a legitimate strategy.

 

Storytime Friday: East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Part 5

Part 5

Before she could say a word her mother shut the door, and turned to her. “Oh, my sweet baby. How are you really? What is that bear like? Has he hurt you?” She was surprised to see that her mother’s eyes were glistening with tears.

“N-no,” she replied. “He’s very gentle. He hasn’t done anything to me at all. I mean he plays with me sometimes, when he’s around.”

“When he’s around? What does that mean? Oh daughter, tell me everything. I could see that you’ve been holding back when we ask you.” Her mother began to sniff, the tears gently flowing now. “I was so afraid when you left. I’m happy to have this house, and I’m glad we all have enough to eat, but what kind of mother sells her own daughter to a bear? A bear!” Her mother pulled out a handkerchief and blowed her nose the best she could. “Can you ever forgive me?”

She stepped forward and embraced her mother, holding her tightly to herself. “Oh mother. Of course I forgive you. I agreed to go, didn’t I? And I really am fine. More than fine, actually. It’s all been unbelievably wonderful.”

Her words seemed to comfort her mother. After a few moments she regained her composure, and they both sat down at the table. Soon she was telling her mother everything; about the palace and the gardens and the bell that gave her anything she wanted. As she spoke her mother dried her tears, and began to listen with interest. She wasn’t too sure if her mother believed it all, but she felt comfortable just letting it all out. If there was anyone she could talk to it was her mother.

After she finished talking about the castle she told her mother all about the bear; how he could run like the wind, how he was so serious yet could be so playful, and how he would disappear most days but came back each night to sit in the chair by her bed. “Sit in a chair?” her mother interrupted. “But how? He’s a bear.”

“Well I’m not sure. He moves so softly when he comes in. I think…I think that he might not be a bear at night.”

Her mother looked surprised. “You mean you’ve never looked?”

She shook her head. “It’s pitch black in the room at night, and he told me to never light a candle at night or try to see his face. So I haven’t.”

Her mother was taken aback. “Oh daughter. Don’t you see? Night must reveal the bear’s true form. Why would he hide it from you unless he was something truly terrible? So terrible that turning into a bear is an improvement! He could be a troll! You must find out. For all we know he’s just fattening you up to eat you.”

“No!” she cried. “Mother, I promised him that I wouldn’t try to see his face. He’s been so kind to me, and given me such wonderfull things. He couldn’t possibly be a troll.”

“Then why did he have you make that promise?” Her mother replied quickly. “If he’s so good what does he have to hide? Why hasn’t he told you who he is or where he goes all day? Why all the secrecy?” She stopped suddenly. “I…I don’t want harm to come to you daughter. I know you’re happy in your golden palace. And we’re all happy here in this beautiful house. I wouldn’t want you to anger him, and risk taking all that away. But I’m afraid. All this magic worries me. If he’s really some terrible monster, and is just waiting until he’s hungry enough to eat you–or something worse–I couldn’t live with myself.”

“Oh mother…” she said, taking her hand as she spoke. “Don’t worry. I know he’s not a monster. I’m perfectly safe there, and happier than I’ve ever been in my life.”

“As safe and happy as pigs are up until the day they are slaughtered?” her mother snapped. “I’m sorry. I’ll try to trust your judgement daughter, but I’m having trouble doing so. Good men don’t hide behind darkness.” Her mother stood up, and walked over to a fine oak dresser, where she removed a small candle from one of the drawers. “Here. Take this with you when you leave. Hide it so he doesn’t see.” She began to protest but her mother cut her off with a gesture. “You don’t have to use it. I won’t force you to. But take it anyway, just in case. When it’s late at night, and he sounds as if he’s gone to sleep, then you can light it and take a good look at him.”

She could see that there would be no arguing with her, so she took the candle and hid it in the folds of her dress. Then she and her mother embraced, holding each other tight. “Don’t worry mother,” she said quietly. “I’ll be safe. I’ll visit often so you know I’m still alive.”

Her mother squeezed her tighter. “You better. I’ll try not to worry about you, but I know I will anyway. Stay safe, and please remember what I’ve said. ”

She promised that she would, and then they both left to join the family at the bonfire. Though her brothers and sisters were in high spirits, she found that something was weighing heavily on her spirits. What if she’s right, she thought. She shook off the thought. The bear had been good to her. She trusted him. She would keep on trusting him, not matter what.

But inside she wasn’t so sure anymore.

She stayed with her family for another week. On the day of her departure the bear appeared as silently as he had disappeared before. She wasn’t sure how he knew she was ready to go. Perhaps he had been watching her. She said goodbye to her family, who were all sad to see her go, and she promised she’d visit again soon. She climbed onto the bear’s back, and he walked slowly away from the grand farmhouse. The last face she saw was her mother’s. She looked terribly worried.

When the house was out of sight the bear began to run, flying through the forest like a comet through the night sky. After they had traveled some distance, the bear spoke to her. “Did you enjoy your visit?”

“Yes.” She answered. “Thank you very much for taking me there. And thank you for keeping your promise to make them rich.”

“A promise is a promise.”

They were silent for a while, as the trees left streaks of color as they shot by. Riding the bear was so peaceful and comfortable that she could almost fall asleep.

The bear broke the silence. “Did you speak with your mother?”

Her heart almost stopped in surprise. She couldn’t reply for almost a full minute. When she did the word came out like a small mouse under the eyes of a watchful hawk.

“Yes.”

The bear simply nodded. Neither of them spoke for the rest of the trip. She wondered if he was angry.

When they arrived at the palace he stopped at the gate, and she climbed off his back. She coughed. “I’m…” she mumbled, “I’m sorry. I promised I wouldn’t talk to her alone, but…”

The bear stopped her with a kind look. “It’s alright. I know that you tried your best. Mothers can be hard to stop.” He looked straight at her with his sad brown eyes. “Just know this; if you listen to your mother’s advice you will make us both very unhappy. All this,” he looked up at the palace, and then back to her. “Will be over. Do you understand.”

She looked down at her feet. “I understand.” I trust him, she thought to herself. I really do. I really, really do.

But there was still a small part of her that wasn’t so sure.

End of Part 5

How Rich is King Tut?

At the end of this summer I had the pleasure of visiting the King Tut exhibition at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. The exhibit is made up of hundreds of ancient Egyptian statues, carvings, jewelry, artifacts, and furniture. Seattle also happens to be the exhibit’s last stop in North America, and it’s anyone’s guess when (and if) it will come back again (the tour before this one was back in the 70s, so that should tell you something). I’m glad I caught it before it left the states. You can’t find an exhibit like this anywhere else outside of Egypt. And man, there was stuff to see! The first room was all statues, most of them missing a few pieces. It was amazing to stare at these works of art and realize that you’re looking at something made thousands of years ago; things that were ten times as old as America back when the Colosseum was brand new.

To think that all those years ago someone, a human like you or me, spent hours painstakingly carving these elegant figures out of solid rock. It made me wonder: did they know their work would last this long? Did they ever think that people thousands of years later would line up and pay just for the opportunity to admire their work? What work of art from our own time will the by lining up to see four thousand years from now? Will anything of ours last that long?

What was even more amazing is that they had a couple non-stone items that somehow still survived. It is mind-boggling how long wood can last if it’s kept in a dark, dry place. I come from the wet woods of the Pacific Northwest so this was especially surprising. I mean, a tree falls in the woods and within a year it’ll start rotting. Ten years later it’s nothing but dirt and bug food. But apparently wood can last through the ages, given the right conditions and a lot of luck. Check out this sweet table.

But the real highlight of the exhibit was the gold room. You know why gold has always been so valuable? It’s too soft to use for tools and it sure is hard to find. However it’s shiny, and it doesn’t rust. It’s incorruptible. Anything made out of copper or iron or even silver would have corroded away to nothing after a few thousand years. Gold however…

…gold LASTS. All those precious treasures look the same now as they did the day they were made. That’s why gold is so precious. You want something that will last? Make it out of solid rock or pure gold. Of course things made out of solid gold tend to get stolen and melted down, but that another matter entirely.

Seeing all this wealth reminded me of something Randy Alcorn wrote in his book The Treasure Principle. It reads as follows:

The streets of Cairo were hot and dusty. Our missionary friends took us down an alley. We drove past Arabic signs to a gate that opened to a plot of overgrown grass. It was a graveyard for American missionaries.

As my family and I followed, Pat pointed to a sun-scorched tombstone that read: “William Borden, 1887–1913.”

Borden, a Yale graduate and heir to great wealth, rejected a life of ease in order to bring the gospel to Muslims. Refusing even to buy himself a car, Borden gave away hundreds of thousands of dollars to missions. After only four months of zealous ministry in Egypt, he con­tracted spinal meningitis and died at the age of twenty-five.

I dusted off the epitaph on Borden’s grave. After describing his love and sacrifices for the kingdom of God and for Muslim people, the inscription ended with a phrase I’ve never forgotten: “Apart from faith in Christ, there is no explanation for such a life.”

The Thurmans took us straight from Borden’s grave to the Egyptian National Museum. The King Tut exhibit was mind-boggling.

Tutankhamen, the boy king, was only seventeen when he died. He was buried with solid gold chariots and thou­sands of golden artifacts. His gold coffin was found within gold tombs within gold tombs within gold tombs. The burial site was filled with tons of gold.

The Egyptians believed in an afterlife—one where they could take earthly treasures. But all the treasures intended for King Tut’s eternal enjoyment stayed right where they were until Howard Carter discovered the burial chamber in 1922. They hadn’t been touched for more than three thou­sand years.

I was struck by the contrast between these two graves. Borden’s was obscure, dusty, and hidden off the back alley of a street littered with garbage. Tutankhamen’s tomb glit­tered with unimaginable wealth. Yet where are these two young men now? One, who lived in opulence and called himself king, is in the misery of a Christless eternity. The other, who lived a modest life on earth in service of the one true King, is enjoying his everlasting reward in the presence of his Lord.

Tut’s life was tragic because of an awful truth discovered too late—he couldn’t take his treasures with him. William Borden’s life was triumphant. Why? Because instead of leav­ing behind his treasures, he sent them on ahead.

 

In that exhibit I got to share in that observation. King Tut had riches beyond compare shoved into that tomb with him. He believed that they would follow him into the afterlife. Instead they’re on display at a museum for people like me to gawk at. How rich is King Tut? Right now he’s poorer than anyone on earth. He doesn’t have a possession to his name. He left it all behind. Just as we will have to someday. You can’t take it with you; the only thing that follows you past the grave is your actions on this earth. So what’s the smarter choice: buying some new toy for ourselves that  we’ll inevitably leave behind, or using that money to change someone’s life on this earth?

Something to think about.

 

You Can’t Write This Stuff

Summer’s over and so is my job at Mt.Ranier. I am a park ranger no more. Now I’m working part-time in my school’s computer lab. I set up equipment for presentations and classes, but mostly my job involves sitting behind a desk and solving people’s problems.

Here is some actual dialogue from about a week ago. I didn’t make this up; this is one hundred percent genuine. The setting: the computer lab, early morning. The place was close to empty. A woman gets up from a computer, walks across the room, and gets on another computer. She tells me that the computer kicked her off while she was in the middle of researching a project. What follows is my attempt to get some more information.

 

ME: So did the computer turn off or did it just boot you off?

HER: Yes.

ME: Which one?

HER: *points vaguely at a row of computers across the room* That one.

ME: No, I mean did the computer itself turn off or did it just log you off?

HER:Yes that computer itself did it.

ME: I mean did the computer shut down?

HER:Yes. It put me back on the login screen.

ME: …Okay.

 

You can’t write this stuff people.

Storytime Friday: East of the Sun and West of the Moon Part 4

Part 4

That night her family held a huge feast in honor of her visit. The food was delicious but what she enjoyed the most was getting to see her family again. As the food was cooking (her family had servants now! A cook, a maid, and a butler. She could hardly believe it.) the whole family gathered together before a large fireplace in a well furnished room. Her father lit his pipe, and told her the whole story of what had happened after her departure with the bear. Her brothers and sisters interrupted regularly to point out some small event that Papa forgot, but the summarized version is as follows. The day after the bear took her away her father went out to weed their little garden. He noticed a particularly long vine that was getting out of hand and he began to pull it out of the ground. However no matter how hard he pulled the vine wouldn’t budge an inch. Eventually he fetched a shovel and began to dig it up. He dug and he dug, but the root continued deep into the soil. When he finally reached the end of it his shovel hit something hard. It was a large stone with an old rune carved in it. He pulled it aside, and beneath it lay an old longsword that had rusted almost completley away. Well they weren’t sure what to do with such a find, so they hung it above their door for good luck. People in town heard of his discovery, and word spread quickly. A few days later the king himself arrived in town, followed by a procession of nobles and men at arms, and came to visit them. The family was worried when he arrived, and wondered if they had done something wrong. Instead he only asked to see the sword that they had taken from the ground. They showed it to him, and to their surprise the king fell down to his knees before it. Apparently it was the lost sword of his great-great-grandfather who had slain a terrible dragon of old with it. It had been lost for many years, and the king never thought he would ever lay eyes on it himself. To reward them for returning the lost sword to his family he gave them five large sacks filled to the brim with silver, and granted them deeds to all the land within five miles of their home. He then had his royal architect design a beautiful mansion for them, and within two weeks it was finished. Surely the bear had kept his promise, and they were as now rich as they were once poor.

Of course once their story was out they wanted to know what had happened to her. They had been very worried that something terrible might have happened to her; that the bear might have gobbled her up, or kept her as a slave. She reassured them that she was extremely happy and had everything she could wish for. After that she changed the subject as politely as she could; she didn’t feel like explaining all about her beautiful palace and magical bell. It was enough for them to know that she was comfortable and content.

She stayed there for several days enjoying large meals with her family and horseback rides across their considerable property. She was happy and enjoying herself, but she was always careful to never let herself be alone with her mother. Though her mother was happy to see her she could tell that something was bothering her. She remembered the bear’s warning, however, and did whatever she could to avoid talking to her in private.

As it turned out she could not avoid her forever. One day after dinner her father declared that they would have a bonfire under the stars that evening, and her brothers and sisters quickly followed him out to help pile the wood and light the flame. She tarried a little too long and before she could follow her mother had placed her hand on her shoulder. “There’s something I want to talk to you about.”

End of Part 4

 

Not Storytime Friday

Okay folks. I know that you’re expecting a Storytime Friday today. Because it’s friday and all. Time for some stories. The thing is…there will not be a Storytime Friday today.

Hear me out.

I have about one third of a post written up right now. I could just throw a capper on it and call it good. But you all deserve better than that. You deserve a narratively satisfying chunk of story. So here is my promise to you: there will be a Storytime Friday tomorrow. On Saturday. This will happen. I promise you.

So tune in tomorrow and check that out.

Don’t Think About Stress

Note: this post is more of a creative piece than insightful commentary. So don’t take it too seriously.

I found out today that the perception of stress causes many of the body’s physical responses to stress. Not the actual stress itself; just perceiving it.

I was never stressed as a kid. Not to say I had no stressful events or periods in my childhood; I had the usual amount of worry, pain, and struggle. I just didn’t know what stress was. If you asked me to define stress I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Stress was a word adults said, completely foreign to my experience.  I didn’t know I was under stress until I was in High School. I never perceived that I was under stress before that point. I was tired, or worried, or scared, or frustrated, but never stressed. Now I have the meaning of the word and like magic the sensation has formed to support it. Now I’m worried, scared, frustrated, and STRESSED. Now I can no longer just take life as it comes, accept bad things as being as natural as good things (like wise Job: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”) but instead I have STRESS.

STRESS needs to be cut out! STRESS will raise your blood pressure, weaken your immune system, and lower your life expectancy! You need to take a vacation, breathe deeply, meditate, unwind, and stretch daily or else STRESS will slowly kill you. You need to go to seminars on STRESS relief, a new STRESS ball full of plastic beans, and more STRESS avoidance education to fight this menace.

And now they tell me that just knowing I’m STRESSED is what hurts my body? What hurts me?

Then why did they tell me about stress in the first place?!

Sigh.

There are still monsters in our closets. They just go by different names.

 

Pat Robertson Doesn’t Speak For Me

I don’t particularly like televangelists. I’m a Christian, but when I’m flipping through channels and see someone preaching away at a pulpit on TV I usually just keep on flipping. Maybe I judge televangelists too broadly. I’m sure that there are excellent, bible believing, televangelists out there who are filled with the Holy Spirit. But it’s hard to believe that with people like Pat Robertson hanging around.

Pat Robertson is famous for being one of the most successful evangelical Christian television personalities, and for making controversial statements. Lately those statements have become increasingly, well, nuts. He claims God showed him who would win this years presidential election (though he conveniently hasn’t revealed who that victor will be), has said things like “If I’m hearing [God] right, gold will go to about $1900 an ounce and oil to $300 a barrel”, and publicly stated that Hurricane Katrina was God’s judgement on the US and that the earthquake in Haiti, which killed over 300,000 people, happened because they had made a “pact with the devil”.

In other words, Pat Robertson is evangelical Christianity’s crazy uncle who you’re embarrassed to introduce to others. I know that I am embarrassed to think that many people might mistake his mixed up ideas and statements as being representative of Christianity. Pat Robertson is the last person I’d point out to someone as an excellent example of the Christian walk.

Why do I bring this up? Mostly just as background so I can share this in some context.

This video is an excerpt from his popular show, The 700 Club. If you can’t watch the video, the basic situation is that a woman has written in asking for some advice. She’s a single mother who has three adopted children from three different countries. She’s noticed that the men she dates are lose interest after they find our her kids are adopted, and she wanted some insight as to why. Robertson’s cohost immediately calls the men “dogs” saying “That’s just wrong on every level!” Pat Robertson responds thusly:

“No, it’s not wrong. I mean, a man doesn’t want to take on the United Nations, and this women has all these various children, and, blended family, I mean, what is it? And you don’t know what problems–I”m serious, I’ve got a dear friend, adopted a son, a little kid from an orphanage down in Columbia, and the child had brain damage. You know, grew up weird, and you just never know what’s been done to a child before you get that child, what kind of sexual abuse there’s been, what kind of cruelty, food deprivation, etc., etc., etc. So you’re not a ‘dog’ because you don’t want to take on that responsibility. You don’t have to take on somebody else’s problems. I mean you really don’t. You can go help people, you can minister to people, we minister to orphans all over the world! Thousands of them, we love orphans, we love helping people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to take all of the orphans around the world into my home, and I think…well okay, lets get the next question, I’m in trouble.”

Now in all fairness (and this isn’t in the video clip) he later followed up by saying that “it didn’t come out the way I intended.” But I still think that his remarks are self-absorbed and unbecoming of a Christian leader on the national stage. We are called to look out for orphans, for the oppressed, the abused, and the damaged. Human life is human life, and it doesn’t make a difference whether a child is “weird” or foreign.

I could go on, but I don’t know how to make my point better than Randy Alcorn and Russel Moore do. Check out those links, it’s very insightful commentary and I agree with them wholeheartedly.

Funnily enough, just about this same time last year Robertson made a similar callous statement on his show, advising a man whose wife is suffering from Alzheimers that it would be all right for him to get a divorce. Randy Alcorn wrote two blog posts about it, comparing Pat Robertson’s approach to the actions of Robertson McQuilkin, a man who gave up his career to care for his wife with Alzheimers. It’s an incredible read, and you can find the posts here and here.