A Sad-Happy post

I need an outlet, so I guess blogging works.

Since my last post I found out my step-grandmother, who’s had Covid, is unable to eat and they think she will be gone soon. So my family and I are planning to say goodbye later today.

When I first heard she was sick, I wasn’t very upset, things happen, she’s been on the verge of dying anytime for ears now in Hospice care with Alzheimer’s.

This will be the first person close to me who’s died of COVID, I guess I am lucky it has been so long, and no one else in my family has died of it.

I didn’t feel much before, but now I think I was suppressing it, as I tend to suppress sadness, I was never taught how to handle it well, in my house sadness =depressed/suicidal, so I became very afraid of that feeling.

But just plain sadness is good, it shows you care about stuff that happens around you. I am working on that.

I guess I can commemorate this post to my step-grandmother, or Grammy, as we always called her.

Though we aren’t blood related, I was closest to her out of all my grandparents. before her disease got so bad we couldn’t really talk anymore, and I grew into an awkward teen who wasn’t sure of who I could trust anymore.

Before I had other friends though, she was my outlet to talk about my home problems. She’d listen to my complain about my dad and my other toxic acquaintances for 30 minutes, almost every day for a while. Looking back, I don’t know how she put up with it, but it helped me not become discouraged.

I got embarrassed about it after a while an stopped calling, though she still affectionately referred to me as her “phone buddy” and asked why I wouldn’t call anymore. I didn’t know what to say. I think the abuse and adolescence combined were getting to me. I felt stupid for complaining, and felt like I should handle it through church.

I don’t know, and I will never be able to ask, if she saw it as abusive, but she would at least agree m dad shouldn’t treat me that way. house she got annoyed at me from time to time if I pushed to talk longer, or called at a bad time, overall she was a great sport about it.

I know a bit about her background. She used to model, she was really gorgeous as a young woman. We look nothing alike, though I’ve been told I could model too, but we both liked make up and clothes and she gave me some of my first make up and beauty tips.

I guess in a way she was a maternal figure in my life. And when it went away, I didn’t know what to feel.

For several years her memory has been too bad to really have long conversations, and she’s been in hospice so I only see her once or twice a year, and it stresses her out to talk for longer than 10 minutes.

So i have focused on the thought that she is a Christian, and I will have to wait till heaven to really talk to her again.

I suspect my coping mechanism is not a very healthy one. It’s okay to still be upset about all this, even if I have hope.

I don’t know why I was so confused as to how to act, but I always felt guilty about not talking anymore, and I pushed it away. The whole thing made me uncomfortable, and then I felt guilty for being uncomfortable with the dementia and other stuff.

I know now that’s a normal thing to struggle with, but no one told me that, and no one really asked me if I was okay. I didn’t expect them to, I grow up with my emotional needs being ignored all the time unless I absolutely begged for attention, or even argued for it… and even then, I still didn’t get it, or I got it very grudgingly.

M grandparents were an exception tot hat, at least this one and her husband, though things still got awkward if my dad was around, as he liked to start fights. Still, about the only unconditional love I experienced as a kid came from that source.

When my grandma, her husband, died nearly 2 years ago, I wasn’t sure how I felt then either. We were never close, but he at least invested time and money into us, paying for my braces, and giving us gifts to help us with our interests. And listening to us sing and recite and stuff. I think my dad got jealous, honestly, and tried to make it awkward by telling us lots of terrible stories about how he grew up.

Knowing my dad lies and exaggerates now, I question if it was all true, or as true, as he told us, I’ll probably never know that either in this life.

I’m not sure it really matters, all us girls wished we’d just been left to pass our own judgment on our grandparents without feeling like we couldn’t like them because of our dad’s past. Maybe they were different people then, but who they are now is trying to be better, right?

At my grandpa’s funeral, my dad was upset, but also torn because he never liked his father or got along with him, or felt loved by him.

I wonder if I will feel the same when he dies, I hope not.

But it confused me, and I got confused about my step-grandmother also. She was a really nice lady as long as I knew her, but used to be into bad stuff, and an enabler for the other toxic people, she always had a very forgiving attitude towards people, for better or worse.

That made her by far the least toxic person in that part of the family, but my dad made sure we knew about the past, even at an age it was hardly appropriate for us to know about it at.

So, now what?

I’ve come to realize that I don’t need to hold my dad’s grudges. I value knowing the truth about people, but if it is in the past, I don’t think I always need to know, unless it still affects them now.

And I could know they were dysfunctional without needing the gritty details. Some things you should not hear about your family, especially if they became Christians.

I can say this much, Grammy would never take sides or bad mouth people like the others. I felt safer talking to her because of that. I didn’t feel safe with my dad or mom, they’d repeat stuff I said, sometimes to the whole family. Sometimes to strangers.

But I don’t want to go on about my abuse right now, I think it’s just a distraction.

Still, it does color a lot of my memories, making them more difficult to understand, and sort through.

I remember Grammy took us to museums, some really fun places, as part of our homeschooling, you could say. We loved one where there was a stage you could dress up and perform on, with working lights.

And before she got too sick to go out, she’d take us Christmas shopping, we’d get $50 each, to get whatever we wanted.

And we got to play all these cool computer games (back when they still had those, and not just apps and video games) on her computer, and play with old toys she had. The she gave us later some of her more prized possessions, these old china dolls, really expensive stuff now.

And I got some of her clothes later, I wanted something to remember her by, and a few pieces of jewelry.

Yeah, I guess we did do the most together. I’ve spent more time over all with my maternal grandmother, but our personalities and beliefs clash too much for intimacy. She’s a real nice lady, but it’s never going to be ideal, unless something changes.

Which, is okay, though I wish it were different, I can accept that.

But Grammy having dementia, as well as lupus, was just another sad thing on my list of sad things, and I never knew how to process them.

I don’t think I will stay sad for very long, I am at peace about her soul, at least, and I want her suffering to be over. After all, she will be far happier in heaven than she ever was here, and it’s not separation for forever. I believe that.

The Bible says we are not like those who mourn without hope, we have hope, though we still mourn. Knowing our latter glory will be greater than our former.

I don’t know if heaven is a place where we walk around like the classic idea of the afterlife, whether it is somewhere we rest until God recreates heaven and earth, or whether it is both.

I do believe, whatever it is, it is like Lewis’s idea of “further up and further in” that God is eternal, and we will always be drawing closer to Him, but never far from Him again.

From the stories I hear, people experience being taken to heaven much like going through a door, or transporting to a different dimension, but until I go myself, I won’t really know, and it wouldn’t surprise if it’s different for everyone, what in life is ever the same for us all?

Some people think pets go to heaven, others don’t.

My thought is, if we love it, truly, it will be there, in some form or another. That we humans give life to whatever we love, as the Bible seems to teach it was meant to be.

But, that’s a theory, and what can I really know?

Some people feel God’s presence strongly in grief, others don’t. For me, I tend to feel alone when I am pushing away my sadness, but when I welcome it, I find God is there, waiting.

I can’t write anything like “A Grief Observed” to due credit to the beauty of human life and love, I still need to learn so much more about both.

And while I like to forget about death, I know I can’t escape it anymore than the next person.

I don’t buy the “live forever in our hearts” line, because it seems too small to me.

I am glad at least that Grammy is a Christian, my only other deceased relatives were not, and that’s it’s own pain, knowing that.

I guess it still hurts, and I can feel it, when I let myself, but it doesn’t have to crush me.

I remember when my great uncle died, I kept thinking “The old has gone, the new has come” as my cousins had recently been born.

I don’t know why I had that line stuck in my head.

But I’ve thought of loss in that was since, old things pass away, all things become new. For Christians, growing old and dying means we become new.

Our final reenactment of what Jesus said about going into the ground and dying, in order to be reborn and bear fruit.

Why do Christians still die if we have eternal life?

I guess because Jesus physically died, and we are supposed to imitate him, and he who loses his life for Christ will find it. Our lives symbolically reenact Jesus, even to death. At least, we do not have to die alone, like him.

There may be some people alive now who will never die, who knows? But most of us will. That has been one of the main reasons people come to God over. Funny that now that fewer people believe in God, more people kill each other and themselves, as if the fear of oblivion isn’t enough to keep us from doing evil.

In the end, love is the only thing that really shows us how to be good.

And the loss of love is the worst loss.

And for that, I am still sad, but, I think, The Notebook has it right, love never dies, not really.

Interstellar pointed out that love transcends space and time, we love people who are dead, who are far away, who we haven’t met yet, like our babies, or even our lovers, sometimes (Like in Your Name).

I rather think that Love must be eternal also, that we love people before we know them, and after we’ve forgotten them, and only our mortal limits keep us from realizing it. You’ve met people you just clicked with, right? Why?

Something just happens with love.

We can love people we met once for one minute.

Anyway, perhaps my grandmother will pull through, I can’t know for sure, but whether she does not not, I wanted to honor her life a little bit today.

Until next time, stay honest–Natasha.

Lost in The Fire.

Well, the Oh Hellos released a new EP, and my Dad’s house burned down, so it’s been interesting since I last posted.

My dad wasn’t in it, thankfully. But he was pretty shook, as we say now.

Right now, it’s the third day of me waking up and seeing a yellow sky out my bedroom window. It’s so weird, like a post-apocalyptic teen movie. I guess there’s a strange beauty in it, and for a wonder, it’s been much cooler. I find it ironic that a fire burning had made it cooler, but one man’s loss is another man’s gain.

Fire does make rain too, so maybe in a few weeks we’ll reap some much needed benefits from this, but for now, no one is seeing it as a good thing.

People always say living on the West Coast is scary because of earthquakes, but the wildfires and arson every year are actually the biggest problem for us, way more than earthquakes.

Strange, my dad’s house was in danger a couple weeks back, but we prayed, and the wind actually changed direction just like we asked. So this time around, I didn’t even think about him being in danger of losing it.

When the ash starts falling down here in the valley, we know the fire is too close for comfort, even if we’re out of reach of it.

Falling Ash – Sam's Online Journal

I can’t explain why my dad’s house got spared once only to burn down two weeks later. Anymore than I can explain why Anne Frank made it to the allies winning the war, but still died in a Nazi prison camp.

In the fan fiction I write, I actually just had a fire happen in the story, literally af ew days before this, and was having the characters deal wtih the aftermath, asking some of the same questions that we’re aasking in real life now.

Why?

And what is the point?

When we get one miracle, sometimes it almost feels like mockery, especially if later we still lose the thing. Why get it longer at all? Why raise false hopes?

The Bible has examples of that too, the Israelites win one battle, lose the next. Get saved from their enemies, and years later, get taken captive. God warns them, but they probably were still confused, since when did they ever listen to the prophets, after all.

It could be that our idea that because we were saved once, we automatically will be saved the next time is actually foolish and not one God tells us to have.

God promises to always protect us, but not that it will look the way we want it to. Not that we will never lose anything.

Indeed, most of the Psalms is the author praying for emotional protection and protection from sinning, as well as physical protection.

There’s pretty much zero chance my dad will read this blog, (or listen to me, after all,) but I wonder if he’s thinking that all this just means he can’t win. He can’t be happy.

To be getting close to peace, and to have it wrenched away. Why does God allow this?

And me, personally, it’s a reminder that I may not be as far out of the woods as I think, in my own life.

Of course, safety is an illusion outside of God’s will. We never really know what will happen. We could walk out the door and get killed, or we could have an accident in our house. The only risk free thing to do it sit real still and never move…and then you die of starvation or lack of exercise.

God just doesn’t mean for us to do nothing dangerous our whole lives. Danger makes it worthwhile.

See, being better off from one minute to the next is something completely in our own heads, unless we measure it by how much we are trusting God. I am no safer this minute than I am on a mountain top in a lightning storm, it is just to me that it seems different.

It’s not wrong to think things are going well in our lives, or going poorly. The Bible certainly never tells us to throw out that standard, how else can we understand God’s goodness? But it cautions us to keep in mind that it is all a gift, not what we are owed.

I believe God does want each of us to be happy, in the right time and right context for happiness. But not a isngle one of us ahs a correct idea of happiness when we first walk with God.

My ideal of happiness as a new Christian was not to have trouble, not to have relationship problems, and to have a good career, husband, children, and be able to do what I loved doing.

To be honest, I still prefer all those things.

But I’ve had a series of rude awakenings that none of that gurantees happiness. To my amazement, I can be sad even if nothing is going wrong in my life at the moment, and I can be happy even if everything is going wrong.

Stasi Eldredge recently wrote a book titled “Defiant Joy” and I think that’s appropiate, the deepest Joy is usually defying the circumstances.

Suffering has a way of making us understand better whyt his world just cannot satisfy us, and our Joy is clearer when we see it depends on heavenly things, not earthly things.

I don’t just meant hat as a cliche, I mean that the ability to think about how heaven is, how God is over all, how we will live forever in that Reality, is the key to feeling true Joy.

You know, if I could give a pieve of advice to any new Christain, or curious seeker reading this, I’d tell them “Pay attaention to the cliches, the cliches are true.”

There’s hardly one Christian saying or teaching, which people usually roll their eyes at, that I have not found to be ultimately a profound truth.

“Just have Faith”

“You have to trust God”

“Don’t focus too much on earhtly things”

“God is in control”

We like to say that those just aren’t comforitng, that they make us feel liek no one is listening to our pain.

But I’ve come to see those sayings came form genrations of Christians going through trials, and finding that those really were the simple turhts they had to hold on to, in the end the simplest things are the most Comforitng. Like

“You’re not alone”

“God is in this.”

We say it because it’s true. Cliche or not.

I still think that God will “give me the desires of my heart” as the Word says, but I now know better that those desires will sometiems feel like a chore too.

I’m not married yet, but I do realzie once I am, there will be tiems my husband seems like more of an annoyance than a blessing. Same with children. Even if I live out my dream of adopting, I’ll certainly be tired of it at times.

I love teaching, but I don’t love it when I have a headache or didn’t sleep the night before.

Nothing mortal is always fun. Even worshipping God can be a struggle at times.

But, even so, it doesn’t make those things not worthwhile.

And losing them doesn’t mean you give up.

If I gave up every time I was disappointed, I’d not have anything left, that’s the honest truth.

I mean on everything, too. Deliverance from my personal problems, getting a job, getting a boyfriend, writing a successful book, getting a car, teaching.

All of it I got let down on a lot of times before I got any of those things, and I still am waiting on some.

I’ve learned the hard way that if you get knocked down, you really do have to get back up. Even if it’s not fair, even if it’s tragic, even if it’s tearing your heart out to keep going, you have to, or you’ll shrivel into nothing.

I think the Karate Kid remake actually summed that up in a beautiful way. (I liked the new one better than the old simply because I thought it had some deeper themes than just overcoming a bully problem, not that that’s bad, but of overcoming loss itself.)

The Bible says “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” {Proverbs 24:16}

I guess you know you’re the righteous by seeing if you got up again. It doesn’t take much to defeat someone who has no character.

They say the best way to heal from losing a pet is to get a new one soon. I think that is true. It’s easier to dare to love again if you don’t let the memory of your love fade away, along with the pain, by not loving anything else again.

Rebounding is not always healthy, but it can be far worse to close off forever. No, it is far worse.

All this to say, whatever you lose, you need to rebound. Wisely, but do it. It’s the only way to heal.

I believe that is why at the end of Job, God gives him all he had, doubled, save for his children, since God seems to count the ones who died as still being part of the number, a note of respect most people miss reading that story (I got it pointed out by someone else).

God’s message is not that the loss didn’t matter, but that Job, having lost everything, had to start again if he would be restored. That is the only way to heal.

Job is one of the only Old Testament men mentioned to have given his daughters an inheritance, treating them as equals to his sons. We aren’t told why he did this, but perhaps he realized that in life, you should bless people as much as you can while you can, because you really have nothing certain, and gender and age just don’t matter as much as we think.

Job loved harder after losing everything, and that is how I want to be. I want my loss to mean that in the future, I’ll give more to people I wouldn’t have before.

Well, that is all for now, until next time, stay honest–Natasha.

Anime Bondage: Naruto–3

Okay…time to tackle Sasuke…

I know if you’re done with Shippuden, you probably like Sasuke again. I’ve not started Shippuden yet, so bear with me, this will not be a very positive look at his character.

(I know he gets redeemed people, but it’s one freaking messed up origin story just the same. Oh, also, sorry if you didn’t already know that…but trust me, you’ll want to know it ahead of time if you’re going to endure hundreds of episodes of frustration.)

I’m not going to go into the myriad of things about Sasuke that I do not like, a lot of it is likely going to be changed anyway. I can’t speak for the future, so I’ll just sound stupid if I try to.

But the subject is bondage, so I want to talk about two things. A:  How did Sasuke get into bondage? and B: What did it do to him? Or, what is it? If you will.

I know that thousands of fans have no doubt assessed why and how Sasuke fell from grace, probably to the point where other fans hate the mention of it. I am not going to hyper-analyze everything, no worries. (frankly, it’s not worth the energy.)

I’m just going to highlight a few things:

Sasuke starts off as your typical emo anime boy, less likable than Todoroki (MHA fans) or Gray (Fairy Tail Fans) or whatever nicer version you happen to like (Naofumi from Shield Hero anyone?). But he wasn’t awful. I liked him up till season 3 or so.

He starts to get he typical emo arc of learning to care about friendship, and balance out their darker tenancies with strong loyalty to a select few people. Very common in anime.

Then, also common, he gets stuck with an evil power he didn’t really want, at first. But the allure of it slowly begins to corrupt him.

What is interesting, and horrible, about Sasuke’s fall is that not all of it is his own fault.

Both of the main villain of the series screw with his mind directly. One gives him a cruse mark that feeds of hate and fear and anger and corrodes the person who has it every time they use it.

The other traumatizes the crap out of him twice. In a way no human being should be put through.

Sasuke’s mind snaps, understandably, and though he is healed from the mental strain, the effects on his soul play out in a way that was very painful for everyone involved.

I really don’t like the punk, but I am going to be fair to him. It would be impossible to survive that unscathed, even uncorrupted, without a lot of help that he does not have available to him.

You see, in dealing with trauma of my own, I’ve found only God can really take the poison out of it. In Naruto, God is not often acknowledged. And no one would know that He can heal.

It may surprise the non-christian, or the legalistically raised christian to learn that the bible describes God as the Comforter, Near to the Broken Hearted, Binding up their wounds. The Healer, The Protector, and of course, our savior.

In the bible, it might surprise you to know, easily half of what the people who cry out to God in the major books want to be saved from is emotional turmoil.

Sure, it’s awful to have people trying to kill you., but the sting of despair, of being neglected and alone, is far worse. That is what the prophets, David, and people like Hannah, Hagar, and Abraham and Jacob, are always asking God to help them with.

I know I spend more prayer time begging God for help with my pain than with my real-world problems…if those two things are really different.

I pity Sauske, for being on an anime, and not having access to such help.

You may laugh at me for thinking about it that seriously (trust me, I’m light for a weeabo) but what I can’t laugh off is that Sasuke’s story is something that happens to many, many people. Only, he has the rare blessing of friends who do not give up on him and who risk everything to try to get him back.

Sasuke’s story is not painful because it is rare, it is painful because it is common. Though most people have not had their family massacred (in the West, that is,) they have had their home lives destroyed. There’s a little of Sasuke’s past in my story, probably in yours too. Who had not felt alone? Abandoned? Neglected?

If you haven’t, man, you’re so lucky.

A theme on Naruto is that a child who’s left alone will get twisted by their grief.

I don’t really like that the show always goes to extremes with it, as it gets kind of hard to believe after awhile, but I agree that loneliness causes you to develop weird habits.

I dealt with loneliness a lot as a kid. And, I still do. I still cry about it.

The truth is, we just rarely love each other the way we should and the way we would like to be loved.

Maybe we don’t care, maybe we don’t know how, maybe we just can’t.

Sasuke fell because he had the same problem as everyone, but not the solution. The solution all of us can have, if we search for it. Our pain will drown us if we do not seek a life line, and God is the only life line that never breaks on us.

Now, briefly, what did Sasuke lose? What did bondage do to him?

It’s important to know this, because until you know what you lost, you will not know what to ask for.

Sasuke is warned that he will lose himself if he uses the corrupted power. He is not able to resits the temptation because he has no strength of soul, and never did. But, unlike the usual fare on shows, the curse does not take away your ability to think, or reason, or fight….so what does it do?

The answer seems to be that it takes away your heart.

Not to overthink it, but I noticed that the more Sasuke used it, the less compassion or guilt he had.

This also is real life, people. You may suffer mentally form your baggage, but even if you escape that, your heart is going to be damaged.

It’s not your fault. The only time its our fault is when we could have healed, and we chose not to…like Sasuke.

(I could do a whole part two on the other problems with Sasuke’s choices, but I am trying to focus on how he got into bondage, not on what he did once he was in it, and that’s two different things. I’m trying to prevent it getting that far.)

Well, that’s all temporary anyway. But there are those who never recover once they refuse to heal. I’ve known them, you probably do too.

So, if you take away nothing else, my plea for this post is that you will seek to heal, and not to stay damaged.

The answer is very simple. God is near to the broken heated. With people who are in bondage simply from trauma, going through healing, prayer, and inviting God to bear that burden with them is the answer. How it will look for you specifically will depend, I can’t speak to that. There’s a lot of good resources about it, I recommend checking on John and Stasi Eldredge’s writing and teachings.

Until next time–Natasha.

“If He raised the dead…”

If anyone has ever been forced to read Flannery O’Connor’s works for a class, then they’ve probably read “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” And though I thought from the title it might be a witty commentary on the modern way of dating, I was sadly disappointed to find out that  it mean a good man in general is hard to find…or woman.

Anyway, I’ll spare you the grisly details. The story really only has one interesting point or two in my mind, and that one is where the villain of the story, “The Misfit” discusses God with the grandmother, either our protagonist, victim, or other villain, depending on how you look at it. The Misfit declares that there is no way of knowing if Jesus really performed all the miracles he did, but that the most crucial one to know of would be if He indeed raised the dead. If he did, the Misfit thinks, then he was who he said He was. If he didn’t…then not.

The grandmother is unsure what to say, finding out that in the moment of danger it can be hard to actually believe what you’ve been in the habit of believing.

Jesus raising the dead is probably one of the hardest miracles for people to believe in. It’s the one that pushes our concept of what could be possible just a little too far.

Actually the Misfit is off if he thinks just that was proof. Some of the prophets also raised the dead, and later it is thought that Paul did the same, and Peter did it too.

And I’ve heard stories of it even in our modern time. Though it’s surprising how many people would be skeptical just because of that, who wouldn’t be of the Bible stories. We think that because it’s written down it’s far away, and somehow less spectacular.

Jesus raising the dead can be a weird story anyway, he did it no less than three times at least. Not counting after the crucifixion. One time, most famously, it was Lazarus; another time it was a man  Jairus’es daughter, and the third time it was the son of a widow. The last two times it was pretty straightforward but the Lazarus story is bizarre. Jesus purposely delays going to see him so that he cab perform the miracle to show his disciples that death has no power over Him. Yet with Jairus’es daughter he purposely makes sure not that many people are there to see.

Jesus mourns for Lazarus and his sisters’ grief even though he knows what is coming. Showing he does not minimize our pain, and that’s important, since we all know more people die than come back from the dead.

I think people are chary of this notion also because the culture has made an occult and zombie driven ritual of raising the dead. It’s easy to forget that those things are cheap imitations. I look at any power trick evil has as simply imitating something good.

This doesn’t answer he question of whether he did it or not. And to answer that,  and the corresponding criticism that religious people will believe anything, I would simply say that skeptics will believe anything in order to doubt.

If on can accept the other miracles Jesus did, then one has to accept that he raised the dead. It’s as simple as that. It’s all or none with God,, no half baked faith.

It’s funny that the Misfit imagines he’d want to believe any more if he’d been there, to those who have an open heart, all miracles are wonders, and to those who don’t every miracle is but a terror. We’ve probably all felt that panic at something totally unknown and strange to us, usually it lasts only a few moments till we get a reasonable explanation worked out, but a miracle is hard to dot hat with.

God’s miracles are things you have to get used to, but you can, most people don’t know that it’s possible.

Why though, is the Resurrection of the Dead so important to us, and to Christ, enough to make a statement of it?

There’s an idea that’s been going around for a long time that we should accept death as  a part of life. The phrase is kind of a self aware oxymoron. But it’s a part of several religions, and people can find it comforting to look at death as normal. We hate to feel like we’re particularly unlucky in experiencing loss.

But, The Bible would actually encourage people not to accept death, if it were taken at it’s word.

not only does it not ever tell us to just accept it and move on, but it deliberately makes a point of saying God is Lord even over death, and that he will overthrow it. Even the psalms are full of references to resurrection. We are told that event hose who die fro God are merely “sleeping” (which by the way, is I believe where the habit of calling it “at rest” came from.) In fact Jesus calls death sleep in at least two f the cases where he raises the dead, Lazarus and the girl.

This seems like denial…until they start to rise, and the Bible never gives us any indication that they were anything but normal. Jesus himself acts the same after he is raised from the dead…only cheerier perhaps now that the ordeal is over. We know that they ate. What we don’t know is how they felt about it.

We do know, from later scriptures that raising people from the dead is not the same as being given our new heavenly bodies. These people still have to eat and drink. They still walk the earth. It’s more of a returning to the norm, then it is becoming new.

That said, since becoming a new man is the whole point of Christianity, is raising the dead even necessary to the faith? Many would say no, because they don’t really believe it, or think it doesn’t effect them.

And hopefully I haven’t lost those of you who don’t believe this at all. Though I think I would have a long time ago if I were to.

But as I said, Jesus made a point of knowing us that death isn’t really so powerful. I think there are many reasons, one is that He doesn’t want us to fear it, another is that signs and wonders are part of serving him, still another is simply compassion.

What I wonder is why some people got a second chance at life. They probably didn’t need it to go to heaven, so why come back? It seems like it’s more for their loved ones. I really can’t answer that, I don’t know enough.

For now, I think I’ll just conclude with the thought that Raising the Dead is one of he pillars of the faith for a reason. Maybe we should all think about what that means to us.

Until next time–Natasha.

The Gauntlet.

You know, I love to draw meaning from stories, it’s one of the most fun things I know of. I hope all of you have had that experience of sitting (or standing) with someone and just analyzing a story you both like. You get such a satisfied feeling afterward.

As I mentioned, I’ve been watching RWBY, and the show is just too good not to analyze in depth. There’s a lot to choose from, but today I’m thinking of one of its more sobering themes. It’s problematic, but it plays into a common concern parents and teachers, as well as young people like myself, have with entertainment, and how we should prepare kids for the world.

RWBY has, ever since season 2, not hesitated to bring up the question of when children should be considered adults. The idea the show deals with is if it’s really correct to call kids kids after they’ve taken up the gauntlet to fight for good.

This dilemma is presented literally by Yang, a girl who actually uses “gauntlets” to fight, and makes a point on multiple occasions of saying she doesn’t consider herself a kid. Now that she (spoiler alert) has made the choice to risk her life defending the world, been on a mission armed to the teeth, and then lost her arm defending her friend, she feels pretty adult.

Yang’s perspective is understandable, but it is counted by her mentor Ozpin and also her father, Ozpin never talks to Yang about it specifically but he does wish for the youth on the show to retain some of their child-likeness as long as they can, knowing it won’t be for long. He also hopes they will  not lose their sens of humor. Yang’s father Tai tells her directly that she’s still got a lot to learn, just fighting and undergoing trauma doesn’t make her an adult.

Yang does go on to prove she is growing up by making her own difficult choices. But we are still left wondering if it had to be that way. And if it’s right for children to take on such adult roles.

It’s an old problem on shows with young characters that they tend to act more adult than the adults, but this show takes a closer look at why that is. Maybe the simple truth is that we talk down to kids, and they are capable of handling far more than we realize.

Children, as any teacher who’s had any success might tell you, are capable of grasping very deep subjects, often faster than adults do. Things like loss can be hard on kids, but sometimes they still handle it better than adults.

It depends on the person, but it’s fair to say that children surprise us with their maturity often enough to make us question if sheltering them really makes sense.

i don’t mean you shouldn’t protect kids from knowing about evil. But some people think that includes not telling them about suffering and pain, and that’s not something we really can keep from kids. There’s no sense dwelling on it, but if it comes up, should we hedge around it as we often try to do?

RWBY is honest about one thing: This is war. As a kid, that’s what I was told. We’re in a war between good and evil. That wasn’t hard to accept…it’s not really like that’s news to a child. They see the fight all around them.

But in a war there are casualties, an damages, and wounds, and losses. What do we do with those? Some say we should encourage children to think about the happier things in life as long as they can. Others that we should not shield them from harsh realities.

If I might offer some insight on what I think the real answer is…

I think that we over think it, honestly. Unfortunately, the reason we do that is because we have the luxury of it. Not so long ago, most kids would have known someone who had died, or had lost a close family member. Tragedy would not have been a strange notion to kids. They weren’t sheltered from it because there was no way for them to be. Parents couldn’t hide the truth. Cruelty and hate were things kids witnessed, not just in bullying or movies or online, but in person. Between adults.

In many countries, this is still the case. I don’t know why the West doesn’t get it, honestly, I think it’s because we spend so much time running from realities like that ourselves. For some reason, we think our happily ever after comes without a struggle.

It’s not that we should give up on happy endings, which our culture has more of than most, all over its’ fiction and sayings and ideals, and I love that about America; but we tend to pass over the part in every story where the hero or heroine had to got through nearly hell to get to the better ending.

It’s quite simple, if you want a mediocre, quiet ending, then live mediocre and run from what would make you a hero. If you want a truly happy ending, then you have to embrace the sorrow in life and let it temper you into something new.

My pastor pointed out this past Sunday that Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” He said “we need to learn how to mourn.”

And that got to me, because, I don’t know how.

Golly gee whiz, I’m not the only one am I? As a freaking culture, we don’t know how to mourn. Our whole message to people is that if you get knocked down, you get right back up. You shove people’s abuse of you right back at them. You keep moving forward.

Well, yeah, you should, but first you have to mourn.

If we hold it together all the time, then our strength will be brittle and a strong enough blow will shatter us. But if we let ourselves break over and over again, we’ll heal a little faster each time.

And this applies so much to children.  I wasn’t usually told to stop crying when I was upset as a kid. Mostly, I could express my feelings. But I still bottled them up out of insecurity, a huge part of my christian journey was learning to cry over my hurt. And just let myself admit it sucked. It’s funny, when you quit trying to be strong all the time, you find things aren’t so hard to bear. Not with God’s help.

And other people’s.

And dang it, that’s what we need to tell kids. Yes, you’ll have hard times. But it’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s because we treat suffering like it’s something to fear that it’s so hard to deal with it. It can be scary, but that doesn’t mean we need to fear it coming.

And there is comfort. That’s important to remember.

–Natasha.

 

Purpose and Loss.

At my Youth Group last night we started talking about purpose. More specifically, is it hard to believe that you have one? And what makes it hard, since to be honest, most of us would agree that it is.

It’s always been easier for me, my parents raised me and my siblings to believe God has plans for our lives. They used to pray with us every night about that.

Even I had to admit, however, that it’s gotten harder over time. It’s hard not to get jaded by the world as you get older. The older people get, have you ever noticed, the less they tend to believe they can accomplish anything big, and the less they want to.

You might have heard the song “7 years” it’s a great song, very moving, and one of it’s fine points is the shifting attitude as the singer talks about getting older. He goes from a friendly kid, to a kid trying to be edgy and conquer the world, to an idealistic twenty year old, and then looking ahead, he recognizes that come thirty, things will start to seem like the highlight was in the past and he just hopes he’ll have friends still. And that he’ll be able tot each his children. Then he leaps ahead to when he’ll be sixty.

Looking ahead to old age, the singer has two or three profound thoughts. The first is that you remember life and then your life becomes a better one. This could be a reference to heaven, or to old age maybe being better in some ways than youth. His other thought is that he doesn’t want to be stone cold, but have children around to make him remember that kind of hopefulness he had once.

As you age and lose your energy and drive, being content with a family life seems appealing, and it’s not necessarily wrong either. For some that is their purpose. The people who go through mid life crisis’es feel differently though.

Even the people I know who didn’t have an outright midlife crisis definitely struggled with knowing their youth was gone and wondering if they were accomplishing anything with their lives.

My recent experiences have led me to believe that there is one huge factor in how we lose our sense of purpose, and it only gets worse with age. I think that factor is LOSS.

Something about losing something or someone important to us shakes us up. Even if you go numb, there’s a part of your mind that is reeling from realizing how little control you have. Since we automatically base our sense of purpose in what we think we can control (Think “Wait for It” from Hamilton) feeling out of control makes us wonder if we can do anything.

Realizing that young people can die just as easily as old made me question my age as any safeguard against having a wasted life. While realizing that older people can live a long time and not really learn anything about love or purpose made me question if getting older will help me be wiser, or will it just make me more cynical? It already has in some ways.

I wouldn’t say I’ve lost my ideals, but I tend not to get fired up about them like I used to. I tend to want to fight less over them. What I want more now is to know I can do well what I do, and to have people around who love me.

Yet I can’t get rid of that fiery side of me. I’m a born fighter, I fight whether I intend to or not.

Where does that leave me? And you, I know I’m talking to someone reading this.

The first step toward a Loss not defeating us and our purpose is admitting that our purpose never had anything to do with what we could control. Some people think we control our own destiny, I say that’s only partly true. We’re going to end up in some places whether we like it or not, all that we control is whether we let God use those times to help us fulfill His purpose for our lives, or we let ourselves become purposeless, dragged around by the breeze.

I had no control over ending up living in someone else’s house for two years. And that really bothered me for a long time, sometimes I still wish I could control it. Yet I chose not to give in and let that make me a vegetable, just going through the motions of living. I believed God had a purpose in bringing me here. I still try to have control, probably too much, but I don’t have the reins of my life.

Aging is tough on our resolve to live well and live bigger than ourselves. We realize how little we control as we get older. We don’t singularly control who runs our country (in other countries, the common person controls it not at all), or what taxes we pay, or where we live, or how well our business does. We try, but there are always factors that do not depend on us. That should make us humble and grateful for other people’s help, often it makes us despairing.

There are plenty of older people who are exceptions to this rule, and I’m glad of it. I’m more scared that younger people are giving into despair far more often than the old are.

Don’t let loss shake your faith in having a purpose. Even short lives can be bright and powerful. It may be true that every day we walk out the door is a fresh risk, but that means every day can be a chance to do something brave and meaningful. If we simply do not let ourselves lose our confidence.

Until next time–Natasha.