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After about a 6-month effort, I finished listening to the last of the Chronicles of Narnia stories last night. I started listening to them back in October or November in the car and listened to the final bits of “The Last Battle” on my way home yesterday.

Even though it took forever to make my way through, there were some really good lessons I gleaned from the tales of foreign lands and magical encounters and a great lion:

* Edmund’s appetite keeps him from doing the right thing, he gets consumed with temptation (Turkish Delight), which never ends up being satisfying in the end anyway.

* I think it was Lucy who asked about Aslan and if he was safe. Mr. Beaver tells her something like, “Course he ain’t safe! But he’s good.” We have to remember that even when God’s way is hard or difficult or risky, that it’s still good. And we have to trust in that.

* Another thing Mr. Beaver says of Aslan: “He’ll be coming and going,” says Mr. Beaver. “It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild you know. Not like a tame lion.” I have to remind myself of that during the times when I can’t always feel God or see signs of him.

* The only thing with that is that in The Last Battle, that phrase gets manipulated when a fake Aslan impersonates him and causes all kinds of bad things and turns out being mean. The Narnians use the idea that “Well, he’s not a tame lion” to make sense of this new Aslan. But it’s not true; they forgot that “not tame” doesn’t mean “bad” and, with God, his ways are unchanging (he won’t be nice in one generation and mean later), which is why we can trust in the God we see throughout the Bible.

* in The Horse and His Boy, the main character asks Aslan about something that happened to his friend. Aslan tells him that that’s not his story. I need to remember that I don’t need to worry about what happens to other people or even sometimes why certain things happen to me because, even if it includes me, maybe it’s more for someone else’s story or benefit.

* in the Magician’s Nephew, Digory has to go on a mission and he needs food and complains about it, noting that Aslan must have known that he’d need to eat and get hungry on the trip. His companion tells him (something along the lines of), “Yes, I’m sure he did. But you didn’t ask. I have the feeling that sometimes he just likes to be asked, even if he knows you need it anyway.”

* in The Last Battle, they enter the new Narnia through a stable, where the inside ends up being so much bigger than the stable itself (it’s a whole new Narnia!). Lucy notes that in her world, there’s a story about a stable that contains something much bigger than the stable itself. I love the imagery that C.S. Lewis gives to this new Narnia, where it’s just like the old Narnia, only everything is better—it’s like the original was a muted reflection of this one (just like we’re a muted, splintered reflection/image of God). Aslan calls them farther and higher into this new Narnia, which I think is what he’s calling us to now (further and further toward him) and as they get deeper in, it continues to get better and better. I think that fits now…

* Also, in The Last Battle, when all the animals enter the new Narnia, instead of Aslan judging them, they actually judge themselves; upon looking at Aslan they either go to his right or his left, depending on how they react to see him, is it from disgust or fear or horror? Or is it joy?

* There was a weird part where a guy who worshipped another god (but was good) ended up in the new Narnia. Though he did everything in the name of his nation’s god (Tash), Aslan welcomes him because he says that even if he had the name wrong, his heart was still in the right place. I’m not sure how I feel about that piece, theologically, whether I believe it, but I do know that C.S. Lewis is one smart guy so I’m not in a position to debate against him

even though Prince Caspian is coming out in just a few weeks, I’d prefer, now that I’m up-to-date on all of them, to see The Last Battle made into a movie-version, although I’m sure it’d be the hardest! it was just a really cool concept that C.S. Lewis had of what heaven will be like, with the kids able to swim up a waterfall with ease and run as fast and as effortlessly as the flying eagle. I think my favorite novel of them all though was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader because it is the most adventurous, taking the characters to all kinds of magical lands, plus you get to see Eustace heart melted and transformed with Aslan’s power.

I need to start using my phone more for its primary purpose (talking) instead of for texting. It really annoys me how much I rely on that function rather than on a real, voice-to-voice connection. When did I start hate talking on the phone so much? I didn’t even get a texting plan until last year. The impromptu-nature of it is nice (like for times now when i’m at work and want to make sure I won’t forget to remind someone about something) but in general, pure typography is just so impersonal and isolating.

But then, I say all that now. and how much do you want to guess that when my name pops up on your phone screen, it’s for a text rather than an incoming call?

catching up on my blog reading, and the boundless blog pointed to a new book out called “Do Hard Things.” it sounds like a really interesting book and so I’ve added it to my list of books I hope to get around to reading. the authors say:

We’re not just saying that hard things happen and that you can benefit from them. We’re not just saying that you have the ability to do hard things. We’re telling you that you should do hard things because it’s the best and only way to experience true growth in your life. … Our big, crazy idea is that this is the life God has called us to live now—not 10 or 20 years from now, but right now, as young people. This is your best life, not your easiest life; the only way to avoid wasting your single years and ultimately your life.

they also make a good point:

We can’t really avoid doing hard things. We can only decide when to do them and how prepared we will be to handle the hard things life brings our way. You either do the hard thing of getting prepared, or you deal with the harder thing of being unprepared. We either “do it” now, or we end up having to “deal with it” later.

This about a lot more than flat tires or missed meetings. Resisting temptation is hard, but not as hard as dealing with an addiction. Finding and keeping a job is hard, but not as hard as dealing with unemployment and struggling to make ends meet.

and finally, here’s an insightful C.S. Lewis quote they invoke: “We are like eggs at present. And we cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

Last night, Brianna and I spent the evening outside, eating italian (or not!) and sipping cold coffee drinks. One of the things that we chatted about is something that I’ve been thinking about the past month as certain issues/people from my past have cropped up: how to act toward people (guys) who basically act like jerks to you/your feelings.

The problem is that I want to be nice and to let it be “water under the bridge” so I keep being nice and acting like nothing ever happened. But is that the best line of action? I get afraid that if I’m not nice then people will hate me or that if I am nice, then we can actually have a good relationship (friendship or otherwise). And I know that desire stems more from a selfish place than a god-glorifying one, which ought to be a red flag in and of itself.

As Bri and I were talking, she brought up her aunt who she described to be super loving, but still strong. She knows when to be gentle and back down but also when to be confident and bold and stand up for herself. I don’t have that capability at all, and I think what it comes down to is a lack of confidence and belief in ourselves—that we’re worth standing up for or that our feelings and our opinions are worth it.

I remember hearing a story about how some kid applied to a high-profile company and he showed up 5 minutes to the interview and the place just turned him around and sent him home. They knew they were worth more than being treated like that and deserved to find someone—because they recognized that there are people out there—who would appreciate and respect that opportunity. I think I/some of us need to take/demand that risk more often.

By being nice and letting ourselves and our self-worth get trodden over by people (guys) who don’t appreciate it or recognize it or regard it, are we just enabling them to continue to be even more selfish? Is a better choice one to (lovingly!)  stop allowing them to do that to us and stand up for ourselves (whether with or without words or just by distancing ourselves)? It just seems like that’s unhealthy if we’re supposed to be spreading love into the world if we can’t even do that for ourselves.

I’m really not sure what God would say about all this, and I think that’s where I get all confused and err on the “safe” side of “nice Christian” and “love thy neighbor”–is it really safe if you end up feeling worthless and used? I know we’re supposed to “die to ourselves.” But I also know that God loves us and we all mean a lot to him, so I guess I’m just not sure where the line falls; I’m just pondering out loud.

last night was cool. it was cool because there are few times when reality lives up to your expectations. so often we find ourselves disappointed, which i think is actually good because it’s a natural reminder that this isn’t all there is–that we long for more because there is more.

but last night stood up to test! last night, holly, kitty and I piled in my car and made our way to Xenia, Ohio, a little town that i’ve occassionally heard of but never ventured and never really cared to venture to. except in this case, because Tara Leigh Cobble was playing a show there. only an hour’s drive away, it was quite an opportunity because upon reading her first book we all would say, “I want to be her friend!”

last night, we were! we arrived at the church, where they were serving tasty Starbucks-y drinks (I often think that churches do Starbucks better than Starbucks does). when TLC started playing, we moved up into the front row to watch. my favorite thing was that when she sang she looked so happy and looked like she was singing to God, which i think is pretty amazing. because we were front-and-center, she said hi and asked us our names. a few of her songs made all of us teary-eyed but there was one that was oh-so (sadly) true: she sang about how when you meet a guy and if he’s taller than you and, especially, if he’s wearing a cross around his neck (or in my case, goes to a christian school or works at a christian company or has “Jesus” under his list of Myspace heroes), you immediately start imagining your future together. so sad to say that that’s something i struggle with all the time, but it was nice to know i’m not the only one!

afterward we waited till the crowd around her thinned and went up to say hello. it’s so nice when people who you imagine and hope are nice actually are. we hung out with her and you’d just think she was someone we met at the mall or at a party, not someone who spends her time driving the country and writing books and singing songs and whose memoir we read and hung onto every word. she invited us to hang out with her as she packed up and shared some strawberries that they’d given her backstage. she’s really as nice and sweet and funny and real as we’d imagined.

when we said our goodbyes and made our way back to the highway, we detoured to “dorothy lane” exit, found some food and then pulled into cincinnati after midnight. it was a great trip, and grounded me as to the kind of person i hope to grow into: who can touch lives and inspire people and who people can tell really loves Jesus and means it. sometimes i’m afraid that i just look like a shod, that my heart is no different from anyone else’s… but that’s for a whole other entry.

thank you, tlc for being our friend, even if only for a short evening!!

on (my) tattoos and piercings
as you probably know, when it comes to big decisions, i’m not one for spontaneity. sure if it’s, “let’s go get ice-cream!” or “let’s go on a vacation!” then i’m all for it, because you can’t go wrong with either.

but something that there’s a chance that i might someday regret isn’t something i take lightly. hence why i’ve been so patient and spent so long kicking around the idea of a/my tattoo. but things changed last week when–in the midst of “where am i headed?” and “what’s going to happen, life-wise, next?!”–i got the out-of-the-blue urge to get one of those monroe piercings. i really, really wanted it even moreso than the tattoo. like, i was ready to get it on friday if i didn’t know myself better.

i don’t have anything against piercings; what i’ve always held as important in decision-making is intention behind the choice. so, i came to see that with this urge for a pretty little beauty-mark diamond was how quickly it came on and how forceful it was and how it consumed my thoughts, because it really did. everyday i was thinking about how i would look with one; i’d imagine it on other people and how it would change the way they look, etc. that preoccupation was a red flag to me–that there was something deeper going on.

if you’ve ever read the screwtape letters (OK, or the Bible for that matter), i believe in that stuff–that the reason why all our movies have a good guy and a bad guy, where there’s always some sort of struggle between the two is because that reflects the greater story that’s taking place in our world. that there’s a God and a Devil and that the bad guy in this story is doing everything he can to bring down Good. i remember when i read the Screwtape Letters, one thing that C.S. Lewis pointed out was how one of the devil’s greatest tools is using inaction and distraction to bring us down–while we may not be committing great sins like murder, if we’re still not doing good,  then what’s the difference? he’s won.

so i realized that this piercing preoccupation was just that: a distraction that was keeping me from focusing my thoughts on what God had in store, future-wise. i know it sounds silly because it was just a simple piercing, but in context it stood for so much more: as i pondered getting it, i was really doubting that God would accomplish what i knew he already told me he would. (because the last thing the piercing would say is “professional” and could really stand as a stumbling block as i consider that path.) i had to realize that if he encouraged me to pursue this path, then why wouldn’t he provide that? why would i jeopardize or disregard that?

it was a matter of regaining/reasserting my faith in the future. and since that realization, the overwhelming preoccupation has melted away and now i’m back to considering that old tattoo of mine. the one benefit i see in this is that at least it has a purpose other than pure vanity (which was all the piercing had to offer) and would be a gentle and daily reminder of the state (and source) of my life. here’s the general direction i’m thinking, although the elements would be better integrated, of course. but i’m digging the idea of calligraphy + ornamentation:

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

even though there have been ups and downs, things have fortunately held at the “highs” for the most part. as i’ve mentioned, i’m feeling like God might have something else in store for me as for where i belong right now. i read somewhere that God is a gentleman and that he likes to hold the door open for you, it’s just a matter of you stepping up and walking through. so that’s what i’ve been up to. trying to meet Him halfway. the way i look at it is that if it’s something He wants me to do (and I do believe it is) and I’m doing what I can to reach it, then He will gladly give it–when the timing is right.

but the one thing that does make me glad through all this is that i really do feel like this is what God wants. I’ve been fortunate enough to see God at work a lot in my life (almost always in hindsight when it comes to people he put in my life or circumstances that I never would have chosen for myself or opportunities that I seemingly stumbled upon). but it’s been rare that I’ve actually felt God at work in my life. these past few months have shown me a few of those gems: when Paul and I were breaking up and I knew it was the right thing; then again when Paul and I started chatting again and I started getting hurt again, God told me when to plant a fence and give myself time to heal and then when to swing open the door and then when to work on barriers. and now with this next step. in all those, those were the times when I really felt God beside me guiding me and pointing and me being able to understand that “small, still voice.”

it’s still full of murmurs and ever-interrupted, but i want to keep hearing it and harking it, because I know it won’t lead me wrong. it’s hard to trust something that only feels like an inkling, but that’s where I think God’s gentlemanly nature comes into play. if i’s His will, He’ll see to it like he did even when Jonah ran the opposite way. God still got his way. i just want to make sure that i don’t want to run the other way. because i know that when you listen the first time around, things fall into place. that doesn’t mean they’ll be easy. but they’ll be right. and i think that when they’re right, they’ll seem easier.

at least i hope so.

p.s. i would like to introduce my friends to one another! after visiting with dear MRS elizabeth in nashville this weekend, i was reminded of this. and since i have such good taste in friends (if i do say so myself), i think you’ll all enjoy it. (see in the left-most column where it says “MEET MY FRIENDS.” there are some wise women in there!)

if you know me well, then you know there are a few things that i’m a huge fan of: the color green, licorice, songs that sing about dancing, dancing in general, anything nature-inspired (the more birds, the better). so it is that over the past few months i’ve also become a huge fan of the website/blog/webcast for, which, surprisingly enough, is part of Focus on the Family.

i’m not one to usually listen to webcasts, but theirs is always one i relish, and when i sat down today to catch up on the most recent one–it was no different. because they’re geared to the 20something age group and presumably because they’re affiliated with Focus in the Family, much of their content has to do with relationships. of late, they’d been discussing the idea of “settling” when it comes to dating, which aroused a lot of uproar from readers. because they were urging people to settle and “just pick someone,” i was among those scratching their heads about what kind of advice they’re dishing out–because i truly don’t believe that that’s what my God has in store for me so it sat very uneasy with me.

in today’s podcast though, i think they finally were able to get their point across: christians need to settle–when it comes to things that the world deems important. but they need to not settle when it comes to the things that the world doesn’t deem important. in other words: focus on his character and spirit and faith,  not on his wallet and wardrobe and height. i’ve always loved the idea that “the weak will be strong” and “the first will be last” and those sorts of turning-logic-on-its-head. so it is with this idea, where we take the opposite of society and then find success–which, too, is not of the world’s standards.