A Moral Predicament (And you can decide!)

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The life of a Christian is wrought with all kinds of moral predicaments, as it should be, I suppose. Do I talk to this homeless guy? Get a divorce? Confront the annoying person? Take this job? Marry him/her? Forge that signature? Tell the lie or spare the embarrassment? Well, I don’t need to tell you about all the kinds of decisions that a person will face, I’m sure we all have enough examples of our own.

My latest moral predicament has been centered around a short play that I am writing as an assignment for my playwriting class. I went in thinking that, somehow, I was going to glorify God through this play, find a way to “witness” if you will. It wouldn’t be easy, but I was going to do it. Not in the most obvious way, of course, because that probably wouldn’t work for my assignment. So I thought, “maybe I’ll do some kind of allegory.” Take a page from CS Lewis, yeah, won’t that be clever.

Now, instead of that great idea that I was going to mysteriously bring into fruition, now I have just kind of an ordinary play, but with some creative twists, the kind of trash us writers live for. I have four college kids in line for Space Mountain at Disneyland. All of them are Christian, but they’re not exactly exemplary people. One is a girl named Lizzie who is a new friend of a bubbly creature named Jeanine. Then there is a couple, Natalie and Jay. Throughout this interaction, Lizzie feels excluded and wonders why she was invited in the first place. But Natalie and Jay, the perfect couple, suddenly engage in a nasty fight, and Lizzie, too, explodes. The themes in this play are mainly hypocrisy, human nature, and social position. Oh, and by the way, the word ‘bastard’ is included in this play. I tried to avoid all other language and borderline language. How do we feel about that?

Even though everyone is a jerk, Jeanine, at least, realizes her imperfection, and the voice of reason, or God, if I may be so bold, has the last word. In a subtle kind of way, of course, because us writers are continually trying to be subtle and at the same time, powerful with our words.

Well, I’m not so sure about this whole thing. Is this the way that God wants me to bring him glory, or should I just shout the message from the rooftops instead, as they would say? Mind you, Jesus spoke in parables to deliberately confuse those who were not willing to understand, but well, he was Jesus. And He always spoke most directly about the kingdom of God. So I don’t know if that applies to me at all.

Well, no one said that life wouldn’t be difficult and filled with conflicts of interest. If anyone has any suggestions for this play and/or my soul, they are welcome. I have already made some changes that I think are favorable for my purposes, but I still wonder if I should just scrap it.

 

Media: notoriousspinks.com

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What It All Comes Down to

I have decided to start listening to podcasts from Lighthouse Bible Church, and last night I listened for the first time. It was very dense and thorough, covering many topics while still sticking to a theme. I would highly recommend it, unlike some of the movies I’ve seen lately. Here is the link
http://lighthousebc.com/sermons/

When I saw the topic, which was Hannah, I was kind of excited, because I explicitly remembered reading about her. I remembered how she asked God for a child while she was barren (who would be the prophet Samuel). And I remembered how sweet and humble she had been, referring to herself as a “handmaiden.” Man, that killed me. I’m trying to imagine an American woman doing that. It’s pretty hard. (Don’t worry, I am an American female, so I think I am qualified to make stereotyping jokes like that every once in a while 😉 ).

That was most of what I remembered. I didn’t remember her prayer really, but that was the part that the pastor focused on in the podcast. Pastor Patrick emphasized that what’s really special about the passage is that she doesn’t make much reference to her particular circumstances. What’s special is that Hannah gives God his due praise. Because He is the same in all circumstances, He is still the rock and the fortress. (By the way, he explains that rock actually refers more to a cliff face. Doesn’t that make so much more sense?)

It’s ironic because what I remembered was the story of Hannah and the particular circumstances. That is not to say that the circumstances are unimportant. No, God reveals himself through circumstances. That is why the stories of the Israelites are recorded. But the stories are not ends of themselves, they are for the purpose of glorifying God.

So I guess it would have done me some good to remember the poetic language and the pathos as well as the actual story.

But I am reminded of the point of writing, the point of music, the point of everything. I am reminded that in my own writing, I am supposed to be glorifying God too. Does that mean I have to do it very explicitly? Should I be in the business of hymns or something? I don’t know. Should I try not to concern myself with great matters?

Again, I don’t know, I am afraid of saying the wrong thing. But the real takeaway is that God needs to overpower my writing, and God needs to be the reason for it. It can’t just be a theme or a motif or a “pop.” It’s got to be the whole deal. So far, that’s not happening. Am I taking too long to work up to it? Who really cares about those literary techniques, those insights on modern life, those in it of themselves are nothing! Lord help me to just write, write well and write for You. That is the prayer of undergroundvoices.

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My Two Cents on Jane Austen’s Emma

Just finished this book, so the thoughts are fresh in my mind! This is the third book I’ve read by Austen, a very delightful one. The irony, the wit, the drama, all very charming. Yet it always depresses me to ponder the unhealthy obsession women have of being married, and how little they concealed that obsession from themselves in those days!

I don’t believe anyone has ever questioned Austen’s talent for crafting novels. They’re as good as romance novels with happy endings can be.

Everything works out and condenses into a nicely wrapped package, as is the convention, but at a rate and in a manner that is adequately realistic, averting the readers attention from the mechanism of Duex Ex Machina at work.

In Emma, the “insolence” of an “imprudent” match never suffers to shake up society. Though it is talked of, no one ever marries anyone where an overwhelming disparity is considered (Jane and Frank tie the knot, but only after a very convenient death, of course). The societal lines are drawn, and they serve their purpose. Everyone stays in their little place, for the most part. True love finds it’s way into the lives of the Highbury residents with a degree of grace and good breeding. Honor and family pride remain intact. Love does not choose to cause embarrassment when all is over with, once the misunderstandings are cleared and the characters reconcile with one another.

And of course, why should it be any other way? I’m not saying that these are real faults in Austen’s style. No, her novels have stood the test of time for a reason. I’m not really sure what I’m saying. I seriously doubt I could write a better romance novel. And shaking up society really was a big deal in those days.

Take-away from this post: shake up society! Please do. Write something revolutionary! Keeping characters in boxes is a great strategy, but what is literature without variety?

 

 

Those Feelings

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That feeling when you’re writing, and it’s all coming out, and you are one with your words. When your fingertips perfectly find the right keys, synchronized nicely with your brain. The feeling when you know you’ve written something real and exciting, for once.

Or the thrill when you’re playing chess and you see that you can snag one of your opponent’s major pieces, with no consequences. When you’re waiting on pins and needles, hoping he won’t notice.

Thank God for those feelings!

Close Enough for Comfort: A Monologue to the Almighty

Wrote this yesterday when I was in a very optimistic mood. Hope it is uplifting:

What I almost had is delicious in my dreams, precious to my soul. I was so close, Lord, I could taste it, and I did. It touched the tip of my tongue, and it was sweet and wonderful, like all your gifts are. The fact that you almost blessed me is a tender recollection, and I am flattered. Oh, I would be lying to say that I don’t yearn for the real thing, but why should I when the dream is so much more sublime! Reality can never compensate. That I should dream for the rest of my life without real expectation of fulfillment would be most ideal. Yet I continue to grasp, and for what?

Thank You, Lord, for providing by withholding. Though one often hungers, who can truly bare an overfilled stomach. Already “my cup runneth over.”

 

Hope you enjoyed the silly metaphors and sappy-ness! But really, why not be a little sappy when it comes to God?

 

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-TRL

Scared of My Own Shadow

Here is an issue close to my heart, but a little taboo. Thought I’d share it because I have a feeling I’m not alone.

Fear. Fear has held its icy grip on me for quite some time now. But before I get into this, let me just say one thing. I have never been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness or the like. And I didn’t have a “rough” childhood either. So retrain yourself from pitying. What I am about to get into is mostly a personal problem.

I think I began life normally enough, healthy and strong. I was a large and vigorous baby. In early childhood I was outgoing, bold, and delightfully naive. My parents tell me that I used to greet strangers in a loud voice and even strike up conversation. People responded well because I guess I was cute and not too obnoxious. I don’t remember disliking people in those days, besides my arch nemesis, a kid named Mitchell. You know kids and their arch nemeses… but generally I was cheerful and easy going.

Then something changed when I was around eight. It wasn’t just that I leaned out and grew taller, something drastic was changing inside of me. I moved to a new school in a strange new place. Removed from my suburban dream bubble, I learned many things about life way too fast. For the first time, it was hard to make friends and become accepted. For the first time, through means that I cannot fully explain, I was beginning to see the dark side of my world. In school they taught us about drugs and why they were bad, and in the foggy, dirty streets of downtown, I saw just the tiniest fleeting glimpse of their influence. The experience was not constructive for me. As stupid as it seems to a rational person, I became afraid of drugs, even though I had no reason to be. I was afraid of their residue in public places, things like that. I also became afraid of alcohol, smoking, sex, everything that I was just beginning to understand. But mostly, I was afraid of myself, afraid of my own shadow. I was afraid that I had weaknesses and a great potential for evil. I was afraid that there was something wrong with me, and there was, but the problem was mostly the fear. I felt hopeless and unwell. Sure, there were still good days, and times when I could forget, but when I think back on this particular time in my life, I remember mostly the bad.

I started going to a Christian school in sixth grade. I was never opposed to the idea of God. I liked having a savior. So I started accepting God into my life, but it began quite superficially and progressed gradually. My fears still existed, and middle school was still hard because of social stuff, but I notice a change in my life for the better during this time. The insanity seemed to be waning, and my fears became more rational.

Today, my fears are much more rational than when I was eight years old, but still unjustified. I worry about what people think of me and my popularity. I am afraid that I give off an awkward vibe and people can notice it right away. I am also a little scared of people in general, though I usually like them and want them to like me back.

I admit to growing quite tense on the freeway. I am also a germaphob at times, but it kind of makes sense because I am always sick.

And, like everyone about the future, what I will do with my life, etc.

Why I need to worry about these things, I don’t know. It just proves how lousy I am at trusting God. Why does it matter what people think of me? Why do I let them determine my self worth?

Instead, I should thank God, because He is continually saving me from insanity. Where I would be without His hope and grace, I don’t know. Maybe in some mental ward screaming my head off. Instead, (for now at least), I’m here on WordPress or writing my novels, letting the angst of my soul and the quirkiness of my essence spill out on virtual paper, an outlet that is less frowned upon and counterproductive. It’s a good place to be. God is good, all the time.

Jesus, the idiot box, and an age-old quagmire

I’m not exactly a Puritan myself. My life has always been centered around the arts. Since I was a young child, I’ve been writing, first stories and now novels. I enjoyed acting in plays in high school, and secretly hope to be a voice actor some day. I have a special place in my heart for Disney movies, but the last one I saw in theaters was “We’re the Millers” which had its share of ill timed cussing and thematic weirdness. I watch more TV than is good for me, but don’t follow new shows very much. Usually I watch reruns or whatever else is on at random times, and try to critique and over analyze it. I especially appreciate it when shows make fun of comedic conventions or their own techniques. When I was around 11, I even wrote my very own pilot for a sitcom called MELicious Intent. It was to be about a rebellious runaway girl with a bit of a quirk- believing that she was a fugitive. The teen would make many attempts to commit crimes and even kill people, but to keep it light, all but the most petty infractions would fail to be carried out. Sadly, while looking at my old script, I realized that the writing wasn’t that much worse than some of the things that actually go on the air.

What was my point to all of this? To open up a heated discussion about the relationship between Christianity and the arts. A few days ago, I read an interesting post here on WordPress about just that. Christians who condemn secular art for its inappropriate content and Christians who try to find positive, Jesus-compatible values in everything.

I think there are good aspects to both approaches, like many other modern Christians, I’m sure. I hate it when I try to be controversial, but end up agreeing with a majority.

Puritans- good for you for being offended by the trashy stuff that’s out there. Why do we want to embrace things that God hates anyway? On the other hand, why be so aloof and judgy? We’re not entirely above the things coming from the tube or the screen. I’m sure all you churchgoers out there secretly relate to the things you see. Why not learn from it? Why not interpret it the way you want to and make something worthwhile out of it? Take the wheat, forget the chaff.

Sometimes I wonder how to illustrate God through art. I always wonder why secular art seems more appealing and of better quality. I wonder why Christians can’t use the same techniques for their agenda. I wonder why Christians must always use the same rhetoric. You know the rhetoric I’m talking about. “Forgiveness, grace, healing, blood of Chirst.” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, all of those things are true, it’s just that I wonder why it can still seem boring when people are trying their best to shake up the scene and put things in different perspectives. I don’t know if I can do any better. I want to use the talents God gave me, but I’m not sure how. Is it possible to reinvent art, making it believable and extraordinary without using the same techniques as everyone else out there? As you can see, I’m a little confused, but I’m going to keep trying. I don’t want to make God cheap and palatable, but I also want to draw people towards Him in a new and exciting way. I have a feeling this is going to be harder than I ever would have imagined.