Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Life of Our Lord by Charles Dickens

"My Dear Children, I am very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him."
So begins Charles Dickens' least-known work.


In this little volume, Charles Dickens tells the story of Jesus' life and ministry in his own words. He intended this book to be for his children and only his children, so it was never published until eighty years after it was written, when his family decided to publish it. Even so, many people do not know about this book.
I found out about it because Charles Dickens' great-great grandson gave a chapel at my school (which I found out about after the fact, unfortunately) where he talked about this book. He is in Minneapolis for several weeks acting in a one-man play based on the writing of the The Life of Our Lord, and I was able to go!


It was a fabulous play. Gerald Dickens is an amazing actor. He used many voices to portray the different characters in the play (it was rather like Charles Dickens was telling us, the audience, a bedtime story). This play was especially meaningful for me as I went to see it during Holy Week. There is a part where Dickens is recreating the scene of his cross (for he has got it into his head that he will act out the live of Christ for his children) that pierced my heart. After that scene, he reminds us that light comes after darkness, that resurrection comes after crucifixion, and that redemption comes after condemnation.
After the play, I got to meet Mr. Dickens and he signed my copy of The Life of Our Lord (graciously given me by my friend Joseph).


Wow! What an opportunity! It's not every day that you get to meet the great-great grandson of one of the best authors in history! I asked him whether or not there was a lot of pressure growing up with the last name "Dickens," and he said, "No. My father was good about that and told us to do whatever we wanted." So, he became an actor. (He also has a travel blog about his acting tours.)

I was struck by both the play and the book by the legacy of faith which Charles Dickens left to his descendants. He wanted his kids to know the story of Jesus Christ and, here, several generations and over 100 years later, his great-great grandson is still sharing that story with the world!

Here is what I thought of the book:

Stylistically, The Life of Our Lord reads like a fairytale, which is good as it is for children. It does not, however, make the story of Jesus out to be a fairytale. Dickens was careful to make sure that his children knew that.
Throughout the book, he explained terms like "trespasses" and "synagogue" so that his children would understand, which I enjoyed. I even learned a new vocabulary word from this book! Ever since I was a child, I have heard the word "prodigal" and the word "son" and assumed that "prodigal" must mean "returning" or something of that sort, as that is what the son does in the story. Alack! no! It means "extravagant" or "wasteful." Of course, I took to Twitter to proclaim this discovery.



Dickens emphasized Jesus' purpose to do good rather than to save humanity from their sins. Because of this, he included several moral lessons for his children within the narrative of Jesus' life. Here were two of my favorites:

"He chose [his disciples] from among poor men, in order that the poor might know...that Heaven was made for them as well as for the rich...Never forget this, when you are grown up. Never be proud or unkind, my dears, to any poor man, woman, or child. If they are bad, think that they would have been better if they had had kind friends, and good homes, and had been better taught."

and

"We learn from this that we must always forgive those who have done us any harm, when they come to us and say they are truly sorry for it. Even if they do not come and say so, we must still forgive them, and never hate them or be unkind to them, if we would hope that God will forgive us."

It bothered me that the book focused on doing good rather than salvation, but, at the same time, it made me think a lot. The simple way in which Dickens wrote about Jesus' ministry hit me in a way that the actual Gospels never have (although Dickens' book makes me want to go and read the New Testament now!).
Jesus spent his time with prostitutes, tax collectors, beggars, and seriously ill people. These are people that society tends to shy away from, and society includes Christians. We are called to help the poor and needy but when we are faced with someone in that condition we are more like the priest and the Levite than the Good Samaritan.
I know that I tend to be scared of these kinds of people because they are different than I am. I don't know how to act around them because I don't know how they will act around me, so I tend to stay away from them.
What a horrible reason not to help those in need!
Another horrible reason not to help those in need is that I get too wrapped up in myself and my friends to care about strangers. I think that myself and other Christians are too wrapped up in our own salvation to care about other people's salvation. We're supposed to "get right" with God before helping others, and getting right with God means searching ourselves for sin and fixing it; oh, and maybe perfecting our daily quiet time with God, too. It's not that these are bad things, but if we wait until we've "fixed" our sin to bring the hope of God to others, we'll never share the Gospel because we continually fall back into sin!
I think another reason that we don't share our salvation is because we are scared of rejection and hopeless for the world. The world is a scary place for a Christian to live in. We've been persecuted since the beginning, and, according to recent news, things aren't getting any better. I think we have accepted that the world is evil and that if we share our faith we will be persecuted, so we tell ourselves that it's hopeless and that the world won't listen anyway, so why even try?
It is not in our power to change the world, and it is not our job to change the world. It is, however, in God's power, and it is God's job. Our job is to follow Jesus' example. We are supposed to share our hope with the world. We are supposed to help the poor and those in need. It is God's job to do the rest.

Dickens had something to say about this, too: "[Jesus taught] them to go forth into the world, and preach His gospel and religion: not minding what wicked men might do to them."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Recent Discoveries

Since coming to college, I have been exposed to so many new genres, movies, television shows, and music! I want to share them with you, my friends.

Television:


Do you remember a few years ago when everyone raved about the show Adventure Time? I never watched it, until last semester. This cartoon is a random and colorful show about Finn the Human and Jake the Dog and their adventures. They fight a lot of monsters and rescue a lot of princesses. Although the show is random, there is always a moral to the story, even if that moral is somewhat odd. If you like fun and creative shows, then check out Adventure Time! (Also, episodes are only thirteen minutes long, so that's a plus!)


Monk is another show that I have heard a lot about but have never watched before. My roommate owns the first few seasons, we started watching them, and I love it! Monk is like a mix between Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. He is a private detective who is fantastic at deduction, but he is also extremely OCD and germaphobic. This combination makes this murder-mystery show charming and unique.
I have also been introduced to Psych (yet another show that I have heard a lot about but never watched), though I've only seen one episode of that so far.


The Office is a show about the office antics of a paper company. I have seen the same seven episodes of this show multiple times on account that they are the favorites of my friends. I wouldn't mind seeing more of this show, as it is pretty funny.
My roommate has also introduced me to the show New Girl, which would be a lot funnier if it weren't so dirty.


My friends watched this and recommended it to me, so I watched it over Christmas break. While I enjoyed the 80s setting and the uniqueness, I thought that the plot and characters could have been better developed. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to season two!

Movies:


I loved The Goonies! It was like Indiana Jones and Tintin except it featured children. It has all the elements of a good adventure story (pirates! friendship! bumbling sidekicks! a monster! ice cream!) and reminded me a lot of the stories I enjoyed as a child. Good old Steven Spielberg.
We also watched The Sandlot, Little Rascals, and Second Hand Lion which also feature children protagonists. All three movies were lovely.


Finally, I understand all of the references! I saw E.T. for the first time a few weeks ago. I thought the villains were underdeveloped, until I began wondering if they were made that way on purpose because the movie is from Eliot and E.T.'s point-of-view. If it is from their point-of-view, then it makes sense that the government is really hazy because that is how they would appear to a small child and an alien with no knowledge of earth culture. After I realized that, I liked the movie more.

Music:


I'd listened to Hamilton before coming to school, but I didn't fully appreciate it until last semester when I listened to it again. Upon first listening, I was too caught up in the changes that Lin-Manuel Miranda had made to history to enjoy the whole musical. When I listened to the musical again, however, I was captivated by Miranda's rhetorical prowess. Even though the musical isn't totally historically accurate, he has presented to his audience the basics through catchy tunes, created lovely character arcs, and gotten young people interested in history, which I think is fantastic! My favorite songs are "Non-stop," "You'll Be Back," and "Burn."


Petra is a Christian band from the 70s, 80s, and beyond. I had heard some songs before because my parents listen to them occasionally, but I started to listen to them on my own last semester. I love their sound and their lyrics. This Means War and More Power To Ya are my favorite albums.


Three of my friends are huge fans of the band Twenty One Pilots. This band is very hard to describe since their music could fit into several genres. They use a variety of instruments from ukulele to synthesizers to drums. I like them because their music is unique and their lyrics are relatable. I also like them because there are only two members of Twenty One Pilots and they write and perform all of their music themselves.


Welcome to Night Vale is not a CD but a podcast. It is a radio broadcast from the friendly desert community of Night Vale where strange things are normal. Mysterious Hooded Figures? A dog park that no dogs are allowed in? Mind-controlling glow clouds? A ban on wheat and wheat byproducts? These are all normal occurrences in Night Vale. This podcast very weird and very creative. It is also very nihilistic, and I'm not sure if I'm going to keep listening to it because of that.

Genre:
I took a class on Gothic Literature last semester and loved it! I learned the components of Gothic fiction and am now able to pick out Gothic themes in books and movies that I read and watch. Some common themes are seclusion, a damsel in distress, a run-down family mansion lived in by a decrepit family, and supernatural happenings. The Gothic genre birthed the horror genre, which I have also been introduced to this school year. Through the horror movies that I have watched, I learned that I do not mind supernatural horror, but horror that could happen in real life really freaks me out. That being said, I enjoyed watching The Shining and The Others, but hid behind a blanket for most of The Silence of the Lambs and Split.

I want to talk a little bit more about Split (beware of spoilers). This movie is about three girls who are kidnapped by a man with Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). It deals with themes of abuse and mental health.
Kevin and his multiple personalities were delightful. The audience got glimpses into several of his personalities, and that was fun. It was cool to see him going to his counselor, too. I thought they portrayed his mental illness well.
The end of the movie, however, was horrible. A twenty-fourth personality emerges in Kevin's body and it has superhuman abilities. He kills several people because they are too pure—they have not had anything bad happen to them, and since Kevin was abused as a child, this twenty-fourth personality thinks that he has to inflict pain on those that have never felt it. He doesn't kill the main character because he sees that she has been abused, too.
I didn't like this movie because the ending was so horrific and gruesome. I also didn't like it because the ending was too open-ended for my taste. The guy is not caught and punished for his deeds. The girl does not escape her abusive uncle. I left this movie feeling scared and unsatisfied.

The lesson that I've learned from this—and with the horror genre in general—is "be careful little eyes what you see." I've dabbled in the horror genre this year, and though I've enjoyed some of it, I don't think it's a genre that I will watch a lot of in the future.
As storytellers—whether through writing, movie-making, painting, podcasts, or music—and especially as God-created storytellers, we have a duty to create life-giving art (thanks to my friend Stephen for that phrase!). We also have a duty to engage in life-giving art. We have to use discernment in what we fill our minds with.
I wish I had the eloquence right now to sum up all the thoughts in my head, but I don't, so I am going to direct you to this post by DJ Edwardson.

Have you seen or heard any of the things on my list? What did you think? What do you think of the horror genre?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sunshine Blogger Award tag

Tracey Dyck tagged me for the Sunshine Blogger Award! This is the one where you answer eleven questions, make up eleven new questions, and then tag eleven bloggers.

1. What's the most addicting app on your phone?
Fortunately, my phone doesn't have a lot of storage, so I don't have many apps on my phone. The most addicting, however, is definitely Snapchat. This app lets you take pictures/videos and send them to your friends, but wait! There's more. The pictures/videos only last a few seconds once they are received and then they are lost into the void forever (unless you take a screenshot).





I like this app because of the ridiculous filters, because you can be creative by drawing on your face, and because I can connect with my friends.








2. What's a song that speaks to your life right now?
I've been listening to this Rich Mullins song a lot.


3. Do you have a book or movie that's your "happy place"--a fictional world into which you retreat when you need a breather? What is it?
Whenever I'm feeling sad I re-read Replay or Bloomability by Sharon Creech. She was my favorite author when I was in middle school and reading her familiar words always makes me feel calm and happy.

4. What's a book you were (or are) looking forward to so much you're scared to read it, for fear it won't live up to your expectations?
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I've heard so many great things about him and Something Wicked This Way Comes looks like a book I'd enjoy, but I'm worried that it will be a huge disappointment like 1984 (I had such high hopes for it. Sigh).

5. If you had to have all of your past memories wiped except for one day, which day would you choose to remember?
If I had to choose just one day to last my whole life through, it would surely be that Sunday, the day that I met you.... Just kidding, those are lyrics to a Natalie Cole song.
I think I would either remember a summer day from my childhood playing Star Wars or house with my friend from down the street, or I would remember a day when my co-op friends and I played Warrior Cats outside. Much of my childhood happiness has come from these memories and I want to remember them forever!

6. What question would you like to ask one of your favorite authors?
I want to ask William Goldman (or Harper Lee, but she's dead, so I don't think she'd answer back) how he managed to write a Perfect Book (The Princess Bride). Did he write what came to his mind or did he plan everything out beforehand? Why did he never write any other books (or, at least, none that were as popular as The Princess Bride)? What happened to Buttercup's Baby? Was he worried that he couldn't re-create what he wrote in The Princess Bride, or is he just a massive troll?


7. If you had to describe yourself as one of the four seasons, which would it be?
Probably fall because I trip a lot.

8. What's your personality type? (Myers Briggs, DISC, whichever test you prefer.)
I took the Myers-Briggs test when I was fourteen and I was an INFP. I took an online version a few months ago and my result was INFJ. Will the world ever know if I am a Perceiver or a Judger?? Only time will tell...
(I wrote a blog post about personality tests if you'd like to read it.)

9. An envelope containing $500 shows up on your doorstep. On what do you spend it?
Haha, college.
No, really.
If I didn't have to spend it on college, though, I'd probably spend it on Star Trek DVDs or books. Or a piano.
Nah, it'd still go to college.

10. Would you rather be trapped in a lamp, a tower, or an enchanted sleep?
Not a lamp, because I'm not a fan of itty bitty living space. Not an enchanted sleep because that would be boring. I choose the tower! I mean it would be the perfect place to live so long as it had books, food, and wi-fi. You wouldn't have to contend with hordes of people... you would be safe from attack... Sign me up! Although I would miss going outside... Maybe I could convince whoever locked me in the tower to build me a rooftop garden.


11. Which Disney villain(ess) do you find the most scary?
As a kid, I always thought Jafar was creepy. My friend and I would play Disney princess (she was Cinderella and I was Jasmine) and we would make her uncle be Jafar.

Rather than answer eleven questions that I make up for you, why don't you choose one of the above questions and answer it in the comments! Let me know what YOU would do with $500 or what day YOU would choose to live in your memory forever or whether YOU would rather be trapped in a lamp, tower, or enchanted sleep.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Long and Winding Editing Road—I Outline. Again.

My biggest goal for 2017 is to finish my fantasy novel by December 31st. I have been working on it for over three years now, and I am ready to move on to other stories.

Over Christmas break, I began working on the fourth draft of The Novel. Because of school, I didn't have a chance to work on it again until Spring Break.
For the first draft of this novel I didn't have an outline, but when I wrote the second draft I outlined so that I knew where to go. Thoughts of readers and thoughts of my own have made me drastically change a lot of things, so, over Spring Break, I realized that I needed to outline. Again.

Before I began outlining, however, I decided to write out all of the major, medium, and minor plots in my novel so that I could include them in the outline and see which plots were being advanced in each chapter.
My four major plots are the main storylines of the novel. I have twelve medium plots that mostly have to do with relationships between characters. For example, one of my medium plots is the strained relationship between Finn and Timone. I have twenty-one minor plots that mostly have to do with minor characters' relationships with each other or character details that I don't want to forget, such as Rozella's relationship with her brother or her claustrophobia.

As I outlined, it was SO helpful to have the list of plots next to me because I could insert medium or minor plot details into chapters that were otherwise lacking depth. Also, I could take out scenes that didn't fit with a plotline. There was one scene where Rozella is sad, so she is hiding under her bed, but I realized that if she is claustrophobic, she won't want to hide in an enclosed space; in the next draft, I will have her walk in the forest when she is feeling sad.

Since the first draft, I have been looking for ways to condense my story. Draft One was over sixty chapters long, and I hadn't even finished it yet! Draft Three was fifty-nine chapters, but during outlining, I condensed it down to fifty-three chapters. This left plenty of room to add several insert chapters that show what the human kingdom is doing while the main characters are on their quest. This will bring the major plotlines of my story together so that it isn't so choppy.

Here is my new outline (the inserted chapters are turned sideways):


I feel really, really good about the changes that I am making, and I can't wait to start writing again! If I do one chapter every day, I should be done by June 1, which is my goal. If I can complete Draft Four by June 1, then I can send it to some readers over the summer. Then, in the fall and winter I can fix any (hopefully minor!) problems that they find, fix grammar and syntax, and then mark the book with a big "THE END."