Learning to breathe underwater

Remembering Orie June 9, 2009

Filed under: The Journey — belowthesurface @ 8:38 pm
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I recently shared here about my former pastor’s struggle with cancer and some thoughts about healing.  Sadly, the man I posted about passed away this past Saturday.  His name was Orie, and he was 55.

I had mentioned in that post that our relationship with Orie had been damaged and I had hoped for some sort of reconciliation.  When we chose not to continue to attend church services and took a step back from institutional Christianity, he didn’t understand.  He was hurt.  We were hurt by some things as well.  I chose not to re-enter his life over these past several months that he was so sick.  The man was in incredible pain and ended up going the last month of his life without any nourishment.  Any meeting with him would have been to clear my conscience.  He didn’t need that.  He needed to be with his family.

My heart is sad for his wife of 30+ years and for his three kids.  Orie will  miss the kids’ weddings and will not get to meet any grandchildren on this side of heaven.  He won’t be there when his youngest graduates high school.  I know that this happens to many families, but I can’t help but feel especially sad in this case.  I know how much of himself he poured into the church fellowship we used to attend.  How much had he already missed of his family in the name of serving God?

The memorial service is tonight.  I won’t be attending for numerous reasons, but I will be remembering.  I remember the man that cried with me when I grieved and encouraged me in my faith.  I remember when he showed up on a Saturday at our house with his chain saw and attacked our backyard with great flourish (we had a work day and he wouldn’t miss that “fun” for anything!)  A friend of mine posted on her facebook page that if there are bobcats in heaven, Orie will be the happiest man there.  He was all about digging in the dirt!  Many people will miss him.  I just hope that among the many that someone really knew him.  It’s hard for anyone to really know you when you are spread so thin.

I am especially praying for his wife right now.  She has an entire congregation of people who feel like they lost their personal mentor / shepherd / father figure right now.  She is very much in the spotlight, and I hope that she is given the privacy and gives herself the permission to truly grieve.  If she is angry with God, I pray that she will allow herself that.  We’ve all been there, and it is so much more painful to deny ourselves the process.

So I celebrate the life of this man who meant so much to so many.  I am grateful for the season in which we were a part of each other’s lives.  I am glad he is not suffering anymore, but I am so sad for his family.


A Look at Twilight, Part 2 June 2, 2009

Filed under: Books — belowthesurface @ 11:08 pm
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This is a continuation from my last post.  It was originally part of it, but I realized that the post was entirely too long.  I’m fighting my husband for computer time, so I wrote it and posted quickly without realizing that I had left a novel!  🙂  Please read my previous post before reading this one.

The themes running through the Twilight  books were really a mixed bag.  Here is a break-down of the things that stood out to me:

  • There is  tremendous value placed on youth and beauty in the Twilight books.  All of the vampires are stunningly beautiful and young.  Of course they are also not aging.
  • The Cullens spend money like it’s water.  They are extremely wealthy, but we only get a sense that they like to spend it.  I can’t remember examples of them using their money for the benefit of others.
  • Teens are not portrayed well.  For the most part, they are manipulative, gossipping and immature.  This includes Bella, vampires, kids at school and the wolf pack (of which Jocob is a part).  Angela Weber and her boyfriend Ben Cheney are about the nicest kids in the books.
  • Unhealthy co-dependency runs rampant (Edward and Bella)
  • Two wonderful questions were briefly raised but never explored.  What is humanity?  What does it mean to have a soul? Why, oh why, did you not expand on this, Stephanie??
  • The books touch briefly on the idea of power.  The Volturi (vamp police) is power hungry which leads to paranoia and treachery.  They are mostly seen as a necessary evil to maintain order.  On the flip side, the Cullens are also a very powerful coven.  They use their power for the benefit of others.
  • The idea that we can overcome our nature and that we have a choice in our actions is championed in these books.  The Cullens embody this idea by abstaining from killing humans and hunting only animals even though it is not easy.
  • Prejudice is overcome between the vampires and wolves (natural enemies) enough for them to work together when threatened by a common enemy.  They even begin to forge friendships with one another.
  • Perhaps the most aggravating thing in these books to me is that there are NO CONSEQUENCES!! Everything worked out so perfectly for Bella.  She got everything she wanted and everything she didn’t think to ask for.  She was probably not going to be able to keep her mother in her life, but at that point it didn’t seem like a major loss.

Plot-wise, I found most of the story to be pretty predictable.  There was plenty of action and I never found the books really to be boring,  just annoying.  For example, there were arbitrary things thrown into the books that never really tied into anything.  Bella was “hearing” Edward’s voice in the second book whenever she did something dangerous.  I thought that there was a special connection or that this “hearing” would mean something.  It didn’t really seem to mean much of anything, though, and ended up being a ridiculous part of the plot.  I honestly disliked the plot of the fourth book and only enjoyed the story when told from Jacob’s point of view because there was a good deal of humor infused into the story from him.  The series ended leaving me unfulfilled.  The big showdown in the fourth book turned into a game of mental chess as opposed to a violent brawl, but we are left with really  no resolution.  It is clear that the Volturi will most likely not give up trying to weaken the Cullens.

Technically speaking, it is clear that these were Meyer’s first books.  I’m no writer of fiction, but I can tell when someone has really developed their craft.  Meyer has not.  Too many words and phrases were repeated, such as Edward’s arms locking around Bella in an iron cage.  That one was repeated too much.

My advice?  If you only like really well-written fiction that has strong themes, characters and plot, this series would leave you pretty disappointed.  However, if you just want to be entertained and are able to shut your brain off during said entertainment, you might find these books to be kind of fun.  They would be great entertainment while lying on the beach!

Meyer really could have had something special with these books.  Unfortunately, she missed too many marks.  These will not be classics.  The first movie was fun though obviously low-budget with some cheesy special effects.  At least Bella was far less annoying in the movie.

Twilight series rating overall would be PG-13 for violence.  Swearing is PG.  Sexual situations are strong PG to mild PG-13.

Next up, I’m looking at the Harry Potter series.


Round One – A Look at Twilight May 31, 2009

Filed under: Books — belowthesurface @ 1:56 am
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I made minor changes to this post and split it in two because it was just too long before.

I am going to try to do this without giving too much away for those of you who are interested in reading this series.  So, here goes!

I read the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer late last fall.  It was admittedly during a time in my life when I really did not have the desire to utilize very many brain cells.  I wanted to be entertained without having to think, and the Twilight series fit that bill.  However, now that millions of teen girls (and their mothers) are infatuated with the series, I decided that a closer look into these books and their themes is warranted.

Stephanie Meyer created a world in which vampires exist (in small numbers), and they even have a ruling vampire coven that enforces the vampire rules.  It was funny to me that this particular group of ruling vampires (the Volturi) resides in Italy, which is also home of the Vatican.  🙂  One of the only rules is to keep the existance of vampires secret from the humans.

These books are told from the perspective of Bella Swan, a 17-year-old high school junior.  She is clumsy and shy, preferring to read Jane Austen books than to socialize.  The books open with her moving to Forks, Washington to live with her father.  Her mother is married to a baseball player and Bella decides to get out of the way of thier travels and spend quality time with her dad.  Forks is the cloudiest place in the US, making it an ideal place for Meyer’s sparkling vampires.

Bella’s first day of school is strange for the introvert.  Having moved from Phoenix, AZ and being another face in the large crowd, she finds herself suddenly thrust into the spotlight in this small town.  To make matters worse, her new lab partner in biology is Edward Cullen, one of the seven vampires of the Cullen coven who have a permanent residence in Forks.  What sets the Cullens apart is that they have found that living on animal blood sustains them.  The seven of them have chosen not to feed from humans.  This is not always easy as Edward discovers on Bella’s first day of school.  He experiences the rare phenomenon of her blood “singing” to him and finds it nearly impossible not to kill her.  He makes it through the class and battles the monster within constantly when he is around her.

Edward and Bella wind up falling in love (go figure!).  I found most of their courtship in the first book to be touching, especially considering Edward’s age and the fact that this falling in love business is entirely new to him.  Their love is tested, broken, reunited, and consummated throughout the four books.  Bella’s life is threatened at least five times, three of which nearly do kill her.  Each book contains action, romance, and further development of the characters.  And we see action from the vampire police in Italy.

Looking at this from a character standpoint, Bella is not the most appealing heroine.  She is swooning, at times weak, and lacks a sense of self-identity.  Her inability to accept gifts and attention is meant to make her seem selfless, but it comes across as immature and annoying.  Bella is quick to want to give her entire life to another person.  By that, I mean her entire mortal life.  She is willing to permanently give up her parents and ability to have children without seeming to have much of a sense of who she is.  She also unfortunately becomes more manipulative as the books unfold.  I found myself very disturbed in the third book as she and Edward were using sex, marriage, and the end of her mortal life to strike deals with one another so that they could each have what they wanted.  It was supposed to come across as a compromise, but it looked pretty manipulative to me.  She also has trouble letting go of her “best friend”  Jacob throughout two of the books, using and hurting him repeatedly by not letting him go.

Edward’s character is the typical tortured soul.  He has a great deal of self-hatred because of what he is, and really tries early on to stay away from Bella.  Edward does not believe that he has a soul because he is a vampire, which is the main reason that he does not want to turn Bella.  Edward grew up in the early 1900’s and still possess old-fashioned ideas about protecting his girl.  His greatest character flaws are his flair for the dramatic which leads him on a suicide mission at one point, and his knack for trying to play God.  Edward is a mind-reader, and this powerful ability drives him to make a lot of decisions for others.  Unfortunately, he thinks that it is okay to make huge decisions for him and Bella without consulting her.  I will admit that he redeems himself  later in the third book as he learns to let Bella make decisions, and truly reaches the place where he is willing to let her go.

Bella’s parents are unfortunately not great models.  Her mother is flighty and absent-minded, and Bella admits to having parented her mother more than she herself was parented.  Charlie, her police-chief father, is really cool in the movie.  He actually was my favorite character in the movie.  Unfortunately, he is just someone else for Bella to take care of in the books.  He can’t cook or run his household, so Bella does it all.  He clearly loves Bella, but he can’t handle the truth of what is going on in her life so he buries his head in the sand.  I found that to be very unrealistic and disappointing.  I wanted to respect Charlie in the books, but ended up respecting him only slightly more than Bella.  No police chief father would be quite as unobservant in his only daughter’s life.

I enjoyed the secondary characters in these books much more than the main characters.  The rest of the Cullens were entertaining and endearing.  Emmett was a hoot, and my favorite Cullen.  Their dynamics were fun, and they really live as a loving family.  One thing that Stephanie Meyer is good at is character sketches.  I felt like I really knew the characters even if I didn’t like them.

In the next post I will discuss general themes of this series.


Rowling vs. Meyer – My Perspective May 27, 2009

Filed under: Books — belowthesurface @ 12:39 am
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I am not ashamed to admit that I love fiction – very much.  I love it more than non-fiction.  There was a time when I thought that made me less intellectual or philisophical or just less in general.  Now I say who cares?  Jesus loved fiction.  That fact is apparent to me based on how many parables He told.  There is something so very powerful and impacting about fiction.  It bypasses the part of our minds that wants to work it all out logically and speaks to our hearts.  As a heart person, I get that.  Fiction for me is an experience. 

There are two movies hitting the big screen this year based on works of fiction.  Both are part of a series of books, and they have been compared to one another quite a bit.  They have also both been embraced by young and old alike, and the authors of both have become very weathy thanks to their stories. 

I must admit to being irked whenever I see an article with pictures of J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer next to one another.  These two authors penned the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series, respectively.  I am not sure why people seem to believe that they are similar.  Yes, both women created an alternate universe that does not exist.  One consisted of witches and wizards, the other had vampires and shape-shifting wolves.  Both have drawn much attention and spurned moves, bringing fame and wealth to a handful of young people.  One actor went so far as to have played a role in a Harry Potter move and then the lead in Twilight.  In my opinion, that’s just about where the similarities end.

I will take the next couple of posts to discuss these series of books.  I will be looking at the over-all writing, strength of plot, character development, and themes.  Also, since I come from a Christian background and used to be among circles who were literally afraid of Harry Potter, I will look at these books from a moral and spiritual perspective.

I have really thought about this for several weeks and have taken a lot of notes.  Hopefully, I will get this all together in a way that is helpful and  interesting to read (and also infused with some humor 🙂 ).  I will also include spoiler warnings.  I plan to tackle Twilight first, and hope to have my next post up by Friday.  This topic is important to me as a person who loves fiction and as a mom.  At the end, I will give my input on which series I hope that my kids will embrace when they are old enough to read them.

Please feel free to comment as I tackle this.


Some Spring Photos May 16, 2009

Filed under: family,The Journey — belowthesurface @ 12:53 am
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Nathan & Brianna at Brianna's 4th birthday party on April 30th.

Nathan & Brianna at Brianna's 4th birthday party on April 30th.



Face painting from Artisphere arts festival in Greenville, SC. Not sure what Nathan's was. Brianna turned down the girly stuff and wanted to be a tiger!

Face painting from Artisphere arts festival in Greenville, SC. Not sure what Nathan's was, but it was cool. Brianna turned down all the girly stuff (butterflies, lady bugs, etc.) and wanted to be a tiger!


Free Speech and Differing Opinions – Sometimes It’s Ugly May 8, 2009

Filed under: The Journey — belowthesurface @ 12:16 am
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I never follow “beauty” pageant news.  Beauty pagents themselves disturb me, but I couldn’t help but notice the media frenzy surrounding the Miss USA Pageant last week.  Miss California, Carrie Prejean, made headlines with her answer to a question regarding gay marriage.  That now infamous moment during the pageant can be viewed here:

There is so much wrong about this entire situation.  First of all, why on earth was a question like that even allowed in a beauty pageant?  Perez Hilton, the man who posed the question, has accused Miss Prejean of being divisive with her answer.  Was he not divisive with his question?  Yes, he was.  Obviously, he assumed that whomever his question was posed to would agree with him.  That is the only thing that could explain his outrage over the answer that was given. 

What happened to respecting the opinions of others?  I do have an opinion on the gay marriage issue myself, but this post is not about my opinion.  What disturbs me about last week’s fiasco is that only the current popular opinions are held in any esteem.  It may not truly be the opinion of the majority, but it is the opinion most in vogue.  Therefore, it must be the correct opinion.

Admittedly, Carrie Prejean did not answer the question well at all.  I can understand her not getting much credit for it.  First of all, most Americans cannot choose gay marriage.  They can choose a gay relationship, but not marriage.  It is only legal in a few states.  Secondly, she really needed to answer the question beyond stating that her opinion was based on how she was raised.  There was a time when that held weight, but it no longer does.  My sisters and I were raised to believe that inter-racial marriage was morally wrong.  None of the three of us hold to that opinion today.  One of my sisters even married a man from Nigeria.  Miss California really should have thought out her answer a little more.  Surely there was more to her opinion than the fact that it was her parents’ opinion. 

Since that night, Miss Prejean has spoken out big time.  She immediately spoke to many media outlets, which appears to be in violation of her Miss California contract.  She has also aligned herself with a traditional marriage organization and appeared a commercial for them.  Her public appearances were apparently supposed to be approved and were not.  In these appearances, she has stated that her opinion is based on the Bible.  Again, we can’t throw around the Bible says so anymore and expect it to have any impact.  Exhibiting the heart of God, speaking in love, and not running to the media to claim that you are being persecuted would go much farther.

Obviously, I do not agree with how Carrie Prejean has handled the situation.  However, I must give her props for speaking her mind.  She had to have known that her hopes for the crown were ruined, but she gave her honest opinion. I do think that it took a certain level of courage to do that.  If she had only stayed quiet and gracious following the pageant, she might not be in the position to possibly lose her crown.  They may still have dug up the half-nude pictures of her, but maybe not.  She certainly fueled the attack against her. 

Bottom line – they all need to go to time out!!  Seriously, are we not allowed an opinion anymore?  Carrie Prejean was entitled her opinion, but I haven’t sensed her respect for others’ opinions, either.  Perez Hilton is entitled his opinion, but not at the cost of everyone else’s.  Most of us don’t live on the extreme fringes.  Mature discussion is possible, but it would mean that someone has to close their mouth for a moment and let the other speak.


A Healing Prayer April 8, 2009

I’ve never had to stare down death before.  My life has never flashed before my eyes.  I’ve never had a moment when I’ve wondered if I would be alive in the next minute or the next day.  I am grateful for that.

Death has never come early to anyone that I’m close to.  I was sad when my cousin died in his early thirties, but I barely knew him.  My grandparents were all old when they died.  I have my sisters, my parents, my husband, children, and my close friends.  The only time that I am aware that my life was in danger was in my first pregnancy.  The situation was rectified upon delivery of the baby.  I was too drugged to ponder that I could begin to have seizures at any moment.  Death was not something that crossed my mind then.  

So it is in the bliss of ignorance that I approach this sticky subject.  

Our former pastor has pancreatic cancer.  My heart is grieved over this.  I have prayed for some kind of reconciliation with him over the last couple of years, but I never felt that the timing was right.  I didn’t think I was procrastinating.  I hope that I wasn’t.  I don’t like confrontation, but I despise fractured relationships even more.

Anyway, we’ve probably all heard that pancreatic cancer is bad news.  It almost always kills the person who has it.  In this case, our former pastor  did not seek medical treatment when he first became ill.  He had been in the midst of teaching a series on healing, so he was praying and believing God.  God, that just tears at me.  He was in pain for months to practice what he was preaching.  Not that he would ever tell someone not to go to the doctor – he’s never been like that.  He just thought it was his gall bladder and that if he just prayed and believed, he would be healed.

It was crazy times when Jesus walked this earth.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have been there when the blind man could suddenly see.  The woman with an issue of blood who had been sick for many years touched the hem of His robe and was healed.  Oh, and we can’t forget the lame man who was lowered through the roof of a house so that Jesus could heal him – and He did.  The man got up and walked.  So many accounts that it boggles the mind.  And let’s not forget Lazarus, dead and in the tomb for three days.  Lazarus, come forth!  And he did.  

Many will say that there isn’t an account in scriptures where a person asked for healing from Jesus and didn’t receive it.  So that must be the case for us as well, right??  We just need to have enough faith, fast and pray, jump through the hoops,  and definitely don’t admit that you have the condition that is ailing you.  To confess to having cancer or arthritis or anything else is speaking it over yourself, so therefore, you won’t be healed.  Jump through the hoops.  Play the game.  Manipulate scriptures.  Demand that God heal, dammit!  

I saw a woman that I used to attend church with yesterday.  I asked her how the pastor was doing.  Her immediate response?  He’s healed in the name of Jesus!  I used to utter the same things (and usually felt foolish doing so).  I used to buy into the same scheme.  I struggled to keep a straight face in front of her, but I’m afraid that anger probably flashed briefly in my eyes.  Yes, it angers me.  It angers me to think that people are dying believing that they did not earn healing.  People are suffering through chemo with the ridiculous assumption that they just need to find the right spiritual formula.  It is damaging to the soul, and it taints the truly miraculous healings that occasionally take place.  

Why is one healed and not another?  I don’t know.  I have no answers.  I have to trust that Father sees the big picture, and that maybe healing is not all that we understand it to be.  Easier said than done, I know.  I already said that I’ve never been faced with any of this myself.  I also am pretty certain that western living, with too much fast food and not enough exercise is a large part of this picture.  We live in an imperfect world, and most of us really don’t take proper care of ourselves.  I am included in that category.  We live in physical bodies that can only take so much.  

I certainly don’t write this to hurt anyone.  I find it absoutely freeing to not have to jump through hoops to earn my Father’s love.  And I don’t believe that I’m jaded where He is concerned.  I certainly am a bit jaded where the institutional church has damaged God’s children.

So I am praying for our former pastor and his family.  Statistically speaking, his chances of surviving this are not good.  Is God powerful enough to heal him?  Absolutely.  Do I expect this man to roll over and just give up?  Absolutely  not.  He has three kids that I’m sure he desperately wants to be with longer.  He should have so much more life to live.  

So I pray for this man who dropped everything to rush to the hospital when we were faced with the premature birth of our first child.  I pray for the man who performed our wedding ceremony and baby dedications for both of our kids.  I pray that he rests in Perfect Love.  I pray that he is surrounded with peace.  I do pray that God would heal him.  I can ask for that, but we aren’t always given a yes answer.  I pray that he would live every moment to its fullest.  Whether he has six months or thirty years, I pray for all of these things.