Friday, August 28, 2015

Cast Yourself Upon God, and Have No Fear

Today is the feast day of St. Augustine! He happens to be one of my favorite saints. I had to read his Confessions my freshman year of high school, and while I can't say I loved it while I was working through it that time, I revisited it the next summer and found it a gem of spiritual reading.
My favorite scene in the book (which is the story of Augustine's search for God) is that of his conversion. At this point, he knows Catholicism is the truth and believes it is the key to true happiness; however, he also knows that embracing this truth and turning back to God means leaving behind all his sinful habits. And this sacrifice seems to big for him. He can't imagine living without the evils that have become so sweet in his eyes. In anguish, he runs out into a secluded garden to fight out this struggle on his own. During this grappling between sin and grace, he has an extremely interesting vision.

He sees the virtue of Continence standing and beckoning to him - smiling, encouraging, spreading her arms wide to welcome him. Clustered around her are all the people who have belonged to her through the ages - all the people who valued the virtue of purity and sinlessness. Then Continence invites him to come to her and join these faithful souls. She says:

“Can you not do what these men and these women do? Do you think they find the strength to do it in themselves and not in the Lord their God? It was the Lord their God who gave me to them. Why do you try to stand in your own strength and fail? Cast yourself upon God and have no fear. He will not shrink away and let you fall. Cast yourself upon him without fear, for he will welcome you and cure you of your ills.

I don't know what I would do without those lines. They are some of the most comforting, beautiful, and at the same time challenging words I have ever heard. So often the struggle against sin feels like such a momentous battle, something I could never hope to survive on my own.

And the truth is, it is a momentous struggle. The truth is that it's hard. The truth is that I couldn't do it on my own.  

This passage reminds me that I don't have to do it on my own. That isn't what God asks of us. You see, He knows how weak we are. He knows it's impossible to ask us little children to stand up against the army of temptation and hold our own against it. The World and the Flesh are two formidable generals fighting under the standard of the Devil; they fight with the battle-axe of greed, the mace of lust, and the venom-pointed arrows of sinful ambition. When all these evils rush against us at once, shouting their hideous war-cries, we lone souls can simply stand there with our knees knocking. Maybe we can whack our little swords a few times before we fall to their crushing power, but in the end we will fall. So God doesn't ask us to do that. As our loving Father, our sacrificial Redeemer, our glorious General, he doesn't ask us to fight this entire army by ourselves. He asks us to do something much simpler: to simply cling to Him, to trust in His power, to cast ourselves upon him without fear. That takes courage; it isn't as easy as it sounds, for it means both realizing our own littleness and staring the enemy in the face. But in the end it is our only hope.

Cast yourself upon God and have no fear. He will not shrink away and let you fall. Cast yourself upon Him without fear, for he will welcome you and cure you of your ills.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Alphonse's Bio

As the Prince of Erdania, nineteen-year-old Alphonse Salvadoro has never wanted for much of anything. His childhood was a peerlessly happy one - his parents doted upon without spoiling him, his education was the best the universe had to offer, and as for material goods, he had only to ask for something and it was his. Yet for all this, the young boy was never spoiled; on the contrary, his sweet and selfless nature often earned him the nick-name of "angel" or "saint". On his tenth birthday, Alphonse was given the treasure which would remain ever after his most prized possession: the Prince's Pendant. Whoever wears this is the one and only Prince of Erdania; should he wish to name his heir, he should only have to give the chosen man the Pendant, and there would be a new Prince. Though he is incredibly sweet and affectionate, no one can truthfully call Alphonse a weakling; he is lively and adventurous, and loves nothing more than to spend days exploring the wilderness about the palace in the company of his horse, Deneb.
So that's Alphonse. Once I have some questions for him, I'll post his interview. :)

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Greatest Achievement

Do you want to do something great?
Do you want to be everything God wants you to be?
Do you want to fulfil your purpose in every possible way?

I do. But until yesterday, life just seemed so complicated, so tiring, so frivolous at times, that I didn't know where to start. And then I realized everything is much simpler than it seems on the surface.

There is only one thing that really matters in the end, and that is love.

To love is the greatest thing anyone can ever do. Nothing we can achieve will ever be more important, nothing we can give our lives to will ever be more crucial. It was love which motivated God to create the world, love which brought Him to earth as a helpless babe, love which gave Him the desire to bleed and suffer and die for us. It is in loving that we are most like God, for God is Love.

Can there be any greater goal, then, than the pursuit of that quality which most correctly sums up all the attributes of our Creator? Love is the wellspring of all other virtues - from her refreshing stream bubbles the fire of courage, the breath of mercy, the flower of humility. If we have love, love primarily for God and therefore for neighbor, we have everything we need.

Only love will matter in the end. After I have died, I will not care how many strangers consider my name the name of a great authoress or an inspiring poet. It won't make any difference to me whether anyone recognizes my picture or not. All that matters will be how I have shown my love for God and for others.

It's a terrifying thought, that love is really more important than any of the grand and spectacular feats I've planned for myself. It frightens me half to death to think that playing with my little brother is a greater act of valor than writing a masterpiece of a space trilogy. That washing the dishes is more heroic than composing a poem to inspire people in the ages yet to come. That devoutly receiving one Holy Communion is more saintly than converting millions to the truth by some witty essay. That caring enough to correct a friend in some little sin does more good than trying to preach to the whole world through a moralizing novel. That living my life with love, day by day in my own little world, is the most amazing thing I will ever be called to do.

It is terrifying to realize how small I am, how insignificant is my own strength. But I take courage knowing that God's strength is far beyond anything I could ever hope to achieve.

With Him, I can do all things...even such hard and glorious things as giving up my impossible dreams for the little things that best show that greatest of things, love.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Dar's Interview

Here's Dar's interview. I talk in black this time, Dar talks in blue.

Why, hello, Dar! Come on in, I promise I don't have any policemen hiding in the building.
 
*grins* You sure about that?
 
Of course I am. Don't you trust me?
 
Well, not exactly. But that doesn't matter. I'd rather enjoy a challenge. *walks into room, sits easily down in chair* You were going to interrogate me, Mademoiselle?
 
Interrogate? Oh, no. Merely interview you. Now, Clare wants to know what the most valuable thing you've ever stolen is.
 
*whistles* Good question. I suppose, to date, that would be my robbery of the Interplanetary Solar Bank. At least, that was the biggest job. All over the news for weeks, you know. I was quite the popular fellow. But I will hint to you that a much bigger job is coming up in just a few weeks. *grins* Just wait for the headlines then.
 
Oh dear. Jordan H asks, "Do you remember your father?"
 
Nope.
 
John (G) says, "If you had one wish, what would it be?"
 
One wish? Why, my dear John G, I don't need to have one wish. My destiny is in my own hands. And I would say I've done a pretty good job becoming everything I ever wanted to be.
 
Bob has two questions for you. First, do you have a lover?
 
A lover? *smiles* No. Not that I couldn't have one if I wanted one. The girls simply adore me, you know. But I have no use for them. They're all - silly. It is kinda fun to see them swoon, though.
 
Bob also wants to know your favorite thing to do.

Huh. Not sure. I suppose I spend most of my spare time playing cards or brushing up on my shooting.

Pippin asks what your greatest fear is.

My greatest fear. Hmm. *bites lip thoughtfully* Honestly, I suppose I'm afraid of - well, being a failure. Letting everyone down. Not being the super-criminal everyone expects me to be.

Okay, another one from Pippin: Do you like pink fuzzy socks?

Pink fuzzy socks? *laughs* It depends who's wearing them. We're not allowed to wear pink fuzzy socks around the hideout.

The rest of the questions are from Andrea. Did you ever regret stealing something?

Regret it? Why should I? I have my living to make. And anyway, it's not like my stealing hurts anyone. I only take what people won't miss.

*raises eyebrow* Really? Like the millions of dollars from the Interplanetary Solar Bank?

Tut, tut, now, mademoiselle. 'Twas all mere chattel.

*sigh* I'm not going to argue with you. That's Timandra's job. What's the first thing you ever stole?

Well, Dow had me practice on Mom quite a bit way back when. Ha, I snatched her coffee mug when she wasn't looking, sneaked a necklace from her jewelry box, and even swiped her wallet right from under her nose. You should've seen her face!

Two more. Do you always want to be a thief? Have you ever dreamed of being something else?

Well, I always wanted to do something really cool. You know, something action-packed and exciting that would get me lots of attention. I might've tossed other ideas around when I was just a kid, but once Dow suggested being a thief to me, that was all I wanted to do. I was good at it, it was fun, and I've never thought of anything else. *cocks head* I suppose I always will be a thief. I never thought about it that way before, but I guess I'm done dreaming. I've reached the top. Where could I go now?

Alright, Dar, that'll be all. Thanks!

The candidates for the next character introduction are:
Eldon Clemmons, protagonist
Raphael Novarex, Erdanian soldier
Alphonse Salvadoro, Prince of Erdania

 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

St. Clare


Today was the feast day of St. Clare of Assisi! This lovely young maiden gave up all her wealth at a very young age to give herself entirely to Christ. She ran away from her home in the dead of night to join St. Francis in his life of poverty, chastity, and complete devotion to God.
 
A story is told that one day St. Clare's convent (the house where she lived with her congregation of Poor Clare sisters) was threatened by the attack of Saracen soldiers. It was feared that they would take the town and cause great destruction and suffering. In a time when others might have given in to fear and despair, St. Clare had faith in God. She went right to Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. When she held the Blessed Sacrament out over the enemy horde, the attacking army was thrown into confusion and fled in disarray!

Today as we honor St. Clare, let us remember to always have a great devotion to Jesus in the Tabernacle. He's always with us, just as he was with St. Clare.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dar's Bio

     Dar Beauregard (age 20) is a universally-famous thief, commonly hailed as the most talented criminal in the galaxy. He was born into a rather shabby family, both materially and spiritually speaking; his mother married his father as much as for good looks and charm as for anything else. Dar was only a toddler when his father was killed, under suspicious circumstances, while on a "business trip" with his brother-in-law. After this incident, the closest thing to a father-figure in Dar's life was the very same uncle who had been present at his father's death - his mother's brother, Dow. This uncle was always popping in and out during Dar's early years, usually with some delightful present for the child and always with a fascinating story to tell. Not surprisingly, he became a sort of hero in Dar's eyes. When Dar was about seven, the loosely-guarded secret came out that Dow was not a respectable businessman but a thief, the head of a sprouting outlaw band. As time went on, Dow recognized signs of promise in his nephew and pressed him to consider a career as a thief. This did not sound at all unappealing to Dar, and he began to play lightly with the idea until it quite overcame him. An argument with his mother when he was 12 tipped the balance. He ran off to join his uncle's gang, and, by the time he was 20, had won all the infamy and glory a single outlaw can hope to win.
     With a light, dramatic, and charming character, Dar is not at all a cruel man. On the contrary, he likes to think he has a lot of chivalry about him. In regards to the guidelines of morality he has made for himself, he is irreproachable.

Go ahead and post any questions you have for Dar.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

August - A Poem

This is a poem I wrote last August lamenting the world's tendency to rush through the end of summer. :) Enjoy!

I feel sorry for August, because Summer’s end
Just happens to happen when it ends; and then
It’s back to school, and fall, and cold -
Yet that’s only after August is old!
Then why, as soon as July is done,
Does everyone gloss over August’s fun?
It seems there’s a page missing in the calendar today,
For where I read “August 1” – “Oh! It’s back to school!” they say.
But August is its very own month, with as many days as July,
And it has 31 days to offer us before the honkers fly.

It is a month of golden days and skies as blue as sea,
Of Queen Anne’s lace and goldenrod and sapphire chickaree.
The thistles just begin to bloom, the gold wildflowers grow,
The clouds are piled up like lovely mountains of white snow.
The glad green trees, scorched by the sun, are patched with yellow leaves,
And the corn looks like it’s ready to be gathered into sheaves.
The locusts raucously make their noise so cheery – buzz, click, zing!
The birds think their songs much nicer, so they sing them, proud and prim,
While the gold sunflower turns its head, emulating the sun’s every whim.
 
There is time still for picnics by the lake, reflecting, blue, the sky;
There is time for fun and laughter still, before the honkers fly.
There is time to read a shelf – a room – a library of books;
There is time to count the endless stars, to put wriggly worms on hooks.
There is so much time left in summer still – the best is yet to come -
The golden days of summertime, before dear August is done.
Oh, don’t get out the pencils yet – put the schoolbooks away;
And let’s enjoy these lovely, lazy, long, sweet August days.
Someday Fall will come. Don’t rush it. It’ll get here on its own.
Right now it’s still the Summer Time – and it will be ‘til August is gone.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Honeybees



Well, I have done a post on chickens before, and I think it's about time I devoted a little bit of time to one of my other slightly unlikely favorites - honeybees.

I am perfectly fascinated by these little creatures. Granted, I don't exactly like to be stung by them. But besides their barbed stinger and painful poison sac, there are a thousand things to know about bees that are simply a testament to God's great wisdom as shown by the beauty and order of His creation.


Perhaps the most intriguing things about honeybees is the way they order their hive. They have a whole little government going! First of all, there's the queen. You can tell her apart from all the other bees because she is longer and slenderer than any of the other ones. As her delightful name suggests, she is the most influential member of the colony. She is the only bee in the entire hive who can lay eggs, and lay eggs she does - hundreds of them. She's basically in charge of keeping the entire population replenished. That's a pretty big job, if you think about it. It keeps her majesty pretty busy, so busy that she doesn't have time to take care of herself.



That's where the workers come in. These industrious little girls are the most numerous members of the hive, and a cluster of them surrounds the queen at all times, feeding her and taking care of her in pretty much every way imaginable. Of course, not every worker bee in the hive is responsible for caring for the queen at one time. Depending on their age, different groups of workers have different jobs. Some are in charge of making wax and building up the hive. Some are in charge of working in the nursery - that is, looking after the baby bees (larva). Some keep the colony cool by sitting at the entrance and fanning their wings to bring air into the hive. Others act as guard bees, heroically defending the hive from the wasps, skunks, mice, bears, and robber bees that might try to get in and steal the bees' precious supply of honey. Oh, yes, and some of them make honey, of course. I almost forgot that one. :) You can't make honey without nectar; and so some bees have to go out and forage. You've seen these workers buzzing from clover to clover, right? Incidentally, these foragers are the oldest workers in the hive.


Then there are the drones - the boys of the family. (I haven't explicitly mentioned that the colony is all one family yet, have I? That's one of my other favorite things about bees. The queen is the mother of all the other bees - which makes all the workers and drones sisters and brothers. Neat, right?) The drones do practically nothing but eat. There's not much of a use for them, except when it comes time to find a husband for a new queen. With that said, the hive never needs very many of them, so there are fewer of them than there are worker bees. The poor guys get kicked out of the hive every autumn. The hive can't afford to feed them through the winter, you see. So out they go. I can just hear the sister drones saying, "Alright, Wilbur, Mother's sick and tired of you eating her out of house and home. It's time for you to learn to take care of yourself!"

Of course, being social animals, the drones can't survive on their own....

....which makes the honeybee hive rather resemble the grisly infanticide practices of certain ancient pagans.

Oh well. There are quite a few other fun facts about bees that makes up for this little barbarism. (They're animals, after all...you can't expect them to be all that humane.)

For example, when the forager bees fly back to the hive after finding a supply of nectar, they tell the other bees where that nectar is by dancing. Depending on the dance the bee does, the hive can tell in what direction the nectar is and how far they have to fly to get there.

Did you ever hear of propolis? It's a funny word that we use to describe a certain sticky substance bees make. This works like super-glue and kind of clamps the hive together.

Each hole in the honeycomb bees make is a perfect hexagon.

We know bees sting, but that big "ouch!" isn't all there is to know about it (although, practically speaking, I guess it is). A worker bee's stinger is barbed, so any time it stings a mammal, its stinger stays in. This kills the bee. (Poor thing - and I thought that sting was painful for me!) A worker bee can sting another insect, however, as many times as it likes. A queen bee has a stinger, but it isn't barbed. That means she can sting anybody as often as she likes. :) And drones don't have stingers at all.

If the hive loses its queen, the workers can raise a new queen by feeding a larva special food called royal jelly. Royal jelly is supposed to be good for people, too...but I don't think it makes them into monarchs. :)

Well, now you know your A - bee - Cs. Tired of hearing about them yet? :) Well, I hope you're not too tired of them....you see, someday I would like to write a book where honeybees are the main characters.

And I don't want to scare away my entire audience yet. :)



Sunday, August 2, 2015

Ada's Interview

Hey, Ada. Thanks for letting me interview you.

Oh, it's no trouble. I don't mind.

Alright, so, the first question is - what are you scared of?

*blushes* Scared of? *giggles* Lots of things. Fire...and wars...and people...Jude...and Dar...and myself. And Strike. Strike is the most terrifying person I've ever met in my whole life. *shivers*

What's your favorite thing on earth?

*confused* Earth? You mean Erda?

In the whole world.

Oh. *pauses, laughs* Yikes, that's a kinda broad question. Mm...can I just say friends? I like friends. *smiles* I don't know what I'd do without them.

What's your favorite thing to do?

Write poetry.

What's your favorite color?

Light blue. Or pink. I guess light blue.

What's your happiest memory?

My memories of my parents. *smiles sadly* It was so nice living where we did, down in that little wood, in that little cottage. Everything was so green and woodsy. There was a stream running through there, and this tree with a low branch that worked like a bench, and we would sit there, and sometimes Father would push me on a little wood swing - and Mother would read to me under the shade of the branches. And there was a little dog. Oh, it's so nice to think how sweet and simple everything was then, with the bees buzzing their little songs and the birds twiddling their music...*voice breaks off; she wipes away a tear and laughs* I guess - I guess even my happiest memories make me sad.

What's your favorite season?

I like them all. There's nothing like a still white snowfall to me - it's perfectly magical. But winter's not always perfect that way - if it was all that perfect, it wouldn't seem quite as perfect when it was perfect; I like the loveliness shining through hard cold things. But I still don't like the dreary part. So I guess I like spring best.

How about your favorite song?

Oh. I don't know if I ever thought about it before. I like a lot of songs. Especially sweet sad ones, like Nelly in the Hazel Dell and Loch Lomond.

And your favorite book?

I like the Narnia books. They're so happy and sweet and innocent; they remind me of the fairy tales Mother used to tell me.

Who do you admire?

*grins* Timandra. I wish I could be as cheerful and brave as she is all the time.

Alright, Ada, that'll do it. Thanks so much!

You're welcome!

I hope you've enjoyed meeting Ada. For the next character, I'll be taking votes from the following three:
Eldon Clemmons
Jude Clemmons
Dar Beauregard