March 11, 2015

Four Years Later

Posted in Blogging, Faith, Favorite Quotes, Japan, Just Life tagged , , at 9:13 pm by catsinboxes

There are some dates you will never forget.  Today is one of those dates.

*Originally published on March 11, 2011, at the LEX Language Project blog:

It started with a faint rumbling. I could feel the floor vibrating under my feet. Around the office, people stopped work; there were exclamations, and then everything really started shaking. Within a few moments, I was sitting under my desk and listening to the sound of cabinets and everything else in the office being shaken by the earthquake.

This was my first earthquake in Japan. I knew Japan had earthquakes, so I was a bit surprised when my supervisor told me I should let my mom know I was okay. Wasn’t this a normal earthquake?

In the hours since then, and one powerful aftershock later, I have come to understand that this was much more than a standard earthquake. In fact, this was the largest recorded earthquake in the history of Japan . . .

I was in Tokyo when it happened.  It doesn’t seem like four years ago.  In many ways, it feels like only a short time ago.

Then, and in the following days, God was faithful.  Just thinking back brings a rush of memories.  Listening to Praise You in the Storm and not getting it, on my way to work that morning.  Listening to it the next day, and understanding.

Reading Isaiah.  Remembering Isaiah 41:10.  Remembering God’s promises, and though I was scared, not being afraid.

Singing You Raise Me Up in Japanese with believers that following Sunday, joining hands and praying.  The power in that calm moment.  “Do not be afraid; I am with you.  Be not dismayed . . . I am your God.”

Four years later, and all these memories can slip, but they come rushing back.  They come on March 11.  They come at other times.  So please, take a moment, and do not forget.  Remember Japan.  And say a prayer because, 4 years later, many people are remembering this day.


May 21, 2014

Wordsworth Wednesday

Posted in Bible, Creative Writing, Faith, Favorite Quotes, Just Life, Poetry tagged , , , , at 7:31 am by catsinboxes

No, this has nothing to do with Wordsworth except that it has something to do with poetry.  Also, in light of the popularity of Wordless Wednesday, and since in the English language there is not a day of the week to lend alliteration to poetry, I will get creative.  I am not very familiar with Wordsworth, and though I would like to better my acquaintance, I will not quote him at the moment.  Instead, I will share my own poem.

Today, I read D.A. Carson’s commentary on Hebrews 7.  In closing, he urges his readers to meditate upon verses 23-25.

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.  Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him , since he always lives to make intercession for them.

I love those words.

Sunset on Superior

Praise His name, the Son of David,

Praise His name, the reigning King.

Praise His name, He saves the broken,

Praise His name, He intercedes.

Praise His name, He reigns forever,

Praise His name, He saves the lost.

Praise His name, He is returning,

He vanquished death upon the cross.

March 18, 2012

Thoughts on The Hunger Games

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Faith, Fiction tagged , , at 7:09 pm by catsinboxes

I must admit that I have a hard time liking Katniss Everdeen.  That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading the Hunger Games trilogy.  Suzanne Collins has created a series that is hard to put down.  But she has also created a series, a setting, and a cast of characters that presents many questions: questions that Katniss Everdeen never seems to answer.

When I read the series, I was struck by the feeling that is created.  Imagine a future America that is divided into 13 districts.  Imagine a future where young people, 2 tributes from each district, are sent to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised slaughter in an artificially created “arena” that will leave only one victor.  That is the world that Katniss Everdeen introduces readers to in the opening pages of the Hunger Games.

Katniss’ world feels dark, old, depressing, and by contrast the Capitol is gaudy to the extreme.  It is such a different world that it is almost surprising to find references to things we know, like the fact that Katniss’ family has a television.  And when in the midst of the second book we find out that District 13 specialized in “nuclear development” it seems just plain out of place!  Does this world feel real?  Not to me, at least, but it is a story.

I do have a couple bones to pick when it comes to the genre.  I cannot believe it possible that a world sometime in the future would have no recollection of God.  There is no religion in the Hunger Games, no mention of any greater being or any remnant of religion preserved from the past.  Realizing this, it is not surprising that there is no common sense of morality in the series.  In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis points to the fact that we all have an inward moral law: a moral law that will point us toward the right thing to do, a moral law that will sometimes cause us to do the right thing even when it’s the last thing we actually want to do.  In the Hunger Games, Katniss often battles with herself, wondering why she does things, but she never seems to conclude that it is simply because it is the right thing to do at that time and place.  In the Hunger Games each character is operating for a different reason and there is not a unifying theme.  Instead of black and white, there are many shades of gray.  Indicative of this is the fact that the rebels, instead of being the good guys, are a weird kind of totalitarian force who wear gray uniforms.

In the Hunger Games there is not a sense of true beauty or joy, instead there is only darkness and confusion.  I believe it is good to read the Hunger Games to get a sense of our times.  I find it intriguing that this has become such a best seller.  Honestly though, I don’t believe that this will become a lasting classic.

I know that a lot of Christian parents are wondering if their children should read the Hunger Games.  I think that is a personal decision to make, but I will tell you two things I observed which I personally found disturbing.  These reasons are why I would be hesitant to recommend the Hunger Games trilogy to anyone younger than a mature and analytically inclined high schooler.

Reason 1.  Throughout the trilogy there is intense violence almost to the point of desensitization.  Granted, given the premise, of course this is going to happen, but it almost seems to be gratuitous at times.  One example of this that stuck out to me came from Katniss’ description of one of the tributes in Catching Fire:  “Enobaria looks to be about thirty and all I can remember about her is that, in hand-to-hand combat, she killed one tribute by ripping open his throat with her teeth.”  It’s one thing to read about violence, about the Holocaust or about genocide or a battlefield, when it really happened.  It is quite another thing to invent such violence, and it doesn’t seem right to me, not in this much detail.  By the end of the Hunger Games trilogy, I found myself desensitized to all of the death.  Character after character had been killed off, often in gruesome detail.  It’s not like in Harry Potter when death takes you by surprise . . . when you have time to miss a character . . . no, this was just a LOT of dying and a whole lot of violence.

Reason 2.  While there is no sex in the Hunger Games, I would argue that there is a lot of sensuality.  Some of it comes from statements . . . like the fact that Katniss stands unclothed while her male stylist Cinna is studying her.  Call me a prude, but that made me squirm.  There is a good bit of kissing and little details thrown in that stick with you: Gale smells like oranges the first time he kisses Katniss.  Peeta and Katniss sleep together in the same place during the Hunger Games and then later on multiple occasions.  Nothing goes on, but Katniss emphasizes how nice and secure it is to have Peeta there.  Lastly, I just kept picking up on little details about Katniss: she wishes she were alone so she could strip off her clothes and dive naked into a lake . . . 11 times during the series Katniss refers to her naked body.  Several of these times happen at night when she strips off her clothes and sleeps _____ you can fill in the word!  I really don’t feel like this is appropriate, especially not for any juvenile male readers.  There is so much sexuality in our culture, you might say this isn’t that bad.  But it’s there . . . and I’d rather know about it in advance if I’m trying to determine the appropriateness of any book.

For me, the most telling part in the entire series was the conversation Katniss overhears between Peeta and Gale.  They wonder who will wind up with Katniss if they all come out alive and Gale says: “Katniss will pick whoever she thinks she can’t survive without.”  As the reader, I was inclined to agree.  Over the past two books, Katniss had shown herself as intensely selfish in how she relates to others.  But as the reader, you also want Katniss to prove that she’s not that bad, that she does care for others, that she doesn’t operate solely on that plane.  But it never happens.  Do you understand why I have such a hard time liking Katniss Everdeen?

Obviously this is my opinion of the Hunger Games trilogy.  Do you agree?  Do you disagree?  What were things you noticed or things that bothered you?  I know there’s a lot more that could be discussed, and I would love to hear your opinion!