Tuesday, October 10, 2017

// new series: psalm 51 //

After the incredibly busy spring/summer I had, I’m ashamed to admit that my Bible reading was largely gone by the wayside. One of my greatest character flaws is that I lack ‘stick-to-itiveness' in general, and as my tired little self grew more and more worn out, for some reason I set aside something very necessary. It requires immense mental effort for me to be out and about with people (don’t underestimate the work it takes for an introverted nerd to portray some semblance of ‘normalcy’) and concentrating on God’s word at the end of the day is harder than just looking through Instagram and going to sleep. It’s no excuse, of course, but that’s how it went.

  However, now all of that busyness is over and I’m trying to get started again, slowly, by reading one passage over and over. Don’t get me wrong, I still am working on getting it back into my routine, as much as my life can be called a routine. However, I’m hoping that by blogging about my thoughts on the passage, I will have an incentive to do better. 

 Psalm 51

 This is the great repentant psalm of David after his sin with Bathsheba. It’s such an emotional, but eloquent, lament for the transgression he’s committed against God. His plea for cleansing and renewal is one that should be echoed in our hearts today.

It’s ingrained in human nature to pass the blame, to look at other people’s problems before our own, to excuse our behavior by citing the sins of someone else. And this tendency is good at disguising itself in claims of righteous indignation, of telling the truth, of fighting for justice- of love, even. How many times have you thought about someone’s wrongdoing, out of genuine concern, but while ignoring the things that need to be fixed in your own heart and life? I do it All. The. Time. And I’m pretty sure you do too. Of course, we have a level of duty to help others recognize their sins too - but that means actively calling them out on things and mentoring them through the process, neither of which are particularly effective if your own life is kind of a mess.

And that is what struck me first in this psalm, as David is owning his sin and begging for forgiveness from God. 

  Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Psalm 51:1-4

Look at the pronouns- ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘mine’, ‘my’, and ‘thy’, ‘thee’ ‘thou’. This is between David and God, no-one else. No-one to hide behind, no-one to blame. Keep in mind, my study bible notes that a year has passed since the incident occurred. I suspect David had done his fair share of blaming, of faking everything was fine, of acting as though his sin had never happened. But in the psalm, he’s reached the point where he’s ready to stand bare before the Almighty and say ‘I’ve sinned against you and I’m throwing myself on your mercy’. 

The Lord sent the prophet Nathan to David (in 2 Samuel 12) to deliver the now well-known story of a man who stole someone else’s only prized lamb. When David expressed outrage at the tale, Nathan indicted him- 

‘Thou art the Man.’. 

It was through the boldness of Nathan’s storytelling that David finally faced the reality of his wrongdoing. He’s reached a point where he’s ready beg the Lord for forgiveness and for help to go on. And it is this that leads to the rest of the Psalm. I hope you’ll join me as I plan to explore the rest over the next few weeks! 

Monday, October 2, 2017

// looking away //

As a writer, I cherish a desire to lighten this  dark world a bit, through words strung together as well as I can. Whether that’s to enlighten someone’s mind or to lighten the burden of their heart, I take the command to be a ‘light in the world’ seriously when it comes to the task that I think God has set for my life. Not as seriously as I should, maybe- but it guides my growth, and encourages me to try harder, to write more, to be… less lazy. Ahem.

However, as I watch the world spiral, I often become jaded. It’s an undeniable reality that goodness and light are hard to find in this planet we call home. We writers have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to inspiration for all that is cruel, dark and twisted. In the face of it, happy little stories seem trite. Sure, ‘Love What Matters’ and other places highlighting the simple acts of goodness that everyday people are doing are wonderful. They are doing something very, very necessary, in my opinion. But when I zoom out and think about the big picture, it’s easy to brush them aside. It’s beautiful, what people do for good. But it doesn’t seem to stop the darkness.

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are two of my role models, as Christians, as people and of course, as authors. Their burden is my burden… it’s a beautiful thing to know our work is all united in its common cause. However, when I begin focusing on what I see around me, the interconnectedness of the devil’s web, I begin to doubt their calling and mine. Tolkien’s high fantasy, insisting on the prevalence of good at the end of every desperate struggle, begins to seem näive. Lewis’ claim that, in the heart of image-bearing man is a thirst for truth, rings hollow in my ears. Even Solomon and Paul, telling me in scripture that God has set understanding in man, that they may be without excuse for their willful ignorance and depravity, just crushes me a little lower.

What good am I in the face of this? What good are my words and ideas, made over from words and ideas people of God have been spinning since the beginning of time?

Ah, there it is. Even in the beginning it was light against dark. It was Noah against the world, building not a story but an ark. It was the prophets, crying out. It was my very Savior, telling parables to the people gather round him while knowing they would shout for his death before they ever understood his meaning. And on and on, it’s always been so. Our time is not unique in it's struggle, not really. It’s always been a few against many. The word of God against deafened hearts. And ever it has been the few that hear and come. The tale of a life spent for God doesn’t have to be one of huge grandeur or scope, one of thousands coming and lives being turned upside down.

It could be one person who reads a book and begins to question, to search

It could be one person who can finally believe they aren’t alone, that their broken heart can mend.

It could even just be me, learning to know God so I can write Him into my stories and essays and heart. 

When Tolkien began his epic tales, I don’t think he had an idea that they would change the world. He just wanted to build the world he saw in his mind, and to tell it to his boys before bed. I don’t think it was meant to be a monumental work of literature, it was meant to be a story. A  story into which he poured the truth that framed his life. It was vastly important to him, but I doubt he expected it to be so important to the millions of people that have since read his tale of valor and baseness, vying in a death grip for the rule of Middle Earth. 

So was he naive to think it’s so simple? That the good actions of a tiny hobbit can really matter in the face of the mighty Mount Doom? Or isn’t that what the stories are that God chose to give us in his Word- stories of little people doing big things through and for Him?

So today, as yet another headline shoots us in the face, as the political clamor ceaselessly cudgels our ears, as your own heart begins to sink a little and doubt, like mine has-

Stop staring evil in the face and look up, away, to goodness. To the goodness for which our souls really do long. If you don’t have the answers, look to that truth. If you don’t have love, look to Christ on the cross. Why is it so hard to realize that our problem isn’t the evil we see, it’s the way we are looking at it? We see through a glass, and all that. We have to learn to stop trusting our own eyes so very much and to trust His, to do every little thing we can. The was my mind works is to see things in webs, so to speak- all the horrible things connecting and connecting until I get completely overwhelmed and apathetic, as though nothing can be done. But the good things do that too! They connect and grow and build on themselves. No-one is an island, and everything we do for good or ill can directly change the world.  Just as Samwise says, the good is there and it is worth fighting for.

I’m writing to myself, you know. I know all this in my head (clearly, since I’ve written it). But do I believe it? In other words, am I acting on it? Not really so much. But I want to. And I hope you do too. 

'For God has not given us a spirit of fear; 
but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.' 
2 Timothy 1:7

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

//in which the missing blogger magically reappears//


I am so sorry I've been gone for so long. I went to Europe this spring (!) Kentucky/the midwest this summer (!)  and am only now getting back into the swing of things. I think I want to try to get this blog up and running again, although I'm not 100% sure where I want to go with it. I would love to hear from you- what have you liked on my blog previously (As in, the far back, mist obscured past when I actually used to post)? What are some new things you think it would do me good to tackle? I've missed you, readers and I feel I've missed so much content on other peoples blogs, as well. Oh well- I can't catch up with all of those so I will just try to keep up better going forward. So, if you'll bear with me, I'm going to mess around on here again (hopefully), try to get posting again (possibly) and try to produce some content that might bless/give enjoyment to readers.  Xx Nina

Monday, February 6, 2017

// playlist: favorite sopranos+mezzos //

click here-playlist: favorite sopranos+mezzo-sopranos

my love for opera is no secret- but lately I've really been feeling inspired to try to share the love. so, here's a 2 hour playlist of some of my favorite sopranos/mezzo-sopranos singing well known arias. I'm no expert so I've most likely missed some important singers/songs, but these are ones that I know and love. I hope you enjoy and maybe even get your interest piqued to learn more about the songs! Look up lyric translations and synopsis' of the plot of the opera the aria is from. You'll find that hidden in the foreign languages and virtuosic singing are human emotions and messages, just like you'd find in indie-pop, or folk, or jazz, or... you name it!  I'm convinced a lot more people would like opera if they understood it- which is why I'm starting to learn more myself, not just because I'm interested in going into opera professionally, but also so I can share it with others!! I may start periodically posting a specific aria with a brief synopsis and explanation of the aria, and maybe explain in depth just why I'm so fond of opera- would anyone be interested in that or would it bore you? I'm just not sure where I'm going with this blog anymore and I want to get back into the swing of things and start posting again. anyways, enjoy the playlist!


Monday, January 30, 2017

// flash fiction- the beginning of the end of the world //

The new moon hung low in the sky, a narrow yellow crescent in the dark like the slitted eye of a resting but ominously watchful cat. My breath hit the air in small explosions of smoke. I’d left the flashing lights far behind but I could still feel them in the frantic beat of my heart.

It was the beginning of the end of the world.

The strangest part (it occurred to my mind, slowly) that the oddest thing, the thing that was bothering me most, was the silence. No sirens, no screaming. Just a long, dead nothingness. I was standing in the dark, the edge of a tree branch jabbed into my shoulder. I moved aside a little, staring into the dark with confusion, my arms held out from my body. Then I remembered- I had bolted.

The lights, the men pouring from cars and tanks like beads from an overturned container, helicopters hovering and beating the air like giant hornets, the rush of people through doors and down halls and the rush of blood to my head. Mr. Lee - he’d pressed something into my hand. I clenched my fist onto an envelope. I hadn’t failed him yet, that was a relief. I began walking, slowly, continuing to piece together what had happened.

The lights, oh those lights- the darkness wasn’t a fear but a blessing after those lights. We’d been standing, the last of us, on the steps of the school and all the lights had gone dull as one light, brighter than them all, had suddenly leapt on us like a ghostly bird of prey from the sky. Mr. Lee had put the envelope in my hand, behind my back and then, unable to stand it, I had broken away, into woods where soldiers wouldn’t dare follow. A futile cry of halt, Mr. Lee’s voice calling my name, my own footsteps crunching through the snow as the darkness had welcomed me.

It suddenly struck me how hard my heart was throbbing. I hadn’t run like that since- it was bizarre in that moment to have a flash back to childhood. I could see Christy now- his hair flopping and damp on his forehead as he leapt after me. The sunlight and green, tender yet prickly grass… me laughing and gasping as my hands smashed against a tree-

My hand did collide with a tree, jerking me into the present again. A strange foreshadowing that had been. For it was true again, in some ways. Details changed- no sun, no laughter now. But Christy behind me, somewhere, threatening my victory. And me determined as I’d always been- to win.

xx this isn't inspired by world current events, although it probably would be more worthwhile to address those. anyways, it's inspired by (heartlessly enough) an accident scene earlier tonight that detoured us on the way home. the streetlights gave everything this extra, harsh drama, and then on the other side was that narrow-eyed moon. i transported, what can I say, and words started forming- so this happened xx

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

// untitled //

via pinterest
She stood still, frozen by the warmth of his nearness. She stared a desperate plea into the placid eyes of the painting she faced. Her thoughts darted to the statues in the next gallery and she envied them. Standing in elegant attitudes, sculpted in cool marble- what if they, too, were struck with the sudden breath of a certain cologne, or the way the air shifts and strokes you with a phantom touch when someone moves close by? As her heartbeat called her attention back, her last thought was that the graven images in the next room would surely fracture and melt if they were, like the living beings they represented, cursed with the blessing of sensation.  
He still stood, off to one side and just behind her, She didn’t know what to do- she felt as a bird must feel when it flies, all blithe and unsuspicious, into a closed area and cannot find a window again. He made no sign that he had ever noticed her, not now or ever before, in the hallways and class rooms they shared. She’d noticed him all right- fallen hopelessly and foolishly for his calm, sphinx-like face and dark, vaguely sardonic eyes observing the world from behind horn-rimmed glasses. For the way he held his pen, gracefully, as though it were the natural extension of his long, strongly veined hand as it carved firm script across the page. For the way his voice, quiet and self-assured, answered questions the other boys simply gaped at. Most of all for the time she’d seen him, curled knees to chest with a book (one she knew wasn’t for class, a book of old poems about Kind Arthur) balanced in one hand, and a cup of tea in the other. No, she hated him- almost- she hated herself for loving him, more. 
She was still outwardly studying the painting, but in her minds eye was only his slim form, in his coat and button down shirt. He was in her blind spot but she didn’t need sight to know, in detail, everything about his unwelcome? or was it welcome? presence. She thought sure he should be in class at this hour. She herself needed to be back in 15 minutes and it would take 10 minutes at a brisk walk 
Darn him! She thought half heartedly, knowing full well that this was not his fault, but hers alone. Was it really so hard to just turn and walk by him? Even- imagine- smile at him? The insistence of her own anxiety that any movement would make her stand out like a painted elephant, make her look like a fool, was nonsense and her rational mind knew it. Unfortunately, her mind wasn’t cooperating with itself. 
It struck her that she would most likely be late for class now, and have to face that conspicuous shame on top of the trial she was currently undergoing. Betwixt Scylla and Charybdis, she thought ruefully. She shut her eyes, trying to find a moment of courage. Now or never, she steeled herself and turned, flipping her long hair over her shoulder and facing him to find him turning at the same time. Their eyes met. Against her own realism she thought his face flickered, even show a trace of recognition, or something like it. Her courage failed her and she ducked her head, clutched her pocketbook and hurried away. 
He stood frozen, shocked by the sudden appearance and absence of her. He had seen her, maybe, knew her as a vague form from his familiar life. But never noticed her, really noticed her- until now. His thoughts spiraled as he trailed, hands in pockets, in the same direction she had gone. He, too, had a class to make. He had only come here for a moment of reflection and relaxation, something he did often and always with success. Until today, that is. 
The walk passed without his realizing and as he entered the building he was startled to see her again, slipping with a guilty movement into a class room, heavy book bag in hand. His heart quickened. In that moment it seemed he should have known she was there all along, that they should have been together somehow. Regardless, he knew now. And they would, they must, be together at last.
(what even is this) (I should have written in first person? I guess?) (I really don't know) (at least I posted) (bye)