He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

I went to see The Dark Knight Rises last night with Peter and a friend. As we took our seats in the dimly-lit theatre, I had a moment of fear. What if? What if someone here decides to emulate the horrific crime in Aurora, Colorado? Where would I hide? What would I do? Maybe I shouldn’t have come.

I told myself that, logically, I would not be shot in a movie theatre that night. This is a small town, a safe neighbourhood where I don’t worry if I forget to lock my doors, where I leave my bike unattended, where strangers greet each other as they pass in the street. Many people in the movie theatre knew each other.

Yet, logically, every person in the theatre in Aurora should have been safe too. The tragedy – and the fear – comes from that very fact. Watching a movie is not a dangerous act. I take a greater risk of my life when I get into a car or jaywalk. The fear I felt came from the fact that I was doing something that should have been safe. And it was. I watched the movie, I enjoyed it, we came home.

I was in grade eight, a high school student, when the Columbine High shooting occurred in 1999. I went to school that day and the next and never thought to be afraid. Even after bomb threats occurred at my own school. I was in my fourth year of university when the Virginia Tech shooting occurred. I went back to school without fear. I’ve always been able to watch tragedies occur and yet never really worry about them happening to me. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. Sometimes I’ve told myself that I live in Canada where we have stricter gun laws and things like that don’t happen. But that isn’t true either. There have been high school shootings here and there have been university shootings. One of the worst shootings in Vancouver took place a few blocks from where I used to live.

Perhaps, as I get older and I understand the world more, I know that there is more to fear around me. I’ve seen more death, both personally and in the world around me. I know that I won’t live forever. I know that we live in a dangerous world. To a certain extent, I understand that I could die any day, anywhere. I don’t think about that very often but it is, of course, true. I could be hit by a car. I could be diagnosed with a fatal disease. I could be shot while going about my normal life. We live in a sinful world where horrible things happen and I can’t say that I always understand why.

I suppose the bottom line is that I don’t want to live a life ruled by fear. I don’t want my actions to be dictated by madmen.Yes, we live in a sinful and dangerous world but I believe in a mighty God. In the words of that old Sunday School song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” I am in His hands, whether I live or die. I don’t understand the nature of evil or why one person would wish to take the lives of strangers watching a movie. I hope I never understand that. I do believe that this life is temporary and only a shadow compared to what will come.

If you choose not to watch The Dark Knight Rises I respect that choice too and I understand why. It’s not my intention to be controversial or disrespectful in this post but merely to share my thoughts and my fears and how I try to cope with those fears.

Some Recent Adventures

 

 

 

 

It’s been a busy week or so. Here’s some stuff that happened.

A snail hitched a ride on our car. (2 points if you can tell where we were when this picture was taken.)

We watched the rain over Nanaimo from Roberts Creek pier.

We got some rain too but it came with an amazing rainbow. (In fact, if you look closely, you might be able to spot the double rainbow!)

We wandered through lower Gibsons.

We camped on Keats Island.

There were some slugs.

Our drinking water tasted like camp fire.

It was a good week.

Art and Christianity – some book recommendations

Following my last post, I thought I’d mention some books that I like that deal with spirituality/faith in a real manner. Some of them are Christian authors, some are definitely not. I don’t necessarily agree with the opinions put forth in all of these novels but I think each one is well-written and honest.

Les Miserables, Victor Hugo

The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky

Life After God, Douglas Coupland

The Kreutzer Sonata, Leo Tolstoy

The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis (especially The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Last Battle)

Also, C.S. Lewis’ science fiction trilogy – in particular Voyage to Venus

The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (Read more of my thoughts on Jane here.)

several of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories

My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok (A terrific look at art and faith, from a Jewish perspective.)

The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver

I know I’m missing titles, either because I’ve forgotten them or I haven’t read them. What would you add to this list?

The Controversy of Christian Art

Converge Magazine, a Vancouver-based Christian magazine, currently has a series about Christian art. I find this fascinating as it brings up numerous questions – about art, about faith, and about myself.

I’m a writer. I’m a Christian.

When I tell people I’m a writer they often ask what I write about. If I say that I write fiction, they generally press for more. I understand why people ask this – I would probably ask the same – but I kind of hate the question.There’s a quote I once heard/read to the effect that you can only find out what a story is about by reading it. (I want to say the quote is by Flannery O’Connor or Alice Munro but I can’t find it anywhere. If you know this quote, please tell me because it’s really bugging me now!)

In the past year, since I’ve begun really devoting myself to this writing thing, I’ve started giving people the full answer. I want to write fiction that is about faith and Christian and real people and that isn’t for Christians. I want to write fiction about Christianity that non-Christians might want to read.

I have two strong opinions about Christian fiction today:

1) It doesn’t match up to the standard of good literature.

2) There’s no reason a non-Christian would ever read current Christian fiction.

I realize these are very broad generalizations. Feel free to disagree with me. Feel free to recommend your favourite Christian novel to me. I might read it and I might like it. I don’t generally read Christian fiction because what I have read, I haven’t enjoyed. I don’t find that it’s as well-written or compelling as so much other fiction out there. I have a personally policy that life is too short to read bad books. This includes books with bad content and books that are badly written.

As Christians, why do we support art that isn’t very good, simply because it’s Christian? Why do we sit in our “Christian culture” bubble and pat each other on the back and create so-called art that has no meaning to the world at large?

When I was in my first year at university I read a Christian novel (that will remain nameless) about a young Christian girl who was in her first year in university. Her problems were nothing like mine, her relationships were nothing like mine. In fact, she was such a “good Christian girl” that the book made me feel terrible about my own spiritual struggles. The message I got from that novel was that Christians don’t struggle with doubt or fear or anxiety. Through my own life experiences and the experiences of my friends I know flat-out that isn’t true.

My desire through my own writing is to express the real, honest, heartbreaking struggles of faith. I don’t wake up every morning praising God. I wish I did. I don’t sit down with my Bible every day, delighted to read God’s word. Sometimes I sit down with my Bible, begrudgingly because I think I should. Sometimes I let my Bible gather dust on my bedside table. I don’t praise God when sorrow comes into my life. I have wept and raged at the Lord and told Him over and over again that I don’t understand what He’s doing.

I am a sinner. I am unkind to my friends. I am not patient with my husband. I get annoyed with people in grocery stores. I hold grudges against people. I am also a Christian. I’m a Christian because of the amazing redemption of Jesus Christ, not because I am at all a good person.

I think what’s amazing about art – be it music or sculpture or poetry – is its power for honesty, its ability to reveal that which is deepest and most hidden inside of us. Art has the power to rip you apart, to tell you something about yourself that you didn’t know before. Good art takes your breath away. It expresses something that you were previously unable to express. It leaves you thinking, “I didn’t know anyone else felt that way.” Most Christian fiction has left me thinking, “Christians sure are self-righteous. I guess no other Christians struggle with the things I struggle with.” (Or it leaves me thinking, “I wish I could edit this book.”) Fortunately, I’ve been blessed over my life with amazing Christian communities and friends who are honest and open and vulnerable and so I know that I am not alone.

Let’s use art to show the world who we really are. Let’s use art to say, “We Christians are flawed and terrible and we have doubts and sometimes we pray and it feels like we’re speaking in an empty room.” Let’s use art to say, “The room isn’t empty. Jesus loves me. And He loves you too.” Let’s use art to say, “The church is a place for terrible people.”

This is something I’m passionate about and something I’d like to explore more. I’m definitely still learning how to act this all out and how to create art that is both enjoyable and that honours God. I believe (though sometimes I forget) that any gift I might have was given to me by the God who created me and so I have to use it to the best of my ability. God created a beautiful world and He wants us to create beautiful things – whether that’s a painting or a perfectly crafted sentence.

A Phone Conversation Last Night

Me: (answering the phone) Hello, Karissa speaking.

Guy calling on the phone: Hello, can I speak to your parent, please?

(Okay, so that’s a little odd but we are housesitting and I think perhaps he’s looking for the folks who actually live here and he thinks I’m their daughter. They don’t have a daughter but never mind that. He  has a bit of a telemarketer vibe to him though so I try to get more information.)

Me: Who are you looking for?

Phone guy: (He stumbles over this a little, not wanting to tell me who he is or why he’s calling.) Oh, well, I’d just, I’d like to speak to your mother or your father. Could you get one your parents please?

(There is a long pause here as I think of what to say to him. My mother and father do not live with me. They live in a different city. It has been many years since I lived with my parents.)

Me: Um, I’m an adult.

Awkward, awkward pause.

I declined his offer to complete a survey.

Of course, Peter is in the kitchen with me while I’m having this conversation and cannot stop laughing when I tell him a telemarketer thought I was a child. I guess I do have a young voice but that’s still not something that’s happened to me in a long time. And as someone who’s had to call people for various jobs, you never ever assume that you are talking to an adult/child/man/woman/whatever.

Also, in phone news, yesterday I received a wrong number call from someone looking for “The Hawk.” He left a message on my phone, even though I clearly state my name and don’t use the words “The Hawk” at all.

So which is it? Do I sound like a child or do I sound like someone who might have the nickname “The Hawk”?

My Week in Review

Let’s recap the last few days…They’ve been goood ones (Yes, so good it deserves an extra ‘o’!)

Wednesday

Farmers Market Day in Roberts Creek. Lots of fresh, local produce. Preserves, honey, baked goods, even goat cheese. Yum.

We came home with fresh kale and beets. We made kale chips for the first time – pretty good but I think I’ll tweak the recipe a bit next time. Anybody out there got a foolproof one? The beets included surprisingly sweet leaves. Don’t you love when things that are good for you also taste delicious?

Thursday

Our first trip out in the boat this summer with Peter’s parents. (My first trip in their boat ever, actually.) The water was surprisingly calm. We buzzed along the shore and out to the White Islands.

Pulling away from the boat launch.

Amazing skies over the White Islands.

And of course, any sunny day includes a swim in the ocean. Picture not included because, well, I was swimming.

Peter’s brother and his wife visited over the weekend and any family get together involves food. We joke amongst ourselves that as a family we are either eating or discussing what we’ll eat next. This weekend was no exception and crab was on the menu.

Thursday afternoon Pete and I rowed out in this little boat to check the crab traps. I grew up with rowboats but on lakes, not the ocean, and I had perhaps an overly romantic expectation of this rowboat trip. Let’s just say Peter + me + this little boat + a bucket of crabs was a little overcrowded.

Friday

Photo Credit: Friendly Stranger

I have to say that I am incredibly thankful that I genuinely like everyone of my in-laws, whether they earned that title through my own marriage or someone else’s. I know I’m blessed to be related to so many awesome people.

Friday we visited the bustling downtown of Sechelt! Along with food, our family really enjoys thrifting. We made some excellent finds (I’ll have to devote a separate blog entry to what I’ve brought home since moving here.) Then a long walk through the park with the dogs and an Amazing (so good it deserves a capital letter) meal of steak and crab. (It’s easy to love in-laws who feed you so well!) Oh, and of course there was swimming in the middle there too, made even better by the re-entry of the raft into the water.

Saturday

Spectacular weather all weekend but Saturday was really the pinnacle, heat-wise. And I love the heat.

Saturday is market day in Sechelt so we started there after breakfast.

There is produce and food at this market but also much more. Pottery, clothing, jewellry, paintings and who knows what else. Every Saturday they shut down part of the main street and its filled with this market.

Then a jaunt to Davis Bay for a stroll along the pier.

Spent most of my afternoon right here:

I’m currently reading The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon. I’ll let you know what I think when I’m finished but at the moment it’s safe to say I’m enjoying it a lot.

When it got too hot (and when the Lions vs. Roughriders game ended) we went swimming. And in the evening we capped it all off with a hot dog roast on the beach with friends.

An evening swim followed by rhubarb and raspberry pie (picked from my in-laws garden and made by my father-in-law) finished it off.

In case at this point you’re thinking, Isn’t Karissa in Canada? Why is she doing all this swimming in the ocean? Is she crazy? Let me explain. I’m not someone who thrives off of being uncomfortable. I’ve never done a polar bear swim and have no real desire to do such a thing. Like I said, I enjoy the heat. I do really like to swim though and it has been quite hot here. The key here though is that we are swimming in an inlet, not the open ocean. We’re across from Vancouver Island (basically Nanaimo) and the water is generally a few degrees warmer here than other spots. I have swum in the open ocean in Tofino and I wore a wetsuit because it is a lot colder there. Also, I don’t like to back out of things, so if I put my swimsuit on and head down to the beach I am darn well going swimming, no matter what my body thinks when I dip my toes in!

Sunday

The weather dipped a little, temperature-wise, on Sunday and our weekend visitors were heading home so it was a quieter day. In the afternoon we went for a walk past the powerlines and to Chapman Creek.

Makes your skin tingle a bit.

Speaking of cold swimming, I’ve swum in this creek and it is colder than the ocean.

Photo Credit: Mike

And one of me and Peter by Chapman.

Oh, and I almost forgot about this local phenomenon:

That’s a forest car. My husband claims this is a “thing” that people do. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of it outside of the Coast here. Apparently people will drive old cars into the forest and leave them there. I guess it’s cheaper than disposing of them properly? This one is slowly being reclaimed by the land.

And that, friends, has been my week! How has yours been?

A Life Anniversary

In my explorations yesterday I followed a little walking path that pops up randomly along Beach Avenue. The sign next to it says No Beach Access, which left me wondering where it could possibly go. (It seems around here, sooner or later, you always end up at the beach.) But the path went here:

A lovely little spot. The strange thing though was that directly behind me as I took this picture were two houses. And one house’s front yard connected right into this area. So I’m not entirely sure that I didn’t have a lovely sit down on someone’s private bench in their yard.

Also yesterday:

…fetching sticks at the beach

…naps in the sunny spot by the window.

Now, lest you think life on the Coast is all sunny days at the beach and walking dogs in beautiful parks, I thought I’d share two negatives about living here. The first is that our grocery bill has definitely gone up. Food is more expensive here than it is in Chilliwack. (Sadly, so is gas.) That does make sense since Chilliwack is farm country and a lot of food is grown right there whereas on the Sunshine Coast you have to ship it over on a ferry. The odd thing though is that it seems much easier to get local, B.C. produce here on the coast than it was in Chilliwack. Now that may be because we were never in Chilliwack during the prime produce season but it always surprised me that grocery stores there never seemed to carry local produce.

The other downfall of the coast is in a statistic I recently read. Only 7% of the population on the Sunshine Coast is in their 20s. This is a community of young families and retirees, not quite the stage of life that Peter and I are in. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing either. We may simply have to broaden our friendship horizons.

In other news, last week a special anniversary of mine passed.  Ten years ago, in July 2002, I had an encounter that changed my life and set me in a new direction. Although I grew up in a Christian home and went to a Christian school for several years, it was in a dorm room in Wuhan, China, at the age of sixteen that I first knew, without a doubt, that God is real and that He loves me.

That was a foundational moment in my life. I heard a sermon once that refers to those moments as “Ezekiel moments”, based on Ezekiel’s encounter with God in Ezekial 1.

And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” And as He spoke to me the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard Him speaking to me. (Ezekiel 1:1-2)

Ezekiel’s experience was dramatic, a vision of strange creatures, and from there he was sent out to the incredibly difficult task of being a prophet to the nation of Israel. His life would be hard but he would stick to the task because he had experienced God. Nothing that came after in his life would ever be able to convince Ezekiel that God was not real.

Peter actually preached about this on Sunday and so we talked about it a lot last week. I think this is something God does for us – He did it for Moses with the burning bush, for Paul on the road to Damascus. I think there were maybe quieter moments when He created foundational moments for others – Rahab, perhaps, as she welcomed the spies into her house. Simon Peter when he dropped his net and followed Jesus. Something changed for him in that instant so that later he says truthfully to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed , and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”(John 6:68-69). Peter’s life was changed and he knows that he can’t return to his former life.

My moment was not as dramatic as Ezekiel’s or Paul’s. It’s hard to explain; it’s heart knowledge, not head knowledge. I’m sure that I could tell people and they would try and explain it away without God. The thing is though, once you have that “Ezekiel moment”, once the knowledge of God gets into your heart, nothing can explain it away. I know that God is real because I know that He was there with me in that room. Any moment in the last ten years when I’ve been tempted to doubt His existence, I recall that day and I know. It didn’t matter how much head knowledge I had before that, it was an encounter with our living God to bring me to my knees. I’ve been different since that day. I’ve lived my life differently. I’m still a flawed and sinful person and change comes slow and hard but I see my life from a different perspective, as one saved by Jesus Christ.

God is good. All the time.

 

Perfect Days

We’ve had a couple of pretty amazing days in a row here. The weather has been sunny and warm without being uncomfortably hot and we currently live in one of the most beautiful spots in the world. I feel very blessed.

Check this out…it’s a beach just a couple of blocks from where we’re staying.

It reminded me of the beaches in Victoria, near Dallas Road, except we had this one all to ourselves, along with a couple of very excited dogs.

Yesterday, Peter and I hiked Mt. Soames, a hill in Gibsons. A pretty quick trip up a lot of stairs and a spectacular view to reward us.

That’s a view of Gibsons harbour, by the way.

Keats Island on the left and Gibsons on the right.

From Mt. Soames, we headed into town with a stop at a thrift store. Actually, we drove by the store as Peter said to me, “Want to go to that thrift store?” So he pulled a quick turn-around and we visited. Definitely worth it. I snagged a hardcover Michael Chabon book for $2 and an apple peeler/corer for $3. Tried it today and it works perfectly! I think Peter is a little afraid that he’ll come home to find all our apples peeled and cut up in neat little circles.

Our afternoon was spent on the beach in Sechelt and a swim in the ocean. Some sand fortress building and log floating and coffee breaks that last for hours and turn into beer breaks. To crown it all, we barbequed for dinner. (Peter and I have never had a barbeque so this opens up a whole new world of cooking.)

And this wasn’t us, but it will be soon, I hope!

Today was a little quieter but with equal amounts of sunshine, plus this waterfall.

Life is good.

Book Review – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Yesterday, reading Jane Eyre

With a little bit of this…

Jane Eyre is one of those novels that I’m surprised I got through high school and university without reading. In truth, I did my best to avoid it. I lumped it in with Jane Austen and Wuthering Heights and didn’t have much desire to read it. Yes, I’m confessing here and now that I don’t like Jane Austen’s writing. For whatever reason, I find that if you’re a young woman and you profess to enjoy literature, society in general assumes you love Jane Austen. Pay attention to any romance/romantic comedy – if the main female character is a journalist or any sort of academic, there’s a good chance she will tell someone her favourite book is Pride and Prejudice. But it isn’t just my own stubbornness that prevents me from enjoying Jane Austen. I really feel that her writing is the 19th century equivalent to Nora Roberts or whatever popular romantic author is out there right now. I’ve never read Nora Roberts so the comparison may not be accurate but my point is it’s fluff writing. I’ve never read a Jane Austen book and felt I had anything in common with any of the characters. I read Emma in high school and was frustrated by the predictability of all of her actions. I partly chalked it up to the vast changes in the world in the last 200 years but what surprised me is that I really enjoyed Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre is a romance and it verges on the sentimental at times but in a way that felt real to me. One of the issues I’ve had with romances like that of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy was that their relationship doesn’t seem real and I have trouble believing in love between two people who hardly know each other. The love that develops between Jane and Mr. Rochester felt authentic to me. It grew out of a working relationship and then a friendship. They weren’t blinded to each other’s flaws but instead loved the flaws that made their loved one unique. Their moments of intimate conversation were authentic and passionate.

The novel surprised me too in how modern it was. Dare I say that Jane Eyre is a feminist? Maybe not by the standards we now have for such a term but she demands the best for herself. She refuses twice to involve herself in unequal relationships where a man could lord over her. She decides to live independently and in potential poverty rather than be supported by a man. She is smart, capable, educated, and kind. She’s practical but also romantic. She holds fast to her principles, even when they keep her from what her heart wants most in that moment. If I ever have a daughter, I kind of want her to be like Jane Eyre.

I loved this quote:

I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad – as I am now. Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation:they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what could be their worth…Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations are all I have at this hour to stand by; there I plant my foot.

I think that’s a pretty amazing expression of a moment when you can decide between following what you know to be right and what you want. Here Jane knows what the right decision is to make but she does not want to make it. Her whole life has been lived according to certain principles but if she doesn’t hold to them in the face of temptation, all the years she previously spent following them would be worthless.Throughout the novel we see Jane’s moral and spiritual development under the influences of Mrs. Reed, Helen Burns, Miss Temple and others and each of those lessons and experiences climax here, at this moment when she has to decide her future.

Clearly, Jane Eyre doesn’t need my recommendation; it’s been around a long time and it will last a lot longer. But if you’re like me and dislike the typical Victorian romances, try Charlotte Bronte and see if you don’t like her more than some of her counterparts.

In other news, I explored my new neighbourhood yesterday afternoon.

Yeah, it’s awesome.

Hey there, Pacific Ocean! Gosh, you’re pretty.

Also, isn’t this a cool gate idea? It’s full of books!

One last note – the copy of Jane Eyre I read was a gorgeous little leather-bound Collins, which I purchased at a very cool bookstore in Chilliwack called Spirit & Nature books. It’s worth checking out. It looks like this:

Okay, just one more beach picture.

Happy Wednesday all!

Happy Birthday Canada!

I’m here, on the Sunshine Coast, looking out on the ocean and listening to the rain. I love it. Peter and I start our house-sitting gig tonight. I’m so happy to be here. Many adventures to come, I hope.

After a long and busy day of moving on Saturday, it was great to relax and celebrate and see friends yesterday on Canada Day. (Huge thanks to Carl, Tanya, and Brent for helping us move, as well as my awesome in-laws!)

It wasn’t sunny for the parade yesterday but it didn’t rain. This was my 2nd Sechelt Canada Day Parade. It begins with locals kids riding their bikes, decorated with flags and red and white streamers. Kids on tricycles are flagged by jogging dads.

Then the classic cars, drivers and passengers honking and waving. It’s a small town so the waves are often directed at friends and acquaintances, with people calling out hellos to each other.

An overhead visitors buzzes the tower.

I know not everyone loves bagpipes but I really do. When they’re played well, at least, I think they’re a powerful instrument. I’m just Scottish enough for that, I guess.

And, of course, the Mounties.

Then the floats begin. Here are a couple I got pictures of:

There were a few references to the queen this year, due to her recent anniversary, no doubt. Here she is with a Mountie and a couer-du-bois and a dog (this was the pet store’s float).

And the parade finishes with the emergency vehicles.

I am proud and thankful to live in Canada. I’m very aware that life is easier and better for me in many ways, simply because of my citizenship. I’ve travelled to a few different countries and many are beautiful and fascinating and amazing but I’m always happy to come home and I’m always proud to introduce myself as a Canadian. We’re a huge and patchwork-style type of country and what it means to be Canadian might vary from province to province but that’s part of what makes our country special too. Even though I wasn’t born in Canada, I’ve always been a citizen, due to my Canadian parents. It’s good to remember not to take that citizenship for granted. Although our country has many flaws and we are not always the polite lumberjacks we may pretend to be, we are fortunate to call this place home. I felt more thankful than ever yesterday when I woke up, rolled over, and looked out on the ocean. Home and Canada might look different for someone from Manitoba, Quebec, or the Northwest Territories, but for me it looks like cedars and firs on a rocky ocean shore.