Literature, Uncategorized

Bookshelf Tour: Journeys to Fayrah by Bill Myers

In case you haven’t quite caught it, we read a lot around here. Lately, I’ve been introducing my kids to Bill Myers’ Fayrah series (co-creator of McGee &Me, if you remember that series). It’s been a favorite of mine for a long time. The stories are fun and provide lots of opportunity to talk to your kids about spiritual concepts (or to be reminded of them for yourself!). Three main characters (Denise, Nathan, and Joshua) are transported to an alternate world in an alternate dimension so they can learn about Imager (similar to Narnia).

I really love how Myers uses analogy to talk about spiritual concepts. I could talk about each of the characters and their growth, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on Denise. For example, in book two, The Experiment, Denise is struggling with Imager’s love–in large part because her father left her at an early age. The Fayrahnians take her to a machine that’s been infused with Imager’s breath and is able to create life in this miniature world. She’s instructed to create some beings so she can experience Imager’s love for His creature and then left alone. She creates two cute little humanoid creatures and in the end, sacrifices herself to save them. She learns experientially that God loves her because He made her. She also has some interesting revelations with the creatures putting themselves in situations where they’re unable to hear her.

Another little fun analogy he has going throughout the series is the water in Fayrah–it’s made up of Imager’s words. For humans (upside-downers), it’s the only way to be able to see or hear anything correctly. Denise, Nathan, and Joshua all have to pour the water in their ears and eyes to be able to function.

In The Whirlwind, Myers describes the feeling of being re-breathed (saved) thus: “Immediately, [Denise] was struck with a feeling of lightness. First it started in her head. it felt as if a heavy darkness were being drained from it. All of the confusion and muddled thinking that had plagued her mind as far back as she could remember was suddenly being drawn away…Next she felt her neck and shoulders start to grow light. A heaviness was being drained from them and out her feet into the pool. As the weight slipped away, she noticed her fears were also slipping away. Fears that she wasn’t loved. Fears that no one cared, that she really was on her own. Now, suddenly all those fears began to drain away…Next Denise felt the darkness leave her chest. Gradually, all the guilt over all the wrongs she had done was drained away. It felt as if a giant weight were removed. For the first time in her life, she felt like she could breathe. Really Breathe.”

It was a lot of fun to read Denise and Nathan’s conversion experiences and to remember my own. Sometimes, in the bustle of life, it’s easy to forget what things were like pre-Jesus. My life was pretty rotten. I definitely lived in fear, despair, shame, guilt, etc., etc. Reading this section to my kids reminded me that, as Christians, we really don’t have anything to worry about. Our sin is redeemed–taken away and the consequences are transformed. We’re loved–so loved that God died for us. As Romans 8:32 puts it, how will he not also along with this graciously give us all things? The God who sacrificed Himself for us and owns everything isn’t going to grudge us food to eat or a place to live–He provides for us abundantly and joyfully (Matt. 6:25-34).

I also really love at the end of The Whirlwind where Denise is put in a situation where the accuser is reminding her of everything she’s ever done wrong and it’s up to her to hang onto what’s true. So hard to do in real life!

If you’ve never read them, they’re definitely worth checking out!

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Literature

Bookshelf Tour-A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I feel like I should probably just make a blanket statement that the vast majority of the books on my bookshelf are ones that I adore. I’ll try to keep the raptures to a minimum though.

A Little Princess was the first chapter book that I ever read by myself (at least that I remember), and I still love it. Not only is the writing brilliant, but the themes are amazing.

If you’re not familiar with the book, it tells the story of Sara Crewe. Her mother dies at a young age, so she’s raised by her father in India. He’s a captain in the British army. At age seven, he takes her to a boarding in school in England–Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies, run by Miss Minchin and her sister, Miss Amelia. She’s the star pupil there–being a girl who loves to learn and being an heiress–so Miss Minchin treats her well. Sara befriends a couple of the school outcasts, including the school maid. She has quite an imagination, so she makes up stories which she then tells to the other pupils. She also uses her imagination to make history come alive for Ermengarde, one of the outcasts that she is friends with. She also uses her imagination to pretend that she’s a princess, and she tries to act like she believes a good princess would. Things are good for her–other than the fact that she desperately misses her father.

And then one day everything falls apart. Her father’s best friend convinced him to invest in diamond mines and then ran away–leaving her father penniless. Her father had been sick at the time and the news was the final blow. He dies, believing that he and his darling daughter are ruined.

When Miss Minchin hears the news, she’s furious. She’s never particularly liked Sara for various reasons and has made a significant outlay of cash for Sara’s special maid and Sara’s birthday party, etc., etc. So, she responds by giving Sara the “kindness” of making her a maid. She takes everything Sara owns other than a single outfit and the doll her father bought her to try to pay off some of her debts. She moves Sara into the attic where there’s no heat. Sara is worked to the bone and miserable and hungry most of the time.

Sara responds by using her imagination to pretend that she’s a prisoner in the Bastille or other similar situations. Throughout it all, she continues to try to treat others like she’s a princess. For instance, one day when she’s starving, she finds a fourpenny. She goes into a bakery to buy herself something to eat (six buns), but instead of eating all of them, she gives five of them away to a beggar girl who appears to be hungrier than her because every good princess should give largesse to the populace.

In the end, it turns out that the diamond mines weren’t a failure, and Sara is given someone to love and be loved by and returned to her former richness. But she’s been tested and tried.

I love how this story talks about perspective. Sara is able to turn the most awful circumstances into an adventure merely because she chooses that perspective. It’s a lesson that I have tried to apply to my own life since I read this book. We all have a choice. We can choose if we’re going to be kind to others or not. We can choose to sacrifice for others or not. It’s all based on what kind of people we want to be and how we see our circumstances. Because Sara wanted to be like a princess, she chooses to be kind and sacrificial even when her circumstances are brutal.

Movies

Bookshelf Tour: Speed Racer (the movie)

So, I was thinking books when I said “bookshelf tour,” but well, maybe I should have named it “story tour” because there a movies that are just as important to me as books. As I’ve mentioned, Speed Racer is one of my soul’s “chiropractic adjustments.” Most people we’ve shared that movie with just don’t get it, but I love it! Fortunately, our kids do get it 🙂

Okay, so for starters, lots of people can’t get over the cinematography. The film was done by the Wachowskis (they also did the Matrix if you’re not familiar with them) in 2008, and they really worked to keep the cartoon feel for people who loved the old cartoon Speed Racer. So, the colors are really bright, and there are some camera shots where you see multiple events happening on-screen at once. It can be a lot. But, once you let go of all that (if you dislike it–I personally thought their story-telling methods were really interesting), it’s easy to see there are some incredible themes.

*SPOILER ALERT*

The way they handle family is so beautiful. After a fight, Pops Racer becomes estranged from his son Rex, who dies in a car accident without ever reconciling. In the beginning Pops believes he lost Rex in the car accident, but later, when his son Speed is in the same situation, he realizes that he lost Rex to the fight because he “let him think a stupid motor company was more important” and he–dah duh dah!–changes. I can’t tell you how beautiful that is to me. He handles the same situation with Speed very differently.

You also see how important family is to all of them throughout the film. They really stick together and encourage each other, despite being aware of each other’s faults.

I absolutely love the way they talk about calling. In the movie, Speed participates in a race in order to try to bring down one of the race fixers. At the time, however, his father doesn’t support him. Mr. Racer tells him “You think you can drive a car and change the world? It doesn’t work that way!” When winning the race doesn’t have the results Speed hoped for, he’s discouraged and upset. Racer X then talks to him about why they race. He says, “You don’t get into a T-180 to become a driver–you do it because you’re driven.” I love that statement. I can’t tell you the number of times I tell myself that. We don’t do what God calls us to do so that we can become a certain kind of person. We do it because we’re driven, because there’s something in our souls that just can’t leave things the way they are. Anyway! At the end of the movie, after Speed wins the last race, the race commentator says “It’s a whole new world!” Basically, the point driven home is that Speed was able to change the world simply by driving a car.

Speed also struggles with why he should keep driving when he finds out that the vast majority of the racing industry has nothing to do with cars or racing, but instead with money and power. He tells his girlfriend, Trixie, that when he’s driving “everything just makes sense.” Throughout the movie, you learn that Speed has been obsessed with driving pretty much since he was born (arguing it’s in his blood). And his mother gives him this beautiful pep talk about how what he does is art, not business. In the end, he drives because it’s part of who he is–not because of what he can get from it. I don’t know about you, but I need that reminder. I need to be told that do flows out of be. I need to be reminded that I mother/teach/write/etc. because of who I am, not in order to try to reach a certain outcome.

On the other hand, I love being reminded that simply by being the person God created me to be God can use me to create “a whole new world.” That my calling isn’t a waste of time even on the days when it feels like it is. And the way that Racer X talks about the world–“it doesn’t matter if racing never changes. What matters is if we let racing change us”–is another reminder for me not to hang my hat on results. Just like Paul talks about it Galatians where he says “what matters is new creation,” what matters in the here and now is who we are–not what we accomplish. God’s the one who accomplishes things. It’s our job to just be who we’re supposed to be (and to act on that–e.g., to actually participate in races if that’s our calling) and God does whatever He’s going to do through all that. Such a comforting thought!

So that’s why we watch Speed Racer. There are some years where we watch it a LOT if our life choices get called into question. For us, watching Speed Racer is a call to “hold the line!” even when there are no results and friends/family members think we’re crazy for doing the things we believe God has called us to do.