Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Discipline of Health

What is the purpose of food? Biologically, it's to feed and nourish our bodies, right? Because God is gracious that way, He made eating enjoyable, since it's something we've got to do to survive. I think we've got it a bit switched around now, at least here in America. These junk "food" items are not fulfilling their primary purpose at all, they are almost completely contrary to fueling and maintaining our bodies, but they are fulfilling the secondary purpose of enjoyment, while we slowly kill ourselves with unhealthful choices.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this topic in Discipline: The Glad Surrender  by Elisabeth Elliot. In chapter 7, "Discipline of the Body" she says this regarding food:

"A body needs food. Food is a question of discipline for us who line in very rich, very civilized, very self-indulgent countries. For those who have not the vast array of choices we have, food is a fundamental matter of subsistence and not a major hindrance to holiness."

"Christians ought to watch what they eat. I do not refer here only to overeating, which is a bad thing, but to eating the wrong things. Too many sweets, too many rich things, too much junk."

"In ancient Jewish times a stubborn son who was a glutton and a drunkard was stoned to death. Gluttony, one of the more obvious modern sins, is generally tacitly accepted. Little is said about it from the pulpit. It is too embarrassing; it gets down too close to where the people, often including the preacher, live." 

"Hindrance to holiness"? "Gluttony" a modern sin? What is gluttony anyway?

That chapter inspired and motivated me to write on this topic that I've been pondering for a while. Let's start with defining gluttony. What do you think of when you come across that word? I can only recall coming across it in the Bible a couple of times, I've certainly not heard it preached on, as Elisabeth Elliot pointed out, it's rarely mentioned.

In the Bible, gluttony is often referenced with drunkenness, as like in the case of the stubborn Jewish son who would have been stoned for such sins.

20 Be not among drunkards
    or among gluttonous eaters of meat,
21 for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
    and slumber will clothe them with rags.
-Proverbs 23:20-21

"‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’" was wrongfully said of our Lord in Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34 by the religious hypocrites. (Of course, we know that was a false accusation because Jesus didn't sin.)
So, if a drunkard is someone who drinks excessive alcohol, lacking self-control and contrary to the health of his body, I believe gluttony can actually encompass a lot more than just overeating, which is the vague notion I used to have about gluttony.

My working definition of gluttony is this: any consumption of food that is unnecessary and/or contrary to my health.

That means I might be eating the healthiest meal ever, but if I eat more than my body needs for fuel and sustenance, then I'm eating gluttonously.

It also means that I might want to eat something I know is unhealthy for me, but I want to eat it because it tastes good, that's also gluttonous. 

As Elisabeth Elliot said, gluttony tends to be tacitly accepted. Christians tend to brush aside and ignore the sinfulness gluttony. Many of these same Christians may suffer from diseases like cancer or diabetes, or any other health condition caused by unhealthy food choices, and then they will likely say that God sent them this health trial. I've seen it many times, and it always frustrates and saddens me.

I know it's not a popular position, but I dare to say that the diseases that plague our country are the consequences of our sinful eating choices. If you fill your body with foods that God did not intend for us to eat, and ignore the healthful choices that He created, then you will get sick, and yes, God will allow us to reap the consequences of our sin. I do not believe that He gives people sickness. He gives you the choice of what foods to eat, and if you choose wrongly there are natural results.

Alcoholics suffer from health problems related to alcoholism, smokers suffer from health problems related to smoking, and both of those are generally considered sinful by churches. Whether your church believes moderate alcohol is okay, or that all alcohol is sinful, I think we pretty much all agree that drunkenness is sinful, and it's widely accepted that smoking is bad. Why are we so much more accepting of junk food? 

Even though I had been thinking that wrong eating choices could be sinful, until I read Elisabeth Elliot's words: "a hindrance to holiness" I hadn't even considered that my eating habits could affect my spiritual life. I tend to separate my body from my spirit and soul too much, I guess. I know that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit:
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
 And of course we're supposed to take care of our bodies, but I never directly related my bad eating choices to my struggling spiritual growth. It really puts eating into perspective, if that junk-food "treat" is not only harming your body, but your spirit! I can tell already I will be pondering this topic for a while!

Fasting is another aspect of bodily discipline that modern Christians often seem to neglect, I know I do. I've been practicing a bit of intermittent fasting to help my body switch from "sugar-burning" to "fat-burning" but I haven't really paid any attention to the spiritual aspect of fasting, or done any full-day fasts recently. I'm so inspired by what I've read so far!

God has used Elisabeth Elliot's book to help me understand so much already, I'm looking forward to what else I will learn about discipline and I'm excited to merge my quest for health with my striving towards God's will for my spiritual growth.

"Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control..." - 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts on this topic! Please feel share your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

My Word of the Year for 2015

Last year, my word for the year was "genuine." I think it was a successfully genuine year, I felt like I was able to let go of my worry about what people thought of me and just be myself. Now that I'm doing better about not putting up a front and being a fake, I need to work on who I really am.

Naturally, I have a temper to match my hair... or maybe even more fiery than my actually somewhat tame strawberry-blonde head. I let stupid little things, and irritating people get to me much too easily, my temper gets ruffled and I'm a mess. Or I stress out over minor issues, and work myself into a frenzy. Or I get hysterically upset over something. My emotions are like a roller coaster, and I'm getting too old to enjoy the ride.

I need serenity.

Photo cred: Rustic Meets Vintage (found on Pinterest)

Serenity :  the quality or state of being serene
Serene  :  clear and free of storms or unpleasant change
             :  shining bright and steady
             :  marked by or suggestive of utter calm and unruffled repose or quietude  


Utter calm. 

Clear and free of storms.

No unpleasant mood changes.

Shining bright and steady.

 Unruffled repose and rest.

The joy of the LORD is my strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

A beautiful sunrise at the beach, on my 21st birthday weekend...

Serenity encompasses so much to me that I was having difficulty choosing just one Bible verse, and of course, unlike "genuine" I don't think "serenity" is actually in the Bible, or at least it isn't in my edition. But why choose just one verse, anyway?

I think all the fruits of the spirit fall under serenity: "22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5:22-23

Many Proverbs, like this one, inspire me: "A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back." - Proverbs 29:11

Serenity is dripping from Lamentations 3:22-24:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

 A great many Psalms also, of course - too many to choose just one. I may do more posts this year sharing more of the verses and things that I find to inspire serenity.

I'm also thinking of doing a Pinterest board for my year of serenity, you can find a link to my Pinterest on the sidebar if you're interested! 
Do you have a word of the year? Share in the comments! 


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Health Journey: Part 1

My family has always been health-oriented. When my mom became a Christian, God convicted her about some of her unhealthy eating habits, and when my parents got married, my dad eventually started eating healthy, too. They were on the path to better health before I was born, and for as long as I can remember we've been that weird, healthy family with strange things in our pantry, fridge and medicine cabinet. We've probably eaten more salads than any other one kind of food, except maybe my dad's homemade bread

Although I was perfectly happy to skip out on the horrible doctor's visits that my friends described, I wasn't very happy with most of the other healthy aspects of our life. Why did we have to have rice cakes with almond butter for snacks, instead of a PB&J, which was so much cooler? (Don't worry, we eat peanut butter now, it's just unsweetened, non-homogenized, 100% organic and truly natural.) I was a bit embarrassed by our healthiness, and while I ate the healthy stuff Mom served at home, I'd happily drink a soft drink when I got the chance, or down 2 or 3 slices of white-bread pizza at a party, much to my mom's dismay. How did I go from that child, to crazy health-nut in my own right? This is the story of how my personal health journey began.

Warning: Feminine health is discussed in a way that might be too TMI for some. I'll be as tactful as possible, but I also want to be open and clear about my issues, because I want other ladies who might struggle with the same sorts of problems know that there is hope for natural healing! If you want the short version, here it is: I started researching health because of my suffering with female hormone imbalances. ;)

When I was around 14, I began having severe pain associated with the beginning of my monthly cycle. My cycles had begun at 11 and 1/2, which is considered a little early, a telltale sign of possible issues. After some Google searches (I was too embarrassed to talk to my parents much about it) I discovered that my list of symptoms fit primary dysmenorrhea. The symptoms include: severe cramps affecting the back, stomach and legs, headaches, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, dizziness and fainting. I experienced all of those.

If I was fortunate, it would happen on a day where I could curl up in bed and just suffer. Sometimes, it would sneak up on me and I would get caught out somewhere, like shopping, at a baseball game, or at the state fair (Yep, those are actual examples that happened to me, the fair was TWICE, two years in a row - while not just with my family, but friends too!!). If I wasn't able to lay down, the symptoms would continue to worsen. If I was laying down, I could usually avoid vomiting and fainting, but when I was stuck in a situation where I tried to pretend I was fine, my body would eventually betray me. I fainted in public twice, but I eventually started to learn that a faint was coming on when my face broke out in a cold sweat and I could feel the blood drain from my face, so I could sit down before I actually blacked out. In the back of my misery-fogged brain, I was always wondering: is this normal? Am I supposed to be suffering like this every month?

Being part of such a health freak family, I didn't think I should have any health issues. My last doctor visit was when I was 2-years-old, and my family hadn't been going to regular medical doctors since. My parents were mostly into the herbal realm of "alternative medicine" and I tried some capsules that my mom gave me one day after she noticed my misery, but they didn't give me much relief, and I wasn't very faithful in taking them. I became so desperate that I considered begging my parents to take me to a doctor. But before I did, I tried to figure out what exactly a doctor would be likely to do and prescribe.

According to everything I could find on the internet, there were only two medical possibilities (besides a hysterectomy, which I didn't consider even for a millisecond). NSAID's (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen, or a contraceptive like the Pill. Since my pain was so severe, I was pretty sure that just an NSAID wouldn't work (and I already knew my parents would say they weren't healthy), so I did more research on contraceptives. Besides the acknowledged possible side effects that sounded almost as bad as my symptoms, I discovered the possibility of struggling with infertility after long-term use of contraceptives. After researching into how contraceptives would actually affect my hormones, and finding that they would basically just be "turning off" my reproductive system, I realized that, just like my parents had always said, medical treatments often only cover up the problem, instead of fixing the real issue.

I was happy to be certain that my pain was NOT a part of normal and healthy menstruation - not just "the way my body works" but a problem. I had discovered that it was a hormone imbalance, and I had a convenient medical label to remind myself that I was actually sick. I decided I wasn't interested in covering up my illness with an unnatural medical solution, so I threw out the idea of requesting that my parents take me to a doctor. I turned back to the herbs my mom suggested with vigor, and determined to look up everything in "the herb book."

"The herb book" is Dr. Christopher's "School of Natural Healing" and it is an incredible resource. I looked up "dysmenorrhea" and there were 37 pages of herbs and formulas just for that, besides plenty of other herbs and formulas for general hormone health. I chose to start with the two main formulas, containing a very large amount of herbs between them, and got up the nerve to ask mom if we could order some bulk herbs specially for the formulas I had chosen. I mixed them myself, with some guidance from my dad who has more experience with herbal remedies than I, then powdered them and added them to my green Superfood drink every day. I began see immediate results in a decrease of symptoms! 
I was thrilled, and I've taken responsibility and control of my own journey to health since then. I'm not going to say that I'll never consult a medical doctor (never say never, you know!) but I will say that a little bit of care and knowledge of your own body goes a long way, and since that day almost 10 years ago when I decided not to beg my parents to put me on birth control, I've grown to feel confident and fearless about what I can do naturally to take care of my health. I believe God has provided everything we need in nature. Herbs aren't really medicine - they're food, with important nutrients that we need to be healthy, and we just need to use them! It's freeing and exciting to feel confident of how to take care of my own body!

Some other protocol that I credit with aiding my complete healing of dysmenorrhea include Oil Pulling, the Maker's Diet and the GAPS Diet. Oil pulling helps detox your entire body, and the Maker's Diet and GAPS Diet both restrict grains and sugar, which helped me a lot as well. I noticed marked improvement from the herbal formulas, but I think following those diets and using oil pulling over the last 2 years is what has helped finish off the process. My monthly experience is now even LESS painful than I imagined "normal" would be! I'm so excited and relieved to be free of that terrible hindrance to my life, and to know that it has been accomplished by healing, rather than covering up the problem! I'm so thankful God used that illness to start me on the path to natural health.

Obviously, I am not a medical doctor, and none of this is medical advice, I'm just sharing what worked for me! If you're suffering with the same issues and interested in taking control over your own health, I'd be happy to talk, and share more of the articles/information I found during my own research, to help you on your journey. Feel free to send me an email, or comment below!

None of the links above are affiliate links.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Books I Read in 2014

Well, I can't believe this year is almost over! It's really flown by, but I did manage to read more this year than I did last year, and I completed half of my resolution from last year! I did actually start a book journal, and kept reviews of what I read. I did NOT read 1 non-fiction for every 5 fiction books, though, but I am pleased that half of my book resolution was successful, and I hope I'll read more non-fiction this year. As usual, I did read the Bible and my two small devotionals every day, and I've been reading in my tuning text book, and selections from the other books required for the course, but I'm not counting those.

Missing 15 and 17 on the list, the flowered book is my journal.

1. Tomorrow by Maria Edgeworth (1823) - Recommend
     I started the year off with a book that shows you the devastation that can occur from procrastination. It was frightening to see what happened to the procrastinating hero due to his bad habit of procrastination about EVERYTHING. Very motivational beginning to the year for me.

2.   Emma by Jane Austen - Recommend
     I've read Emma several times before, of course, this time I was reading it with my younger brother as he was studying British Literature. I'd never noticed before how truly unlikeable and flawed Emma is, I've always forgiven her mistakes and liked her anyway, but this time I was struck by how talented Austen is to create such a realistic and annoying character, and yet make us love her anyway, and even believe that Mr. Knightley could love her. 

3. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis - Recommend
    Sometimes amusing, often sobering, I always enjoy this eye-opening fictional imagination of how demons may try to influence our lives. It's a short book, I read it in one afternoon babysitting while my little charge was napping, and I think it's worth rereading often, as a very useful reminder that "we wrestle not with flesh and blood."

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth - Undecided
    Even though I saw the movie first, and that perhaps gave the movie an unfair advantage in my opinion, I liked the movie better. I couldn't help but compare Roth's style of writing to Suzanne Collins's, and it came up quite inferior. The movie cuts some of the uncomfortable romantic scenes, makes more sense, flows more concisely, has a better characterization of Tris (didn't like book Tris at ALL) and much better personalization of Four/Tobias. Thankfully, I read it so quickly that it wasn't too much of a waste of my time.

5. Insurgent by Veronica Roth - Do NOT recommend
    Yes, okay, I disliked Divergent, but I couldn't get the interesting world out of my head, and I wanted to know what happened next without waiting for the movie. It got me through a tedious day in the car. I was disappointed by the lack of character development, and dizzied by the confusing, whirlwind tour of their city. I definitely felt that Roth's already lacking writing abilities took a further decline in this book. 

6. Allegiant by Veronica Roth - Do NOT recommend
   I am ashamed that I caved and read the 3rd book. I had a spoiler for the end, and I didn't enjoy the writing in Insurgent, but I only lasted a week before giving in. I didn't think the writing could get worse, but it did. I didn't think the characters could get worse, but they did. Besides that, she ruined the cool world, threw all kinds of mess in, wrote way too many inappropriate scenes for Tobias and Tris, and did the ending in the absolute worst way possible. It was horrific. I don't think she had a plan for this series past the first book, and I sometimes wondered if she'd even had an editor.

7. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens - Recommend
   After all that awfulness, I decided to read a good classic. We watched the lovely miniseries, which is what finally inspired me to plunge into another Dickens. Well, actually, it inspired Sarah, and I had to wait for her to finish before I could read our copy. I've read Dickens before, and had begun to think that I would rather just read Austen. Well, Austen may be easier to digest, but after LD, I fully appreciate Dickens! This was a very good read, and in spite of the daunting length, a good intro book for someone just starting Dickens, I think. Great Expectations is shorter, but I didn't enjoy it nearly as well. Little Amy was a wonderful character. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, even though I expected to like it in the first place!

8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - Undecided
    I actually took a short break in between book 1 and book 2 of Little Dorrit to read this, because Sarah wanted to see the movie, and she insisted that I read the book first. I wasn't even sure I wanted to read or see a story about two cancer patients who fall in love (I could tell from the trailer it was going to contain death and sadness) and if it weren't for Shailene Woodley, I probably wouldn't have. I went in steeled against any tear-jerking, and not one tear did I shed. I enjoyed the funny parts, but the sad parts didn't touch me, not even a lump in my throat. (The movie was different, that did wrench some emotion from me...) It was well-written, but definitely not very appropriate, and one I won't likely read again.

9. Death by the Book by Julianna Deering - Recommend
    My fun summer read! I enjoy Deering's vintage-style murder mysteries very much. I was a little disturbed by the motive for the murder, and who the murderer was, but I guess murder should always be disturbing. The Christian additions are nice, not too preachy, and it's pleasant to have a good, Christian character to rely on in one's hero.

10. Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering - Recommend
      Second fun summer read! I enjoyed the mystery better in this one, but the characters got a little stale, and the conflict was mostly irritating, and seemed like nothing more than a silly plot manipulation, because I knew it would work out fine in the end. Looking forward to more!

11. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - Recommend
      Can't let a year go by without reading P&P at least once! This time I was taking notes on income, numbers and signs of social status (servants, etc.) as research for a post I hope to do soon about why the 2005 P&P makes the Bennets look too poor and the wrong social status. I also noticed more of what was happening with Mr. Collins, and also Elizabeth's interest in Wickham and Colonel Fitzwilliam. I hadn't really realized before that Wickham and Colonel Fitzwilliam were almost sort of suitors, and that Elizabeth would possibly have entertained the notion of accepting one of them, had they asked her! I still can't choose a favorite Austen, but I do love P&P.

12. The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe - Recommend
      Though it has only the dubious recommendation of Harriet Smith, I enjoyed Udolpho last year and decided to read another Radcliffe. I was amazed at some of the scenes that were clearly parodied in Northanger! For some reason I felt that it was mostly Udolpho being parodied, but clearly it was the entire genre, and there is actually a scene in Romance that nearly exactly appears in Northanger - when Catherine discovered the papers and then her candle is extinguished! Except, of course, in Romance is actually a tale of woe and horror, and not just laundry lists. So much fun to read! And it makes Northanger SO much funnier to understand the gothic novel! Anyone who likes Northanger at all should read at least one gothic novel.

13. The Giver by Lois Lowry - Recommend
      Yet another on my list of dystopian fiction this year. This one was written a while ago, and it's a nice, short book. The background, whys and reasoning aren't explained really, but it's an interesting commentary on humanity and feelings. It made an interesting movie, too.

14. The Maze Runner by James Dashner - Undecided
      I guess I could label this year as "the year of dystopian addiction in which no story was quite as satisfactory as the Hunger Games." Maze Runner is basically for guys... a little too sci-fi for my taste, very lacking in character development, the monsters are ridiculous... and that's saying something compared to the HG creatures. Another book where the movie was better, I think, sadly. I liked the main character better in the movie, anyway.

15. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie - Recommend
      I am a little ashamed to announce that this was my first Christie. I grew up reading all kinds of mysteries, Nancy Drew, Hardy boys, Boxcar kids, Mandie, Bobbsey twins... and I've watched a lot of Marple and Poirot, but never read it until now. Oh my goodness, what I was missing out on! Christie isn't called the queen of mystery for nothing! It was fabulous, and the characters are amazingly realistic. Must read more!

16. Scorch Trials by James Dashner - Not recommended
      Even with Christie fresh in my mind, somehow my weird addiction to dystopian drew me back to the uncompelling Maze Runner series. This book has a terrible case of middle book syndrome, where the world and plot got more ridiculous and tedious. As if the first book wasn't distasteful enough for me, this one throws in a zombie-like element. I wondered the whole time why I was even reading it.

17. The Death Cure by James Dashner - Not recommended
      You're not surprised. I finished Roth's series, why not find out how this ends? It was a very unsatisfying finale. New levels of gross were reached, one of the characters that I was finally starting to like met a gruesome end when I was hoping he'd be saved, and the plot was tired and uninteresting. I thought there would be a twist, but there wasn't. I may not even watch the movie, thankfully I have a few years to get over my dystopian addiction. 

18. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie -Recommend
      Nothing much to say since I don't want to spoil the mystery, again, a truly enthralling mystery. I really enjoy Christie's writing style, and hope to read every single one, eventually!

19. Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie - Recommend
      In an interesting change for me, this book was from Hastings's perspective! Christie's writing talent can handle many switches I imagine, this book was just as delightful as the others. I can't believe I waited so long to start, thinking they would be boring! Oh my!

20. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen - Recommend
      Taking a little break from Christie to read some less mind-exercising literature... I can't let a year pass by without reading S&S any more than I could P&P. I can't choose a favorite book, but one thing I have decided, Elinor is my Austen role model. I think I am naturally too much like the negative parts of Lizzy, and I wish to be more like Elinor. Her strength, and effort for serenity through her suffering is inspiring.

21. Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss - Recommend
      I love the growth and alteration in the heroine as she becomes more and more like Christ. Her early days are much like I tend to be, willful, defiant and fiery, and through the grace of God becomes a sweet, faithful, totally surrendered woman of God. It's so inspiring, and I hope that I may grow to be so changed. I intend to read this book more often.

22. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell - Recommend
      This was my second time reading N&S, and I enjoyed it so much better! The movie, while very enjoyable, did not give me a good opinion of Margaret, so it took the second read for me to develop my own character for her, and I found that I liked her very much! But Mr. Thornton is still my favorite. Richard Armitage did a great job in the movie, but the script really didn't do his character justice either. The book is so much better!

23. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen - Recommend
      I decided to round out the year by another read through of what is definitely the funniest Austen. It was funny enough the first time I read it, some of Mr. Tilney's lines make me laugh out loud, and Catherine is such a funny heroine, but it is even funnier now that I understand the gothic novels it's parodying! Such fun.

How many of these books have you read? What's on your To-Read list for 2015? Happy New Year!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Review: Death Comes to Pemberley

There have been many attempts at sequels to Jane Austen's wonderful novels. I have a very low opinion of almost everyone who thinks they have any right to try to add on to her works, but for some reason, I was silly enough to watch Death Comes to Pemberley, in spite of expecting it to be horrible from the beginning. Perhaps mixing murder and Jane Austen is better than mixing in some excessively steamy romance (which is just my vague impression of some of these "sequels," as I've never actually read any) and I certainly think a murder mystery component is a better choice than zombies or sea monsters. But seriously folks, I know all Jane Austen fans wish there were more... but there isn't. And there never will be. This is NOT Austen. This was torture.

 First of all, the characters are pretty awful. Darcy and Lizzie's relationship and personal characters were mutilated in a most infuriating fashion. Darcy was loud and irritable, even Matthew McFadyen's pouty portrayal of Darcy in the 2005 P&P was more tolerable. Lizzie was boring and flat, none of that sparkle, wit and vivacity that she should have. Their relationship was terrible, more about that later. Georgiana's relationship with her brother was also contorted and strained, completely unfaithful to Pride and Prejudice. Colonel Fitzwilliam was cold, mysterious and weird, also unlike he's supposed to be. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet were sadly bland, the first not sarcastic and dry enough, the second not silly and irritating enough. Wickham, Denny and Lydia were pretty good, but only in comparison to the awfulness of the others. Lady Catherine makes a pointless appearance, unless you think appearing just to complete the thorough ruination of all the characters has a point... she was completely unlike Lady Catherine, and much more like Aunt Augusta from The Importance of Being Earnest. It was very disorienting.

Thankfully, one bright spot was the lovely costuming. When everything else was irritating me, I'd just zone out and admire one of Lizzie's dresses. Even though the actress was much too old, and had eyes that were nearly the opposite of "fine eyes," at least her dresses were pretty and authentic (so far as I know). Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the scenery, the woods around Pemberley were made out to be scary and mysterious most of the time, and they used the same mansion as the atrocious 2005 P&P for Pemberley, which has that stupid, contrived man-made lake in the front that seems to go RIGHT UP TO THE HOUSE. It never ceases to make me groan.

And that fountain! What?!?
The mystery plot was not very good at all, either. I'm afraid that's what happens when you try to mix two things that aren't meant to be mixed... you ruin both of them! The mystery was quite unsatisfactory to me, as a fan of good mysteries like Sherlock, Miss Marple and Poirot. It was lacking in clues, lacking in sleuthing, lacking in intrigue and definitely lacking in suspense. The mystery was terribly boring, except when it was being annoying by injustice in the courtroom.

Perhaps to make up for the pathetic mystery, or perhaps just to annoy me further, the story added flashbacks in which they further tainted the true, beautiful original Pride and Prejudice by showing us the scene with Lizzie and Wickham when he tells his lies about Darcy, the worst mutilation yet of Darcy's first proposal scene (yes, we believe it was worse than the 2005 P&P first proposal scene in the rain, where they almost kiss. Hard to believe something could be worse than than that, but there it is!) and a scene where Darcy pays Wickham to marry Lydia in a twisted, weird way.

Also, the story added unnecessary and irritating drama between Darcy and Lizzie in their present time, with Lizzie thinking that Darcy regretted marrying her because of the connection to Lydia and Wickham, and if I understood correctly (I may have been hallucinating or something) Darcy insinuating to her that he was actually feeling that way about her in a most unpleasant conversation! 

Georgiana had a little love triangle; she and a nice young lawyer were in love, and Colonel Fitzwilliam also wanted to marry her. For the sake of duty she was going to marry Colonel Fitzwilliam, and that was one of the points of the obnoxious conflict between Lizzie and Darcy, as Lizzie wanted Georgiana to marry for love, and Darcy wanted her to marry Fitzwilliam for security, and the horrible conversation ends with him saying something about how it's better to marry for security and honor than to marry on a sentimental whim! Oh my goodness, I could write a whole blog post on that one quote, and all the terrible, infuriating, ridiculous ways that is so wrong, and NOT AT ALL Mr. Darcy! Does P. D. James think he changed for the WORSE after their marriage instead of for the better? Did she even READ Pride and Prejudice?!? Okay, okay, calming... deep breaths...

Let me just say, almost the entire movie Darcy and Lizzie are at odds - this is not how I want to see one of my favorite Austen couples in a sequel after they're married! Finally, near the end of the movie, their relationship is mended and then this horrible mutilation of Austen flops the other direction with a scene where Lizzie and Darcy begin to take each others clothes off! Amid much shrieking, hiding of eyes and exclamations of "No, no, no, no, no, no!" we managed to fast forward. Ugh!

Georgiana agrees to marry Fitzwilliam, but that's put to right at the very end, and her young lawyer comes riding up on a horse in a very 2005-esque manner... it might not be early on a foggy morning, but he's improperly clothed (what do these film makers have against cravats, anyway?) and they're standing in a field. At least there are no incredibly stupid lines, there, he just asks her to marry him, and she says yes and then they kiss passionately. (Which, of course, doesn't seem very authentic, but at least is less that offensive than that OTHER scene...)

This is the beginning of the mystery... Lydia is hysterical and everyone gathers around.
Thankfully, in spite of much boring mysteriousness, the "murder" case is finally solved by a pull-the-rabbit-out-of-the-hat sort of trick, and Lizzie rushes up onto the gallows at the last second with a signed confession from the guy who didn't even murder anyone. After being mistaken for Wickham, and non-fatally whacked on the head by the brother of the woman Wickham seduced, who then realized the mistake and did no more damage, Denny just fell down a hill and managed to fatally hit his head on this random gravestone of a Darcy that shamed and disgraced the family, almost lost the estate, turned into a hermit, built a cottage in the woods, killed himself and was buried way out there as a symbol for future generations. What, was that confusing?  What about the ghost of the woman whose very young boy was hanged for poaching off of Pemberley land when years ago when Darcy was a boy, so she then hanged herself in the woods of Pemberley and is rumored to appear whenever anything bad is getting ready to happen at Pemberley? I wish I was making this up. I feel like I'm forgetting some of the ridiculous things, but I don't want to waste any more time ranting.

Like my dad said, they make these things just to trap Austen fans. They know we can't resist, just because it claims to be Austenish, so once they hook us with that, they don't even have to try to write a good story, or even satisfy the craving that they tempted. This is completely unsatisfactory as a murder mystery; more than terribly frustrating as a sequel to P&P with the issues about Darcy and Lizzie. They never would have fought like that, and Austen never would have given us a glimpse behind their bedroom doors... neither extreme was at all enjoyable. Perhaps fans of 2005 P&P would like it, but I recommend everyone else stay away. It's not worth it just to satisfy your curiosity, you'll be wasting 3 hours of your life. There, your curiosity is now satisfied.

If you're trying to decide, don't watch it, seriously. It was like hoping for chocolate and biting into carob instead. Or when someone accidentally puts salt instead of sugar into the cake, you know, that kind of disappointing. Just look at these pictures of pretty dresses and tell yourself that you got the best part of this movie without all of the torture. You're welcome.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Janeite Tag (I'm finally back!)


Hamlette at The Edge of the Precipice tagged me for The Janeite Tag! Thanks so much, Hamlette, this looks like fun, and a great way for me to ease back into blogging after my long hiatus! (I probably have thousands of missed blog posts, but I'll try to pop in on all of you soon!)

The Rules:
  • Thank and link back to the person who tagged you.
  • Tell us how you were introduced to Jane Austen and share one fun fact about your Janeite life (this fun fact can be anything from "I stayed up all night reading Emma" to "I visited Chawton and met Anna Chancellor.").
  • Answer the tagger's questions.
  • Write seven questions of your own.
  • Tag as few as one or as many as seven other Janeites and let them know you've tagged them.
I was introduced to Jane Austen first by the BBC Pride and Prejudice (1995). My parents loved it, and I watched bits and pieces sometimes when they watched it, until I was finally old enough to really "get it" myself around age 14. Then I loved it so much that I read the book, and then all the other books, and watched lots more movies/mini-series! 

One fun fact... um, I tried to keep track of how many times I've read P&P in my life, and I lost count somewhere around a dozen... you see, I was trying to keep a tally at the beginning of one book, but then I got two more editions that I like to read too, and I forgot to tally in those a few times... I reread P&P a LOT. I guess that's the best fun fact I have, hehe!

Hamlette's Questions:
1.  Would you rather board with the Bennets or the Tilneys for a fortnight?
Hm, I have to say the Tilneys. I think the silly Bennets would get on my nerves too much, and I would enjoy the thrill of staying in an abbey, plus Henry is my favorite Austen hero, so maybe I would steal him from Catherine! ;)
2.  Would you rather have Edmund Bertram or Edward Ferrars as your pastor?
Edward Ferrars, definitely! I have never liked Edmund much, and Edward is my second favorite Austen hero. I think he would be a very kind, thoughtful pastor with good knowledge to share... whereas Edmund was so dense that he fell in love with Mary Crawford! Ugh.
3.  If you could play any Austen character in a play or movie production, who would you want to portray?
Oh my, that's hard... I think Lizzy, Elinor, Catherine or Emma would be a lot of fun. But if I have to choose one, I would probably choose Lizzy. She's so fun, quick-witted, intelligent and energetic. Her "playful manners" and "bright eyes" would be delightful to try to portray, and I think the first proposal and the Lady Catherine confrontation scenes would be so much fun to do!
4.  Which Austen book makes you laugh the most?  (Or do you not laugh over any of them?)
Northanger Abbey makes me laugh out loud every time! It's so funny, and I find it even more amusing now that I've read both The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Romance of the Forest. It's an absolutely hilarious parody of the gothic genre! Henry has some of the best lines... "Now I must give you one smirk, and then we may be rational again."
5.  How many times have you read your favorite Austen book?
Well, I definitely can't choose a favorite, and like I mentioned in my fun fact, I lost count of how many times I've read P&P! It is somewhere around 13 or 14 times though, I think. And I refuse to say that it's my favorite, but it is the one I've read the most... you may draw what conclusions you choose from that.
6.  Which Austen parents do you think do the best job of parenting?
I think Mr. and Mrs. Morland are probably the best parents out of the lot. They didn't know she was going to be sent home in the middle of the night in such an unsafe way when they let her go to Bath with the Allens so they weren't knowingly neglectful, and they seem to be very sensible, kind and intelligent.
7.  If you could make a new movie version of any Austen book, which one would you adapt, and who would you cast?  (Feel free to get as detailed as you want, or just cast the principals -- your choice.)
I think Mansfield Park and Persuasion both need new editions... but...

For Mansfield Park, Sarah and I (Okay, mostly Sarah, I'm pretty horrible at imaginary casting) were talking just recently about what a good Edmund Tom Hughes would make! Edmund is a little annoying, but Tom Hughes does somewhat annoying characters in a very enjoyable way. I liked him a lot in The Lady Vanishes and "Silk," and can't wait to see more of him! Sarah mentioned casting Claire Foy (a favorite since Little Dorrit) as Fanny, which would make her goody-goody side more appealing, and I think she does the quiet, sweet and sincere characters really well, and might even make me like Fanny (definitely not my favorite Austen heroine by any means) and understand her better. 

Now, let me try a little by myself... the extra characters. I would cast (this is how my brain works) Tom Hughes's co-star from an episode of Agatha Christie's "Marple," Joanna Vanderham (also star of "The Paradise") as Maria Bertram. 

So far I've only seen her do completely sweet characters, but I think this looks like a Maria expression. I think she could pull off a little cold, greediness under a sweet, mild mask.

 And Tom's co-star from "Silk" Natalie Dormer as Mary Crawford.

I think she would do the character fabulously.
Just ignore the robes here, and pretend they're rehearsing their scene from the infamous play! Isn't it perfect?
Based on that casting, Sarah helped me pick Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Henry Crawford. 

Like this, but DEFINITELY without the mustache.

More like this, but I like the lighter hair... although I think the Crawfords were supposed to be dark... what do you think, blonde Crawford siblings, or no? Natalie Dormer looks good as a brunette, too...

Aunt Norris should be Penelope Wilton. 
Yes... we started stealing Downton Abbey cast members....

And Lily James for Julia Bertram. 

She and Joanna Vanderham look like they could be sisters, right?
So, on my own again, and a little stuck. Really, I don't think anyone could top James D'Arcy's performance as Tom, but he's way too old now. Colin Morgan has grown up nicely since his appearance in Doctor Who and Merlin, what do you think?

Mr. Tom Bertram, perhaps?
 Mr. Rushworth was done very well by Rory Kinnear, I don't know who I would choose to do better. He has to do silliness and ignorance just right. I'd be interested to see James Corden in the role, I saw him in a couple episodes of Doctor Who with Matt Smith and I think he'd be a good Rushworth. Maybe a little old, but he could be a bit older than Maria...

"I come in 3 times, and have two and forty speeches. That's something, is not it?"
  For Lady Bertram, Sarah suggested Sylvestra Le Touzel, who played Fanny in the 1983 Mansfield Park, (which we commonly refer to as "the ugly Mansfield") and then played Mrs. Allen in Northanger Abbey

I do think she'd be better as Lady Bertram than she was as Fanny...

When I went looking for pictures of her, Google suggested Owen Teale as a related interest. Apparently he's in Game of Thrones (as is Natalie Dormer, and maybe someone else I searched for this post...), which I don't watch, but we have seen him in The Hollow Crown as some Captain that I don't exactly remember.

He looks pretty good, right? (I'm getting lazy now... this is the end...)
 I very much enjoyed recasting Mansfield Park! I may just have to reread it now, and try to imagine my cast. ;) 

Since I'm a bit late getting around to this, and I haven't caught up on who has already completed this tag, I'm going to skip the last two steps. If anyone reading this hasn't done this tag, and would like to, consider yourself tagged, and answer the same great questions that I did from Hamlette! Then please drop your link in my comment box, I'd love to come see your post!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On Science and Christianity

I know, I wasn't planning on writing much this summer, but this is a topic that has been weighing on my mind, and I was so excited, I just had to write down what I was thinking. 

We were very excited to have Ken Ham speaking at a church in our area one recent Sunday, and I was very stirred by his message. It clarified what I had been pondering over the past few months, and gave me renewed determination and courage to stand for what I believe.

For those who might not have heard of Ken Ham, he is a Christian scientist who believes in a 6-day creation period and an earth that's about 6,000 years old. He founded Answers in Genesis, an apologetics ministry to help equip Christians to defend our faith and share the gospel effectively. His ministry built the Creation Museum (which I still haven't visited yet) and their latest project is building a full-size reproduction of the Ark. Yes, Noah's Ark.

Why is Genesis so important? See, our society currently is pushing "scientific" things like an earth that's millions or billions of years old, and evolution as a "fact." The sad thing is, that so many Christians think that we can just fit that in with the Bible. We feel pressured to, because as Ken Ham pointed out, if you do not accept the current scientific beliefs as true, you will be ridiculed, mocked, scorned, called names like "anti-intellectual" and worse. We have our pride. No one wants to experience all those unpleasant consequences for nothing. So we've begun to wonder, why is the Genesis account of creation so important, anyway?

Well, answering that question was basically Ken Ham's entire message, and I'm not going to try to replicate all of it in a blog post. The part that really grabbed my attention most was his extremely popular castle illustration. I've seen it before, but this time it fit so perfectly with what I'd been mulling over, it was a light-bulb sort of moment!

Notice that the cannonballs aren't aimed at our little "Christian" flag. Satan doesn't care if we call ourselves "Christians" as long as our faith in God (and His word) isn't thriving. As a matter of fact, I think one of the deceptive places Satan likes to have people is smugly thinking that they are Christians when they actually aren't, so they can ignore the gospel message and arrogantly believe whatever they want in the name of Christ. Look at the little Christian guy in the diagram firing his cannon at the castle's foundation. That's what Satan can trick fake Christians, or even just weak Christians into doing. It's a stealthy attack on Christianity.

Really, I don't think it actually a very sneaky attack, we're just not doing a very good job being "wise as serpents" (Matt. 10:16)  If you think about it, it's obvious that the attack on Genesis doesn't stop with Genesis, the attack is on Biblical authority versus modern "scientific" authority. Current science says the earth is really old, the Bible says the earth is relatively young. If we fit in the millions of years, what's to stop them from convincing us to reinterpret other things with a modern secular science viewpoint?

It's already happening, just look at the churches in our country: homosexuality is spreading quickly, and becoming acceptable even among Christians. The Bible says homosexuality is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22), dishonorable and debased (Romans 1:26-28), but "science" and modern society claim that people are born homosexual, and that their unnatural behavior should be accepted as good. Pedophilia and bestiality are on the way, folks. Don't even get me started on transsexuals.

How far will we let them go? As Christians, we have a faith that is founded on and surrounded by things that cannot and should not be explained scientifically. For example, my family has been studying Genesis 17-21 lately, and how the birth of Isaac was pointing toward the miraculous birth of Jesus. Sarah was 90 years old (Gen 17:17), she was past menopause (18:11) and she had been barren her entire life. How scientifically possible is it that she could bear a child?! But nothing is impossible with God. (Matt. 19:26) How scientifically possible is it that a virgin could conceive our Savior? And yet it was prophesied (Isaiah 7:14) and fulfilled in Jesus (Luke 1:34-35).

If we reinterpret everything in the Bible so that it fits with science, we end up with a Savior who was "just a good man." He couldn't have been fully man and fully God, because that's not scientific. He couldn't have healed the lame, sick, and blind, raised the dead or cast out demons (I don't think demons are even scientific in the first place) with just a word, a touch. He couldn't have taken our sins upon himself, he couldn't have died and then ROSE from the dead! That doesn't happen scientifically!

Romans 4:16-25 says:

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness[c] of Sarah's womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (emphasis mine)

So ultimately, the question isn't actually "how important is Genesis?" but rather: "who will you choose to believe?" Do you believe God, or science? Where is your faith? Is your faith in God's word, or man's explanation? Friends, we must be strong in faith, and able to defend and believe the Bible above science. If we don't, our foundation will crumble, and we'll lose our faith. Science can only be as knowledgeable as the men who study it, but we have the word of God, He who created everything, and who has supernatural power outside of human constraints. Which do you choose?

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. - John 15:18-19

Jesus warned us that the world would hate us. We can't be true Christians and fit in with the world.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. - 1 Corinthians 1:18 

They will call us many horrible names, and say terrible things about us. That's just light persecution. Someday we might be tortured and killed for our beliefs. Are you ready to take some verbal abuse? In Acts 5, the apostles were beaten for telling people about Jesus. Verse 41 says that they left after their beating "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name." For the name of our Savior. 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. - Joshua 1:9