Out of the Silent Planet

“To you I may seem a vulgar robber, but I bear on my shoulders the destiny of the human race. Your tribal life with its stone-age weapons and bee-hive huts, its primitive coracles and elementary social structure, has nothing to compare with our civilization – with our science, medicine and law, our armies, our architecture, our commerce, and our transport system which is rapidly annihilating space and time. Our right to supersede you is the right of the higher over the lower. Life…is greater than any system of morality; her claims are absolute. It is not by tribal taboos and copy-book maxims that she has pursued her relentless march from the amoeba to man and from man to civilization. She (Life)…has ruthlessly broken down all obstacles and liquidated all failures and to-day in her highest form – civilized man – and in me as his representative, she presses forward to that interplanetary leap which will, perhaps, place her for ever beyond the reach of death…it is her right…the right, or, if you will, the might of Life herself, that I am prepared without flinching to plant the flag of man on the soil of (this planet): to march on, step by step, superseding, where necessary, the lower forms of life that we find, claiming planet after planet, system after system, till our posterity – whatever strange form and yet unguessed mentality they have assumed – dwell in the universe wherever the universe is habitable…I may fall…but while I live I will not, with such a key in my hand, consent to close the gates of the future on my race. What lies in that future, beyond our present ken, passes imagination to conceive: it is enough for me that there is a Beyond.”

That’s an excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s book Out of the Silent Planet, the first installment in the Space Trilogy. Never fear, Lewis lovers who are currently petrified with horror that such a magnificent theologian could write such sin; it was in character and resolved later on. I highly recommend giving it a read.

Over the course of history, a great number of conquests, rebellions, wars, and things of that ilk have happened due to sin, and I can tell you that with a few changes, the quote I posted above almost exactly matches many of the speeches given by leaders during these events. These speakers will argue that they can squish the heads of those below them for their own needs as long as it appears they are doing it for everyone and not personal gain. Evil is disguised as being patriotic and all in the name of continuing the human race’s influence among the stars. As these kings refuse their people the right to eat, they argue that the peasants below them are dim-witted and need a firm, heavy hand like a small child to understand, that the blood spilled on the ground was not a real person’s blood, only half. In the words of Niccolò Machiavelli, “A  prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.”, and “The end justifies the means.”

Satan is clever, isn’t he? Using our own thoughts against us, twisting it to make it sound as if we are the higher power, which our sinful side clings to like a leech, all towards sending you running towards him instead of the Lord, to shoot the puck in the wrong hoop. (I just used a sports analogy. What is the world coming to? I don’t even play football!) Hearing lies like these often enough in our daily lives, the propaganda from Satan to fight for the other side, begins to mess with you. You start wavering, unsure. Confusion races through your mind, and your vision is going fuzzy. Lines are blurred, and suddenly, total disbelief kicks in.

But cue the hero music, ladies and gentleman, because all is not lost! There are friends to push you gently back and send you important sermon podcasts and best friends to hit you on the head with a metal pipe for being so stupid; pastors to kindly direct you to the nearest Bible, and most importantly, a Father watching His child come home after far too long away.

So shut up, Satan, because I am not taking any of your garbage about how the human race should last forever and I can throw away whomever I find unnecessary because I am so much smarter and stronger than the peasants around me – I see it for what it is. You can take your pretty little lies (I think that’s a TV show, actually) and shove them into a cauldron of lava. According to every 80s cartoon ever, you have enough to go round. This heart is protected.

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Edie Withers – Random Scribbles

“She’s been out cold for five years. I don’t expect her to be active just because I’m here.”

“With all due respect, sir, the last time we were graced with Your Majesty’s presence, her breathing became faster and her number of heartbeats a minute nearly doubled. We still have hope that she will come to.”

“Coincidence alone caused such a thing to happen. The Council has half a mind to kill her and be over with the whole business.”

“Your Majesty! They couldn’t! Would you not stop such an operation?”

“A king only has so much influence amongst his men. It’s been getting worse. They intend to take care of the royalty permanently.”

“You’re a great figure to the people, Your Majesty. They must have realized that deposing you would cause the citizens to riot. I daresay they would even have a full rebellion on their hands.”

“You mistake loyalty for adoration, Lucas. The people do my bidding, but they do not love me.”

There was a long pause in the conversation, and then a loud beeping noise was heard.

“Lucas? Explain the situation!”

“Your Majesty, it appears that the patient’s brain has been stimulated beyond the limits that her condition allows. Bowel movement, blood pressure rising steadily, her senses are becoming alive, pulse-“

“I need a quick answer!”

“To put it simply, Your Majesty, she’s waking up.”

Everything hurts. Like, everything. My head, neck, chest, arms, legs, even my tongue. It feels like I got hit by a truck and then rolled over and dropped off a cliff onto a pile of electric plugs and Legos. I think my eyes are crusted shut, because they itch like crazy and I can’t open them. Inside my mouth, tumbleweeds are rolling and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some sand and cacti too, it’s so dry.

I am unable to even discern my surroundings by touch because of the pain engulfing my body. Up, down, left, right, none of them have any meaning. I could be floating on air and I wouldn’t be able to tell.

I begin to hear muffled noises through my waxy ears, which results in me trying to move. Bad idea. A feeble groan bursts out of my parched lips, and I nearly choke on my own goopy spit, reeling from the wave of agony that followed the slight action. Where is the sound coming from? I force myself to remain still to avoid further suffering.

Then, all of a sudden, I feel something on my eyelids. My muscles tense, and I want to scream. I can’t see, I can barely breathe, and my body is on fire.

The something on my face continues to move, and it pulls away the nastiness keeping me from sight. And then, cautiously, it pulls my eyes open.

Lights. Blinding white lights. My retinas are being seared as we speak, and my brain is slowly being fried. The thing that wiped away the crust closes my eyes for me, and if every bit of air I was taking in wasn’t so precious and everything so painful, I would’ve sighed with relief. Well, at least I know where I am now. Judging by the terrible glare my eyes have just been subjected to, I’m on the surface of the bloody sun.

I am confused. And angry. And then confused again. What kind of stupid cockroach opened my eyes just to shatter them with blazes from heck? Where am I? Who am I? And most important, is there any painkiller stronger than morphine that is within two centimeters of me? It would be kind of nice right now.

A cold item touches my lips. Alien tentacle? Snowball? Cheezy Weezy’s Freezy Treats?

None of the above, I soon discover, as water slowly is poured down my throat through the cold item that I have deducted to be a straw.

Sweet. Baby. Penguins. I could do the Funky Chicken all over the entire universe in happiness. I weakly swish the water around my mouth, trying to get every single dry cacti-infested corner wetted. My tongue becomes more than a giant lump and my teeth feel less like tombstones.

Strangely, as I continue slurping the life-giving liquid, I start to not be so destroyed with pain. Possibly drugged water, but who cares. I need it.

The things are back on my eyes again. Oh, golly. I attempt to prepare myself for the light to come.

This time, however, it is darker, and although it still hurts, I can keep them open on my own.

I am face-to-face with a man. His features are blurred, and I am unsure whether that is from my own fragmented vision or if his mom had an accident while giving birth.

“Heyo.” I see his mouth move, but it comes out like an old record. “Heyo.”

Feeling like I should respond as I keep chugging water, I do the smallest nod known to mankind, still enjoying the sweet taste of no pain and liquid.

He looks confused, and then his arm goes out of focus. I feel something touching my ear, swirling around inside of it. A metal tool.

“Better?” he asks.

I nod again. What am I even drinking water out of? My eyes cannot see. I tap the pipe in my mouth with my forefinger, beckoning for him to take it out. This is a huge life decision, having him take it out, but I need to be able to talk.

He shows he understands and then slowly pulls it out.

“What…the…odd.” I form the words with care, considering them my best sentence in a long time.

He smiles. “Welcome back, Edie Withers.”

Edie Withers. Evidently that’s my name.

Not bad.

Things Just Got Personal

I read a lot, as anyone who knows two shakes about me can tell you. I will forgo sleep, food, social connections, and productivity to finish a book, which in the long run probably isn’t the best of ideas, because not only is it viewed as harmful to my options for later in life, the emotional damage I receive is slowly shattering my heart into three million pieces.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres of literature – but not for the reasons you might think. Although I love hearing stories about things that happened before my birth told in a more individualized way, the true intention behind reading those particular books is to drive the point home. Most historical fiction books are based on tragic events, such as the French Revolution or World War II. You hear about these happenings and say to yourself, “Oh, that’s sad.” And you move on. Facts on a page don’t speak to you. You see the numbers of the casualties and injuries, but you can’t envision anyone. You don’t know anyone who had that happen to them or had someone you love die in such a horrific situation, and try as you might, it’s not your battle. You cry for those who felt the pain, but you have not yet felt it yourself.

In other words, it’s not personal.

But when you find a very good historical fiction author, they make it your business. They give you a character and make you care about them. When they are hurt, you sob with them. When their home is destroyed, you are standing in the rubble. When they die, your heart cracks.

So now when you learn about that point in time, you have a face with the numbers. It is personal now. You feel the pain of those who have lost a real person, because in your mind, that person was real. That author made it real for you. They brought someone to life with paper and ink, and now that circumstance that happened so long ago is yours.

In fact, it doesn’t even have to be historical fiction. Let’s talk about fantasy for a minute.

Now, here’s where everyone gets a little mixed up. How can you relate to fantasy? How does that make things that have happened personal if the things that happened to this character haven’t even happened?

Well, take Frodo in Lord of the Rings for instance. He was a cheerful, fun-loving Hobbit until he was made to carry a weight heavier than anyone could bear. Fear, sadness, anger, and jealousy that wasn’t his own was coursing through him, yet he made it. He threw the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom and became free.

Most likely you won’t have to throw a small gold circle into lava, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a weight of your own. A war between Orcs and Elves will most likely never happen (much to my dismay), but that doesn’t mean we don’t have wars going on inside of us.

And that’s what a good author does. They make you care. They make you look a little closer into people and see that they all have a story. There are adventures they could tell and battles they have won. There is so much beneath the surface that we never realize, never take the time, until the author opens your eyes.

Things just got personal.

Author’s note: This does not mean I am condoning ANY of the character deaths that I have experienced in my reading career. I don’t care how real it makes anything sound! I’M STILL MAD AT ALL OF YOU.

No Time!

Life gets in the way of God, can we all just admit that? Like, if I didn’t have to do school and eat and go on the Internet and watch The Hobbit cast interviews all the time, I would totally be able to do my morning devotionals and pray and go to church and do all that other stuff. But, as it is, there are so many things that I need to do in a day that I find I just don’t have space in my schedule. I listened to Chris Tomlin while I ate breakfast though, which has to count for something. I’m sure God understands that I can’t be in contact with him 24/7 because busy, busy, dreadfully busy. I think God shouldn’t have created such tempting distractions or else I would definitely be able to do everything a good Christian is supposed to do.

^^^ I’m sorry, your what gets in the way of who?

Correct me if I am wrong, but did you just say that the life that was given to you and bought back for you by Jesus Christ himself was getting in the way of a relationship with the all-powerful Creator of the universe and everything belonging to it?

This is ridiculous. You didn’t have time this morning to pray? How do you not have time to pray? It’s not a complicated practice. You clear your mind for two seconds to concentrate on God alone and say a few words, and you’re done. You can make it a lengthy business, sure, but it doesn’t have to be.

No time for Bible? In this modern age, there are apps that will read you the entire Bible if it has to in a variety of translations that can be received by the touch of a button. There are sermon podcasts that will take less than fifteen minutes to listen to – you could hear it while having your morning coffee!

Actually, that doesn’t matter! How can you not have time for the Creator of time? Who cares if you’re five minutes late to this oh-so-important meeting? If you got your time in with God, your day will go so much smoother!

The real root of this is that God should be your life. You should continue living for Him and nothing else. We try to think in a mindset that says that we control our lives and we are merely allowing God to be a part of it. We deem earthly, fragile things to be more important than the Lord. These things will fade. The money from those extra five minutes isn’t going to do you any good. They will fade and rot and fall away and you will sit there stripped of your possessions wondering what you should have focused on. Where it all went wrong. We’re stupid and foolish and slow-witted, and we don’t realize what we needed until the chances are gone.

Your life is not yours. It is God’s. So don’t ever let anything get in the way. It won’t last.

Wait, What?

There are many expressions, phrases, and collections of words that we see in reading. Although they are not entirely clear on their meaning, we still all know what the author is attempting to say because it has become so common our brains have substituted what it actually sounds like with the author’s portrayal of it. I like to over-analyze, and that is what I am going to do now. So here are some expressions, phrases, collections of words, etc. that don’t quite make sense when you look carefully.

1. Pulling back the weapon for the killing shot.

Have you ever cut yourself when chopping celery or anything like that? Do you realize how easy it is to part human flesh with a sharp object? Very. There is no need to pull back the weapon to kill someone, unless you’re aiming for something specific like a bone, which then, why didn’t you line it up correctly in the first place? But the baddie always pulls back the weapon because then there is enough time for the hero to escape or something equally dramatic to occur. Authors, I’m on to you.

2. Razor sharp swords.

Razors can be dull, and they can also be fine enough to draw blood at a single touch. You know, you can just say “sharp”. Or you can get fancy with it as I did and be all “blood will drip at a single prick from this dastardly blade”. Come on. Putting the razor bit in there is weak and does not, in fact, add any new information to the adjective “sharp” that you have already conveniently placed. If you’re going to argue that razors are at all times sharp, which is incorrect, then one of these words still needs to go to avoid being redundant.

3. A whispering subconscious.

Subconscious: Noun – The part of the mind below the level of conscious perception.

Basically, you can’t know about thinking about it. Yet apparently, the subconscious of these literary characters not only is in contact with the rest of the brain 24/7, it whispers like a creepy stalker. If I felt something whispering in my brain I would feel like Smeagol with Gollum in his head. I would freak out! This is not okay! Your subconscious is not something you can consciously feel. That’s why it’s called your SUBconscious. Under the radar. It may, at times, give you warning signals and rushes of adrenaline, but it will not converse with you. If you are hearing voices in your head and it’s not God, you have a problem. Contact your doctor with all haste.

4. Fiery red hair.

This one I find particularly annoying simply because I read a lot of books with redheaded main characters.

First of all, fiery. Fire can be all sorts of different colors – blue, white, orange, black, pink, even green if you threw some really weird potions into it. It does not specify that it is red. For all we know, this person you are describing could have freakish yellow hair. Probably not what the author had in mind, but that would be fiery.

And then red. Red has millions of shades. Check a Crayola crayon box if you need some assistance. There’s cranberry red, apple red, brick red, light red, dark red, maroon, purplish red, sky-at-three-in-the-morning-after-a-storm red…it could be any of those! Neither of the adjectives you are currently trying to use are telling me anything at all about this person’s hair! Is it curly? Long? Short? Pixie cut? Down to the small of the back? Nothing!

On a more serious note, I’m not kidding about those Crayola boxes. They have every color known to man and even some that I’m pretty sure were randomly generated by the Minions from Despicable Me. Can someone please explain to me what process Crayola went through that brought about the color “rhubarb pie on black carpet”?

5. Stop breathing/heart stops/gasping/stomach clenches and all the others of their ilk.

Hi, romance authors. Could you turn on your ears for a few moments? Thanks.

You’re telling me that when I meet someone for the first time who just so happens to be of the opposite gender, I will drop dead because I stopped breathing and my heart gave out because OH MY GOODNESS, it’s a person. As a homeschooled introverted child, I can totally get the whole meeting-new-people-terror thing, but never have I gone so far as to stop breathing. This is a serious condition! So many female characters nowadays require medical attention and they are just not getting it.

Fictional health care sucks.

✍ * ✍ * ✍ * ✍

Now I’m off to go write something with every single one of these phrases used in the popular format because if I use expressions of my own creation that do make sense nobody will understand them because we are all so used to these ones.

God help the writing industry.

No Offense

We are so worried about offending people, aren’t we? When we express our opinions to others, we constantly fear that they will not understand us correctly or they will disagree with what you have said and feel animosity towards your beliefs. We prefer to be quiet and make no judgments rather than be taken the wrong way. I used to be absolutely terrified when I was reading a book and someone who had loved it as their firstborn child asked me how I was liking it. Sometimes I wouldn’t have a lot of good things to list and I was embarrassed to say I wasn’t enjoying it as much as they had. It becomes a goal in day-to-day conversation to display as few controversial thoughts as possible. You will play the listener more often just to find out what the popular stances and positions are so that even if the person you talk to doesn’t agree with those things, you still are on the side of the majority and therefore have the upper hand in this situation.

When in church, you are surrounded by fellow believers, and you have no problem whatsoever singing at the top of your lungs to “Happy Day” and coming up to the front for prayer group because everyone else is doing it and it is not considered to be weird. But when it is a crowded room of guys you don’t know all that well whom you’re not quite sure are Christians, how much more hesitant do you feel about singing of joy about Christ’s love for us? Religion is one of the most controversial subjects you could pick! What if these people are atheists? Or hate your guts? Or laugh at you? The downsides seem to outweigh the benefits! Who cares about them perhaps getting closer to God? I don’t want to be a laughingstock!

We put so much merit on others’ opinions that I don’t think we take enough time to wonder who we might be offending or hurting through our silence. What if every time you didn’t ask an acquaintance if they wanted to come to church, it hurt God? A dagger in his heart that two of His children were not listening to Him? God, the Creator of all, Bringer of Life, has asked you to share the Good News, and he says that we will have trials here on Earth because of our beliefs – there is no “if” or “maybe”. You will endure trials. And when we think of those trials we think of chains and being stoned and starvation, physical pain. But it is also being ridiculed and offending thousands of people and being spit on and laughed at.

Sharing the Good News will offend people, no doubt about it. There will always be someone booing from the back of the crowd, there will always be children mocking, there will always be gossiping and jeers. We’re guaranteed it in 1 Peter 4:12-13:

 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Yet after we have gone through the ridicule and disbelief of our fellows, we will run into God’s arms and He will whisper, “Well done, child. Well done.” (Not an exact quotation, I’m not entirely certain what he will say, but I can be sure that he’ll be happy).

The rewards you receive on earth for your masked opinions will be dust compared to the rewards in Heaven.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. -James 1:2-4

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. -Romans 5:3-5

An Impossible God

But…but…that’s impossible!

-Every episode of the Tenth Doctor ever

To our human flesh, the idea of a higher power is both naturally ingrained in our minds and the most alien concept to our massive egos. Here on earth we have created idols that we serve as deities, yet at the same time we hate the thought that we are not the ones in control of the situation, that there is another stronger than us who rules the world. I think that the reason why we create our idols instead of believing in one already there is because it lets us have control. In the back of your mind, you know that you could destroy the item you are currently worshiping. You are the one who has power.

When you bring in the factor that God exists, we get scared. We are no longer the top dogs, the general in charge of the army. We’re the common foot soldier following orders. Our lives are not our own to waste anymore, and this terrifies us. In our fear we try to avoid the obvious, trying to go around the things that are staring us right in the face. We turn to science and logic and self-empowering in an attempt to feel in control again. We will do everything we can to avoid admitting that we are weak and were created by another. God just seems impossible.

But that’s just it! God is impossible. Impossible that someone could create us out of absolutely nothing, that they would have the strength to make us. That there is someone in charge who will never fade, never leave. So illogical that I’m sure Spock and Sherlock are somewhere scoffing in derision! Not only that, he sent a perfect Son to die for us. If we’re so sinful, how could God love us? How could anyone love anyone else enough to do that? In this dog-eat-dog world where you have to earn everything you have, this boggles our brain neurons! How? We can’t reason with this. We are trusting someone wholly and completely, giving up the wheel of the car even though it feels that no one else is sitting in the front seat.

Yet, when you open your eyes and the scales fall, it makes so much more sense than anything we can come up with. The intricacy of our bodies and the world around us could not have happened by accident any more than opening up the clothes dryer and finding it already folded and sorted. How events in history all add up to show that someone is in control and has a giant plan for every single human on this planet. There is no other way it could work! God’s workmanship is spread throughout the universe, and if you look close enough, you can see His hand in it all.

Impossible? You bet.