Saturday, August 18, 2018

Using a Gay Character for a Good Conversation

via Pixabay
Sydney Stark is the warmest, friendliest publisher comrade in The Guernsey and Literary Potato Peel Pie Society. He's always there with an easy joke, a polished congratulations, a comforting word.

Sydney is also gay. In spite of that, I still appreciate his character.

Rewind a century to 19th century London. In season 2 of Victoria, her court member Alfred Paget carries on a romantic relationship with Edward Drummond. One kiss and a tragic ending later, Albert turns to an heiress to find a marriage partner.

For a while, Alfred is gay. I have a problem with that.

So what gives, Schuyler? What makes the difference?

There are some camps, of which I probably would have used to be one, that would say the portrayal of both men was something that Christians shouldn't participate in reading about. Boycott, protest, and warn people away. But I think it's a little more nuanced than that. It all comes down to why you're watching it and how you engage with the art.

I haven't seen season 2 of Victoria yet. I probably will, but I just haven't gotten around to it. But as a Christian, I disagree with Alfred Paget's character portrayal because he exists to celebrate an unbiblical lifestyle. He is not there to create truthful or beautiful art. He's given a hot-button issue (which isn't historically accurate) to connect with a modern audience.

However, I don't have the same problem with Sydney Stark's character.

read on, lizzy 

No kind of gay relationship is portrayed on screen. In fact, you'd almost not even know he's gay except for one comment. Juliet confides to a friend that Sydney would probably have a better chance of loving her if she were named George or Tom. After a moment of confusion, her friend's face clears and she nods in realization.

Sydney maintains good art to a certain extent because he portrays a fully-dimensional person instead of a gay agenda. Alfred violates good art because his character exists to prove that sin is acceptable. The Bible contains fully dimensional sinners and is not threatened by them. But God never deceives his followers into thinking that sin is desirable.

Guernsey doesn't go further than making Syndey three-dimensional. But when I engage that piece of art with biblical truth, I can take that story to a further conclusion that leads to a fuller picture of Truth.

I'm speaking to my fellow conservatives here when I say that Sydney's characterization can open up a fruitful conversation to remind us that gay-identifying people are more than gay. Sydney reminds us that people who are gay are also...people. Warm, friendly, fully dimensional people. They have lives and professions, they can be wonderful friends and make good contributions to the world. Even unsaved, they are still Imago Dei.

This is how people like Sydney can help those of us who disagree with a gay lifestyle. You see, as conservatives, when we pigeon-hole someone according to an issue or a category, then we can easily dismiss them as an enemy. We lump them all into together and shut them out. They do not touch our hearts. But when we remember that the Sydney Starks of the world are real individuals with sins and struggles and a soul just like us, then we are much more likely to face the question: how are we going to respond?

It's much harder to dismiss a person than to dismiss a category. When you finally see someone as a person, then you are more likely to feel grief for their sin and love for their soul. When we feel grief and love for them, we are much more likely to engage them with the good news of the Gospel.

Good art can open our eyes to that.

Just to be clear, I don't believe that gay relationships are biblical. Nor do I believe that a portrayal of sin in stories is a neutral thing. I don't believe that Christians enjoying entertainment should take the casual inclusion of gay characters or relationships lightly. We need to think about these things. Mindless consumption of entertainment is not a good thing.

But I do believe that Sydney's story can open up doors to discuss these concepts. I think his character would be especially fruitful to discuss with a period drama loving teen or twenty-something--either one who struggles with Christians condemning the gay lifestyle, or one who cannot understand the power and compassion of Christ to forgive certain sins. Just as Paul engaged the people of Athens with their idols and their poets, and then presented truth, we can also do that with stories.

In a good conversation, Syndey's character can illustrate that even when a sinner is still loveable, he is still a sinner. Sydney can illustrate that even when he is still a sinner, he is not beyond the reach and transformation of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). And Syndey can illustrate that even believers who struggle with sexual temptation in this area are not the sum of their sexual sin, but they are the sum of their status as an image-bearer (Lies Women Believe, pg. 143-146.)

By itself, Guernsey will teach you none of these things. It's just a fun period drama with a quick, almost-miss gay comment. But art, and especially story, and especially Guernsey, can be a non-threatening, non-explicit vehicle for engaging the issue. It's not an end place. But with the right person, and the right conversation, it can be a springboard to further diving into Scripture.

Because I do not personally have opportunities to interact with people who identify as gay (though I would love to someday) Sydney's fictional personality helped me engage with that truth in a Gospel light. And I am grateful for it. The best kind of art is a springboard that, when wrestled and engaged with, and conversed about, leads you back to Scripture and Truth--which is Jesus.

I more than welcome comments or texts that will sharpen my perspective on this issue!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Fawkes {a review}

via Pixabay
Last Friday I couldn't sleep. So I curled up on the couch for an hour with Minky blanket and a book--and the next morning, after some sleep, I curled up and binge-read the rest of it.

The book? Fawkes, by Nadine Brandes. It's a story of Thomas Fawkes, son of Guy Fawkes, the man who tried to blow up Parliament. But it also has a fantasy twist. Thomas Fawkes lives in a world where everybody has a mask, and each person's mask gives them the ability to bond with a certain special color power. The problem? Igniters believe you can bond with multiple color powers, and they're killing the more conservative Keepers, who only bond with one. Guy Fawkes is determined to blow up the Igniter Parliament to protect the Keepers in the land. And Thomas? Well, he just wants to get his mask before he dies of the Stone Plague.

There's always a little nervous feeling when you get a new book from an author you like. Will you love it as much as the others? The Out of Time series was such a loveable series with vivid characters, so I really wanted to know how Fawkes would feel. It had a delicious cover: check. But what about the story inside?

At first, I struggled to connect with Thomas, Guy Fawkes, and the plot to blow up Parliament. Because the story spans two years, I think the beginning struggles tension-wise because time has to pass before you can really set the time bomb ticking. But the plot starts to pick up in places in the Black section, and really picks up by the masquerade ball. Thomas and Emma in that scene are the cutest. ever. I ship them. :)

 As I kept reading, the theme knocked my socks off. The wisdom and maturity of truth in this book is such a beautiful contribution to bookshelves everywhere. I loved its implications for this generation. It's a historical book that manages to answer important questions and issues of today's millennial generation. We're living in an age where everyone has a label, similar to the color systems. We're also living in an age where hatred for the opposing side is just as rampant as the Keeper/Igniter war. But as Thomas finds himself further and further entangled in a war that will lead to the death of innocents, the book's conclusion offers a wonderful truth that I won't spoil, just because it's even more fun to discover it for yourself. I was surprised by how deeply the theme tied into the hearts of the people who would be reading it, and delighted by how powerful it was.

Fawkes, unlike the Out of Time series, is written for the general market, which means it's not explicitly Christian. But it's implicitly Christian in a powerful way that slices through the grey areas of our modern line of thought, which tries to validate experience over unchanging truth you can hold on to. Fawkes faces off between truth and personal belief in an engaging way that reaches the hearts of its intended audience. It's perfect for the YA age group. It dramatizes personal responsibility and relationship with God that can't rely on parents or even on yourself. And it encourages you to evaluate and re-think your own perspective. I appreciated it because even though I am a Christian, I'm still affected by the current cultural air. This book reminded me that ultimately how I feel or how someone I love feels really needs to take a back seat in my heart to what God feels about something.


Four weeks ago, I met Nadine Brandes in person at the Realm Maker's conference. She very kindly signed my entire Out of Time series, along with her newest book, Fawkes. It's a joy to be one of her Ninja team!

Nadine also has her newest book available for pre-order, which I'm super excited about: Romanov, a story of Anastasia, the last daughter of the last Russian tzar. You can even pre-order it on Amazon and add it to your shelves on Goodreads!

Nadine also has the funnest newsletter, full of writing news, book she's reading, and a fun "chat" feel that comes once a month to your newsletter inbox. I love them. Also, if you like Instagram, she has a really fun bookstagram there.

Have you read Fawkes yet? What is your favorite color power? 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Boundaries for Your Soul {on emotions, and how not to deal with them}

via Pixabay
Emotions are intangible chains.

They slip through your fingers; they refuse to be pinpointed. And yet they trouble your soul. How does one wrestle something that cannot be locked up or fought down?

If I were to pinpoint one of my largest battles, it would be in the area of emotions. The war often takes place inside where no one can see it. Many times I'm a fairly even-keeled person. But underneath are struggles with anger, irritation, obsession, and guilt. And lurking underneath lives the voice,  Hey, you're finite. They're bigger than you. They're stronger. 

(Just for the record, I have lots of happy moments too.)

My main impulse is to stuff negative emotions. But I know that's not really an answer. So when I saw an advertisement for the book Boundaries for Your Soul, I jumped on my review program immediately. And sure enough, there it was. I got it. At first, I was excited, but as I read, the overall steps for taking a You-Turn from your emotions didn't sit right.

Thinking through books is a process. Because I have to review a book within 30 days, I'm putting my initial thoughts here. But time has a way of giving greater understanding, so I'm writing with the caveat that maturity and thought may nuance my perspective. I'd welcome your comments below!

In a nutshell, authors Cook and Miller divide the soul into four parts: firefighters, managers, exiles, and the center core: Your Spirit-led self. Managers tend to be the harsh parts of your souls: the critical inner voice, the emotion that pushes you to excel and do better. They keep you from making mistakes. Firefighters kick in after you've made mistakes. They reach for pain-killers: drugs, binging, or behaviors that dull pain. Exiles are the softer emotions that tend to be shut out and not processed: pain, guilt, and fear. These emotions work together to keep you safe: sometimes in sinful ways, but sometimes in good ones. As you lead these areas from your Spirit-led self, you can take the negative over-reactions or stuffing and provide a place of compassion and empathetic listening so you can teach your emotions to process life in healthy ways.

God is a God of emotions, and he created us with emotions. To take an unhealthy emotional behavior and turn it into a healthy one, Cook and Miller advise four steps: Focus on your emotion. Befriend it with a gentle exploration of why it's doing what it's doing. Invite Jesus to draw near to it. Unburden the heavy weight of it to him. And Integrate the emotions of your soul into healthy behaviors. Through this method and with a trusted counselor, they advocate that you can learn to handle them correctly. This method is taken from the Internal Family Systems of counseling.

In the beginning of the book, Cook and Miller address the concern that by dealing with your emotions in this way, you're excusing sin. "You might be concerned that we're suggesting you befriend your sin, but that is not so. Instead, we encourage you to embrace the part of you that's sinning and that needs help changing, much as you would help a young child learn right from wrong." (Boundaries For Your Soul, pg. 28.) This is a helpful point, and perhaps I should have come back and read that section more than once as I read the book.

From the pages that followed, I read their method of compassionate conversation with emotions, finding healthy ways to put them to work and inviting Jesus to draw near to them. But I'm concerned that this system of counseling, even though it tries to have a Christian perspective, ends up teaching that the heart is inherently good. That emotions inherently have good intentions. That may not be what they're trying to teach, but that's what I took from it. The heart is inherently sinful, and there wasn't mention of battling sin. I think it would have helped not just to have a theological mention of sin at the beginning of the book, but to have that woven throughout the book. The words were intended to be reassuring. But they didn't strike deep to reassure me on a heart level. I would have loved to see more Scripture verses about emotions as sinful reactions. The compassion they advocated is so important, but I don't think it was enough. To have compassion grounded in Scripture and truth is ultimately a more substantive and lasting compassion. It can still be tender. But it has to include sin, or it is incomplete.

Again, I'd like to caveat that this book might require a second read-through or a conversation with a wise Christian. Maybe I took it from the wrong angle. Maybe I missed something the first time through (I can easily do that.) But this method of processing emotions didn't sit right; my spirit was troubled by it, and I couldn't take it in.

That being said; I did find it helpful in the latter chapters of the book to read the sections about the benefits, needs, and dangers of emotions like anger, envy, anxiety, etc. Because I tend to stuff emotions rather than understanding them, it is helpful to read the positive benefits that big emotions can serve.

Have you read any helpful books about handling emotions? I'd love to get your recommendations!

I received this book from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own. A positive review was not required.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Great Sky of Future {glimpses of the folkestone files}

via pixabay

I just binge-read the climax of Nadine Brandes' Fawkes. There'll be a full post coming (probably next Friday) but suffice it to say, it was worth the binge read.

But for now, CampNaNo snippets.

I only got half my goal in. But I had a breakthrough day at a coffee shop, and I'm going back to my favorite haunt tonight for a cup of tea and a tryst with the old words, which I am very much looking forward. After a rather sleepless night, I hope I'm in fine enough form for it.

We shall see.

(small errors, or even large, might remain. plz excuse them. they shall all be polished in good time.) 

(small spoilers for the sequel of War of Loyalties contained herein. Proceed at your own risk.) 

Erin reached them and knelt on the grass in front of her son. Brogan stared down at the grass, but she lifted his chin until he looked at her. “Your daddy was a bad man,” she breathed, fierce, her hair whipping behind her in the wind. “And I never want you to see him. Otherwise, you’ll be bad too.”
//
“Doctor, England has a line of men holding steady. We’re not in the state for an offensive, and if Germany manages to make peace with Russia, they will come in hordes here. We’ve tried to ask America for help. We may as well try to ask Heaven.” Evesham rubbed a hand across his forehead. “Perhaps we’ll get an answer this time."
//
He returned the picture to its place and opened the closet full of black and gray, pants and jackets, with two gray knitted sweaters hanging at the end. On a whim, Ben reached out and took a closer look at them—one was worn, with loops of yarn fraying out from use. The other was soft and new, with a tag of brown paper pinned to the sleeve. I thought you’d want another one for the winter. We’re looking forward to seeing you again. 
It was a woman’s hand, and the paper looked as if it had been cut off a parcel from the store.
//
For one moment he could not find anything to say and did not feel, somehow, that he needed to say anything. He drew her to him, very gently, the promise of life to come pressed between them, warm and real and staggering to think about. His hand shook against her flaxen hair. One breath, cold wind with the salt of England on his lips. Another breath, another wind, winding its way through the strands of beach grass bowed down under the great sky of future.

//
“If I can keep it private I won’t get in trouble with anyone” He paused before pushing off on the pedal. “But don’t tell Charlotte either.”
“Now I’m working with two people who have lost their mind."
//
Her hand clutched wrinkles into her skirt. “I won’t do it again! It was a moment.” 
“Perhaps I would believe you—if you ever showed you cared once for something that mattered to anyone else.” His hands clenched tight behind the white squares of fabric. “I’ve never seen it.”
She lifted shaking hands to her face. “I can’t get out.” She panted. “I can’t—get—out.”
//
“The Russians are gone. The Americans are home.” Evesham glanced sideways at Ben.
Ben traced an edge of the desk where the polish had faded and blackened with the wear. “Just because I’m an American doesn’t mean I can summon the entire American army.”
“I don’t expect you to. But for the love of all Great Britain, be a good deposit.”
//
Bloody face, bloody shot, the revolver recoiling in his hands. Only this time the gray hair didn’t frame the face of a stranger, but the face of Matthew Dorroll—and this time he wasn’t firing in self-defence—but deep down, where the anger lurked hot as fire coals, he wanted to do it. Until he woke to memory and shame. 
//
Terry’s shoulders fell as he took it. “I was hoping you’d forget about that.”
“I don’t—”
“I know, doc. You promised. Quit promising things.”
//
He pressed himself against the door, one hand half raised in expectancy. 
Slim, black fingers reached in and touched the window latch.
He snatched those fingers, crushed them in a death grip as the arm tautened in surprise and recoiled against him. Using his whole shoulder, he smashed the sliver of bare wrist across a jagged edge of the window glass.
//

oh my goodness, all the angst. here, have a puppy quote. 

Tiny, wet fingers slipped into his and the dark-haired little boy tugged him outside. They went together to the corner of the cottage, where a pudgy, golden-furred dog with a stub tail was tugging at the leash. Ben reached down and felt the soft ears as the puppy’s eager tongue wrapped around his fingers.

Do you have a favorite quote from Camp NaNo? Share it with us in the comments! 

Friday, July 27, 2018

60 Gay

via pixabay
Life turned idyllic whenever we traveled up north. There the sand dunes lay golden under the sky...the lake lay placid cupped between hills and cottages...the cherries lay chocolate covered in the dishes at the famous Cherry Republic. 

For one week in the year, we felt at home. That place held the church we loved--the community we craved and couldn't find back home. We drank in a sense of rest. We filled up with creativity from Food Network. We boated and hiked and the guys watched baseball games, and then in the evenings my sister and I would creak up the narrow stairs to our room--the room with the three twin beds and the windows facing the lake. 

Driving home was the hardest. As the expressway curved back towards the city, a slow sense of oppression settled back over us. We keenly felt the loneliness; keenly felt that we were only at home one week out of the year. Back in the city, there was almost a sense of spiritual oppression. 

L.M. Montgomery too, captured the sense of exile in Jane of Lantern Hill. While I never traced those themes, I always loved Jane (even above Anne.) Caught between separated parents, Jane lived in the city where she was friendless, trapped, and called Victoria by everyone around her. 
Gay Street, so Jane always thought, did not live up to its name. It was, she felt certain, the most melancholy street in Toronto...though, to be sure, she had not seen a great many of the Toronto streets in her circumscribed comings and goings of eleven years. (Jane of Lantern Hill, pg. 1) 
But that summer--oh, that glorious summer when Dad asked her to meet him--she got her cottage by the ocean--the cottage with the garden, the kittens, and lashings of magic. There people called her Jane--there she was able to cook and learn how to run barefoot on a stubble field (I've always wanted to do that a la Jane). She learned what home was. Until the fall, when she had to come back to Toronto and 60 Gay, leaving her heart behind in Prince Edward Island. 

Year after year, she lived an exile through the school year and thrived in the summertime. 
Those last few days were compounded of happiness and misery for Jane. She did so many things she loved to do and would not do again until next summer...and next summer seemed a hundred years away. (Jane of Lantern Hill, pg. 140) 
For almost ten years we were Jane. Everything we wanted was up north. But gradually, things shifted. As we graduated high school and met more people, the sense of exile lessened. We invited people into our home. We met people online and formed Bible studies. My brother and I joined BSF. We got jobs, put down roots. Now, when I drive through the city on Monday nights, the chorus of Andrew Peterson's "Everybody's Got a Song" beats through my heart like a refrain. Oh, I love this city. A couple years ago when the prospect of moving popped up, we knew that here--here where we once felt oppressed and lonely--we now had a vibrant sense of life and people we did not want to leave behind. 

It's been five years now since we last saw those windows. I still deeply want to go back north at least once more before we all grow up. There are still corners of loneliness to be combatted. We still haven't found a church that feels like home. In other words, heaven hasn't come down. But it's a place I love. 

Interestingly enough, Jane, too, found home in Toronto. Once her heart found rest and people popped up to share her life with, it was no longer the place itself that seemed so terribly lonely.  Toronto, too, had its house with lashings of magic.
Jane thought of the little stone house in Lakeside Gardens. It had not been sold yet. They would buy it. It would live...they would give it life. Its cold windows would shine with welcoming lights....There would be no more misunderstanding. She, Jane, understood them both and could interpret them to each other. And have an eye on the housekeeping as well. It all fitted in as if it had been planned ages ago. (Jane of Lantern Hill, pg. 217)
Home is in our hearts and with the people and the God that we love.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.--Matthew 6:21

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.--Colossians 3:1

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Life in Tears

via Pixabay
When I watch movies by myself lately, I cry. Sometimes it is ugly cry. Sometimes it is just a hint of almost tearing up--not really crying. But either way, it is a response to art.

When I cry, I know my heart is in a tender place.

It hasn't felt tender. It's felt dry and hard the last few weeks. A friend asked me on the phone what God was teaching me lately; I said it felt like one of those times when you don't feel like a very good Christian. Overwhelmed and trapped by what is within. Tired.

Devotions help. They're key to feeling alive. Prayer is key, too, to feeling alive. But devotions are hit and miss when you're trying to finish up a memorizing project and you won't let yourself move on until it's over. Sometimes in the morning it's too tiring to review Psalm 119. (So why keep doing it, Schuyler? I don't know. But I want to hold on a little longer.)

Even writing didn't feel particularly life-giving. It's been a pressure cooker of "I'm not making word count. I'm not telling the story I want to tell. It's better, but it's not there yet. I'm making the same mistakes."

Lately, what has felt alive is neither prayer nor devotions, but other people's stories.

As I write this post I am listening to Sleeping at Last's, Saturn, which a friend just told me about last Wednesday. And I am crying again. It's easy not to feel spiritual--to feel like a movie junkie, someone who can't move past the self-indulgence of a good book, who needs to dig down and work harder at getting this spiritual relationship all together. It all started at the end of May when I took a break from work. Binging on stories, on good art, felt like sitting down to a meal after starving--taking in vitamins when your soul was crying out for lack. Peace was there. Joy was there. A sense of fullness of life was there--and how do you reconcile all that when it doesn't have a chapter and verse on it?

A month and a half later reading still felt alive--but devotions really didn't. Coming out of a life season, the only thing I knew for sure I needed was more of Jesus--because there was entirely too much of me.  I was driving in a car last Tuesday night when another puzzle piece fell into place. It was probably one of those nights when driving wasn't a good idea, but God takes care of you in those times, and I needed the solitude and the time with Tenth Avenue North. I cried again as the CD wound to its end--I confess, I admit, I look for life outside of you // I repent, coming back, to the only joy that's true. I listened to it twice. It was a heart cry.

Two days later, four of us friends headed down to St. Louis for a writer's conference. I was looking at the session descriptions I had picked when I registered when I decided to switch to a different one. Chaos and Creativity--that felt like a pretty good description of life at the moment--so I walked into the meeting room, found a plug for my laptop, and tumbled into another piece of the journey. The session wasn't about making the most of your writing time, or all the tips to make time management possible while juggling events and expectations. It was about finding God again in the writing--making it a journey of intimacy with him. Over the six hours of class, it felt like another injection of living truth--how to find a sense of closeness to God again.

Prayer was reawakened. Peace was reawakened. Writing without striving and chaos was reawakened. It's only two days later, and I don't want it to be stolen away. But as I sat and listened to Allen Arnold discuss how God wants us to create with him and without chaos, I was able to trace what God had been doing this Spring when it didn't seem like he was. I realized that the Father who loves to guide his children had been guiding me all the way back in May, when it seemed like all I could do was read stories. He was reaching me through that love. And now he is continuing the guiding--all the way to himself.

I have a ways to go. I don't want the seed to be choked out. So pray for me, if you can, that the Lord will grow it until it is strong and sturdy and true.

It began by crying over stories again--and now I can see that even though it did not feel like God was present, he was, even ways that didn't feel ultra-spiritual. It was a drawing, a healing, a pouring in of life, that he is continuing even more specifically with explicitly spiritual things.

I do not know all the ins and outs of it. But when I cry over life--over pain and love and eucatastrophe and my relationship with Jesus--then I am in a living place. And it feels good to be in a living place again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

I Have Learned

via Pixabay.
This beautiful picture has nothing to do with the post, but I'm sure some deep and clever metaphor could be found herein. 
I'm almost halfway through the stack of books for this summer. Five are ticked off; six more (and a review book) to go. They have kept me company riding in the car on a day so hot I worried I had damaged a new library book....awake at night flipping through my Kindle....lying in bed exhausted after a party....or just settling down in the evening before going to sleep.

I've learned about the kings of England. Julia Baird's biography of Victoria absolutely geeked me out. I knew her story from the Victoria miniseries and The Young Victoria, but somehow it feels solid and respectable to add a nonfiction biography as part of your fandom, you know? Then you actually know what's real. I don't know what it is about Victoria, but somehow I can hear her story again and again and again. My favorite part of the biography was learning about her ancestors. Somehow I didn't really know that Victoria's grandfather was king during the Revolutionary War. It's amazing to see a bunch of dissipated, dreadful sons (barring Victoria's father) race to marry a bunch of German women and produce an heir--all due to the death of the king's granddaughter and Parliament's plea. It's even more amazing to think that there was a male grandson--but because he was Victoria's younger cousin, he missed the throne. Also interesting: so much accuracy in the Victoria miniseries.

Sometimes I think I could be a queen. Not in the "everybody serve me" way, but in a bittersweet, slightly lonely Victoria way.

I've learned about the FBI. James Comey's actions struck passionate discussions, and their ripple effects are still continuing. Back in 2017, I found Comey's questionings before a committee to be fascinating (I didn't know who he was before that). I find the guardedness of secret intelligence to be fascinating, liked his presentation, and wanted to read his book for myself.

In his book, Comey confesses both to ego, and to sometimes struggling to make the final decision in a situation where high-up people are involved. If he knows that about himself, I wouldn't be surprised if that influenced his course of action later. Most of his book struck me as balanced and readable, but the section on Trump felt rawer; less clear-sighted--a life situation that probably would have been better with time to judge and temper it. But book deals won't wait for time while the iron's hot.

The most chilling phrase I read was when Comey alerted someone to an issue with Trump (I wish I hadn't returned the book so fast. Most likely it was connected with the Justice Department or the Attorney General). After not hearing back, he contacted the man he sent it to again. The man's response? "[expletive deleted], I hoped it would just go away." (Again, I returned the book too soon so this isn't an exact quotation.)

I hoped it would just go away. That phrase can echo in the church, the family, the individual human soul: I didn't know what to do, so I hoped it would just go away. You can replace "it" with anything: a struggle with sin or a doubt of faith or a secret abuse or a relationship strain: I hoped it would just go away is often the heartfelt cry of our finite humanity.

"It" doesn't go away. It must be seized. Faced. Grappled with. Brought to face the light and honesty, no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable. That is the only way to ever make "it" go away.

After reading the book, I think it's hard for a human to be in the FBI. To be without bias politically, to make hard decisions about the ugly secrets of people in power, requires a cast-iron commitment to principle and inability to be swayed from the right thing that I'm not sure I could muster.

I've learned about love. On July 5th I finished reading Tracy Groot's Flame of Resistance, a Rahab retelling about a British pilot who teams up with a French prostitute during WW2. I cried all over the end. That climax was absolutely stellar. Powerful, powerful themes of love and sacrifice in one delicious twist after another.  I need to learn how to twist a story like that.

I've learned about caring for the outcast. One story I didn't expect to discover this summer was Call the Midwife. It made me cry too. Call the Midwife Season 1 is a beautiful, poignant set of episodes about ministering to all--the dirty, the poor, the joyful, the sinners. Babies come regardless of the circumstances in which they were conceived--whether it's a newlywed couple's first baby or the result of a one night stand. The whole series is a touching picture of humanity--of people who have sinned and aren't repentant--of people who have sinned and want to hide--of people who have found love and marriage later and still experience loss--and of people who have loved for decades and still have room for one more baby. The main nurse, Jenny, comes to the East End of London unaware at first of all the filth and suffering. And it's powerful to see how she must provide compassion and care to everyone regardless of their moral standing. Stories like this, at the age I am now, expand my heart within my faith. (Episode 2 has gritty and touching themes of child sex-trafficking. Episode 5 has gritty/mature, but not visually graphic, themes as well.) I'm really looking forward to season 2.

So far this summer has been inspiring and tear-inducing. Seven books to go. I can't wait for them.

Though I haven't cried over Martin Luther yet.
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