Monthly Archives: November 2015

AMPS

Hi there,

I recently read All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews.  I don’t recommend it. I mean I do, but I don’t.  Particularly, if you have a history of suicide in your family.

It also sounds like she’s got quite the bone to pick with the Mennonite community. I get it. I had issues with the Roman Catholic church myself.  I actually found some relief in discovering that other people from different faiths have also been wounded by their churches. It wasn’t just the Roman Catholics!  Hurrah!

I also discovered that I had a rebellious heart.  As most of you probably know, in the Catholic church you can only take communion if you are Catholic (in part due to what the Catholics believe about the host and the wine), and you also have to complete the sacrament of Holy Communion.  I did this as a child. (It was actually a pretty great moment for me.  I remember wearing a beautiful white dress and leading the procession of other kids taking part in Communion.  My grandparents came and I have a picture of myself with them after the ceremony.)

Anyway, years later, after having walked away from the Catholic church, I would sometimes find myself in a Catholic church for various reasons.  One such reason was Ash Wednesday.  That day, I was determined to take Communion, even though I knew the priests would probably not allow me to take Communion (given I was going to a Protestant church).

I found myself sitting in the church, crying!  I did not take part in Communion and felt like I needed to go to my own church that night for their Ash Wednesday service to repent of my hard, stubborn and rebellious heart.

It was a breakthrough moment, where I learned that even if I do not agree with some traditions in the Catholic church, and even if some priests had been big-time jerks to my mom, I still had to respect and honour the traditions of the Catholic church.

I made a shocking discovery:  The Catholic church was not the problem.  I was the problem!

So, when I read All My Puny Sorrows, I wondered if Ms. Toews was airing out her grievances publicly, and I wondered whether or not she was finding healing by doing this.  (I have no idea if she’s Mennonite!  It would just seem strange to have two novels, this one and A Complicated Kindness about rebelling against the Mennonite community if you were not Mennonite…)

That said, the main theme of the book is suicide.  This topic is something of intense personal meaning to the author.

At the end of the novel there’s a woman giving the eulogy at the sister’s funeral, and her toddler comes up, takes the urn, opens it and begins to put the ashes in his mouth.  Toews says, ““And I learned another thing, which is that just because someone is eating the ashes of your protagonist doesn’t mean you stop telling the story.””

The story was gut-wrenching for me, given that my own mother has attempted suicide twice, both during my lifetime.

I finished reading the book and cried.  I couldn’t stop crying.  A therapist would probably say it was good for me.  But, if you have lived through that pain, it doesn’t feel good for you.  It’s a pain you can’t even begin to describe – Ineffable.

I suppose I should thank Ms. Toews for having the guts to not “stop telling the story.”  Well, that’s all I have in me today.  As an old friend used to say, “Thanks for reading!”

Blessings,

Ellie

Quote taken from the Star: http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/2014/04/14/author_miriam_toews_talks_about_the_family_experiences_that_lead_to_all_my_puny_sorrows_her_latest_book.html

 

 

Ode to Joy

Hi there,

In Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis writes, “You can do more with a castle in a story than with the best cardboard castle that ever stood on a nursery table.”

The one thing I admire about Lewis is his imagination.  The Chronicles of Narnia are in my opinion far better than Harry Potter.  (Sorry to my Potter friends!)

A castle in a story can house all sorts of rooms, with secrets, betrayal, love, lust…the list goes on and on.

As a writer, I find my imagination stalls on me.  I used to have an imagination, a vivid imagination.  I went from having a pet imaginary mouse, who I would leave water out every night for in a round plastic coaster, to an imaginary killer whale in the above-ground pool (we didn’t own) in the side yard. Every day, I would go out and feed my pet killer whale imaginary fish.

So now I am left wondering,  To where has my imagination gone?   I miss my imaginary pets.

I miss being able to be free to let my imagination roam freely.

I watched a Ted Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of that book, Eat, Pray, Love.  She spoke of ancient times and how the Romans had what they called a Genius that helped writers. Creativity was something of the divine.   It wasn’t until the Renaissance, she asserts, that genius became a term given to the writer or artist, and this is where our problems begin. The tortured artist was born.

Too much pressure on us little humans.

As a Christian, I would say that my Genius is the Holy Spirit.  He or she, if you will, is the creative force behind my imagination and creativity.

In fact, I have had moments, writing essays, where I have felt the words flowing out of me, and then, I, Ellie, get in the way.  Both times, the professors made comments on my papers. They could see where I had pulled back, something shifted in my essay, and it was exactly the point in the paper where my brain started to tell me, You’re going too far… This was the point in the essay when an A paper became an A-.

When I look around the created world and universe, it is so expanse and amazing.  Check out this picture from NASA!  (I wanted to make sure the photo was authentic, not an internet fake.)

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

NASA Photo taken from http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html

It strikes me as almost unimaginable that God (for this is what I believe), who created the universe by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, that this same power is available to little old me, from Kinburn!

Proverbs 3:19-20 says, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens;  by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.”

Amazing!  I hope your inner child has been awakened!

Here’s a little flash mob for you to check out:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87qT5BOl2XU

Happy Creating!

Ellie

 

Christian Calisthenics

Hey there,

How’s that for alliteration?

I have been feeling very much like a failure as a Christian. I have no idea how to do this “thing” they call being a “Christ-follower”.

The reason I use the word “failure” is because of Christians’ need to turn lemons into lemonade.  You know, tragedy strikes and they try to make a bad deal good. Sometimes, life circumstances just suck.  And, yet I am supposed to find it somewhere deep within me to witness to those God has brought in my path because of those circumstances.

Sometimes, I just don’t have it in me, People!

I was also reminded of a nifty little word, “Evangelism”.  Any “ism” is bad. (I think we should toss the word. It comes from man, not God.)  I was reminded of this word recently because of a work situation.  Most people in this particular environment were not “a-friendly” to Christians.  I often found myself ducking for cover.

When I did speak up, it was because I felt comfortable doing so, or because I was frustrated by people’s beliefs about Christians.  Evangelism.  Here’s what springs to the mind of the average person. George Bush praying to God about whether he should go to war against Iraq and God giving George W. the OK to do so!

How can I even argue against that?  How do I even tell people that I do seek God’s will and instruction in my life. They would probably think I’m as nutty as George W.

Here’s my other dilemma.  God wants a relationship with us. I think Christians over-spiritualize everything.  Like God actually cares whether you buy the red or the blue car.
He doesn’t!

In 1 Corinthians 9:20-27, Paul wrote, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (Ellie’s comment:  Paul sounds pretty humble here in his approach in wanting to “share” the “blessings” of the “gospel”.)

He goes on, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Maybe we should be less concerned with witnessing to people, and more concerned about building relationships with people.  No strings attached.  Is that too radical for us modern-day Christians?

If God wants a relationship with us, then I’m guessing he wants us in relationship with others. Hey, maybe my dilemma isn’t really a dilemma after all.

Blessings,

Ellie

PS – Buy the red car – it’s flashier and funner!  🙂