20 January 2011

"Batter my Heart"

Batter my heart, three personed God, for you,
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and see to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, 'and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to' another due,
Labour to' admit you; but oh, to no end;
Reason your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captivated, and proves weak or untrue,
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy.
Divorce me', untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthral me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
~ John Donne

11 January 2011

On my love of C.S. Lewis

"The fellow-pupil can help more than the master because he knows less. The difficulty we want him to explain is one he has recently met. The expert met it so long ago that he has forgotten. He sees the whole subject, by now, in such a different light that he cannot conceive what is really troubling the pupil; he sees a dozen other difficulties which ought to be troubling him but aren't" ~ C.S. Lewis in Reflections on the Psalms

I can't recall if I've ever mentioned it here or not, but I love C.S. Lewis. As, a professor of literature, a powerful writer and thinker, and a passionate and outspoken lover of Christ he serves as one of my role models and inspiration in life, and, as far as authors go, he is undoubtedly my favourite. Whether fiction or nonfiction, his prose simply makes me happy through its beauty, its eloquence, and its ability to make me think. In fact, I think the above quote summarizes much of what I find appealing about his work: he is a fellow student and disciple of Christ, learning to follow Him in a way that is faithful, powerful, and true, but he experiences many of the same struggles and difficulties I have along the way. As I read his works, I learn from someone else who has traveled the same path I have (although, his journey was also in many ways different from my own), and he sometimes manages to give voice to some of my thoughts, emotions, and longings which I myself have been unable to properly articulate.

If I were to make a list of people I wish were still around so that I could simply sit and talk with them, he would be on it, and I hope that someday in heaven I get the opportunity for a conversation with him (presuming we're not both too busy simply worshipping Jesus and delighting in finally being able to see Him face to face and bask in His presence... Cause that will be absolutely amazing!).

Do you have any particular authors in your life who do this for you? Who, when you read their work, make you you think "Here's someone who thinks like I do!"?

08 January 2011

Of Knights, Dragons, and Princesses

I think children, at least the ones in my family, have to be the most creative creatures on earth. For example: my youngest sister is only two years old, and one of her very favourite things to do is play with her brothers' toy knights. These knights are each about two to three inches tall and outfitted with incredibly detailed armour and weapons, and our brothers collection also includes such characters as horses, pirates, faeries, princesses, and, of course dragons. The other day she was playing with these in the play room while a group of us older girls was working in the kitchen. In the course of her game, and entire troupe of knights on horseback made a journey from one end of the room to the other. In the course of this journey they were attacked by several dragons who, apparently, slaughtered the entire company. The horses of the fallen knights immediately let out a cry for help, yelling "Help! Save us! Princesses! Help us!" Almost as soon as they began this cry it was answered by a group of princesses from the castle who swiftly shooed the dragons away, mounted the horses, and rode them back to the castle singing "Jingle Bells" as they went.

Such storylines and others featuring even greater creativity are not uncommon in her games or in the games of the other children in my home. On a daily basis they invent fantasies worthy of any fairytale writer out of thin air, bending the rules of reality to their own little whims. True, their stories lack the complexity of a great novel, but they contain all of the raw imagination one could possibly desire. Mine were the same when I was little. I can remember spending hours in the car with my siblings constructing our own fantasy worlds and characters with complex histories, laws, and personalities all their own.

What happens to this imagination as we get older? And how is it that some people are able to retain and focus it to become great authors and storytellers while others seem to lose it entirely? Perhaps the key to being a truly great fiction author (at least of fantasy) is to foster and grow a connection with the imagination and wonder of the inner child and that same ability which allows children to enjoy games of make-believe that last for hours, days, or even weeks on end or to invent and maintain imaginary friends who each possess unique personalities and characters.

Pie Conundrums...

Have you ever tried to bake a pie which accommodated for the tastes, dietary needs, preferences, etc. of fourteen people? It's not easy, not easy at all. As I contemplated my pie options for this weekend these are just some of the things I attempted to take into consideration: Coffee makes one sister nauseous, another dislikes coconut, a third can't have peanut products, and a brother recently was placed on a diet which forbids nuts, fruit, or whole grains (such as... Oatmeal!). Another brother has a strange abhorrence to raisins, and my father is currently off of sugar (an aspect I'm not trying to work around, per se, but I am trying to avoid making any of his favourite pies in an attempt to not be too terribly cruel). Additionally, my parents have recently placed stricter limits on our budget, meaning that ideally I needed to make this pie from ingredients already in the house rather than purchasing any additional supplies. As I looked through my cookbook trying to take all of these things into account, I struggled. What to do? How to create something lovely and tasty (but, for Daddy's sake, not too lovely and tasty) out of the supplies already in the pantry which my brother could still eat on his new (rather restrictive) diet... I had purchased a half-gallon of buttermilk a week or so ago for another pie I baked (A Blueberry-Maple Pie with Cornmeal Crust. There was buttermilk in the crust.), so I thought I would simply use what was left of that and make a simple buttermilk pie.

However, apparently various younger siblings of mine have been using my buttermilk without first reading the label for such things as coffee creamer or a condiment on cereal and oatmeal. This, as might be supposed, has resulted in both some rather unhappy siblings (buttermilk and milk don't exactly have the same flavour. One sister informed me that the nasty stuff I had in the fridge had curdled her tea!) and a shortage of buttermilk needed to make a pie. After flipping through my recipes a couple more times and wracking my brain for ideas, however, I decided that it would be worth it to measure the remainder of the buttermilk. Maybe, just maybe, there would be enough. So, measure I did, and, lo and behold there was exactly one cup of buttermilk, just enough to make one of the buttermilk pie recipes in my book. Therefore, I determined to create that pie.

The result was not the best of the pies I've made so far, but it was quite tasty and decently pretty. Crafted with lemon juice and a touch of nutmeg it had a spongy, souffle-type top layer slightly golden brown in color with a little extra nutmeg sprinkled on top for garnish, and the flavour resembled a slightly spicy lemon custard. While it doesn't appear to have won any awards for "Favourite Pie," it was gobbled up pretty quickly by my various testers (which I figure is always a good sign!) and got a thumbs up from tonight's special guest, an old friend who I haven't seen in several months and whose conversation on life, school, student ministry, and the work God has been doing in Norman all added even greater enjoyment to the evening's pie consumption.

In other words, I declare my solution to the pie conundrum not a smashing success, but certainly satisfactory. :)