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Archive for the ‘Symbolism’ Category

…continued from “A Friend in the Grass”

And talk, they did.  They spoke of the land, called Phóghrian which means “kissed by the sun.”  They talked of King Ghrian, a royal descendant of the very Creator and namesake of their world.  He was kind, just, and beloved by all his subjects whom he treated more as children and friends than subordinates.  It was a very old world, Alita said.  A world much older than that which Kathryn was from and one that would be there long after hers expired.  Kathryn was so happy to be wandering the enchanted land that she barely noticed the toll the walk was taking on her.  Perhaps there, even the ground was kind-hearted and soft as to provide gentle passage to all travelers.

When they reached the forest edge, Alita took in a deep breath conveying sheer glee to Kathryn.  Before she could ask, Alita turned to say, “this is one of my most favorite places in all of Phóghrian.  I’m so excited to share it with you!”  Kathryn smiled as her heart filled with warmth.  Something in Alita’s tone assured her that she was sincerely welcomed and enjoyed as a traveling companion.  It seemed so odd given that they’d known each other less than 24 hours, but she felt secure in this new friendship.  “I’m happy too,” she genuinely replied.

They were barely twenty yards into the wood when it became obvious why it was called the Forest of Lights.  The trees were tall, thick, and deeply green.  They created miles and miles of canopied paradise, offering shade to all the creatures within it.  Despite the thick covering, the emerald-colored leaves were positioned in such a way that millions of tiny sunrays streamed through to kiss the ground below.  In being so far above her, the forest ceiling mimicked the gleam of stars in the midnight sky though formed by sun and trees.  It was breathtaking.

As they traveled, Alita shared some of her story.  She’d come from a long line of warriors.  Her family lived on the other side of the large Kingdom, but she was called to serve in the King’s palace.  She missed her parents and siblings terribly, but reunited with them in the very meeting place where she’d met Kathryn.  She loved being near the King.  She praised his character and kindness with honest exuberance.  The closer she was to him, she explained, the more complete she felt.

“Alita,” Kathryn asked, “do you hear that?”  Kathryn hated to interrupt such lovely stories, but she couldn’t contain her curiosity any longer.  Ever since they’d entered the forest, she’d heard whisperings all around.  However, every time she looked, she saw no one.  At this point, she knew to expect mystery and magic, but she couldn’t stand not knowing what she was hearing.

“Oh! You hear the trees, don’t you? My goodness, I’d gotten so caught up—I do that a lot—that I completely forgot to tell you. The trees are alive as you and I, and they’re chattering is because of you.”
“They can tell I’m not from here, huh?”
“Well, yes, that’s true,” she replied with a chuckle, “but that’s not why they’re talking. They’re excited. They’ve been excited to meet you ever since they heard you’d arrived.”
“I don’t believe that.” She lost control of her cynicism for the moment.
“Believe it, my friend, because it’s true. Come, let’s ask them.”
“No, we don’t have to—” she protested, but it was too late. Alita was determinedly marching towards a particularly tall redwood-like tree near the rough path.
“Excuse me, could we ask you something please?” Alita shouted towards the top.
“Absolutely!” replied a kindly, masculine voice.

Within seconds, the base of the tree began to shift with a mighty cracking sound, not unlike that of lightning striking a branch overhead.  She stared with gaping eyes as the figure of a seven-foot man emerged from the trunk, leaving his cut-out shape behind as he adjusted his neck and arms before them.  His skin was warm brown and oddly soft-looking, despite being composed of aged bark.  His long sage-toned hair of moss joined his long beard, alluding to great wisdom.  Vines covered his body like a tunic with decorative leaves and coils scattered about.  Stiffened by the unbelievable sight and a good measure of fear, Kathryn stood as a statue as he opened his mouth (how peculiar that he had a mouth!) to address them.  “What can I help you with?” he asked.

“Well,” replied Alita with unshakeable confidence, “Kathryn was wondering what exactly you have been talking about.”
“Kathryn? That’s a nice name,” he acknowledged as he crouched to look the newcomer in the eye. “Well, Kathryn, we’re talking about you. We’d heard that the King was calling for someone from your world. Since then, we’ve been looking forward to seeing the one whom he would call so specifically. It’s quite an honor, you know.”
“I imagine,” she stammered respectfully, finally drumming up the courage to speak.
“We’re all so glad you’ve come. Clearly, the King has something very special in store for you. We can’t wait to find out what it is.”
“We were also saying how lovely you are,” chimed in a feminine voice nearby, as a tall lady with long hair in a mossy gown emerged.
“Oh, um, thank you?” Kathryn replied, full of disbelief.
“It’s true! You’re like a tiny, golden-haired flower,” she reassured with a sincere, beaming smile as the fellow near them nodded in agreement.
Kathryn blushed as she thanked them with more confidence.
“You see! I told you!” Alita proudly stated, “You’re a lot more special than you realize.”
Kathryn was about to reply with defensive sarcasm when Alita intercepted to say, “Well, we have to be going.  We’ve still got another three hours to go, at the least.”

The tree people wished them well as they pressed on through the forest, grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Kathryn’s journey to the King.  With each step onward, she grew quieter as she wondered what the King could possibly want from her.  A throbbing nervousness settled in her heart as a result.  Like an internal anvil, this feeling plummeted to her stomach as they reached the end of the great forest and they stopped to take in the view of the grand Golden Mountains, drenched in evening sunlight.

“In about an hour, you’re going to meet him,” spoke her wildcat companion with delight. “Are you ready?”
Kathryn heaved a weighty sigh and replied with extreme honesty, “not even a little.”
Alita heartily laughed at her friend’s response as they proceeded into the narrow valley before them.

to be continued…

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…continued from “The Squire in the Road”

Knowing he was far ahead of her, she wasted no time in pushing through the thick brush at the entrance of the woods.  Fighting against her own mental resistance and that of strong armed, seldom-disturbed pines and maples, she made her way to a narrow path in the center.  She picked up the pace as to not lose sight of her guide, who continued to turn from several feet ahead to double-handedly wave her onward.

In what was turning into a long jaunt through a deceptively deep and dark wood, she couldn’t help but wonder if she’d hit her head and stumbled into a Lewis Carroll story.  Instead of a white rabbit with a waistcoat, she was following a mysterious nine-year-old who looked like he escaped from a Renaissance festival.  Did Alice ever question why she was compelled to follow a time-obsessed rodent in the first place, she wondered?  Did Alice wonder how she would explain her psychotic break to family and friends?

“Come quickly,” the boy urged.  She was quite far behind him now, but not far enough to miss his first words to her.  There was insistence in his demand, but no impatience.  It was like he knew she was questioning everything and wanted to keep her from retreating.  He then stopped and waited with encouraging eyes locked on hers.  Looking past him, she saw a wall of sorts.  Suddenly feeling trapped in what she realized was a tunnel, she glanced back towards the entrance and saw nothing but a long, unlit tube formed by abundant trees.  It looked oddly like the insides of a giant snake formed by nature with branches for bones.  She was about to make a break for it when she unconsciously arrived at the end.

“Kathryn,” he said in a relieved tone, “I’m so glad you made it.”
Panting from the hurried walk, she exhaustedly replied, “and what, exactly, have I made it to?”
“Your entrance of course!” he answered with a burst of joy.
My entrance?”
“Of course!  You didn’t think I was leading you to a dead end, did you?”
“Um, I didn’t really think about it.  I don’t make a habit of following strange kids in medieval clothing.”
“Fair enough, but enough talk.  It’s time to go in.”
“In?  In where?” she asked, digging for more detail.
“In your door, silly.  I thought we covered this,” he joked mischievously.

She was about to ask, “what door?” when she noticed the curious structure of the final trees in the tunnel.  Two large, elderly oaks leaned to meet each other, forming a rustic archway.  Beneath the archway, a wide wooden door stared back at her.  The ancient material spoke of wisdom somehow.  The cryptic carvings ornately and silently told of enchantment.   Her heart filled with equal parts fear, intrigue, and excitement as she placed her hand on a particular Celtic design.  This was her door.  She could feel it.

She moved her hand gingerly to the large iron handle and began to push.   She remembered her young guide and turned to thank him.  She smiled as her eyes were met by nothing but the dark innards of the tunnel.  “Figures,” she mused as she leaned into the door.  Her heart quickened with anticipation, almost unbearably, with each exasperated groan of the ancient hinges as they labored to reveal what was behind them.  With all of her might, she gave one last push that gave way to a breathtaking sight.  Enraptured by the beauty before her, she bravely took her first step from familiar reality to the then-unknown world of unbelievable mystery, magic, and adventure that would change her life forever.

 

To be continued…

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That morning, the sun brought little joy as it beamed through the dusty, vertical blinds in her bedroom.  It mostly acted as a blinding reminder of yet another day to muddle through.  She peeled herself from the one place she desired to be, lazily pulled up the quilt to give the illusion of a tidy bed, and began her typical morning routine.

After dawdling (or subconsciously procrastinating) with soggy cereal, she scowled at the clock which scolded her for her lateness once again.  As she rushed out the door, she was smacked in the face by horrid heat and dense humidity.  It was the kind of weather that makes one miss being overtaken by woolen scarves and puffy layers along with the other Midwestern marshmallow people trying to keep their nose hairs from freezing.  Instead, she cursed at the broken air conditioner in her car and braced herself for another ride to work drenched in sweat and disdain.

It wasn’t always this way, she thought wistfully as she sailed down the side roads.  She used to be a dreamer.  Her dreams were so grand and lovely that she lived blissfully on the fine line between vision and madness.  Fueled by relentless passion that gave her the hope needed to face any obstacle, she believed that she was made for something wonderful.  She believed she could do anything—be anything—with the help of God.

So, what happened, she wondered?  How did her paradigm shift so severely?  How did a seemingly promising young woman become so jaded?  Cynics might have said that she grew up, as we all must.  Die-hard optimists may have claimed that she just wasn’t positive enough.  Some Christians—the unfortunate kind that are proficient in pointing fingers—might have ruled that she obviously had unresolved sin or didn’t pray hard enough.  All these theories found a way into her thoughts, but what was the truth?  This question haunted her mind unyieldingly like an eerily translucent poltergeist occupies a condemned turn-of-the-century mansion.

It was this dizzying thought that she was lost in when, all of a sudden, she came to a screeching halt.  She snapped out of absent-minded autopilot just in time to stop herself from hitting a young, oddly dressed boy standing in the crosswalk.  Shaking violently and struggling with her heart that now beat wildly within her stomach, she pulled her car safely into a nearby parking spot and closed her eyes.  As reactive tears fell, she took a deep breath and looked up towards the park to her right.  To her great surprise, the boy, donning a tunic and boots akin to a young squire’s of Arthurian tales, stood near her window, eagerly beckoning her with to follow him into a wooded area nearby.  Perhaps it was guilt over the near-tragedy, or a spark of childlike curiosity, but something moved her to leave the confinement of her vehicle and follow the young lad into the trees.

To be continued…

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A mystifying blanket of fog had descended upon the entire metropolitan area that night, coating everything in a dark grey veil.  Like a phantom gliding down from a belfry, it drifted in with unnatural speed and mystery.  To call it dense would be a vast understatement.  Impenetrable would be more appropriate, though still not entirely accurate.

Traffic was non-existent.  Streets were virtually abandoned, not that one could see the form or figure of any living creature amid the earthbound clouds.  Even streetlights, whose sworn duty was to illuminate, could barely utter a whisper of a yellowish glow.  Homes emitted such little light that they appeared more like old pieces in a Holiday Village collection on the cusp of burning out for good.  The typical buzzes of Suburbia were nearly completely silenced.  Only the whir of such things as power lines and air filtration systems seemed audible, though noticeably stifled.  The town was draped in forced peacefulness which was intriguing and eerie all at once.

Somehow, I found myself called to leave the house for the sake of a mission, humble as it was.  A friend was trapped at her office due to the conditions and subsequent lack of visibility.  Luckily, this friend worked within walking distance of my residence, charging me and a walking companion with the task of rescuing her and welcoming her into a more hospitable setting.  I can’t recall why it was our duty; I only know that it was.  So, we set forth with flashlights in hand to retrieve her.

As we reached the top of a hill, exhausted by the weight of the damp air, we stopped to breathe at a four-way intersection.  It was bizarre to see this typically chaotic point of traffic as vacant.  Normally filled with impatient drivers, it was often difficult to cross on foot.  As we resumed our journey, we found ourselves walking with conditioned caution despite the obvious lack of threat.

Proceeding through the crosswalk, I looked to the right and saw a faint figure in the distance.  How peculiar.  It resembled an animal of some sort.  A donkey.  Was this a fog-induced mirage?  No.  There really was a small beast of burden standing calmly across the street.  It seemed to be positioned towards me, as if to specifically attract my attention.  It probably goes without saying, but this was highly atypical.  This was a busy intersection in a highly-populated suburb of a large city.  Donkeys, or any animal categorized as livestock, were not native to the locale.

For whatever reason, as I stared at the creature, the story of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on such an animal came to mind.  So humble, yet worthy of great reverence. A seemingly random thought, I admit, but considerably normal given the nature of the overall situation.  Eyes fixed on what stood before me, I found myself wishing that Jesus was the rider of this particular donkey.  No doubt, this came purely from a deeply-rooted and ever-present desire to see him face to face.  The thought had barely concluded with a mental period when I saw a figure appear on the animal’s back.  My eyes began to widen as the figure came into focus.  It couldn’t be.  It was.  The figure of Jesus Christ, remarkably clear despite the darkening power of the iron-colored mist.

Before taking the time to analyze the situation, my mouth had involuntarily cried his name and my feet, without my consent, began to carry me swiftly towards him.  With tear-filled eyes, I ran.  The mirage thought crossed my mind again, but my heart was too drenched in the hope that it was real to entertain any skepticism which is so often a part of my thought processes.  The risk of looking foolish was insignificant.  It was more worth it to find out that he was there than to worry about what would happen if he wasn’t.  So I ran..

I reached him and my arms thoughtlessly and immediately found their way around his neck.  Heart and eyes flooded with indescribable love, gratitude, humility, and immeasurable joy, I held on tightly with no intention of letting go.  Something tells me that he initiated the embrace, though my speed of reciprocation blurred those lines.  It was a moment of perfection, peace, and incalculable bliss.  I was overwhelmed by the supernatural.  Enveloped by the sacred.

After what seems like hours and seconds at the same time, another set of arms joined the embrace.  My friend was but a step behind me, unable to contain what swelled within her at the sight of the Savior.  This only increased the inexpressible joy of the situation.  The fog was forgotten.  Any negativity that had existed prior to these moments had vanished.  Only love existed.

Not long after this had taken place, I woke up.  Yes, dear friends, this was a dream and a tremendously beautiful one at that.  I have to admit that I was hesitant to write this, risking the loss of the dream’s sacredness in the scrutinizing light of this worldly reality.  It’s like trying to describe the majesty of The Himalayas to someone who’s never been.  Or trying to share the ecstasy felt by the powerful presence of God in a night of worship to an absent friend.  Try as the hearer may, there’s no way to fully share in the narrator’s experience.  Just the same, the human tongue cannot adequately describe my experience through this dream, at least not to the point that anyone could relive it with me.  Despite this, I decided the dream should be shared.  Something so truly lovely should be written, even if it’s just for my sake.

I woke up from this aglow with a deepened love for the Lord.  I was so honored that God elected to reach out to me this way.  He always reaches out to me (and always will,) but this was certainly special.  It’s interesting to think that my roommate had prayed, before going to sleep, that God would speak to me in a dream.  This specific prayer isn’t a ritualistic one for her.  Something (or Someone) inspired her to pray this prayer.  That, in combination with the startling fact that I remember this dream so vividly, seems to allude to something greater.

The jury’s still out on the interpretation, and I patiently await the revelation, but I know it wasn’t just another random combination of the daily debris that enters my subconscious.  I know the fog is heavily symbolic, and I’m fairly confident that the donkey represents Jesus’ humility in pursuing me, but that’s all I’m able to understand for the moment.  I know there’s more to it.  Perhaps, when the full meaning is revealed to me, there will be a Part II to this post.  In the meantime, I pray that it is simply enjoyed as a beautiful story that represents a beautiful truth.  May you find increased excitement, hope, and fervor as you remember that God never ceases to passionately pursue us in increasingly creative ways.  May you always continue to revel in such loveliness.

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A few weeks ago, my roommate and I were discussing books, ambitions, and other lovely topics.  On the topic of writing and written works as a whole, I once again mentioned my love for fiction. I shared my declaration of devotion to the genre with a speech that finds a constant home on my lips.  Several days later, while talking with another friend, the subject of the monomyth and its ever-increasing popularity in modern fiction came under discussion.  This perpetuated my already-constant mulling over why so many of us connect with certain stories.

What is a monomyth, you ask?  Is it the creature that lives in the dryer and feasts on singular socks with the malicious purpose of creating odd ones?  Or isn’t that a town in New Jersey?  Nope.   It’s actually a literary concept, also known as the “Hero’s Journey.”  This concept of story-telling was described by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949.  The term monomyth was apparently coined from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.  History lesson concluded.

More practically, the Hero’s Journey is the story of someone seemingly ordinary being called to fulfill an extraordinary task.  It involves a calling to adventure, encounters with the supernatural, a road of trials, atonement, supportive journeyers, and ultimately a return from a successful quest which empowers the hero to live a life transformed.  There are more details to the steps, of course, but I fear it would overtake this post.  However, if you’re geeky like me, and wish to learn more, you can check out these sites:  http://library.thinkquest.org/05aug/00212/monomyth.html, http://changingminds.org/disciplines/storytelling/plots/hero_journey/hero_journey.htm.

Anyway, the Hero’s Journey is displayed in countless books, movies, and other artistic expressions that we hold dear.  The Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Harry Potter, Spiderman, King Arthur, Odyssey, Star Wars, and Avatar are all examples of this type of story.   The list goes on for days.  I realize that the list I’ve described is composed of fantasy/science fiction, but the Hero’s Journey appears in other genres outside of these, albeit less directly.  In any case, this story structure is apparent in a great deal of popular fiction.  My point?  I think there’s a larger reason why this type of story appeals to people, a reason beyond the obvious.  I think it’s actually a parallel to the reality of life.

Let me lay down a little bit of premise about human nature.  Naturally, we humans label, compartmentalize, minimize, and categorize.  We put things in containers and formulas to make them more comprehensible and manageable.  We do it with everything, including our views and experiences of God.  We read his word with monotonous or matter-of-fact tones.  We predict how he will answer our prayers.  We focus on the attributes we can understand with human terminology the most.  We put the supernatural God in a human-shaped box to make him easier for our earthbound psyches to digest.  I do it all the time.

The real truth, which He’s been revealing to me more and more over the past several years, is that He is wild, magical, mysterious, humanly unpredictable, larger than time itself, infinite, grand, etc.  I find a great deal of symbolism in fictional works that forces my imagination to go outside it’s human parameters to imagine a world where trees send messages, the weak are used to slay the monsters, and love, good and truth know no bounds.  I’m forced to confront the truth that God has the power to create such things and even more beyond my puny perception’s reach.  I think, deep down, people want to believe that such a world and such a God exist.  Now, I’m not saying that parallel realms exist in which enchanted purple dragons cut through the night sky and 400-year-old willow trees have tea and walk about freely.  I have no proof that they don’t, but even my head isn’t quite that far into the clouds.  But I digress.

People are created with the intrinsic knowledge—however deeply buried—that they’re meant for more than that which is visible and tangible.  We all need to find this.  Typical human behavior and tendencies provide proof to the fact that everyone is looking for better and higher experiences all the time.  Some seek it in drug-induced states.  Some in human love and sex.  Some in TV or material possessions (the less socially damned but equally as dangerous mediums.)  They’re all reaches, conscious or unconscious, towards that “something more.”  We all want to be and experience more and were divinely created to feel this insatiable desire which points to God Himself.

Coming back to the Hero’s Journey, I believe it is appealing because it involves all of the things that life is actually supposed to involve.  Each Christian testimony (the story of how a person came to know Christ) is a version of the Hero’s Journey.  He calls and pursues us all our lives.  He intervenes supernaturally.  We join with others on this journey, experience challenges/temptations, and eventually experience death, rebirth, and transformation.  We are then called to live this transformed life for the benefit of the entire world (i.e. The Great Commission, Matthew 28:16-20.)

To summarize, we are natural creatures created for experiencing the Supernatural and this literary structure outlines it and speaks to that created mindset.  That’s why people are drawn to it.  The twist, however, in actual reality is that we’re not the heroes at all and there is little personal glory to be found (which I find incredibly freeing.)  God is the protagonist and the supernatural influence.  He is also the author of each of our stories (Hebrews 12:2 and Acts 3:15,) and an incredible one at that.  He writes them as sagas that are constantly building towards the climax.  Yes, undeniably, they are dynamic tales filled with ups and downs, triumphs and trials, joy and pain.  Thus is the Hero’s Journey.  It is, however, never dull and filled with unlimited potential to find joy in abundance.  Even more beautifully, the ultimate ending to these adventures we live, though unseen by the living, is an eternity of perfect bliss with He who holds the quill. (Revelation 21:1-5)

How truly wonderful indeed.

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