The Rainbow Knight and the Butterfly of Blue

Book cover for The Rainbow Knight

The seed of this story popped into my head after I read What Do You Do With an Idea? and was left in awe of the artwork. Then I remembered that Darlene had done sketches of a similar style for Princess Hiccup, when crafting the initial designs of the characters. Wouldn’t it be great to put together a book with such gorgeous artwork?

Add in a dash of inspiration from my children, reciting the colors of the rainbow, and you get The Rainbow Knight.

Some parts of this book surprised me. It was going to be a basic story about gathering some common items, but then, on a lark, one of the items became a living butterfly. And not just any butterfly: the Emperor of Kaleidoscopes*. A king of kings, if you will.

And so to restore the creation to its rightful order, to bring the light of color back to the world, a humble king must lay down his own life. And the king does it willingly. Add to this symbolism the fact that the lifecycle of butterflies is itself a vibrant picture of resurrection…

It was an emotional punch I hadn’t expected.

It became the hinge of the whole story, its beating heart. I fell in love with a blue butterfly. That’s not something I deliberately set out to do.

Don’t get me wrong. Overall, this is still a goofy, light-hearted story. It also features an arrogant parrot and a hipster witch involved in artisanal jam-making, so please don’t take it too seriously. But the depth is there for those who want to see it.

You always hear of writers being surprised by what their characters do, and about how the story unfolds in ways they never expected. I gave superficial assent to the fact, but never really believed it in my bones. Now, after two books, I understand it. And I’m grateful for it.

Please help bring The Rainbow Knight to life. Please help tell the butterfly king’s story. And in so doing, perhaps help hint at the life of another sacrificial king, whose actions form the hinge of the Greatest Story.

*A kaleidoscope is defined as a group of butterflies, one of those true English gems. It is a perfect word.

Framed by Mary’s Heart

Luke 2 has at least two potential structures that its stories are organized around, and neither are mutually exclusive. Both are supported and framed by the mentions of hearts, most notably Mary’s.

First, we have a conventional chiasm:

A - Mary treasures and ponders things in her heart (2:19)
  B - In the temple - Simeon (2:20-33)
    C - Rising and Falling - thoughts of hearts revealed (2:35)
  B'- In the temple - Jesus (2:41-50)
A'- Mary treasures things in her heart (2:51)

The center is about the rising and falling of many in Israel, and of a sword that will pierce Mary’s soul. The secret thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.

All of this happens during Jesus’ ministry, and it is just exactly when the pondering inside of Mary’s heart would come to the forefront, the whole reason Mary is keeping these treasured moments. When what Mary stores up is revealed, so are the hearts of many others. See also Romans 2:16.

The second structure is a set of three parallel sequences:

A - Trip to the manger (2:16)
  B - Message given to Jesus' parents about the child (2:17-18)
    C - Mary's heart (2:19)

A - Trip to the temple (2:22-27)
  B - Message given to Jesus' parents about the child (2:28-33)
    C - Thoughts of hearts revealed (2:34-35)

A - Trip to the temple (2:41-47)
  B - Message given by Jesus' to his own parents (2:48-50)
    C - Mary's heart (2:51)

Some interesting comparisons come up. The manger (and the child) is in place of the temple. Jesus will be the one who makes clean and forgives sins, and so will end up being the true temple, so this makes perfect sense.  We should be expecting it.

And then Jesus himself is in place of the messengers. Others have been speaking about him, but now he speaks for himself. The Word made flesh is not only the consummation of the Law (the temple being the prime symbol), but also the Prophets. God now speaks through his Son (Heb 1:1-2), and we should listen (Luke 9:35).

The replacement hinted at begins to take place in the very next chapter, with John the Baptist’s imprisonment and Jesus’ anointing.

There might also be structure in the progression of reactions to the various messages from heaven. People wonder about the message (2:18). Joseph and Mary are amazed about the message (2:33). Finally, Joseph and Mary are confused about the message (2:50).

This tends to follow the same trend as Jesus’ ministry. People are amazed…but then also get very confused.

Embracing the Reality of “Thinking Slow”

I’m a discovery writer, and I just have to live with it. This comes from me being a “thinking slow” person, which might also be related to me being an introvert. It comes out in many different ways. Let me explain.

I don’t feel comfortable speaking on a subject until I’ve thought about it. And thought about it. And then thought about it some more. And then I want to work out exactly how I want to say it.

In fact, I don’t even know what I think until I’ve gone through the process of writing it down. This blog post, for instance, started with a seed. I think I know what I want to say on this topic, but I’m not really convinced, and by the time I’ve gotten to the end, I might have changed my mind. My thoughts, anything beyond “I’m hungry” or “I like that,” don’t coalesce or get ordered until they have been written down.

If I am doing a new speech in public, like a sermon or presentation, I have to write down everything single word that I think I’m going to say. The process is required.

If I am writing a story, I can’t plan out things in advance. It never works. I either get frustrated or distracted, or frustrated that I’m distracted. I have some seeds, typically the beginning and the end, but I have no idea how I am going to connect those dots until I start writing.

Take Princess Hiccup, for example. I knew there would be a princess cursed with hiccups by a dragon, and that a boy would need to defeat that dragon. I honestly had no idea how the lad would actually accomplish the feat, and my mind was blank all the way to the point where I began writing those scenes. It just hit me in the flow of the moment. There are moments in the book that probably surprised me just as much as they surprised you.

If I speak quickly about something that sounds deep and thoughtful and off the cuff…worry not. It’s just an illusion. You can be sure that somewhere, at some time, I’ve taken the time to write down something about it. My memory is pretty good, but it takes a while to build it up so it’s as accessible as a computer’s RAM.

It seems daily journaling would be a beneficial habit for me…but alas, it never catches on. Because while I don’t know exactly what I think until I write it down, I’ don’t get motivated to write anything down until I’ve sat on it, chewed on it, and perhaps even had the chance to dream on it. Maybe I need to think about a bunch of other related (or seemingly unrelated) things first.

It’s sort of annoying. Notice the sporadic posting schedule of this blog? My grand total of two movie reviews over on Medium?

Anyway, I’ve come to accept that this is how I work, and more importantly, its how I put out my best work. I don’t think I will ever be prolific. And that’s OK.

If this has resonated with you in any way, what does that mean? It means you should write. Think you have writers block? It means you should write.

Have a problem you can’t solve? Write it out. Ever had a moment when you were articulating a problem to someone with the written word, and the solution suddenly came upon you as if it plummeted from several thousand feet in the sky and nailed you right between the eyes?

I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

In summary, outlining is for chumps, and everything I learned about writing in public school was a waste of time.

Donald Trump, Father Hunger, and the Sleeping Giant of Masculinity

First, go read this open letter to Donald Trump. I’ll wait.

The predominant narrative about the popularity of Donald Trump (colored by a desperation to stop him), explains it away as appealing to our baser instincts, such as racism, resentment toward our ruling class, and loyalty to the tribe. Nationalism, in particular.

Every Republican nominee for the past 30 years has been accused of hyperbolic nonsense, such as virulent racism. Remember Romney’s “war on women?” This makes the hysteria almost meaningless and rhetorically inert. It’s also not true. Trump is poised to gather more minority votes than any other Republican nominee in decades.

There certainly is truth in the ruling-class resentment, which I can sympathize with. The nationalism charge also rings true. This is part of the power and appeal of his immigration stance. But it begs a few questions. Why now? And why Trump, of all people? Why is he resonating so strongly?

Trump is actually tapping into something much deeper than any type of nationalism, any type of racial animosity. It’s much more instinctual. Visceral. The scary thing is (at least for those who are genuinely afraid of him), Trump has only just gotten started. This is still just the primary. He has come nowhere close to waking the sleeping giant.

People have no idea what’s about to burst from the seams of our culture, and it’s going to be shocking for those who don’t see it coming.

Did you read the open letter I linked to above? Good.

The key thing to note: Troy grew up without a father in the home. He sees in Trump a leader, a role model, something to aspire to. Someone who wins. Someone who leads. Someone who ruthlessly finishes a fight, but then is gracious to the vanquished. For lack of a better term…someone who acts like a man.

He sees in Trump a father figure.

It doesn’t matter if any of those things are true or not, just that they are perceived to be true. And he is not the only man to think that way. Not even close.

We live in a culture with a deep, gnawing father hunger. Two to three generations without any male role models, no examples of true, masculine strength. Even many that had a dad in the home still grew up functionally “fatherless.” There is something about Trump that resonates on a level that many can’t explain.

He is certainly a master of persuasion. Trump knows what he’s doing. But why is it working so well?

Fatherless men see a public figure oozing masculine energy in a way they have never really witnessed before. He is perceived as an alpha male, a leader who other men want to follow.

They see someone who, when hit, fights back. He doesn’t back down. And he wins. They wish they had the courage and conviction to fight like that. They grew up in a school system and culture that demonized masculine energy and strength, so seeing someone flaunt it openly is cathartic.

They see someone who doesn’t lurk off in shame when accused of something. He is not crippled by insecurity. They wish they could be like that. They are used to being nagged to death.

They see someone who shrugs off insults and laughs at stern finger-wagging. They wish they had that confidence. They are used to being nagged and hen-pecked to death, used to groveling for approval.

They see someone who doesn’t stumble over himself to apologize when someone, somewhere, claims to be offended. They wish they weren’t afraid. They hate themselves for tiptoeing around what they feel is the truth, silently afraid of being called a sexist pig for accidentally wearing the wrong shirt.

They see someone who has attracted and married three beautiful women. It feels like it shouldn’t matter, but it does. They have been told lies their whole life. “Just be a nice guy, and be yourself.” It never worked. They never married or their wives left them and took their children (studies show almost 70% of divorces are initiated by women). Trump must know something that they don’t.

They see someone with five children. The three oldest are all successful, and they all love, respect, and look up to their father. This is something almost every man yearns for. Listen to this Iowa radio ad with Ivanka Trump, his eldest daughter. After I listened to that, I knew Trump would win both the nomination and the presidency.

Many men in America today wish they had a father, and now they are all wishing that that father was Donald Trump. And if that’s not possible, then having him as President of the United States is the next best thing.

And they will make it happen.

Trump’s candidacy is already bringing out record numbers of voters, but this is just the beginning. More and more people (men especially, but also women) are going to find themselves wanting to be led by Donald Trump. Its a response to an instinct that has been suppressed and wound up like a spring. The spring is about to pop. The preference cascade has already started to roll.

Fatherless men, across every racial and economic spectrum, are going to rise up and vote in such large numbers that our political system will tremble at the sudden shock.

Even if Trump is just a parody of true masculinity, of true fatherhood, it doesn’t really matter. Our culture is so starved for the real thing that it will happily chase after the mirage.

Scott Adams has predicted that it will be be largest landslide in history (he predicted Trump’s rise way back in August), and I tend to agree. Our culture of fatherlessness and male feminization has made someone like Trump attractive and inevitable.

We only have ourselves to blame.

The truly bad news for those who fear Trump: if, somehow, Trump is not elected, it only opens the door for someone worse in the future. Someone who makes Trump look like a moderate statesman. The pressure valve will be released now or it will be released later.