Lent

Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast,
As may our faults control:
That ev’ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlour; banqueting the poor,
And among those his soul.

From Lent – George Herbert

This final verse evokes the upside-down world that Jesus inaugurates. In the same way the humble will be exalted, here the one who fasts and feeds the poor will be filled.

I love the last line, a surprise ending, and also a double-meaning. When you feed the poor, you feed yourself, not just because it is a good deed, but because you also were among the poor all along.

So Trump Won… and the Condescension Still Drips

It happened. The Donald is now President-elect Trump. I didn’t vote for him, but I was pretty sure about what would happen and I’m pleased with the outcome. And now are we being subjected to the pontifications of people who are confident about what’s going to happen next, the same people who had no idea what was going to happen next. So it looks like they haven’t learned their lesson. The smugness of the media continues.

Echo chambers around the country cracked open, and amongst the hissing caused by the release of stale air, comes crying and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Instead of getting some much needed sunlight, however, they will soon retreat back into those same chambers, covering the cracks with duct tape.

Even now, the condescension drips. It is not urban elites that live in a bubble, but rural America. Blue collar whites need to stop minding their own business, ignore the mouths they have to feed with a decreasing paycheck, and go hopping across the country with money they don’t have. Something is wrong with them, and they need to fix it. They need to go to the big city to be cured of their disease. Also, they’re racist.

But middle America has almost always been content to mind their own business. What happened with Trump is mostly a reaction. Cultural carpet-baggers come pounding down their door, telling them that men can now marry men, and that, oh yeah, there shouldn’t really be such a thing as a women’s restroom anymore. Also, if you use the pronouns “he” and “she” uncritically you are bigoted monster. And by the way, if you don’t celebrate this new reality by baking a wedding cake, you deserve to live in poverty. And on and on.

And then the immigration issue. Chris Matthews actually takes home the right lesson. Michael Moore saw the writing on the wall. The problems are real, but any criticism brings…more cries of racism.

The Tea Party was the polite attempt at a pushback. People who had never really participated in politics before got involved, mainly touting the virtues of basic math. For this, the GOP co-opted and betrayed them, and the Left ridiculed and insulted them. Again, calling them racist.

Politeness didn’t work. A wrecking ball would have to do. Enter Trump. After Romney lost, the GOP thought they had to pander to Hispanics. Turns out, they just had to at least pretend to represent the interests of a forgotten majority.

The GOP deserved to die, to be gutted. The conservative party couldn’t even conserve women’s restrooms. The Democratic party as we know it is also dead, but we won’t see the repercussions for while, since the zombie still has momentum. The DNC’s propping up and going all-in on a corrupt candidate, that candidate’s subsequent loss, and the ongoing Wikileaks releases have formed stress fractures that will grow and fester.

And oh boy, did Obamacare turn out to be a cancer eating away at Obama’s legacy rather than the foundation of it. It turns out it was all sophistry.

Some predictions for the future:

  • Trump will continue to surprise people. He will not stop being off-the-cuff and unpredictable. His businesses have taken a hit, but that did not stop him from staying on his message, so it seems he is more worried about a legacy beyond his commercial empire. He has real skin in the game. He will do some good things and some bad things. However, it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if, at the end of 4 years, he has higher approval ratings than Obama ever did. Think I’m crazy? Well, you probably thought I was crazy when I said he would be our next President.
  • Trump will not be another Hitler. I know a lot of people have been deluded into thinking that, but every Republican candidate has been labeled Hitler. If you are actually scared, take a deep breath, and read this piece from Scott Adams.
  • Lofty talk about separation of powers will now be in vogue again. Obstruction of Presidential initiatives will be seen as necessary and brave once more. Investigative journalism will suddenly come forth from the grave. As soon as Wikileaks releases some dirt on Trump in about 3 years, Assange will suddenly no longer be part of a vast Russian conspiracy.
  • Republicans who hated Trump will now want to bask in his radiant, victorious glow.
  • More and more cognitive dissonance on the Left, as their hallucination of Trump continually clashes with the reality of Trump. But this isn’t really bold, as it happens with every Republican president. It might be more pronounced this time, though.
  • The Left will not learn their lesson, and will continue to belittle, shame, and insult those who disagree with them. And try to get them fired or ruin their livelihoods.
  • Talking heads and media pundits will still not get out and talk to a truck driver or a displaced factory worker. Opinions they report will still be weighted toward those who can afford $25 Martinis in New York city.
  • Rumblings of states rights and secession will no longer be called racist. Already happening.
  • The electoral map showed deep divisions between the cities and rural areas, and a deep divide in demographics. We are not really a united nation. We are a multi-ethnic empire. And those don’t last forever. Trump was a sign of further tensions to come, but I pray he is a safe release valve on this pressure cooker. A split will come. I don’t know how or where…but it will come. How do you think all of these homogenous nations came to exist in the first place? But I pray, whatever happens, it will be as peaceful a transition as possible. Identity politics is probably here to stay.

Throughout all of this, I have only been able to treat politics as a spectator sport because I know God is in control. This is His story. And wow, this has a been a fun chapter to watch unfold.

And so some advice, that I also give to myself as I write this.

  • Stop listening to the mainstream media. They either don’t know what they are talking about, or they generate false news cycles to sway opinion. They report an event a certain way, and then report people’s reactions to their reporting of the event. Cut them out of your life. It will be better for it. I hope Trump gets rid of the White House Press Corp. and makes them all no better than a blog. We don’t need gatekeepers in this age of social media and direct access. Investigative journalism can and will be funded in other ways.
  • Replace your daily news habit with the reading of old books (over 200 years old) and poetry. Get some ancient wisdom. And yes, this includes the Bible, even if you are an atheist.
  • If you were wrong about Trump’s victory, maybe sit on the bench for a little while. Maybe you don’t really understand the world as well you thought.
  • Have lots of children, raise them well, and give them an education. “Schooling” is not the same thing as education, and oftentimes the exact opposite. Get some actual skin in the game for the future. Sow in hope. Teach the boys to be men and the girls to be women.
  • Get to know your neighbors. Like, your literal neighbors. Next door. Have them over for dinner. Invest in relationships.
  • Have sympathy for those who are scared in the aftermath of Trump’s election. They have just had their god fail them in spectacular fashion, and that is a scary place to be. Offer them something better. Don’t be a push-over, but don’t kick anyone when they’re down either. They are creations and victims of the media’s ceaseless pandering, and of the Clinton campaign’s successful negative framing. Just be aware you can’t reason with them. You can’t reason with someone having an irrational over-reaction. Don’t gloat, wait for the tantrum to end, then be honest.
  • Don’t put your hope in Trump. Unless your hope is that he will bring some unpredictable entertainment, because you can totally take that to the bank. Clinton would have been a terrible judgement, and one we deserved. Trump…who knows? He might be a different form of judgement. Or he might be a Cyrus. Either way, he is nothing but a tool in the hands of God, and Jesus is still Lord.
  • Don’t talk about politics for a while. Just walk away. We were never meant to be involved in political duels 24/7 365 days of the year. I’m not going to write about anything political until after Trump’s first 100 days. Not here, and not on social media.
  • Pray.

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.