Answered Prayers


Prayer works.

I was getting bored and frustrated with random reading.  There’s too much dystopia in the bookstores these days, don’tcha think. What happens when the lights go out?  Or an asteroid hits the moon? Or the rapture comes and I’m Left Behind?  I get enough dystopia just reading the newspaper every day.

It’s depressing.  Vampires, shmampires. It seems like everyone is trying to write the next The Twilight Series. Yawn.  “What does this have to do with prayer,” you ask? Hold your horses.  I’m getting to that.

I did enjoy Justin Cronin’s The Passage and The Twelve (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy).  It’s quite different from the usual smarmy vampire romance. The characters are interesting and engaging.  Enough interesting things happen and with cliffhangers at the end of every chapter the story keeps rolling along. What will happen in book three I wonder.  (Hurry up Mr. Cronin!)

Now that’s done and I need a new fictional fix.   I’m craving something without vampires for a change.  There’s a certain kind of story that just makes you feel good. Hmmmm.

Here’s my list of feel-good favorites that I turn to when I’m burned out.  Like Mom’s baked macaroni and cheese, they’re comfort food for the brain.
The Hero and the Crown & The Blue Swordby Robin Mckinley.  I can never get enough of these two stories.
Dances With Wolves 
Watership Down
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
Random Harvest, by James Hilton

I found myself standing in front of my bookshelf, looking at this collection.  I wasn’t really in the mood to re-read any of them, but wanted something like them. I prayed a little prayer and it trickled up to heaven. I prayed quietly, so silently that I almost didn’t hear it myself, feeling guilty that I wasn’t praying for something more providential, like ending world hunger, or for an end to human trafficking. (That’s whole ‘nother post.)

Somebody upstairs must have been listening. (Maybe Saint Catherine of Alexandria, patron saint of libraries?)  While browsing the online audio book collection of my local I found an available copy of The Hollow Hills (Book 2 of The Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart).

After a quick download on the Overdrive Media Player app, I started listening to it on my commute.  I could tell right away that this would be another of those feel-good favorites. But I really hate to start a series in the middle (pesky spoilers).  Book 1, The Crystal Cave, was not on audio.  Eager to start at the beginning, I checked out a really beat up first edition (1970) hardback from the library.

Yep, it’s an answer to prayer. It’s not even Christmas yet, and God has given me a personalized gift of love, a new book by a new author, custom made for me.

In my devotional this morning I read,
“Without God’s love, there is no way to establish [a foundation for a true family]. Without God’s love, there is no way for us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. Love is truly the source and wellspring of our life and happiness.”Exposition of the Divine Principle

I have received many answers to prayer over the years. They are usually related to work or mission.  More like a, “Let’s get this job done,” kind of answer (James 2:18); a soldier’s marching orders.  But this answer was special, because it was purely unconditional, from God’s heart of love to my heart.

I want to abide in Your heart of love always,
To be inundated, overcome,
Swept away by that sweet love.
No agenda,
Just Your loving presence.
With every beat of my heart,
Every breath I take.
Every day fresh and new.
Every morning amidst the sparkling dew.
Soak my feet with Your love as I walk barefoot in the grass.
Freshen me and breathe me in,
as I breathe You in
to dwell in the altar of my heart.

Dystopian Fiction or Dystopian Reality?


Santa Olivia Audio CD cover

While reflecting and praying about my post last night I realized that dystopia isn’t fiction for a lot of people, it’s reality. There are a lot of hot spots that must be pretty dismal, Kabul, Baghdad, Gaza, Sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition to these global dystopias, many people are living in their own personal dystopia.  Check out this blog on Domestic Violence Survivors, Donna’s story http://t.co/8WzxPsLI.

We can curl up in our easy chairs next to the fire with our favorite dystopian literature while sipping hot chocolate, safe in the knowledge that it’s only fiction.  Our world is safe.  But what about the children in a refugee camp in Gaza who don’t even have a book to read or a chair to curl up in.  They may not know where their next meal is coming from, or even where their parents are.

I’m sure that God, called by whatever Name, hears every prayer.  But who can He count on to help answer those prayers?

What can we do to help our Heavenly Father relieve the suffering of the countless non-fiction dystopias around the world?  How can we Pay It Forward?

I can’t believe that I forgot one of my favorite books from last year.  Senior moment!  I stumbled upon Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey.
Loup Garron is a girl with superhuman strength living in a kind of buffer zone between the USA & Mexico.  This is a modern twist on the classic wolf-man tale.  Her dad was the product of a military experiment in genetically engineered fighting men.  She has to keep her abilities under wraps, but joins a boxing gym to work out.

The sequel, Saints Astray, was just released.  I’m looking forward to it.

 

Teenage Dystopia


Definition of Dystopia from Dictionary.com 

dys·to·pi·a

http://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/d/g/speaker.swf [dis-toh-pee-uh]

noun

a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression,disease, and overcrowding.
Compare utopia.
Origin:  1865–70; dys-  + (u)topia
Related forms
dys·to·pi·an, adjective
dys·to·pi·an·ism, noun
More on dystopia from Wikipedia.com  
The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi
I’ve been curious about the seeming rise in popularity of Dystopian YA Literature. In 2011 I read a few of these novels to see what was developing in this genre.  Here’s my list or recent reads.  

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer – This is the one I’m reading now.  The things that go wrong are deal with such ordinary things that I keep looking around to see if it’s happening now. Is the moon hanging low in the sky, or are we having runs on food at the supermarkets.  We do have lines at our local gas station. . .

It’s not exactly a creepy feeling, but this book makes me uneasy because I can totally see these things happening.  Other dystopian plots are just so out there that you know they are fantasies, even while you are enjoying being  caught up in the action.

I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier – This is an older story, late 1970s, that used to be required reading in some schools.  That was after my high school days.

Our dystopian reads (1960s & ’70s) were things like 1984Brave New WorldFahrenheit 451 and Lord of the Flies.

  


Witch & Wizard by James Patterson – This is the first book in the series that is popular around my office. None of us are YA.  We’re MA, OF or AR (middle-aged, old fogies or ancient relics). Reading stuff like this keeps us young, or at least give us the illusion that we feel young.  It also gives us something to talk about with our kids.

Witch & Wizard combines a dystopian world with elements of magic.  It features a super-villain with magical powers called, The One Who is The One (as opposed to the One who must not be named or Big Brother).  It was OK, but I  preferred Life As We Knew It

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. He is more famous for The Book Thief, but I liked Messenger better.  I would describe it as random-acts-of-kindness with a dark twist.  I listened to the audio narrated by an Ausie, so it had a down-under flavor.  I think this was my favorite novel of 2011.

The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany during WWII.  It’s pretty depressing, with Death as the narrator, but there are some interesting aspects.

I haven’t started The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins yet.  My daughter just finished and she describes it as “Better than Twilight, not as good as Harry Potter”.

 

All of the books listed above can be found in your local public library.  Many libraries now offer online, downloadable audio-books and eBook options, including Kindle versions available through Amazon.com. Amazon.com has most of these in Kindle format as well.
What do you think of Dystopian Literature?  This isn’t an exhaustive list, and I’ve probably left out your favorite book (The Giver? – Among the Hidden?)  What is your favorite?  Why do you think this genre is so popular now?  Is it the unstable economy?  Wars and rumors of wars? 
If you were to recommend an alternative, more positive reading list, what would be on it?  

New Teen Territory at the Hermosa Beach Public Library


The new Teen Territory section at the Hermosa Beach Public Library

The Hermosa Beach Public Library at 550 Pier Avenue at Valley Dr. held a ribbon cutting ceremony for their new Teen Territory section. Dorothy Yost, the President of the Hermosa Beach Friends of the Library said that the library received two matching grants of $1,000 each and raised the matching funds to create a cozy new section for their teen patrons.

Someone had the idea to use a surfboard to decorate the new section, but the Friends of the Library thought it would be too expensive to buy one. They put out feelers to their network because, “Surely someone has an old surfboard they don’t need in their garage”.

Surfboard donated by Rick Koenig and decorated by Bill Febbo

Rick Koenig, President of the Hermosa Beach Historical Society, donated an old surfboard. Bill Febbo, a local artist and owner of Coast Signs & Graphics, painted the sign on the surfboard.

The Manga shelf

The Teen Territory Section has a shelf devoted to Manga and graphic novels such as Spider-Man: Saga of the Sandman and Excalibur: The Legend of King Arthur.

Two large shelves hold the latest in teen fiction, including the latest dystopian fiction that are really popular now.

There is a seating area around a very nice game table with Chinese checkers, a wooden chess set on a inlaid board and backgammon. All of this creates a warm and relaxed atmosphere conducive to relaxing with the latest book.

Game Table