Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Love that Awakens

While many of the singles Lacey Sturm (former lead singer of Flyleaf) has been releasing lately have focused on what you might call a jarring space of desperation or intense, focused devotion, "Awaken Love" goes back to the almost dreamy quality of hope found in songs like "Treasure." Not saying that her other songs lack hope--quite the opposite. But Lacey has that highly emotive style that so well portrays hope out of the dark. Whereas "Awaken Love" simply focuses in on being enraptured in that hope.

I didn't start to appreciate this song fully until the music video came out last month--which is unusual because music videos aren't always my favorite. (Click here to view this one on YouTube.) But this one is alive with that symbolic quality I've come to love about Lacey's music. 

The love the singer tells of awakening to is God's love; the music video lets us see her literally awakening to this song of life that she hears. She crawls through a frame into new life. The dancer I'm interpreting to be her spirit (this would explain why she wears the dancer's outfit, with slight variation, at the end). She has been figuratively dead, and upon hearing the song she awakens to freedom in being, freedom to dance to the song. To dance for the love for which she was created. "Looking for the one I love that every dream come true is made of . . . I fall and land in your embrace." Everything good that we experience on this earth is just an echo of God's love, just a ripple stemming forth from him. We find no greater love.

And so the singer is enraptured in this love that makes her alive like nothing else. She is loved like nothing else and can find this love nowhere else. "Beauty only you gave to me, a wedding dress you made, I'm yours to hide away, I'm yours, all yours to display." Christians are often referred to as being figuratively the bride of Christ because that's the metaphor that we can understand as portraying great love. Being hidden away implies safety and sacredness, and being displayed implies joy and fulfillment of purpose. So though they may at first sound like opposite concepts, they are in fact simply expressions of two distinct concepts. Being hidden away from ill and also being displayed with delight. We weren't created for no reason.

Back up to the beginning of the song. The "love letters" of course refers to the Bible, being God's Word. "Honey in my mouth" could simply be a metaphor, or it could be a reference to communion. Given the image in the video of drinking from a cup, communion seems likely. And I'd say it's open to interpretation what the second crawling through a frame means. It could just be another layer of identity or of relationship with God. Or it could be death. Not everything needs to be about death, but notice some of the lyrics. 

"Apprehension in my skin." She has fear. Given the placement in the song, this could just refer to fear over the majesty and reality of God. But it could also be fear of death, no? Then we have these similar lines spread throughout the song: "Oh would you please take me away?" "Would you take, come and break?" "Come and take, come and break." And followed by "Till we're standing face to face." Now, standing face to face could be metaphorically encountering God not literally encountering him at death, and "please take me away" could be metaphorically taking her away from her metaphorical past life rather than her current mortal life. But do you see what I mean here? 

If we're talking metaphors, death is the big metaphor. We awaken to God's love and experience a new identity in him until one day we crawl through that last frame and open our eyes to see him face to face. Again, I think this explains why her dress changes to the dancer's dress when she goes through the frame into the world of the violinist. She's lost her old body; now it's her spirit that walks through. There's nothing sad or morbid about it because it's just a portrayal of the beauty of experiencing God's love. Lacey has other songs that give voice to sadness. "Awaken Love," though, is about delight and joy. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Black Butterfly: Pecan Turtle Bites

Don't you love it when a chocolate maker makes a chocolate just for your palate? That is, these Pecan Turtle Bites from Black Butterfly were not actually made specifically for me--but things sure worked out as if they were. There are always new things on the shelves in addition to the gems of truffles in the glass case, and these piked my interest from the start. 

The clear, vertical box allows an easy look at the chocolates inside while also giving a more upscale look that would be great for gifting. For the time being at least, Black Butterfly has switched their usual purple ribbon with black. I'm rather liking the change. The purple was nice, but the black is sleek, no? The usual price for little bags or things like this on the shelf is $15. While that might at first sound steep for a big handful of chocolate pecans, when you compare that to the price of truffles it is in fact quite reasonable. There were probably around 20 of these in the box. 

I thought this would be one of the cases in which my knife would just make a mess when slicing one of the pecans in half, but surprisingly you get a nice clean cut. Though the chocolate has a light shine to it, there's no thick coat of glaze. The chocolate is soft. As are the pecans. They crunch much softer than I'd expected, as well. Is it because they're given a light toasting? 

Flavor-wise, I couldn't have asked for more. As you can see in the picture, there is no visible (or messy) caramel. But the flavor of caramel is the strongest in comparison to the other flavors of pecan and chocolate. The ingredients list both milk chocolate and dark chocolate. So what I'm guessing is that the caramel is combined with the milk chocolate to make the outer layer (with the inner layer being the dark chocolate). Unless the inner layer is mixed milk and dark chocolate, while the outer layer is simply a sugary caramel concoction similar to "candy coating" that looks like white chocolate but is just sugar? Maybe that's more likely. Whichever way, the effect is great. 

Again, the texture is soft with a light and affectionate crunch. The caramel flavor is sweet and indulgent, while the chocolate adds balance and weight. So the chocolate adds the mature element to the frilly and creamy sweetness. I don't often say this, but I truly have to keep myself from finishing the whole box. I'll be sad when they're gone, but oh, is it difficult to not keep eating them all. They're a wonderful indulgence packaged up in elegant fashion. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Ophelia's Full Story

Almost three years ago now, I was completely taken with the movie adaptation of Ophelia (click here for that post). I called the movie, which is essentially Hamlet from Ophelia's perspective with some twists, an indulgence. When I stumbled across a used copy of the book by Lisa Klein on which the film was based, I nabbed it. But I couldn't bring myself to read it yet (I thought it might be too emotional at the time), so I let it sit on the shelf for a year or two. Finally, I chose it for my first read of 2022 because in 2022 I'm done pretending and I  just want to be who I am. 

One of the reasons I so enjoyed the film back in 2019 was that I had recently gone through a break-up in which I was very reluctant to be parted from the other person. So it was like part of the healing process to see this new take on Ophelia's story. I liked the fantasy of it, the sense of it being too good to be true and also the sense of Ophelia's ability to exist after it was all over. 

I had expected the book to be quite a sappy read. That's why I put it off. I thought it might be a few hairs away from a romance novel. That's why I thought maybe I shouldn't even read it--until eventually I admitted that I did want to read it. So imagine my surprise (and delight, I might add) to find that it is not a romance novel and it is not entirely sappy either. (Yes, there is some sappiness, but at a refined, minimum level.) Yes, there is a love story and there is indulgence in the sense that we are hearing Ophelia's side of the story--but it all ends there. This book is so much more.

This book contains all of Ophelia's wit and intelligence that made her a woman, as I mentioned in the other post, that Hamlet would love. We see her education and upbringing--or her sometime lack of upbringing. Ophelia has lacked steadiness in her life and she has lacked affection. So the gift of Hamlet's love was a welcome gift indeed. Yet she is intelligent and not flimsy, so she does not follow down Hamlet's path of madness and revenge. She is not willing to give herself up to chase after a love that is not returned. And here is where the book differs greatly from the movie.

While the movie was greatly fun in its portrayal of both Hamlet and Ophelia feigning madness, in the book Hamlet truly goes mad and Ophelia does not. She only feigns it for a time on her own and if perhaps there is some truth to it, it is because of her great grief and confusion. But she remains a strong character and makes a plan for her safety. This Ophelia is a woman who spent her teenage years contemplating the philosophy of love. After her tragic romance, she then turns to contemplating life and faith.

The movie completely skipped over Ophelia's time in the convent, which takes up about a third of the book. I wasn't expecting that. But they were fantastic passages. As a person of faith, I was able to read these and find a different kind of healing than I'd found in the movie three years ago. But simply as a historical fiction novel, this is appropriate content. These are questions that Ophelia would indeed have pondered if she'd passed through death and found herself grasping for healing and a new beginning in a convent. 

There is only so much space in a blog post (especially without directly talking about plot). So I suppose I've touched on the main points I wanted to bring up. This book was beautiful. The language, the pondering, the questions, the themes--they all amount to so much more than a mere indulgence in getting to hear Ophelia's words. Books like this are why I used to read so much historical fiction. 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Gwendolen's Encounter with Aslan

Back in the day when the Internet was still rather young and I occasionally found myself in need of an alias (say, perhaps, when posting my reviews of the film adaptations at Narniaweb), I would use the name Gwendolen. Being that this was the height of my Narnia enthusiasm, I took the name from a random side character in Prince Caspian. That is, Gwendolen is even less than a side character. She is hardly even enough of a character to warrant being named: she only takes up about a page of text, depending on what format you're reading. 

I just chose her name for the random and obscure Narnia connection. Looking back at the Gwendolen passage, though, I find that I do identify with her story and the deeper thematic elements at play.

I was still just young enough back then that I imagined being cast in the role in the movie and delivering Gwendolen's two lines. Towards the end of the book, when Aslan is traveling with Bacchus and the Pevensie sisters and freeing Narnia from the Telmarines, he encounters Gwendolen at a school. She isn't paying attention to the teacher because she sees a lion outside. After transforming the school into a mass of ivy, Aslan invites Gwendolen to join them; he calls her sweetheart. "'Oh, may I?'" is her response. 

Gwendolen is overjoyed at being allowed into and invited into this company. Aslan speaks to her personally and singles her out with affection. If Aslan is the Jesus figure of Narnia, then this is Jesus in his earthly ministry, walking among the people and talking to them and freeing them. They are invited into the wild joy that only communion with him can bring. In particular, Gwendolen reminds me of the girl he saves from death in Mark 5 (likewise, the teacher in the next passage reminds me of the woman with the issue of blood in Mark, but that's another story). He says that the girl is sleeping and awakens her by saying, ""Little girl, I say to you, arise.'" (Mark 5: 41 NKJV). The use of "little girl" and "sweetheart" are similar in their affection. Gwendolen is told to come, and the girl is told to rise and eat. Again, very similar. 

Jesus comes breaking chains, giving new life, and inviting us in to a new company--his company. Our, "May I come in?" is met with a bold and yet also joyous, "Come." We are invited right into the middle of his plans and right into the center of his heart. Personally and affectionately. The question as we enter this new year 2022 is whether or not I still believe I am invited in. I've grown rather used to existing on the fringes, on the outside--when I was Gwendolen accepting the invitation to run with the company I think I just took the most invisible space possible hoping not to be a bother. But that isn't entirely consistent with the personal and affectionate invitation to come, is it? I guess I tend to forget my own story, don't I?