Author Archives: Katy

Known (Psalm 139)

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit lonely lately, a bit invisible. Fall is approaching, schools are starting back, but nothing is the same. Nothing is normal. And this is the first entire season that I’m feeling it.

At the beginning of the year, we had a few months of mom bible studies and kid activities before everything shut down. The summer was a little isolating, but a lot of groups that meet during the year usually take summer off. So this will be the first full season that groups aren’t coming back to meet again.

And it feels isolating. So, I thought I would share some encouraging thoughts from King David in Psalms 139 to remind us that we aren’t invisible or alone.

You have searched me, Lord

and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

You perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

You are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

You, Lord, know it completely.

Psalm 139:1-4

The word “search” in versus one means to penetrate like in a mining operation, to examine intimately. God isn’t giving a cursory glance at who we are or what we are going through. He searches the dark recesses of our hearts, the nooks and crannies of our anxieties. Only he has the ability to search and know this deeply into who we are.

The phrase “from afar” in verse two means that God isn’t constrained by time or distance. God moves outside of those limits which allows him to be with us at all times. Even though we are social distancing right now, God isn’t. He is there beside you, holding your hand, catching your tears, wrapping you up in a hug, right here and right now, no matter where you are or what you are doing.

In verse three, David uses the two phrases – “my going out” and “my lying down.” Maybe “going out” isn’t quite applicable to us right now, but these phrases cover both our activity and our rest. He is with us in all the things we do, whether we are achieving our goals or we feel stagnate in them. Sometimes I feel like I need to be doing, need to be accomplishing, in order to feel the eye or favor of God. But even when we are sick or sleeping or feeling unmotivated, He is still with us, . He knows exactly what we are going through and doesn’t stop loving us.

And that final verse just rounds out his knowledge of who we are. We are so well known by the Creator God, that he knows what our reactions will be before we even make them. He doesn’t wince or walk away from them. He chooses to walk through those experiences with us, never giving up his love for us.

We have a God who is with us. But he isn’t just with us, isn’t just sitting in the room reading a magazine, or playing on a smart phone, as we go about our lives. He is actively engaged. He is loving us. He is seeing us. We are not alone, because in truth, we are known by a Creator God who wants to be in relationship with us.

Station Eleven: A Review

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For the most part, I rely on book clubs and recommendations from certain friends and influencers, but I don’t really pay attention to plot. I want to be surprised. So, leave it to me to unknowingly pick up a book about a dystopian era after a flu pandemic.

I chose this book because the author goes back and forth in time, connecting all of the stories and timelines at the end. The flu in this story also has a shorter incubation time and a higher mortality rate. It was written in 2014, probably after the SARS outbreak as a “what-if a pandemic was really bad” writing prompt. But the character pulling seven carts from a grocery store to hole up in an apartment after getting a call from an ER doctor friend warning him of the coming virus was definitely relatable in 2020.

After 99% of the world’s population dies, the ones that are left are without electricity, internet, or running water. They leave their homes to camp in Wal-marts or airports in small communities. Kirsten travels with the Traveling Symphony, a nomadic group that plays music and puts on Shakespearean plays, from one community to the next over a select route, never going more south than they have to. Upon arriving in one town that they had been to in previous years, they realize that the town was taken over by a prophet and too dangerous to stay for too long.

It was interesting to see how all of the characters dealt with change. The story spans probably about 40 years before the pandemic, following the story of an actor named Arthur Leander and all of the people that are in his life on to about 20 years after the pandemic with Kirsten and her Traveling Symphony. Most of the characters that connect to each other, connect through Arthur, and it’s interesting to see how affects a lot of the outcomes of different characters (even though he dies from a heart attack in the first chapter before the pandemic actually begins). It’s a different look at legacy.

One of the main themes that threaded through all the chapters is this idea that people are going through their lives without knowing when it will end. I could see how it affected me by the end because a character said they would do something the next day, and I wondered if they would actually be able to do that thing. There’s a sadness to the book, so much loss and uncertainty but there are small moments of hope that keep the book from being completely depressing.

There is profanity in the book. Sexual content included sex implied in relationships, maybe one brief sex scene mentioned, but nothing graphic. Also, some implications in child brides. The violent content includes a lot of death, murders, scars, and guns and knives usage.

Immigration Nation: A Review

Immigration Nation directed by Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This is a new documentary (came out on August 3, 2020) about the state of Immigration and its process. It covered a lot of the things I see in the media already – the separation of families, the harrowing journeys crossing the border, and the ICE raids. But I learned so much more.

Most of the episodes followed immigrant families or ICE agents. The first episode starts as ICE agents in New York City are going to different apartments to apprehend targets who have received a deportation order. Under the Obama administration, the main focus was on people who had committed serious crimes, but now all violators are in danger of being deported. And if an ICE agent enters a home with a target but finds others who are in the United States illegally, they are also taken, called “collaterals.” One ICE agent talks to the film crew about how he doesn’t take collaterals when he goes for a target, and minutes later, his boss calls over the radio to order him to bring in at least two collaterals so they can fill their quota.

Agents have to become desensitized in order to do their job. Some even looked at it like a game. They repeat over and over how it is not personal. Their hands are tied. They are just doing their job. The PR guy for ICE was very specific in his wording when he gave presentations or talked to people about ICE operations. He was super creepy and slimy. He would mention the word criminal, but that could mean anything from murder to a traffic stop. And the agents would repeat the rhetoric, most not really wanting to face the entire truth.

Families are still being separated all over the country, just not in the shelters at the border. One man has to say goodbye to his wife and children as he is deported back to El Salvador where he will most certainly be killed, as he was a police officer that helped American agents apprehend drug gang members from his country. A grandmother seeks asylum for her and her granddaughter because gang members want to force her young granddaughter to marry. The granddaughter got to stay in America with her mom. The grandmother was deported, and will probably be killed.

Plus, people who are already granted asylum in the US don’t have a guarantee they can bring their families with them. Even when it is clearly a civil rights issue, the paperwork alone can delay the process, leaving families separated and detention centers full. One mother is separated from her children for five years, only when she returns to Africa to talk to the embassy do things start to happen. And that trip was incredibly dangerous for her, considering her husband paid to have acid thrown at her, hence the reason she had to leave. It still took five years.

There are so many heartbreaking stories. And the solutions are not easy. This is a system that is set up to keep people out, and a lot of the changes need to start with the Executive branch decisions. I learned so much from this film, but I wish they had followups at the end of what became of the families that were interviewed. Overall, it is an excellent, in depth, heart-wrenching series that I highly recommend to anyone!

There is profanity in the film. Not much explicit sexual content – mostly just talks of rape or the forced marriage. There is some violence – the story of the woman who had acid thrown on her, the dead bodies in the desert or the river (including a child, so trigger warning there), but all faces are blurred.

Support (Exodus 17)

Between the stories of the Red Sea and the Ten Commandments, the Amalekites attack the Israelites in the desert in a place called Rephidim.  A little cool history about the Amalekites.  They descended from Amalek, the grandson of Esau (Jacob’s brother).  Also, the grandson of Adah, Esau’s wife, who was the daughter of Elon the Hittite, one of the Canaanite women that Esau married that “grieved” his parents (Genesis 26:35).

On Moses’s direction, Joshua (the one who will eventually lead the people into the actual promised land) takes some men and fights the Amalekites.  Moses goes to the top of a hill and raises his hands to the Lord.  Whenever they were raised, Israel was winning.  And when he lowered them, the Amalekites were winning.

But Moses wasn’t on this hill alone.  The text says that Aaron and Hur were with him.  I did some brief digging, and according to Jewish tradition, Hur was Miriam’s husband, so basically Moses’s closest family was with him on this hill.  When they noticed he was tiring, they provided a stone for him to sit on and held his hands up for him, one on each side, so that he could have a little respite.  And with their help, the Israelites defeated the Amalekites.

Have you ever held your hands up for a long period of time?  As time goes on, the arms feel heavier and heavier.  Moses was an old man at this point.  Aaron was his older brother, and Hur had to also be around their ages as well. So no one on this hill had immense youth or vigor, but together, they managed to keep Moses’s arms up until sunset.

I don’t know about you, but friends, I’m getting tired.  This year has been crushing for so many reasons.  So many of us have lost loved ones, been pushed into unknown and uncertain terrains, and we all long for a sense of normalcy in our lives.

Sometimes just making it to the end of my day with my family fed and the house still standing is considered a win.  And that’s okay. But I’m also called to love my neighbor, stand up for what is right, speak truth in love. And my arms are getting tired.

But I also realize that I’m not meant to do any of that alone.  We need the encouragement, the propping up of others.  No one gets through this life without others.  All through our life, we depend on caretakers, mentors, teachers, and our community as a whole to do the things we are meant to do.

What Aaron and Hur did for Moses wasn’t some great feat.  They did what they were able to do to help win the war against the Amalekites.  It inspires me. I don’t have to be the Moses, the achiever all the time. I can be the support, and it doesn’t have to be a great big showy thing. What small thing can I do to help prop up another?  Maybe it’s prayer.  Maybe it’s saying good morning to a neighbor. Maybe it’s sharing a post of another writer or liking a comment of a friend. 

So, I leave you with this.  Keep your hands raised toward heaven.  Help lift up others who are doing the same.  Because sunset is almost here, and we will win this war together.

A Darker Shade of Magic: A Review

A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To be fair, this is my favorite author.  I have yet to find a book she wrote that I didn’t just completely love.  I actually heard about her when the third book in this trilogy was coming out, but the library (the place I go to check out new authors) didn’t have this trilogy.  So, I read The Archived and loved it.  And now I’m finally getting a chance to read this series.

I totally get the hype.

The story is set in London, well four Londons, each in a different world.  They used to be connected by doors that anyone could go through for a visit.  Magic was liberally shared between the worlds.  But now, the doors have been sealed, and only a special type of people, the Antari, are able to move between them.

Kell is an Antari.  He can’t remember his childhood, and all he knows is the family that he belongs to, the royal family of the Red London.  Red London still has a good balance of magic.  Grey London has no magic (and is our world set in a time that still depended on horse carriages), White London consumes magic, and Black London was consumed by magic (hence the sealing of all the doors in an effort to get it all under control).

Kell has a bad habit of smuggling things to each of the different worlds, and one of these items is found to be extremely dangerous.  Lila Bard, a gray-worlder, is a thief who pickpockets Kell and finds herself a part of the adventure to get this item to a safe place.  But there are others who would use this item for worlds domination, hence the plot thickens.

By the end of the book, I was heavily invested in these characters.  The plot was fast-moving and the adventure was fun.  It definitely left it open for the next book in the series, but I just love Schwab’s characters.  They are beautiful and flawed.  They don’t make perfect choices, but they have a deep set of values that help them navigate when it counts the most.

It does have profanity throughout the book.  There is one brief sex scene, but it isn’t detailed.  There is a lot of violence (one of the major qualities of White London), so expect torture and murder, conversations about murder, and a small trigger warning for cutting.

Like everything else I have read from this author, I really enjoyed the beginning of this series.  I am looking forward to reading the next one soon!

Miss Representation: A Review

Miss Representation created by Jennifer Siebel Newsom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This documentary from 2011 was recommended to me by a friend.  The director and narrator, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, is an actress who had recently found out she was having a girl.  This sparked a deep dive into the way our community is set up for women, and how the patriarchy plays a part in both politics and Hollywood in keeping women from believing they could become leaders in industry.

I had heard about much of the content in this film through conversations and even in the media, probably since this film came out.  It covers the fact that women are encouraged to seek power through sexuality and not their intellect.  It described the evolution for women’s rights from WWII when women were working in the factories, through the 1950s when media encouraged women to return home, on to the ERA and then how Hollywood still continues to portray women in narrow roles.

There have been some things that have changed since this film aired.  The Me-Too movement happened.  There have been more and more women involved in politics as well as more female production companies in Hollywood.  In fact, I watched the TV show Mrs. America which gave a look into the ERA and the anti-ERA movement of the 1970s which is mentioned in this documentary.

But we still have a long way to go before we can really consider a realistic representation of females in leadership as it reflects to the number of women in society.  I found it interesting that a lot of the conversation around women in this film also applies to people of color as well as other marginal groups.  It was really shocking to hear what some men felt completely comfortable to say on live TV about their female counterparts.  And that still happens. Just a few weeks ago, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded to some inappropriate public behavior of a fellow congressman.

There is profanity throughout the film.  The sexual content consists of women dressed and moving provocatively and talking about rape in headlines.  The violent content included video of women getting cosmetic surgery and pictures of women covered in bruises after assaults.

I felt convicted to really keep an eye on what I was watching, to critically think about what messages are being communicated in how women are portrayed, even in major roles in film, even how they are portrayed in news media.  I think this film is a good starting point to the conversation, but it shouldn’t stop there.

Participate (Genesis 18)

There’s a story in Genesis about Abraham pleading with God over Sodom and Gomorrah, and this verse popped out at me.  Right before God lets Abraham in on his plan for these two cities, he says:

Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?  Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Gen 18:17-19

So, God tells Abraham that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was so grievous that he was going destroy the cities.  Abraham asks God if he would save the city if God could find 50 righteous people.  God agrees, then Abraham goes down to 45, 40, 30, 20, even just 10 people that God would avoid destroying these cities.  God agrees and then leaves.

God brings Abraham alongside him in this plan.  He doesn’t just let him in on the plan, but actually lets him participate in the conversation.  So, what does that mean for us now?

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Galatians 3:7-9

Just like Abraham, we are chosen by God.  And just like Abraham, God wants us to know the plan, and he wants us to be an active participant in that plan, even if that means we ask questions and plead for specific outcomes or knowledge.  We can ask these things in faith because even though God sees the bigger picture and plan, he also hears our whispered prayers and proclamations of longing. 

Abraham knew that the cities were corrupted (as evidenced in Genesis 14 and his conversation with the King of Sodom).  And he knew that God’s plan was bigger and better than he would ever understand.   Today we know our world is broken and full of death and destruction, and we can plead with God all of our struggles and worries.  He not only hears, but he listens and considers and patiently walks through it with us.  How good it is to have a God who is not only in control and knows where this is all going but wants to stand beside us, walking through it with us, every step of the way!

The Last Train to Key West: A Review

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a story of three women with vastly different lives and a hurricane headed for Florida that is going to upend every one of them.  At the beginning of the book, their lives cross at a diner in Key West.  Each also seems to have a knight in shining armor that will help them navigate through the story.  There are also some abusive husband triggers with one of the women.

Helen is a pregnant waitress who is with an abusive husband.  She is afraid that if she tries to escape, Tom will come looking for her and hurt her or the baby.  There was also some references to previous pregnancies that ended in loss, so she is also constantly afraid she will lose this baby.  Mirta is from Cuba and newly wed to someone she doesn’t know.  Her dad had backed the wrong political power and after the politics shifted, she is told that she has to marry this gangster with ties to the new regime in hopes that it will save the family.  And then Elizabeth, a once wealthy debutante whose family lost all their money in the stock market crash.  She is engaged to someone but has run to Florida to try to find a man who will hopefully save her from this engagement and save the family that is falling apart.

There is profanity, but it’s not a significant part of the dialogue.  There are kissing scenes and implications of more, but nothing quite graphic.  And the violent content comes from the abusive relationship, and also a violent assault that ends in a death, as well as all the dead from this hurricane.

Overall, the story is fascinating.  I had never heard of this hurricane that happened so soon after the stock market crash of 1929.  It was interesting to see what else was going on at the time that we don’t usually discuss in history books.  The story felt alive and moved well with the looming storm approaching.  Plus, I love how everything connected in the end and there was a sense of hope for the future.

The Old Guard: A Review

The Old Guard created by Greg Rucka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had seen trailers for this particular movie in July, and I thought it might be something I would enjoy.  The premise is a group of immortal warriors live their lives in secret but use their unique skills to help those who are helpless.  Sometimes that means covert operations, sometimes it means being a part of some of the bigger wars.  Their immortality does end one day, unknown when it will happen, but their bodies just stop healing altogether and they die.

I usually talk about the profanity, sexual content, and violent content in any media I consume.  And there is a lot of profanity, but there is a lot of violent content.  You see bullet wounds, blown up body parts, just a lot of violence.  But I think that’s really a lot of the point of the plot.  One of the neat things they did was have each character with a special old-world weapon.  They would use that weapon in conjunction with newer weapons in almost a graceful dance.

There are two plots to the story.  One is that another immortal has surfaced.  This hasn’t happened for a couple of centuries.  They have dreams that tell them that there is another one around, and the new immortal has dreams about the others until they have found each other.  So, they set out to find this new girl and we see a lot of this story through her eyes.

The second plot is that there is a company that is hunting the immortals.  The pharmaceutical company, Merrick, wants to take these people apart and find out how they are able to heal and survive death so many times.  And in the world of pictures and records, it’s getting harder for them to hide.

The themes of teamwork and loneliness and making a difference that could help in generations to come are all blatantly set out in the dialog.  The dialog felt at times a little too neat, everything explained quickly and simply.  The characters are basically hand-holding the audience to the place they want them to be.

The movie was okay.  It had a lot of potential that I think it missed, but there is a major cliffhanger at the end of the movie.  So, hopefully this movie is just the set-up to a more complex one in the future.  Of course, that depends on the ability to even make a second one soon enough for people to remember the first one, and in this climate, that’s not so simple.  This might have been better as a TV series.  This felt like an elongated pilot.  If you like a good, simple, fighting movie, I would say check it out.  But don’t expect anything too deep or complex in this first movie.

Humanity – Romans 12

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.

Romans 12: 14-16

I know that all we want is normal. And this year is far from normal on so many fronts. It’s easy to slip into the fear, to grasp onto the entitlement that we think or hope to deserve. Making ourselves the underdog hero of our story makes that triumph feel within our reach. And when it doesn’t happen, when chaos whips around us, it is really easy to lash out at the other side, make them the villain.

In movies, the villain used to be all bad. It was the thing or person that the hero conquered. But in more recent years, movies have presented the villains as misunderstood or misguided, even capable of being good or changing course. It gives more depth to the characters, more understanding in their own humanity. In Romans 12:14, this idea of blessing people who are persecuting you gives that same chance to keep other people’s humanity intact.

Removing their humanity requires us to remove a piece of our own humanity, to forget our flaws in the face of outrage.  To forget the grace we need when we are learning and growing.  We forget how long it sometimes takes for our hearts to soften, or how much pain or fear can blind us to what is going on around us. But in addition to keeping the humanity intact, or maybe in order to do so, there is also this thread through these verses to keep our entitlement in check as well. 

Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn requires a healthy dose of empathy.  The empathy removes entitlement.  I rejoice because I connect with those who are rejoicing.  I see their humanity, their need to rejoice because things are so hard.  Same with mourning.  I see their humanity, their need for space to mourn how they need to, not how I think they should.  I won’t push their pain or their joy under the rug when it is convenient to me.

I am willing to associate with people in a lower position. Or maybe even a different position. People who are not like me, who don’t think like me or read the same news outlets and articles that I do, who don’t have the same priorities that I do. It’s really easy to disassociate myself from others and make judgment calls and create labels to write off their humanity from my own echo chamber.

When we see each other as humans, as creations of God, it doesn’t matter what labels are given to the people around us. We are called to have the sober understanding that under God, we are all the same. These verses are really challenging me to put down the desire to be right and superior in that rightness.  Instead, we are called to love wholly with the love we receive from our holy God.

I don’t know when the chaos will stop. But judging from my past experiences with loss and disruption, I know that the day will come. I have real concern about the divisions in our country, our church, and our community. But I also know that God is in control, that he loves us completely in our own humanity. So, I can trust in God, and that frees me to humbly embrace others in their humanity and love as God first loved us.