Sunday, May 28, 2017

My Journey Begins/Farewell (For Now)

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Well my friends, the time has finally come.  Tomorrow my sister and I depart for Trails End Ranch at five-o-clock in the morning. For three months, Brethyn and I will work as counselors and as musicians for the worship team.  I am so excited for this!  I've wanted to do this for as long as I can remember, and now it's finally happening.
Every time I take a walk or a bike ride, I always find myself pausing to gaze toward the west.  I live in a valley, where the ground is so that if the shelterbelts didn't block your view, you could see for miles.  But in west you can see the hills begin to rise, and as the sun sets, that mystical sight tugs at my heart every time I see it.  I've always told myself, Someday... someday I will go there.  Tomorrow, that too will come true!  We'll head west across North Dakota and into Montana in what is approximately an eight-hour drive.  We'll stop by Medora, a western-themed town that has all kinds of cool sights to see, and finally end up in the middle of Custer National Forest at our beloved camp.

This will be the longest time I've been away from home, and it will also be the first missions trip I've ever done.  I'll admit that I've shed quite a few tears in my quiet moments at the thought of leaving my family.  They're pretty much my best friends, and even though I'm not a very social person, they are the eight special people I always love to spend time with.  But even though I'll miss them dearly, I look forward to this new adventure with hope and anticipation.  I'm leaving the Shire!  This is my adventure, and I can't wait to see where it will take me.  

Of course, this will be a very busy few months for me.  As a counselor I won't have much time for anything I usually do, like reading, writing, movie watching, etc... all those things will have to take a back seat.  As will blogging, as it so happens.  If I get a chance to blog during the summer, I certainly will- but don't be surprised if I don't post here again until August.  I'll miss all of you!  And I do hope to come on every now and then to catch up if I can.  But until then, I bid you all a very fond farewell- until we meet again!

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-Emmarayn Redding

(Image taken from the public domain.  Music copyright Patrick Doyle)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rayne's Comedy Hour: Episode VIII

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Greetings, my readers!  It's about time for another episode of Rayne's Comedy Hour.  :D  Sit back and enjoy today's funny memes and jokes!

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-Emmarayn Redding

Friday, May 19, 2017

Top Ten Favorite Literary Characters

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I was originally going to do a post about my top ten favorite characters in general, but I realized I have so many I can't really do that.  So I'm splitting it up between literary and film.  If I get to film and realize I can't fit them all there, I may do another highlighting my favorite television characters as well.  :)
SO!  Let's get down to it!

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Sophie Pendragon

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Starting off our list we have Sophie Pendragon, née  Hatter.  She starts off the book as a timid and resigned eldest child, convinced that she will never amount to anything.  However, when she is cursed by a jealous witch to become an old woman before her time, her inner spitfire comes out, along with her strength.  She travels to work for the notoriously 'wicked' wizard Howl, and this is where we really discover her true character.  She is feisty and at times ill-tempered, but she has a good, motherly heart and her interactions with the people she comes to love are a joy to see.  I love her sensible mind, and watching her journey of self-discovery while hampered by her wizened appearance is quite entertaining.  In the later books, once she has come into her own, Sophie is and always will be a pleasure to read about.


Mortimer Folchart

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In Inkheart, we are introduced to Mortimer "Moe" Folchart, the father of our main character Meggie.  Moe is a kind and loving father, utterly devoted to his daughter and his books.  However, as the series goes on, we also see him as a grieving husband, a guilt-wracked atoner, and finally as a flawed and at-times confused Robin Hood-esque hero.  I absolutely loved his character devolopment.  The things he lost and the things he gained shaped him into the man he eventually became, and the journey is difficult but fascinating.  His complex relationship Dustfinger is probably the most interesting relationship in the entire series.


Thomas Covenant

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Thomes Covenant, of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, is one of the most unlikable characters I've ever read.  Selfish, cowardly, and at times cruel, he is 'hero' only by designation, and throughout his first trilogy he fights it with every fiber of his leprosy-ridden being.  So why is he on this list?  Because I love the journey that he takes.  Covenant, it is explained, once lived a happy life as a young author, married to a beautiful wife and father to a healthy baby boy.  But when it was discovered that he had contracted leprosy, he lost everything.  His job, his respect, even his family.  This, understandably, left him bitter and disillusioned.  So when he is suddenly swept away into a fantastical world called the Land and tempted with the possibility of healing, he rejects it utterly.  Though he is prophesied to be a hero who can either save the Land or doom it, he refuses to fight against the evil of Despite.  But at the same time, he is touched against will by the loving people who defend him and help him no matter what the cost, and eventually their kindness begins to prevail upon him.
Thomas Covenant is difficult to love, and yet I do, because of the man he eventually becomes.  I don't want to give away too much of the series, because even though it's pretty dark and rather adult, it's worth the read for anyone who loves high fantasy.  Suffice to say that by the time I got to the second trilogy, I loved every minute spent with his character.


Lucy Sabine

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Raised in China as the orphaned daughter of English missionaries, Lucy is a child of two worlds.  After the death of her caretaker, she is drawn into the world of the English, as well as a tangled web of intrigue and old feuds.  And as she learns to navigate the peculiar land of her own people, she also harbors the secret of the stranger she married and lost in one night, Nick Sabine.  
Moonraker's Bride is one of my favorite books of all time, and one of the things I love most about it is Lucy's steadfast, innocent personality.  She is bright, sensible, curious, and at times blundering.  I can't really even describe her very well- you'd have to read the book to know.  Here's a quote that sort of sums her up:  

"Like Cinderella's slipper, she was made of glass, or crystal, for you could see all the way through her, and you saw nothing weak and nothing bad, only courage and love and unselfishness that took your breath away."

"... I'm frightened.  You speak as if I were so special, and I''m not, I know I'm not.  I get angry and scared and unreasonable, oh and I tell lies and I've been a thief.  You don't know what my page in the Recording Angel's book is like."


Peet the Sock Man


I can't really talk much about my favorite character from the Wingfeather Saga without giving away to much about the story.  This is unfortunate because Peet is just... darling.  He is noble, intelligent, and devoted to his family, yet also ridden with crippling guilt and self-loathing. His character arch is heartbreaking and wonderful at the same time, and you should really, really read this series so I can talk freely about this already!


Howl Pendragon

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A scoundrel through and through, Howl is a vain, childish, petulant procrastinator and womanizer.  But despite his cowardice and selfish behavior, he is also brave and loving.  He's the kind of guy that would steal your heart, but you would know that you could never marry him.  The three books in which he plays a part are wonderful stories in their own right, but they also serve as means to explore his character bit by bit.  Again, I can't really go into his character without giving away too much about the first book, so this little blurb here will have to do.



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Yet another coward on this list.  Is that a bad sign?  I don't know.  Whatever the case, it is Dustfinger's weakness that makes him interesting.  He's one of those characters you can't help but pity and wish to help, even after he's betrayed the OTHER characters you care about.  His arch, alongside Moe's, is very satisfying to watch.  And although not everything happened in his story that I wanted to happen, Dustfinger goes down as one of the most memorable characters I have ever read.



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The deuteragonist in the Nine Kingdoms trilogy, Miach and Aaragorn were tied for second place, but Aragorn beat him for  it because LOTR has such a special place in my heart.  That being said, Miach is such a sweet, sweet cinnamon roll I think I may still  be a little in love with him.  Or at least I would be if he wasn't so perfect for his love interest, the swordsmaiden Morgan.  He the youngest prince of Neroche, Archmage of the land.  Though generally disliked by the court because of his reclusive behavior and frazzled appearance, Miach a kind and whimsical soul, if perhaps a little closer to insanity than he'd like to admit.  But despite a traumatizing past and an inner tendency towards darkness, Miach nobly fights back his demons and walks solidly on the path of light, maintaining the realm and defending it from the evil that once nearly destroyed him.  His devotion to his family and his true love is pure and sweet.  His relationship with Morgan is one of the most well-done fictional romances I've ever read.



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Need I really say much about this one?  Aragorn is such a great and memorable character.  His journey from ranger to king is subtle and compelling, and his interactions with those he fights for are beyond reproach.  He is a true man of integrity, and since I've recently been re-reading the Appendices of Return of the King I've been impressed once again with how awesome he is.  ^_^


Beleg Strongbow

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Again, I know.  This fellow makes it onto a lot of my lists, but what can I say?  He's my favorite character ever.  I don't even know what it is about him that touches me in such a way, except that his honesty and devotion to his friend is so admirable. The voice of reason in an otherwise twisted and emotionally-trying tragedy, Beleg shines as a paragon of a true hero.  His prowess in battle does not make him arrogant, he stays true to his convictions and does not condone the actions of his dearest friend when it would be easier to either call it right, or leave him behind.  But against all odds, Beleg stays with Turn when he is needed most, knowing that it is his duty to try to protect his young friend from the terrible fate that looms over him.
Although it's difficult to pin down exactly what it is that solidified him in his position as my favorite character, it's going to take one INCREDIBLE character to usurp him.

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I hope you enjoyed this list!  Make sure to catch my next list, in which I highlight my top ten favorite film characters.  
What are some of your favorite characters, and why?  Let me know in the comments.  Have a nice day!

-Emmarayn Redding

(DISCLAIMER: With the exception of Peet the Sockman's portrait, I own none of the artwork contained  in this post.  All credit goes to their respective copyright holders.)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Movie Review: The Phantom of the Opera (1990)

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Image result for phantom of the opera 1990Before Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote his own Phantom of the Opera, Arthur Kopit began writing a musical adaptation of Lerox's novel.  It was not produced, but after the success of the Lloyd Webber show, Kopit's musical was translated into a two-part non-musical miniseries for television.

This, I must say, is the most beautiful adaptation of Phantom that I have ever seen.  Of course the Webber musical will always have a special place in my heart, but this version has now become my favorite.  

Vastly different from the book, this story paints a much more sympathetic portrait of Erik, who we see here as a sensitive, soft spoken, intelligent- if more than a little unbalanced- individual.  
Christine, a young peasant girl, arrives at the Paris Opera House with a letter from the Comte d'Chagny, who was enchanted by her singing in a village festival and arranged for her to have singing lessons.  Unfortunately for Christine, the Comte's friend Carriere, who used to be the manager, has recently been dismissed from his position and replaced by an Italian couple.  The new managers wife, Carlotta, does not believe that Christine can sing and instead assigns her to the costuming department, leaving Christine with little hope of ever making it to the stage.  This is a double blow for her, as she finds out that the Comte, with whom she was more than a little infatuated, has a reputation for being a womanizer, and she is not the first girl he has sent to the Opera House for lessons.
Image result for phantom of the opera 1990Meawhile, Carriere goes down below the theater to inform his long time friend, the Phantom, that he will no longer be able to help him since he has been dismissed.  Incensed at the injustice done to his friend, Erik takes an immediate disliking to the new manager and Carlotta, and is faced with the problem of what he is going to do now that his only ally has been ousted.  
But when he hears Christine singing after the theater closes, he knows he has found a new purpose, and immediately offers to become her teacher on the condition that she tell no-one.  A relationship begins to blossom between them as he guides her, inspiring her with both skill and confidence so that she can someday take her rightful place on the stage.

Related imageBut things begin to heat up when Phillipe d'Chagny finally arrives, truly and thoroughly smitten with the girl he sent for lessons, and determined to win her heart.  Carlotta discovers how beautifully Christine can sing, her husband Choleti refuses to heed the Phantom's wishes concerning the Opera House, and the police begin combing the catacombs where Erik lives, searching for the body of one Mr. Joseph Bouquet...

I think the thing I loved most about this version was the characters.   The story almost seems like a Gothic fairy tale. Christine is naive, innocent, and loving.  Though she is very feminine and not afraid of it, she is not quite a damsel in distress either.  Far less so than the Christine in the Webber version.  Phillipe (the Raol-equivalent) is interesting due to his conflicting nature.  On one hand he has his reputation as the pretty-boy womanizer, and on the other hand his love for Christine is pure and true, and he does his best to be worthy of her.  
As for Erik, I loved that in this version he seemed more human.  He was capable of carrying on a normal(ish) conversation with someone, and was not consumed with self-pity, which I found quite refreshing.  His sense of humor made me laugh several times, and his tenderness toward Christine was very touching.  And yet, for all those good qualities, you could just tell that his mind is not all there.  Something is dreadfully broken in him, and one wrong blow could unleash a terrible threat.  
His relationship with Carriere was refreshing as well.  It was nice to see that his whole life did not always revolve around Christine.  He had a friend, and a business to run as well before ever knowing she existed.

One thing I found very interesting is that you never actually see his face, which I think keeps the mystery intact.  The viewer is left to imagine what could be so horrible, and is therefore not disappointed by something less than what they imagined.  

PROS:  Everything I just mentioned above.  I can't get over how much I love this movie!  

CONS:  A few scattered swear-words, though not as much as movies nowadays.  
One flashback in which you see a man and a woman lying in the grass together, and they do not appear to be fully clothed.  Nothing shocking is seen, though the characters are unmarried.  
**SPOILER** At one point we see a woman attempt what appears to be an abortion by drinking some sort of medicine, but she is stopped and she delivers the baby safely.**END SPOILER**
**SORTA-SPOILER**  In the Phantom's lair we see a crib, in which a headless doll rests.  The head of the doll is hung in front of a portrait of someone who appears to be Christine, and it is never made clear why this is.  It seems very suggestive of magic of some sort, but it is not elaborated on and frankly I have no idea why they included it in the film, except perhaps to make it seem more 'eerie'.**END SPOILER**

Some minor violence (gunshots fired, a few people hung), but very very little blood.  

OVERALL:  If you like the Phantom of the Opera, watch this version!  I can't find the official rating, but I would rate it a very light PG-13.  In terms of quality, I give it a solid Five Stars!

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-Emmarayn Redding

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Beautiful Music: I've Seen Hell

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Welcome!  This month's beautiful music is I've Seen Hell, by Martin Phipps from the soundtrack for BBC's North and South, an adaptation of  Elizabeth Gaskell's novel of the same name.  If you like Charles Dickens or Jane Austen (or both!), I recommend this miniseries.  I'd recommend the book too, but I haven't read it yet.  The library never has it available.  But for now, enjoy this haunting track at your leisure!

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I hope you enjoyed it!  Let me know if you have any favorite songs you'd like to share in the comments.  :D  Have a great day!

-Emmarayn Redding

(DISCLAIMER:   Music copyright John Michael Talbot.  No copyright infringement intended.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Althea's Choice

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A while ago I entered this thousand-word short story in the Faith Radio Writing Contest.  It did not get enough votes make it to the finals, unfortunately, but I thought I'd post it here just for fun.  :)  If you already read it during the contest, thank you!  If not, now is your chance.  

By the way- this is one of the few pieces where I timed it to music!  At my reading speed, this story fits perfectly to Dreamcatcher, by Alexandre Desplat.  I don't know how well it will play out at other people's reading speeds, but it gets the feel of the story across any way, so for the full experience click play on the video before reading!  :D

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A Note:  The theme of the contest this year was Micah 6:8- "For what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

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“Please don't go, Renn!” she pleaded, clutching his sleeve in her fist. Her brother only looked down his nose at her, reproach in his eyes.
“We cannot waste this chance. King Lysander is young and inexperienced, and if we let him pass by now, he may never come within our grasp again! His people have oppressed the Faithful for generations. Would you let him have free reign over our land? Do what you wish, but I would have justice done.”
Althea fell silent. There'd been a kind of madness in Renn's eyes ever since Lysander had inherited the throne, and she knew there was nothing she could say to sway him. He and his men set out to ambush the new monarch that morning, and she waited alone in her cave, wondering if she would ever see them again. God in Heaven, please protect them...

At twilight, the first sounds of battle reached her. She sat bolt upright, her heart pounding. After a few moments she leaned back against the rough stone wall and closed her eyes, but rest eluded her. Justice... she mused. Renn's reasoning sounded clear, so why this check in her spirit?

In the early hours of the dawn, she stood stiffly, worry and curiosity finally compelling her to move. She draped a cloak over her shoulders and ventured into the forest.

Snow drifted down silently, stark against the dark pine branches as she made her way to the pass where Renn and the others had laid their trap for the king. All was quiet; neither bird nor animal stirred.
Cautiously she crept onward, knowing she must be close now- she could hear the sound of the river, a dull roar muffled by the snow.
A sudden movement startled her, and Althea's hand went instinctively to the dagger at her side. As her eyes focused on the movement, she saw that it was a young man stretched limply on the riverbank, half submerged in the water. He struggled for one moment to lift himself, then collapsed, shivering in the snow.
She ran forward, hoping against hope it was not Renn. He was all she had left.
Althea stopped short as she saw his face. It was not Renn, it was Lysander!
She knew his face from the coins, but if it weren't for the royal seal on his gauntlets she wouldn't have recognized him. He was so much younger than she'd expected. Perhaps her own age.
He was hurt, she could tell. The snow was red beneath him. Swallowing, Althea calculated. Here was a man who had the power to destroy her people- whose family had persecuted them for time-out-of-mind. He was unwed and had no heir. If he died, the kingdom could be free once more!
Every nerve told her to turn around and leave him where he was, but Althea stood rooted to the spot, unable to tear her eyes away.
“Oh Lord,” she whispered, “I don't know what to do...”
Like a flash, it came to her, the memory of her father's voice. “For what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?”
And what does that mean? Althea thought sharply. This man has already committed countless crimes against my people. Am I to hold him guiltless?
But then, against her will, a new thought stirred in her heart. That was exactly what Jesus had done, all those hundreds of years ago when he rose from the grave. Humankind had done nothing to deserve His mercy or grace, yet because of his sacrifice, she knew He held guiltless any who submitted themselves to His Name.
Perhaps Lysander didn't deserve to be saved, but... If God Himself showed mercy to a people who had done nothing but wrong Him, who am I to deny this young man the same kindness? she realized with a start. Pride told her that she had every right to leave him to die. But she could feel her Lord moving in her heart, urging her toward him. Bowing her head, she closed her eyes, praying for strength. Thy will, not mine, be done.

Slipping her arms under Lysander's shoulders, she pulled him to his knees and settled him over her back. His eyelids fluttered and he groaned in pain. Gritting her teeth against his weight, Althea turned toward home.

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Lysander stirred, his body so weak he could barely move. His side burned with pain, and the skin pulled strangely. Stitches, he realized. Shaking his head, he tried to pull himself from the dense fog that held him down. Slowly he opened his eyes and looked around. Firelight flickered on stone walls all around him. His head was bandaged, as well as his arm and side.
Then his eyes came to rest on the young woman who knelt by the fire, tending a skillet. Even in the dim light he could tell that she was one of the Faithful, a people he'd been taught to fear all his life.
Looking up, she noticed him and came closer. His stomach flipped and he stiffened, wincing as he tried to move away.
“It's alright, Your Highness,” the woman said softly. She put out a gentle hand on his shoulder to calm him. “My name is Althea, and you're safe with me. I've bound your wounds, but you must rest until your strength returns.”
Lysander eyed her warily. “Why am I still alive?” he asked, his voice hoarse and strange in his ears. Althea smiled, sadness lurking behind her eyes.
“God has spared me despite my wrongs. How could I not do the same for you?”
Lysander blinked, confused. Althea offered no further explanation, but slid her hand under his head to help him drink. As unconsciousness threatened to swallow him again, he had time only for one last thought... If the Faithful are such a dangerous people, how could they offer such kindness?

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-Emmarayn Redding

(Neither the image nor the video used in this post are my property.  Image taken from Pintrest, unable to find name of artist.  Music copyright Alexandre Desplat.  No copyright infringement intended.)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Peek Into My World

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I've always loved those blog posts where you get to see pictures from the  blogger's room- it gives you a little taste of what their life is like.  I've never done it with mine, but recently I was taking some pictures of my room anyways (in case I get homesick while I'm counseling at Trails End Ranch), so I figured since Blogger has finally let me start posting pictures again, I'd give you all a tour.  :D

To start off with, here's a view of the whole room, myself included.  (It was so hard to get this picture... you can't see it, but I'm standing on my tiptoes with my arm fully extended while balancing this computer.)
My bed and vanity.  

My writing chair and a partial view of my book shelf.

The rest of my "bookshelf".  Most of it is just books stacked on top of other, stronger books.  It's pretty pathetic.  I don't even have all my books out right now- a lot of them are either under my bed or on other shelves throughout the house.  :(   Eventually I want to build one long shelf all around the top walls of my room, but that probably won't happen before I leave this summer.

My dresser top.  The ducks are temporary.  Eventually I will paint them and give them back to my grandma for her garden.  :)

My leatherbound study Bible.  It's difficult to see with this quality of picture, but there's a Celtic knot impressed on the cover.

And then there's this little guy.  He doesn't really match anything in the room, but he'd been hanging in one of the upstairs bedrooms for almost twenty years when we decided to renovate it.  The poor little puppet ended up homeless due to the new decorations, so I hung him up in my room until we could find a different place for him.  Now I've grown kind of attached, so here he will stay.  :)

And now, just for fun, here's a few pictures of my new Lord of the Rings set!  My old set was completely falling apart after much use (even before I owned them).  The final straw came when my brother Elias read them and the pages just came falling out, through no fault of his.  (He's very careful with books). I decided it was time to treat myself to a newer and more sturdy set of books, so here we are- a faux leather bound box set that includes the Hobbit!  :D

pictured here is a little book mark I made to go with the set.  Eventually I want to make one for each book, including the Silmarillion and the Children of Hurin.

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Well, there you have it!  I hope you enjoyed this tour of my room.  I apologize for the blurry quality of these images- Blogger decided to be weird after all and would only let me put in the pictures if I copy-pastedd them from the upload photos window, so they ended up being in a much lower quality.  :(  Oh well, someday I'll figure this out.

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-Emmarayn Reddiing

Friday, May 12, 2017

From VHS to Blueray

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I've always liked dated movies.  You know, the kind where the image quality is kind of fuzzy, and you can definitely tell that that the dragon is just a puppet.   There's just something about the nostalgia that feels every bit as enjoyable as the shiny effects we get in theaters today.  Sometimes even more so.

I can remember when I thought that DVDs were about as far as movies would go.  Then Blue Ray started becoming popular, and every one was going on and on about how cool it was, and how real the movies looked in high definition.  But the first time I actually saw a movie in Blue Ray HD, I couldn't bring myself to agree.  Oh don't get me wrong- I was impressed with the clarity of the picture, but I didn't think it looked very real at all.  I never understood why people thought it looked so lifelike when real life was most certainly not that sharp and clear. 

Then I found out I needed glasses.

When I got my new glasses and wore them for the first time, it was like going from VHS to Blue Ray.  All of a sudden everything was so much more defined.  There was so much depth I hadn't noticed before!

Image result for vhs vs blu ray comparisonMy eyes aren't really all that bad.  I can function without glasses just fine.  When I look at things up close, there's no difference.  It's only when things get a little further away that they start to look blurred.  But I ever understood that until my glasses helped me to perceive things better from a distance.  Looking up at the leaves of the trees was probably the most fun.  I could actually see the  edges of the leaves, instead of just green blots.  I could see the lines of bark in the branches above.  In church, I looked around the room and realized that no one's hair was quite as smooth neat as I had always thought.  They had strands out of place and little fluffy whisps that floated over their heads.    The embroidery on the lampshade I could see now in detail as I sat and read on the couch across the room.

Sure, my eyes aren't nearly as bad as some peoples, but the difference was enough to make me smile in wonder and laugh at myself.  It turns out Blue Ray is more lifelike.  I just never realized it until my own vision was brought up to standard.

In II Corinthians 4:4 we are told that   "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." 

In other words, Satan has twisted the perspectives of those who do not yet follow God so that they see things in a blurred and backwards way.  To them, God's truth and His laws are not good, they are strange at best, cruel at worst.  I've talked to people with the desire to share God's redeeming love with them, only to find that they cannot see past what they see as the 'injustice' of His laws. (Laws, by the way, that are totally necessary for the message of salvation to make sense.  Why would Jesus save us if we had nothing to be saved from?)

 The Scriptures themselves often cause great confusion among believers and non-believers alike.  Though we believe that God's Word is infallible, the translations give way to a lot of seeming contradictions that give cause to doubt.  And a lot of times even the pure and simple truth is enough to throw someone off track- because as citizens of this world, humans are all vulnerable to Satan's attacks, and only by God's protection are we as Christians spared.  When we confess our sins and turn away from them, making the decision to follow Jesus and take Him as our lord, our eyes are opened so that we can understand Truth from God's perspective!  Rather like getting glasses for the first time, or going directly from poor-quality VHS to High Definition Blue Ray.  

Just like when I looked at the image quality of Blue Ray movies and thought Heh!  So unrealistic... a non-Christian looks at the ways of God and thinks it folly.  God's laws and nature seem ridiculous and even wrong to them.  That's why it can be so difficult to minister to them sometimes.  Even our love for them, which we so desperately wish to get across, seems offensive.  

What can we do about it?  To be honest, I don't think we can do anything about it, except pray.  Prayer is a powerful tool in the Christian life: a privilege we should never take for granted.  Not only does God allow us- who by all rights should be unworthy- to approach Him, He actually listens to us!  Every day we are to live in prayer, keeping God in our thoughts and hearts at all times, in as much as that's possible.  And every time we mean to minister or witness to someone, we should cover our efforts in prayer.  Ask God to bless our words, and open people's ears so that they can hear us for what we are trying to say, not what they think we might say.   In this way, they can finally see the world as it was meant to be seen- through God's perspective... a perfect 20-20.  

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-Emmarayn Redding

Monday, April 3, 2017

Updates | Beautiful Music

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Greetings!  A happy spring to everyone.  
One again I regret the long intervals between posts, but I've not been idle.  During my silence I have written five chapters in Rise of Ralienah my (hopefully) next novel.  It's been a long time since my creative juices have been flowing, so I'm super happy that things are going so quickly now.  
Unfortunately, concentrating my efforts on books means I tend to think less of this poor blog, so it's been left in the dust for a little too long.

I come today with some updates on my life, as well as this month's Beautiful Music.  I'm saving that for last because it's a song that really deserves full attention.  ^_^


-I'm not sure if I've talked about Rise of Ralienah in much detail here before, so I just want to do a quick summary.  This book is a prequel to my first book, Quest for the Ivory Sword.  In Quest, the readers were introduced to Talminia and its inhabitants, including  Nayram'e Arrowflight, the Heir of Ralienah and next in line to become the Warrior of Talminia.  In Talminia, the Heirs are a very important part of the culture and infrastructure, held on the same level as the royals, if not even higher to some.
Quest for the Ivory Sword told of Nayram'e's quest to retrieve an ancient heirloom belonging to her family- a sword forged for Ralienah at the beginning of their line, pure white and rumored to be magical.  

In Rise of Ralienah, we go backward in the timeline to explore the origins of Ralienah Mark, a young foreign woman who unexpectedly finds herself at the head of a nation-wide revolution, intent on freeing the slaves in Talminia and bringing peace to its turbulent lands.  This is the beginning of the Heirs of Ralienah, as well as the story of the search for freedom and healing, not just in body, but in heart.
I started writing this book years and years ago, but it's had to go through a massive re-write, in which I pretty much scrapped everything I had written in order to flesh it out and fix some very young-minded logic loops that were driving me nuts.  I'm on chapter five now of the re-write, which is going a whole lot faster than the first draft.  Pray that I can keep my momentum!

-Rise of Ralienah is not the only thing I've been working on lately.  I've also been working on the next installment of Ready to Fly, so hopefully that will be ready soon.  Those of you who read it, keep your eyes out!

-This summer, for the first time, I will be leaving my home for more than two weeks.  My sister Brethyn (Aarathyn for you Underground folks!) and I will be going to work at Trails End Ranch, a Christian summer camp we fell in love with when we were children.  Brethyn will be serving as a counselor and I.... I don't actually know what they want me to do yet. I applied for the position of an art teacher, but there's another girl possibly in line for that, so I could end up anywhere.  I'm kind of hoping for drama, which I should have thought of before I applied for the art position.  ;)  
This camp has limited internet connection, so there's a good chance that during the three months I work there I may not be able to post at all.  I'm hoping to find a moment or two, possibly on my one day off per week to go into town and find a place with WyFy every now and then.

-And finally, one of the reasons I've been silent on this blog lately is that Blogger, for some reason, won't let me include pictures in my posts anymore, and I don't know why.  It won't even let me upload them from my own computer, so that put the kibosh on at least three posts I was planning.  :(  Has anyone else encountered this problem lately?  Have you found a solution?   If so, let me know so I can pull those posts out of the files and publish them finally.  

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And, lastly, here is this month's Beautiful Music:  It's Not Enough, by Dustin Kensrue.

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-Emmarayn Redding

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Contest Entry!

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Hey, everyone!  I'm here with a quick announcement:  I've entered the Faith Radio Writer's Contest again this year, this time with a submission called Althea's Choice.  Only the top ten fiction and non-fiction entries with the most reader votes will be judged by the official judge's panel, and since my entry is kinda last minute, it's doubtful I'll get far.  But if you guys would like to go check the story out and (if you would) give it a vote, you can find it here!  

Thanks in advance to any who decide to vote.  :)  Share it with your friends and family and we'll see how far this story can get!

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-Emmarayn Redding

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Relevance of the Church

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People online are always full of opinions.  Fairly recently I saw someone post an opinion that really stuck with me.  It was on the "relevance" of the church.  This is the gist of what they said:

"If the Christian Church does not revise its views on homosexuality, other religions, and other contemporary issues, they will be irrelevant within the next ten years."

The person was, of course insisting that the church needs to adopt and endorse the above mentioned issues or become extinct.  The comments on the post were mostly hearty agreement from the secular community, and awkward fumblings from the few Christians who saw fit to respond.

But honestly, my first thought when I read the post was, "If that's the  case, we're already irrelevant.  And yet, we never will be."

See, the Church (note the capital 'C') is not about what is relevant.  We're not about acceptance of popular or common opinion, we're about God.  We're not out to please people or provide a feel-good atmosphere. We're not here to be a big open house with cookies and coffee for everyone.  We're here to honor God.  God is the one who decides right from wrong, so it's His opinion we care about- not the World's.  

The World has already decided that homosexuality is cool, and that other religions are just as viable as Christianity.  They've already decided that the highest morality you can follow is your own opinion.  What's good or convenient or inoffensive for you personally is what goes.  So in that sense, yes, the Church is already irrelevant- we don't matter to them.  We don't match their ways.

But we never have. 

We are called to be separate.  When you take on the Name of Christ, you leave the ways of the World behind you to live a life that's pleasing to Him.  Why?  Because the ways of the World only lead to one place:  Eternal Death.

The Church is relevant because everyone on this planet is in need of a savior.  If you're alive, you're already fallen.  No matter how good or how bad we live our lives, we will never be good enough to get to Heaven on our own.  God knew this, so God made sure there was a way we could be saved anyway-  He Himself took our punishment.  When He died on the cross and rose again, He paid the deadly, bloody price that our sinful nature demands.  Because of His sacrifice, we no longer have to be enslaved to the things that dishonor Him.  We can be free, and we can live forever with Him in Heaven, rather than having to face the punishment of Hell.

This is a hard message to swallow for a lot of people, so if you're reading this as a non-Christian person, bear with me for a moment. 

When a Christian tells you that you're sinful and you need to repent, that's not an insult.  We say it out of love, and a true desire to see you safe!  Sin is something that afflicts us all from the moment of our birth.  We're so used to it that by the time we're actually old enough to think about it, we hardly even notice it.  That's why God gave  us the Law:  that is, the 10 Commandments.

It's a simple set of rules, or so you'd think.  But no human being on EARTH is able to keep every single one of them.  Not even the most annoyingly shiny-perfect person you know.  The Law isn't a checklist for us to complete and earn our way into Heaven, it's a mirror to show us how much we need a Savior.

God is Holy.  So clean, so pure we can't even comprehend it.  So perfect that even what seems like a slight infraction to us is really a deadly crime in comparison to His standards.  Things that seem right and desirable to us are dishonorable to Him.  I understand what it's like to love your sin, and to wish that it was acceptable, believe me.  I've experienced the deep shame that comes of being told that you're wrong and that you need to change.  It doesn't feel good.

But then again, neither does taking that nasty cough medicine.  It's miserable, it tastes awful and it stays with you for a while, but in the end, it helps you overcome your sickness.  God's laws do NOT feel nice.  Following His ways is the most difficult thing you will ever do.  And if it wasn't hard enough to follow through on your own out of a desire to please Him and stay safe, the World makes it harder by despising you for trying.

People are always screaming about how their way is right, and God's is wrong.  Christians are not and never have been popular- at least not when they actually do what God says to do.  I'm not talking about the "social christian" who goes to church, smiles at everyone and does nice things.  I'm talking about the people who love God desperately and know that they are not good enough on their own.  I'm talking about the people who have placed their trust in Jesus and try daily to live according to His words, regardless of their success rate.  I'm talking about those who place God's standards above their own, and above the rest of the world.  True Christians must do God's will even when it means giving up things which are dear to us, a concept which is foreign the majority of society today.

These people are not popular.  They are not "relevant" according to the World's standards.  But we are according to God's, and that's what really matters.  Jesus's sacrifice on that cross has made it so that we can relevantly, legitimately approach God and be justified before Him.  

In closing, the Church will never be relevant when it comes to matching the popular morality (or lack thereof) of the world.  But it will always be relevant when it comes to your eternal, everlasting home.  God has provided a way for us to be safe with Him forever, if we only will listen and submit ourselves to His Way, the Only Way that is right.

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-Emmarayn Redding