Anna Karenina Book Review

A cautionary tale that contrasts a relationship gone to hell and a relationship bloomed to life.

The last two nights have been a roller coaster of emotions both in Russia and in Fargo, ND. I finished reading Anna Karenina which involved the last two parts of the book. I topped off the night holding my newborn son near candlelight with a cup of hot cinnamon spice tea, and of course potato chips, big sour chewy nerds, and a grapefruit sparkling water. Weird choices? It was a delight to the senses.

To write a book this big and not even as big as War and Peace, he must have something to say. And he does. And it’s brilliant. The writing is exquisite. The story is awfully sad, and yet hopeful and happy. He is so detailed and knows how to peel the onion of someone’s mind. He shows the devastating effects of adultery and lust, and how sin ultimately leads to death.

The fact that the book is about an affair, I wonder if many people think it’s just some steamy romance like most modern day stories where they want to glory in the affair, the sin, the darkness. Not this story. And Tolstoy packs a punch making you observe your own life and your own desires. Tolstoy shows how sin curses you, entices you into a whore’s house, and poisons you with death.

And all the while he interweaves a beautiful narrative that is rich, deep, and filled with a loving relationship that isn’t perfect, but is being transformed and changed into something glorious.

I was really surprised by the questions he posed to the reader through one character. Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? What am I living for? Reason vs. romance. Intellect vs. revelation. Working vs gifting. Vanity vs. meaning. And he wonderfully attempts (and I believe succeeds) in answering many of these questions.

Tolstoy offers us two pictures and two paths. The way of misery or the way of happiness. The way of death or the way of life.

I’ve heard this book is used in counseling marriages, and I don’t doubt it. It should be. This book may be a mirror for some and a life saver for others. Do you want to enter a rich and beautiful world filled with longing and suffering, hope and agony, joy and sadness? Do you want to be delighted and taught through a profound story that paints the good, true, and beautiful? I heartily recommend you read, Anna Karenina.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“in former days the free-thinker was a man who had been brought up in ideas of religion, law, and morality, and only through conflict and struggle came to free-thought; but now there has sprung up a new type of born free-thinkers who grow up without even having heard of principles of morality or of religion, of the existence of authorities, who grow up directly in ideas of negation in everything, that is to say, savages…And he turned to what seemed to him the very source of culture–the magazines. In old times, you see, a man who wanted to educate himself–a Frenchman, for instance–would have set to work to study all the classics and theologians and tragedians and historians and philosophers, and, you know, all the intellectual work that came in the way…but now he comes at once upon a literature in which the old creeds do not even furnish matter for discussion, but it is stated baldly that there is nothing else–evolution, natural selection, struggle for existence–and that’s all.”

Pride & Prejudice

My wife and I watched Pride & Prejudice (2005) over Valentine’s Day weekend. Entering that world and story was so refreshing, it left me feeling happy, inspired, and challenged.

The setting, story, music, filming, and atmosphere of the film was beautiful. I marvel at the excellence that was achieved.

I’ve seen the film multiple times, and there is something about it that reminds me how lovely this world is and how good slowness is. Let me explain.

We live in a culture of speed and instant gratification. Speed can be good, but you then have to ask, “at what cost?” For many people it’s hard to sit still. We are constantly distracted, and we’ve lost a lot of reality–what is right in front us. We like to be connected but do we ever connect?

So when I read about another time period, I’m often inspired or challenged to a different way of living. Pride & Prejudice asks, when was the last time you…

walked instead of drove,
read instead of scrolled,
feasted instead of fast-fooded,
lit candles instead of flicking a switch,
actively listened to music instead of passively hearing music,
and wrote instead of typed?

I’m not saying their time period was perfect. It wasn’t. And there is a lot that wasn’t desirable. But we have lost a lot on the wonder of life, enjoying the present, and pursuing the more difficult pleasures. This instant gratification culture isn’t satisfying. Just look at the depression and anxiety rates skyrocketing.

Maybe I’m a bit old fashioned and I’m not saying we need to pretend we are in the 1800 or 1900’s, but I am saying we have a lot to learn from old practices and lifestyles.

I’m convinced our lives can be more full, richer, and filled with more beauty than we realize.

And don’t get me started on the last scene with Mr. Bingley and Jane as well as the last scene with Elizabeth and her father. It’s lovely. The happiness in this story is contagious.

If you are someone who isn’t into these wonderful stories filled with romance and love, maybe you should check your prejudice of the story and get over your pride. You might be surprised.

PS – Here you can get a lovely cloth-bound book of Pride & Prejudice. I heartily recommend reading the book as their is so much depth of beauty and truth. It is a joy to read.

Below you can see the trailer.

Lost in Space – 10 Reasons to Watch

Lost in Space (2018- ) is a TV show I don’t hesitate to recommend. So many TV shows are garbage. So finding one that is actually good is like finding gold in the dross. They are hard to come by (especially newer shows), but they are out there.

Here are 10 reasons I’d recommend watching “Lost in Space”.

  1. Location
    The first season was filmed in Vancouver, Canada. The second season is filmed in Iceland. To showcase the beauty of another planet, they film it on planet Earth! THIS world is truly beautiful.
  2. Trouble
    The writers are willing to put their characters through a lot of trouble. This is good because it inspires the audience ways to work through trouble because this world is full of it.
  3. Family
    When a large part of our culture wants to get rid of the family, it’s refreshing to see a family go through conflict together, stay together, and work together. Family is the backbone of society. G.K. Chesteron said, “The family is the test of freedom; because the family is the only thing that the free man makes for himself and by himself.”
  4. Fatherhood
    It’s rare to see current shows where the father is seen as a critical role to the family and what happens when the father actually steps up to be a man, sacrifice for his family, and give his life for them. Yes, John isn’t the perfect role model, but seeing him transform throughout the series is inspiring.
  5. Responsibility
    When a boy named Will takes responsibility for his robot, I question my life and ask, “Am I taking responsibility for the people, positions, and things that have been entrusted to me?” Responsibility takes humility, self-control, and action.
  6. No nudity
  7. Music
    Music fits the show well. The soundtrack has some lovely songs I enjoy listening to. Without good music, it’s hard to have a good movie or show. Christopher Lennertz composed the music beautifully.
  8. Character building
    People want to grow. So when you see characters grow through turmoil, suffering, and catastrophic events, it encourages you that you can do the same. You are not alone. Will we grow in our character and responsibilities or will we become self-centered and prideful?

    C.S. Lewis said, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
  9. Questions
    The show asks lots of great questions that the viewer can ponder and work through. Roles in family, robots, what love looks like, questioning authority, and so much more.
  10. Beauty
    There are so many beautiful elements. You will just have to watch it. Truth, goodness, and beauty is on display. It’s not perfect, but we need more shows like this.

Sea Sparkles

The story that you and I are in contains seas that glow. You step on the water and it lights up like a million fireflies. You dip your hand in the water and your hand is covered in diamonds. There are places on this planet that contain these free living, marine dwelling species. They are called, Noctiluca scintillans or commonly known as sea sparkles. They glow when they are disturbed. And they are a wonder to behold.

We don’t need to escape this world to see magic. It’s right here on this planet Earth. Many people think this world is dull and boring, or they rather be in Middle Earth or Hogwarts. But this world is actually more amazing. In this world, God speaks and things are and have their being.

“Sunlight makes trees out of thin air (literally), tadpoles turn into frogs, human love turns into children, and you can trick the air into lifting an enormous steel bus full of people up to thirty thousand feet if you know how to curve a wing and harness explosions.  And it’s not all cheerful, happy, kittens-in-baskets magic either.” – N.D. Wilson

Some jellyfish are immortal. Caterpillars turn into slime and transform into butterflies. Peanut butter and chocolate are a thing. And we can use all 5 senses with food. And sex. Jesus didn’t have to make these things, but he did. He wants us to marvel and gaze upon his beauty to enjoy his presence and his creation.

Every beauty in this world is meant to be a reflection of God’s beauty. Just think…if we can experience all of these beautiful things, how beautiful must the Creator be?

Psalm 45:2a (which is about Jesus) says, “You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips;” In Hebrew it is “beautiful, beautiful art thou.” There is no one more beautiful than Jesus.

Christ is so beautiful that even if he were not true, it would be worth it to spend our whole lives looking for him. – C.S. Lewis

I don’t live near the sea, but we do have snow here in Fargo, ND. Every time the sun shines, the snow glitters everywhere. It’s surreal. Billions upon billions of snowflakes are intricately designed and yet all are different from one another. And we get to walk around in this snowy wonderland.

Every day begins with a sunrise and ends with a sunset. This world has a happy beginning and a happy ending. Life is ultimately a comedy, not a tragedy. It’s not just a tale. It’s a true fairytale.

G.K. Chesterton said, “for Alice must first grow small if she is to be Alice in Wonderland.”

She is Happy

Let me tell you about this person I know. She is so happy. When I see her, she loves to smile. Why does the world become so much more beautiful with her smile? It’s because faces were made to reflect the image of God. And Jesus who is God is happy–the most happy being there is. Smiles reflect the love and beauty of God. So when she is happy, she is spreading that beauty and joy to the world. It’s contagious. 

Her happiness speaks of her gratitude. And as Chesterton says, gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. She is a wonder. And she is filled with wonder. Wonder that she is alive. Wonder that she gets to know and be known. Wonder that is thrilled with living and exploring this extraordinary world. 

The most common things are a pleasure to her. She loves eating good food. Being in motion is her love language. And motion creates emotion. She looks you in the eye like there is something to discover about you. She is fascinated by the shape and texture of things. Color catches her eye. 

The world needs more people like her. With so much fear, despair and anxiety that floods our culture, we need people like her that shine brightly, give hope for humanity, and remind us how wonderful life is. Think about the time a stranger smiled at you. Not a smidget smile of politeness, but a genuine smile. It is profound the effect it can have on you. I wish I could communicate the effect this girl has on me–on others. You should just meet her. 

She is my 8 month old daughter.

Ocean Lagoon

This ocean lagoon I’m sitting by is glowing with pure beauty. It’s clear and refreshing. You look at it, and it makes smile a calming smile. It’s filled with colorful fish, spiky ball things, aquatic families, star fish, and endless water and sand. You can walk out a couple hundred yards and the water still only covers your waist. It’s teal and salty, clear and inviting. It’s quiet, but beyond the lagoon are crashing waves that roar continually. When the sun shines, the ocean lights up like fireflies in the night. The sun warms you and the wind sweeps over you a cool breeze. It’s a wonderful feeling and a magical sight.

These moments and details are all spoken — spoken by God and made for Him. He wants us to see him, he wants us to know him. His creation tells us about him. It reflects his beauty. If this is lovely, how lovely must he be? He is more beautiful than all the beauties of the world. He is filled with majestic glory that is like no other. He is THE LIFE, the source of all joy. Soak up the scenery, capture it, but see Him in it. Oh how much he loves us! If only we saw him everywhere. If only we took the time to stop, to listen, to breath, to feel, to embrace the invisible. His glory truly fills the earth.