Friday, December 28, 2007

Shameless Plug

In case you're new, or you've forgotten, or you just needed an excuse to visit one more web page, Lisa of Longbourn posts her creative writing snippets at When the Pen Flows - and invites you to share the creativity by submitting your own stories or poems for publication, by commenting, and by telling your friends. Get inspired. Practice your writing skills. Give me an excuse to practice mine.
To God be all glory.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Pigfest 2007

Portrait of a young pig by Joel Sartore
Portrait of a young pig

For my birthday, we had a Pigfest. I blogged a long time ago promising a Pigfest, and challenged you all to discover what it was. Here’s how it went.

Each person in attendance was asked to have a statement prepared for debate. It could be about theology, philosophy, politics, history, or economics. They would state their proposition and explain it if necessary. A timer set for fifteen minutes was started and the debate began, with any person present allowed to play devil’s advocate or switch sides or bring up a new aspect for debate at any time.

A Gentleman's Debate, 1881 by Benjamin Eugene Fichel
A Gentleman's Debate, 1781

The first proposition was that Imagination is inversely proportional to the amount of toys one possesses. Discussion included types of toys, what happens if one has no toys, the advantage of having a few toys over either extreme, whether we meant toys, or property in general (who defines toy?). The assumption that imagination is a desired goal was addressed, as well as the purpose of imagination and of toys. “Is passive entertainment ever healthy?” someone asked. We talked about different kinds of people, and the kinds of entertainment that are more satisfying because they engage the entertained to interact. Finally at the last minute it was suggested that the relationship is not inverse. If “inverse” were true of toys and imagination, no toys would produce infinite imagination, and that is not the case.

Secondly it was proposed that Evangelical Christianity should be more like Roman Catholicism in that there are wards, and one is expected to attend the nearest church, focusing on involvement in their immediate community. This would mean that problems in churches get fled, not ignored. There would ideally then be accountability in the leadership of the church. The Roman Catholic church, however, enforces accountability with a bishop who is outside of the local congregations, overseeing several churches. Who would enforce the rule? How would it be enforced? Would a Christian be able to exercise their freedom and their conscience toward doctrine? Someone suggested choosing between the three closest congregations. The condition was Evangelical Christianity, so it was argued that one’s own theology defined what one considered an appropriate church/denomination to attend, and most people present wouldn’t change the church they attend (Pigfesters at this event represented at least four churches, and I invited members of several more churches.) If community is the end goal, then why do we have church buildings at all? Why not house churches? How do you hear about/get invited to a house church? If one is going to fix problems in existing churches, wouldn’t that lead to a sort of vigilante church take-over? Wait! Is that happening in some churches already?

Our third debate was on the need for a national language, and that because the majority of the nation speaks English, and our legal and founding documents were written therein, the national language should be English. The first objection was that one would have to define English. English is evolving, as evidenced by the low comprehension we would have of a Middle or Old English document. A national language would enable integration of immigrants, encouraging unity in our country. How would you enforce the national language? How would you integrate those whose birth language was not English? What does a national language mean? Are road signs only in English? Laws? Ballots? Government documents? If one national language is such a good thing, why should we stop at that? Why not a global language? We talked about the tower of Babel, and God’s design in confusing languages.

Next was a discussion of the relative morality of nuclear weapons. The proposition stated that the morality equaled that of using hand grenades or traditional bombs. Brought up was the economics of both the use of and the recovery from nuclear weapons; the effect upon innocent non-combatants, the number of dead, and the number of miserably injured. What is the object of war? To obtain land and property? Defense? Killing the most enemy combatants? Killing the most people? Is psychological warfare moral? Doesn’t the use of morally regulated nuclear weapons facilitate escalation in that it emboldens the less principled (or sane) enemies to use nuclear weapons against innocents or recklessly?

We had a proxy proposition that Lying is justifiable to save a human life. Immediately presented were the biblical examples of Rahab and the Midwives, and contrasting example of Corrie ten Boom’s sister (Corrie nine Bang?). What was God rewarding? Is it ok to give the appearance of lying? God clearly says that He abhors lying, but we are only assuming from examples that it is ok to lie to save lives. Theology and application should be consistent with the whole revelation of Scripture. A Bible story was brought up in which God caused an attacking army to believe there was an army attacking them, even though there wasn’t. Does God use mind control? Will He use it if we don’t take initiative and lie for Him? Is lying ok in other circumstances, like surprise parties? It was argued that life is the highest end, taken from Proverbs 31 where it says to intercede for those being delivered to death. Against that was the position that God’s glory was the highest, that faith in God says that God can accomplish His purposes inside our obedience (as well as outside). What else could Rahab, for example, have done? Refuse to answer. Be creative. Die for the truth. The Holy Spirit will guide a Christian to the proper response in a given situation.

Then we addressed the question Does God tell you what to do and change the plans? The general answer was yes, He does. Then it was asked is God lying. The example was given of Abraham and Isaac, that God tests our surrender. Is God lying, or is our perspective not reflective of reality?

Finally, trying to mix up the topics, I selected a topic from history from my list. This was my proposal: Ancient civilizations knew about and had maps of America and Antarctica. After the strong stand taken against lying in any circumstance, no one wanted to argue with me. There was discussion on the evidence: trigonometry, maps, Columbus’s discovery of America, that Antarctica was mapped pre-ice cap (what if there was a civilization there?). We diverted into conversation on ancient technology (that we moderns don’t understand), Mormon myths, similar architecture in rings out from Babel reflecting the dispersion. From the Bible we talked about Peleg (in his days the earth was divided, whatever that means) and boundaries (between nations that are not to be moved), and the knowledge possible to be acquired in 500 years of life versus the current life expectancy. Evidence was presented that mammoths were found with dandelions that had been blooming in their stomachs as they were frozen, suggesting the climate was more temperate in the arctic and Antarctic in the past, and that it changed rapidly.

Afterward we watched Amazing Grace, the movie about William Wilberforce’s campaign to abolish the slave trade in England. It was positively inspiring. Afterward we passed around the petition to amend the Colorado Constitution defining person as a human from the moment of fertilization.

I’m told, and experienced myself, that the conversation sparked by fifteen minute segments of debate carried on into the next few days. We have all resolved to have Pigfests again.

Feel free to add to the arguments, ask questions, click on the links, host your own Pigfests, comment on your debate experiences, say hi, etc.

To God be all glory.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Presidents and Federal Government Reform

Resolved: The American Federal government is too big.

The federal government has more employees than is legal or necessary.
The federal government is inefficient.
The federal government unjustly over-taxes the people of America.
The federal government uses tax money (and debt) to fund illegal social, education, and scientific programs and departments.
The federal government has infringed the rights of states in several areas.

Resolved: A US president has power to rein-in the federal government.

A US president can veto excessive spending bills referred to him by rogue congresses.
A US president can speak out against the abuses performed by the federal government.
A US president can restrict, resize, or dissolve any of the executive-appointed offices and departments.
A US president can appoint secretaries, attorneys, and judges who will uphold the US

Resolved: The vote cast by a citizen of the United States for president should be affected by the above resolutions.

Resolved: The above resolutions are not the only rod by which to measure a candidate.

Inquired: Which candidates understand and affirm the above resolutions?

Inquired: Which of those who understand and affirm the resolutions have an applicable plan for reforming the federal government back into legal limits?

Inquired: Which of those with a plan would be able to implement their plan without destroying the nation? In other words, would the government and country still be able to function, or govern and defend itself?

Ron Paul is almost completely a libertarian. He offers very conservative principles to the disillusioned, betrayed conservative grass roots. His speeches are full of the resolutions above. But I have not heard him describe how electing him as president would make a difference. What changes would he make, and how would he make them? How would he deal with the fall-out? I notice in my own life that God, who certainly knows all of my shortcomings and sins, will prune them a little at a time, so that I can still function. I believe this is because He loves me, not just the mold of perfection. I doubt that Ron Paul would have the patience to reform the government in a way that would leave a working system in place. On the other hand, he has been in the legislature for some time without accomplishing anything aside from building a record for himself (not even a name for himself until he publicized it by running for president).

Rudy Giuliani does not seem interested in restricting the government at all. He is a social moderate, who therefore thinks government involvement in social matters are justified. (On a side note I do not think that murder is a social issue; neither is abortion.)

Mitt Romney is a businessman. He has shown his capabilities as an executive. Making an organization run efficiently and productively is his record. In business, you do not want to cut the influence of your company, or reduce profits. Yet in government, that is just what needs to be done.

Though Huckabee was a pastor more than a businessman, he was also an executive of a state. As governor of Arkansas did he exhibit any tendencies toward reforming the government? Granted, he was working with a congress of democrats. Is there anything he is saying now that indicates he will reform Washington?

Are these men just going to treat symptoms? Throw more money at problems? Cut out the cancer so deeply that you've amputated vital organs? Must we the voters be content with a man of the hour, who can get us through the next four years, but will leave the federal government unchecked in its decent toward tyranny?

What do any of you readers know about these candidates or the others running? Are my assessments wrong? Do any of the other candidates meet the resolutions with strength, vision, and confidence? Can you reassure me that a vote for Huckabee, which I am intending to cast, will be for the good of America?

Can we the people do anything now to prepare the field of candidates in the future?
Please comment.

To God be all glory.

Holiday and Carol - Two Etymologies for Christmas

One wonderful thing about celebrating Christmas it that it connects us to the past. Not only are we celebrating an event that happened 2000 years ago; we are also joining all the people in 2000 years of history who celebrated Jesus' birth. That we do the same thing every year, generation after generation, preserves words and traditions and thoughts and art that would otherwise have been lost. Can you think of any other contemporary music that becomes timeless so universally?

Words we use at Christmas tend, then, to be relics from the past, captivatingly delivered to the present still speaking of the foreign mystery of the time whence they come. Today I'm going to talk about two of those words. The first is holiday.

There has been much controversy the last few years concerning those who say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." Some stores forbid the mention of Christmas, because it was too religious. Christians object to the minute supply of cards that mention Christmas. "Season's Greetings," "Peace on Earth," and "Happy Holidays," are not the most expressive phrases. While I love to say "Merry Christmas," and don't think it should be forbidden, I appreciate - and sometimes use - "Happy Holidays" as well.

Holiday is a compound word. It comes from "holy" and "day." If that is not the point of celebrating, I don't know what is. The word holy is an old word meaning "that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated." A synonym is sacred. Keeping the day intact with its meaning, unviolated by the secular world, is what I'm all about. It is a day to worship my holy Savior, in a holy way.

My second word is Carol. At Christmas the songs everyone knows are carols. This word is from Greek originally, and refers to a song that is danced to. Originally the word implied that the tune was played by a flute, and the dance performed in a circular formation. Random House suggests that the etymology might also include a word for garlands worn in the hair. There is some suggestion that it is related to chara, the Greek word for joy. Related words may include: chorus, choir, carrel (meaning "cubicle" or enclosed place for study), coronation, charisma.

For more information:

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!
To God be all glory.

Christmas Eve

"It's because of the Jewish people that I know

that a holiday can be a holy day,

and still be rollicking good fun.

I've been to a Passover Seder,

where there's so much liturgy, drama, food and family around the table

that children ask, "Why is this night different from other nights?"

It's a night, like the weekly Sabbath,

when God gives us permission to close the door on the frenzied demands of the outside world long enough to sense His presence."

Christmas Eve. I've lived through 22 Christmas Eves, and hope by midnight tonight to make it 23. In four different states, at least, I've attended Christmas Eve services. So the last few years, I haven't been that interested in going. Tradition has its value, I guess. But if one is participating in tradition for its sake, I'd hope that the tradition was started because it meant something. The problem with my aversion to Christmas Eve services is that I have been unable to defend it. I haven't known why I don't want to go, or what I would rather do instead.

Now I think I have an answer. I don't like Christmas Eve services because they are formal and liturgical, full of presentation and lacking in sincerity. Churches use them as times for evangelism. In my experience I've been instructed to leave quietly after extinguishing my candle, in solemn reflection on the incarnation. I don't know about you, but I cannot reflect on the incarnation without humble jubilation. Winter may be for silence and meditation, but Christmas is for feasting and music and lights.

And I miss fellowship on Christmas. I know that traditionally Christmas is a family time. Your own or even your extended family gathers for gift-giving, music, candles, Christmas trees, conversation, and candy. I guess traditionally Christmas Eve is the time to spend with one's church family. But I want to be laughing with them, asking them about their holidays, heightening enthusiasm, and dispersing the gifts I've prepared for them. Being sent to quietly retrieve my coat and exit towards my car prohibits that sort of community. But I don't want to defy the instructions, or intrude upon others who appreciate the meditative hush of typical Christmas Eve.

So I like Elisabeth's insight from Israel, on how the Jews (quite biblically in this instance) know how to have a holy day: it is also a feast day. Both a sabbath of rest and a reunion of merriment, even with the solemnity of meaning, sacrifice, atonement, and repentance. Jesus unites those things in His incarnation: King of Righteousness, Prince of Peace, Lord of the Sabbath, our Rest, and our Joy. That's what I'm celebrating this Christmas Eve: a God big enough to be seriously happy, and who invites us to feast at His table.

This is totally unrelated, but another thing Elisabeth says in her article is, "Have you ever thought about how quiet light is?" I thought it was beautiful, and had to share that line, too.

To God be all glory.


One can read over the brim of one’s cup, just as Treebeard the Ent studied Merry and Pippin in his mountain home over his entdraught in Middle Earth long ago. Such was I doing when I stopped thinking about the words and became more attentive to the taste in my cup. I was drinking a vanilla chai tea latte, hot, and slightly watered down due to my lack of tablespoon at work. The flavor is one of the new things introduced to my life in a year that is rapidly flowing to its end. I like it.

But I miss hot chocolate. Not that I never drink chocolate anymore. That I drink chai tea when I would have been sipping cocoa is undeniable. Life has changed. My tastes have dutifully broadened as an expected part of growing up. If they are broadened, they are also dispersed. Now the intensity of my appreciation for chocolate is tempered by my acceptance of vanilla chai tea.

Would my life be better if I had refused to taste chai tea? If through loyalty I remained zealous for chocolate alone, could I still be a grown up and still be happy? Would I be happier?

Life is a choice whether to try new things. Once surrendered to a new pet topic, to the diminution of my former sole passion, my experience says there is no possibility of returning to a single-passion life. A new opportunity arises, and if I am consistent, is tried. Causes ebb and flow, wax and wane now, each replacing the last for its moment in the spotlight.

Cotton Grass, Blowing in Wind Against Blue Sky, Norway by Pete Cairns
Cotton Grass, Blowing in Wind Against Blue Sky, Norway

I haven’t really written anything in a while. Inspiration departed. Whenever that happens I get borderline depressed, because life seems to have lost its flavor, and my passion for each moment has waned. I don’t like drifting, shallow waves of life lapping around an unresponsive me. Leaving the metaphor, though, I keep on doing things: going to work, talking to people, checking email. Even genuine smiles come to my face.

Now, slowly, I think I’m coming out of my doldrums. A week ago Saturday night, I completely spontaneously saw a movie, August Rush. There were so few people in the theater, and I was so tired. Reclined in my seat, I tilted my head against the back of the cushion, and absorbed a beautiful movie. The soundtrack was uniquely expressive, imposing its presence and importance. Music spoke in the movie. It communicated identity, feelings, direction, summons, friendship, longings, and fulfillment.

Afterward I escaped the scent of popcorn into a fresh midnight wind. The air was too cold to linger, but I breathed it deeply, and memorized its touch on my face. I felt the cold and the current. My brother and I talked of how we love things and moments with feeling, and flavor. They say something, and mean something.

In contrast, the chocolate cake I had just before the movie was bland. The color boasted bursting flavor, when in actuality the taste was dull and muted. Not like fudge, or cinnamon, or grape juice. Those things are so bursting with flavor that they assert their identities.

Then a few days later was a day full of feeling, and a sense of doing things important, though everyday. I cried near the end, for a few friends came home. Tears break the walls of the world without passion. That’s the metaphor of George MacDonald’s Princess Lightness.

Yet when the walls are down, and I care about what happens around me, when I’m advancing my might on causes and people, there’s the probability that I’ll see the world in reality, and see myself as I am. Couple this to just turning 23, to holidays and old friends, and I am sad now – not depressed, but sad in a sentimental way, in a fightable way.

Sunday I went to Red Robin alone. They offered me a free burger for my birthday in exchange for receiving their emails, so I went to redeem my coupon. The staff was nice. I brought a book about grace. And in between sips of a chocolate shake and bites of luscious burger, I observed. The walls caught my attention, bearing an eclectic collection of posters, prints, and photographs. One fantastic picture showed downtown Chicago along the Chicago River in 1929. Already the concentration of sky-piercing towers was a marvel. Chicago is my favorite city. I can’t lay my finger on the reason, only that when I am there I feel alive. Every place is a story; every sound has a flavor; and every person has a style.

Motion of Cars Along Michigan Avenue Illuminated with Christmas Lights, Chicago, Illinois, USA by Panoramic Images
Motion of Cars Along Michigan Avenue Illuminated with Christmas Lights, Chicago, Illinois, USA

I love Christmas for the same reason. Each song is a tale, each note a rush of emotion. Every light twinkles mystery into my soul. Altered from its original intent or not, in December the whole country is united in focus. No one asks why the stores all play music about snow, bells, peace, and Jesus. It is understood when you wear red that you’re being festive. Even those who have dropped out of church make it back for the memories of candlelight at Christmas Eve services.

So today, especially at Christmas, I want to challenge you to seize the day. Breathe the moment. Live to the hilt. Pursue life. Feed on truth. Praise beauty. Remember. Cry. Hope. Laugh. Sing. Love.

To God be all glory.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Behold Your God

"O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain;
O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength;
lift it up, be not afraid;
say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!"
- Isaiah 40:9

Based on Isaiah 40:1-11: When God delivered Israel from Egypt, "different" was a glorious privilege. Isaiah was a prophet to a people who had become ashamed of being different. It had been centuries now, and Judah wanted to be the same as the wicked nations around her. The prophet's message, however, was one of peace.

In our world today, peace is something almost no one has: nations war; businessmen rush to work; moms hurry from school to soccer to laundry; and people wonder during the quietest times, "Am I believing in the right thing? Will tomorrow work out ok?" As Christians, we have those answers. We have peace to offer a hectic world. But so often we are afraid to tell others about the difference God has made in our lives. Isaiah tells us not to be afraid to proclaim the message of peace - not only to say it, but from a high mountain, with strength, so everyone can hear.

What are we to proclaim? "Behold your God": that God came to be with us and to lead us as our Shepherd. When God is with us, no one can stand against us. We can have peace. That is one of the things Jesus came to give us. He is called Immanuel: 'God with us' because His life and death allow us to have a relationship with God. How can you not shout it from the mountains?

To God be all glory.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Things I Am Thinking Right Now

God's ways are not my ways.

After snowstorms, it is good to be spontaneous at least twice.

I wish I played violin.

Wherever you are, be all there. - Jim Elliot

What if the pastor, instead of preaching from the pulpit tomorrow, came down, sat on the edge of the stage, kicked his heels against it, and actually talked to you like you were people he knew? (This won't happen at my church because we're having a visiting preacher tomorrow).

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Unique Chistmas Gifts

"Frank Woolworth discovered the demand for Christmas -
he was known as the Christmas man."
- Jim Morrison as quoted in the November/December edition of the new Victoria Magazine

A dime store Christmas museum display about which the article was written contains ornaments, candles, Santas, toys, tinsel, ribbons, and lights. All this began over a hundred years ago. I'm holding Frank Woolworth personally responsible for all the Christmas junk overflowing every garage sale. Jim Morrison, curator of the National Christmas Center, credits Woolworth with merely meeting a demand already existent in the culture. The consumer-driven Christmas is not new.

In fact, it has sufficiently come of age to be opposed, rejected, and replaced by many people who are dissatisfied for one reason or another with the insistent "Buy, buy, buy!" chanted over the sweet chime of silver bells each December. Some recognize that a country built on debt is in serious trouble, and that luxury on credit is multiplying the disaster. Others want Christmas to be innocent and sentimental, and are unhappy that Santa is in PG-13 movies, advertising addictive substances, and hawking whosever product the companies want him to. There are the Christians who notice, while standing in lines of epic length wrapping around the department store, that there is precious little about Jesus. Angels and stars are the most religious articles with which most stores are comfortable. If Jesus is recognized, He is considered just another icon to be marketed. Finally there are families who are sick of kids seeing the world as a vending machine. They want to emphasize other values.

A friend from church discovered Samaritan's Purse Gift Catologs this year. They contain suggested gifts for needy children and families around the world. Give a goat to a community, a week of food to a baby, a month of care to an orphan. At Christmas especially I like to give to charities. If you're interested in spreading the good news of Jesus' birth around the world, consider letting the missionaries from Samaritan's Purse deliver a gift in your name, and share about Jesus at the same time.

Or you can do what my friend did, and send the gift in the name of someone on your Christmas list. Check off grandma and aunt Susie, your boss, and your Sunday school teacher by sending gifts in their honor. Let them know what you donated and why. What do you get for the person who already has it all? Look at the catalog to find out.
A documentary filmmaker creatively spun his category by touring the country with a gospel choir warning against the shopocalypse, and asking What Would Jesus Buy? His presentation can be a little extreme, but the discontent with our materialistic Christmas comes through loud and clear. Their website also has a suggested list of alternative gifts.
One of my good friends and I are in the same boat this Christmas: we can't decide what to put on our own Christmas lists, let alone what to get for our friends and family. For us there is no conscious rebellion against the gifting tradition; we're just out of ideas. Don't worry. We are brainstorming.
Credit for this post goes to my friends, because yet another one commented on this blog to inform me of a group called Advent Conspiracy which is trying to replace consumption with compassion this Christmas. Their website has information on: what not to do, how not to do it, why not to do it, what to do instead, how to spend instead (supposing you actually had extra cash for Christmas, and weren't going to simply expand your debt to buy smiles). I haven't studied the theology of this group (or of the documentary team); they're a good resource to challenge you to think about how you celebrate Christmas.
If you have already thought about how to center your Christmas on Jesus instead of property, what are your ideas? Do you know any other programs or resources we can use? Leave a comment. Let us know.
Thank you, all of my friends who are willing to make me think about radical Christian living, embracing sacrifice, and true compassionate giving.
To God be all glory.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas List

Isaiah 64:1-12

"And there is none that calleth upon Thy name,
that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee:
for Thou hast hid Thy face from us,
and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities."
~ Isaiah 64:7

Isaiah had been a prophet for a long time. He had visited the throne room of God and written the prophecies of Messiah in chapter 53. Now he saw the need for God's presence among the people, because the people continued in their ways. No one stirred himself up to take hold of God, literally: to fasten onto God. Everyone was perfectly content with their same sinful ways. But Isaiah remembered God's awesome deeds and wasn't content with anything else. His prayer in chapter 64 reveals his hope for more - God's very presence in their lives. Only God's presence could restore their peace.

Today we need God's presence in our lives as much as ever. For years, each December I've written out a Christmas wish-list. I wanted clothes, toys, or candy. But Christmas is about God being with us, Immanuel. As Christmas approaches again, we should be hoping for God's presence in our daily lives. Jesus told us He would be with us always, but how often to we realize that? Like a child Christmas morning who opens one gift and is no longer satisfied with it five minutes later, our weekly doses of God are just not satisfying. Jesus is the only gift that completely satisfies. Spend every day in His presence. Hope for it. Put it on your Christmas list. God will do awesome things for which you do not look!

To God be all glory.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Strong Willed Part 5

Is there hope?
In case you hadn’t noticed, I am independent and strong-willed. This whole essay is like insider information.

When I was six years old, I knew the facts: 1. I am a sinner. 2. My sin needs punished. 3. Jesus died for my sins on the cross. 4. Believing in Jesus means I am forgiven. Without invitation or companionship, I grabbed a stuffed animal, sat in my little rocking chair, and prayed that Jesus would forgive my sins. I meant it, and Jesus saved me that day. By His grace my strong will was surrendered to Him.

I understand rebellion. There were many times even before I was ten when I weighed my options. If I had wanted to do something wrong, I could endure whatever the punishment would be. To be honest, the punishment was no threat. But I did not do a lot of premeditated disobedience. Why? By God’s grace, I loved people, and didn’t want to disobey my parents or my God.

Strong-willed people do not give up. He perseveres, and continues to be a friend to someone no matter what. Circumstances do not deter him or change his mind. That persistence can be an inspiration to other people. Think of the Poseidon Adventure.

Doesn’t independence lead to wandering away from God? No. The will of a Christian human being can be aligned with God’s. Jesus was not weak-willed. He made himself a living sacrifice (living to die), praying “not My will, but Yours be done.” We can imitate that. Jesus had a will to be denied. This was not mere rhetoric.

What about marriage? Can a strong-willed person enter into the relationship of mutual submission? There are few greater gifts that a person can give than to willingly submit his preferences and will. The Anglican church’s marriage ceremony includes the vow: ‘With my body, I thee worship.’ I don’t mind that idea. It’s the idea of self-sacrifice. And worship isn’t something the worshipers are forced into doing. Their strength enables them to lay down self at the feet of someone else’s will.

This question is particularly relevant in the case of a strong-willed woman, who is called to be a helper to her husband, to submit to him as the head of her household. A strong-willed woman cannot marry a man who will follow her. She wouldn’t respect a man like that enough to marry him. What she really needs is a man who will assert his strength without trying to enslave her. But she might be a follower. If there were a cause big enough, and a leader great enough, she’d be fulfilled in joining that. That’s what her faith in God is. His cause is bigger than her ideas; His strength is greater than hers. So she follows Him. And she loves Him.

Strong-willed people are like lines. They shape the world. If that’s the case, though, the more emotional people color the world. They make it interesting. I’m a lines person. I even eat ice cream inside my mouth (without getting it all over my face). But I just wish the colorful, less strong-willed people would color in the lines. When they don’t follow any predictable rules, interaction is very hard. I’m trying, though.

To God be all glory.

Sets of Four

Sets of four; it's like rummy! I love being asked questions. For one thing, answers are so much easier then.

1. 4 movies you can always watch: Wives and Daughters, While You Were Sleeping, Two Towers, Pride and Prejudice with Kam Heskin (no, I'm not Mormon)

2. 4 bands you can never get enough of: Bands aren't my think, but oh, I like Boyz In the Sink After that we'll have to do singers: Michael Card, Steve Green, (stealing one from Woven and Spun) Beauty and the Beast Soundtrack

3. 4 towns you lived in: Blue Springs, MO; Aurora, CO; Farmer's Branch, TX; Garland, TX

4. 4 shows you like to watch: Pushing Daisies, Leave it to Beaver, Numbers, Joan of Arcadia

5. 4 websites you visit daily: Wordpress, Biblical Womanhood Blog, Amy's Humble Musings, Elect Exiles

6. 4 favorite foods: chocolate, pizza, hamburgers, strawberries

7. 4 places you’d like to be now: Chicago, Scotland, the mall, Israel

8. 4 songs that really move you: Christmas Shoes, Held, We Will Dance, Beauty and the Beast

9. 4 books you will always love:The Walk by Michael Card, Lord of the Rings, Passion and Purity, That Hideous Strength

10. 4 colors that will always be in your closet: navy blue, white, black, green

11.4 authors you’ll always love: Jane Austen, Elisabeth Elliot, Michael Card, Dr. Henry Morris

12. 4 favorite actors/actresses whose talent you honestly respect: Gerard Butler, Cary Grant, Sandra Bullock, Bill Paterson

13.4 languages you’d love to be fluent in: Hebrew, Old English, German, French

14.4 other countries you would like to live in: Scotland, Israel, New Zealand, Ecuador

15.4 skills you would like to improve: sewing, teaching, writing, cooking

16.4 items that are “a few of your favorite things”: white curtains, soft throws, my trifle dish, fog

17. 4 items you actually use like they're your favorites: laptop, car, tiny hair clips, denim skirt

To God be all glory.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Freedom to Speak and to Peaceably Assemble (event to Protest Abortion)

In the pro-life movement, there are some tactics less popular than others. For example, most everyone will support a pregnancy center. Adoption agencies are good pro-life outlets, too. Political involvement (like voting or signing a petition if it comes up) is an easy way to do a bit. You can blog about pro-life, or give money to pro-life agencies. Even sidewalk counseling, prayer vigils, and clinic protests aren’t that intimidating. When you discuss loud, convicting protests or stark, bloody posters, then you rub some people the wrong way. Finally something that really intimidates people is protesting in neighborhoods of abortionists and their accomplices. (Ok, the idea of doing anything that could get you sent to jail isn’t popular either, but I’m not really advocating those things.)

In fact a blogger who frequently supports Planned Parenthood was just complaining about the pro-life groups in Colorado who protested outside of a contractor’s house. Her definitely not endorsed article can be read at this link. I wrote the following as a comment, but I’m not sure whether she’ll post my refutation, so I’m tripling the effort by blogging it.

Obviously contractors (and their neighbors) want to avoid the public opinion that doesn't appreciate those who cooperate in the destruction of human life. A good way of avoiding that would be to not participate in the murder of the most innocent of human life. This is the point of the protests.

Political campaigning is like this. Members of the community have a right to communicate their position to their neighbors. And they have the right to try to persuade their neighbors. The fact that we have to persuade people to spare innocent children is a point in itself.

When Martin Luther King, Jr. was peacefully and pointedly protesting the discrimination according to race, he was applauded (though resisted). If the people do not gather to speak, their voice will not be heard. Looking back we don't feel bad about the teachers, clerks, drivers, and city officials who were made to feel uncomfortable about the policies of racial discrimination. What they were doing was wrong. The people knew it. And the wrong was changed.

Our constitution precludes lines being drawn about free speech, but I wonder where Planned Parenthood’s supporters would draw it. The protesters are not on private property, but on public sidewalks and streets. They do not prevent normal neighborhood activity like driving down the road, receiving mail, eating dinner as a family. We are surrounded everyday by images and messages on benches, roadway signs, signs in yards, slogans on t-shirts. Some are even directed at certain companies, policies, groups, or people. Yet there is little outcry against these manifestations of First Amendment rights.

The pro-abortion blogger used the word bully. A schoolyard bully threatens the extortion of property or the physical health of his victim. Debate and truth-telling, with no promise of repercussion, is not bullying. There is no violence being done. No theft is involved. People are speaking their minds. This is the patriotism on which our country was founded, by which it literally came into being.

Pro-life, anti-abortion, anti-choice-to-take-another's-life protesters are not objecting to the shame Planned Parenthood and their contractors feel over their projects. We have serious concerns about the legality of deceiving the city officials and the public, of subverting zoning ordinances, and of potentially slandering the name of other companies (in the case of the Rocky Mountain facility, Planned Parenthood filed their permits under the name United Airlines, which unfairly correlates the murder of babies to them). No one is questioning why Planned Parenthood wanted to hide their plans. We simply object that they did. Cities have ordinances to prevent such things.

To God be all glory.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Strong Willed Part 4

What should parents of strong-willed children do?
Understand yourself. Are you strong-willed? How do you make decisions? How do you communicate and learn?

Understand your child. Love him unconditionally. Be humble. Rely on God. Be willing to let Him be the ultimate authority in your child’s life.

Until conversion from dead in sins, a child has two options: either he is subject to influence, in which case a parent has an easier time getting a child to obey, but risks producing a child who follows whichever prevailing influence, be it human, media, or substance. Or the child is what is called strong-willed, which means he worships something. No threats of punishment; no bribery of food, toys, privileges, or love will avail. To such a child there is no question of comprehension (he knows what you mean) or the easy way out. He doesn’t want the easy way. He doesn’t want fun, or gentleness. At least he might, but it is not his primary will.

You can tell this child what to do. Tell him what you expect. Tell him consequences. And follow through. If you do not follow through on his expectations, he will see that what you tell him about rules are not facts, but manipulations. This must not be a contest of wills, you against him. Never punish any child for doing something you simply didn’t want him to do. If you didn’t tell him it was a rule, he wasn’t disobeying you. If you were displeased, simply tell him so, make a new rule if necessary, and move on.

Facts are influential here. The fifth commandment is repeated in the Bible several times, rephrased. In one place it says, “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” The last part is a statement of fact. “This is right.” Tell your child what is right and what is wrong. He may still do what is wrong, but decisions are made on facts, and eventually the facts might bring him to change his mind. Know that “because I said so,” won’t go a long way with him, though.

If a strong-willed child asks you why, he is seeking more facts. His decision-making faculties need more information. Some parents see this as a challenge to authority. From one light it is. From the child’s perspective, authority is largely irrelevant. He isn’t demanding you give him an answer or else he won’t obey you. He is learning to make decisions of his own. He will make his decisions on his own, and he will acquire his facts from you if he trusts you and you’re available, or from someone else, if you’re not. Take his “why?” as a sign of trust and respect. He considers you qualified to answer.

You’ve no idea how many times I took tests and saw trick questions because there was insufficient information. I wanted to interrogate the questioner, to get all the facts.

Unfortunately most of the authors of questions didn’t see things my way. They were actually testing my ability to assume what they were asking. True or false questions were the exception. Those were my kind of challenges. One word could be different or omitted, and the statement would change. There was the place for trick questions to be detected.

Tell him stories. Don’t tell him allegories or fables. Strong-willed children will see through these. But tell him stories about noble characters. Tell him Bible stories. If your child remembers facts, this is a sign that he is going to be influenced in the same way.

Don’t confuse an affinity for facts with a dismissal of concept. If concepts are reality, they are facts as well, and your child will comprehend them. My mother and sister learned math by memorizing formulae. “It’s magic,” my mom’s geometry teacher taught her. Math was a series of tools, a means to an end, but not a truth to her. To me math is a reality. I follow concepts. When I was learning to reciprocal fractions in order to divide them, I could not understand because my mom/teacher gave me rules, but not facts. The rule was to invert the second fraction, then multiply. But the concept was as simple as the top number is divided by the bottom number. Notice the difference in those statements. One has the infinitive, “to invert,” implying a command or an action. The second is a statement of fact indicated by “is.” There is a third type of person, the creative, who sees outside the box. I encountered my deficiency in geometry. My mom memorized theorems. I learned concepts, could anticipate theorems. But doing proofs was incredibly hard, especially if it involved adding a fact (constructing one or more lines).

For theology the same applies. Don’t just teach simple facts. You can teach concepts that are realities. Just be ready for a lot of questions (don’t get worried about them; your child is not losing his faith, but owning it, allowing it to expound into his decision making).

To God be all glory.

Update on Pro-Life Rally in Colorado

I went to the rally today. In the morning we were outside the projected facility, a really beat up building presently, surrounded by wire fences with barbed wire on top. The area is under development, so maybe when the fence was build there was a need to protect property. Anway, we marched, prayed, and protested. My experience marching was holding the hand of a little boy whose mother brought him and his two brothers. Before today I had never met them. The rally was an informative kick-off to future efforts. Speakers included Keith, Will, Eric Scheidler from Illinois, Joe Scheidler also from Illinois, and a lawyer named Tom.

After lunch we moved inside (side note: earlier this week sleet and snow and freezing weather were predicted for today, but the actual weather was a chilly, clear morning - rain came way after the rally) and heard again the history of this Planned Parenthood facility, and its sister facility with sister tactics in Aurora, Illinois. Mostly for me it was a time to figure out who these leaders are, what they're about, and what they'll continue to do.

Keith, who is always a quiet person, showed real emotion, between excitement for the turnout, enthusiasm for the cause, and appreciation for leaders of the pro-life movement. And he quite often was heart to say, "Praise God." Will was softspoken and direct, like Gandalf veiling his potency in a thin cloak. A few weeks ago I heard him answer a neighbor of a contractor who complained he was tired of our protests, "Forty years and 50 million lives! We're tired of babies being murdered!" I am fully aware that my quote has not the slightest hint of the fervor with which it was originally spoken. Eric told us about the ongoing efforts in Illinois, and how God providentially had the people in place to respond to the last-minute call to forestall Planned Parenthood's opening there. Joe gave the Christian admonition to carry on in faith (relying on God), hope (that there are real victories being won through our willingness to be involved and outspoken), and love (for the babies, obviously, and also for our "enemies," whose souls are at stake.

Tom the lawyer talked about first amendment rights, testifying of the progressively improving standing pro-life groups have in court. He advised to always do what a police officer says, even if there isn't a law. If our rights are clearly intentionally violated, then we can meet with an officer's superiors or write letters or if the offense is very direct, we can call a lawyer. A lot of these people have been in jail. Sometimes I think of that as civil disobedience, with which I disagree. The Bible teaches to obey the ordinances of man. But apparently most of these people weren't breaking ordinances; they were making authorities uncomfortable, so they arrested them without charges.

Anyway, I signed the petition ('cause we're not allowed to sign the ones that we're circulating) defining person as beginning at fertilization. Some of the speakers had pretty direct ways of backing pro-choice people into a corner to admit that a baby in the womb is still a living human being. They report that the abortionists have admitted that they know they are destroying life. But they don't tell the women that, because abortion is a business.

The plans in Colorado are:
1. Pressure contractors (particularly Weitz Company) through phone calls, emails, and neighborhood protests to cease construction on the Planned Parenthood mega-clinic.

2. Increase city, state, and neighborhood awareness of the facility and the dishonest practices employed by Planned Parenthood.

3. Preach to those who are working on the building, praying they will, when educated about the project, turn away.

4. Define person in the Colorado constitution as beginning at fertilization (collect signatures for the petitions, campaign for the ballot measure).

5. Continue to intercede outside of abortion clinics.

Reported by one of the speakers today was the statistic that the average age of an abortionist in the US today is 65 years, because no new med students want the kind of stigmatized life the abortionists face - a direct result of pro-life protesting. If there is no abortionist available, even if it is legal, women will not be able to kill their babies. If there is no facility available, no babies will be murdered either. The little protests count. They're building.

Pray that the pro-life people of Colorado will be able to expose the lies and greed and ruthlessness of Planned Parenthood and that the facility would be halted and never opened. Pray that the Christians would stand up for what the Bible clearly teaches. Pray that the people would understand what abortion is, and reject the practice as barbarous child-sacrifice. Pray that God will send a revival, using His ambassadors who are surrendered to His service, to Colorado: millions need to experience God's saving grace for their lives.

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Strong Willed Part 3

How can you tell if someone is strong-willed?
He will act and think independently. Peer pressure will not be a problem, and neither will authority be influential. Big decisions will be made on personal counsel, or counsel he requests. Because he will not follow a crowd, and because of his expectations, he may not have many friends. In a large group of people, he will sit apart. Though strong-willed people make leaders, they are the lonely-at-the-top kind, not the popular center of a circle. Those who wish to follow the crowd will feel threatened by the example of someone who doesn’t. Or they will make a hero out of him, in which case he will be considered sacred and above them. One way or another, he is lonely.

He will not be shy, though. Fear is not a problem. His ideas may be accepted or rejected, and will do him no harm. If he finds someone who is like-minded or willing to listen, he will share everything. This can come across as debate or persuasive speech.

If a tendency to independence is seen at very young ages, most likely the allegiance is to self. I believe oldest children of families are born almost universally with this inherent stubbornness and strength (though those not born the oldest can also have it). It makes them leaders, or in the very least prevents them from being followers. A child with this personality may appear stupid if misunderstood, as if he doesn’t understand what is required of him, or cannot connect actions with consequences. Don’t be deceived; there are some children who do not think ahead, and live on the impulse of the moment. Strong-willed children are much smarter than that. They may even be anticipating their parents, or analyzing motives. When a child is intentionally pushing its parents’ buttons, you may suspect strong will.

Strong-willed people do not always fight with each other. They do not bicker. Life and convictions are taken very seriously. At first encounter, strong-willed people may not like each other. If they become well acquainted, they will have great respect for each other. If they are Christians with strong wills, they will be fast friends. I condition my statement for Christians because a Christian is humbled. They are united in allegiance, and thus also in standards. Those who do not agree with them or do agree but are still worshiping self will be respected enemies, the kind worthy of combat.

An independent person must work to be kind. Those who are more emotional (Jane Austen would call them governed by sensibility) will be viewed as weak, silly, emotional, and incomprehensible. In clashes there is a lot of frustration, because a strong-willed person will argue the facts, whereas another person will defend their feelings. I am not saying one is more valid than the other. Communication between the classifications of people takes time, caution, and deference. People who rattle off platitudes and act on emotions will annoy the more stable, stubborn person.

Plato said that plot is everything. Forget motive and character. Focus on what a person does. The strong-willed person will deny this. He lives based on what is. He connects dots, and anticipates actions based on what he knows to be true about a person and their situation. A strong-willed person learns definitionally. He wants to know what something means.

In a seeming contradiction, stories will be popular with him. If a person can tell stories that are complex and logical, he is probably strong-willed. The stories he loves will be heavy on character development, though. He may prefer movies and books with lots of dialogue and description, and less action.

Fictional stories are also popular. As long as the story has inner consistency, it will be acceptable. In fact, the more challenging to maintain consistency, the more a strong-willed person will applaud a successful narrative. Beware, because strong-willed people can be liars, very good ones. If their conscience does not betray them, nothing will. (Others can lie, too. They will lie for different reasons, and often illogically. The child who spits his food out in front of you and then tells you he swallowed it is not strong-willed.)

Questions? Other behaviors you've observed? Disagreements? Feel free to comment!

To God be all glory.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I Found a New Synonym

Actually, it's old, so old that we hardly use it. Tolkien used it because it was old and English. When I write about the Church so much, and am trying to emphasize original meaning instead of what the word has come to mean in our culture (I despise redefinitioning), I resort to long explanations each time I describe what happens when the people of God get together. One can use Greek, ekklesia, or start by defining the English word, church (which has so many uses now that it is about as ineffective as love), or say assembly, meeting, gathering, or fellowship. Assembly reminds people either of six grades of public school children seated in the cafeteria, or when speaking of religion, the semi-charismatic Assembly of God denomination. Meeting was actually used in its common sense (I have a meeting to attend) by nonconformist religious groups, and continues to be used by the Quakers. Gathering tells you nothing about what is going on. And fellowship indicates that people are getting together for chit-chat. See how inadequate these words are to express the potent prescription described in the New Testament for the followers of Jesus when two or more were together.

The first occurrence of "church" in the Bible is Matthew 16:18, where Jesus promises that on the truth Peter confessed 2 verses prior, the Church would be built, and even the gates of hell would not prevail against it. The context is, like much of Matthew, very kingdom-focused. As usual, the disciples were hearing Jesus to speak of an earthly kingdom. No doubt they had in mind governments (like that described in detail in 1 Chronicles), armies, governors, judges, and councils. The word ekklesia (translated church) was the word for the political assemblies at which the citizens would deliberate. We might think of parliament or legislatures, or even a townhall meeting. It could refer to any gathering of people, and was applied to religious gatherings. Matthew 18:17, in the passage used for church discipline, Jesus indicates the church is a judicial body. Paul goes along with this in 1 Corinthians (a great textbook on church structure, life, and leadership), when he suggests that rather than bringing "brothers" to court, they should submit to the judgment of the Church.

All this to set up my new synonym for church, a word so out of fashion that it is very unlikely you will think of it meaning anything else. The word is moot. You have heard it, but you didn't know what it meant. It was used colloquially in the phrase "moot point," or "moot case." The common use is a perversion of the original use. A moot was a deliberative gathering, often for discussing hypothetical cases (this is the sense in which the word does not apply to church). If something was hypothetical, it was debatable, in that there was no final word to be said on the matter. But a culture that does not appreciate the hypothetical has transferred the phrase "moot point" to mean not worth discussing.

JRR Tolkien used moot in his chapter on the Ents. Their gathering was called a moot. In this case, he blended two meanings: the newer one applied to deliberation, and the etymological one in which the word simply meant assembly. The Online Etymology Dictionary defines moot as "a meeting, especially of freemen to discuss community affairs or mete justice." Its root is in a word for "encounter."

So a church, which is a gathering of disciples to manage the affairs of their community, to build each other up in unity and provide accountability towards godliness, could be described as a moot. That's just what I'm going to do.

To God be all glory.

Important Questions

Two random things. Things I think are very important to know, once the questions have been asked.

1. In Wives and Daughters, a movie set in the early to mid 1800's, Roger tells his brother he'd "best go smoke a pipe with Father." Roger had been to Cambridge, and was an adult by all accounts. On the cover of the Rise and Fall of the American Teenager is an old photograph of little boys acting tough by smoking cigarettes. Now of course teens aren't allowed to buy cigarettes, and aren't supposed to be smoking. It is a sign of rebellion if they do. So I have a question: before smoking was something kids did to rebel against their parents and authorities, at what age did he begin smoking, and how did he learn? Was it a rite of growing up that a father passed to his child? Was it like a sip of wine, that a child would be allowed to take one puff of his indulgent grandfather's pipe, and build up from there? Did he go away to school and embrace it as part of adulthood and independence, only to go home and suprise his father that he had been initiated into a sort of equality in the smoking club? Is there anything like this that health-conscious, non-rebellious sons can still share with their fathers?

2. Does the Queen of England have a last name? What about Harry and William? I mean, usually we hear royalty described as "His Royal Highness, Prince of Wales." But everyone else has last names, now.

Google yielded results on the latter question. The monarchs of Britain do have last names. See what the situation is, and how it came about, here. The privielege of royalty.

If you have answers, or other random questions, please include them in the comment section. I believe this field of important knowledge is known as trivia.

To God be all glory.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Heroes of Batman Begins

Today my brother and I watched Batman Begins. The movie is 2 hours, 20 minutes long, but if you skip the fighting and driving scenes in the second half of the movie, you can cut it about in half without missing anything. We watched the whole thing; brothers need appeased sometimes. He had a birthday this week. And I didn't have anything else to do that required as little energy.

Thinking doesn't require a lot of energy, so I did that. And I decided that even though Batman is a hero, the bigger heroes in the movie are:

1. Sgt. Gordon, who was a good cop in a corrupt system for at least 14 years. He kept fighting bad guys and doing what he could, each day watching his attempts accomplish apparently nothing. How many times did he look at little boys like Bruce who lost their parents - and he couldn't stop it? But he kept fighting because it was right.

2. Lucius Fox, who believed in his work, believed in the mission of his company. He is smart, but on a deep level that doesn't need to brag. He kept his own counsel. When the time was wrong to be speaking and acting, he was preparing. That takes a lot of patience, wisdom, and courage.

3. Rachel Dawes was an idealist, yes, and young. But she didn't use her compassion in an easy place, somewhere outside Gotham. She could have escaped, but she dreamed of making a difference. She couldn't be bought. No loyalty took precedence over her love for the truth. Her convictions led her to confront almost everyone in the entire movie. Without her voice, Bruce would not have been the principled, sold-out hero that fought for Gotham at every cost to himself.

I need inspiration from heroes like this. People who behind the scenes, faithfully, every day, when results remain to be seen, keep fighting for what's right. They take time to prepare for what God has for them. Things and attachments are the trappings of their service, not the gods they serve.

My life has no Batman. But I do know many of these heroes, and I'm grateful to God for them. Do you know any? Maybe you should tell them thank-you, too.

To God be all glory.

Strong Willed Part 2

What is a strong-willed person?
Some people are born strong-willed. Others work into it. We might think of them as leaders, independent-minded, strong-willed, or stubborn. They do not go with the flow. Usually we recognize them in rebellion.

Let me draw a comparison. The majority of people are driven by emotion and beliefs. It has been said that facts are far less powerful than what people believe. These people feel that the most important thing is being sincere. Inconsistency means nothing. Life is lived as though relative. If they felt it at the time, they did it. They can be impulsive. I don’t mean they seem impulsive, but that they really are. (Wisdom can appear impulsive; if someone has an alert comprehension of a situation and an inherent sense of right and wrong, he will confidently choose very quickly and act on that decision.) If a person is always true to himself, he is able to be manipulated. His decisions are thus the floating, sleepy subjective of “follow your heart” – almost animal.

However, a different kind of person is always trying to match himself to an outside ideal, whether pragmatic or spiritual (at the altar of self, of parents, of a romantic interest, a hero, a political ideal, or of God). Sincerity is important; only he wants to sincerely be his ideal, and believes reformation of actions will cause the change. He still has that impressionable emotional side, but is not capable of being manipulated. His decisions are on facts, rules, and objective evidence. Standards are set by what he worships.

All humans are born not worshiping God. Self might be worshiped, in which case decisions are whatever self wants to do. Self will be glorified. Pain and bribery are nothing if the condition is not what the self wills. Particularly if subjecting to them would profane independence, the terms are not embraced. Or the idol might be another person, or a book, or TV show.

There are people who begin as the first type of person and are trained or converted into something else. Subjective manipulation can birth idolatry of a particular thing, rendering the person anchored, and not blown about with emotion any more.

Conversion can happen for a strong-willed person from one idol to another, but it is not a matter of manipulation. This is caused by more information about the idols. No amount of pressure effects a change of mind. I venture to guess that these people are not easily lied-to, either. They tend to have a comprehensive view of reality that discerns truth.

So eventually a strong-willed person will discover the truth or die in the process. Discovering the truth and accepting it are not the same thing. Many strong-willed people live in determined rebellion against God. They believe in Him, know what His purpose is, and are not pleased. They have chosen to worship self, and will not be supplanted. Like the demons, they believe the truth, shudder, but hate the truth all the same. In fact it is impossible to fully hate what is unknown.

God can convict even an independent person of their sin, and humble them. He can also establish formerly unstable, wind-of-the-moment-driven people as His worshipers. I don’t claim to know how He does it. I do believe that only He can. When a person is saved, his spirit is made alive, rendering the sinful nature dead with Jesus on the cross. Then the will has the power, by dependence on the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ life through them, to choose righteousness. A strong-willed person recognizes that worship is absolute. When his worship is given to God, his choices are made to God’s standard.

What he worships, he values supremely in a way that the first kind of person cannot understand. A strong-willed person understands commitment, is a zealous person, and expects fidelity from others. He sees priorities as life-statements, reflecting not only the preference of the minute, but the direction of the years. Yet he understands repentance, because it is a complete turnaround, a replacement of allegiance. Repentance is not simply the recognition that a particular action is no longer popular or pleasant.

A strong-willed person is not emotionless. He feels just as deeply, and must reckon with the emotions. But he cannot let them control him if they contradict his convictions. This can be simpler, but not easier. Some strong-willed people, when faced with intense emotional situations, feel torn in two.

To God be all glory.

PS: Remember. These are confessions of a strong-willed person. My conclusions might be a little biased. The object remains to aid communication between stronger and lesser wills. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


You know if you've been reading since I started, or if you've known me even longer than that, that this post is not new material. But I know my readers don't click on links, especially inter-Lady of Longbourn links, so I am making this very easy for you and reposting my inimitable Thanksgiving delight:

Turk - Middle English, from French Turc, from Middle Latin Turcus, from Byzantine Greek Tourkos, Persian turk, a national name, of unknown origin. Said to mean "strength" in Turkish. Young Turk was a member of an early 20c. political group in the Ottoman Empire that sought rejuvenation of the Turkish nation.

turkey - 1541, "guinea fowl" (numida meleagris), imported from Madacascar via Turkey, by Near East traders known as turkey merchants. The larger North American bird (meleagris gallopavo) was domesticated by the Aztecs, introduced to Spain by conquistadors (1523) and thence to wider Europe, by way of Africa and Turkey (Indian corn was originally turkey corn or turkey wheat in Eng. for the same reason). The word turkey was first applied to it in Eng. 1555 because it was identified with or treated as a species of the guinea fowl. The New World bird itself reputedly reached England by 1524 (when Henry VIII dined on it at court). Turkeys raised by the Pilgrims were probably stock brought from England. By 1575, turkey was becoming the usual main course at an English Christmas. Meaning "inferior show, failure," is 1927 in show business slang, probably from the image of the turkey as a stupid bird.

"My dad was asking, so I looked it up. The reason we have a bird and a country with the same name (and the slang use for a stupid or goofy person), Turkey, is as follows:

1. Turkey is named, obviously, for the Turks, and Turk is a Persian word that referred to a nation somewhere when Persia was still a big thing. In Turkish, the word "turk" came to mean strength.

2. Turkeys are native to two parts of the world: Madagascar and the Americas. Way before America was discovered by Columbus, merchants imported turkeys from Madagascar to Europe, by way of Turkey (which wasn't called Turkey then). Since the Turks were the salesmen in the middle of the trade route, the birds came to be named after them. Aztecs in America also bred turkeys.

3. Once America began to be colonized, esp. by the Spanish in the south, conquistadors sent turkeys over to Europe. The name "turkey" wasn't applied to them until after this, and the name originated in Europe, where people figured out the two species were similar.

4. One website I encountered suggested three other ideas for where turkeys got their names, but I found them unscientific. Since they were still entertaining, I'll give them to you.
  • You have probably heard that American Indians were called that because Columbus landed here and thought he'd reached India. Thinking this, and seeing the plumage of native wild turkeys, Columbus may have named them the word for peacock in the tongue of India (where peacocks were found), which is "tuka". Sounds similar, almost, but it doesn't convince me.
  • Native Americans (before they knew they were supposed to be Indians) called the birds "firkee" which, as I'm sure you can hear in your head, sounds a whole lot like "turkey" basically, just change one letter, and that has happened converting English to English, let alone foreign languages. Actually, if you go to Africa, our translations of the words we hear there can be quite different from others who visited. It depends on the ear gene you inherited or something. = )
  • When turkeys are afraid, they make a sound as they run, not a gobble, but "turk, turk, turk." This does not mean that the Ottomans are chasing them. That's just what they say. Hmm. Maybe that's where the Turks got their name, though? I won't go there, at least not yet. Ok, I'll make up a story that will be found in #5.

5. There once was a man from the region east of Anatolia, which was east of Greece. I think it was also west of Persia and south of Russian and north of Africa and southwest of... never mind. He liked to travel, so he sold all he had, took his three sons, and sailed to a little island SOUTH, called Madagascar (actually, I don't know if that was it's name then, but since you probably don't know what its name was then, it would be useless for me to waste time finding out and using it, since you wouldn't know what I'm talking about. On a similar note, Anatolia is the region known in the Bible as Asia Minor and on your most modern map as Turkey). While he was vacationing there on the beach, he feasted on a native bird similar to the pheasant. It was so delicious, that he wanted to take some home. So when he finally got tired of all the sun and cannibals, he and his two sons (guess where the other one went) packed up along with some of the birds and sailed home. He threw a coming home party, and all of his neighbors loved the poultry he fed them. They wanted to know what it was and how to get some. This man from the region east of Anatolia was poor after being gone so long without working, so he decided this would make a good business. A sign was soon seen in front of his house reading (in what language, I've no idea; it probably doesn't exist anymore) "Poultry for sail. Taking orders." (ok, so he couldn't spell sale, but he wasn't in the sign making business, so it didn't matter.) All of his neighbors signed up for at least a week's worth, and prepaid him. His sons went with him to brave the cannibals and collect a supply of birds to bring home. The first trip was successful, and eventually they made friends with the natives, who agreed to breed the birds for him in recompense for the loss of his third son. It became quite a thriving business, and a few of the enterprising neighbors also got involved. They built boats and began shipping the birds also. The delicacy became famous all over the known world, even Persia. To get the birds up to Persia, the men from the region east of Anatolia herded them north and east. Birds are frightened easily, and herders scared them into running the direction (hopefully) they wanted them to go. Coming into Persia, they always had a big welcome, because the noise of the birds could be heard miles or at least yards, meters, cubits or whatever they used back then away. People who were especially fond of the meat would chant as the herders entered the city, "Turk, turk, turk!" Later when these men no longer herded birds, but men instead, the Persians ran in fear, screaming, "turk, turk..." The men took up the name, and it came to be a chant of their strength. Back home, they reminded themselves of their strength (for pride accompanies power) by calling themselves Turks. The birds they kept and sold couldn't keep their name of turk, since it meant strength now and the birds were stupid, not strong. They were called turkey. This term was also used as a nickname for those among the Turks whose behavior resembled the turkey's. In Europe the names caught on, and they passed it to America, where a bigger version of the bird was bred by scalpers, not cannibals.

*I must inform you that although some parts of this story are factual, a whole lot is fictional. Please do not include any of the information found in #5 for a scientific report or to attempt to astound your friends with your incredible knowledge. = )”

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Strong-Willed Part 1

Why am I writing this series?
On Saturday I went to a jewelry party (like Pampered Chef, Tupperware, candles, etc.) There are rules for how to wear your jewelry! People are afraid to try something new or not their typical style. Layers are very “in” right now. But you can go with a classic look that never goes out of fashion. My friend who was hosting the party disagreed with some of the fundamentals of wardrobe, and the jewelry saleslady assented, “If it looks good to you, wear it; it’s all about confidence.” I know my friend is independent-minded.

Style is a big industry. People advertise their designer creativity with crazy lines of clothing in fashion shows, and somehow make plenty of money. This happens even though I don’t see anyone but models wearing those things, and if they’re not wearing them, are they really buying them?

Why do people follow trends, anyway? The popular girl wore that, so I will too? We really think the movie star’s life is so wonderful that we want to do everything like them, including clothes and hair? Because something is popular, we consider it beautiful? Or just because it is new and different, edgy, we invest money in it? I can understand doing that with a car (whose innovations usually look good and have functional improvements in performance).

Apparently advertising agencies run the world. They created the concept of teenager, which now governs economics, education, family, marriage, morality, justice… The industry tells us how to spend our money by manipulating emotional, need-to-fit-in people into feeling like they need their products.

Do we have a choice? Does God have choices? What is the meaning of not choosing something? Is value subjective or objective? Is value placed on a thing by a chooser, or is it inherent?

The capitalist system of economics is based on the notion that consumers will act on their sense of value. For example, I value a necklace at the jewelry party, but I value other uses of my money more. A wrench is thrown in the theory of capitalism when I say that even though I value something more than my fluid cash, I won’t buy the item because of moral/spiritual convictions. I may believe that God doesn’t want me to spend money I don’t have, for example. I believe that $15,000 would be a great deal for a house. But I don’t have 15 grand, so I’m not acting on my sense of value. Even if I need a house, or think it is a great investment, I won’t buy.

God is also teaching me about embracing sacrifice, intentionally going without what I want. This is part of the concept behind fasting. Fasting is a huge exercise of will over want.

If I was being sincere, I would tell you how I really feel about fasting. My convictions tell me that the way I feel is sometimes wrong. So I will exercise my will in acting upon what I ought to be in order that I may become that ideal in sincerity.

Finally, I’ve been reflecting on strong-willed people, especially children who try their parents. Some strong-willed rebels are breaking my heart. Other strong-willed children are too young to have made life-altering mistakes. I listen to their parents talk about them, and I wonder if I could help them to understand the puzzles who are their children. Would it benefit them to know?

Dr. Dobson wrote a book. I haven’t read it. He doesn’t seem to be strong-willed to me. I think President Bush is. President Reagan was. Heroes are strong-willed, fictional or historical. Villains tend to be that, as well. In Beauty and the Beast, both main characters are strong-willed. Think of their argument after she runs away. But, as the song says, somebody bends unexpectedly. Notice it doesn’t say somebody was bent. They bend. The tense is intransitive.

I can relate. This could be titled, “Confessions of a Strong-willed Christian.” In writing this series, I discovered a lot about myself, and happily connected dots. I have a friend who thinks that it is inconsistent with the rest of my personality that I like to watch football. My position is that it must be linked to my fundamental identity. This has been an exercise in associating who I am with that identity. But no, I still can’t explain why I like football.

Still to come:
What is a Strong-Willed Person?
How Can you Tell if Someone is Strong-Willed?
What should Parents of Strong-Willed Children Do?

Is there Hope? The Good Side of Strong Will.

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Beauty and the Beast

A series of events led to this post.

  1. My favorite radio station changed its schedule in a most unpleasant way.
  2. The cassette player in my car got tired of my Steve Green tape, so I'm giving it a break.
  3. Life is calm enough that I can pray and listen to music at the same time - sometimes.
  4. I have been listening to the soundtrack for Beauty and the Beast, which I picked up for less than a dollar at a thrift store or garage sale.

I don't think the composers knew what they were doing when they made this soundtrack. They made beautiful music, with skill that I probably don't comprehend. But they orchestrated a story, and characters, emotions, and virtues into this music. My heart is more touched simply hearing the haunting instrumental tracks than by watching the movie. Maybe because I'm not distracted by images with the sound, I can consider the thoughts of each character, the intensity of the moments. Because the music is less bound in a setting, I think this can become my theme, too.

Disney hit virtue, by some miracle, in Beauty and the Beast. One of my favorite parts is the prologue. Belle practices sacrifice. Beast learns to love her selflessly and unconditionally. Even when she risks his life by disobeying his instructions, entering the West Wing; when he is so angry that he frightens her out of her vow with a roar, he goes after her and risks his life for her to ward off wolves. Each character is so fragile, yet confident. And the song, Beauty and the Beast (tale as old as time) describes a sweet love story: both scared, neither prepared, both change, somebody bends... As the trailer for the latest Pride and Prejudice said, "We are all fools in love."

Belle is smart. She doesn't settle. Her father means a lot to her, even though he's a little odd. Even in a simple, everyday world, she dreams. She is confident enough to carry herself well even in a grand palace. Her heart is naturally grateful.

Sixteen years ago this Thanksgiving, Beauty and the Beast had its theatrical release. It was the first movie I purchased with my own money. In fact I believe I went into the store on my own to buy it, as maybe a second-grader. At that point I'm not even sure I'd seen the movie. There was one Christmas when I spent an hour in Walmart trying to decide which version of the Belle Barbie doll to buy: normal Belle or wedding Belle. I settled on normal and some ugly ballgown that was meant to double as the wedding dress I left behind.

So many years and this is still a favorite, ranking right up there with the very long Pride and Prejudice. I'm not ready to stop loving this movie, and I don't like writing conclusions. "The magic never ends."

To God be all glory.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Real Relationships, Blogging, and Taking Life Seriously

Do you know how much more I blog when I know I have an audience? Before I blogged, my friends received long, winding emails quite frequently. I’d threaten them that if they didn’t respond, I’d keep writing, desperate to have some contact with them. Then I’d warn them that if they did reply, it would inspire me to write back. Evidence imposes reality on my realization: I write more when I know you’re reading. I talk when I know you’re listening. The substance is better in conversation than in desperate attempts at starting a friendship, or drawing attention: advertising.

I’ve been looking at my life, and praying about what I see. Some days I can’t do that; my prayers are focused on survival. God gives us phases, I think. Like the moon. I love the moon: always there, always the same, almost always visible, almost always seen in a new light. And the light is beautiful.

Why do I have better conversations, ones that “hit the spot” via blogging, or with an eclectic group of admittedly eccentric protesters outside abortion clinics? I don’t agree with all the theology, but we can pray together. When they ask how I am, I can answer that God is teaching me about grace, and share a little. They share. I want to know. Not just their stories, but the stories of my friends, and the people at church and Bible study. But in the hallways all I hear is “How are you?” and all I can answer is “fine,” unless we were going to cancel nursery service, worship, and lunch. Then I could talk. That’s the beauty of blogging and abortion protests. There’s no schedule, no interruptions that matter. So I can’t be online at work... The conversation picks right back up, no awkwardness, more forethought.

In my prayers I keep telling God I don’t want to play. I don’t want to play at life. Gas prices shouldn’t drive me crazy; I don’t want to play. Hard decisions aren’t on my shoulders; I don’t want to play. It’s pretending to say I have the wisdom or strength to decide. And at church, I am so tired of playing. What I do there is superficial. I believe in being there, and in making the most of what is there for the sake of bringing the body towards perfection (Ephesians 4). There is something so wrong about the way we do church. Why do we bother singing and praying and listening to lessons when we don’t even know each other?

People move away or change churches, and we never talk to them again. Why? When they were at church activities, we admired them. We enjoyed doing ministry together. Their comments in Sunday school were challenging, and their smile uplifting. They’re gone, and we miss them. But there was never anything more. We never met for lunch. I didn’t know what they were thinking, the little things that they might say as commentary on life, but would never think worthy of a special phone call.

I have a friend at my church, and we’re going to start praying together. I’m really excited. She selected an anonymous envelope to “adopt” a teen from our youth group, and I wanted to ask her who she got. I wanted to enter into even this little facet of her life, and so many more things like that.

Tonight I babysat for a church plant. I sat with three little boys while they ate dinner, and the parents and friends talked around the kitchen island. I care about the adults, but the kids know me, and I love them because I watch them eat. When one does some weird thing with his spoon, I get to know him. The middle kid imitates the oldest, and you see how relationships are developing. I intentionally sit with them when they eat, to build the relationship. But do I do that with adults? When is the last time I sat by someone not to start a conversation, but just to be there in case there was commentary?

Speaking of the church plant, I could hear from my position in the basement of the pastor’s house uproarious laughter, evidence that the group is bonding. They feel free to be loud, to be humiliated, to laugh, and thus are invested in the details of each others’ lives. Eventually I think the plan is to have a “normal” church where there is preaching and singing, but I believe they want to keep groups like this one as core to their church. Once they are loving, unified friends, they can march in sync in their ministry. In fact, the pastor told me a couple weeks ago that he believes the church’s primary purpose is evangelism, and I’ve been thinking about my disagreement, looking for what the Bible says instead of just what I’ve been taught. I see the great commission. And I see Jesus’ prayer in John 17 for what He planned his followers to be. I read Ephesians, and see that the church is about unity, edification, maturing into the image of Christ. But that unity of the Spirit is what produces the striving together for the faith of the gospel, the reaching out to the world with the gospel.

So another thought: I get challenged like that from this friend, who is a pastor. His church asks him questions like that more than some, but I think they’re in awe of him, and respectful of him as their leader. (His wife was originally on my side, properly heeding his perspective and coming early to the conclusion that we’re basically saying the same thing different ways/different emphasis.) My pastor doesn’t talk to me like that. I get answers from people who run blogs. They dare to address my real questions. But a lot of times their own friends and churches aren’t asking. What a mess. Why can’t we be real with the people in our churches?

I want everyone to read my blog. But I’m fair about it. I would want to read everyone else’s blogs or journals, too. I don’t want to play at friendship, to pretend to be the Body of Christ, anymore. I, me, personally, want to be real. And I want to be a real friend. May God take me, sold out, take my every hour, to be invested in Him and in building people.

As a crowning point to how this whole topic is being driven home to me today, in one day-long thought, I was telling all these things to my brother after watching some of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I have no idea how much we missed, but I wouldn’t dare go back to find out; there’s a reason you can skip tracks on DVDs. (I’m definitely NOT endorsing the movie, but I’m not all that sorry I watched what I did. Just read a review, and make an educated, prayerful decision if you ever think about watching it.) Anyway, the premise is that this guy is getting his memories of his girlfriend erased, so he’s going backwards through the memories. And timelines are just a bit confusing, but if you watch it twice I suspect everything would make sense. Watch the hair colors. It’s a key. We discussed how our brains have to extend to the furthest reaches to follow the movie, and the implications of the story. It’s too far out, to complex to put our arms around, to hold. But you can follow it, if you try. That’s relevant, but this is commentary, windows into my world that produces these thoughts.

After I said most of the things above, and actually some are his additions, I was talking about being tired of friendships being fake; I want to hear what is going on with people. I want to read blogs, and my blog to be read. In an amazing double-irony, he asked, “Did you read my blog?”
“No.” We both laughed and I was crying, too, from the irony. I knew of course that I was contradicting myself because I hadn’t read it in the past couple days, and that he must have written about basically the same thing, or he wouldn’t have brought it up. And maybe we’re both thinking about the same thing because we read the same things, and talk, and (sometimes) read each other’s blogs. So here is his perspective on real listening and real friendship. You have to promise, if you are reading this post, to read his too, and to read it like he meant… every… word.

Oh, and less crowning but still continuing, we’ve had an ongoing conversation with some friends of ours about “heads bowed, eyes closed” altar calls, whether it be for salvation or other things God’s doing in your life. We’re tired of playing, and want to be the Church to those around us, at least. If we can’t see each other, and we’re silent, not praying together at all, how are we going to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep? What are we saying about the shameless gospel of our God’s great grace?

To God be all glory.

PS: My brother reminds me, and I thought it important enough to make clear: being serious does not exclude joy or smiling or fun. When I say "I don't want to play," I don't mean I'm opposed to silliness and recreation. Actually, we should even take our fun seriously; be intense, and sincere when you play.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

How Important is it to Get the Wording Right?

I'm reading John Piper's new book, Future of Justification. He is defending the definition of justification as accepted by protestants for centuries. N.T. Wright, an English scholar on the New Testament, sparked John Piper's book by writing one of his own, in which he presents apparently a comprehensive theology centered on the idea that the gospel is that Jesus is Lord, not that we can be saved by Jesus' substitutionary atonement: justification.

At one point in the introduction, John Piper says that to help people believe the gospel in a saving way, we have to announce why it is good news for them. (Gospel, of course, meaning "good news.")

Just this week I was sharing my testimony with a friend. I was saved the day I turned 6. Opened presents, remembered all the times my Sunday school teachers told me Jesus died for my sins, and decided this was it. I needed forgiveness, and I asked God for it because Jesus could save me. That's faith, right?

"Did you ever wonder if it was for real?" my friend asked me. Yes, I did. When I really started learning the Bible (three years later) I wondered why I hadn't been learning before. In sixth grade again I was getting to the point where my faith was challenged, and standing, and I made sure it was for real. No doubts since then. Looking back, I still believe I was saved when I was six. And it didn't matter whether I knew what atonement meant, or about eternal security. I didn't know about sovereignty and couldn't define justification. But if it's true that we are saved by grace through faith not of ourselves, then God was doing the saving. And if God is saving, ignorance of any but the main facts is not important. God will discipline us by grace and mature us into understanding and conformity to His Son's image.

Some people think we ought to preach the "cost" of following Jesus, preach His lordship, to nonbelievers: Anyone who is saved will also recognize Jesus as their Lord. Faith without works is dead, and we need to tell people that, so won't get it wrong.

Actually, we could say that our presentation of the gospel is so important that if we get it wrong, people won't actually be saved. We could say that people need to know about Lordship so that they can get salvation right.

That doesn't sound all that grace-based, though, does it? If we're saved by faith, can't we evangelize by faith, too? Don't you think that if God, who convicts hearts of sin and need for a Savior, who justifies, regenerates, rebirths, and seals those still without strength, is saving someone, and using your obedience to His call for making disciples of all nations, He's able to make sure it's done right?

I believe in having a solid, truth-based grasp on theology as much as anyone you know. Using clarity when we talk about Jesus and the Bible is important; confusion has birthed so many mistakes not intended by the teacher or translator. But God can work through our weakness. When we rely on Him for the words to say (maybe even use His words, not ours? see 2 Timothy 3:15), He'll provide the right ones.

Maybe this is why in the New Testament we see so many different wordings of the gospel message. The message is the same. Everyone is saved the same way. Depending on what they already knew, and their attitude, the different apostles and evangelists answered them where they were at. God gave the words that the sinner needed to hear, and God did the saving.

To God be all glory.