Monday, April 30, 2007

Snapshots of the Future

My dreams for the future are like my memory: snapshots. With careful rehearsing and thought, I can link images in some sort of sequence to compile memories. But when I imagine my future, or when I talk about what I want my future to be, there are only images. I don't know how it will, or how I want it, to happen. As a matter of fact, how I want my life to unfold doesn't matter; I've learned very well that it never follows my plan.

There are images of church. Worship with friends, and intelligent, deep conversations about truth and its applications. I see myself encouraging a husband, or listening to him, and praying with him. There are scenes where I am holding a baby. Toddlers cling to my skirts. Children receiving their lessons from mom. Me singing through chores. Close talks with my teenage daughters. Laughter with my sons.

Even before that I can conjure pictures of what a courtship might look like. But here's the thing: the suitor is the one big unknown in the picture, and I know well enough to understand that he will be other, and unpredictable, and I'll be reacting to his choices and his dreams. I can control singing. And I can rear children. Those are choices I can make and form. But in the sequence leading there, I'm all leaning on God to control and to form and to work in His masterful way.

This fact leaves my view of courtship frustratingly hard to explain. All I could tell you is how I would respond in a given situation (because I, as a romantic, have considered these). How serious is he? How serious am I? What do my parents think? How is life working out around the relationship? What is God teaching me?

Come to think of it, the biblical prophecies are like my future-vision, too. Especially in the Old Testament, we got glimpses of moments in the future, and putting them together was a complicated, thoughtful business. Even now, even tonight at Awana, we are still discussing the order of events to come. We know it happens. We saw the act in the play. But we don't know for sure what act comes when. Thus it might be argued this is how God wants our understanding of the future to be.

"(For we walk by faith, not by sight)"
~ 2 Corinthians 5:7

"The wind bloweth where it listeth,
and thou hearest the sound thereof,
but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth:
so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
~ John 3:8

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."
~ Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)


To God be all glory.

Battle of Colorado: April 29, 2007

Last night my mother grilled hamburgers and hotdogs for dinner. While cleaning the grill (like a saint though sighing), the door was left open and in flew the enemy.

You may recognize his uniform: a gold with black accents. Or his trumpet call: a gentle hum. Memories of some readers may even recall the powerful affect of his weapons: a biological agent dispensed through a stinger. Indeed, a wasp had invaded our territory and must be fought. One sister left the room. Most of the rest of us either crouched or wheeled round, following its sporadic flight, fearful he would choose to target us.

Then came the counter attack. Mom got the fly-swatter - and a footstool. In this way she hoped to reach him against our vaulted ceiling. She flicked at him above our heads, and he dive-bombed angrily over us, pulling up just in time and avoiding certain death.

Reinforcements arrived. My Marine-to-be brother had run for his airsoft gun (the modern equivalent of a BB gun). He took aim. But no, a moving target of that size was too hard to hit. If only the enemy would land...

The more reasonable, and for the moment less concerned inhabitants of our living room suggested we direct the enemy to retreat back out the door whence he entered. We opened it wide and Mom resumed shooing. To no avail. He sped towards the door but didn't notice it, being a few feet left of the opening, so he buzzed fearfully back to the heights of the ceiling... where he landed.

Bang! One shot, then two. Wings and legs flew apart, and we were certain the enemy was defeated. But could he, in death, still accomplish his sinister goal? What had become of the painful stinger? Search as we may, we only recovered a head (the mouth of which continued to move for a disturbingly long time, though it might have been the wind), four legs, and two wings. Then we vaccuumed the area, so it seems very unlikely that there are any parts remaining.

My brother ventured then into enemy territory to destroy their base. He could be heard while leaving: "Next time I find a nest, I'm going to get one person to spray them with wasp-killer and I'll hit them with my airsoft gun." Just yesterday morning my dad had been commenting on the delusion some boys suffer of invincibility.

To God be all glory.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

To Make Official

I'm supposed to make some things official by putting them on the internet. "Everyone" knows that if it's on the internet, it must be true.

It is a rule that no one may get appendicitis during Awana summit.

And something is a word. I just don't remember what. I'll ask my brother and correct this post some time.

Got it! After asking three times, I know the word: sympathization. I mean, what else would you call the act of sympathizing?

To God be all glory.

Hale, Hail, Whole, Health

While I'm busy reveling in beautiful old words, and since mentioning "exhale" earlier today made me think of it, I thought I'd move to the etymology of hale. Unfortunately most of us haven't heard the word, though it is still English enough to be in the dictionary. JRR Tolkien used it. He was a fan of old words, and sought to preserve their use by employing them himself. Oftentimes he would write a whole seen encompassing the entire meanings, nuances, and etymology of a word. Such is the case, I believe, with mead.

Hale is actually related to "whole" and "health," so you may see connections there. Dictionary.com defines hale as: "free from disease or infirmity; robust; vigorous: hale and hearty men in the prime of life" or "Free from infirmity or illness; sound."

Its etymology is: "healthy," Old English hal "healthy" (see health). The Scottish and northern English form of "whole," it was given a literary sense of "free from infirmity" (1734).

health: Old English hælþ "wholeness, a being whole, sound or well," from Proto-Indo-European *kailo- "whole, uninjured, of good omen" (cf. Old English hal "hale, whole;" Old Norse heill "healthy;" Old English halig, Old Norse helge "holy, sacred;" Old English hælan "to heal"). Healthy is first attested 1552.

Hail: "greetings!" c.1200, from Old Norse heill "health, prosperity, good luck;" and Old English hals, shortening of wæs hæil "be healthy" (see health and cf. wassail). The verb meaning "to call from a distance" is 1563, originally nautical. 'Hail fellow well met' is 1581, from a familiar greeting. Hail Mary (c.1300) is the angelic salutation (L. ave Maria), cf. Luke i.58, used as a devotional recitation.

Wassail: c.1140, from Old Norse ves heill "be healthy," a salutation, from ves, imperative of vesa "to be" (see was) + heill "healthy" (see health). Use as a drinking phrase appears to have arisen among Danes in England and spread to native inhabitants. A similar formation appears in Old English wes þu hal, but this is not recorded as a drinking salutation. Sense extended c.1300 to "liquor in which healths were drunk," especially spiced ale used in Christmas Eve celebrations. Meaning "a carousal, reveling" first attested 1602. Wassailing "custom of going caroling house to house at Christmas time" is recorded from 1742.

So Eomer blessed King Theoden after the monarch regained his strength and cried out for battle in the Two Towers. (The King of the Golden Hall) Tolkien here used the Old English "westu [Theoden] hal!" Eowyn bids her king "Ferthu Theoden hal!" when she offers him the stirrup-cup. This phrase means "Go now in health, Theoden!" (Ferthu can be related to 'forth.')

whole: Old English hal "entire, unhurt, healthy," from Proto Germanic *khailaz "undamaged" (cf. Old Saxon hel, Old Norse heill, Old Frisian hal, Middle Dutch hiel, Dutch heel, Old High German, German heil "salvation, welfare"), from Proto-Indo-European *koilas (cf. O.S.C. celu "whole, complete;" see health). The spelling with wh- developed c.1420.

To God be all glory.

Mead

That's right. I'm going to write about intoxicating drink. But only a specific kind, and with no particular endorsement to drink it. I never have. See, I'm writing about the word.

"Mead" is a very old word, having its roots in the Indo-European and being specifically attested before 900 A.D. Saying "mead" is also very pleasant, for it is simple and vivid and sounds nice. The habitation of Bambi, a meadow, also contains that word, and I am sure they are connected. Another word, very closely related to mead, is "meadery." There is a meadery in my state, and when we were searching for activities to entertain our high school Awana group during our "trip" to Denver, I came across it. Alas, I didn't think parents would appreciate their children receiving such a tour.

My large forty-year-old dictionary (Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary Second Edition, 1966) defines mead, "an alcoholic liquor made of fermented honey, malt, spices, and water to which yeast has been added."

Dictionary.com has the following definitions:
1. an alcoholic liquor made by fermenting honey and water.
2. any of various nonalcoholic beverages.
(Random House)

The etymology of this ancient word, as described by the Online Etymology Dictionary, is:
mead (1)
"fermented honey drink,"
Old English medu, from Proto-Germanic. *meduz
(cf. Old Norse mjöðr, Danish mjød, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch mede, German Met "mead"),
from Proto-Indo-European base *medhu- "honey, sweet drink"
(cf. Sanskrit madhu "sweet, sweet drink, wine, honey,"
Greek methy "wine,"
Old Church Slavonic medu, Lithuanian medus "honey,"
Old Irish mid, Welsh medd, Breton mez "mead").
Synonymous but unrelated early Middle English meþeglin yielded Chaucer's meeth.
mead (2)
"meadow," Old English mæd "meadow,"
from Proto-Germanic *mædwon
(cf. Dutch made, German Matte "meadow,"
Old English mæþ "harvest, crop"),
from Proto-Indo-European *metwa-, from base *me- "mow" (see mow).

And of course the etymology of "meadow" is:
Old English mædwe, originally "land covered in grass which is mown for hay," oblique case of mæd (see mead (2)).

So the word has to do with honey, with land covered in grass (which is mown). The image presented to me is that of a spring-green field of grass bordered by honeysuckle and other small, fragrant flowers visited by bees. On such a field would JRR Tolkien's wood-elves have feasted, raising goblets to toast with the sweet wine made from honey and fresh spring-water. Since Tolkien was a philologist and etymologist, he was likely trying to make such a point by introducing mead in a meadow.

Oh no. There's another thing. Wine is romantic. Or at least mead is. In such opinion I am joined by the Redstone Meadery:

It is so ancient a beverage that the linguistic root for mead, medhu, is the same in all Indo-European languages where it encompasses an entire range of meanings, which include honey, sweet, intoxicating, drunk and drunkenness. For this reason it has been suggested that fermented honey may be the oldest form of alcohol known to man.-Mikal Aasved, 1988


May Maelgwn of Mona be affected with mead, and affect us, From the foaming mead-horns, with the choicest pure liquor, Which the bees collect, and do not enjoy. Mead distilled sparkling, its praise is everywhere.-XCIII Song to Mead, Book of Taeliessin XIX


Mead. Mention of it evokes images of heroes and romantic tales, of castle feasts and chivalry. Legends surround it, that of golden nectar, swirling in a goblet chased with silver, with the heady, erotic aroma of honey caressing the senses. We see Vikings, downing great tankards of frothy mead after a successful raid. One can imagine a beautiful maiden, holding the stirrup cup in her lithe hand, offering it along with a shy smile to the handsome and chivalrous knight preparing to go off to battle.


The -ery part of meadery can even be fascinating (if you're like me).
-er is a suffix in colloquial usage, added to nouns meaning a thing or action connected with (as in diner)
-y (2)
adj. suffix, "full of or characterized by," from Old English -ig, from Proto Germanic *-iga (cf. German -ig), cognate with Greek -ikos, Latin -icus.

This means a "meadery" is a thing connected with, full of, and characterized by honey wine.

As a final disclaimer, I must mention the following verses: Proverbs 20:1, Proverbs 23:29-35, Isaiah 5:11, 22; Ephesians 5:18

(all bold emphases mine)

To God be all glory.

Things that Are of Romance (edited)

A while ago I defined romance: "According to Wikipedia, romanticism is 'an artistic and intellectual movement that originated in late 18th century Western Europe... a reaction against the rationalization of nature, in art and literature it stressed strong emotion as a source of aesthetic experience... ' Thus, to say something is romantic in this sense is to say it is emotional, slightly irrational, and adventurous."

I've recently discovered a few more examples of things that are romantic (like pirates):

  • umbrellas
  • horse-drawn carriages
  • quilts
  • (from zjramsli) the Marine Corps Hymn
  • roll top desks
  • (from believer) inkwell pens
  • (from believer) calligraphy
  • (from believer) classical music
  • (from believer) screened in porches
  • (from zjramsli) GA Henty books
  • (from zjramsli) superheroes
  • doors held open for ladies
  • old books with underlined passages and notes in the margins
  • hats (but not baseball caps)
  • candles
  • willow trees
  • bridges

Use comment section for further submissions.

To God be all glory.

Engagement Rings

A while back I had an idea where the custom of giving engagement rings arose. Two days ago I decided to blog about it. This morning while doing research on the subject I discovered that, at least according to Wikipedia, my theory is without basis. I still feel justified in sharing my theory, as it is interesting and as it deals not in facts but in motives.

It is the case in all close friendships that one wishes to somehow express the value of the friend to himself. Quite often this is done by physical means: a handshake or hug or pat on the back. Still others like to try to say or write their appreciation. And then one gives gifts. Gifts are especially useful when the friend is at a great distance from oneself.

When we add the fervor of early romantic love such as produces engagements and betrothals, bound by the proprietous restrictions of physical contact in such cases, and complicated by the often tongue-tied state of the participants, gifts are even more important. Each parting is harder. Long partings are hardest. One wants to leave some reminder of his love with his beloved. Don't forget me. I'll come back for you. Let me seal my love for and commitment to you.

So the man gives the woman a ring. Like royal signets of the ages which bore the seal of authority, this ring is itself a seal, a downpayment, a promise. The gift both protects and somewhat satisfies their love.

I've also been thinking that the Holy Spirit is just such a seal of the Church's betrothal to the Lamb, Jesus Christ. He is the downpayment and protection and sign of ownership. He is the promise of the return of our Beloved Redeemer. And He is an ever-present reminder of our Lord's love.

"Set me as a seal upon thine heart,
as a seal upon thine arm:
for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave:
the coals thereof are coals of fire,
which hath a most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it:
if a man would give all the substance of his house for love,
it would utterly be contemned."
~ Song of Solomon 8:6-7,

To God be all glory.

More New Things

This weekend I did something else new: ice blocking. Cost $1.50 plus gas and laundry. How: get a group of friends together. Stop by a grocery store and purchase a block of ice each. (Call ahead to be sure there are enough in stock or you'll be stopping at several grocery stores.) Just after dusk go to a park with a large, fairly steep hill (and no hazards at the bottom like bushes or streams or rocks). Each person needs to bring a towel. Fold the towel to fit on top of the ice block. Position ice block at top of incline aimed towards a path containing no trees or major holes or humps. Sit on top of ice block. Propel yourself forward using feet and hands. Lift feet once you have attained sufficient speed. Balance. Scream. Prepare to disembark. Catch ice block. Refold towel. Carry ice block the steep trek back to top of hill. Rub bruises. Start over.

Try variations: link arms with a fellow ice-blocker. Get a train together, lined up (middle person will lose his ice block first). Try a wheel-barrow style slide with two people. Go down backwards. Fly down on your stomach. (Not recommended: surfing on ice block.)

It's fun. The dark covers your crazy positions when you land. Do not wear skirts. Look out for shadowy forms below you. Never count on the person descending the hill to be able to steer out of your way. Make sure you invite nice friends who won't push or drag you down the hill or make fun of you in an unpleasant way. Mine didn't, so it was lots of fun.

You have to make memories. Live the golden years. Do crazy things every once in a while. Especially if you fear you may be getting too old and serious.

To God be all glory.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Express

Yesterday I was thinking about the word "express." Though I generally don't like Latin-based words, I find the imagery inherent in the word very vivid.

We use the word most commonly to mean a sort of communication. Express your feelings. Express your thoughts. Just: express yourself.

But then it also means fast or single-purposed: Expressway. Express train. I'll send that out express. I came expressly to see you.

So what does the word mean? It means to press out. Almost like exhaling (which is to breathe out), you are pushing words into the open. You push a train along, in a single line. It is from the Latin, as I said: ex - "out" and pressare - "to press, push"

The word is found rather early, in Middle Latin as "expressare."

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Snow Rule

You all should know that whenever it snows, you have 24 hours to do three things impulsive, spontaneous, or slightly irresponsible. It's a rule. Feel free to comment with experiences.

I personally, after - yes - snow yesterday, invented this rule, gave a friendly shove to a friend, ran screaming up behind a friend on a walk, and joined a sleepover across town.

This is yet another tip to keep you smiling. Fulfill Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord alway."

To God be all glory.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mostly about Democracy and Debate

I tried something new this week. Yesterday I got up at 5 AM, which if you know me is unheard of. By 7 AM I was at a lovely, large old Methodist church in Colorado Springs (that has an organ, hosts an orchestra regularly, and has books - old, interesting books - almost everywhere) to help judge a speech and debate tournament.

Sum of my experience in the field? I like to argue, and I think logically. I have heard speeches and wished I could give the speakers pointers. And I have given speeches, in the form of Bible lessons - but without much thought to speaking clearly and presenting well. I've never seen or participated in a debate tournament, let alone judged.

But my recruiter assured me that my lack of experience was fine, that they would train me, and that they would feed me well. This was before I agreed, and before she told me it was in Colorado Springs or that I would have to be there so early. Oh well. They did feed me chocolate.

The topic being debated was whether "Democracy is overvalued by the US government." Having already heard my young recruiter disucssing this as she prepared for the debate, I'd had time to contemplate my position. Since I read the Federalist Papers right after high school, watched Gods and Generals and did some additional thought and reading on the nature and history of governments (especially our government), I am of the belief that democracy is a deceptively dangerous political system. Founded on flattering principles, beginning with aims for the good of the whole while defending the individual, democracy has historically been proven unsustainable. The nature of man makes democracy lead to selfish socialism, majority oppression of minorities, and eventually a tyranny.

Our founding fathers - being experts in history, law, and theology - established
America (after an experiment in confederacy) as a constitutional republic. Since that day more and more democratic principles have been applied in the federal government and in the sub-governments found in states, cities, and counties (or their equivalents). This tendency toward pure democracy, endorsed by the statements of current government leaders and the American obsession with individual rights and equality - as well as assumed and accepted distrust of leaders is worrisome in that it erodes the republican system leaving a slippery slope to unchecked democracy and all that historically follows.

In the first two rounds I judged, however, the arguments affirming that the United States government overvalues government were weak were not carried out as well in the debate format as that of the negative case. Against my subjective opinion, I was forced to vote an objective win for the negative cases. I didn't find their arguments personally converting, and would have loved to be their opponent so I could bring up my points.

However, in the semi-finals I got to watch (not judge) a friend carry the affirmative case and do an excellent job, incorporating many of my personal views and a few other points of which I had not thought. Her case was supported by excellent quotation, definitions, and hotly contested examples.

The opponent, representing the negative (US does not overvalue democracy) spent most of her time making assertions, including direct contradictions of her opponent without giving sufficient reasons, illustrations, or examples. Such is my biased memory. Her reasoning perhaps betrays a personal favor of the affirmative side of the issue, since the arguments for her negative case involved a statement that eminent domain does not remove the natural right of private property ownership since a citizen may take the money granted them by the government to purchase another piece of land (until, as my friend pointed out, the government deems it best to confiscate that land as well). The main example and statistic used by the debater representing the negative case was that of El Salvador, which during its war had one of the worst human rights violation records in the world. Since the United States stabilized the country by aiding in an establishment of democracy there, the human rights protections have risen to make El Salvador one of the best countries (in that field) in the world. However, she was unable to identify the type of government in El Salvador before their war, and conceded that the warring region of Iraq today is home to a democracy, and there human rights (measured at least in lives of noncombatants) are not being protected in a way that would make Iraq reach the top of the list.

The statistic used often in the debates I heard is that out of the countries in the world, two-thirds are good on human rights. Of those, all are democracies. Of the remaining third, where human rights are ill-protected, none are democracies. I would question this: who is calling these countries democracies? The United States, for example, is not a democracy but a republic (if you will remember your Pledge to the American Flag at least). England also is not a democracy, but a parliamentary "monarchy." In England there is the democratically elected house of representatives, a Prime Minister elected, I believe, in a similar way, and a heritage-based aristocratic branch of the legislature, the House of Lords. Any more with the UN and "global communities" and the favor with which democracy is viewed, "democracy" is used to name any "good country," as the "global community sees fit." It is not necessarily referring to the actual philosophies of government applied in the nation.

My friend did not win her debate according to the majority of the five judges scoring her round. Oh well. She did qualify for nationals, though.

I also got to judge speeches, which I found much more exhausting. In the format used on Saturday I sat through eight approximately ten-minute speeches per round in a general category but of no specific topic or style. As I went I had to grade each speech by rating them each of about twenty areas, identify their topic, put a two- or three- sentence comment on each ballot, and keep a running ranking. While I heard many good speeches on remarkably relevant (to my personal/spiritual walk) topics, the process was exhausting.

The event was fun, and it was neat to see all these talented Christian students who even in the hallways were debating other things. It's been hard to shake my critical attitude and ear for logic, today, though. I left Colorado Springs for an hour and a half drive home at seven o'clock, twelve hours after I arrived. Needless to say I was tired.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Changing Youth Ministry

One of my new favorite writers is Voddie Baucham, Jr. He is very quotable, I suppose, and a pioneer in the family-integrated church and youth ministry movement. Tonight while on his website, I found a couple articles on converting youth ministries. In light of my series on Changing Church, I thought they were interesting.

What's a Youth Minister to Do? Part 1
What's a Youth Minister to Do? Part 2

So often we read about the problems with the Church. We may even know what the Church should be, but we don't know how to change. We're afraid of opposition. So it's good to hear specific steps, and to know we're not alone.

I suppose I understand what Voddie means by "movement," and I agree. That isn't the word I would use, or not without qualifying it. A movement of God. Not some movement, the latest fad or phase or popular philosophy of the "Christian" crowd. God at work for His purposes fulfilling Malachi 4:6 by drawing His people ever nearer the whole truth.

Please read and consider.

Recently my imagination has been recaptured (Michael Card, by the way, says this is one of the effects of the Old Testament books of prophecy) by the hope of biblical living. That all sounds like mumbo-jumbo when I write it. I mean, what if the Christians you know lived Colossians? What if women were not discouraged, but inspired when they read Proverbs 31? What if men prayed everywhere?

What if I did?

To God be all glory.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Changing Church Part XVIII


“Why are we the only ones?” Anne asked. The whole world seemed to have missed the point, ignored the passages God had given about church.

“We’re not. That’s what I’m saying. There may be prophets in hiding, or in the distance. And God may be preparing the people. Perhaps they were only waiting for a leader.”

"Like Elijah,” she nodded. Many Old Testament prophets had been the single voice calling for repentance and declaring the word of the Lord. But God had told Elijah’s self-pitying heart that God was active elsewhere. It was a good reminder. First God revealed to Elijah His awesome might, then His tender provision, and finally His varied work. Elijah was really only a servant of the great leader. The battle was God’s.

“I will not be afraid,” quoted Will. Such was the declaration of the former saints who realized God was in control. But they were afraid, both of them. So far things had gone well. Will was still employed. People were asking questions, and listening to answers. But church this morning would be the proof. Either the congregation would return, or they would look for a new church. Either the men would have accepted the challenge, and some would have teachings to offer, or there would be a discouraging silence. Anne pictured what it could look like.

“Time to get ready,” Will tapped her shoulder.

Inside, Anne tried to decide what dress to wear. Something that would make him proud. Nothing too flashy or presumptuous. Finally she chose something, and asked for Will’s approval. “Stop thinking about yourself,” he reproved. “There are more important things to think about.” The rebuke brought out the threat of tears in Anne’s eyes. “Like my breakfast,” he added in a lighter tone. She laughed, and made some toast.

To God be all glory.

See the index for first and additional chapters.

Friday, April 13, 2007

With All Vigilance

Carolyn at the Solofemininity Blog wrote an article for Boundless this week that hits right where I am. Her thesis is that our media consumption affects our spiritual life. Media can be an idol.

The Scripture is Proverbs 4:20-27 (ESV) "My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil." (emphasis mine)

One of her examples is of a friend who didn't watch any romantic comedies or even the Jane Austen period movies because they left her feeling discontent and distracted. I've noticed a similar tendency, still allowing myself the viewing of these movies on a rationed basis but seeing the need to fill up on God's Word first. Like the buy one, get one free deals, the bonus has to be of equal or lesser value. The movie bonus should take up less time and importance than my time with God. But this week I haven't been so good at that. And I see the results.

One other part of Carolyn's article that especially resonated given my week was her account of a friend, Andrew.

"Look at these pages," he said excitedly, holding out a well-marked Bible. "I've
never read Proverbs like this before. I saw all kinds of stuff in here last
night — it was crazy, like I had never even read the Bible before!" For
six hours one night, God's Word had held Andrew captive. He didn't want to stop
reading and praying.


On Tuesday evening, I felt the same about Colossians. Reading it was like I had never read it before, and I couldn't put it down! When I tried explaining to my friends exactly how God had worked in me through that experience, my words fell short. I could parse Colossians, trying to explain what hit me. Or I could maybe try to tell them to have a similar experience. But I can't manufacture God's voice. However, Carolyn's post would remind us that we can make ourselves more available to God by fasting, by casting down idols, and by dedicating regular, diligent time to prayer and focus on God.

Perhaps my frustration over failure this week in media-consumption and the following unpreparedness for temptation is all the more disappointing in light of the opportunity given on Tuesday. Reading Colossians was like watching a gate open, an invitation to be "fully pleasing" to God, to fix my mind on heavenly things... And I find myself on earth, behaving in an earthly way, disregarding the warning I read just last night from 1 John 2:15-17 - "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."

Keep your heart with all vigilance.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Points against John McCain

Republican contenders for the Presidential nomination 2008 Part 3: John McCain. Information taken from his website. (all bold emphasis is mine)

"Constitutional balance would be restored by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, returning the abortion question to the individual states. " This may be true. Roe v. Wade was illogical, illegal, and immoral. But I don't believe that abortion is a debateable issue. Just like other forms of murder, it should be considered illegal. In fact, I don't understand why we can't simply prosecute the murderers under murder laws. However, I give John McCain credit because his weakness is only seeing the issue simply as a constitutional jurisdiction problem; advising pro-life groups to get laws passed in their states while he as president somehow runs interference against rogue judges. He does claim to be entirely pro-life.

"As president, John McCain will strongly support funding for promising research programs, including amniotic fluid and adult stem cell research and other types of scientific study that do not involve the use of human embryos. " This is not the government's legitimate constitutional job. Funding for science, medicine, or any other field not specifically covered in the Constitution is at most the responsibility of states; at least belonging only to private citizens.

I maintain that the American economy must not be completely open to world trade. To protect our own economy (the interests of American citizens), we have to limit the commerce coming from countries that compete unfairly. We can compete in a free market economy. But when countries like China would send goods here at artificially deflated prices due to their use of oppressed labor, we put law-abiding, moral Americans at a disadvantage. Senator McCain's take on the situation is: "A global rising tide of economic isolationism is threatening our entrepreneurs. Opening new markets is a key to U.S. economic success. Today, despite all the defeatist rhetoric, America is the world's biggest exporter, importer, producer, saver, investor, manufacturer and innovator. Americans do not shy from the challenge of competition: they welcome it. Because of that, we attract foreign investment from all over the world. Our government should welcome competition as our people do, and not pretend that we can wall off our economy."

"The American people have been alienated from the process of self-government by the overwhelming appearance of their elected leaders having sold-out to the big-moneyed special interests who help finance political campaigns." Unfortunately, the campaign finance reform laws made election to public office more reachable by the already-rich or those with enough fame (including through incumbency) to get many people to donate to their cause.

Self-government is not the highest ideal of American government. We were not founded as a democracy. In a republic, men elect the most qualified among them to make decisions for the whole. If a wealthy man considers himself to be less qualified as a decision-maker than a good but poorer man, he should have the right to support the candidate he wishes.

"Americans have a right to support the candidates and the parties they endorse, including financially if they so choose.
"But what most Americans worry about profoundly is corporations or individuals with huge checks seeking the undue influence on lawmakers that such largesse is intended to purchase."

If the American people are stupid enough to elect and continue re-electing men who sell-out to special interest groups, to men who have no integrity and have proven themselves unworthy of public trust, they must suffer for their choices. In a free system, responsible voters can educate themselves on the character of the candidates. If they are worried that a candidate is untrustworthy, he can choose not to vote for him. After a term of office, if the congressman has engaged in behavior a voter considers inappropriate or questionable, he can choose to vote for someone else next time. Accountability is the reason for terms of office.

We don't need campaign finance laws. We need voters who will take responsibility. The marxist plan for taking over a country includes getting the people distracted from government. I see this principle at work in the elections of our country. The people are distracted. They don't pay attention to the voting records of incumbents, nor do constituents inform representatives of their preferences for voting on issues for debate in the legislature. When there are new candidates, most voters ignore their characters. And the result is more government control and less freedom. We end up with the rich being powerful, shouldering out the poor or even middle class for control of the country. Communism produces the same effects.

"Along with his commitment to clean air and water, and to conserving open space, he has been a leader on the issue of global warming with the courage to call the nation to action on an issue we can no longer afford to ignore." I'm committed to clean air and water, but I am committed against federal laws regulating these things. State or local governments can protect the living conditions in their jurisdictions with balance for commerce and the freedom of their citizens.

Global warming is a fraud, with many respected scientists detracting on the gloom-and-doom projected by liberals like Al Gore. That John McCain would be proud of his activism for this dubious cause is disappointing.

My impression of John McCain has been that he knows how to appear as a conservative while betraying their ideals once he has power. He has been around for a long time, and knows the right things to say. His voting record may say otherwise. I applaud his apparent intention to follow the Constitution. But he may be selective on which parts of the Constitution he wants to apply.

To God be all glory.

Deal Breakers on Rudy Giuliani

I actually had a very good time researching the convictions and campaign pillars of Mitt Romney. So I am going through other candidates as well. I don't intend to deal with the presidential contenders whose views are so far removed from mine that I would never consider voting for them.

The following information is taken from Rudy Giuliani's website.

"Rudy Giuliani supports reasonable restrictions on abortion such as parental notification with a judicial bypass and a ban on partial birth abortion – except when the life of the mother is at stake... But Rudy understands that this is a deeply personal moral dilemma, and people of good conscience can disagree respectfully. Ultimately he believes that it is a decision between a woman, her doctor, her family, and her God." (emphasis mine) I suppose he decides what is reasonable. I believe that allowing abortion at all is unreasonable and very wrong. Again, there are no exceptions in my take on abortion. You won't convince me that partial-birth abortions are ever more safe for the life of the mother than delivering the baby. People cannot murder innocent children in good conscience. Is the deeply personal choice of murdering your spouse also a choice between a person and their God?

The former mayor of New York, an admittedly liberal city, also has a wishy-washy stand on marriage. Perhaps that is the only way for a semi-conservative to be elected in a liberal town: talk out of both sides of your mouth. It is, however, more often a tactic employed by democrats (as in the last mid-term election). First he says he believes in a traditional view of marriage. Then he says he supports domestic partnerships involving important legal and personal matters. Why? "...he believes in equal rights under law for all Americans." Believe it or not, all Americans have the equal right to, when they are of age, marry one consenting person of the opposite gender. Those are equal rights. The site goes on to say that domestic partnerships would preserve the "sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman." I think sanctity has become a code word for patronizing religious people. We all *know* that religion is irrelevant in law and politics, and sanctity is such a pious word.

In case there is any doubt, I believe that marriage and all its benefits: emotional, physical, economic, legal, familial - is between one man and one woman. God made us. He defines the institutions He created. He also defines what is right and wrong. In Romans and other places the Bible warns us that those given unrepentantly to disobeying God in some ways are likely to rebel in many ways, their consciences being hardened. I don't have to trust such people with responsibility or special "rights" in my country. The US Constitution does not demand any such gifts of the law.

Rudy's website doesn't have a whole lot else. Most of it is positive stuff. He reformed welfare in New York, cut taxes and destroyed the budget deficit while he was mayor using supply-side economics. He says he believes in school choice. The Iraq policy described on his site is limited on details, but hard-line against terrorism and American weakness abroad.

In all, he has a record to prove his statements. He doesn't seem to change his mind (except on wives, which is a matter intentionally unreported on his website; another of his beliefs is that politics should focus on the job he would do, not the life he has led). But a consistent record consistently wrong on some big points still makes him ineligible for my vote.

I am still committed to voting for a servant of God who values life, love, and liberty for the highest office of our constitutional republic.

To God be all glory.

Jane Austen Tribute

Fanny Austen-Knight (1793-1882) by Cassandra Austen
Fanny Austen-Knight (1793-1882)


I'm not sure where this video came from or how long these trailer-like clips will be available on YouTube, but it's a great selection of several Jane Austen films. Sadly, The Pride and Prejudice (BBC) is missing. But there is Persuasion, the new Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and some good scenes from Mansfield Park.

Let me add, though, that I look forward with great anticipation to the Masterpiece Theater renditions of many Jane Austen films (BBC and even Andrew Davies involved once again) this fall. The film I most want to see well done is Persuasion, such a beautiful tale, so underdone for film so far.

Thanks for the link goes to Charming the Birds from the Trees.

To God be all glory.

Mormonism Different from Christianity

For more information, see:

an article about the differences on the teachings of salvation. This is part of an extensive site with many footnotes/bibliographies.

Let Us Reason's index of pages about Mormonism. I have discussed my appreciation for Let Us Reason before.

or this book, Handbook of Today's Religions by Josh McDowell and Don Steward which is the first extensive source of my information on Mormonism.

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Smaug and Bard the Bowman

In the intermission of my series on Faramir from Lord of the Rings (due to busyness and writer's block), I want to direct you to a Lord of the Rings related article written by a friend of Bodie and Brock Thoene. The Thoenes wrote a series of books about World War II, and this woman is one of the characters. I was delighted to discover that the character, Lori Kalner, was a real person (though her name is not really Lori Kalner). She has been sharing the insights gained from a long life and early experience inside Germany while submitting to the Nazi philosophies. Many of her letters warn Americans of the similarities she has noticed.

A fan of the Thoenes' books wrote to ask Lori what books were important to her, and I was surprised to hear that she was impacted by the writings of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. Tolkien's works were reputedly for children, popular in America, and not so very popular in the beginning. But Lori got a copy of the Hobbit shortly after it was published, and she shares how its message related to her spiritual life then and now.

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Responses to Mitt Romney

Challenged to explain why Mitt Romney isn't my favorite candidate for president 2008, I thought I'd do a little research. First I want to say that my post about voting by conscience was about conscience. I was not telling you for whom to vote or not. I only said I don't like certain motivations being disqualified for my voting by egotistical book-selling so-called Christian conservatives. I didn't attack Mitt Romney at all; I attacked the author of the book, A Mormon in the White House, Hugh Hewitt.

After scanning a few bloggers' indexes, and checking out an election central sort of website, I was getting frustrated. Didn't anyone have a list of what each candidate believes? First thought after that: the candidates can't make up their minds; how can anyone speak for them? I'm new to politics; forgive me for not knowing all the right places to find information. Secondly, I might try going to the source.

So I did. And the first thing I noticed about Mitt Romney's website is the quote at the top, calling America one in a family of nations. Excuse me if that bothers me. I don't like the UN. I don't like the European Union. I don't like talk of Global Communities or International Law. All this fuss over America acting unilaterally is ridiculous. We are a nation, and we do what is right and best for ourselves or those with whom we have treaties (and usually treaties are covenants: we do something in return for other countries doing something for us). People talking about immigration laws and border enforcement have mentioned that this defines sovereignty. If we are not in control of who comes to our country or who becomes citizens, we are no longer sovereign. Then again, that is what a lot of liberals want.

In all fairness, the quote is about the family: real families, like households. The point is that without strong families (husband, wife, kids) America is not strong.

Mitt Romney's biography highlights first his fiscal record as governor of Massachusetts, and then describes some of his accomplishments in education: "In 2004, Governor Romney established the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship Program to reward the top 25 percent of Massachusetts high school students with a four-year, tuition-free scholarship to any Massachusetts public university or college." I googled for more information about the scholarship, the primary question being whence the money comes. From the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance: "The John and Abigail Adams Scholarship awards non-need-based state-supported undergraduate tuition waivers to students who are awarded John and Abigail Adams Scholarship by the Department of Education." I'm not very keen on state-supported education, let alone "higher" education.

"Governor Romney has been deeply involved in community and civic affairs, serving extensively in his church and numerous charities including City Year, the Boy Scouts, and the Points of Light Foundation." Deeply involved Mormons get into some strange theology and religious rites. I'd say the cult-nature of the religion is undeniable - except people have denied it. Oh well. If you want to know about Mormonism compared to the truth of Christianity, I recommend Josh McDowell and Don Stewart's book, Handbook of Today's Religions featuring the first sentence: "A cult is a perversion, a distortion of biblical Christianity and/or a rejection of the historic teachings of the Christian church," or Let Us Reason.

From Mitt Romney's Issues page: "The defeat of this radical and violent faction of Islam must be achieved through a combination of American resolve, international effort, and the rejection of violence by moderate, modern, mainstream Muslims. An effective strategy will involve both military and diplomatic actions to support modern Muslim nations. America must help lead a broad-based international coalition that promotes secular education, modern financial and economic policies, international trade, and human rights." (emphasis mine) This seems to go back to a worldview of tolerance and relativism. I believe there is one truth and one way to heaven. I also believe that those who claim to follow a book that demands violence, are part of a religion started by a war-loving anti-Jew and anti-Christian man, whose leaders continually promote violence and refuse to disclaim the jihadists, and whose religion is known worldwide for being hospitable to terrorism - such people are not moderate. Study the history of Islam. Nor will tolerant diplomacy and a conversion to secular education cure them. General Douglas MacArthur got it right when he called for Christian (protestant, evangelical, Bible-believers) missionaries to hurry to Japan after World War II so that the pagans' lifestyle could be converted. The people of the Middle East will learn peace when they meet the Prince of Peace.

Concerning Asian commerce: "We must be ready and able to compete. This means ensuring our children are educated to compete in this new market, our trade laws are fair and balanced, and our economy and tax laws welcome new investment." and "We have to keep our markets open or we go the way of Russia and the Soviet Union, which is a collapse." It just so happens that the Federalist Papers, commentary on our United States Constitution written by men who were a part of that great document's (and law of the land's) formation, calls for the majority of government funds to be collected through tariffs and taxes on international commerce. When we as a nation threaten our own free market by lifting taxes on foreign goods and services (founded on close to slave labor) while taxing our own people's income and spending, we are ruining our ability to compete in America, let alone in international trade. America needs to stand up for itself in more ways than military.

It is possible, too, that the Soviet Union's economy collapsed not because of isolation, but because their people's work ethic was destroyed by socialism. Socialism historically produces a downward spiral. If you can get what you need without working very hard, and working hard will get you no more, what will you do with your life? Entropy increases unless energy is added. And socialism discourages expenditure of energy. The system only continues to function by getting capitalist money poured into it.

Taxation: "I said no to a tax hike; raising taxes hurts working people and scares away jobs. I also said no to more borrowing; borrowing just shifts our problems to the backs of our kids . . . Instead, I went after waste, inefficiency, duplication, and patronage." I like the idea of reforming the "labyrinthine" tax code. I would also wish that in addition to making government spending more efficient, we would make it more legal (only on things to which a government has legitimate claim - as in, cut out the funding for science, welfare, and abortion). Fortunately, on his "spending" issues article, Mitt Romney is quoted as follows: "Every legislator and politician knows this spending can't be justified, so why do they do it?" The gist of his position is that entitlements must stop, and even if legislatures will override his opposition to "pork" spending, someone has to say no. I vote the tax payers say "no," too.

Mitt Romney appears not to have decided anything definite about immigration. He states the obvious: America needs to make legal immigration easier and more attractive while decreasing the accessibility and attraction of coming here illegally. He does not address illegal immigrants already present or the security risk of not enforcing our borders.

Of America, Mitt Romney says: "We are self reliant, we respect human life, we are a religious people..." However, America is not particularly respectful of human life. Roe v. Wade stands and millions of infants have been murdered with the approval of law. A Florida woman was publicly murdered by starvation and no judge, doctor, governor, president, police, military, or legislature stopped it. The murderers and accessories today walk free. I heard people I know, good people who have been immersed in a culture that is anti-life, comment that starvation was a relatively painless way to die, and she wouldn't have had a decent life anyway. As if authority is given to us to order the hour of our deaths.

On marriage: "The court [in Massachusetts] forgot that marriage is first and foremost about nurturing and developing children." Except, biblically, is it?

Genesis 2:18, 21-24 "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him... And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

1 Corinthians 7:2-3, "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband."

Ephesians 5:22-25, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;"

Perhaps the candidate takes the view of the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer, reason #1 for marriage: "Dearly beloved friends, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of his congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which is an honorable estate, instituted of God in paradise in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union, that is betwixt Christ and his Church: which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee, and is commended of Saint Paul to be honorable among all men, and therefore is not to be enterprised nor taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding, but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God, duly considering the causes for which matrimony was ordained. One was, the procreation of children to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and praise of God. Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication, that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body. Thirdly, for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity: into the which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore, if any man can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace." - The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony, from The Book of Common Prayer (emphasis mine)

This one is a deal-breaker. "I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother." His two sentences contradict. There is no "abortion is wrong except." We wouldn't kill already born babies because they were the children of rape, incest, or a pregnancy that resulted in the mother's death. (That last is the only, rare instance, specific examples for which I've never heard, that abortion would be necessary. If neither mother nor child could possibly live if the pregnancy continues - if the child is guaranteed to die anyway, I can understand the need. However, with medical technology as it is, premature infants have chances of survival. And in the late term, you're never going to convince me that an abortion is safer than delivery or a c-section.) If I had to write-in Matt Chancey for president, I would do that rather than vote for a man who believes in situational ethics of killing innocent babies.

Throwing money at public education seems to be Mitt Romney's solution, much like our current President Bush, also matching his belief that measuring progress will somehow help the education system. So far that's hurt. Now we teach the test. "It's going to take teachers, superintendents and parents talking to their legislators saying yes, we want more money of course ... but we also want changes in the way our schools are managed. We want our principals to have the ability to manage their schools." "It is time," his website summarizes, "to raise the bar on education by making teaching a true profession, measuring progress, providing a focus on math and science, and involving parents from the beginning of a child's school career." In the case of large portions of the population, an emphasis on math and science is impractical. Women who will spend most of their adult lives keeping homes and raising children need education that will be relevant to their tasks. Farmers do not need to know advanced mathematics. Maybe if we allowed children to be enamored with their Creator's orderly plan for the universe, if the laws discovered had meaning, students would pursue careers in the fields in which America is falling behind. Involving parents sounds good, but see who is passive and who is active in the statement. The quote indicates something is being done to the parents. The do-ers are implied to be the government.

Finally, most of the candidates or potential candidates have their problems. I'm not trying to pick on Romney. Actually, he's one of the most-likely-to-be-voted-for-by-Lisa-of-Longbourn candidates, so I am more obligated to defend my decision not to.

To God be all glory.

Heroes

In the first half of the Twentieth Century, comic books were big. The stars of these ranged from simple kids to detectives to superheroes. The era of Superman and Spiderman was in a world recovering from one or two world wars. Fantasy stories about super-human characters coming to the rescue of needy civilians captured imaginations of young boys.

After this followed a period of disillusionment. Vietnam, drug culture, complacency, and the degradation of society tore away the imaginations and hope of the people. Super heroes went out of style. No one could relate to the heroes or the victims. They were too selfish to be taking care of other people's problems, however desperate. As people in need they were taught to be independent and self-sufficient.

So we find ourselves in a world where we are swinging from that low. Our imaginations now, however, are captured and fulfilled by a story of simple heroes. Men like us, with our abilities, but with a discipline, integrity, and vision to change the world. Batman, a guy with weaknesses who makes mistakes, is the kind of hero who inspires. Heroes are so rare in this world now - almost as rare as the superheroes in the war-familiar world.

But don't get me wrong; I still think Spiderman is the best!

To God be all glory.

Samples of my Day

Some quotes from myself and my friends tonight:

Fun is more fun than work.

True things are always simple.

I take the meaning, not the implications.

Mom said I'm not allowed to get a 'jumbo' at Dairy Queen; yesterday I ate all my Easter candy.
(That explains some things.)

To God be all glory.

Like Emma

As a Jane Austen fan, I am unashamed to admit that the first film adaptation of her books I ever watched was Emma when I was a freshman in high school. The images and moments were memorable. "Badly done," said the man who began the movie as what?!-this-guy-is-the-hero? and ends as the most attractive, bearable, sweet guy. All my friends agree he's their favorite character in the movie. I mean, he's almost perfect.

Each time my brothers (in training to be good men) pass while I'm watching Emma, I catch them for a few minutes. "See, see here, that girl, Emma?" I ask. "How silly she is? Girls are really like that." Girls will imagine themselves in love when they're not; insist they're not thinking of someone when they thought of them all day; and match-make. To some degree or another, this is true. We will also crash and call ourselves fools when reality sets in.

After further thought, I conclude that all people are also like Emma. We make assumptions and interperet everything that happens according to that perspective. In Emma she assumes Harriet will marry Mr. Elton and then sees his clapping, his riddles, his services and attentions all as proof of his predicted affections. But an objective observer (translate: those relieved by previous viewing of the movie of the misconception that everything the heroine does is right) sees that Mr. Elton is hinting at his attempt at winning Emma's favor.

My brother insists that all people are like Darth Vader, too. Do with that what you will.

To God be all glory.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Life Abundant

Last weekend I went to Awana Summitland in Denver. The snowstorms here bookended the schedule but distanced themselves enough to not disturb anything. Some of my team even went swimming in the outdoor heated pool! Our experience was graced. I prayed that whatever the results of the competition, we would see God's hand in it and know it was from Him. In so many unexpected ways, He did just that.

My team (12 high school boys and girls) enjoyed the fellowship and unity, the closeness to God and challenges to grow closer, and of course the competition in which we did - by the grace of God - well. I'm really happy for them. As happens every year, when the last day came, I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to say good-bye. Driving back to my part of town, I glanced at the large moon. Back from Summitland where the moon is strange. We had almost been in a different world, a plateau giving us a taste of heaven and relief from earth.

I'm not saying there weren't problems. But we were Christians together: studying God's Word, sharing what He was teaching us, praying a lot, meeting each other's needs, laughing, crying, and working as a team. We got to practice what the Bible describes of the Church.

Acts 2:42-47, "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having
favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as
should be saved."
Since we got back my friends and family keep mentioning "real life." Work, chores, school, and the problems that had been pushed away (for example seeing the doctor, the dentist, and the auto mechanic - and doing taxes) were back with full force and no excuses left. Back to the "real world," they say.

I'll accept claiming we're going back to the mundane. Back to ordinary life. But it isn't real life. The world of chores and problems is not more real than the world of fellowship and faith we entered over a week ago. I don't see why we have to entirely leave that abundant life behind. Aren't we missing part of the lesson if we just accept that the environment was staged and all those awesome feelings of friendship, accountability, and meaning cannot transfer over? How can I transform the ordinary with a hint of the adventure we experience on the mountaintops?

Greg Stier of Dare 2 Share ministries spoke at Summit about being a Loser: a Christian willing to lose everything to share the gospel with the lost. He described real people who brought extraordinary passion for God (with an eye on eternity) to janitorial work, to inner cities, to wherever they went. If that can be true of evangelism, shouldn't it be true of the other aspects of Christian life, too? Can't we take it with us? Shouldn't we?

Christian community is 24-7. And it is real life: the kind Jesus died for; the kind guaranteed by His resurrection.

John 11:25-27, "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life:
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And
whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of
God, which should come into the world
."

John 10:10-11, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to
destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more
abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for
the sheep.
"

To God be all glory.

Friday, April 06, 2007

I Think, Therefore I Am

My brother told me about a conversation he entered at his college class this week:

"Who likes to think?" said a classmate.

Stunned, my brother answered, "I do."

And then he thought, and I thought the same when he was telling me: What do you do if you don't think? How do you spend your time?

The friend continued, "I would like to be a dog. Others take care of me, and I just live."

Just live. How incredible! How could you "just live" without thinking? Why bother?

Yet I believe this is a great problem with the culture in America today: not only do people not think; they don't want to! People in their twenties are content to do nothing, think nothing, and let life lap around them. If anything is done, it is for fun or absolute necessity.

How did they get that way? There are probably many reasons. Another that arose in conversation in my house today was the rise of autism. It directly coordinates with the rise of time spent watching television as a child. Some even argue that autism can be cured by turning off the TV and engaging the child in a relational and interactive way. As long as people are content to stare blankly and unresponsively at a television, entertainment being simply fed to them, they will never learn to think or be relational.

When I watch TV, I interact. I think what I would do, or why the characters are doing what they do. My family talks during TV (as much as we can get away with without annoying each other), sharing the experience. If the television is on for extended periods of time I start to get lethargic and irritated. After all, it is hard to engage with a screen for too long.

In the old days before TV or radio, humans entertained themselves by playing games or reading books, even aloud to each other. They conversed. Their activity was interactive and thoughtful. Even Winnie the Pooh, a stuffed bear from a children's book is portrayed as think-think-thinking. Hm.

To God be all glory.

The Effectiveness of Church Youth Groups

Young Ladies Christian Fellowship has a short post on youth groups. It is a must read, and won't take long. Last spring I spent a lot of time studying what the Bible says about the Church. How is it to be organized? Where should it congregate? Who should lead? Who should and should not speak? How do you serve, and how to you enable others to use their spiritual gifts? How often is the Church to gather?

1 Corinthians 12-14 and 1 Timothy have some of the best descriptions of how a church functions. Ephesians describes the spiritual aspects and foundations of the Church.

In my investigation I never saw the distinction of a youth pastor or a worship pastor - or even a worship leader at all. Nor do I see a church building described. These points at least should cause us to ask when, where, and how youth pastors and church buildings arose. If they are not biblical, we should not cling to them - especially if it is not effective.

Perhaps God, not the latest trends or philosophies, knows what He is doing.

For more information, click the links for the full transcript at the end of the YLCF post. Or check Vision Forum's Uniting Church and Family products and articles.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

History and Current State of Dating

Boundless has an article on the history of courtship and dating that I found historically and socially fascinating. This is the link to part 2. Part 1 is linked at the bottom of that page.

I read my parents the suggestiong that you date 25-50 different people before making a "final decision." Neither of my parents got that high, and they somehow managed to find each other and stay married for over 25 years. Hm.

In my opinion, if you can't figure out that you don't want to spend a lot of time with a person before you take them out for a movie or ice cream, you are lacking discernment.

One point made is that people today have relational vertigo, and don't know which way is up. They are confused. Why not? There is no goal, no example, no rules, no absolutes, no defined consequences.

What can we do? How can we give them absolutes and rules and examples?

I read an article on Townhall.com today on a similar topic (not for younger readers): the vicious, depressing cycle of idealistic women entering the single game post college and meeting unfulfilling, mediocre ends. The stories and images spark compassion for the lied-to, unprotected girls in the world giving up so much for dreams that are meaningless. What can we do?

To God be all glory.