Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Need, Interest, Currency

For a few years there has been a Sylvan Learning Center near my house. Driving home from church Monday, I noticed that it is now empty and “for lease.” Whoever owned that franchise location probably felt like they had a good geographic. The neighborhoods nearby have plenty of kids whose grades tend to teeter on the passing line. Whether English wasn’t their first language, so they’re playing catch-up at school, or if they’re simply not disciplined enough to learn and do homework, students in this part of the world could really use some one on one tutoring.

But more, it would appear, was necessary for the success of the business than identifying a need and providing the solution. First of all, there had to be interest. The parents of the students had to care about their grades and the solution Sylvan offered. Secondly, the parents had to have the currency to pay for supplemental education: the currency of money and of time.

Five minutes home from church ought to be a short period in which to fit analogies for life, but one struck me. At our church I see several high school girls who need older ladies to care about them, to spend time with them, to ground them in faith, and to guide them to maturity and godliness. So a friend and I, under our youth pastor, are offering a small group. This would also enable the girls to get to know each other and encourage each other. But most of the girls aren’t coming. Either they don’t have the interest, or they don’t have the currency of time to invest.

What’s the solution? Should we close up like Sylvan? Is our tactic wrong?

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Economics, Investment, Inflation, and Debt

My brother and I were talking the other night and I had an insight (being only informally trained in economics - I could have been taught it if I'd just taken a class). But I don't know if there's a name for it. So I'm asking.

I heard an ad for investing in gold. The price per ounce has gone up a lot in the past couple years, and is understandably predicted to continue to rise. Right now I think the commercial said the going price is $700 an ounce. But while I might have $700 free cash to invest waiting for the gold to increase in value, I'm not allowed to buy gold one ounce at a time. So there is a minumum amount of money I have to have before I can participate in investment. Buying a home is very similar. Debt makes money more available in larger amounts (paid back in smaller increments), thus raising the minimum line.

Bartering went out of fashion because having one cow didn't work as a trade for one spear, since the cow was really worth say, 300 spears. So we have capital, money, to be the fluid in between and prevent us needing a minimum number of available cows to trade in order to participate. Capitalism, therefore, should have fixed the minimum line problem.

But then we add inflation (caused by debt on a national level), which depriciates the money someone below the minimum line has, so that they are, rather than gaining worth by saving money, actually losing ground. They must continue going to work (as an employee, most often) just to get enough money to survive - if that. And there's no way out. This is the modern equivalent to serfs, or the slave class.

Marx saw this, I assume (never read Marx myself), but his solution doesn't solve anything. It emphasizes inflation and simultaneously erases any home of overcoming it through investment. Marxism is like bailing water from a still-sinking boat.

So what's it called, the minimum line to participate in investment that would protect your income?

And what should we do?

To God be all glory.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Slow of Speech

Exodus 4:10, "And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue."

Moses was not skillful as a speaker, so God let Aaron be the mouthpiece.

Acts 7:22, "And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds."

Moses was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, but don’t tell me that they didn’t know how to be great orators. Perhaps this training was intentionally omitted.

My brother and I were talking the other night about the economic oppression caused by the prevalence of debt. Yet it is so pervasive that the few who rebel against the debt lie are still bound to it’s influence. The only chance of massively changing the world, of fixing the problem, is to do what Dave Ramsey did: to exercise free speech and persuade people of the more excellent way.

Like the ants in Bug’s Life, the voices of visionaries can spur the masses to stand up for themselves and relieve the oppression. In America we have the right to free speech. Egypt was not so gracious, and they certainly didn’t want their Hebrew adopted prince to be ready to lead an uprising. So maybe they didn’t teach him speech. Maybe they taught him that he was a bad speaker, or made fun of him when he tried to wax eloquent.

Aaron didn't have that fault in his education. He was an excellent speaker. But Moses could have been a good speaker if he would have relied on God, who promised to be with His mouth. Tonight at Awana we were studying the faith of Moses. This is the seventh in a series of heroes of faith we have been studying. A few weeks ago we looked at Nehemiah, an excellent leader. The quiz at the end of the lesson included a question on what made Nehemiah such a good leader. My student had written that He was a good leader because he had God's help.

So I asked, "Does that mean you can be a good leader?" Typically, I got the answer "No. I don't know. I guess. Maybe."

What is God calling and equipping you to be?

To God be all glory.

Abraham, Moses, and David Wait

When Abraham was 75 years old, his literal journey of faith began. We always talk about the faith of Abraham, but he'd been in training for 75 years. He also waited a lot: at first for God's Bible-worthy plans for his life to begin; 25 years for the birth of Isaac; 37 more years for Isaac's marriage; and 38 years for his own death.

When he was 100, his son Isaac was born. Isaac waited until he was 47 and his mother was dead before he got married to Rebekah.

After Isaac's marriage, Abraham remarried and had six more sons, which grew up and were then sent away (with gifts) to protect Isaac's inheritance. Isaac was 75 when he buried his father. His youngest brother could have been as old as 32.

Moses was 40 when he decided to associate himself with Israel as their deliverer. By faith, he perceived that was not God's timing, and fled into the wilderness of Midian (Hebrews 11). There he was married (again, at least 40 years old), had two sons, and then met God at the burning bush when he was 80. Yes. At 80 years of age Moses marched back into Egypt and demanded the release of the Jewish people. At 80 he led them out of Egypt across the Red Sea. For forty years Moses was the patient leader of Israel in the wilderness as he aged towards 120 years old. This man wrote Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy as well as a few of the Psalms - all after he was 80!

Some men were called from their youth to serve God. Others waited to burst onto the scene. David's entire life recorded in detail, is perhaps the best illustration of how God works. David was anointed king when he was still young. Then he spent years as a shepherd, or servant in the palace, then a warrior before he finally got the throne. But God was training him, and exposing him to the skills he needed for his future. Most famously, David had practice fighting beasts before he came against Goliath. I'm encouraged by the examples of these men who waited, who exercised their faith so they were ready when God asked something we would consider big.

To God be all glory.

Friday, February 22, 2008

"Falling" in Respect

There is a popular marriage book called Love and Respect. All my dear married friends talk about the subject. Women need love. Men need respect. Respect is more than words. A wife wants to hear her husband say “I love you,” (and men don’t mind hearing their wives say it, I suspect). She also needs his love to be demonstrated. Likewise respect must be lived out.

Respect is an attitude. It’s how a woman talks about a man, or her attitude when he’s talking to her. Things she refrains from saying or doing can be as important to demonstrating respect as what she says. Even when he isn’t there, a wife can respect her husband by the things she tells about him and the way she tells them to her girlfriends or children. Respect is important to a man, just like being cherished is important to a woman.

For example, a counselor (author of the book?) once heard a wife tell him that she loved her husband, but couldn’t respect him. He reversed the question and asked how she would feel if her husband confessed that he respects her, but just doesn’t love her. Obviously she would be devastated. The implication is that a man is equally devastated to hear that his wife doesn’t respect him.

Yet our society considers love a prerequisite for marriage, and so judges a man who doesn’t love his wife. Respect is often something a wife never considered. She didn’t know she was failing. She thought she was respectful, taking literally the phrase, “all due respect.” If her husband was communicative, he may have mentioned his desire for respect, at which point she got defensive, and considered him most unfair. If he wanted respect, maybe he married the wrong woman. After all, he is the same man who (insert ridiculous quirk or character flaw here).

What does a wife do if she cannot respect the man because he is not respectable? There are many testimonies to the change wrought in a man, even after years of marriage, when a woman chooses to respect him. Picking the things that are admirable in his character, she praised that to him and to others. She prioritized her life around the things that were important to him. In Wives and Daughters, the soon to be Mrs. Gibson asks Molly to tell her all her father’s little likes and dislikes, so that she can be a pleasing wife. The first thing Molly tells her, however, is something that Mrs. Gibson sets out to “cure.” Her behavior did not show respect. The villain in Wives and Daughters, a very human and almost pitiable Mr. Preston, is by no means a respectable man, but Molly appeals to him as though he were, and goads him on to more honorable behavior.

I think this dilemma of being married to a man you don’t respect is a symptom of our dating culture. Our paths to marriage have been all about falling in love. How many girls fall in love with someone and feel like the dad on Stepmom, that marriage is the next step? The hurting son in the movie asks his dad if, since a husband and wife can ‘fall out of love,’ can a parent can fall out of love with his kids? Love is a choice. I believe that, and think the dad was wrong to divorce his wife.

What if he had “fallen” in respect with his wife? Think of a man sitting in a field plucking petals: she respects me, she respects me not… However, respect is more obviously a choice.

Our modernized fairy tales are full of falling in love. I’m a romantic, and I appreciate Disney’s animated fairy tales. But don’t they have more resemblance to Sir Walter Scott than to Grimm’s? Think about the original versions of fairy tales you know.

Take Sleeping Beauty. A man risks everything for her, and she without even really knowing him delights to be his bride. Why?

Cinderella knows the prince’s character, and they share a romantic enchantment for a few hours one night before he scours the kingdom to claim her. Aside from the obvious appeal of a maid marrying a prince, why would she do that? If she were a romantic, would an evening’s dance be sufficient?

Beauty – is she won over by the love of the Beast in the original tale? What about Snow White – seemingly romantic, singing someday my prince will come – ultimately married to a man whose fascination with her beauty jolts her into life again – literally.

Snow White and Rose Red is perhaps the most romantic fairy tale, its hero repeating the plea, “Snow White, Rose Red! Will you beat your lover dead?” Even in that story the chosen bride is not apparent, and the second sister is married to the hero’s previously unmentioned brother.

Yet the hype of every movie and story popular today is falling in love or the misery in marriage if you don’t.

In fact respect before marriage is a concept often trampled by the rush to feed and give in to love. Instead, respect marriage and respect the other person. Value them more than the relationship, more than the attraction. Purity, modesty, submission, counsel, and a long-term focus are ways to express respect for each other before marriage. They are also characteristic of the courtship movement. (Allow me to interject that as I thought about this topic, I followed it to this place; this is not designed as a defense of courtship.)

Whereas the dating culture is all about flowers, butterflies, and the kiss that tells you he’s the one; courtship has a focus on boundaries, on matching emotion and expression to the level of commitment. And I suppose that’s all I really want out of calling a relationship a courtship: not a strict set of rules and prohibitive encounters, but intentionality in building respect even as you grow in love. The idea is not only to more accurately find a spouse with less regrets (at giving away your heart or more), but to prepare for married life.

“Intentional” could speak to the willful direction of a relationship. Historically, a suitor came to the father (and thereby to the lady) to make his intentions known. That factor alone could make a world of difference in dating relationships. If each would regularly express their intentions for the relationship, or at least begin by honestly telling each other what the goal is, dating would be less complicated and harmful.

Being intentional in either aspect, and preparing for marriage, could explain the tendencies to short courtships. Practicing love, respect, submission, confidence, and preference is hard to do without wanting to move right into the real deal. Or courtships could be short because they’re begun only after at least one party is willing to consider marriage. Part of the important observation and decision-making is done before the first date.

Coincidentally, I think that “respect” is the less hated buzz-word translating the Greek hupotasso, usually translated in the Bible as “submit” or “be obedient.” In Ephesians 5, women were not told to make sure they didn’t usurp their husbands any more than the men were forbidden from hating their wives. Love is a positive thing. Women should embrace submission. All along the Bible has had the instructions for successful marriages.

Colossians 3:18, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord."

To God be all glory.

One is Better than Two

When I buy cookies, I can't buy two. Every time I do, I burn one.

Paradise Bakery has the best chocolate chip cookies. They stay soft forever, and are just delicious. So why do I want to microwave them before eating? I don't know. I got buy one, get one free before a ladies retreat and took the free cookie with me. At the retreat location I put the cookie (still inside the decorative bag - with ink on it advertising the bakery) into the microwave and set the time for one minute. At home it worked perfectly. I promise.

When I came back to the horrifying smell of smoke, it was too late. My cookie was smoking, and couldn't be eaten (obviously). The entire night the retreat center smelled like burnt popcorn (associated with the paper packaging more than the food?). It was so embarassing.

But I don't learn. Tuesday at Safeway I bought two cookies for 98 cents (actually cheaper at regular price than Paradise Bakery, but a lot less yummy). I ate most of one on Tuesday, and the other I decided to improve today by...

... microwaving it. This time I was smart. Thirty seconds in our new microwave on power level six (which is one of those intermediate settings that you're supposed to use for thawing foods if your tastebuds hadn't been accustomed to bland TV-dinner, ultraprocessed foods already and you cared about flavor) rendered the cookie almost perfect, but the chocolate chips were still hard. So I returned the cookie to the spinning plate and set the machine to fifteen seconds on power level seven (this is the canned corn setting at my house, and typically has no other uses. We live in the 8-10 power range). The dessert emerged sizzling, barely transferrable on its almost penetrated napkin. After cooling about fifteen minutes I bit into a carmelized sort of cookie, and gave up on the unnecessary parts, nibbling at the chocolate chips and leaving the hardened rest.

Never buy two cookies when you could buy one. Maybe I'll start buying three.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Many Sons

Father Abraham had many sons. So goes the song. And of course the lyrics are a metaphor such as the New Testament uses: that all those who come to God by faith are sons of Abraham. How many literal sons did Abraham have? God promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations. Both physically and metaphorically that promise has come true. Isaac was the father of Edom and Israel. Ishmael is commonly known as the ancestor of the Arabs. Two sons doesn’t sound like many. Three nations isn’t many either. But…

Abraham had more sons. Yes. Right there, plainly stated in between exciting patriarch chronicles. After the death of Sarah, and after the marriage of Isaac, in Genesis 25 Abraham marries a woman named Keturah. At this point Abraham is old. But he fathers six more sons, which each father a nation, including Midian (where Moses got his *first* wife), Sheba, and Dedan. These nations show up again later in the Bible, and some join Ishmael in comprising the Arab people.

To God be all glory.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

1 Thessalonians 2:4

But as we have been approved by God
to be entrusted
with the gospel, even so we speak,
not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.

To God be all glory.

Humble Orthodoxy

Knowledge puffs up. Therefore the only way to have a humble orthodoxy is to attempt orthopraxy. Then we see how much we need God.

To God be all glory.

Goading Each Other

Ecclesiastes 12:11 - The words of the wise are like goads...

To God be all glory.

PS: Compare to Hebrews 10:24-25

Friday, February 15, 2008

Amy's Touching Tale of Valentine's Day

So writing the last post took so much time that I know it's past Valentine's Day now. I wore pink today, and brought chocolate hearts to work - for myself. After spending some eagerly anticipated time studying the Bible for a Sunday school lesson, I read more of Persuasion, which is better every time I read it and especially compared to the movies. In fact Persuasion the book is better than any and every Jane Austen movie. The hero is too wonderful (while remaining human), and the heroine is so easy to relate to in one way or another. In the book there are four men in love with Anne Elliot. In the movie you're lucky if you get the impression any more than one was. I digress.

Every time I sit down to blog, I think I'll just write my thoughts down and push "publish." When I started blogging, that was the way. God must be teaching me discipline, patience, and hard work, because I have to think and draft and revise to put a blog up anymore. Before I know it I've spent three hours blogging instead of: reading Persuasion, writing books, finishing a Sunday school lesson (are those ever finished?), cleaning my room, making breadsticks, eating supper, or watching movies. Actually, I did make breadsticks.

Now I have a confession to make. If you click on a link from my blog, I can tell. I don't know who you are, but I know what links you like. So I know that the sidebar on my Wordpress blog doesn't get any attention. On the blog run by Amy of Humble Musing fame, the sidebar is one of my favorite parts. I love her little article recommendations. So I copied her, and did a sidebar on my blog, too. Sorry blogger readers! I'm too lazy to put one on Lady of Longbourn.

Since I know you don't click on those any more than many of you comment, I'm spending a portion of this post directing you to Amy's Valentine's Day: Love it or Leave it? I read the story once and told it two and a half times, and came near to crying with each encounter. But don't be afraid; it isn't mushy. It's gallant. So read it; the post is short.

Hm. A secret to blog writing (but don't ask me; I'm not all that successful): Write your disconnected blog, and name the title after the last thing about which you talk. That way your readers will at least scroll to the end to see what you're talking about. A great picture near the top helps too.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Thoughts on the Truest Expression of Love

I asked a while back what was the truest expression of love.

Fiction and stories have always served to teach me. They make me think, and ponder scenarios beyond my experience. When I don't have a book that perfectly suits a question I'm considering, I (sometimes consciously) devise a story of my own. That is the setting for the question I asked.
My initial scenario was a man and woman in love under oppressive circumstances who had several options: 1. Part and give each other up. 2. Part promising to be faithfully and exclusively devoted to one another despite separation. 3. Marry and face permanent endangerment or death as a result. So the questions are: 1. Is it better to sacrifice and let each other possibly find love elsewhere? 2. Is it more faithful to the feelings and nature of love to continue feeling for each other when all chance of enactment is past? 3. Is consummation so important to love that you would risk each other?

Suppose you're in A Walk to Remember. Do you marry when your marriage is guaranteed to be short-lived? What if you're in Pirates of the Caribbean? Do you marry if you know (which was, I allow, not the case in the movie) that the relationship will consist of one day in 3652? You're a mother in Nazi Germany who has a chance of sending her children away to safety, but she'll never see them again. (supplied by my mom): Or should missionary parents endanger their kids by discipling them at home or protect them by sending them to boarding school? Then again, is life and safety more important than a relationship with your parents? Michael Card wrote "God's only way is to give and to die."

I wasn't only asking about romantic love. But I confess I've always got that under consideration, being interested in the subject. Seriously, I can see the usefulness of reading all the relationship books. Aside from personal application, I believe such subjects are fundamental points in the development of one's relationship with God and others. Plus it's Valentine's Day, so I have an excuse - for today.

Gratification is doing whatever the feelings of love motivate you to do in a moment. This promises the most instant satisfaction, but it might be deceptive. I can't tell you how many times I've felt like hugging someone and decided I couldn't, or shouldn't, or more deeply would rather not.

Consumation would be a more long-term, planned and waited for climax of a relationship. It doesn't necessarily indicate commitment, but it is a fulfillment of something hoped and worked for. What is the consummate activity of friendship, or of parenting? For some friends it might be meeting, or reading journals or going on a trip together. In Butterfly Kisses, Bob Carlisle indicates that the peak of parenting is when his daughter is given away in marriage.

Consumation might be understood as the "truest expression of love" by definition. It might be too specific, though. Let's keep exploring.

Commitment is, in this case, synonymous with faithfulness and loyalty. True love inspires commitment. There's no greater gift to offer a person than your eternal devotion. Then again, what if the love is unrequited? What if there is eternal separation to match the eternal commitment? Then the commitment doesn't mean anything.

Sacrifice. Obviously there are different levels of sacrifice. A guy who sees a romantic comedy instead of the latest Will Smith alien movie is being sacrificial (generally speaking), but that is not the truest expression of love. Maybe a bunch of little things all added together are the kind of sacrifice I mean. There isn't opportunity for each of us to die for another to demonstrate our love. Romans 12:1 talks about being a living sacrifice, which is totally giving one's heart, soul, mind, and strength to the purposes and good of another. Or maybe sacrifice is the answer in some instances and not others.

As I think about this, I remember love languages. I don't even know what they all are. There is giving and touch, probably words, and maybe service. I'm still missing one. Anyway, this side of the argument points out that the motive is important, not the expression. My mom kept saying "it depends" when I asked her this question. I wasn't asking what was right or wrong, or the choice that should be made in a given circumstance. Perhaps my point is to show how those things can conflict with expressing love. Am I wrong? After all, God is love.

Ought love to be the ultimate consideration? When faced with a choice between improving a relationship and improving the other person (making them good-er) in your relationship, which claim is superior? I could invite a friend to ice cream because I want to build our relationship, and spending time is a good way to brick our relationship. Or it could be because I know they like ice cream and I want to brick them. Or I could be bricking myself because I like ice cream. So which is more important? Which is love?

There I go again. I can’t blog without asking questions. But to answer my original survey, if I were taking a test, I’d pick sacrifice. I can refute the others (to my own satisfaction, but I can’t necessarily prove my case).

To God be all glory.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Civil War Ball

January 12 I attended a Civil War Ball put on by a homeschool group in our area. The dress I designed and made myself. So accepting some, as they say in the bus - irregularities, considering the feat, I'm satisfied. Mom had to have pictures. My brother went crazy with the camera (thus the views from the top). And I'm only uploading the good ones!

We learned a lot of dances, whose steps I tried to recall the week after the dance. If I got any of the steps wrong, omitted some, or confused the steps between dances, you'll have to forgive me. I can't even find any websites that have instructions I can check. Whenever I say "arms around," it's a dance step, not a position. Elbows link and the couple swings a full circle.

Virginia Reel: Line of gentlemen, line of partners facing. Head lady meets food gentleman in center, curtsy and bow. Head gentleman and foot lady do the same. Head lady, foot gentleman meet right arms around. Foot. Left arms around. Two hands around. Dosie-do. Head couple sachets down and back, right arms around. Separate. Gentleman reels with ladies line. Lady reels with gentleman’s line. Return to the middle to reel right arms around with partner between each outside partner (left arms). Once down to the end of the line, right arm reel one more time and make a arch. Other couples file through, lady, gentleman, lady, gentleman, inside and under the arch, out and around to reform line. Begin again at the top.

You do have to think about being graceful to move in a hoopskirt. It's a good mental exercise. Some dances were almost impossible. I intentionally left out the dance that shouldn't have been in a Civil War ball, because the dresses are too prohibitive.

One of my favorite dances was:
Military Two-Step: Promenade position (crossed hands held, side by side, girl on gentleman’s right). Point toe outside, cross in front and touch heels. Point toe outside, cross in back and touch heels. Face each other, step, right kick, step, left kick. Right arm reel, switch partners (ladies move left, gentlemen stay)
From the back... I love the lacing! At the last minute I decided to gather the extra fabric of the skirt in swags instead of hemming. Once dancing in it I learned the skirt was too long, since I and everyone else kept stepping on it. However, I only made it to barely cover the hoopskirt, so that is what was too long. In between dances I found a discreet corner in which to lower myself into repair position and replace safety pins.

My other favorite dance was:

Yankee Reel: Lady on gentleman’s right, take hands in circle, six steps to center, turn around & go back. Right arm around first partner. Left arm around next partner (ladies move clockwise, gentlemen counterclockwise). Two hands around next partner. Dosie-do next partner. Swing around next partner (waltz position, once around), turn under (lady do a spin under gentleman’s left arm toward center, come right back) and curtsy/gentleman bow. Face center, take hands, start over.

With a little more work on the gown, the lacey overlay would have gone all the way around. No one expressed criticism for this point. I am my own severest critic.

The sleeves were something I fought with, and didn't figure out until I was making a shirt for my sister (half-making; it still isn't finished). I needed the sleeve to be basically a rounded trapezoid, and I had a fixed length for the two sides, and for the top. But I needed the bottom to be longer than the rounded top. If you're a math whiz you know that's impossible... unless you round the bottom edge too! That makes poofy sleeves. So I ended up doing that, gathering the top, and tucking the hem. My only problem was that the right and left sleeve were identically cut, so they didn't fit into the armholes the same. Oops!

Rebel Stomp: Lady on outside, moves to her right. Two steps right, stomp. Two steps left, stomp. Two steps right, stomp. Two steps left, turn (face counterclockwise in promenade position. Point outside toe out, then bring it back together with the other foot, step outside foot back, forward sweep, and two steps. Turn around and repeat. Back up three steps. Come together three steps with new partner. (Ladies move left.)

In the end my favorite part was the ribbon, which I found in abundance among my craft supplies. The eyelets are in backwards, but you really can't tell.

Patty-cake Polka: Ladies on outside of circle. Gentlemen mirror ladies. Hold hands. Ladies right heel out, cross over left leg and point toe. Left heel out, cross over right leg and point toe. Step back three. Come together three. Right hands clap three times. Left hands three claps. Both hands three claps. Knees three claps. Lady spins under gentleman’s right arm and on to her left.

I did my hair in rag curls without rags (used little claw clips instead) and left it up for dance practice. After I bought hairspray and got the dress on I took the hair down to make the ringlets.

Hat Dance: Line of ladies, line of gentleman. Three chairs. One hat. Hat in middle seat. Begin two ladies in outside chairs, one gentleman in middle. He chooses which lady not to dance with by giving her the hat. Sachets down line with other lady, gets back in line. Lady with hat moves to center seat. Two gentlemen fill in. She chooses the same way. Repeat.

The highlight of the day was actually the culture involved in a ball. Ladies were expected to be ladies, and men were gentlemen.

To God be all glory.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hands to Head

Simon says? Exercises? Arrests? Hide and go seek? Illegal hands to the face?

My hands have spent a lot of time on my head lately. Life is too big for me sometimes. Like this week. At my church I’ve been teaching a women’s Sunday morning Bible study on Ephesians. Have you ever looked at a hill from a distance and thought you could get to the top in an hour or two, only to discover when you get closer that the hill is a mountain with no scalable paths? And for a breathless, unmeasurable time, you think you’ll never make it; you wonder why you tried. At the last possible moment, wings come in, sweeping you up like the eagles to hobbits on Mount Doom. God’s grace comes beneath your weakness, and through no fault of your own, you’re at the top, taking down your hands from your face to enjoy the view.

I watched a movie the other night. It wasn’t a really good movie. The cinematography was unique, and the acting was superb. Anthony Hopkins, playing a familiarly dramatic role, was suppressing his emotions, and trying to hide them. He kept holding his face in front of his eyes as if shielding them from a light, when really he was shielding tears from sight. Even when there aren’t people to see me, I keep putting my hand over my eyes. Actually, at twenty-three, it’s hard to cry anymore, so the gesture is an act of the will to indicate emotion I can’t express any other way. But the emotions, even at my age, must be expressed.

A friend and I are starting a small group for high school girls, and quite frankly, I don’t know where to start in connecting with them. Emma describes Robert Martin to her friend Harriet (in the Gwyneth Paltrow adaptation) as a man as much above her notice as below it. Is evangelism and discipleship like that? Either people know they need discipleship and God’s grace because they’re that mature or because they’re that empty? And I’m looking at some of these girls seeing so much need, but they’re not quite broken enough yet to value it, and I don’t know how to start a conversation or to whet an appetite for a close relationship with God. I guess it’s all up to Him.

Psalm 32 contains God’s promise to guide me with His eyes. So maybe putting my palms over my eyes is a way of getting me to follow Him, recognizing my own lack of wisdom. Too bad God has to force me into faith.

Then recently every time I try to get on the internet (check my library due dates, blog, check messages, look up movie times) I have to refresh a hundred times, and it still doesn’t work. I’m so inefficient, and end up doing a fraction of the things I’d intended with a day. That’s a cause of frustrated grasping of my head.

Maybe excitement could explain the frequent movement, too. This week quite unexpectedly I made my first sale on my business website: Another exciting find was a website about Hebrew alphabets and words that argues for a Hebrew – or Edenic (long story) – etymology for most words worldwide. True or not my mind has been spinning with possibilities, and I’m finding it incredibly easy to learn new Hebrew words. But then I always have.

On Monday I got a bargain at the thrift store, and spent less than $3 on a brand new CD of classic hymns sung by the amazing St. Olaf’s Choir. St. Olaf is a Lutheran Bible College whose incredible music department was featured on TV this Christmas season. My brother and I stayed up irrationally (but not atypically) late watching it one night. The beauty – the gift of it so touched me that I put my hands to my head.

Dad and I went to the Colorado Republican caucus on Tuesday, which was an experience in disorganization and disbelief you wouldn’t, uh, believe! Do you know the actual rules stated that ties in our precinct should be decided by a coin toss? No one had any idea what they were doing, and since I couldn’t help us out, I put my hands on my head.

Sunday I sat on the floor in my sanctuary, which was an exciting change. You’ve no idea how many times I wanted to sit on the floor instead of formal, uncomfortable, modern chairs. Mary of Bethany sat at Jesus’ feet, and that is quite my preference. I probably won’t do it all the time; I fought against feeling self-conscious. But it was neat to experience freedom in that way.

The Superbowl… Ok, to stop all scorn in its tracks, I babysat for a neighborhood outreach party put on by a church plant in Denver, and then hung out with everyone for the last quarter, so it isn’t like I was idolizing football or anything. The Superbowl was a nail-biter, quite exciting. I couldn’t believe some of the plays I witnessed. Nice escape, interesting throw, and impossible catch for essential first down. Yep. I even know what I’m talking about. Hands over my eyes.

Monday was a rambling day, much like this post. How beautiful to spend unhurried time at the library, wandering around, thinking, scurrying back and forth from the movie shelves to the computers (which work!) there, as an idea of another movie to watch came to mind… And then on Wednesday I got to go to tea with a new friend. Tea, yes. I had mint chai, which is just as good as the other varieties I’ve had. With enough sugar almost any tea tastes good, I think. I just needed to get tea done the British way, with milk, too.

I’ve been doing much praying for a special person, name to be announced sometime after I learn it myself. My expectations for him are so high that it’s only right I support him now, already, in prayer. But then I miss him. And I cover my face shutting out the vastness of the world that separates him from me – but, of course, all in God’s capable and good hands. Um. That was code. It all means that I wonder where my husband is, and when he’ll come, and want him to be here sooner than later, but I have no idea who or where He is. But God knows, and I trust God.

This week I spoke with a few friends about honesty, and how we wish the world would let us say the truth, say what’s on our hearts without code or offense. At least with them I’ll practice it. I hope they will with me. No mask here. Which reminds me – I’ve watched several movies with masks or masquerades in them recently. Lots of movies.

But movies always make me think. A movie I want to see as of today is Penelope, due to limited release on February 29. The fantasy, fairy-tale-ish story has a message of honesty, of taking the hands from the face and being yourself for all the world to see and know – even risking the hurt.

YLCF was a special blessing this evening, since the most recent post specifically addressed the topic of waiting for one’s handsome prince, and what to do while you wait. I know those things. I certainly rebel on occasion. The reminder was important to get me refocused, to seek the most excellent and most fulfilling.

I’m craving tea: my mom’s blackberry, which I never like. The clock, at almost midnight after a long day, declines my craving. In fact I even have to stop my ramble through writing. This post is the way I used to write emails to my friends: late at night, a summary of a dozen thoughts and events that come together to form a sort of three-strand theme. If my brother were writing, this would be a strongly metaphorical poem (trying to make sense of which would bring my hands once again to my head). My other brother would tell a wonderful allegory. I’m trying to get the latter to guest blog here sometime. He has a great story about orange juice…

Ramble away in the comments. Feel free to put the unconcise, irrelevant, unfinished thoughts you can’t submit as an English paper, or publish on your blog, or tell your friends when they ask how you are doing. Good night.

To God be all glory.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Impromptu Sebbatical Over

Way too long since I posted! I'm so sorry!

Our home internet was on the fritz and my dad the computer whiz just fixed it after over an hour of experimentation. Now that I can blog (deep sigh of relief), I'll be posting soon. Seriously, I have a list of topics. But none are written yet. Of course.

Thank you to those who participated in my survey. I'd still love to hear from others on the truest expression of love. Expect my follow up... sometime.

To God be all glory.