Monday, March 31, 2008
Persuasion by Jane Austen (ok, so I re-read it, but loved it more the third time. The tale of a good, intelligent woman on the verge of being forever an “old maid,” whose family ignores her but whom she helps all the same. There is a handsome man she loved before he was rich, and so turned down at the influence of her family and friends, and very much regrets. He comes back into her life and suddenly everyone realizes Anne Elliot is the girl they want to marry. I underlined every word that illustrated persuasion, steadfastness, or persuad-ability. There are a lot.)
The Preacher and the Presidents by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (a modern history book looking at leadership, politics, and big decisions as associated with Billy Graham.)
A Walk With Jane Austen by Lori Smith (Single Christian girl in early thirties goes to England to trace Jane Austen’s life. She dreams of love, finds something special, and goes on to share her very human, very female thoughts about life, love, and God – often borrowing words from Jane Austen herself.)
To God be all glory.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I've been reading GK Chesterton today. This is only a sample. Read the full essays.
"There is only one way to preserve in the world that high levity and that more leisurely outlook which fulfils the old vision of universalism. That is, to permit the existence of a partly protected half of humanity; a half which the harassing industrial demand troubles indeed, but only troubles indirectly. In other words, there must be in every center of humanity one human being upon a larger plan; one who does not "give her best," but gives her all." - The Emancipation of Domesticity by G.K. Chesterton
Read Chapter IX of All I Survey: On Dependence and Independence. "Thus, in the present case, we could at least settle down to discussing serious the Independence of Woman, if it were regarded by anybody as part of a real philosophy of the Independence of Man. What we find, as in the case mentioned, is that one woman has made one claim to one curious and rather capricious form of independence. She is independent of the breadwinner, but not of the bank or the employer - not to mention the moneylender."
To God be all glory.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
To God be all glory.
The last question is part of the subject of a little story I wrote several years ago, and which I published on When the Pen Flows in July: Nathanael's Dark Night.
To God be all glory.
A burdening selection: "Mother, to say that the justice of God is satisfied with suffering is a piece of the darkness of hell. God is willing to suffer, and ready to inflict suffering to save from sin, but no suffering is satisfaction to him or his justice... He knows man is sure to sin; he will not condemn us because we sin... [mother speaks] Then you do not believe that the justice of God demands the satisfaction of the sinner's endless punishment? [son] I do not... Eternal misery in the name of justice could satisfy none but a demon whose bad laws had been broken... The whole idea of the atonement in that light is the merest figment of the paltry human intellect to reconcile difficulties of its own invention. The sacrifices of the innocent in the Old Testament were the most shadowy type of the true meaning of Christ's death. He is indeed the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. But not through an old-covenant sacrifice of the innocent for the guilty. No, the true atonement of Christ is on an altogether higher and deeper plane. And that is the mystery of the gospel..." (The Highlander's Last Song, originally "What's Mine's Mine" by George MacDonald, this edition edited by Michael R. Phillips and copyright 1986, published by Bethany House)
Tonight, opening Tag Surfer on Wordpress, I came across this post (and sermon link - advertised as only 14 minutes) titled, The Cross. The author begins, "The Father was not punishing Jesus in our place on the cross." In the fourteen minute sermon, though he uses several Bible verses, all of them are taken out of context, contexts which usually include a reference to the blood of Christ taking away our sins, redeeming us, etc. I felt at one point like there was a blow to my heart, when he reported that at the Crucifixion, Jesus and God cheered and celebrated. So much for man of sorrows, and sweating blood in Gethsemane. And the whole way through this horrible, deceptive sermon, this man is associating the biblical view of the Cross and atonement with darkness, with a shackled and blind and guilty perspective of our own that we project onto the Cross, creating a mythology. That is not true! The Bible teaches clearly that Jesus had to suffer and die on a cross so we would not have to die. He is the propitiation, the sacrifice, the lamb, the substitutionary atonement, the righteous fulfillment of God's wrath against our sin. By His stripes we are healed.
The wonderful guys over at Elect Exiles have been doing a wonderful job reminding their readers what the Cross was. Come on, readers; click the links!!
Why Did Christ Die?
Christ's Righteousness, Not Our Own
The Need for Reconciliation
I started looking up the verses about why Jesus died. There are a lot. There couldn't have been a better reminder of what my God did for me, this Good Friday. (all verses are from the KJV)
Isaiah 53:5-10, "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand."
2 Corinthians 5:21, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
Romans 5:8-11, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement."
1 John 4:10, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
1 Corinthians 15:3, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;"
Colossians 1:20-22, "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:"
Ephesians 1:7, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;"
Colossians 2:14, "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;"
Matthew 20:28, "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Matthew 26:28, "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."
Romans 4:25, "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification."
Galatians 3:13, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:"
Titus 2:14, "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
Hebrews 2:9, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."
Hebrews 9:28, "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
1 Peter 2:24, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."
1 Peter 3:18, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:"
To God be all glory.
Friday, March 21, 2008
This is why I read her blog; she writes so beautifully!
To God be all glory.
So Paul’s focus is instead like compassion on us: why would we want to remind ourselves of all that? Why partake of the shame, and incur the wrath? Once we were in darkness, and we couldn’t see the horrible shame of our sin, but Jesus came. He lived light, and then He died, manifesting just what the wrath looked like. Then He rose, to offer us light. Why would we, knowing, walk in unfruitful, shameful, reprovable darkness?
To God be all glory.
Lori Smith, the Austen fan, writes, “I long for someone to care about the quotidian things, to know about the daily turmoil and disruptions.” Whereas in context she was speaking of marriage, I can relate to her as a writer. We’re obsessed. I’m not writing these things because I think they’re important, but because I think them in sentence form.
For example, I want to tell you that I didn’t feel like being in a hurry this morning, so I ran conditioner through my hair and styled it like an elf (inspired by Deborah Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond last night, and my dad noting that her ears stuck out of her hairstyle), straightened up a bit, and rather than making a lunch (realizing at the last minute that I have zero cash in my purse after Village Inn Tuesday night and not yet cashing my paycheck), I loaded my backpack with juice and water bottles.
On Saturday I think I might try to be silent all day, but now I’m conflicted, because I want to go to the abortion clinic and pray, and while I can do that without talking aloud, I can’t figure out what to tell my friends who also gather there and who already think I don’t know how to talk while they themselves are not known for their timidity.
When I was in third grade, my teacher praised a four-line long sentence, and so I began for spelling assignments to attempt one ultra-long sentence each week. I got some a page long, but they were horrible sentences, filled with commas that should have been periods, delighting in the recent discovery of semi-colons, and profusely employing conjunctions. I think they call them run-on’s. But the practice, of trying to fill a page with one connected thought without stopping for a period, has contributed to the writer I am today (see above paragraph). Perhaps it is what wants me to see the unbroken theme of a passage of Scripture, too.
My doctor is on break, and no doubt listening to the fluttering clack of keys as I type out thoughts as fast as I possibly can, interrupted by the discordant beat of the backspace key when I get ahead of myself. I wonder what she thinks. Once I told her I was writing a book, which was true, but I’m not sure I’ll publish it. A published author wrote the advice to aspiring authors that they should write a book, and then write another one, then another one. Forget about publishing the first one you finish, was basically their point. At the time I read it, I couldn’t imagine abandoning the first full-length, actually ended novel I wrote, but now I’m quite unimpressed by it (though I do love parts of it), that I may take the advice and write something else. I am so not-diligent.
The use of the word “so” just there reminded me. Last week a friend went to a Bible study expositing John 3:16. I know, we think there can’t be much there if everyone knows it and it hasn’t taken over the world yet. One of the things he said was that “God so loved the world” was not a statement of how much God loved the world, but how God loved the world. It refers us to the context, drawing a comparison (usually we would use like or as). Though this John 3:16 usage is older and more correct, I can see how it developed into its present form, and if one insisted interpreting a word literally, my sentence would still make sense.
Patients come in and, noting how quiet and secluded is my office, inquire what I do all day. If only they knew that I sit at my computer and type out my thoughts, goaded by the wise words of books and Bible, by recollections of conversations. Here, in fact, is where I wrote most of my book that may or may never be published. I might as well write in silence, and publish it on my blog. There’s little difference in the result, and I’m more satisfied to have my thoughts offered to the world even if few people take them.
I just stopped, stretched, and looked at the clock, wondering whether I have time to read Ephesians and get some semblance of an idea of what we’ll talk about at church on Sunday. And the clock reminded me of one of my favorite Mark Schultz songs, about life in corporate America. I sing it twice a week after church (Mondays and Wednesdays), when I’m almost the last to leave the empty parking lot, and I see how close I can get to 80 mph. Most of the time I get within 50 mph of the song’s 80, before I have to slow down for the corner and re-admittance into society’s roads and regulations. But in the song, he sings about an afternoon smattering of looking at the clock, spinning in the chair, and solitaire. Any minute now I’ll be busy with real work again, and I’ll probably stop writing and get back to Ephesians.
To God be all glory.
Well. I thought of this quote, which I read in my book today, and wondered what it means. Is it platitude, something to make us stop whining or questioning or worrying just like when moms say, “Because I said so”? Or is it a theological promise, diffused into the comforting, homey language of a soothing grandma? If it is theological, shouldn’t it say “All shall be good,” or “All shall be glorious,” or “One day every knee shall bow”? Because in the end, all things are so much better than well. They are delightful, the work of God, who created all good things and is the giver of every good gift. If the promise is more immediate, I think it must be untrue, because there is no guarantee, even at the end of one’s long life, that all things shall be well.
But what wonderful, deep, stable, pleasant a word is “well.” It is like the assured love of a couple married for decades, not fighting, sitting together, commenting when one thinks of something to say. But that is not dispassionate. And things being well, that is something dear and treasureable, beautiful, and simple. A recurring theme in obscure quotes and literature I’ve met is simplicity. Some people just dream of a simple life, where they have bread every day, a simple love, a good family, and a quiet death. I can’t understand that. I don’t want that. Even if my life looks like that, I want those who are not interviewed for biographies to know that my life meant something more, that it was valiant and visionary, touching lives and changing them and the whole world. I want to be well, but I would rather be good. I want to be simple, but would rather follow the swirling road of faith, blown about by the Spirit. If big things are happening, if dire things, I would rather suffer in them than ignore them, apart, all things being well – but only for me.
Imagine my granddaughter finding one of my journals, reading of my pathetic longing for Chicago, and sharing that. Suppose I never live there, but it’s the family universal castle in the clouds, visited occasionally and left only reluctantly, but always held as this ideal, secret like a password or family recipe. Just an example. Now, wouldn’t it be exciting to find one of my great-grandmother’s or great-great-grandmother’s journals that raved about Chicago?
To God be all glory.
I was at Village Inn the other night, and a friend in frustration asked, “What does the star mean?” She pointed at a dish on the menu, beside which was a little asterisk, with no explanation to be seen. After several more minutes’ exploration, pages later on the menu we discovered a star was a warning about eating undercooked eggs or meat. Great. Like we needed to be told that. The biggest problem was that the menu was covered in symbols. Beside almost every dish was a heart, or a shield, or something else. There were four or five different symbols. Some items were featured with multiple symbols. I’m all about getting the maximum information efficiently presented, but that seemed a little ridiculous. The authors of the menu seem to have been unable whether to advertise their meals for the Atkin’s diet, low-fat, sugar-free, heart healthy, smaller portioned, new, local favorite, or whatever, so they put all at once.
Sometimes my Sunday school lessons are like that, and I don’t like it. I don’t want a fad of man’s opinion blitzing me with interpretations and applications. I miss pizza places that only sold pizza, burger joints that were for burgers (instead of salads, chicken, subs, soups, wraps…). I miss the word of God driving its own point home.
To God be all glory.
I love my mugs. The one at work, whence I type this, is cobalt blue with white etching of Colorado evergreens. I can slip most of my fingers through the handle to warm my hand without doing anything useful. It’s a thinking position, the cozy act of a multi-tasker not really thinking about her work. The brim of the mug has no lip, is simply straight, allowing the breathe-sipping and preventing strange sticky mustaches from forming on my lip.
At home there is a large, paler blue glass mug that promises abundance, luxury, a long afternoon to enjoy its contents. There is a rounded goblet-like mug that looks like a candle-lamp, with a small, finger-sized ring for a handle near the bulbous bottom. It looks more like dessert and beauty than comfort and ease. And I have my Chicago cup, short and wide, purple and unappealing except for the complete redemption of having Chicago written on the outside, reminding me constantly of my favorite city.
Ok, so I have several more mugs, and sometimes I even feign British propriety and use a teacup and saucer (which is almost always profaning the use, as I drink cocoa much more readily than tea). Each of my mugs is a privilege to use, and makes me wish that I stayed home more, reading a good book, instead of shopping or skipping about to work and libraries (the last thing I need is to read books I do not own instead of the stacks of those unread editions that I do).
The very fact that I’m writing about cups and cocoa proves that I am absolutely given over to a writing craze. I’ve been reading a lot, and every thought forms itself into a communicative sentence that insists on being written and remembered. I will try to be an Elinor, of Sense and Sensibility, to push aside my instincts and follow my sacrificial duty. Perhaps my sense of story will infiltrate my responsibility and make it poetic. Wish me luck.
A few hours later I have most irresponsibly finished reading a book. My cobalt blue mug contains a half inch of cold, watered-down cocoa, having been refilled with hot water to make the last bit last longer. I cannot get into the story of Ephesians 5 and 6 sufficiently for it to say what I thought it said, so maybe I should start over and let God say what He says. I want connection, though, between what God has been saying and what He will say.
To God be all glory.
But if you think about it, she was willing to "evangelize" wherever she went. What about me?
To God be all glory.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The various temptations of a single woman’s life:
- To want companionship to cure the loneliness: just a friend who is so often there that it doesn’t matter so much when he isn’t, a friend whose conversation is lively and intelligent and equally willing to listen to and interact with me.
- To want the security of having a major point of the future decided and knowing exactly what is required of me. On a spiritual level the Bible answers this question sufficiently for each day’s choices, but on a lifestyle level, the Bible is frustratingly silent about the activity of an unmarried woman.
- To want romance: flowers and notes and special attention and stories to share with friends, to have the flutter of expectation and the thrill of affection.
- To want a leader, someone to follow and help and believe in, who is capable of leading, strong and visionary and full of faith. A girl sometimes just wants a man to tell her what to do.
- To be sad, full of pity and despair and just wanting to stop hoping so that I can cry.
- To be aloof, proclaiming disinterestedness in anything I don’t already have, lying so that hope is kept silent and so that life is a series of functions. To lose passion, releasing it for the safer state of not caring.
- To fill the various temptations with temporary flirtations or imaginings, books or movies, or the stories of the romances and lives of friends.
There comes a point when guarding against all these various temptations is impossible. I stop being pitiful, only to be assailed with the temptation to watch a chick-flick to fill my yearnings. I applaud myself for not wanting romance and find that I want security.
So instead of trying not to fall into this trap or that snare, I need to focus on what I know I need to do. Love God. Talk to Him. He is leader, companion, listener, giver, refuge, planner, lov-er, and passionate. Serve Him. Don’t think about myself and all those wants. Take them to Him when they overwhelm me. Share with Him the poignant ordeal of waiting. And be ok with the reality that nothing I expect has to happen except what He has promised.
I don’t want anyone to think I want to be single forever. Hearing friends admire my patience drives me crazy; I don’t want them to imagine that waiting is easy. But I will wait, if only because I know that I cannot get what I deeply want any other way. The question is: will I wait well? Waiting is sacred, an activity of God who created time and invites us to imitate Him in it, to share in what He feels as time marches on between beginning and end, desire and fulfillment, initiation and consummation. But waiting is not a virtue. Patience is a virtue, and contentment, kindness and selflessness. Will waiting produce and demonstrate these in me?
To God be all glory.
Monday, March 17, 2008
The only other main plot change, I thought, was that Henry seemed to be after Miss Morland the whole time. Didn't she sort of grow on him, in the book, despite being virtually a child? Her enthusiastic admiration won him over. This change to the movie lessened the importance of Elinor's friendship with Catherine.
Ok. Northanger Abbey is a comedy. The book is, and the movie kept the tone and a lot of the original dialogue and situational comedy along with interesting, ridiculous people. I'm not saying that Jane Austen practiced on Northanger Abbey what she would put into later novels, but we can see similar characters and story lines. Isabella's manipulative confiding in Catherine is like Lucy in Sense and Sensibility. Catherine's family is like that of Fanny Price. Henry is in a similar economic situation to Edward Ferrars. Elinor, Mr. Tilney's sweet younger sister, is reminiscent of Georgiana. Mrs. Jenkins and Mrs. Allen have a lot in common. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen, was a lighter novel, with less-developed characters.
To God be all glory.
If BBC/Masterpiece wanted to just to photograph illustrations for each chapter of the book, they should have done that. A movie is supposed to present dialogue, motives, characters, emotion… I did spend some moments enjoying the visual manifestation of Jane Austen’s sentimental classic. I said, “Awwhh!”: appreciation for seeing the tender and uncertain love come alive. Anne Elliot was well-cast, and Captain Wentworth was sufficiently handsome to be a hero in this adaptation. Captain Wentworth’s early snubs were a great set-up for the rest of the story, but then, well…
At the beginning of this new version I was disappointed by the made-for-tv staleness quite unlike P&P. But I reconciled quickly, acknowledging they were setting a somber tone for the beginning.
They said everything only once except for how unmarriageable Anne was, and then inexplicably every man is after her. So we had to remember the Mrs. Russell relationship to everything, and that Anne was responsible (demonstrated by nursing and inventory skills).
What did I like? Anne. I think that except for the end, she was perfect. I liked Capt. Wentworth ok. Mr. Musgrove was nice (felt sorry for his old depiction of Edmund Bertram). Mr. Elliot was well-cast. And I really liked the widowed friend (despite her miraculous and unexplained recovery sufficient for running across Bath herself to warn her friend).
I so wish they’d had Andrew Davies do this one instead of Sense and Sensibility. We already had a really good version of Sense and Sensibility. That is to say, the writing for Persuasion was horrible.
Knowing the book was the only key to what was going on. They left out or destroyed all the conversations (isn’t that most of what makes Jane Austen so great - her wit?).
However, in the book I was made to believe Anne might settle for Capt. Benwick or Mr. Elliot. At least she cared about Capt. Benwick, and had scruples about how to deal with Mr. Elliot, which the movie entirely omits. In the movie I was never convinced that Capt. Wentworth loved Louisa, or that Anne was truly despairing and desperate expecting her beloved’s constancy to Louisa no matter what. Louisa got better too quickly. Capt. Wentworth’s reluctant “entanglement” with Louisa wasn’t even addressed. Everything happened too quickly, with no suspense. They seemed set on telling the end of everything from the beginning. At the end they told almost nothing.
The title represents the theme of the story, and the movie seems to have forgotten to bring it to resolution. The end was incredibly choppy and ridiculous. What was wrong with Anne? She’s supposed to be this quiet, thoughtful, patient woman, and she takes off running, alone, all over the city pursuing a man whom she has every reason to believe will effect an opportunity to see her soon anyway? She doesn’t even read the whole letter in the horrible revision of the letter scene. And then they don’t finish the story. In all fairness, Jane Austen did write an alternate ending, and they rather mixed the two and added parts of their own. I much prefer the standard, “letter” ending.
My family came in just as it was getting ridiculous, and made excessive fun of the kiss.
There was no depth in this movie, rarely was there subtlety, and yes, they rushed through an outline of a beautiful story. But I like some parts still better than the 1995 version. Mary was a little more believable, I think. The dowager was less disturbingly ugly.
The best thing about this movie? It inspired me to read the book again. And I did enjoy the book very much.
To God be all glory.
Friday, March 14, 2008
In any case, being a linguist helped JRR Tolkien. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens also employed word selection to aid their plots and descriptions. The more I improve my vocabulary, the more I appreciate classic authors and their works. I marvel at the subconscious effect their word choice had on me before I understood. Their literature comes alive when I really know what their language indicates.
But today, in an increasingly post-modern, non-absolutist, highly individual world, adhering to one definition for a word is less feasible than adhering to one faith in one truth about one reality. And this makes debate completely useless. This makes computerized discernment and classification impossible. In other words, we can no longer test someone’s words to see what they believe. Either they sound heretical, but were really just trying to use hip lingo and got sloppy, or they sound orthodox and mean something mystical. In both cases knowledge of what the words inherently mean, and are supposed to still mean, is no help at all. In fact, it’s confusing.
So what we need instead of the computerized classification or test such as evangelicals gave to presidential candidates last century (asking them whether they were born-again; how long do you think it took for the candidates to catch on and learn to say the right thing? They’re politicians!), is real discernment. People who have studied truth need to test all things, but not with clichés. They need to pray for God to guide them with His eyes. They need to be Samuel, who so leaned on God’s insight, who yielded to God’s vision of man’s heart instead of human sight of the outward appearance.
There is a spiritual gift, like teaching, like giving, like service, and like compassion. Through the supernatural empowering of the Holy Spirit, those who have called on the name of the Lord and are therefore indwelt by the Holy Spirit and led by Him into all truth need to examine the words of men and discern spirits. After studying the gift of discernment, I think there are several reasons Paul calls it “discerning of spirits.” This analysis provides another reason: in a postmodern culture that defies definitions, discerning words is basically useless. We need to discern (discover, classify, penetrate, understand, identify as true or false) where a speaker is coming from, and what they really mean.
The other reasons I have considered are: 1. Discernment is spiritual. It has to do with the spirit-world, and can often involve identifying demonic activity or influence. 2. Discernment of a spirit can be of a message, due to the Greek word (pneuma)’s double meaning of breath and spirit. 3. Discernment might have to do with insight into the spiritual needs of an individual. Beyond whether an individual is right or wrong, where are they weak and where are they strong? What is the spiritual reality going on in their life, behind the service and the teaching or the sin and the doubt?
I believe God gifts members of His body as needed to see all these things, and I believe there is an incredible need in the Church today for those who can identify the spiritual truth of a situation, message, or person. These people, using their gifts, are an incredible contribution to the community and cooperation of believers. They are indispensable in edification. And in a world where there are many books, many teachers, and much mesmerizing media, the Church needs to seek God’s direction and discretion as they choose their courses of ministry and belief.
To God be all glory.
Today I wanted to write stories, but when I tried to form sentences I realized all I want to do is practice. Don’t write; do. And I want to do coy debates and romance and being a wife to an incredibly faith-filled man. As that is clearly not God’s plan for my day, I had to ask what to do with this surge of inspiration. I’m emotional today, and I need a vent for all this rapture.
So on my way home from work I looked at the sky (stubbornly trying to rationalize how I could be grateful the sun wasn’t down while still hating Daylight Savings Time). I want to own this day. A photo wouldn’t capture it, and a painter would have to be a master to get even one glimpse of this day right. The sun lit the dark blue clouds in the east, intensifying their color and varnishing them with a glorious haze. Between the clouds and me were trees, still bare from the cold of winter, every twig illuminated separately. Where the light didn’t reach, the shadow asserted itself with depth and variance and character. The little whiter clouds nearer the zenith blew in and out of formation, constantly contrasting with the colors and shapes around them. Praise God who created shape and color!
And it was all a gift to me. Songs I have not sung in months came to mind, and I sang of my Savior coming for me. “Hear the roaring at the rim of the world… Behold He’s coming with the clouds.” The clouds and glimmering landscape captured my eye and imagination, as though cracking the door open on the edge of the world. I sang of who my Savior is, what He did on earth, and of His passion. And then I dreamed again of when He will come back. “I saw the holy city… and now our God will dwell with them.”
And this is all about waiting, and love, and faithfulness, and longing, and worship, and beauty, and glory. I want to write how I feel at those times, and what I know, and the million connections being made between the things I know about my God… but I can’t. For now the topics that mean the most, that are most gifts of God, must stay that. I pray that someday He will call me to share them, and bless me with the words I don’t have today.
To God be all glory.
PS: Michael Card’s Unveiled Hope album is a soundtrack to Revelation, and a soaring symphony to the King on His White Horse coming back for me.
Idiosystematic, a critique of change in the Emerging Movement
John MacArthur on The Emergent Church
Evaluation of the “gospel” in Rob Bell’s Nooma videos in 3 parts. Part 1.
A long review of Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith
Doug Pagitt on whether Good Buddhists go to Heaven
Brian McLaren sounds like my brother’s Buddhist friend explaining John 14:6
Too many web pages open – and most of them are about the Emergent Church. Rob Bell and Nooma, Brian McLaren’s broad-way interpretation of John 14:6, and a variety of Christians warning other Christians about the subtle heresies of the Emergent authors and leaders. I have a lot more links about Rob Bell, and I think that’s because he’s more accepted by the people I know. He doesn’t push everyone into joining the Emergent Movement. But he’s a part, and basically he wants to infiltrate the existing Church with emerging theology – which is actually more philosophy, because God is a song in everyone’s heart.
McLaren, Pagitt, they say things that are extreme. The links I have up for them are not ones that say: when McLaren said this, he was wrong because… No. The links I have for them are from their own mouths or pens, self-explanatory in their heresy. Yes. Heresy. The Bible may not be all about who gets to heaven and who goes to hell, but it is about something; it’s about God, the God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Jesus is the center; not only His teachings or His compassion, but also His fulfillment of prophecy, His divine miracles, His judgment, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, His return. The Bible is about having a relationship with God, God dwelling with individuals, but it is about grace. God chooses. God pursues. God enables the relationship when we rebel and deserve to perish.
I read a McLaren page to my brother, and afterward I asked him, “Isn’t that horrible? That someone can teach that about John 14:6? I don’t understand how he can believe that.” My brother added that the sad thing is, McLaren had a lot of cool stuff to say mixed in with the bad theology.
Emergent books are like that. Especially the beginning is usually full of the enthusiastic, God-acknowledging, people-loving, truth-seeking community we’re looking for. And then, slowly at first, the authors begin to slip in their man-centered words, and then they talk about worship and evangelism. I wonder if the authors or editors intentionally include the controversial things in the latter halves of their books. My friends read these books very trustingly. Without being too critical, they think these books and teachers are just encouraging us to have a personal faith, to fulfill Jesus’ command to love.
But if I read closely, and look at other things these guys have said, I start to wonder… Faith in what? Who is the Jesus they say commanded love? What is worship? What gospel are we bringing to the world through our love and concern for social justice and community?
Rob Bell interprets Peter’s walk on water as faith (or little faith) in himself. The Jesus these guys mention omits mention of condemnation, hell, judgment, and sin. Their Jesus was an all-inclusive non-judgmental type. If we must acknowledge Jesus criticized some people, it was the favorite bad-guys, the hypocrites of Judaism, the exclusive and legalistic Pharisees. Good followers of Jesus would be the opposites of the Pharisees. Their gospel is some vague idea of the kingdom of God, a culture where people interact with God and love each other, all accomplished here on earth by Jesus’ trusted followers. Their gospel is joining God on His mission to make the world a better place.
They don’t talk about the gospel of life for the spiritually dead, or salvation for the sinners who have earned the eternal wrath of God. Without acknowledging our horrible guilt and God’s just right to wrath, we have no ability to understand His grace and His love and His sacrifice. Without acknowledging our total depravity, religion is not only not about the awesomeness of God; it inevitably plummets to being all about us.
Which is maybe why the emergent definition of worship is so disturbing. Worship to them is recognition of the spiritual. It can be expressed in more than music because candles are also spiritual, and painting is spiritual, and the beauty of nature is spiritual. To me, to the Bible, and to the English language, worship is recognition of the worth of its object. Yes; worship has an object, not in name only, but an inspiration. We don’t just sing praise songs because we feel like it, or because it’s a spiritual experience. Worship is not an experience; it’s an action. It either proclaims God’s glory or yields to it. We sing because God, about whom and to whom we sing, is worthy of it. Worship is more than music because our lives, sacrificed to His service and to His glory, can be a response to His wisdom and sacrifice and glory. God spoke light into the world, and created the nature we like to paint. He has done great things; therefore we will not keep silent. We will thank Him for His goodness toward us, marvel at His attention, proclaim His mighty works to the nations.
What worship should never be is about us. It should never be about recognizing the spirituality of a candle-lit room. Our songs cannot be about how much we love God, unless they are the overwhelmed effusions of people who cry on Jesus’ feet in gratitude. It isn’t about the art, or the environment, the sensation; worship is about the Almighty Creator of the universe who knows my name and who died for a wretch like me.
Rob Bell says in his Rhythm Nooma, "An infinite, massive, kind of invisible God—that’s hard to get our minds around. But truth, love, grace, mercy, justice, compassion…the way that Jesus lived. I can see that. I can understand that. I can relate to that. I can play that song!" But Isaiah said, "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding." I relate to - and worship - a God who is bigger than me or my comprehension!
A month ago or more I watched Persuasion on PBS’s Jane Austen season, and commented that the best thing about the movie was that it made me want to re-read the book. The best thing about studying the Emergent Movement is that it makes me want the real thing, the solid truth against which I need no guards. I read the Bible to see what God really said, who Jesus really was, to find the passages where Jesus is the Savior, the Man of Sorrows, the Almighty God. And I get caught up again in the story. The story that has to do with my day, right now, but that casts me to my knees. I despised and rejected God. I betrayed and abused Him. And He loves me. He will never leave Me. He died for me. He gave me a beautiful day, and His pure Word. He enables me to teach about Him, and to coach my friends in study of His Word. Truth. His understanding is unsearchable, but whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
1 Corinthians 2:12-16, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."
To God be all glory.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Then, when I was a little too old for animated movies, came Toy Story. Or maybe at this point the animated movies changed, and I didn't like the change. The CG revolution came over Disney. Since then there have been a lot of Disney movies, including Toy Story 2, many made with computer animation.
In Toy Story 2, Woody is looking for immortality in a museum, having realized that Andy is growing up, and that the boy's toys will soon be obsolete. Jessie has already been there, and sings a wonderful song about the good old days when she was loved. Then she was forgotten, and she wonders about the purpose of life after love. It's a nostalgic movie. Cars and The Incredibles are similarly backwards-looking.
Contrast this with the themes of the classics: Someday my Prince will Come. A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes. Wish upon a Star. Peter Pan's lost boys are content; they don't want to grow up. Wendy finally decides to grow up, but that's because she's ready. In both cases, the characters are looking forward, eager to keep living each day as it comes. Belle wants adventure.
Even Disney has become cynical, has desired the days of old to return. What happened?
Ecclesiastes 7:10, "Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this."
Incidentally, my favorite modern Disney movie is Monsters, INC, about a cute little girl and a renaissance of energy production in Monster land. It is the most hopeful of the newer movies.
To God be all glory.
Monday, March 10, 2008
I caught a touch of an exploration of pacifism in the story. I don’t know about you, but if you’re like me (I should preface all of my opinions like that; I’m so constantly being told that not everyone is like me) you think better in the context of a story. So if you are interested, see the DVD, or tune in for subsequent episodes in future weeks.
By the way, the movie stars at least one recurring actors from other Masterpiece (BBC) movies, the actor who played Mr. Preston in Wives and Daughters, Iain Glen. His role in Kidnapped as the bold Alan Beck sets him in a stronger, more favorable light than the "terrible flirt" Mr. Preston. The beard helps too.
My only other exposure to Kidnapped is the black and white 1960 version with James MacArthur. I was delighted to hear the actor from Swiss Family Robinson and Hawaii 5-0 (Book 'im, Danno) use a Scottish accent. The book, however, is on my list of must-reads, being set in a romantic Scottish period. With any luck Robert Louis Stevenson will have written in the Scottish pronunciation like JM Barrie did in The Little Minister.
To God be all glory.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Earlier in the year, when the primary season was still going for Republicans, I read an approbation of Ron Paul, and heard a defense of his apparent isolationism, citing his adherence to Augustine's doctrine of "just war." I know that Ron Paul wants American forces out of Iraq immediately. Aside from his economic policy, this is his second biggest campaign pillar. Having already decided that his take on the US Constitution and federal government are impossible to implement (and also incompatible with the intentions of the founding fathers), I didn't research Augustine's position any further until I read another quote from Augustine in The Preacher and the Presidents.
The way Christians embraced Ron Paul because he follows Augustine disturbed me, because as Christians, we are not bound to agree with or follow the teaching of any religious leader. I follow God and His inspired word, the Bible. Augustine, being human, can make mistakes.
Augustine's 'Just War' entry on Wikipedia says, "Firstly, war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than for self-gain or as an exercise of power. Secondly, just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state. Thirdly, love must be a central motive even in the midst of violence."
Wikipedia has an entire page about 'Just War,' which summarizes the doctrine's points and history.
I disagree with maintaining Augustine's position for the following reasons:
- Augustine also lived a long time ago, when the threat of war, though very great, was not so distant and imminent at once. What I'm saying is that enemies today can launch a rocket and wipe out a city, at least, in our country, before we have any chance of retaliation - all from thousands of miles away. In Augustine's day, and army had to march into another country, wreak its havoc, and then wait for the next move. Retaliation was more accessible and potentially less harmful. (If we're attacked with a nuclear weapon today and choose to repay our damages in kind, a lot more damage has been done on both sides than if we had dropped normal bombs on the weapons facilities the enemy was building to use against us.)
- There were no spy satellites or photographs, no sound recording. Whereas today we can have concrete proof of the capabilities and intentions of our enemies, when the doctrine of just war was devised, the only way to know for sure what someone could or would do to you was to watch them do it.
- Augustine's just war seems to rest on the philosophy of retaliation rather than self-defense. Here in America, we have always believed in self-defense. That's more or less the story of our founding ("When in the course of human events..."). If the sword is coming down on your head, can you not raise your own to prevent it? A step back from that, if a professed enemy is charging you with his sword point-first, can you do an Indiana Jones, point your gun at him and shoot? I think you can. I think that's still self-defense. And just.
- Finally, Augustine's sense of justice may be questionable. He is often quoted as having said, "An unjust law is no law at all." Considering one of his tenets of a just war is that it be legally authorized, I wonder if his position has any foundation at all. Either he must stand up under his own wisdom, defining justice himself and ensuring that all laws and wars are in accordance with his preference, or (which is ultimately the same thing) he has to use circular reasoning.
Please don't misconstrue: I'm not trying to attack any candidate or defend any one decision in history. I am not telling you about any event that has happened. Only as a matter of principle, of philosophy, am I warning against an outdated view of the world. Perhaps if Augustine's doctrines were grounded in eternal truth, rather than temporal and temporary fact, he would have remained relevant. When Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, that did not rest on technology.
For further consideration, should a Christian support even a just war? Or did Jesus not command all our conduct to be based in love and mercy - a turn-the-other-cheek approach to world affairs? My friend Brian at The Philosophy of Time Travel is wrestling, if I understand it correctly, with this question, and has compiled a list of resources on his post, To Everything there is a Season. Take a look.
To God be all glory.
The website is Christian, immense, well-documented, with some videos and some articles and a lot of facts. Their idea is to educate the youth about what abortion is. When women are at the abortion clinics, they've already made a decision. They're already desperate. They have a "friend" with them to keep them from changing their mind. And they have been counseled to ignore the lying lunatics outside with signs, flyers, and offers of help. But what if, before the decision ever came up, everyone knew what the "choice" really looked like? What if most people chose ahead of time to never have an abortion, because it would be horrific murder of a real live human person?
Abort73 is trying to get the word out via t-shirts and gear students have at school. I'm linking it in my blogs to spread it as well.
What's more, if you need a fact about abortion, this is a great resource. Use the search box right at the top to look up your topic, be it birth control, the law, the history of abortion, statistics on abortion, scientists on the progression of life... Use this to inform yourself and those you know.
The newest video they made is like a commercial for the personhood amendment we're hoping to get ratified in Colorado this year.
To God be all glory.
Thanks to Hank from Lawn Gospel for introducing me to Abort73