Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Side note here to transition into the next book review. I love reading books because they inspire me, make me think, or challenge me. Books, unlike the majority of people I know, will tell me what I'm doing wrong and what I ought to do. This is why I read books about relationships. Maybe I'll be burned by thinking I have all the answers, but in the mean time it makes me want to live a life preparing for the ideal romance and marriage - if I could just figure out what ideal was. And for the moment, I have no firm idea of what an ideal man looks like to me either. I think I have to meet him. It's like The Witch of Blackbird Pond says: Kit had to stop planning and start waiting. The reason was, she would find out, a lot of these details are not a lady's to figure, but the gentleman's. Letting other people make the decisions when they affect you is hard, but relaxing. I did a lot of that this week.
So I did just finish The Witch of Blackbird Pond, making a whole two books I've read with "Witch" in the title. The first was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a book that my mom probably first read to me, and then I read it. When your mom gives you a book as a kid, you think there could be nothing wrong with it. That's a good reason for rereading books when you're smarter. (So many people like CS Lewis, but his theology wasn't always biblical; he never bothered to study the Bible, I think.) Anyway, I would never have picked up this book either, but for a friend recommending it and saying how real the characters were. It came from my library's young adult section, which I think is sad because adults are not encouraged to read these really good books that would do them more good than they do kids. It was short, though, so it would have looked strange next to the three hundred page hardbacks in the adult section.
I'd say the book is about making choices, and the freedom that comes from doing the right thing even when you don't understand what's going on. And it has to do with contentment and waiting and hard work. I see my friend, who recommended the book, in the pages. It's the kind of thing she would like and live - and the kind of thing I would like and try to live.
So some people think I'm perfect. I don't know what I have to do to convince them I'm not. What's more, they think I'll despise them for their weaknesses or desires. All my life I've determined not to forget who I was and what it was like to be younger. For example, I remember how very serious everything was in my life, and how sure I was of my ideas, and even now it isn't so much that I was wrong as that I didn't see the whole picture. I desperately wanted someone to help me out with the big picture, but I guess not enough because I wouldn't ask anyone. This to say that I wanted to remember feeling those things so that I could relate to young people. And I never wondered how I would clue kids in that I knew: that I hadn't forgotten, that even though I'm not entirely normal, I had some of the universal experiences.
I think of some of my friends not so much as perfect, but as good. They love Jesus and they are willing to make right choices - the kind that don't radically mess up their lives - but they struggle with the choices, and sometimes fail. My friend who likes Blackbird Pond is one of those. And now that I think about it, that's probably one of the things I'm looking for in the man I'll marry: that he'll be good (but as Anne says, with the capability of wickedness which he denies) but struggle, and sometimes fail. I've never loved a person before I knew some of their faults. Weird, huh?
So even novels I read, even the romantic ones that send me to long drives talking to God about waiting and "Where is he?" - are challenging. Because The Witch of Blackbird Pond was about waiting and serving and looking at what is and what I can do instead of what might be or isn't and what I can't do (yet), and because it came packaged in a daydreamy story, I'm inspired. Now if only I wasn't so exhausted from a trip across two time zones...
And the number one question on my mind is what to read next. Seriously, I have a stack. But I didn't have to tell you that again, did I?
Hey - in case you're one of those people who thinks I'm perfect, I'm going to confess. Maybe I should have confession Fridays or something. = ) How's that for a blog series? Anyway, we were at the beach and I was feeling dreadful, but our group was taking pictures, and as I threw down my hat and jacket on the sand, I exclaimed that I had no idea how I looked, and asked a dear friend if I looked beautiful. The other night she'd told me I did when I, a reflection recently refreshed in my memory, did not think so. But honestly. How immodest. To beg for flattery even just privately from her would have been wrong. In front of everyone? Arg. Not perfect. Proud. Vain. Immodest. Quick-tongued. Self-focused. Didn't do personal devotions all week either. I thought it was ok, and it was in an anti-legalist sense, but I think it would have helped to hear from Jesus.
To God be all glory.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
To God be all glory.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Security. Ok, why do they want that? Freedom. Why that? Why do we want anything? Why those things?
To God be all glory.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Little Girl Sitting in Blue Arm Chair
My ideal chair is to sided or deeply round, like a tube with an opening cut in it. At our table my spot is against the wall. So the back of the chair at a right angle to the wall makes a little pocket that holds me in. I’ve looked all over for such a chair, but only found one in an antique store for tons of money. I’ll settle for a deep overstuffed chair (with high arms into which I can snuggle).
Think about it. Chairs like the standard chair in a car or a kitchen or a waiting room are bad for you. The posture is messed up. They aren’t even comfortable. And sometimes I slide out of them. So how did we ever settle on that design as our model chair?
I watched Expelled tonight, an interesting documentary, well-filmed, peopled with vivid real-life characters. One of them is a man who was born in New York, and after teaching at various colleges in the US, moved to Paris. He was fascinating for two reasons. One, he held a pen in one hand at all times, and waved it as he spoke like those vintage movies where they lady has a cheroot. Two, he sat in a chair that had arms, but was shaped sort of like a semi-reclined wave. He was completely unashamed of this, though Ben Stein interviewing him sat upright in a regular rolling desk chair. Ben Stein wore tennis shoes with his suit, though – an equalizer for almost anyone.
What do you think? Have you ever thought of chairs? What’s your ideal?
To God be all glory.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
To God be all glory.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Any other suggestions, experiences being descriptively corrected, examples, arguments, etc? Comment!
To God be all glory.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Sunday morning my pastor preached on prayer. I know this fact, even though I wasn’t there, and that’s enough. Sunday afternoon there was a youth leaders meeting where the veterans reiterated the essential role prayer plays in making a meeting or ministry successful. Filled with a sense of the needs, and the knowledge that God wanted me to refocus, I had a marvelous Sunday and Monday filled with intentional prayer. And then I stayed up late, and slept in and stayed up and slept in. I’ve been praying, but it hasn’t been the intentional, set aside time I resolved to do.
Wednesday my mom taught the Awana Sparks about the Lord’s Prayer, and in our weekly debriefing of funny things kids said, she shared part of her lesson. Afterward I read a new article on one of my favorite websites – it was on the Lord’s Prayer, too.
This week I also received in the mail the newest Michael Card album, Hymns. The first or second song (most listened to if you push play right before you fall asleep each night) is Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. There is a part of that song I remember a pastor talking about a long time ago. The author of the hymn wrote “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it… Here’s my heart, o, take and seal it…” He did wander. That’s the testimony of his life. He knew himself. His heart needed sealed.
So does my heart, because it wanders. In some ways this week has been beautiful, but it’s only because I’ve spotted God’s grace and messages, not because I’ve had victory in yielding to them. I know everything about the need to be content, but I just am not content. My heart isn’t focused. I’m not diligent with my time or energy, or responsible with my money. I’m tired.
On Sunday something said at the leader’s meeting reminded me of Galatians 6:9: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Like a breath of keenest fresh air to one suffocating, I needed every ounce of the hope in that verse. There is conviction in Paul’s words also. That is what I want to focus on today.
The word “keep” in verse 21 is shamar, “keep, give heed” like a shepherd or watchman. The word “keep” in verse 23 is natsar, “guard, watch over.” So Solomon's words, inspired of the Holy Spirit, are to be kept. And my heart is to be kept. How is this done?
The first thing Solomon mentions after this command is speech. There is a lot about speech in Ephesians, but this reminds me also of James, whose vivid description of the tongue as the spark that sets a forest on fire opens with “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”
We've probably all heard the question, "Who's being walked? The dog or the human?" A man holds a leash with the cord wrapped around his hand several times in the manner of a bull-rider. The dog strains ahead, eager, easily distracted. Sometimes the man seems to be pulled along against his will. Other times the firm hold on the leash restrains and directs the pet. The image of a bridle in James is that of me being both dog and master, horse and driver. The bridle doesn’t just restrain; it guides. It controls and regulates. This is self-control, one of the fruit of the Spirit, also known as temperance. Many of the fruit of the Spirit involve a self-command or restraint.
Solomon goes on to talk about our eyes. Ok, I can’t resist. One of the best songs kids ever learn is “Oh be careful little eyes,” and actually I think we should make teenagers and adults sing it, too. Do you remember it? Oh be careful little tongue what you say, oh be careful little tongue what you say. For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little tongue what you say. Oh be careful little eyes what you see. Oh be careful little feet where you go. Tongue, Eyes, Feet. Ponder your path. Don’t get distracted. Keep control of your tongue. Guard your heart. Commit to focusing on wisdom and truth and goodness. “Set your mind on things above.”
Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit. All the virtues are connected. Love is a choice. Joy is something we are commanded to have. Peace, Philippians tells us, is a result of giving our anxieties to God in prayer. Patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Meekness has been described as power under control. This may be what Mr. Darcy had in mind when he defended his character and his quiet nature by saying, “Where there is real superiority of mind, pride will always be under good regulation.” While at first impression this seems like another evidence of Mr. Darcy’s arrogance, it has been suggested by those sympathetic to his character that what he was saying was a strong enough mind knew how to keep his pride – his selfish impulses – under control. His reluctance to speak when he might be tempted to go too far is a sign of his meekness rather than of his pride.
Dennis Prager is a strangely blended Jewish moralist who speaks, writes, and hosts a radio show. Though his is by no means an absolute authority, he makes a good point by saying that happiness comes from the mind making choices over the instinct for fun or pleasure. The mind knows better than feelings. It can make choices based on the long-term. Essentially he is saying that self-control brings happiness.
Self-control, or temperance, is from the Greek egkrates, “strong, robust; having power over, possessed of (a thing); mastering, controlling, curbing, restraining; controlling one's self, temperate, continent.” Strength is active, working both on itself and on progress. Tolkien describes a curb not only as a limit to where one can go, but as a tool for navigation: a ditch, bank, or curb would enable one to stay on a road in the dark or in a fog. So limits restrain us, but they also get us to our destination. Solomon warns against off-roading.
Peter says to add temperance to knowledge, and patience to temperance (2 Peter 1:6). A pastor is told to be temperate in Titus 1:8. He is also required to be sober: “curbing one's desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate” Titus 2:5 uses the same word to describe that which a young woman ought to be taught. It is translated “discreet” in KJV. Modesty is a consequence of discretion. Sobriety is the opposite of drunkenness or dissipation, in which control of yourself is loosed. Dissolution is a word meaning exactly that, "cut loose", and it leads to all sorts of sinful indulgence and decadence. I need to be moderate.
Paul depicted this virtue in 1 Corinthians 9, in the metaphor of an athlete.
Every man who strives for the mastery (enters the contest, contends for the prize) is temperate in all things. Verse 27 says “I keep under my own body,” the word used here is a practice of athletes, to use their bodies roughly to make themselves tough or conditioned. It comes from a word for the part of the face that turns into a black eye if punched. Some Christians known as ascetics took this too far; they were so focused on abusing themselves that they forgot to do anything fruitful. Rather, this is the same word Jesus employs in Luke 18, where He is teaching me to be diligent in prayer.
The judge was made weary (kept under, conditioned) by the widow’s persistent appeal.
Back in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul also says that he brings his body under subjection, he makes a slave of it using stern discipline. One stern discipline, an exercise in self-control and dependence on God, is fasting. Fasting should never be about indulging my own cravings, whether sensual, for food, for the praise of men, or to soothe my conscience. Isaiah 58, beginning in verse 3, contains God’s design for fasting.
In a paradoxical way, while fasting is about denying one’s self, it is for the purpose of releasing bonds and weights. Fasting is reliance on God, not only for what I don’t have, but also with what I do. Fasting is always accompanied with prayer. 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you. In the Sermon on the Mount, right after Jesus speaks on prayer, He goes into teaching on fasting. Though food is good, as are other things from which you might fast, the exercise of self-denial and sacrifice and dependence and focus on God is good. All things are lawful, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, but not everything is beneficial. When I practice what is beneficial, I am stronger for the unexpected temptations when I must deny myself.
I must be ready, then, by exercising self-control, to do good works. Pray with perseverance and persistence. Be steadfast. Stand therefore. Gird up the loins of my mind, and be sober, that I may be ready in and out of season to give a defense to everyone who asks me a reason for the hope that is in me. Hope is even described in the Bible as an anchor – the image of stability and strength. Do not be slothful, but fervent in whatever I do. Whether I eat or drink, or whatever I do, do all to the glory of God.
To God be all glory.
For diligence and self control, perseverance and temperance
I’d rather think of poetry, of rain and wind and crashing seas
Scottish shores and Celtic tunes, flutes and violins wailing.
Sitting to think and compose and to focus,
I lie back against the pillow on my bed,
Fully awake, I let my eyes close
Mysteriously, just being, with a hand above my head.
Missing my friends, strange loneliness dull
As the soft throb of my heart behind
High, keen thrills of longing and wishing
Ready for a change and afraid of what it might be
Needing one to excite me, to share
The passion of a poem, a truth, or a care
Tears are more fitting for the sorrow of life
And days still come with love and laughter
Sisters eating cookies together, not looking at each other
Barely talking, but just being
Existing, Individuals not stories
Being personal and together
Books are exciting, words speak for themselves
Metaphors alternately dry or compelling
History the truest voice into my need
Casually combines love, war, and theology.
That's it. Are you a real poet? What do you have to share?
Oh, by the way - I found this real sonnet by an authentic poet, and I bookmarked it on del.icio.us today. My wordpress has a pathetic sidebar link to my recent del.icio.us tags - most of which are not so recent. I say that and then trying to retrieve the link, del.icio.us isn't working. But I'm sure it will be sometime.
To God be all glory.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
My finger is better today, still carefully protected by a band-aid. A patient gave me a bracelet that is in a variety of pretty pastels, including two shades of pink but only one of blue, green, and purple. I'm enjoying drinking out of a glass and pondering the extensive contamination our world has with plastic.
At work today I spent every free moment studying Shechem, which was an exciting biblical exercise, and with a little more research completed when I am fully conscious, will be a blog post. I imagine my faithful readers checking my blog and thinking me crazy, for the information is quite long, and I'm not entirely sure of its relevance. But I feel sure that it is important, and I am very interested.
Also coming up will be a review of the final Jane Austen Season offering from Masterpiece: Sense and Sensibility. I intend to watch the entirety in one sitting at some point to form my opinion sufficiently for blog authority.
My cat is awake, and so is a family member, since they just turned their doorknob (fortunately those handles are not homicidal). This week I finished sewing a shirt for my sister which I began before her birthday in January. Buttons on my black coat are mended into security. But curtains I made for Mom's birthday in November 2006 are still not entirely functional; we use clothespins to hold them up and let light in - without which we get cabin fever and insist on turning on each of the five lamps in the room. All this so we can gaze transportedly into laptop or television screens.
With the best of intentions I resolved to get to bed on time and rise earlier to pray more diligently beginning this week. Though I set my alarm at 8 this morning, I only got up at 9, but fortunately had time enough to put gas in my car (sufficient to get me to work) and stop for a doughnut. Now it is after 1 AM, and I am still not being self-disciplined in my schedule. My problem, I think, is the food supply in our house. I feel obligated to eat dinner, and if I eat it ought to be something substantial, but either there is nothing or it is the same something I ate twice already this week. By the time I convince myself those excuses are petty, I've wasted positively hours. Not to worry; I spend the whole intervals between opening cupboards and refrigerators conversing pleasantly with my tolerant and sympathetic family. Then I supplement my decisions with cheesecake or ice cream, and the world doesn't seem bad at all.
Before I had a blog I rambled like this in emails to my friends. Some bloggers would divide this into many posts. I don't consider my consolidation lazy. I am quite willing to separate my topics, but Wordpress and Blogger are so tedious.
Let me close tonight by sharing with you something I once said so casually and sincerely that without it being considered by a dear friend to be my motto, I would have forgotten. "You can laugh at me; I do."
To God be all glory.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Close-up Image of a Doorknob
A doorknob bit my finger tonight. I was simply using it like a doorknob, holding the door open after I'd turned it, and all of a sudden a piece of my finger was caught and torn. It bled for about ten minutes, and really hurt. Now it doesn't, but bandaids are terribly inconvenient.
Anyone know how to fix a loose and murderous doorknob?
To God be all glory.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
by GA Studdert-Kennedy
I love Enchanted. I like the subtle spoof it is on earlier Disney movies (even Lady and the Tramp!). The music is fun, and I like the premise “What if the heroes and heroines of Disney Fairyland were in the real world?” Everyone told me before I saw it that it was a funny movie, but I think it is romantic. Plus philosophically I see a lot of good messages, for a change, on love and marriage. By way of disclaimer, before I enumerate my appreciation for Disney’s new take on romance, I thought I’d tell you the 5 things I really didn’t like about Enchanted.
Oh, uh, Spoiler Alert. Obviously.
1. Giselle’s clothes aren’t modest. The situation with the shower is less modest, as conduct and visually. At one point she puts her hand very unnecessarily on Robert’s chest.
2. A tiny bit of crass humor and adult insinuation (of the kind that kids can rationalize as meaningless).
3. The evil in the movie is scary and occult, using spells, fire, smoke, dragons, and old hags.
4. Morgan uses her dad’s emergency credit card for a shopping trip.
5. Robert, who has invested in a 5 year relationship with Nancy and was intending to propose, abandons her (with her permission) for a woman he was basically falling in love with while still giving her the impression he intended to marry Nancy. Giselle was set to marry Prince Edward, and promises him she will return to Andalasia though she is having doubts. She, of course, ends up trading him for the
Enchanted on Marriage:
Giselle starts by dreaming of her prince. She has an ideal of simple romance, handsome, present, and royal. It makes her sing, gives her something to talk about, and gets her through lonely days in the forest. Her perspective nearly gets her into a marriage that, the day after happily ever after, isn’t going to be much of anything.
In Enchanted, kissing is the activity of marriage or those who will be married. It is symbolic of permanence and commitment. Near the beginning of the first song, Giselle sings that “before two can become one, there’s something you must do.” This is an allusion to the story in Genesis, Jesus’ words, and Paul’s quotation – in the Bible! Compared to most movies, or even Disney movies, Marriage is given high priority.
3. It’s You Duet
Because of Giselle’s shallow perspective on true love, when Prince Edward rescues her singing on his horse, she immediately assumes he’s the one. He also looks like the statue she made based on her dream. With little explanation, the Prince, who already heard her song, decides they’re made for each other (note the predestination) and should get married in the morning.
4. "Strengths and Weaknesses"
Robert and Nancy’s take on marriage is slow, thoughtful, and calm. They’ve analyzed each other, have a functional relationship, and think they’re ready to take the next step. He does seem to care whether they break up. She trusts him. But they each value things that the other does not represent for them: romance, emotion, and fun, for example.
5. Separating Forever and Ever
Robert is a divorce lawyer, bummer of a job for a movie about happily ever after. But he’s put out of a job by Giselle’s entrance. Separating forever and ever is a terribly sad thing, she cries. She reminds a couple contemplating divorce that there are attributes of their spouse that they value and won’t find anywhere else. They hold each other’s hearts, and that brings responsibility.
Dating is getting to know someone before you marry them. It usually involves a nice activity like dinner out or a movie or museum. You exchange information on your interests. It is good to note that Robert and Giselle come from opposite perspectives, each teach each other something, and meet in the blissful middle. Robert says most normal people date. I suppose that’s true. And if by date you really mean know them before you marry them, I’m ok with that. Courtship and friendship pre-wedding would fall under this category for the purposes of the movie.
7. "I Always Treated Her Like a Queen"
True love is not about manipulation or exchanging favors. Love does not worship the other person in a way that denies truth. A person must offer him or her self in love, not some trampled pantomime of what the other person wants. Honesty and sincerity are important.
8. "I Will Save You"
True love isn’t the only kind. Enchanted portrays the love of friends and children as equally valuable. Marriage isn’t this self-contained, self-sustaining relationship that comprises one’s whole world. It is meant to be in community and to create additional community. Chip is a faithful friend to Giselle, relentlessly risking his life to save her. Her prince actually shows a great deal of chivalry in going after her despite no real interest in her as a person. And Morgan’s relationship as a step-daughter is an important measuring stick of Giselle’s right-ness for Robert. Morgan is part of the picture, and her needs are valued.
9. Pain, Risk, Good Times with the Bad
At a later scene, the couple once pondering divorce is happily reunited, willing to work through their problems. Reality has its problems, but that doesn’t mean you give up. Reality is worth sticking around for. This is a theme that will resonate with both Robert and Giselle. Robert got burnt by his first marriage, and is leery of emotional investment again. The hopeful outlook of his client renews his willingness to try for more. Giselle, her dream dance interrupted by
10. "So Far We are So Close"
These are the lyrics Robert sings to Giselle. She’d been encouraging him the whole movie to express his true feelings in the convincing mode of a ballad, and now he’s singing to her without realizing exactly the import of his actions. The gist of his confession is that they’ve been through a lot together. He’s been angry and frustrated and confused, and she’s been angry and confused and conflicted. Now they know each other, their strengths and weaknesses, not through analysis. No, they know each other through experience. They came from opposite points of view near to the middle of true, happily ever after love… so close.
11. "Most Powerful Thing on Earth"
Is true love the most powerful thing on earth? Song of Solomon says love is as strong as death. But God’s love conquered even that last enemy (by Christ dying). Does a kiss change evil? Are there still things you have to fight? Yes. Love is powerful. It does not, however, preclude a battle and a reality of pain and effort, falling and catching. Perhaps it does guarantee the ending.
12. Happily Ever After
The credits song, Ever Ever After, says that happily ever after can be true if you open your heart to be enchanted. I really don’t like the credits song. It missed all the good strong points of the movie. Happily ever after is portrayed in Enchanted as marriage. It is relationship, forsaking all others, and embracing a new life with determination, enthusiasm, and joy.
To God be all glory.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
You know, it's really exciting to be getting an income tax return. Of course if the IRS hadn't taken our money in the first place, we would have it already.
You know, it's really inspiring to do your own taxes. Of course I think the government shouldn't make any rules too complicated for its average citizen to carry out. A lot of people use accountants. I wish the IRS would put them out of business... by closing itself.
I like understanding accounting lingo and legal jargon put into tax forms and instructions. I find myself wondering as I scroll through pages of information irrelevant to me, "Who writes these? What kind of life do they have?"
GK Chesterton said he likes whole jobs: one person creates a finished item from scratch. Taxes are like that for me, in a perverse sort of way.
A lot of bloggers are talking about economics right now, and how easy it is to see that our economy is doomed. Social security is doomed. The housing market is doomed. The stock market is doomed. All these are likely temporary, but easy to see. Take social security. A few people put in money, filter it through bureaucracy and leave in in the hands of politicians for decades. The politicians, however, do not leave it in their hands, but spend it. When the people retire, the government tries to fulfill their promise of returning the money, but it hasn't increased. It has decreased through demand, inefficiency, inflation, and not being in any account in the first place. This does not seem like a great plan.
And this has to be evident to the smart insiders running the system. So I ask myself, with all these simple, obvious economic truths, why would these insiders continue to promote these follies? How did we get here? What's in it for the insider powers-that-be? You have to wonder, even if you're paranoid of becoming a conspiracy theorist.
Don't even get me started on the incompetent, selfish, slave-master corporations (if I who am not anything near a Marxist or socialist can talk like that, no wonder socialists and Marxists are so destructive!).
That's what I've been thinking today.
To God be all glory.