Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fighting to Win What?

My buddy Spunky (whose blog is so awesome, by the way!) has a really thought-provoking post up now about intelligent design and the battle being waged on campuses. Spunk quotes a Washington Post article about a Republican judge who is trying to vanquish the whole Intelligent Design argument; she then asks,

"Why do parents keep fighting these battles with the schools?"

I'll let you read the rest of her commentary there, but wanted to point you guys to it. I wrote in her comments:

I think this is definitely one of the more pertinent questions I've seen asked on the topic. I think Christians need to be informed about what we believe and why (ready to give an answer for the hope we have), but we're delusional if we think we're going to "win" battles like this. History is headed to a specific conclusion, and before the return of Christ, things like this are going to happen and get worse. I realize everyone doesn't agree with my eschatology, but...suffice it to say, Spunk, that I agree with your view here, absolutely.

And that's not to say that there are no battles worth fighting; I'm not a defeatist. But which battles are really worth it? Are we going to change a system, or should we read the writing on the wall and get our children OUT?

I saw a GREAT Focus on the Family video about ID/evolution once--here it is! Boy, it was great. I heartily recommend it. But the veracity of ID versus evolution certainly isn't what I am bringing up here: it's the 'battle' that Christians are waging against the secular media, in the schools, etc. The same could be said of the sex ed battles, for instance. What exactly are we trying to do? What is the intended outcome?

On one hand, sure, we are a part of the public forum and should not have to be silent. I don't recommend holing up in a Montana survival home, waiting for an imminent departure or apocalypse. But at the same time, 'pearls before pigs' does exist. The System, the Institutions, the World: they're not going to wake up one day and "get it." They're not going to see the Light: they're blinded, collectively. (Yes, I realize ID is not the gospel and that Christians have differing opinions on it. Pick another issue if this one is offending you, and apply it to my point.)

Individuals, of course, can see the Light, turn, and change, which is why we should be informed and ready to share. But I believe that at some point we have to realize the horse is dead and seek other transportation: public schools fail our children in every possible way, and we should not send them there. Trying to fight battles there is expending a lot of effort in a mostly wasted direction--other than its usefulness in stimulating discussions among individuals.

I'd be willing to fight for the right to homeschool. It's so important to me that I'd move out of the country if I had to in order to keep my kids from public school. But intelligent design vs. evolution WITHIN those very schools is not a battle I think worth plunging into whole-hog (no pun intended with the pearls before pigs, HA HA!! Okay, time to go home).

Should Christians be fighting it out in the schools over controversial issues? I am probably not as fiercely opinionated as I make it sound here. I realize we are called to different things, and that's not what I am called to do. As a graduate student and then as a teacher in a PS, though, I saw how VERY DEEPLY the schools are entrenched in New Age philosophy, practice, and methodologies; perhaps that will account for my despair concerning them.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I always thought it should be.

Uh, oh...does this post count as fluff, though?

Your Blog Should Be Green

Your blog is smart and thoughtful - not a lot of fluff.
You enjoy a good discussion, especially if it involves picking apart ideas.
However, you tend to get easily annoyed by any thoughtless comments in your blog.

3 AM Thoughts

I think this is the first time in my really, really VAST blogging career (yes, that's a joke) that I've plunked out some thoughts in the middle of the night. I'm not at all the "night owl" type; if it tells you anything, I start getting cranky at 9 PM. Anyway. I'm in a random mood, so expect anything.

First, though, the predictable whiny update: I'm up so early because my throat is swollen and painful. I feel like I swallowed a pineapple whole, and it's refusing to go down. (Too much information?) I started getting sick on Monday and my fever broke on Tuesday, so I thought yesterday was "recovery day" and I'd be fit as a fiddle, whatever that means, today (Thursday). AU CONTRAIRE! NOW I HAVE PINEAPPLE THROAT! ...Which is, of course, a very serious condition. If you know anyone who has died of Pineapple Throat, please do not tell me now. Crying would only make my acute condition worse.

So, let's talk about something else.

Ryan and I did go see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I still feel much the same way as I did last March, when I discussed LOTR a bit. I don't feel up to a full review, but please see Amy's absolutely excellent thoughts and Rachel's spot-on review.

In other news, did I mention I can barely swallow? Oh, yeah. I did.

Watched a documentary the other day called The Corporation--it was a fascinating look at whether corporations, which are considered 'persons' under the law, are psychopathic:

TO THE anti-globalisers, the corporation is a devilish instrument of environmental destruction, class oppression and imperial conquest. But is it also pathologically insane? That is the provocative conclusion of an award-winning documentary film, called “The Corporation"....People on both sides of the globalisation debate should pay attention. Unlike much of the soggy thinking peddled by too many anti-globalisers, “The Corporation” is a surprisingly rational and coherent attack on capitalism's most important institution.

It did seem to have a socialist slant to it, but the criticisms, IMO, were quite well-done, some inarguably so. Definitely worth seeing! Makes you want to spit contemptuously on all big-business blowhard rhetoric. (I also saw and liked Super Size Me; a good companion book for that film is Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation.)

Kim! Ack, you're sick, too! I haven't forgotten about you and we need to talk as soon as we are recovered, okay?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Giddy-yup at Saddleback!

I saw this the other day at Slice of Laodicea (one of my favorite blogs):

Come for the Worship, Stay for the Sounds of the Islands

Now, if you've been reading my thoughts for even part of the year I've been blogging, you know that Rick Warren ain't my favorite teacher. I knew that Saddleback, the church Warren pastors, probably reflected Warren's approach to Christendom. I wasn't quite prepared for this, though. Note particularly the text in bold.

Main Service is our venue for those looking for a Saddleback style of praise and worship with a full band.

Praise is our venue for those who prefer to spend a little longer singing songs and features the Saddleback Gospel Choir. Praise! Meets in Venue Tent 3.

OverDrive is our venue featuring a rock 'n roll music style. This venue is for those that like their worship loud. OverDrive meets in Venue Tent 2

Ohana Come for the worship... Stay for the sounds of the islands. Experience hospitality and hugs. Learn to worship through signing or hula. Room 404 near the Beach Cafe and island huts.

Elevation is our venue for all singles. Elevation has two services. One on Fridays at 7:00pm and the other is on Sunday at 11:15am both in Venue Tent 2 . You'll get the same great message along with live music.

Passion Join us for a time of expressive worship and heartfelt praise. The look and feel is younger than our main service and more intimate.

El Encuentro Worship with music in Spanish and listen to the live message in either English or Spanish. El Encuentro meets in the Plaza Room.

Traditions Enjoy a lower volume worship experience with a mix of classic hymns, old favorites, and cherished choruses. The message is videocast on the big screen for great viewing.

Country Country music, boots, and buckles are all part of this worship experience with a videocast message. Line dancing for novices and experienced dancers happens after the service. (Note: Children and youth programming is not available for this venue.)

Now, look. I don't have a problem with choices, inherently. And I realize that many churches have tried to deal, with varying degrees of success, with older people wanting hymns and younger people detesting organs and "dorky music". But something about this doesn't sit right with me. Something about it speaks to me of "having it YOUR way." I don't even know how to properly put my great discomfort with the whole paradigm into words, but I do know that it is unrecognizable to me as Biblical Christianity. It's entertainment, not humility and sacrifice and service. I am not saying the people at Saddleback exhibit none of these things; I am saying that this paradigm is not conducive to cultivating them.

And hula? Does that really, really have a place in the gathering of the saints to admonish, encourage, exhort and prophesy? FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! "Room 404 near the Beach Cafe and island huts"!

I just found this really bizarre, and definitely funny. In a sad way, if that makes sense. My flesh likes the idea of getting exactly what I want, but my spirit knows that is not always the best thing.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Thanksgiving Pictures

We spent Thanksgiving at the home of Ryan's sweet cousin Jessica and her husband Kurt. Here are a few of the pictures we took there (the first, though, is at the home of our friends Felicity and Chris, where we ate an early Thanksgiving meal before pigging out mere hours later at Jessica and Kurt's).

Kristen and Felicity

The CUTEST Little Gal in the WORLD (Jess and Kurt's daughter, Malia)

Ryan and His Parents

Ryan and Me

Starting Good Habits Early

My Mother Laughing with Ryan's Nana

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Reflections on Psalm 2

I'm doing a series on Psalms. I don't think I am going to go through each one, one at a time; I intend to just reflect on and discuss what I feel the Spirit is highlighting to me as I read through them. Rachel is going to join me, and you, of course, are welcome as well to blog through Psalms with us.

Psalm 2 is a Messianic psalm; in my opinion, there's no mistaking that:

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his anointed,
'Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.'

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
'As for me, I have set my King
on Zion,
my holy hill.'

I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, "You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry,
and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Immediately I am struck with the greatness, the utter superiority and sovereignty of God. No one is remotely like Him, and no one can stand before Him in defiance (!). History is rife with men of hubris who sought to further satan's kingdom rather than serve God, actively dedication their lives to anti-Christian purposes (Karl Marx, Adam Wieshaupt, Adolf Hitler, and Aleister Crowley leap to mind). But what is God's response to those who plot against His Kingdom? Laughter. Derision. And wrath.

I believe God laughs (in scorn, obviously) at the very idea of weak creatures, made of dust, seeking to subvert an omniscient, omnipotent Creator. As Jesus said,

Matt 5:33-37
"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

We don't have the power to create and destroy, to know and to judge, to understand and to love the way God does. Any of those things that we can do are because we are made in His image, and in His gracious love He made us a little like Him. So I can paint or draw a sunrise, but I cannot make the sun rise.

Psalm 8:3-5
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Job 38:3-5a
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!

And, of course, this is a Messianic psalm. Jesus is the "Anointed One" of whom David was a type. It is Jesus Christ who is the only begotten Son of God, whom God Himself has placed at His right hand.

I believe that one day the nations of the world will gather against the Christ in an unprecedented way:

Rev 16:12-16
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. ("Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!") And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

This psalm helps me remember that God is my sovereign, all-knowing, all-powerful King who is in control of the past, present and future.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Pride and Prejudice (2005) Review

Rachel did a wonderful job summing up the new Pride and Prejudice that's now out in theatres. I could have written her post myself...almost.

Long story short, it must be understood before engaging in any conversation about (or reading anything about) this film that, more than likely, NOTHING will EVER compare to the 1995 BBC version. While I do have some small quibbles with that series--which Rachel elucidates in her post, actually--I do think it's as close to Austenian perfection on celluloid as we're ever going to get.

I went into it with the "this is not the BBC version" caveat in my mind, but the fact is that I can't divorce my experience of reading and viewing from my present experience in the theatre.


With that said, I'll tell you what I liked and disliked about this new film.


1. Mr. Darcy (Matthew McFadyen) is all right. No Colin Firth, mind you, but "tolerable, I suppose." He's not very handsome, but I'll reluctantly admit that he grew on me as the movie progressed. And the cheesy, anachronistic lines he was sometimes given weren't his fault.

2. I did like the softening of Mrs. Bennet, and will reserve further comment on her for the 'dislikes' portion of my post. Suffice it to say that my ears are thankful to be spared some of Mrs. Bennet's shriller moments.

3. I liked Charlotte and thought the explanation of why she married Mr. Collins was extremely well done (except for the "Don't judge me!" silliness...see my complaint about anachronisms below). This is an excellent example of something that was done better than even the 1995 version, where I thought the treatment of Charlotte's marriage wasn't sympathetic enough to her situation.

4. Rachel's right: Mary is truer to the book in this film. BBC Mary was, but it was a caricature.

5. Nice cinematography!

6. Lady Catherine was fun, as she should be. I was afraid my dad would choke from laughing while munching popcorn.

7. Some of the dialogue was included from the novel that the BBC version omitted. I noticed this with some of Mr. Collins' speeches particularly. Of course, he's also the one who inadvertently makes an "intercourse" joke (see #3 below). Can't win fer losin'.


1. The overarching thing that annoyed me about this film was its lack of subtlety. Everything was spelled out so that the American audience would get it, perhaps? One of the delights of a great film or a great book is that every theme and nuance are not spoon-fed to the viewer or reader. "We're so alike! We're both so stubborn," Lizzy exclaims at the end. Oh, really? You're kidding me...I didn't know.

2. The emasculation of Mr. Bennet's wit. In this version, Mr. Bennet is a doddering, doting old dad who is far milder than what I hoped for. The tension between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, and the verbal sparring that results from it, are essential parts of their characters and of the family's ethos. Unlike Rachel, I blame this on script and direction more than casting. Donald didn't have a lot to work with once his best lines or delivery methods were taken away from him.

3. Anachronistic language. At one point, the word "intercourse" is used as a bawdy joke (though, as Lizzy might say, "it was most unconsciously done"). It's not in the novel and adds nothing but an Americanized, Westernized, modernized, juvenile guffaw to the film. And that word wasn't even used in that context at that time. Rachel pointed out other examples of anachronisms in her post.

4. The Opening and Netherfield Balls. Blech! Blech!! While I agree with Rachel about the energy of the dances, it was all so rushed and unsatisfying, which could serve as the perfect description of the movie itself. The joy and wonder of Austen lies in the savoring of moments: the dances, the witty repartee, the looks, the solitude, the proposals. This movie granted me no (well, hardly any) satisfaction on any front. It was Austen on Fast Forward. I laughed, but it was more in remembrance of my 1995 friends than my love of the 2005 newcomers.

5. General slovenliness. HELLO, PEOPLE. They DID have HAIR COMBS way back in Elizabeth's day. Is it too much for me to ask for one? Or how about a bonnet?! While I give credit where it is due for the slightly more "realistic" (read: less sanitized) feel of this version, I have my limits. There was entirely too much difference between Lizzy and Darcy's circumstances as presented here. They were trying too hard to get the modern audience to appreciate the class issues between Darcy and Elizabeth, I think (see complaint #1).

I was particularly disappointed in the "six inches deep in mud" scene. Elizabeth's appearance (hair down and general I-just-rolled-out-of-bed-ness) was so entirely inappropriate that in this instance I am quite on Caroline Bingley's side of the equation (horrors!). Her HAIR, Louisa! Oh, which brings me to...

6. Where were some of my peeps? Rachel covered this, but there were many beloved characters, Louisa Hurst included, who were missing and were missed.

7. Did anyone notice Jane was nice and all, but not the beyond the beyond-o sweet that she is in the book and 1995 film? She actually says something negative about Darcy after the first ball (gasp!) and calls Caroline "pernicious" toward the end! A Jane who disses others is...not an Austen Jane. The screenwriters didn't take Jane's otherworldly sweetness entirely away, but she's more of a modern dame than I like to see her. And her romance with Bingley was flat, except for the well-done scene when Jane returns from London and tries to convince Elizabeth (and herself) that she's over Bingley.

8. Speaking of Bingley, this is one area where I disagree with Rachel. Bingley is written and directed as a VAPID IMBICILE in this film, and it's annoying. Come on, now. Charles Bingley is easily persuaded, yes. He is kind and agreeable, yes. But he is not a dumb boy who cannot speak a full sentence without second-guessing what he just said. LAME AND NEEDLESS COMIC EFFECT. Sorry--was I yelling? Oh, yeah...and Charles actually calls himself an, um...a donkey. But he doesn't say donkey. LAME.

9. I won't even get started on the axing of much of the morally pertinent parts of Wickham's story. What else would I expect of a quickie modern adaptation? Those pesky moral ins and outs are the first to go, I would think.

10. Darcy showing up at NIGHT in Lizzy's ROOM. What?

This is feeling like one of those sessions that could go on all night. Argh, and I haven't even talked about Georgianna's exuberance, or Bingley's entering Jane's sickroom!

OVERALL SUM-UP: Eh, it's okay. It's far better than anything else you'll see in theatres right now, I'd bet. I wondered while watching the movie how it would be perceived by someone who didn't know the story intimately already. Can a newbie really follow it?

Sure, go see it. Rabid P&P fans like me will enjoy comparing and contrasting the film to the book and BBC movie, and newbies won't realize what they're missing and will get a (wheeze) okay adaptation of Austen's novel.

here's another review I liked.

Colin, we hardly knew ye!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Psalm 1

Rachel and I, in some form or fashion, are going to go through Psalms. Not quite sure how long that's going to take!

I'll probably take several at a time and focus on whatever the Spirit seems to be highlighting. Psalm 1, though, deserves to be all by itself:

Psalm 1 (ESV)

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish

Psalm 1 has always been a great favorite of mine, and as I've been meditating on it a bit, I've tried to figure out why. I have a few ideas.

I love being convicted, exhorted and encouraged, especially all at once. Here I learn that I'd better straighten up and fly right. Those who live righteously, who meditate on the Word of God (here, particularly His Law) and find their delight in the things of God, will live, will prosper. The word "prosper" here is tsalach, and its meanings include "to advance, make progress, succeed."

We know that the righteous do not always "prosper" in the worldly sense. Those who follow God are to expect persecution and trials:

Rom 8:35-37
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Matt 24:9-14
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

2 Cor 11:26-27
I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

But the righteous DO prosper, because it says so in Psalm 1. I don't believe the psalmist is referring to a material prosperity, even though God does provide everything His children need. No, they advance, they succeed, they make progress in the things of the Lord--in the things of an eternal Kingdom that is not passing away.

I also love the high view of the Law that is communicated in this Psalm. Right away we understand that the Law is not our enemy, no more than a schoolmaster (Gal 3:24) is the enemy of his pupil (though I know some students don't understand that, heh). Right away we see that the Law is something we can delight in and meditate upon--and that there are great rewards for doing so.

Psalm 1 also serves as a stringent warning against keeping the wrong company: the wicked will not stand in the judgment or be counted in the congregation of the righteous. I know where I want to be found.

And there's a simplicity that is appealing in a world that can seem contradictory and where the gradient of righteousness can seem like a slippery slope: there is a plumb line, and it is the Word of God. Really, it's not that complex. The righteous will find their delight in God, His Law and His ways, and follow Him; the wicked will do as they please (for now), and God will judge all in the end according to their deeds. Here's a passage that goes well with this Psalm:

Rom 2:3-11
Do you suppose, O man--you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself--that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Not Coming Out, Just Wading Through

I haven't posted in a long time because my fingers feel frozen.

It's not the temperature outside (although today is a CHILLY 28! O California, where art thou?). It's my heart. I've been going through something I can hardly describe, but I thought you guys, as my friends, deserve to know what's going on with me. And maybe I can snag some prayers from you over this.

I don't want to go into details, but suffice it to say that I've been hurting, dealing with the consequences of my own faulty decisionmaking. My own sin and distance from the Lord.

I didn't want to talk about it--much less publish anything for the world to see!--but my good friend admonished me. She reminded me that some non-Christians think that Christians think they are perfect and never do anything wrong. The perception is that once a person gets 'saved,' they are holier-than-thou, prideful, arrogant. "Look at me, I was a SINNER. But now I am NOT. But poor thing, you STILL ARE." God forbid that I should ever think like that for one second. So, in that spirit, I am laying out my stony heart for you today.

I don't recommend stony hearts, by the way. Opt for the flexible, easily warmed versions. Stony hearts are rigid, heavy, and tough to break. I don't think there will be any in heaven.

Here's where I am:

Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

Don't you love how David, even when he's throttled with pain, anger, or sorrow, ends things with hope in the Lord? He's awesome. I want to be like David.

So, my friend (Rachel) and I will be going through Psalms in some form or fashion on our respective blogs. I need the raw honesty of Psalms right now--the "I think I am dying, but Lord, I really need and want you" and "Boy, I really just screwed up, but Lord, I need and want you. Help me!" Yep, sounds like medicine.

I feel like I want to get close to God again but don't know how. I feel so stiff. I know what to do on some level: I've been getting back to reading the Bible regularly, and I need to pray more. But how do I soften my heart?

Maybe that's the thing: I can't. He has to do it for me. I am such a numbskull, thinking I can do everything myself! "I'm fine, thanks. I'll handle it." No, I won't. I can't.

I know He can, though. If there's anything I do know, it's that He can.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A New Love

I'll admit it: I am a little obsessive. When I find something I like, my passion is deep and usually immediate, and it can find a source in anything from cereal (ahem), to people, to activities.

Lately I've fallen in love again--this time with running. I never thought I could run because I always was out of breath after running for just a few minutes. I never knew you could train yourself to be a better runner, and nor did I care. Who would want to run?, I thought.

Then I was challenged to run with some people from work. Unfortunately for me in this instance, I work with Army guys who have been running for YEARS. It probably doesn't take much brainpower for you to imagine just how red my face was or how hard I huffed and puffed after, oh, about five minutes of running with them one sweltering late summer afternoon. (Oh, OKAY, I'll tell you the truth: I almost passed out! It was the closest I ever want to get to an out-of-body experience.)

My pride was hurt. I thought I was in pretty good shape: I hike almost daily, I work out. I thought I'd last longer than I did.

I decided to start training myself to run. I used to joke that I only ran when chased; I don't like the thought of not being able to run if chased, you know?

I have a very long way to go, but I've already tasted how very awesome it feels to run (well, run/walk) at 5 AM. Seriously. I don't know when I have felt so alive and so clear--and the feeling lasts for hours afterwards! I'm hooked. So, like any fool in the first rush of love, I had to come tell you all about it.

Any other runners out there?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

My Way or the Highway?

Molly, my good friend and sister in the Lord, wrote a comment I'd like to respond to. She wrote (emphasis mine),

"You said, 'Asking how far away from those commandments I can get betrays a fundamental gap in my understanding of the Good News itself.'

Now I totally agree with this. Buuuut, I don't think that's what Christians like Lamott are doing. See, I think that if they thought GOD was anti-abortion, then they'd be anti-abortion, etc. The issue is, they think God's okay with abortion, homosexuality, etc.

So it's really not an issue of Lordship, in my opinion, but one of comprehending Who God Is and being able to see Him in the Scriptures unclouded by cultural preconcieved ideas and norms.

The liberal thinks that abortion IS the compassionate, kind, loving thing to do. The liberal thinks that being completely accepting of gay/lesbian/bi/whatever IS the compassionate, kind, loving thing to do. From their lens, YOU are the one who is really missing God's heart for humanity.

So then the question kind of comes down to things like,

'If they don't see things my way, yet claim Jesus Christ as Saviour, are they still a Christian?'

Can someone be a Christian and still have some really confused ideas about life, culture, politics, etc, all because they've yet to really take their preconcieved ideas and conceptions to God--or maybe because God has yet to bring those things up to them?

Can someone be a Christian and yet have a long way to go when it comes to becoming mature in the Lord, wise in His ways?

Can someone be a Christian and have so much garbage and baggage to work through that it takes the Holy Spirit a looooooooong time before He can even GET to the abortion issue (or maybe He'll never get to it at all, there's so much other stuff in the way)?"

Moll, I see the "what this boils down to" as the place we disagree. You wrote, "If they don't see things my way, yet claim Jesus Christ as Saviour, are they still a Christian?"

I'm not talking about anyone seeing things my way, nor am I saying that everyone has to be immediately sanctified, thinking and acting perfectly (not gonna happen!). It's not "my" way, though: it's God's way. Of course I understand there are debatable things--often on these blogs we discuss those things. But I don't see how, for example, homosexuality is one of those things given the text we have as the Word of God. Not if you want to be honest with that text.

Now, how the reality of what the Scriptures say about homosexuality translates into our actions toward those who are practicing that sin is often the rub. Let me be really clear that I would never advocate treating anyone without compassion and gentleness. It's detestable when that happens, and obviously, it's not God's heart. But treating them with love includes the truth--it doesn't exclude it. That's where I differ with those who want to say, "God's okay with what you're doing!"

Liberal Christians want to paint conservatives as harsh and unloving, and themselves as compassionate and gracious--but at the expense of what the Bible actually says. God is not okay with abortion or homosexuality, period.

Do I think God brings things up to people on His timeline? Yes--some things. Some things He brings up right away. (For example, I knew right away after coming to Christ that I should not fornicate or curse anymore, and that abortion was wrong. Then I fumbled towards holiness, something I am still doing). I don't presume to know His timeline on that for each individual--but I do know that He does get around to showing them the truth as they follow Him. From my experience with discipling others and watching people grow in Christ, it doesn't take too long for the Holy Spirit to show them God's heart.

"From their lens, YOU are the one who is really missing God's heart for humanity."

See, but they're wrong. I am not saying that out of arrogance (believe me!), but out of confidence in God's Word.

Knowing you as I do, I know we are really not too far off on this. And I don't think Lamott is a brand new believer...some things I've been reading make me think she's into syncretism. God's not. I'm not saying she's not a Christian--I don't know. Don't know her stuff, don't know her. But in the end, those who do God's will, those who hold to the commandments (which Jesus said shows we love Him) will be saved. I pray that anyone who wants to follow Jesus will DO so. He knows what He's shown them and what He hasn't (makes Him the perfect judge, right?).

I think what we may be missing each other on is the timeline aspect. Please don't think that I'm some kind of drill sergeant discipler, or that I think God is. ("You better get it right NOW, Soldier! Drop and give me TWENTY!") I've experienced His patience and kind leadership firsthand (and still am). But sooner or later, He does bring up these big issues, and that's really what I am talking about. Some people choose to rebel and basically pretend He hasn't shown them what He has--as well as what He has revealed clearly in His Word. Everyone doesn't obey when they hear Him.

Monday, October 24, 2005

How Far Can I Go?

Rachel posted some thoughts last week that sprang from her reading of Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. It's a wonderful, thoughtful post in which Rachel wonders aloud about Lamott's Christianity. While she's careful about declaring Lamott to be a Christian or not, what she knows of Lamott's beliefs makes her think about what it means to call yourself a Christian. Rachel writes (emphasis mine),

Lamott did have a life-changing 'salvation experience.' She knew about Jesus, knew who He is, resisted Him for a long time, and finally decided (in a rather non-conventional way ;) to let him into her heart and her life. Many, many of the things she says about her life from that point on are sound and Biblical -- in the aforementioned poignant, honest, dark, bleak, uplifting, raw, sweet, heartfelt, real way. That said, Lamott is a social liberal. She's ardently pro-abortion. Now, personally, that sets my teeth on edge, and makes me angry. Honestly, however, I have never related my anti-abortion stance to my Christian beliefs. Yes, there are verses in Scripture that indicate that God sees unborn people as just that -- people -- and that He made them and is concerned for their well-being (take Jeremiah 1:5 for example), but I have been anti-abortion since I was a child, long before I was a Christian, and hence I don't tend to connect the two nearly as often as other people (on both sides of the issue) do....So does Anne Lamott's position on abortion mean that I should not see her as a believer in Jesus? I am less inclined to think so than other Christians are, but the possibility definitely exists....

Lamott also describes (in a scene I loved, where two Christians of violently different temperaments, who annoy the hell out of each other, are able to find community simply in the fact that they love the same Jesus -- one of my favorite moments in the book) a well-known series of Christian novels as "homophobic", among other derogatory terms, some of which I definitely agree with. Now, it's entirely possible that Lamott was referring to something in the books (I personally remember nothing like this, but then I didn't find the books particularly memorable and will never re-read them) that treats homosexual people unkindly, and that she believes the Bible where it says that homosexuality itself is wrong (which doesn't mean that we are allowed to treat the people who practice it unkindly, any more than we are allowed to treat any other sinners -- that's everyone -- unkindly merely because they are in fact sinners). Or it could mean that she thinks those of us who believe that part of the Bible are intolerant, backward nutcases, which is generally the case when people are throwing the word "homophobic" around in the context of Christianity. If the latter is the case (and again, without knowing a lot more about Anne Lamott than I do, it's impossible for me to know) then this is where I have to ask myself: Where is the line? How much of Jesus' teaching and the message of the Bible can you disregard and still follow Jesus?

It's that last question I'm interested in, based on everything Rachel wrote. Her post is titled "This entry really isn't about Anne Lamott," so I hope any Lamott fans out there understand we're not attacking her at all. This question is one that all disciples have to deal with at some point as they wrestle with obedience to God and struggle with temptations from the world, the flesh and the devil. What follows are my thoughts on the subject, which started out as a comment on Rachel's site, but quickly mushroomed into a post size. (Is it me, or do tons of posts start out as comments?)

The question Rachel poses, in the way she poses it, is a tough one. I think we won't know the whole answer until we see Jesus face to face. Maybe in this case, the answer is far less important than the question itself. Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is all about surrender to the Lord, repentance, cleansing, new life. I see all of those things as incompatible with an attitude that is seeking to toe the line: what can I disregard? What can I flout and still "make it"? How little can I follow God and still be in the family? It speaks volumes about the heart (again, not talking about Lamott here, but both theoretically and with a view to our own hearts and lives).

For all practical purposes, the question becomes boiled down to how we live our lives and how we disciple others--how we teach them to live. One of the things Ryan and I teach disciples is not to have an attitude of "how much can I get away with and still be a Christian (or go to heaven, or whatever)?" You are either embracing Biblical teaching and listening to the Holy Spirit, or you are resisting both. Yes, holy living is a process, and none of us have arrived or even got where we are right now overnight. But I have always found the Lord to be quite clear about things like abortion and homosexuality, both in His Word and in His communication to my heart.

Frankly, I think that passion for God and liberal stances on issues like abortion and homosexuality are mutually exclusive. The Word tells us that if we love God, we will obey His commandments, and that those commandments are not burdensome, but are a delight. We can argue with the Creator of the Universe, or we can surrender to Him and seek to learn His ways and to know Him.

John 14:15
If you love Me, you will obey my commandments.

Ps 1:1-2
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

Ps 119:24
Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.

Ps 40:8
I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.

Matt 11:28-30
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Asking how far away from those commandments I can get betrays a fundamental gap in my understanding of the Good News itself. The Son of God died--poured out powerful and precious blood--so that I could be freed from the power of sin and death. Why would I want to walk the line between death and life? Why not have the abundant life found in walking with God? When I am running from Him, I feel like I am suffocating: my heart feels like a stone within me, my throat closes and my mind is numbed. No thanks--not the way I want to live. Rebellion against the Lord is walking death. When we argue with the Lord about His Word (which is what people are doing who belittle/reject clear Biblical teaching about murder or homosexuality), it's rebellion against Him, and it won't lead to life. We would do better to ask the Lord to show us His ways and change our stubborn hearts.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Speaking the Common Language

Ed has a great post about sports as men's common language. He notes how easy it is for him to talk man-to-man about sports...

There are a lot of men who won't give me the time of day when it comes to 'any of that God stuff,' but if I want to discuss the race last Sunday or the best NFL defense ever (the 1985 Bears, if you must know), then these guys will act like my long-lost relatives. It's a comfort thing. It's non-threatening. It becomes a common language.

...and he questions why Christianity cannot also be a common language:

But people shy away from talking about their faith or lack thereof. I think part of it could be the lack of one vital piece of equipment -- a scoreboard. It isn't obvious enough who the 'winners' are. The Christians don't look different enough. We don't intrigue the unbelievers. Our lives don't show the joy we supposedly feel inside. Far too often, there is no proof that we're any better off for showing up in a church building every Sunday morning. We know we're saved, we know we are filled by the Holy Spirit, we know we are to be serving our Master, but our actions make us look like the people who live for material gain and instant pleasure.

Sports is a common language for men. We assume that the other guy has at least a passing interest in sports, but we can't assume that the other person has any kind of interest or even tolerance for Christianity. Christianity isn't a common language because most people rarely see it practiced.


Really, can you argue with that?

I'll expound upon it: not only are the non-Christians baffled by the lack of difference in us, but Christians are baffled, too. We ask ourselves (and discuss with others) these questions all the time: how different must I/can I be? How should I be different? Will the difference alienate unbelievers? Is the difference supposed to be total, all-consuming, and sub-cultural, so that someone can tell I am a Christian by looking at me (in much the same way Westerners can plainly see that someone is a Muslim from the Middle East)? Or is the difference enacted in stealth mode, with the Christian--a foreigner in this land--in disguise as a regular citizen?

I don't have all the answers, beyond a few certainties I do have:

1. We are foreigners. That's going to show up somehow, somewhere in our lives and in our relationships. To use Ed's analogy, Christianity is not the common language because everyone doesn't speak it. I have to remind myself of this often, when I feel like I am from another planet than my non-Christian friend or relative. Our worldviews--our understanding of love, of justice and mercy, of creation, of being--are usually totally different. It's not unlike people from two different countries: we are alike in our humanity, but our patterns of thought, our cultural bases of understanding, our roots are different. And that shows up in the difficulties we'll probably encounter just trying to have a conversation.

2. I know where some of my boundaries lie, that is, where I may NOT behave as a regular citizen, and where I am bound to the laws of my homeland. Citizens of the New Jerusalem do not get drunk every night like half of this college town. Citizens of the New Jerusalem do not put evil things before their eyes to entertain themselves. You get my drift. Many of the things that I don't do because of my citizenship elsewhere separate me culturally (for the sake of this analogy) from people who don't know the Lord. The commandments presented in Scripture for me to love--the ones that are written on my heart by the Holy Spirit--separate me from the world.

3. If someone looking at my life sees NO difference between me and anyone else in the world, I have a problem. I need to search the Scriptures, examine my heart, and ask the Lord why I am not standing out at all. What choices am I making? What do I do with my free time? Is anything stealing my joy? Why? Usually the answers are apparent, and we just don't feel like dealing with them (talking to myself here, guys).

It is really important, though, to realize that we're all originally from the same place, ultimately; we were born in the same Garden. There is a universal language that speaks to everyone because we are made in the image of God: love. Now, I am among the first to remind everyone that Love is not some mushy feeling; it's not 'nice' all the time. Love speaks truth and may wound ("faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy" Prov 27:6), but it's for the good of the hearer, not his destruction.

When Ed approaches a skittish man in church and talks with him about the baseball game, I would argue that it's a dialect of the Common Language. Now, as Ed gets to know this guy better, is he going to only talk about sports? No--as their relationship grows, and the man sees Ed's heart and senses his care for him, and as their rapport grows over seemingly insignificant things like baseball, his heart will open up enough to feel safe talking about his questions and beliefs about God. The Common Language is necessary to teach the language of New Jerusalem. It's the foundation of it--you can't learn to speak in the Kingdom of God if you don't know it.

Monday, October 17, 2005

What Kristen Needs

I apologize to those of you who hate memes. I do hope that you realize I only meme the REALLY funny things, though. Right? ...Right?

Anyway, Kirstin's was funny, and Rachel had me literally in tears with laughter. And SHE got it from Thicket Dweller. So blame them.

I'll let Rachel explain the meme:

"Here's the drill: You google '[your name] needs', except of course that you replace [your name] with, well, your name. Then you look at the search results, and you laugh. (You might want to turn on the 'Family filter' or whatever it is that Google calls that. Because there are apparently some people out there who think you need stuff that, uh, you don't need. Or at least, you probably don't want to read about needing it on the Internet.)"

Here are my top ten. You should do this with your name--it's hilarious.

1. First off, Kristen needs to die.
Isn't that a little harsh?

2. Kristen needs 24-hour-a-day aid.
It's true. Between my clumsiness and propensity to lose things, I am a basket case...

3. Kristen needs to wash her socks because she will need them on Sunday morning when she runs the Columbus marathon with her father.
Um, yeah. I have plenty of clean socks, thanks.

4. Kristen needs to settle down. Yes, she was right about needing a plan, but screaming won't help.
I am trying to manage my anger more constructively. Give me time.

5. Kristen needs to go home with whatever she needs to make up for the past six years of obviously horrible "care".
That's RIGHT. I need to go home with several pounds of dark chocolate, new books, a deluxe Yahtzee game, and new shoes. And see that you take better care of me in the future!

6. Kristen needs to harvest phage today, where she did not have time to do so the day before.
Well, I was really busy.

7. Kristen needs friends right now and 'cease and desist' orders run contrary to our community of Kristen Friends.
I like that...'our community of Kristen Friends.' Are you in the community of Kristen Friends? Doesn't that sound culty?

8. "Kristen needs a little break. I'm gonna get her some wine and she'll be able to talk in a bit."
Obviously spoken by a Kristen Friend.

9. I still think Kristen needs to deal with her propensity to meddle in other people’s lives.
Not a Kristen Friend.

And this one is for Rachel, because apparently all my memes have some connection to her:
10. Rachel comes up tops in her grey crops, Kristen needs to re-think the top (maybe she should take a look at our safari chic examples?).
I don't know what they are talking about...I am the epitome of safari chic. They can't be talking about me.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Perhaps This Is Appropriate

My first blogging anniversary is coming up (close to yours, eh, Kim?), so I thought it timely when Carol tagged me for a meme you've probably seen around lately.

My instructions:

1. Go into your archives.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Post the fifth sentence (or closest to it)
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5. Tag five other people to do the same thing.

Here it is, in all its glory:

"'The truths' of all of these 'varied faiths'"

I was talking about something Bush said--and it was so early in my blogging that I didn't link to whatever article I was talking about! *blush*

Anyway, he said,

"That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people....When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner 'Freedom Now' – they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled."


He stated that

A)Truth is found in both the Bible and the Koran (and other faiths!), and
B)Our founders declared "a new order of the ages."

If you're familiar with New Age style and diction, then it's enough said already. If you're not, you should be, and I recommend learning more about New Age beliefs and the occult from a Christian perspective. I really recommend this video as a primer, as well as resources from Jeremiah Films. Also, Berit Kjos has an invaluable website that I highly recommend for discernment-related topics such as this.

I won't go into all of the implications this may have. I believe in praying for our authorities; we are exhorted to do so in the Bible. But that doesn't mean our eyes are squeezed shut to the reality of our leaders' words and beliefs. We must be "as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves," reading between the lines and seeking to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

I don't usually tag people for memes, but I'd love to hear about your answers. So if you'd like, either post a trackback here if you blog it, or leave a comment and tell us what your 23rd post's fifth sentence was and why you wrote it!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hating Your Flesh

My new friend Ali (here's a great post of hers) got me thinking. We were discussing a popular Christian book and its encouragement to the reader to accept themselves. One study question asks the reader, "What areas of my personality, background, and appearance do I need to accept?" that really an issue? Or is this book delivering a red herring?

Let's ask Paul. Here he is talking about husbands and wives, but what he's saying is applicable to this discussion:

Eph 5:28-30
So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.

I know this goes against the beloved tenets of pop psychology, but I believe that no one really hates himself. I believe it because God says so.

No one ever hated his own flesh. He may be obsessed with himself, or he may be outright selfISH, but he doesn't really hate himself--even if it appears to the world that he does. Self-awareness and self-absorption are always players, whether the pattern is self-destructive or self-aggrandizing.

Don't get me wrong. I realize Paul is saying men should love and cherish their wives as part of themselves. But people constantly quote Eph 5 to justify a focus on self that I think is unwarranted from Scripture.

Here's something else to consider when Dr. Phil or Oprah give you tips on how to love yourself:

2 Tim 3:1-5
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.

Being a lover of self is actually a wicked characteristic. I know that in the times I struggle inwardly the most, I can see upon reflection that I have been focusing on myself rather than on the Lord. My eyes slip from Him and His Word, and look down on ME. As a result, my vision is skewed; I obsess over whatever good or bad points the enemy (or my own flesh) can direct me to. I forget--too easily--about the Lord, about the Blood of my Messiah, about forgiveness. The bottom line is that nothing is right again until my focus is on HIM and not MYSELF.

Hatred of self is a deception. The solution to self-obsession is to be renewed daily in Christ, and to regard one another as more important than ourselves.

Phil 2:1-4
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

We are to run the race to win. Does the athlete look at the ground the whole time, or at the finish line? This has everything to do with this discussion of selfishness vs. focusing on God. Notice the connection: it takes discipline and self-control to run the race to win. Love of self is one of the greatest weaknesses humans have that the enemy seeks to use against us. The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it" (Gen 4:6-7).

1 Cor 9:24-27
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

To go back to the actual question posed in the book: what parts of myself do I need to "accept"? The answer is not in SELF-acceptance, but in losing yourself in Jesus Christ. Hide under His wings, look at Him. Seek His kingdom, and all these things will be added unto you. Don't eat that deceptive red herring. You can accept anything about yourself all day long, but it doesn't make the bottom-line problems and issues go away. A metric ton of acceptance will never amount to a thimbleful of the blood of Christ.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ten Not-So-Dark Secrets about Me (Okay, Some Are a Little Dark)

I've prepared myself for the embarrassment to follow. I saw this over at Rachel's.

1. I like smooth jazz. Ugh—even the term is embarrassing. But it’s true: I’ve liked Grover Washington, Jr., for a long time. Michael McDonald stands forgiven in my sight for all the bad R&B reprises. (Michael, if you’re reading this, please go back to your Steely Dan backup roots! Go back to “What a Fool Believes!”). I like “Stone Groove” by Boney James and Joe Sample. When I was in LA I listened to “The Wave.” I confess!

2. I drive a truck. For some reason this surprises people. Ford: Like a ROCK!

3. I really, really like girl things. If there weren’t more pressing and important tasks at hand in life, I could watch makeover shows, shop, and examine shoes until the cows come home. Fortunately, though, the Lord has given me better things to do. Most of the time. He made me a woman, and it is good.

4. I skipped school regularly in high school. One time my best friend Meg and I drove (in my car) to my house, where we planned to hang out while my parents were at work. The garage door opened…and there was my father, standing by his car. I thought I was B-U-S-T-E-D, but why not go for the gold? “Dad,” I gulped, “Mme Porto [my French teacher] sent us home to get our field trip money. Today is the last day we can turn it in.” Yep, total lie. Dad bought it, and Meg and I went to the mall with my newfound riches. (Yes, I have already confessed this to Mom and Dad.)

5. The only instrument I can play is the piano. The only song I can play is “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Unless you count the kazoo. I have an amazing repertoire for the kazoo.

6. I once sent my photo and a letter to River Phoenix.

7. This one’s for Rachel: I say “ouch” when I step on other people’s feet.’s happened more than once.

8. As a senior in high school I took several AP classes. After my AP Biology test, Meg, our friend Heather and I stole my father’s Wild Turkey whiskey and drank probably a thimbleful each (it was NASTY) to “celebrate.” To make it look like none was gone, I filled the bottle back to the top with water. (Yes, Dad knew. He told me that a lot later, though.)

9. I was absent when everyone learned how to tell time in second grade. Let’s just say I prefer digital watches.

10. I am a pretty classic klutz. I am constantly stumbling over something, dropping food on myself, you name it.

Hmmm...many of these are from my high school era. Guess I don't have many secrets anymore.

Friday, October 07, 2005

So, I'm Sick.

I am sick. It's not the I'm-barfing-and-about-to-die sick, just the tired-and-loopy-with-sore-throat sick. It's the best kind of ill to be: everything slows down, and you can't run around doing all the things you usually do; you just want to sit or lie down and read or watch Jane Austen movies. Well, that is what I do, anyway.

When I am sick like this, I usually make grand plans in my mind about what I am going to do when I get better: I am going to practice sewing; I am going to read more; I am going to clean the whole house in a day; I am going to exercise very regularly and stop slacking; I'm going to paint a picture. It's like my mind has all the energy my body usually does, but it's trapped in a sloth's body.

Then I get tired from thinking so much.

As a child it was torture for me to be set down for a nap. I hated it. I wanted to get up and be with Mom, to do whatever she was doing, and have fun. Who wants to nap, I wondered? Why waste time?

And even now, I chomp at the bit when forced to slow down for a few days.

Maybe this time when I get well I can do one or two of the things I dreamed about while sick!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Rhema, and Being Cut to the Heart

Since my last update was probably a bit of a downer, I wanted to let you all know that I am on the mend spiritually. I have a thirst for God's Word again--I am excited to sit down with it every day. I feel like a disciple, a learner, again, thanks to Him.

Rhema is a Greek word meaning "that which is or has been uttered by the living voice." Perhaps it's my background talking, but when I think of rhema I think of what a commenter mentioned at Kim's:

God'll grab ya by the throat just when you think you're only looking up how something was said.

Indeed! I'll be reading something I've read many times, and WHAM!, God shows me something I hadn't thought of before, or convicts my heart, or touches me deeply. That is one of the most awesome experiential things about reading the Bible.

Something like that occurred the other day while I was reading Acts 2:

Acts 2:22-36
"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know--this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

"'I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.'

Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

"'The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.'

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

It hit me as I read that, really hit me, how it must have felt for those Jews to hear that Messiah, the One everyone had been waiting and looking for, had been put to death. What despair they must have felt at that moment! What would God do to them, they might have wondered, if they killed the very Messiah He had promised them? How could this situation be redeemed?

Acts 2:37
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

And then the amazing, amazing part. I am without words to describe such a God:

Acts 2:38-41
And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

No wonder there were so many who repented that day! I am so thankful to worship a God who would not only NOT REJECT the people He had chosen after they killed His Son, but would redeem them and give them a gift of unquantifiable value.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Full of Interesting Questions

That describes Kim The Upward Call. She posted a really interesting one for feedback yesterday, and I'd love to know what more people have to say about it:

"Over the years, what is the greatest lesson you've learned about bible study? I don't mean lessons from specific portions of scripture, but about the very act of the study itself."

Visit her and let her know--because I want to know!

We discuss Biblical issues quite a bit here, but haven't touched on the act of Bible study as often, I think. Thanks for another thought-provoking post, Kim.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Thinking Toolbox Posted by Picasa

The Thinking Toolbox: A Review

I can heartily recommend The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-Five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills for your family. The book, authored by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn, follows the success of The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Six Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning.

The lessons in Thinking Toolbox are obviously meant for children or young adults, but that's not to say that adults have nothing to gain from reading the book, and ideally, participating in the lessons with their children. I plan to use it with mine, if I am so blessed. :)

There are many areas of life for which modern academia has left children--students--woefully unprepared: two that leap rapidly to mind are domestic concerns (the "basics" required to live a successful adult life) and critical thinking skills. As valiantly as many classroom teachers try to instill the latter in their charges, they don't stand much of a chance against the wiles of media culture. At least that's what I perceive. I don't see many teens or young adults applying critical thinking tools to, say, television programming or their favorite music. It's directed at them with calculated precision, and any "how to think" lessons taught in a period or two at school just don't hold a candle to the video and audio onslaught of sensuality, rebellion, and irreverence that's before them at the click of a button.

The Thinking Toolbox is aptly named. And children aren't the only ones who might learn something! It is never a waste of time to examine how and why we believe what we do, how we formulate opinions and arguments, and how to discern a faulty argument when we hear one.

(This book was provided to me by Mind and Media. I was not paid anything for this review.)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Enduring Gospel

My good friend and brother in Christ, Michael Millier, commented on the last post, and he brought up a subject I am fond of: the true Gospel, particularly as it relates to the Tanakh (the Old Testament) and the saints who lived before Jesus came.

Michael, his wife Deborah, and their children currently serve the Lord in the Philippines; they lived in Israel for several years before moving to Manila. (Michael, feel free to fill in anything I've left out.)

Check out Michael's short but stellar essay about the gospel:

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? Do we even know?

Have you ever wondered what the Gospel really is? When we mention the Gospel, many think it is something that began with the Apostolic Scriptures, i.e., the so-called New Testament. But the Gospel message did not appear for the first time in Matthew, nor even in the Apostolic Writings. God "preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham" (Gal. 3:8). The generation in the wilderness "had the Gospel preached to them just as we have" (Heb. 4:2). Clearly Moses, David and all the people of faith in the Tanakh (i.e., the so-called Old Testament) possessed faith unto salvation. Thus, the Gospel message must be something older than we think.

What then is the Gospel? When we search all four gospels, we never find that Yeshua (i.e., Jesus' Hebrew name) preached a sermon presenting the Four Spiritual Laws, nor did He ever lead anyone in the 'sinner's prayer.' He never shared a tract with a single person. He never asked, "Do you know for sure that you would go to heaven if you died?" He never told anyone, "You need to have Me in your heart." If these cliches were not the message taught by Yeshua and His disciples, what was the message?

His message was the Gospel: "Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" (Mat. 4:17; cf. Mat. 3:2 where John the baptizer said precisely the same thing). Or put another way, Yeshua proclaimed, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mar. 1:15). What exactly does that mean, though? It means: Turn your life back from sin because God's rule and reign have already begun through His Messiah!

That's the Good News!

It means that the King has come, as prophesied in the Tanakh. It means that even though Yeshua died and was buried, He rose from the dead and therefore will return to complete His earthly mission as Messianic Ruler (1 Cor. 15:ff). It means that we must therefore submit to the authority of this G-d-installed King (Psa. 2). Now! (Act. 17:30, 31) And the way to do that is to respond to G-d's kindness and turn away from sin, modeling our lives from that point on after Yeshua's.

Salvation truly comes by G-d's grace bestowed upon people to help them to repent; multiplied upon those who respond to that grace and actually *do* repent. But let us be clear: a Gospel message that neglects to state the need for repentance is no Gospel message at all!

Yeshua was preaching repentance. His Gospel was not a sales pitch for people to feel better about themselves. We cannot say that His message was therefore devoid of grace; just the opposite. But neither was it an easy sell. Nevertheless, the message had a "pay-off." Yeshua's Gospel required a *radical* life change, however, in order for a person to "collect" anything lasting from the G-d of grace.

It required turning away from sin.

And folks, how do we know what sin is? We know via the Torah (i.e., what is commonly called the Law). In case we did not know from the rest of the Bible, G-d has graciously and clearly defined sin for us in the Apostolic Scriptures. Sin is quite simply any transgression of the Torah (1 Joh. 3:4). This definition was restated so that we could know what sin is, so that people could repent of it.

More likely than not, if our Master were preaching His Gospel in much of the Christian world today, He would quickly be disregarded as a legalist. He would probably be called a Judaizer. I am certain that He would be told by someone to let go of 'the old ways of the Law' and learn to walk in the 'new way of the Spirit.'

We as followers of Yeshua should be passionate about restoring the whole message of the Gospel to the Body of Messiah. We each must strive to assist both Jewish and non-Jewish believers to return to the feet of the Master for a fresh encounter with the One they have confessed as Lord. It's time to take off our gentile-centric theological goggles, stop pitting Law against Grace, and to deal honestly with the real Messiah and His real message-the man from Nazareth who rebuked sin, hypocrisy and pretense while encouraging true repentance and obedience to the commandments of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (link)

Some of my older posts address aspects of this topic:

Fruit in Keeping with Repentance
Credited as Righteousness
The Kindness and the Severity
To Believe Is to Obey

Michael's comment brought a couple of scriptures to mind:

Psalm 19:8
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes.

James 1:25
But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Don't Miss This

Jenn and Rachel are having a discussion/dual exposition of 1 Corinthians 13 that I wouldn't want to miss, so I wanted to let you know about it, too.

Sometimes I think we're all in danger of getting desensitized to 1 Cor 13, in a similar way to John 3:16. It's a passage that's read at nearly every wedding I attend! But I actually don't think we can ever examine it too often. Like Rachel, I know when I read that definition of "love" that I have miles left to go before I am living it out.

1 Cor 13:8-13
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

True Fellowship

My father, Fred, left a great comment last night regarding my Update:

"I hope you and Ryan can find a church with 'Life Groups' or small groups that study God's Word and share life together. God meant for us to be in a community as his servants--teaching his word and meeting the needs of others."

My father and mother attend a church that incorporates Life Groups, or cell groups, as a basic building block of its programs. Dad teaches a cell group of 40 people! I am really proud of all the hard work he does. He pores over books and faithfully attends elder meetings several times a week. I've watched him grow tremendously over the past several years, and it's exciting and joyous.

Of course Dad and Mom want us to be regularly attending a church. And I agree with what he says here: I'd love to be a part of a regularly meeting group that studies the Bible and shares life. And I'm not saying we won't be.

I am just not sure it's going to be in the context of 'church' as it's usually thought of in modern America.

And it's that point I'd like to explore a little more here: what is true fellowship?

I think many of us are used to thinking of fellowship in terms of time spent together physically. We eat meals and have get-togethers to "fellowship" in the modern church. While there's nothing wrong with that, and I am not saying it's a misuse of the term, I don't think that fellowship is just about physically being together. It is the sharing of a common belief, a goal, a faith--the sharing of obedient love for Christ--that forges fellowship.

1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

How do we have fellowship with one another? By walking in the light. Fellowship is a partnership, a sharing, that has its basis in truth and agreement, not just physical proximity. It's how we fellowship with one another every day over the Internet. I can't hold your hand or hug you, but our fellowship is real, because of our love for Christ and our unity in Him.

I am not writing this so that people will think they don't need to go to church! I am simply suggesting that a traditional church isn't the only place true fellowship can be found--and, in fact, it can be a bit hard to find true fellowship in traditional church. Not impossible, just difficult. There are so many heresies (prosperity, easy believism), so many movements (Purpose-Driven, Emergent), so much extrabiblical, diabolical nonsense (the laughing revival). It's tough to sort through it all.

I am frustrated in writing this, because I know that some will see it as an attack on churches. It's not. I know that God will provide fellowship for us in some form. He has at every turn in our lives. But there have been times that fellowship, for us, has looked different than (modern) tradition would have it. It's looked, at different times, like two people meeting for coffee; two families meeting to talk and pray, with children milling around; a phone call from Africa; a couple feasting on a taped sermon, taking notes and stopping to talk. And, yes, for a whole year we attended an American church with a building! (Insert wink.)

None of those, by themselves, constitute a New Testament-based church with elders and teaching and the full range of gifts. I would love that. I hope God leads us to a fellowship where the elders seek to closely follow Biblical guidelines, where the Bible isn't twisted, and where we are called to serve.

But just because I am not currently a part of a regularly meeting group doesn't mean the Lord isn't doing His will, day by day, in and through me. It doesn't mean I am not serving the Lord and those He's called me to right now.

And, for what it's worth, I doubt we'll be at this place for long (without a regular meeting). God knows what He is doing, and I'll be watching for it.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Human Heart

I hope you don't mind, Jenn, that I am responding to some of your posts here. I just had too much to say to try to leave it in the comments.

Jenn and I met through Rachel. You can read Jenn's first entry here to learn more about why she started her blog. Jenn isn't a Christian, but she's exploring it, and she feels like the Lord is beginning to really show her some things.

In this post Jenn responds to my post about our friendship with God:

I read an entry in this lady's blog today (a friend of Rachel's that I eye every now and then) that touched me very much. It was about the realization of God's love and him wanting to be friends with us. I left a comment (a very humble, non-confrontational one) that wasn't saved due to some error. I felt I had to share it in general so I decided to rewrite it on this post.

Jenn relates a spiritual turning point that has occurred in her life (emphasis mine):

I don't always hear what is to be said, there's almost thirty years of experience yelling at me behind the lines. It is very hard for me, because there is always a constant nagging in the back of my head. Well, I've been a long time friend to God's greatest obstacle, and I fear it will be a while before THAT guy stops whispering in my ear. Sometimes I feel possessed with all the things I sometimes feel like doing. Things that I hate, that I would hate myself for saying or doing. I will say this, I am much better at putting that evil behind me! When I just shush all the voices and scream in my head, "NO! God, what do I do! Please help me! I can't think straight!" He listens and gets right to it. Thank God! It sucks being a crazy person, but I feel forgiven, always and that is a blessing.

Today was a sort of turning point for me. A lifetime of succombing to the selfish, cruel ways of mankind changed. I won't go into my day so much except to say I handled a situation quite differently than I would normally have. I used prayer and faith to lead my way and it prevailed!

I sometimes feel that I am being too stubborn with my search. I have far too much doubt and feel pride way too often. I spent a very valuable era of my life devoted to psychology and philosophy, then totally unaware that my studies would lead me to where I am today. So much time was given to trying to understand human nature and the study of knowledge when all along all I really wanted was to have spiritual wisdom! Not that some of that "knowledge" isn't very helpful at times...We are only human.

As I read her entry, I realized how alike we are. I also struggle with stubbornness, pride, and rebellion. That tainted human blood beats in our hearts, and until we are finally made perfect and dwell with God, we will struggle. I am excited to see that Jenn is beginning to see the answers. Every solution has its genesis in crying out to God, in admitting our own fallibility, our weakness, our despair.

Romans 7:15-25
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Jesus delivers us from our sin, from ourselves, from the power of the devil. When we are set free, it is by HIS blood. When we resist the devil, it's by God's power, granted to us by His mercy, His love for us. He shows His friendship over and over, first by the sacrifice of His only Son, and then in our daily lives, when He responds to our cries of desperation or our expressions of love. He responds. And that's what is mindblowing, and what Jenn is experiencing. He doesn't wait for all our ducks to be in a row before He begins showing us His love and His mercy.

There's a mystery there, but it's a beautiful one: the process of recognizing our state before God; seeing our sinful state and our vast shortcomings; and knowing that we know that we know He is there, He is good, He cares, and He is doing something about the stains on our clothes. He's wiping the tears from our eyes.

Jenn, I am really excited about what God's doing in your life. There's a lot to learn--for all of us--but your realizations and your responses are on target.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about your journey as it unfolds, and, perhaps, walking a mile or two together.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Update, by Request

Amy the Humble graciously asked me for an update on how everything's been going since the move. I have a really bad habit of assuming that people somehow are wired into my consciousness and just know everything that's been happening and how I feel about it. Yeah...weird. I also always assume that someone driving me home for the first time somehow just knows where my house is. Anyway.

I can't remember what I've already told you, so forgive me if I repeat myself!

We're finally settled in Athens, GA. Ryan and I both don't have ANY DESIRE to move ANYWHERE for a long, long time, unless the Lord wills it. The only place I'd like to move is into a home! Right now, though, we're renting a place (almost twice as large as our CA apartment, ahem) near downtown. It would be the perfect location if there were a grocery store in walking distance, as that's currently the only reason we have to start up our car. Both of our jobs, as well as entertainment and dining, are a short walk downtown or to North Campus.

We haven't found a "church home," and I don't know what's going to happen on that front. We do have some Christian friends around here, so we're not totally fellowship-less.

Church is a subject I usually don't like to talk about with Christians, because most of them won't understand where I am coming from. Ryan and I are very disillusioned with institutional churches (Churchianity, I call it)--with the buildings, programs, parachurch entities, and most importantly, teachings that we don't see reflected anywhere in the Bible's pages. We have talked about starting a Bible study and having a home group/homechurch. I don't know what is going to happen.

To clarify: we aren't looking for the "perfect" fellowship. Just a group with whom we can help make disciples and where we can serve without feeling like we're compromising most of our beliefs.

I love my job here. I have a wonderful corner office to myself where I can see the students walking to class and look at the gargantuan North Campus oaks and maples. The team I work with is truly top-notch; I respect them and look forward to coming to work.

Spiritually, I've got to be honest with you--it's been a really tough, dry, numb season for me. It's my own fault, as I was telling Rachel the other day. I've been really slack on Bible study and prayer, and boyohboy, nothing will make you drier than the Sahara faster than that.

I've been realizing (again) how amazing His love is. That I am deserving of NOTHING; that I never did deserve anything, and yet He loved and loves me! What an ingrate I am! I've been doing my own thing, ignoring duty and relationship; hurting, but not willing to bandage the wound.

I've cried out to Him and feel His Spirit working in me, but I can't give you a sunny, false update that glosses over my pain, my foibles, and my need for God. The honest truth is that I am a woman in need of the Living God. Every day.