Monday, June 27, 2011

Oh, the Deep, Deep Love . . .

Just watched Sean Hannity interview Bristol Palin about a self-revealing book Palin wrote about her life. Hannity praised her for her courage in sharing so many of the mistakes she's made, and he remarked what a really stupid kid he was and what really stupid things he did -- and that what ultimately turned his life around was when he became a Christian.

My first thought: surely nobody out there is surprised to hear that Sean Hannity was a hell-raiser as a kid.

But even more, it got me thinking about the necessity of understanding how bad you are to be able to really come to Christ. I know there are many friends who will disagree with me. There are many Christians out there these days who chafe against traditional teaching about sin. That we are born sinful. That we are very sinful. That we are, in fact, far too sinful to ever have any hope of saving ourselves by our own behavior.

Americans these days are all about promoting self-esteem. The biggest problem in society, we are told, is that people don't feel good about themselves. THAT's why they act badly. It's an interesting progression of collective thinking, actually, how we moved from an almost universal assumption that there is something inherently wrong with us inside -- which inevitably shows up in wrong behavior -- to the assumption that we are all inherently good and only behave badly because someone else treats us badly. It's one of those concepts that, when you really sit and think about it for a long time, starts to sound so illogical as to be ludicrous. Like artificial plants. And sugar-free candy.

I honestly do believe that one can't really come to Christ until one truly understands the amazing depths of one's sin. As long as you think that you're just not that bad of a person, you'll think that you deserve God's love. And if you think God's love is something you can deserve, you have a very small view of God's love. You can't possibly comprehend that massive overwhelmingness of God and his holiness and his love for us if you don't understand that it is beyond our ever earning or ever deserving . . . and he gives it anyway.

Every once in a while, I get a glimpse in my soul of the true extent of the love of God. And there simply aren't words for it. The most selfless, unconditional love we could ever experience on earth -- and every love we've experienced from other humans is actually contaminated with selfishness, you know -- the greatest love we've ever known is but a shadow of God's love for us. It can leave you breathless to consider it.

How can you truly love God, and trust him with your life, until you understand His love for you?

Friday, June 24, 2011


I sat on the back deck this morning finally enjoying the sunshine we've been missing all week. I feel a deep need for cleansing this morning. I feel cluttered with chores -- small and large, significant and inconsequential, internal and external, social and individual, stuff I have control over and stuff I'm responsible for but feel very little control over. I'm tired. And I have too much going on to give in to tiredness. Not exactly what I wanted my summer to feel like.

Most mornings, when I sit on my deck, I can hear a chorus of various songbirds from throughout my yard, and this morning was no different. I closed my eyes for a minute, trying to calm my mind by singling out the calls of individual birds amongst the symphony.

And then one bird landed on the table in front of me. I'm completely ignorant about birds (one of my MANY areas of ignorance), so I couldn't tell you what kind of bird it was. Small, brown, fat, with a skinny pointy beak. He hopped around a little bit looking at me and looking around, making some weird little noise that sounded like he was calling for someone. I wondered how stupid this bird was. There was nothing for him on my deck.

But there was something soothing in watching his feathers ruffling in the breeze, his head twirking around. And then suddenly, he opened his beak and let out the most fascinating little series of melodic twitters. And after a pause he did it again . . . and again . . . and again. I just sat there and delighted in this fat, little dumb bird sing his heart out on my back deck.

The Lord takes delight in his people (Psalm 149). Really, Lord? I usually feel so undelightful. Small, fat, plain, dumb. An insignificant peon in the masses. But do you really look down on little plain me and delight in me? Delight in me? That's enough to get me through the day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's in a Name?

Thinking out loud . . . (well, online anyway) . . .

* I've always been struck by how much power the Bible ascribes to language. I mean, Christ himself was called "the Word of God".

* When God created the world, he created it through language -- by speaking. "Let there be light" . . . and there was light.

* Notice, also, that when God was creating, he was also naming. "And he called the Light 'Day', and the Darkness he called 'Night'." The two acts seem to be connected. When you create something, you have the right to name it. But when you name something, you also contribute to the creation of it, in a sense.

* God brought all the animals to Adam to name. Part of man's being created in God's image is his ability to create and name.

* The Bible is overflowing with exhortations to praise the name of the Lord -- bless the name of the Lord -- do all things in the name of the Lord. Misusing God's name is one of the Big Ten. God's name somehow includes the essence of his being.

* Names and their meanings are always significant in the Bible. God changed Abram's name to Abraham, which means "father of nations". Naomi changed her own name, after her husband and sons died, to Mara, which means "sorrowful" (or something like that).

* When mankind was building the tower of Babel, the stated goal, according to Genesis was to "make a name for ourselves".

* When Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd, he remarks that the Good Shepherd knows all of his sheep and calls them by name.

* If a name has such importance and power, and God endows humanity with an element of that power of creation through our naming, it would behoove us to be very cautious how we name our children. Not just their regular name -- like Johnny or Suzy -- but how we "name" them. If I call my child lazy, I name him. And in a sense, I create a lazy child.

* I suppose I should also pay close attention to the names that my Good Shepherd calls me by in his Word. Beloved. Bride. Friend. Etc. When God names me such, he is also creating such in me.

As I said, just thinking out loud (or online, anyway).

Friday, June 10, 2011

I Really Wanted to Be a Gleek . . .

This may be one of my most controversial posts yet -- one that will ruin my reputation and set many friends up to hate me, or at least lose all respect for me. Yet I am committed to the proclamation of truth, so speak I must.

I watched my first three episodes of "Glee" yesterday. And I wasn't impressed.

I've put off watching it for this long because it sounded like just my kind of show and I didn't want to get hooked on another weekly TV event. Plus, I'd heard that it didn't exactly promote family values, and I figured I didn't need the girls watching. But I downloaded the first season to our Netflix instant queue figuring I'd give it a whirl this summer.

So, my assessment. The best part of the show is the characters. Well-crafted, well-executed. (Sue Sylvester is classic. I've been a fan of Jane Lynch's for a while even without seeing the show.) In fact, I think the strong characters were the only thing that really made me keep watching for three episodes. I suppose there's the feel-good theme of being yourself and pursing your passions despite what others think of you, but I honestly find that to be a rather tired theme anymore. Too much "High School Musical", perhaps?

Even worse, the musical numbers just weren't that good. Maybe they get better as we go here, or maybe my expectations were just too high after all the hype, but I found them kind of boring, actually. And that was dreadfully disappointing to me. I mean, this is the show that made show choir cool, right? I was so prepared to be wow'ed. And I was so not.

And then there's the "family values" thing. As I said, I was prepared for that. I thought. But I still found myself shocked that this is shown on prime-time television. (But then I'm frequently shocked by what is shown on prime-time television these days.) I mean, a couple scenes I can't even bring myself to describe the content of because I know my youngest reads my blog. They weren't presented salaciously (which is probably how they get away with it), but still! And the main character's speech to the Celibacy Club about how "celibacy doesn't work" for high schoolers . . . well, that was pretty infuriating. Yep, let's just tell teenage America to not even try.

I think what amazes me the most about this Glee phenomenon is how many highly committed Christian friends of mine are also highly committed Gleeks. And it's not just about Glee -- I have highly committed Christian friends who watch other shows and movies and such which actively promote similar values. Now, I don't want to be the finger-pointing, judgmental Church Lady -- because truth is, I frequently get caught up in such entertainment, too.

But I'm wondering today . . . why? What good do we think we're getting from these shows that outweighs the damage being done to our psyche by saturating ourselves in such crap? As I said, the characters on Glee are very entertaining. But are there really no other places to find entertaining characters? And do we really have some ingrained, desperate need for being entertained by quirky characters and peppy dance routines, a need so strong and insatiable that we MUST expose ourselves to the inappropriate stuff if necessary to meet that need? Would my life really be so much less rich without "Don't Stop Believing" or the infamous Sue Sylvester?

And have we really become so inured and calloused to this stuff that we can sit with our families and watch a young man "lose control" while making out with his girlfriend in a hot tub . . . and not feel some shame at our idea of entertainment?

OK, fine. Call me a prude. But personally, I've gotten to where I'd rather be a little too prudish than a little too the alternative. It seems to me that we should be devoted to pursuing goodness, rather than trying to get as close to badness as we can get without actually being bad. I've danced around the lines too much in my life to not know how easy it is to cross them.

Setting aside your passions to pursue true goodness. Now, there's a theme that could use some exploring.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cheating . . . Duh

While traveling on Monday, I happened to be flipping through radio stations at the moment of the Congressman Wiener press conference and heard it all (including Breitbart before him). Fascinating listening. And I've been paying close attention to the coverage of the issue for the last two days. But I thought I was just about Wiener'd out until a news show this morning posed a question to the audience: did Congressman Wiener cheat on his wife by doing what he did?

Are you kidding me? Of course he cheated on her. Of course he cheated on her!! How depressing that the question has to be even asked. It's a sign of how messed up our society's view of sex has become -- that sex has been narrowly defined as one part being inserted into another, and anything else is fair game. (A notion most publically articulated by President Clinton during his scandal, although I certainly won't give him credit for starting the problem -- he's as much a victim of the error as everyone else.)

If Wiener sent salacious photos to other women, he cheated. If he "sexted" other women, he cheated. If he just flirted with other women, he cheated. Frankly, I think if he had a conversation with another woman that had no reference whatsoever to anything physical but included emotional intimacy that should only be reserved for romantic relationships . . . then he cheated. The sanctity and purity of a marriage relationship has to do with much more than "the bedroom".

This topic is a hot one for me lately, because as my eldest is launching into the dating world, I desperately want her to do so with an aim toward purity. REAL purity, not the wimpy, pared-down version that the world would offer her. I would love for my daughters to be able to give to their future husbands the gift of their whole hearts -- not battered, weak hearts that have bits and pieces left behind with dozens of boys whom they thought they were in love with, or whom they thought they would just have a good time with, or who thought they could use my daughters' bodies or hearts for their own needs with no thoughts to the consequences for anyone else.

In the homeschooling world, you hear a lot about courting, the "old-fashioned" way of doing it. I have to say, I have a lot of respect for the young people who choose that route. They're taking this stuff seriously. They're preparing themselves for a lifetime of committed, healthy marriage, not for a torrid, heady love affair that will fade as quickly as it came. And in doing so, they usually get the love affair, too. I've always found it fascinating that research shows people who only had sex with their one spouse, and only after marrying them, are significantly more satisfied with their sex lives than the rest of the population.

More than half of all marriages in America now end in divorce. One of these days, we have to start being grown-ups and learn to sacrifice a momentary satisfaction for a lifetime of fulfillment.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Dance

I watched my nephew Daniel marry his beautiful bride Lori this weekend. A lovely ceremony -- a fun dance at the reception -- and now another long drive back. Precious as weddings are, I always find myself having mixed feelings at them anymore. I'm always quite confident that the sweet young couple we are celebrating has no earthly idea what they're getting into.

Over this trip, I have been inundated, physically and mentally, with images of various marriage relationships . . and pre-marriage relationships . . and post-marriage relationships . . and pseudo-marriage relationships. Marriage is just straight up HARD.

Some of these couples are walking through life together, side by side, facing the outside -- a good position to be in, but they rarely if ever turn to face each other. So the space between them grows until it's hard to tell that they're supposed to be walking together. Other couples (usually young or "new" ones) are so absorbed in each other's faces and entwined in each other's arms that any progress into the world is an awkward crab-like side-step that trips them up.

Marriage, ultimately, is a dance. Turn to face each other -- turn out to the world -- and back again. Pull apart -- pull together -- spin around but never lose touch of hands. Now you're holding the other up -- now you're the one being supported. And back again.

The trick is finding your balance, finding the rhythm. Hearing the music and paying attention to what steps fit the beat and the melody. Not fighting the music with the dance that you think SHOULD be happening (like my youngest and her new friend jamming to the polka the other night). Trusting the Composer and Choreographer with the tone and direction -- allowing one partner to lead with joy -- not waiting for the storm to pass, but "learning to dance in the rain".

Daniel and Lori took dancing lessons in preparation for their first dance together at the wedding. Here's praying they're preparing for a lifetime of dance.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Sexes, According To My Daughter

I haven't written for a while -- end of the school year, a fried laptop, and now I'm traveling with the girls to Ohio for a wedding. But my eldest shared in the car yesterday a list she found on her laptop of differences she had noted between her guy friends and her girl friends. I've always thought my daughter has a lot of insight into people -- she reads them well. And here is evidence.

According her my 15-year-old, boys . . .
- Never have final decisions
- Are unobservant, unless REALLY interested in something.
- think about one subject at a time
- love food.
- like compliments, but not cutesy ones.
- are pros at flirting, but can't handle relationships.
- need everything to be obvious, subtle hints don't work. (!!!)
- don't just listen to problems, they solve them.
- only learn from experience.
- jump to conclusions.
- only understand yes or no answers.

Girls, on the other hand . . .
- need a reason for everything.
- have everything connected in their brains.
- crave attention.
- look ahead in relationships, but are very stupid when flirting.
- take everything to the extreme.
- try to analyze every move you make, but get confused.
- cry together over problems, but never get anywhere solving them.
- expect life to be like a TV show or romance novel.

Does anyone else find all this rather accurate and insightful for a 15-year-old? I wish I knew this much about boys at her age. (Of course, having the knowledge and acting on the knowledge are different things . . . )