Meditations

“A Life You Got From Someone Else”

Posted on

“Your natural life is derived from your parent; that does not mean it will stay there if you do nothing about it. You can lose it by neglect, or you can drive it away by committing suicide. You have to feed it and look after it: but always remember you are not making it, you are only keeping up a life you got from someone else.”  -Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis

These words from C.S. Lewis resonated with me this morning. He has such a way with words, and communicates so much depth about the world and Christianity. As father of four, from 15 years to 10 months, I am very aware of the work of a parent. Probably not as much as my wife, who stays home and home schools them. It is amazing that God has enabled men and women to bring new life into being, and to mold and teach children everything from love and morality to abuse and neglect. It is very interesting that most animals are born and can run or fly within hours to days, but for humans it is years.

When children finally assert themselves and take control of their life, what are they really taking control of? They have a physical body and beliefs and experiences gifted them from their parents and so many others. What they mean is they want to take control of their free will. But they are controlling a life received from someone else. Everyone is in the same boat.

Lewis continues:

“As long as the natural life is in your body, it will do a lot towards repairing that body. Cut it, and up to a point it will heal, as a dead body would not. A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble—because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.

That is why the Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; of—if they think there is not—at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because he loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.”

I think God allows (forces?) us to be parents for years so that we understand these concepts. Men and women commit one act of pleasure and a baby can be conceived, a being so beyond our ability to design. The child is forced to rely on us for so long for food and teaching. We understand how very much they owe us for life. As children of God, do I (we) have this attitude? Or is ours more of us exercising our free will, living “our life”?

I have to say I was very convicted this morning by these thoughts.

Marine Mammals as Metaphors for Spiritual Living

Posted on

I have been wondering lately about the interface between the material and spiritual worlds and how they connect. It may sound strange, but I just wonder what it looks like and how functions, and I think God may give us clues or metaphors as to what it is like. All metaphors do break down and fail if taken too far, though, so these are just some thoughts.

On Sunday I was imagining that the entire ocean represented the material universe, and the sky represents the spiritual realm. I had a picture in my mind of dolphins…how they are built for the water, yet are completely dependent on the air above their world. I think it is a wonderful picture of humanity’s dependence on God.

Just as it is essential for the dolphin to come to the surface for air, it struck me how essential it is for us to come to the surface for God’ Spirit. The air, when you think about it, is essentially separate to water. Bubbles of air don’t press into and  descend down into the depths. Small amounts of the gases may dissolve at the surface and diffuse slowly downward, but actual bubbles do not . Yet a mammal can inhale and carry a relatively large quantity of that air around with them wherever and as deep as they want to go. That is the only way (outside of man’s intervention) that a large quantity of air can move around below the surface of the ocean—inside of a mammal.

In the same way, we too can take from God what he gives us through His Bible and prayer, and bring it into a physical world that really has only a shadow of spirituality. And, in the same way, the air is slowly used up and we must return to the surface for spirituality. The air is not something we can produce in our bodies, but are completely dependent to return to God. Given this metaphor, it is not hard for me to image Jesus being fully man and fully God. Just as air, foreign to ourselves, fills our lungs and keeps us alive, so could the Holy Spirit completely and fully fill the material body of Jesus.

If indeed this ocean picture holds, I wondered what God sees as he looks out over the surface vast ocean of the world. Humanity coming here and there to the surface for life…or staying below in the depths, spiritual lungs burning in want. I wondered if, when God sees us in worship, he sees us like dolphins, breaking through the surface, flipping and twisting in playfulness in the air…only to fall back down into the physical world, unable to maintain, at least for the moment, a permanent place in the spiritual world.

Random Thoughts on Free Will and Choices

Posted on

I was talking with some friends this weekend about choices. I posted about this subject here about intelligence and choices, and these are some trails my thoughts have taken…

One conversation was with a family with kids and we were talking about teaching babies, and really children in general. The mother was saying she squeezes her baby boy’s hand when he goes to touch something she doesn’t want him to touch. When the baby later goes to touch the same object, he first looks to his mother. He does this, in fact, for other objects he goes to touch. He turns and looks. I am sure if you have kids, you have seen this. ‘Is mommy looking, is she going to do anything if I do this…’ They wait and they watch. It just struck me at how early babies can conceive of what is approved of and what isn’t, and how early they can start to make actual moral choices. I had a mental image suddenly of the child growing up, a speedy time-lapse fast forward movie where year after year a child makes thousands of choices both for and against the will of parents and society, and that under the child-now-adult, all these choices accumulate like pennies filling a jar. They cease to be choices, closing and becoming sort of automatic non-choices. They become biases, or conclusions. Ruts.

In another conversation, I was talking with a friend about nutrition and he was really passionate about the foods we put in our bodies and about all the chemicals and preservatives. For him, he had good reasons. He has struggled with pain in his GI tract and leaky gut syndrome, and he has had to modify his diet in order to just be and feel healthy. He said he grew up on a farm and always ate well there. It wasn’t until he got out on his own that he started to open up to eating other processed “tasty” foods. In the Navy, he was going on sick call every three months or so with severe abdominal pains. He noticed the pattern and asked the doctor about it. During the conversation, the doctor either mentioned or asked him about what he was eating. My friend said it was like getting slapped in the face. It was so clear to him that what he was eating was causing his symptoms. He also said he noticed the same sort of effects on his body after long runs on the submarine, when the fresh foods were gone and the least nutrition foods were served.

 Again, I was struck by the free will we can either make or ignore. I have had an upper level collegiate nutrition class and I know preservatives are extremely bad for you. It is simple—the preservatives keep bacteria from growing in the food, and after you ingest it, it keeps bacteria (the good kind we all have) from growing in our gut. I don’t think about that when I put my dollar in a machine for some tasty poptarts. Or should I qualify that: do I listen to my gut or my energy level (or lack of)? Do consider all aspects of the food and it’s quality? I have been at times extremely fit, but life has gotten so busy that healthy choices just don’t appear on my radar as much. Or, put another way, it may appear I am making a choice (hmm hungry, walk to machine, count money, ching ching ching, munch munch munch), but is there any free will in that choice? Is it any different from the choices animals make (turn this way or that, sniff sniff sniff, go that way, run, catch prey, munch munch munch). Would these be non-free will choices? Or simply our ruts?

On the way out of my neighborhood on mornings, I wave at neighbors. Most are friendly, but some aren’t. I wave anyway and most of the time, I get stared back at. I do wonder why the coolness. I wonder if is a conscious choice, or is simply this accumulated automation. Does he (or she) actually choose to not be friendly? It occurred to me that as a Christian, loving no matter the response, maybe especially because of a negative response, may serve to re-engage a free will choice in the other person. If someone is just a sour-puss and yet I am friendly, at some point he has to become self-conscious and realize, “Wow, I’m a sour-puss.” At that point, he can then decide again to continue or start to look at himself, evaluate his behavior, think about life, right and wrong, etc. If there is no hope, why change? Perhaps that is why God demands persistence on our part as Christians to continue to love no matter the circumstances or persecution. Perhaps it is this that roots out and pulls to the surface again a buried aggregate of bad choices, long-buried, that can changed to a different direction. To love our enemies forces our opponent’s free will back to the surface of consciousness. 

I was trying to think of a conclusion to try to tie these loose ends together. Ironically, I got home last night and the family was watching The Biggest Loser on Netflix. One of the contestants was saying how he felt like he had been asleep for the last fifteen years. Another woman said it was a final miscarriage that forced her to acknowledge what the doctors had told her, that her weight was the major factor. Hearing these stories and more, it all came together for me. We all get up in the morning and make all sorts of choices all day long. Some are minor, some major, but all are accumulative. How many are based on free will? What effects do they have on our health, both physical and spiritual? And if we do not examine ourselves, what does that say about our humanity? In the end, we may just be left to wonder about our lives, asking, “how did I get Here??”

Thoughts on Intelligence and the Material World

Posted on

I was reading in Signs of Intelligence yesterday and was struck by the meaning of “intelligence”, as derived from its Latin roots. It comes from intellegere, to discern or comprehend, but literally from the preposition inter, meaning between, and the verb lego, meaning to choose or select. Thus, intelligence consists of choosing between, choosing from a range of competing possibilities.

Dembski, in his essay, was relating this to Intelligent Design, but I was brought back to what I have been reading in The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. In chapter two, Lewis is describing the rationale for a neutral material world for people to live in. He writes first about God’s omnipotence, describing it as the power to do the intrinsically possible, not the intrinsically impossible (such as the argument that asks God to make a rock so big He can’t lift it; this is a non-entity and nonsense). Lewis then builds on this with the need for a material world (Nature):

“I am going to submit that not even Omnipotence could create a society of free souls without at the same time creating a relatively independent and ‘inexorable’ Nature.

There is no reason to suppose that self-consciousness, the recognition of a creature by itself as a ‘self’, can exist except in contrast with an ‘other’, a something which is not the self. It is against an environment and preferably a social environment, an environment of other selves, that the awareness of Myself stands out.”

He is saying that without a society, we would not be able to self-actualize.  There must be a fixed space and time environment available in order for co-existence, and there must be a material world that is neutral. We must be able to act on it and manipulate it in order to exercise choice and free will. This means that if I cut down a tree and use it to build a house, another ‘self’ cannot keep that tree for shade. But if God were to pop in and prevent me from cutting down the tree, I then cease to have free will. If He popped in to stop every act of self-will against other people (i.e. violence, oppression), free will would cease to exist.

In order to have intelligence, for choosing between, we must be allowed to make the choice. This must also allow for evil. So it seems, we either have free will with good and evil, or give up our freedom and cease to be self-conscious. There is no in between.

Later in chapter three, some ideas Lewis talks about, with regard to the material world, struck me. We were made not primarily to love God, but that He may love us, “that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased’. An argument can be made that God is selfish or possessive, caring only for His satisfaction in molding us and caring little for our contentment.

Lewis first asks which of us would value the love of a friend that cared for our happiness but did not object to our becoming dishonest. To the question ‘Is God an egoist or altruistic?’, he brings a point I have never really considered. Lewis specifically isolates our language and definitions to our own material world.

“The truth is that this antithesis between egoistic and altruistic love cannot be unambiguously applied to the love of God for His creatures. Clashes of interest, and therefore opportunities either of selfishness or unselfishness, occur only between beings inhabiting a common world; God can no more be in competition with a creature than Shakespeare can be n competition with Viola. [a character from Twelfth Night; I had to look it up as I don’t know much Shakespeare…don’t judge me.]”

So words like selfish and possessive and even jealous are words linked to situations we observe in our material world, our world of choice and free will. Yet we really are in the interesting position of a fictional character observing owns writer. That is a very interesting concept to consider and ponder.

Lewis then brings the illustration of the material world to full dimension for me by using the Incarnation.

A modern pantheistic philosopher has said, ‘When the Absolute falls into the sea it becomes a fish’; in the same way, we Christians can point to the Incarnation and say that when God empties Himself of His glory and submits to those conditions under which alone egoism and altruism have a clear meaning, He is seen to be wholly altruistic.”

This is so amazing to me and makes the Incarnation clearer in my mind. In the place where we have exact meaning of words, we see Jesus selflessly acting out the Father’s will. The son of Man came to serve, to wash our feet, to teach and challenge us. All this must influence our concept of God the Father, existing outside of the material world.

Wait a Second—Where’s the Father?!

Posted on

I recently wrote about this teacher in Texas who was fired from a Christian school for pregnancy out-of-wedlock. I was so focused on her situation that I totally missed this question!  A lot of people are upset at this school, but where is FATHER??

We are only left to wonder about him. It took two to make that baby. If he were in her life, wouldn’t he have been on the video supporting and defending her? Wouldn’t there have been some mention of him? Instead, there is just a lawyer. If the father had been a man of integrity, wouldn’t he have done the right thing and married her, committing to her and the family he chose to create with her?

But he is totally missing.

Why get married anyway, though? Since the divorce rate floats around 50%, chances are they would just get separated anyway. Why bother? But the point of marriage, a Christian one at any rate, isn’t to just get married so you can then do whatever you feel like doing. The idea is to commit, first to God and then to your partner. When I say commit, I mean constrain. When I constrain myself to God’s commands, I am not committing to just following a bunch of rules, like I’m in a prison. It is faithfully committing to the total truth of the Bible, trusting that it will lead to abundant life.

For instance, when God says, “Love is patient,” He means that when I am not patient, I do not love, and therefore I am wrong. No excuses. When I am impatient, I need to recognize that something is wrong in my heart, and it usually involves selfishness. What if I’m just tired? Is that an excuse to be impatient? Does it take away the hurt from impatient words? Do I get to say, “Yeah, I just lost my temper, but I’m tired”? As a Christian, no.

Impatience is always wrong. Unkindness is always wrong. Lust is always wrong. Hate is always wrong. And so on. It is very important for my wife to see me recognize my own sin, admit that I was wrong, and ask for forgiveness to reconcile the relationship. It builds trust and depth to our marriage bonds as I do this and see the same in her. As Christians, when faced with our imperfections, we don’t get to say “everyone has different interpretations” or “I didn’t do anything wrong.” No, for God says:

If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 Jn 1:8)

If truth isn’t in you, why get married? It really does become a toss-up. This is why so many marriages end, and so many don’t even try, in my opinion. This is why children need to see their teachers and role models following and obeying God, not adopting our culture’s moral relativism or making excuses.

Where is this father? Is he saying, as he left Samford alone and pregnant, “I didn’t do anything wrong?”

As for the Christian school, I do wonder if they could have extended her benefits until the baby’s birth. The story says she disclosed her pregnancy in the fall and was fired, I assume in the fall. It is now April. Perhaps her benefits were extended six months? Usually you can do something like that for a monthly fee. I don’t think we are getting the full story on that.

As for the father, he may be there in the background somewhere. The reporters may have left him out for whatever reason.  Even so, I do think this post applies to our culture in general.

Easter’s Pagan Past – So What?

Posted on

I read this article today concerning the history behind modern-day Easter traditions. After reading the first paragraph, I had an idea where it would be going…

Have you ever wondered why we observe the present-day Easter symbols and traditions? If you knew their origins, would it make a difference in the way you allow your children to observe this holiday? Like the celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas, Easter has turned into a melting pot of activities that have nothing to do with our Lord’s death and resurrection. Although traditions like the Easter bunny and Easter egg hunts seem as harmless as believing in Santa Claus, they actually have a significant association with pagan worship and rituals from the past.

What followed in the article was very interesting, information I didn’t know: where the name “Easter” came from, Queen Semiramis’s history, the origin of Easter, Easter egg baskets, and the Easter bunny. I loved learning this history! It puts names into places for some of the idols that the Israelites worshipped. Similar to Christmas, this pagan holiday was kidnapped, sucked dry and filled with the gospel of Christ. So, is there anything Christian about Easter eggs and bunnies. No, of course not. Is there a claim that there is? No. So, is it wrong to go on an Easter egg hunt?

Apparently, according to this article, it is.

Is it wrong to do adapt pagan holidays like this? Is it sinful to use any kind of pagan imagery at all? I don’t think so at all, and I do have a problem with the heavy-handed language around a “better way to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.” I understand where the concern comes from, but I think it is too strict a view.

Jesus came and taught a Jewish culture, chained to ritual, tradition and strict adherence to the law, all about the heart. You have in Matthew 5 the Beatitudes, and how murder starts in the heart, and how adultery starts in the heart, and to tell the truth, and to love your enemies. When you pray, go into your inner room and don’t be seen like the hypocrites. The gospels are the cure for our hearts. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

If all children get is an Easter egg, some chocolate, and a fluffy bunny, they have really received nothing for their hearts. This is what our secular culture provides. The problem with the modern, humanistic celebration of Easter is that it has taken out Christ and replaced it with crème filling (lard/fat and sugar, by the way). It does reckon to a dark past of wicked rituals but to a frivolous future instant gratification and short-term spiritual memory loss.No matter the history of Easter, the hearts of all the little children in the world are not participating in rituals of Semiramis. There may be selfishness, and sour tummies, but I just don’t agree with the ominous leap this article tries to make.

Do the parents of Christians stop only at eggs and bunnies? Or do they also teach of Jesus life, death and resurrection? This is from a Christian home school site, so of course the majority of readers will be Christians. Indeed, shouldn’t these rituals be a chance to engage our communities and build relationships? Just yesterday, a coworker told me she saw the sign at my church for the huge Easter egg hunt today. I told her it was open to everyone, and will now have a chance to have our families mingle.

Here is a case study: last night, after using a dozen plastic colored eggs to review the passion of Christ with our family, we watched C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” After reading this article, and having the thoughts of this post in mind, I was struck immediately by how Lewis took pagan mythology and creatures, removed the paganism, and effectively shared the Gospel. The same can be said and done with our modern rituals as well.

But, in the end, Easter really has nothing at all to do with Queen Semiramis anymore.

Too Many Trails…

Posted on Updated on

Work is so annoying. It keeps getting in the way of what I really want to do, which is…

  • Write a review of “Seven Days that Divide the World” by Lennox and post on Goodreads and Amazon.
  • Blog and expand on what I have learned in this book, which is phenomenal.
  • I also ordered another book by Lennox called “God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?” which should arrive in about a week.
  • Blog about some ideas I had on evolution and a paper Joe Thornton published on expressing modern and ancient proteins in living cells, and his findings on organisms inability to evolve backwards.
  • I read this article today and immediately put the book “Where the Conflict Really Lies”  by Plantinga in my Amazon shopping cart, awaiting some funds to put toward it.
  • There are a whole lot of audio presentations here… lots and lots to listen to…including a discussion by Plantinga discussing his book.
  • Oh, and blog on some thoughts I had on Melchizedek and other cultures….

Thoughts on the Church as City-State

Posted on Updated on

 

We recently received one of the learning tools I had written about early, The Foundations of Western Civilization from TheGreatCourses.com. It is taught by Professor Noble of Notre Dame, and we are really enjoying it. My wife says it hits on a lot of the memory pegs we have been having the kids memorize in our classical home school curriculum and so they may provide more information and interest for them as well. I am not going to force these lectures on the kids, the younger ones at any rate, but I do want to have them watch some of them to gauge their reaction and if they are capable of following it.

The lectures have inspired a few corollary thoughts in me this week. I had never really thought about how or why civilizations arose, but it had to do with the formations of cities, usually in river basins. In time these cities built walls, and rivalries eventually developed between other city-states (i.e Ur, Uruk, etc in Mesopotamia). Rivalries within the cities also developed, which lead to the development of politics, laws, etc., which had not existed before this time.

I was thinking of this in relation to the church as I sat in a planning meeting for VBS (Vacation Bible School) at my church. I had a fairly intense visual picture as the church as a city and civilization, working together for God’s purposes. Those that serve the church come together as if members of a city. They grow closer together through service, and as they grow, so also does the need organization and governance. A question occurred to me: those who only come to church on Sundays and do not serve, are they part of the city? Are they a part of the Christian “civilization” and “citizens”? Jesus said in Matthew 20: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Continuing with the city-state metaphor, perhaps people don’t get involved in church service because they see rivalries and politics? It certainly can be a problem. Indeed, sometimes (maybe more often than not) the church does look like a collection of opposing city-states, battle lines drawn on every street corner. Are these “cities” obeying God’s law though, or following their own impulses and reason?

Anyway, I would not rather judge whether those that don’t serve (and are “citizens”) are saved or not. Those that don’t serve do not get to participate in God’s civilization. As Goheen emphasizes in “A Light to the Nations,” God’s purpose for calling Abraham, and blessing his descendants, and giving Israel the law and setting them apart, was to create a counterculture to the selfish sinful culture and nations of the time. The church is a continuance of that Light, that counterculture, and if we are not serving the church, God’s city, we are missing the point of God’s mission: building a civilization as God intended, before the fall of Adam.

NCHE 2012 is coming!

Posted on Updated on

So, this was the conference that last year first sparked my interest in my own education. I will also add here, the powder to this spark was the Classical Conversations practicuum in June 2011 and reading (within days of the practicuum) A Thomas Jefferson Education. And I cannot forget also the painful pruning of God: being removed from management at work. This was not due to any failure on my part, but a flattening of the reporting structure. There could have been some lack of confidence in me from some, but my performance review was outstanding. I took it as an insult–precisely because this position had become an idol and source of pride in my life. I am very achievement oriented, and this position consumed my mind and planning. Many of the skills I learned during that year of management were very valuable, and I use them now with my family and others. I did come to see that this was a bone fide pruning, and it helped me to see that there was a greater purpose at work. This vacancy of work focus provided room and wind to my growing love of self-education.

Back to the NCHE Conference: As I looked around the conference and listened to the wisdom of the speakers, it really occured to me that I must get more involved in my children’s education. My attitude had been “my wife’s got this.” I worked hard 40-50 hours a week and my off time was my off time. Not that I segregated myself from everyone else, but I didn’t think to direct the home. I wanted to pursue my own interests, at times exclusively.

Part of my current activities are to read to the kids as often as possible. Before basketball season, and definitely through the summer, I read to them every day. Right now I am reading Treasure Island, and either my wife or I read the Bible to the younger kids every evening.

Another part is being able to talk through current events or science or history. With my knowledge now of intelligent design, I can talk about the details of life. It has also renewed my interest in what is going on in academia, which, through rote routine scientific work, had atrophied. (I am a scientist, but I am more specialized to techniques. My knowledge of the current research is actually limited.) We just finished watching the Horatio Hornblower series, and used that as ground to discussion. In general, I now try to stop to discuss what is going on and bring meaning to as much as possible. For instance, when we were watching The Spiderwick Chronicles, I stopped the movie and asked my kids what they thought of the family dynamics at the beginning of the film. We discussed divorce, how it affects everyone, how there are families who experience this all the time, and how Jesus could provide the healing.

Another part of our home now is a focus on music. With our involvement in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, we have paid off more debt and have prioritized our money to better things. We are still not completely out of debt, but we have been able to provide piano lessons for the kids for the past year, and now want to pursue violin/guitar with the two oldest. This is real investment!

With regard to money, we have set up a chore chart and allowed the kids to earn money, and through this they have learned both the value of money and how to manage it. When the want candy or gum, they buy it. When they want toys, they save and buy it. Just yesterday, my oldest daughter (who gets more, and also is responsible to buy her own clothes) was talking about a beautiful dress that was $40. She was shocked and outraged that something so simple was that expensive! That was music to my ears!

By really evaluating the holes in my education, remembering the passion and wonder I sometimes had for learning, I have sought to provide a good structure here at home, or at least give input. By being involved, I am able to give both my wife as teacher and my kids (especially my 14-year-old) both advice and direction in organizing the day and week, skills essential for college and beyond.

So, to say the least (which I didn’t), I am very excited for this year’s conference!!

Humility is required

Posted on Updated on

Today was a full day of small-scale purification at work, which afforded me ample snippets of time in order to read. I perused Saturday’s Wall Street Journal and also was able to read one of the articles I had printed from the American Science Affiliation. The article was by Dennis Venema and was a review of a book I have just purchased and want to read, Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer. The author is a proponent of Intelligent Design, and I believe coined the phrase, I think.

The title of this short post became clear to me as I read Venema’s article. First, it was a critical review of the book and pointed out the flaws in Meyer’s arguments. I was not really expecting that. It was not done out of disrespect, but out of scientific necessity. I had assumed that Signature was going to be a source of authority for me and that it would be flawless. Also, this article strained my scientific knowledge base. It made me feel ignorant. Which I am. But with the amount of reading and application I have been doing, I…well, I obviously started to think highly of myself…and I did feel my pride deflated. I realized, again, that my self-education is going to require work (not just reading) and serious thought and a certain level of mastery of subjects.

So, as was presented in “A Thomas Jefferson Education,” George Wythe had his students write an essay every day. I don’t think I can do that, since I am not really at this full-time, but I think I will use this blog to essay about what I am learning, and of course, these sorts of meditations.

So, why a new blog?

Posted on Updated on

I have tried blogging in the past, and eventually they sort of just dry up. I am probably an undiagnosed ADHD (well, I am in my forties now so the “H” has dried up as well), so I am wondering if my interests just wander around and I lose interest in blogging and writing. Along with this, I have discovered (or identified) through the book “Strengths Finder 2.0” that one of my strengths is “achiever.”

“Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero…no matter how much you may feel ou deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no mater how small, you will feel dissatisfied… After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing toward the next accomplishment.”

This pretty much sums me up, to a degree, and was probably the fire that drove me last year in triathlon. I was very structured with my training, and had fun blogging about it. But now, I really have no desire to do triathlon. There is no fire for it.

So this blog is about classical self-education, a pursuit I started around the end of May this year. I have been devoting myself to reading and journaling, and have remained quite steady. Hence, the idea for a blog… to chronicle my progress of, in Mr. Darcy’s words, “improving my mind through extensive reading.” And there are things happening in my mind and life that are fascinating and exciting.

To name one: I just finished “That Printer of Udell’s,” and it left me wondering about my own Christianity. The book follows a man’s journey into Boyd City, unemployed, broke and hungry. He is turned out by one church member and then the church itself does not even attempt to meet any of his needs. He finds employment with a printer named Udell, and the book tells of his journey from bitter cynicism to a society of young people trying to live like Jesus, not just “church members,” and then to his leadership in helping those in need and showing others how to truly live out their Christianity.

This book really challenged me. Yes, I do serve at church, and we tithe consistently now (since we have gotten on track with our finances as stewards of God’s money – thanks Dave Ramsey). But are we really stewards or do we satisfy our owe wants the majority of the time? Am I comfortable? Am I only a “church member?” Do I truly live out my Christianity in the way illustrated by this book? Am I “first world” Christian, comfortable by default?

Well, what I decided to do first is to contribute more food for our church’s food bank. We will go with the kids and have them pick out the food, deliver it to the food bank, and then help hand it out to those in need. My employer is also sponsoring a “Care Deeply” volunteer day in September, where employees can volunteer for charities for half a day. I knew it was coming and was completely undecided on what I was going to do. For some reason, I just felt apathetic about participating.

Yesterday morning my thoughts were heavy and  still lingering on these questions. I went to work and investigated the volunteer opportunities. What blew my mind was when I looked up Habitat for Humanity.  I have heard of it, but didn’t really know much about it. This is exactly the sort of ministry the Printer of Udell’s helped to set up – Christian, but non-denominational, something respectful that anyone can contribute to or volunteer for.

So, why a new blog?

A Realization Came to Me

Posted on Updated on

[Written June 25, 2011]

I love how God works. I am learning that if I put the effort in to acquire knowledge (grammar), God will make connections that lead to understanding (dialectic) and wisdom (rhetoric). From a simple dedication to read to my children because it is good for them, to the addition of audio books to our regimen, which then prompted me to borrow Shabrail’s iPod to the listening of the seminars from NCHE to an explanation of the beatitudes from Matthew chapter five, God has been making very clear and strong connections in my life. He is lifting me higher and higher through His grace.

Since the NCHE convention, I have dedicated myself to reading a Lamplighter book after the evening meal. A realization came to me: I should also do an evening devotional with my family. (Ok, duh!?!) My first idea was to try and look on my bookshelves for a book on family devotionals. I also considered purchasing one, but also wondered what topic I should choose. A realization came to me: why don’t I just go to the source document, like DeMille spoke of in “Thomas Jefferson Education.” (Double duh!?!). I decided that I would just start at the beginning of the New Testament, at Jesus sort of first mass teaching to the crowds.

We talked a few nights about each verse individually and had a great discussion. On the third night, Vanessa became frustrated with the words, “blessed are the gentle.” She didn’t think it possible that she could be gentle. But there is a blessing with being gentle, I told her. Impossible, she said. A realization came to me: she can’t. It really is impossible, for and for me and for everyone. I brought her back to the first beatitude which said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” We are all incapable of being gentle; or kind; or patient; or loving; et cetera. Seeing her frustration, and feeling frustrated as well that she didn’t want to try to be gentle, as I saw it, and then seeing the connection of the between the scripture, really encouraged that we could do this from the original source! This is how education has occurred from the very beginning, so why not now?

As I continued to thirst for education, I started to listen to the mp3’s purchased from the NCHE convention. In one particular seminar from Mark Hamby, he spoke about Matthew five and the beatitudes, connecting the string together as a progression of spiritual growth. It was incredible! I saw clearly how Jesus was teaching the people, and that God was working in our family, in that I had started at these beatitudes.

Next, I would like to discuss the beatitudes and their application:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit. Do I realize this everyday? Am I spiritual? Do I love only those who love me?
  • Knowing this, it should make me mourn. Yes, I can’t really control anger, or lust, or pride. Yes, it pops up like unsinkable buoys in my soul. Yes, I have no real power over it all. Am I willing to let this really through to my heart…or would I rather medicate it? Do I apply a worldly balm, a temporary amusement here or outburst of anger there, to distract from this most severe truth?
  • Will I submit to God? Will I become meek? But isn’t meekness weakness? Do I really need to let everybody walk all over me in order to be spiritual? According to Dictionary.com, there are three definitions for this word:
    •  Humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others. This is not really what people think of when they think of meek. Provocation is something that incites, instigates, angers, or irritates. Will I be patient during God’s provocation against me? This realization just came to me, actually. It is very irritating to know and understand that I, simply put, suck. I suck quite badly. It is God who shows us, provokes us, not to condemn, but in truth. If I were to really let that hit my heart, it can and does make me very angry. Will I be patient about it? Can I accept it?
    • Overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame. This is probably the most common understanding of the word. I might add another: spineless. But, I don’t believe, is what Jesus is talking about. I have been taught that one example of meekness is a knight’s warhorse: it is powerful but is tame and submits to the commands of his master.
    • Obsolete. Gentle; kind. It is interesting that many translations use gentle instead of meek, and this dictionary source calls it obsolete. I am not a Hebrew/Greek scholar, but “gentle” fails to communicate what I believe Jesus is trying to communicate.
  •  If I see how poor I am in spirit, if I let that fact hit my heart in sorrow, and if I resist all inclination at raging against these facts…then I think it is very natural to start to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

These are only the first four beatitudes, and there are blessings at ever step. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. They will be comforted. Who comforts? The Holy Spirit, the comforter, will. They will inherit the earth. They will be filled. Jesus promises these blessings to us, reminders and motivators that it is very worth the effort to go through these steps in spiritual self-realization. These steps should be almost daily in application, and the comprehension of the promised blessings should be daily as well.