Friday, October 29, 2010

Cautious Optimism

"So the feel of a praying life is cautious optimism -- caution because of the Fall, optimism because of redemption."
-- Paul E. Miller

Thanks to my friend for sharing this quote.
I think this quote is true, but how do we balance this caution and optimism? What does this look like in real life?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Marriage is a Hospital: And Other Lessons on Married Life from Martin Luther

I love Martin Luther and what he has to say on marriage. So do the guys over at The Resurgence, which have been host to a series solely dedicated to Luther and holy matrimony which I have been enjoying incredibly. This article by Justin Taylor, titled 4 Lessons from Luther on Married Life stood out to me quite a bit so I thought, "Nows the time!" (to share a little tidbit of course.)

No marriage seminars will tell you this, but Luther will: marriage is like a hospital. You won’t find the metaphor understandable or appealing until you realize that you are sick and that you need to be healed. Here’s how Luther put it:
The temptation of the flesh has become so strong and consuming that marriage may be likened to a hospital for incurables which prevents inmates from falling into graver sins.

Luther biographer Roland Bainton picks up another metaphor in his writings:
"After his own marriage Luther’s tone shifted to a stress upon the home as a school for character. It is the area where the Christian virtues find their readiest exemplification, and, whereas in Catholicism monasticism is the sphere for the cultivation of the counsels of perfection, in Protestantism the home is as it were a functional substitute."
Both metaphors—a school and a hospital—signal the important role of marriage as an agent of sanctification and rehabilitation. Our selfishness and pride are exposed. And if we respond in God-honoring humility, marriage can be used by God to cleanse us of our sin. The shift away from the monastic metaphor is also significant, for it signifies that marriage is never a purely private affair. Christian marriage is not to be of the world, but it must certainly be in the world.

Amen, Luther, Amen. (Like I even know)

Check out others in the series:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ann Judson: Oh, Death...

There are a few things that my curiosity will never be satisfied with, and one is learning about women of the faith. The wives of the reformers, the women who risked it all to take their faith to the world through missions, those who serve the church faithfully in their hometown, the women who quietly walked a steady faith that might not have inspired thousands but worked wonders in her family's life, those both past and present.  In the future I hope to highlight some things on my blog that I've come to learn from these inspiring women of the faith.

First lets take a quick look at Ann (known as Nancy) Judson, first wife of Adoniram Judson. She was the first American woman missionary to go overseas. She sailed with her husband for Calcutta, India in 1812.

This quote, taken from "To the Golden Shore" is a response to the death of her son and offers a fierce theology on death.

"Oh death, thou destroyer of domestic felicity, could not this wide world afford victims sufficient to satisfy thy cravings, without entering the family of a silitary few, whose comfort and happiness depeneded much on the society of of each other? But thou hast come, clothed in thy usual garb, thou wast sent by a kind Father, to release his child from toil and pain. Be still, and know that God has done it." -Ann Judson, page 159
 She basically starts out by saying, Oh, death! Destroyer of happiness. Why us! Out of all the people in the world! And she ends with the hard to say words "Be still, and know that God has done it."   Everytime I read this I cry, because I just hope that I would be able to speak these words with the same meaning.

Be still and know that God has done it, and He is a kind father.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Isnt All Spoken Word, Art?

By Alissa Graham

"I do spoken word art," she boasted to all with ears, univited might I add. The bus driver was especially stuck listening to anyone who had anything to say. A bold rainbow was juxtaposed on her body by means of spectacular displays of jewelry.

"Im sorry though miss, but isnt all spoken word, art?" I thought in my head. Our words are a tapestry crafted and designed- some speak more eloquently, yes, and some weave that poetic picture using melodies and announciations. If art is defined as a human creation, then I need to stand my ground.

"Hey there yall,"  splatter the paint in an uneven manner. "How you doin'?" splash, flick, colors, more colors!

"My darling I want to hold you near!" The type of art to caress the soul. "I love you forever." A careful and gentle motion from the potter to the clay. Brotherly exhortation, a sisterly concern: friends, your words carve out my inconsistencies.

A poem, a song, "row, row, row your boat..." Words that invoke feelings, memories, hearing them brings comfort or sorrow. We like to display our words in our homes, above the mantle, "Dont forget your p's and q's!"

But sometimes art is embarrassing and awkward. "I dont know what to say," a painters hesitation, his brush paused. "This cant work out, Im sorry." Criss cross with charcoal, starting over. Sometimes the scultpers sharp tools knick, "You've hurt me." 

Every artist has taken out a new canvas with good intentions. Everyone has picked up the phone and dialed. Only to put it back down, to set it back in its holder, nothing to say.

I think all spoken word is art, and sometimes not speaking is an art unto itself.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What've you been doin' lately?

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.  
Psalms 13:5-6

This is probably the longest post ever about random life updates. But its been a while since Ive been able to talk to all my family and friends back home for any reasonable length of time. I apologize!

October has arrived. In fact, its been flying by with absolutely no concern for my feelings. The weather was beautiful this weekend. Something in the fifties I do believe. PERFECTION! In fact, I was able to pull out my flannel pajamas! The last time I wore most of my winter clothes was in Russia, so its almost an emotional process to pull out all my arctic apparel. Soon, it will be time to wear my favorite wool socks, but for now until it snows, I'm still rocking the flip-flops.

The weekend before last I went apple picking with the Christian Student Fellowship crowd, and we had so much fun! 25 apples ended up coming home with me, I just don't know how! There were about 30 of us who went, and it was wonderful to see both new faces and faces I haven't seen since last winter! One of my favorite thing about Jaswell's Farm is the hayride! Fun:) A bunch of us came back to my place after and carved pumpkins, baked apple deliciousness, and hung out. If my computer was working, or even if my work computer wasn't so ridiculous, I would show some awesome fall pictures. Sigh.

Speaking of computers. I am, again, in a technology dilemma.  My brand new laptop decided to kick the bucket. Why? Why? Why? I have treated it ten times better than the last one, offering it a nice little place to snuggle at night, safe from any sort of weird magnetism. I keep it in a special pocket in my backpack, so not to jostle or scratch it with all the nonsense I hike around with. I am glad I bought the most intense warranty ever, but still. Are you kidding me? This week it's going out for service. Until then, I am scrambling to get all my work done while I am at my work computer, which isn't a very efficient way to do things, but its the reality.

Last week Hannah and I rode our bikes about 7.5 miles. We just kind of rode and turned and wandered and journeyed. As usual, when we "travel" together, crazy things happen and we end up places we just don't even know. (Us: "Are we in Pennsylvania?" Firefighter: "No, you are in Delaware.") In our wandering we discovered this seriously awesome park called Neutaconkanut Hill, in a random urban Providence neighborhood. In fact, Neutaconkanut Hill (try saying that 5 times fast), is "88 acres of trees, field, grasses, and wild flowers, interspersed with valleys, ravines, glacial boulders, stone walls, fresh water springs and brooks, and is the natural habitat for a multitude of small woodland animals including deer, fox, and wild turkey." Seriously, who would have thought this place existed? I conclude that we must go there and have a hike and a camp out.

As for classes, well, meh. I am not very excited about this trimester. I'm taking Statistics. Math makes me cry. Enough said about that. Psychology is actually interesting to me, and my professor is a nutcase, which keeps things entertaining. (He wore a cape the first class, and last week confessed to being a UCC priest.) We talk about all sorts of engaging things, and I have a class that participates, unusual for a JWU general, continuing-ed, night class. My "Financing the Entrepreneurial Venture" class is somewhat enjoyable as well. All sorts of fascinating business case studies, including one about ZipCar, which I am intrigued by. My professor loves to use the word "cohort," and my classmates are pretty cool. I finished my Career Capstone class, and passed, which is great! Sadly, I dropped American Government, but my intentions are to CLEP it like its 1999! I am eager for Winter Trimester to arrive! Imagine: classes in my major, with great professors, at reasonable times, no night classes, and one beautiful, glorious online class! Ecstasy!

Ok, that's enough for now.

What have YOU been doing lately?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sacred Struggle

When I am visiting someone's house, there is a tendency in me to to become curiously enamored by their books. I'll usually pick up a quick stack and glance through them, noting which ones I would love to read at a later time, or borrow of course. Well, last night I was hanging out with some friends and came across two books that stood out to me. The first one is a William Butler Yeats Selected Poems book, full of poems that warmly remind me of my love of poetry in high school (and how much I want to love it again). The second one, interestingly enough is "Sacred Marriage" by Gary Thomas. I am definitely adding this to my "to read" shelf on GoodReads. I would like to share a selection of that book, one that really caught my eye. The book is about marriage, but this portion more specifically, about our Christian lives. At the moment, I really relate to it. So here we go, taken from chapter eight, "Sacred Struggle."

   The tendency to avoid difficulty is a grave spiritual failing that can and often does keep us in Christian infancy. The great spiritual writers warned that this life is difficult and that we should use the difficulty to build up character.
   William Law, an eighteen century Anglican writer, asks, "How many saints has adversity sent to Heaven? And how many poor sinners has prosperity plunged into everlasting misery?"  
John Climacus, who wrote the Eastern classic on the Christian faith in the fifth century, mocks our demand to have it easy and to shun struggle:   "I would not consider any spirituality worthwhile that wants to walk in sweetness and ease and run from the imitation of Christ." 
Jesus promised us that everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice seasoned with salt (Mark 9:49). The desire for ease, comfort, and stress-free living is an indirect desire to remain an  "unseasoned," immature Christian. Struggle makes us stronger; it builds us up and deepens our faith.
  But this result is achieved only when we face the struggle head on, not when we run from it. Gary and Betsy Ricucci point out, "Our Lord has sovereignly ordained that our refining process take place as we go through difficulties, not around them. The Bible is filled with examples of those who overcame as they passed through the desert, the Red Sea, the fiery furnace, and ultimately the cross. God doesnt protect Christians from their problems, but he helps them walk victoriously through them.

Are we indirectly desiring to remain unseasoned infants? Or are we relying on God to get us through and deepen our faith?

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Service Instead of Service

Lately there has been a bunch of churches swapping their Sunday morning services out for "service" in the community... involving a wide range of things from cleaning up a park to handing out water bottles to joggers.

A while back I was struggling with the biblical "idealness" of concept, (I think it is NOT ideal, or a even a great idea) and couldn't exactly organize my thoughts in the most effective manner, as you would probably be able to ask my sister. Haha.

Well, I love this new blog post from Kevin DeYoung, and think he communicates the topic in a clear and compelling light and have included the link below:

Should Churches Trade in Services for Serving? (link)

Here are the major points of the article, but I encourage you to read them in their entirety.

1. Consider practically if this is a good strategy. 
2. Consider if there is good (or any) historical precedence for routinely canceling your worship service
3. Consider that all of life is worship, but corporate worship is still unique.
4. Consider what it may communicate when you replace services with serving. 
5. Consider that corporate worship is a means of grace.

What do you think? Swapping service for serving?

Monday, October 4, 2010

"About Love, or, Why I Hate Attraction."

I love CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation). I literally aim to read all of their books, blogs, booklets, web content, and heck I would go to their school if I lived in Philly. They are legit, bible based, gospel oriented, and rock solid. And so I figured I would share the love.

Ed Welch recently wrote an article titled "About Love, or, Why I Hate Attraction," and its super interesting. If you have been around me for more than 231431 minutes, you will know how I stand on relationships and attraction. No, I DO NOT hate attraction, and I am NOT some sort of crazy prudish love hater.

I just think the role that so many people place attraction in, the center role usually- well, needs to be rethought a little bit.
I IMPLORE you to read the whole article. Click the title below.

About Love, Or, Why I Hate Attraction: by Ed Welch

Here is a tasty tidbit:
"Attraction is fun, and in Western systems of courtship and marriage, it is the way couples get started, but attraction is about me. It’s about how someone makes me feel. In that sense, attraction is rubbish. It gets people together but it is powerless to keep them together. Even more, attraction, without the addition of other forms of love, promises to separate marriages and any once-close relationship."

Amen brother, and I would possibly go so far to say that this kind of love should be adapted and applied to all Christian relationships. Example, are we "attracted" to your friends, because they can do something for us? Are we "attracted" to our church because of how it serves our "needs"? Or are we loving like Christ has called us to?