Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Silent Majority

I seek, like Thoreau, to ‘read not the Times; read the eternities.’ If this sounds snobbish, it shouldn’t; it is the opposite of snobbery. The merely avant-garde thinker is the real snob.

The object of his snobbery is not the living but the dead, the great ‘silent majority’ of pre-contemporary thinkers who are disenfranchised not by accident of birth but by accident of death.

~ Peter Kreeft, Love is Stronger Than Death (Introduction)
Recently my father and I discussed the qualities of postmodernism afflicting our generation and infecting our churches. The more I interact with Christians who have not been exposed to great literature, past philosophers (both Christians and atheists), and an historical context for Scripture, the more I see a gaping disconnect between their beliefs and their lifestyle.

I am shamefully aware of the reason the media labels Christians as uneducated. A whole subset of persons believe that 'Christian fiction' and films like 'Facing the Giants' or 'Fireproof' are real art, and 'safe' to absorb. I am more terrified to hear that a person's most influential book list includes The Purpose Driven Life, The Left Behind series, 'Christian' romance novels, and the like than if it included Nietzsche, Thoreau, Hemingway, or Wilde. At least the latter authors wrote about the great questions of life, death, and existence and did not give pat[hetic] answers.

Many Christians view life, and its ultimate questions, in bits and pieces. This is echoed in the poor writing, mediocre art, and empty answers given under the guise of 'Christian' psychology. Fragmented thinking stems from lack of discipline and the aforementioned postmodern mindset that has driven both the world and the church mad. There is a popular belief that this generation is the first of its kind. Thus, history is not too important, and dead white European males are hardly worth listening to. How would one of those know what this generation faces? Yet 'this generation' does not know what the elementary diagnostic questions are, let alone how to answer them.

Perhaps I should lay out some of these questions: What is a good life? What is the meaning and purpose of life? What is a good death? What good is death? Why do I exist? What is a human being? What is love? What is a good love? Is there a God, and is He good? Are we alone, drifting through a meaningless, void universe? Is matter all there is?

In our world of ceaseless noise and unending images, we rarely even go to sleep or drive in silence. If one takes long walks, they are spent talking on the phone or listening to an iPod, rather than in silent reflection. Without solitude and reflection on what God is saying through His Spirit, Scripture, literature, philosophy, and wise men, one splinters under the pressure of outside confusion and noise. When would one have time to ask the above questions? When would they have the mental silence to think through even one of those questions, or to seek its answer?

There is another set of questions that I have not yet raised. Questions every member of humanity ought to ask, but especially those in the Church. Queries like, "How did our forefathers face such-and-such moral dilemma?" or "What has been previously written on this subject?" What did Erasmus, Cranmer, Luther, Kirkegaard, Kant, and Lewis write on issues of when or if there is ever a time when lying is acceptable, or of love, death, or the meaning of life? The current era is not the first generation of Christians. Thus, it is wise to gain knowledge from (and pursue it further than) our Godly ancestors.

The Church has stepped away from the Silent Majority, those who penned timeless truth in the creeds and confession. The Church no longer repeats daily the Lord's Prayer, nunc dimittis, te deum laudamus, or magnificat. Yet this goes directly against Scripture, where God constantly tells the people to remember the things past, or to do something (a feast or festival) as a memorial. A 'memorial' means partaking in the feast or fast to remember God's work on one's behalf. Why celebrate things like Christmas (the Incarnation) or Easter (the Resurrection) if one is not centred on the event commemorated? In like manner, why set aside the prayer book and the likes of Erasmus and Cranmer, for the pabulum of far too many evangelical sermons?

The Church ought to look like Christ, not every wind of doctrine breathed out by the world. The Church ought not copy slogans, chant cute-but-trite sayings, or make facsimiles of popular culture icons to share the already compelling message of the Incarnation, the good life, a good love, the purpose of death, or the Resurrection.

The Church ought to have the best writers, film-makers, artists, businessmen, congressmen, mail carriers, clerks, rubbish collectors, historians, professors, mothers, fathers, etcetera, that the world has ever seen. Those in the Church ought to be well-educated, reasonable, logical, well-read, teachable, humble, wise, and honest. They ought to be the farmer-statesman - unafraid to till the soil, yet able to speak intelligently upon a host of worthy subjects from philosophy and history, to the arts and politics. Above all, the Church must not forget that many wise voices still speak from the past, and that she must leave a wise and prudent voice (and world) to those who are yet to come.

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.

All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our father.

I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea. We will have the dead at our councils. The ancient Greeks voted by stones; these shall vote by tombstones. It is all quite regular and official, for most tombstones, like most ballot papers, are marked with a cross.

~ G. K. Chesterton; Orthodoxy, 'The Ethics of Elfland' (pg 48)

~ Johanna

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Light Has Dawned

Great literature is full of contrasting themes: good and evil, truth and lies, light and dark, hope and despair - and the list continues. There is no exception in the story of the Incarnation. It is the moment of turning in The Great Story of Scripture, in all of history no less.

Themes of creation, fall, and redemption weave throughout Scripture. Themes of sin, repentance, a remnant, and renewal pervade the Old Testament and carry on through the New. Look at the first contrast in Genesis, see that God made the light and separated it from the darkness. Light and dark become themes through the rest of Scripture.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend [overcome] it. ~ John 1:1-5

This Light was prophesied hundreds of years prior to John penning these words (words that echo the creation in Genesis 1). Isaiah also spoke of the division of light and dark:

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.
(Isaiah 9:2)
Little did Isaiah know that the Messianic prophecy would be met in baby born under Roman rule several hundred years later. However, Zacharias knew the prophet's words. They reverberate in his song in Luke chapter one:

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.
(Luke 1:76-79)
Who is this Light that Isaiah, John, and Luke cannot cease describing? Why, He is the theme of the Story. He is the Light from on High that enters into a world thrust into darkness by pride, grasping, and sinful desires. He is Emmanuel, God with us.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgement and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

(Isaiah 9:6-7)

Merry Christmas!

~ Johanna

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chanukkah: Festival of Lights

When I went to Oxford and studied the Old Testament under Kevin Bywater, I realised that I needed to learn the Hebrew language and Jewish culture in order to understand the Bible better. Another desire to learn Hebrew arose from watching the Maccabeats perform their [much better] rendition/parody of 'Dynamite', called 'Candlelight'.

Seeing the above video piqued my interest in Jewish culture and history. Since my return from England I have taken a very basic crash course in Hebrew, learning the aleph bet. In the Spring I have the opportunity to take a Jewish history/culture class. And since I didn't know much about Chanukkah (aside from the above video), I looked up the history HERE. It is neat to understand other cultures, their holidays, why certain things are sacred or important, and so forth.

Happy Chanukkah!

~ Johanna

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What Child is This?

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and lamb are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you,
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

'What Child is This?' is one of my favourite Christmas carols, particularly because of this verse. When I was younger I didn't know or understand the following phrase very well: 'Good Christians, fear, for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.'

The Word, The One who spoke the world into existence, is mute (save for crying and cooing) in the arms of His very own creation. Yet God becomes a speechless baby, pleading for the salvation and redemption of mankind. Truly, the Incarnation is one of two miracles that always astounds and arrests my attention (the other being the resurrection).

'Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the Babe, the Son of Mary.'

A blessed Advent season to you, dear friends and readers!

~ Johanna

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day of Infamy

"Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan... No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people will through their righteous might win through to absolute victory... With confidence in our armed forces-with the unbounded determination of our people-we will gain the inevitable triumph-so help us God. I, therefore, ask that the Congress declare that since the dastardly and unprovoked attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire."

~ President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dec. 8, 1941

Thank you to those of you serving in the armed forces, and to those who have come before us and paid the ultimate price for our freedom. And thanks be to God, without His aide we never could have won WWII.

~ Johanna

Monday, November 28, 2011

This is Home

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. "
~ The Last Battle: C. S. Lewis
Every day this exclamation rings true in my heart, but some days it pierces me more acutely. There are the days when I believe the lies that I am not as cool as my friends, or that I am not intelligent enough. There are days that I feel less than average in my appearance. There are days when I feel like my friends underestimate (or ignore) my knowledge and skills... And days when I, too, believe that I am ignorant and useless. Days like these make me long for another world where being in the presence of The Superlative to every good thing does not make me feel worthless, rather it invigorates me to be more like Him.

The other time Lewis's phrase burns in my heart is when I look into the ashen embers of the eyes of Death. Whether someone I know dies, or the family member of a friend passes away, it makes me weep. I do not lament because there is no hope, rather because Death is not what we were created for. We were made to live, and Death mocks the very order of our creation. However, Death can only quench our life because we let him in through sin, and sin begets death.
"But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."
~ James 1:14-15 (NKJV)

Death. It is an ugly word, worse yet, a hideous reality. One day Death itself will be turned on its head and what seemed such a certain reality will melt away. Death will be swallowed up in the Life of Christ Jesus the Lord. At least, that is the hope of those who believe on Christ Jesus for salvation from their wanton desires (those that lead to sin and death, as stated above). Being fully alive is also the hope of those whose desires cannot be satisfied by all that this world has to offer.
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
~ C. S. Lewis

Have you been looking all your life for another world? You were certainly made for another... And there lies real hope {confident expectation}. We must live here and now because this is where God has placed us. But we live here and now in the hope {expectation} that Redemption has happened, is happening, and that it will be fulfilled more deeply and richly than we could fathom or dare to dream in the world to come.
"...for them it was only the beginning of the real story. And all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: and now they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has ever read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

~ The Last Battle: C. S. Lewis

When we finally discover that there is a real country, a home that we never knew existed but still somehow always believed in, then every chapter really will be better than the one before. Worthless feelings, lies, and Death will all be vanquished by the King of Glory, the LORD strong and mighty. 'Blessed, blessed, blessed be He!'

~ Johanna

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure."
~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

Without the depths of the Valley of Loss, the Heights of Joy are not quite as invigorating as they could be. Without making room for stillness even the sound of a symphony becomes a cacophony blotting out clear thoughts.

Are we willing to walk through the Valley of the Shadow in order to know joy more fully? Do we practise silence by turning off the car stereo, or going for long walks without headphones or a cell phone? Do we thank God for the physical distance between us and our loved ones? Without that space the sweetness and gladness of seeing a long-missed friend or family member is dulled, sometimes into contempt. Do we welcome Sorrow, Suffering, and Grief as tutors to bring us to Joy and Hope and Revival?

Often paradoxes like these arrive in our lives; at first we see only trial, hurt, and brokenness. However, if we allow hard things to be our schoolmasters, we may learn from them and be strengthened by them. This often requires altering the paradigm of our perspective. Sometimes this change can be done manually, but other times it is only by asking God to open our eyes to His perspective that we can see redemption in hurtful and hard things.
"...pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
~ C.S. Lewis

Pain, Sorrow, and Suffering are not God's optimum way of obtaining our attention; yet He uses even these things for our good. He refines us, shapes us through hard things. We find indeed that hardships, distances, silence*, and ugliness help us to appreciate the Good, True, and Beautiful.

~ Johanna

*Silence is not a punishment, or a bad thing. It is actually a spiritual discipline. However, silence is needed to gain perspective on hard things.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

For the Beauty of the Earth

Some of my Oxford photos set to 'For the Beauty of the Earth'. The fact that I was able to attend New College (where many of the photos are taken) and live in England with awesome persons is definitely the highlight of my year (and my life to date).

Thank You, Jesus, for such an awesome opportunity!

What are YOU thankful for this year?

~ Johanna

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Snapshots of Life...

I finally realised that I can upload my own photos right onto my blog. This could make my posts a bit more colourful!

I got a new coat for $8 at Goodwill this week. The funny thing is, it is almost exactly what I was looking for last year when I found out I was going to England (minus the hood - someone detached that). Does that mean I get to go back to England?

Last week Andréa and Kasey came to Colorado and we visited the Summit Semester clan at Snow Wolf Lodge. In this photo we are sporting our Nebraska gear in honour of Kasey.

Aren't my flatmates absolutely Beautiful? :) We're just missing the lovely Jacqueline.

Er, um, during my second visit to Semester (Alumni weekend/Farvest Hall) some of the guests made almond butter... Laura and I may have decided that licking the spatula was the most responsible way to clean it.

That's all for now, merry Thanksgiving to one and all!
~ Johanna

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Christ Now and Then

"I wanted life itself, the colour and fire and loveliness of life. And Christ now and then, like a loved poem I could read when I wanted to. I didn’t want us to be swallowed up in God. I wanted holidays from the school of Christ.”
~ Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy (page 136)

There are many other, arguably better, quotations from A Severe Mercy. However, this one reminds me that I, too, don't always desire Jesus as I ought. It is sobering. Do I want holidays from the school of Christ? Sometimes. O God, help me to want more and still more of You!

In light of this struggle, I found another well-loved quotation from A Severe Mercy apropos:
“The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians--when they are sombre and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths. But, though it is just to condemn some Christians for these things, perhaps, after all, it is not just, though very easy, to condemn Christianity itself for them."
~ Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy

On the days I would rather have a holiday from the school of Christ, I find that I am not exhibiting the first characteristics Vanauken says are indicative of Christians. But even when I want holidays from the Master's school, the truth of Christianity does not shift or change. I shift, I falter like a shadow, but He is the light that dispels even my darkest desires. Persons may [rightly] reproach Christians, but no slander sticks to the Truth of Christ.

~ Johanna

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kyrie Eleison

Lord have mercy upon us
Christ have mercy upon us
Lord have mercy upon us
~ Kyrie Eleison

A beautiful way to start this snowy day. I'm watching fine flakes shaken like caster sugar over all the orange, yellow, and green leaves of Autumn... Thank You Jesus for Beauty!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

And We Are Filled With Joy...

The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

~ Psalm 126:3 (NiV)

What has the LORD done for you today that has filled you with joy?

Here is my list from the weekend:
  • Good Summit friends from across the country converging in Colorado
  • Sunset in Estes Park over jagged, snow-capped peaks across a still lake
  • Bouldering with awesome friends
  • Photo shoots
  • RED maple trees at Celestial Seasonings factory, and all around Boulder in general
  • Extreme yellow cottonwood-type trees along the river
  • Good chilli at Snarf's sammich shop
  • Fantastic conversations
  • Fun and hoopla @ the Stonestreet's
  • Laughing so hard that we cried @ Savannah's awesome stories
  • Really, really good food - especially avocados
  • Reading/Finishing Perelandra
  • Good hymns and service at St. George's this morning + Middle School FUSE ;)
  • Phone calls from good friends needing a listening ear and advice (and the same friends giving good advice and exhibiting humility)
  • Amazing cups of tea with cream and sugar
  • Liverwurst sammiches w/avocados
  • John Michael Talbot and Michael Card music to chill out with in the evening
  • Time to write letters
  • A heated blanket on my comfy bed, and just having a bed!
  • My car running like a champion through the Mountains and the Beautiful drive to/through Estes Park (and the moosen we saw in the woodsen!)
  • Fun hikes and lovely walks
  • Cold nights with clear skies and no moon; perfect for viewing the stars
  • My friends Joseph and Edna who always bless me with good conversation and sweet, unlooked-for gifts
  • Considering and mulling over the fact that at a literal point in history, God wasn't a man and that at one specific time He set aside His rightful glory and splendour to be clothed in flesh to share man's smudge and smell
  • Psalm 126 (check out the end after the above verse... Soooo good!)

Ah! And there is a new week ahead to gather more realisations that God has done great things for us...
...And I am filled with joy!

~ Johanna

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stepping Stones

Have you ever tried to cross a creek by jumping from stone to stone? I often go about this task rather gingerly (and not just because I am red-headed). Stones in a creek can be slippy, moss-covered, treacherous, and wobbly. Sometimes it is no easy task picking your way across such hazards; especially when you do not know which (if any) you will meet on your trek.

Life is rather like crossing an immense stream by stepping from rock to rock. It is hard to tell if you will have sure footing, if the shallow water rushing over a stone is perilous, or if you will find a solid place to pause. Sometimes one puts their foot out onto a stone, trusting their weight to it, only to find that it is weak and wriggling. When this happens to me I usually make a mad dash to find the next rock in the chain of stones. If the next stone is solid it is a good halting place to recover balance and nerve; but when the next step is also shaky, it can be a disastrous course. Sometimes I get wet.

Reality is like that... I trust my heart to something inordinately more than God (people, intellect, work, and on it goes) and I find that thing too weak to support me. Not because the thing is bad of itself, but because I rely on it disproportionately to trusting God. If I do not change my course and seek the solid rock of obedience to Jesus I end up getting wet. Sometimes just my 'shoes' are sopping and soggy; other times I am completely submerged in the rushing river coursing between the stones.

"I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping stones
Of their dead selves to higher things."
~ Tennyson

My friend Andrew shared the above lines on his blog recently and it struck a chord inside of me. There are times when our course lies across a part of the stream where there are no stones we can reach. Unless the Creator Himself lays a path before us (which He does surprisingly often), He often gives us things to sacrifice to become the next step.

As the Israelites built altars of memorial stones when God did something great, we too, at times build memorials to God out of things offered or sacrificed to Him. We offer Him the root of bitterness, lust, lies, or some other brokenness needing to be consumed from our lives. We sacrifice the good things in our lives, seeking the best things. We offer praise and thanksgiving at all times, even in sorrow and suffering. These things are memorial stones to the testimony of the power, kindness, and goodness of God. It is with these stones that the Father paves our way before us. We step upon our dead selves, our dead past, to step closer to Him.

What stepping stones does the LORD desire to lay before you? What sacrifices can be made into altars of memorial? Will you let the Shepherd take your weakness, brokenness, and sin and turn them into a place of surrender and hope [confident expectation]? What part of you needs to be crucified and stepped upon to reach the next step in life?

Would you be so bold as to comment below with your answer to one (or all) of these questions? I will go first... Right now the LORD is working in me to be better disciplined with my time, especially in giving Him the first fruits/portion of the day... And He is reminding me not to fall into old habits where I waste mornings by sleeping in - which reminds me that I need to go to bed so I can rise to spend tomorrow with my dear friends from out of town. Goodnight all!

~ Johanna

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pressed, but not crushed...

"Remember, however, that to be breakable is not the same as to be perishable."
~ G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Chesterton pens the above line in a chapter labelled "The Ethics of Elfland" in his superior little book Orthodoxy. (Project Gutenberg has the entire book on-line for free, see above link. You can even download it to your Kindle.)

I thought of Paul describing all of the punishments he had endured for the sake of Christ, how he was pressed, but not crushed, persecuted, but not abandoned. And then the line from Job, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" came to mind. So I have been pondering what it means to allow God to break me, while knowing He won't discard me.

I go back to Chesterton's thought: God has made us imperishable, yet breakable. Why? He has built us with frailty in us (need for food, sleep, etc.). Why? After all, in Him there is no frailty, no shadow of turning, no going back on His word.

The Psalmist understood that we were built with frailty in us when he said,

"My heart was hot within me;
While I was musing, the fire burned.
Then I spoke with my tongue:

'LORD, make me to know my end,
And what is the measure of my days,
That I may know how frail I am'."
~ Psalm 39:3-4

God is so different from us, yet He not only knows that we exist, He knows us! I am overwhelmed with this realisation... That God would know us, care for us, draw us in to the most intimate fellowship with Him under the shadow of His wings. It is too much, He is too much!

That is my thought for today, God is too much. He is far more than 'enough'. He is beyond the scope of our greatest imaginings. When we remember how great God is, how good He is in spite of circumstances, how kind and patient He is, we find that we can be pressed, but we are not crushed. We are breakable, but not disposable or perishable. Let us be breakable in the Father's hands, which is the safest place to be broken.

~ Johanna

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Autumn: Nothing Gold Can Stay

September is my favourite month. The days are sunny and warm with a nip in the air. The nights are chilly, allowing me to snuggle under my down comforter. Most of the trees here in the foothills are still green, but oft their edges are tipped with gold, their hardest hue to hold, as Mr. Frost so aptly penned.

This morning the sun chased me from under my warm nest of covers. I slipped outside as the Morning Star illumined the yellow leaves of a tree that had turned early. My eyes lingered on the half-green, half-amber dryads lining the river. A gilded stream of leaves coursed through the channel along the sidewalk. The chill breeze chased the citron leaves along the street, their frail frames scuttling the direction I, too, traversed. They chased me like an unbidden memory invades the present. I let them come. Indeed, I hardly had the power to stop their swirling dance any more than I could quell an impetuous memory.

Freshness hung in the air, mingling with the aroma of crunching leaves. Sunshine filtered through the torn cotton clouds and settled on the distant Pike's Peak, crowning it with gold. But even the gold of early dawn could not long tarry, and neither could I. I dropped my letters in the post box and made for home, eager to read the next chapter in Orthodoxy; but that is a topic for another post.

Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

~ Nothing Gold Can Stay, Robert Frost

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bearing the Cost

Recently I have been re-reading the classic Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. My dad first read the book to me when I was quite young, and then again around high school. I have read it myself a couple of times also. I learn something new (or in a deeper way) every time I read it.

Hinds' Feet is an allegory of sorts, with the main character, Much Afraid, allowing the Shepherd to plant the seed (thorn) of love in her heart and lead her on a journey to the High Places. Her first check comes when the Shepherd begins to lead her directly away from the mountains and through a vast desert. Here she learns the first lesson in love, Acceptance with Joy. In the desert sand where a few drops of water happen to splash from a spring, there is a single golden flower persevering; its name is Acceptance with Joy.

As Much Afraid continues her journey through the desert she does not turn toward the high places, but is led toward the Sea of Loneliness. There are many lessons to be learned here and in the next part of the journey, but finally the Shepherd leads her toward the mountains again. Now she has circuited the range and finds herself at a sheer, seemingly impassable precipice. The Shepherd tells her that to make her lame feet like hinds' feet she has to come this harder way. He promises her that she will learn the next lesson of love as she climbs the Precipice of Injury (not to be confused with Mt. Reviling or Persecution) with her strong companions, Sorrow and Suffering.

On the second day of her journey, in a lonely cleft in the sheer rock, Much Afraid meets a blood-red flower, glowing in the sunrise. The flower is named 'Bearing the Cost' (though some call it 'Forgiveness'). At one point it says,

"I was separated from all my companions, exiled from home, carried here and imprisoned in this rock. It was not my choice, but the work of others who, when they had dropped me here, went away and left me to bear the results of what they had done..."

In spite of ill treatment, the little flower continues that in this lonely and desolate place there is nothing to distract it from its Love, the sun.

"He shines upon me and makes me to rejoice, and has atoned for me all that was taken from me and done against me. There is no flower in all the world more blessed or more satisfied than I, for I look up to [my Love] as a weaned child and say, 'Whom have I in heaven but Thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire but Thee'."

I just loved the little flower's response to adversity and loneliness:
Now there is no distraction from my Love. There is no flower in all the world more blessed or more satisfied than I.

What an attitude to have! Rather than seeing our circumstances as hard, impossible, and solitary, we can both accept them with joy and bear the cost. We find that in the isolated places there is nothing to distract us from our Love: Jesus.

The passage that Bearing the Cost quotes from is Psalm 73. I have expanded it below for the sake of having some context. At the beginning of Psalm 73 the psalmist objects that the wicked prosper and do not seem to experience pain or poverty. However, like a sonnet there is a volta, a turning point; the writer thinks these things
until he goes in to the Sanctuary of God. Then he realises his error and misunderstanding. He finishes with these thoughts (vv 23-28):

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish;

You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
But it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord GOD,
That I may declare all Your works.

Indeed, may I declare in trials and loneliness that there is now nothing to distract me from my Love. May I discover that there is no person in all the world as blessed and satisfied as me. And may I truly be able to declare that there is none that I desire besides Jesus.

~ Johanna

Monday, August 15, 2011

An Arrow in Flight

When was the last time you sat down to read a good novel? For me it was last night. I picked up Pride and Prejudice to read for 'a little bit' and found myself still reading it two hours later. When was the last time you sat down to read Scripture like a novel? When was the last time you were astonished to find an hour or two had elapsed when you were reading the Bible?

A story draws us in, brings the reader in to the character's thoughts and observations, and often teaches by delighting*. Many Christians tend to think of the Bible as an instruction manual, a textbook, or a collection of sayings, stories, parables, and rules. The Bible becomes bits and pieces 'suitable' for reading in 10 or 15 minutes before dashing out the door for our busy and 'important' lives. However, the Bible is actually a story.

Now, I'm not Dawkins or some emergent church advocate calling the Bible a sham; but what if I told you the Bible is a myth, a fairytale, a metanarrative, and the like? You see, the Bible is a myth, a tale, a metanarrative (over arching story). It just happens to be a true myth, a real tale, and THE big story. (If you have heard metanarratives slandered and dismissed, or if you think they are bad, see Goheen's very readable explanation.)

If you are like me, you secretly harbour the desire to walk through a wardrobe and find yourself in a snowy land of always winter and never Christmas. Deep down you wish that dwarves, elves, talking beasts, and Hobbits really lived in a land you could sail to. We want myths and fairytales to be true. We want to step into the world of Jane Austin's or Charles Dickens' novels. We want a story-line, a hero, a victorious, happy, or peaceful ending.

Though the Bible contains various genres of writing (poetry, parables, prophecy, principles, proverbs, and past events) it is all one story. When you aim an arrow, you know from the beginning where you want it to go. If someone else sees the arrow in flight he can tell by the trajectory (at least generally) where the arrow came from and where it is going. The same is true of Scripture, we see where everything began and the track of the story. We can also see that it isn't over yet, but we have been told that the ending is victorious, joyful, and beyond restorative.

How can we see this big picture in Scripture if we only read a few verses, maybe a chapter at a time? We need to begin reading Scripture as holistically as possible. Read a complete gospel in one sitting. Read a few of Paul's letters all together. Read through all of Genesis, or Isaiah, or Jeremiah, etc. Yes, it takes time. Just remember that it is a story; it is supposed to be read as such. Remember, too, that it is a true story. Not all of it is "applicable" to life, but it does show the character of God and sets the stage for the New Testament, or the chapter of the story in which we find ourselves here and now.

* As Philip Sidney says in his Defence of Poetry: "Poesy therefore is an art of imitation...that is to say, a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth - to speak metaphorically, a speaking picture - with this end, to teach and delight."
(A Defence of Poetry Oxford University Press ©1966 - page 25)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Exposing the Lies of Lust

Hello new territory...

Normally my blog is a place where I discuss books (usually older books, at that) or things God has been teaching me through circumstances, etc. Today, however, I want to talk about an issue that churches are not dealing with: the struggle women have with lust.

Lust is not only a 'male problem' - it never has been. But we have been raised to think it is only guys who struggle with knowing where to set their eyes on a summer's day (one of my friends always said that summer was 'sidewalk season' because it was the only safe place to look). We are told that only men have a black thought-life, and only males are stimulated by scantily clad women on billboards or in the windows of Victoria's Secret.

But the secret is that women struggle, too. Probably not in the same way that men do - men and women think and process differently, of course. Yet lust is a human sin, not geared towards males alone. I have found this to be the case time and again with the girls I encounter... And I would be lying if I didn't say that those billboards, et cetera are distracting to me, too. Few churches (very few, in fact) address the issue, making young women feel like they are alone in their sin, having nowhere to turn in getting help.

Here I will turn things over to someone who has thought this through and polished her writing a bit more (okay, a LOT more) than I have. Please click the link below to read the full post. It isn't long and it is eye-opening.

We need to clearly teach that lust is a human condition, not just a masculine one. Knowing God's glory is at stake, we need to create humble church cultures where secret sin is not kept in the dark, but rather brought into the light...

...The roaring lion waits in the cover of darkness to attack what he finds there, but "whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God" (John 3:21).

Friday, July 29, 2011

Words for Life

"Every acceptance of [God's] will becomes an altar of sacrifice." ~ Hannah Hurnard

"Faith looks up with open hands. 'You are giving me this LORD? Thank You. It is good and acceptable and perfect.' " ~ Elisabeth Elliot

"There is always enough time to do the will of God."
~ Elisabeth Elliot

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes,
and you will keep My judgments and do them.

Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers;
you shall be My people, and I will be your God.

I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses.

{Ezekiel 36:25-30a}

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"I'm just being honest!"

*Note: If you don't have time to read all of this, skip to the Elisabeth Elliot quotation and following.

We live in a world, even a Christian subculture, that values 'honesty', 'genuineness', 'authenticity' and 'transparency'. I value all of those things a great deal. Yet I find that I value 'authenticity' more than I value refraining from gossip; 'genuine expression' more than not sinning in my anger (or my angry words); and I disregard building up the Body of Christ in favour of 'transparent' feelings about fellow Christians.

I am not alone in this strangely 'weighted' values system. Many other Christians are the same. We want to express our feelings, our emotions - even if in our anger we say untruths about someone. We desire to rationalise that we aren't really gossiping, we are just explaining the events (and persons involved) that hurt our feelings, frustrated us, etc.

Yesterday I was twice presented with the idea that honesty is not always the best policy.

I was listening to pastor Tim Keller talk about Removing Idols of the Heart, where he related the story of the forgiven prostitute who was kissing Jesus' feet at the house of Simon (the former leper). At one point in his illustration, Dr. Keller says that Simon wasn't more moral because he had been forgiven less than this woman (implying that he has sinned less). However, Keller's next statement caught my ear. He said that neither was the prostitute somehow more moral (according to our changed standards - as if we had the authority to do so) by being honest while Simon was a hypocrite.

In the afternoon I was reading Discipline: The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot where I came across a story that proved Mrs. Elliot-Gren does actually sin sometimes. She was speaking of her annoyance at a young woman, and at her husband's correction for letting her annoyance show. Her response was a running commentary of self-defence in her head. It was certainly 'honest' and 'genuine'.

Elisabeth Elliot went on to say,
" 'Reality' is often evil. There is a common belief that a frank expression of what one naturally feels and thinks is always good because it is 'honest'. This is not true. If the feelings and thoughts are wrong in themselves, how can expressing them verbally [or via e-mail, facebook, etc.] add up to something good? It seems to me they add up to three sins: wrong feeling, wrong thought, wrong action."
(page 66, Revell/Baker, ©1982 - emphasis mine)

So let us be honest: let us call slander by its name. Let us stomp on our own tongues to extinguish the fires of gossip. Let us cease from anger and forsake wrath that gives place to sin... Even if we were simply 'expressing ourselves'. Some forms of 'self-expression' are sin. I know, because I sin often. In the months since I have been back from Oxford, my patient mother has had many frustrated calls from me where I have 'vented' about a particular issue. However, in my 'authenticity', I confess that I sinned in just about every previously mentioned area – maybe all of them.

We must give place to emotions, but the place for our emotions (which includes things like rage, bitterness, resentment, even frustration) is found in the piercing eyes of the Man of Sorrows. When we look into the very eyes of Jesus, all of our hurts, unrighteous anger, jealousies, lusts, etc. die. Not because we haven't experienced real pain, frustration, desires, and so on, but because Jesus, too, has dealt with derision and scorn. He, too, has served annoying people. He had to be flexible at the last second. His closest friends deserted Him. Those in authority constantly badgered Him. People mocked Him and goaded Him. He knows.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. ~ Hebrews 4:15

Jesus experienced rejection, hatred, scorn, abandonment (by His disciples and His own Father), and much more, but He did not sin in the way He reacted to those things. He was honest in His cry of "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" but He did not reject His mission or His Father at that point. He was obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2).

We must daily pray that we may have the mind of Christ. When we meet with joy and pain, gladness and frustration, hope and despair, ungodly anger and righteous indignation, unkindness and overwhelming blessing, unfairness and injustice (completely different things!), doubt and trust, and the myriad of other emotions that daily confront us, we will be able to respond aright if we have asked the Holy Spirit to help us put on the mind of Christ.

Remember, honesty is not always the best policy if you are 'expressing yourself' from wrong motives or in a sinful way. Look into the pages of Scripture, and into the eyes of Christ crucified, for direction on how to deal honestly with your emotions.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Fruit Itself

“Education is only a ladder to gather fruit from the tree of knowledge, not the fruit itself.” ~ Attributed to Einstein

What is education? Does it differ from 'schooling' and 'learning'? Is education itself an end or a means to the end?

There are many questions that come up in the discussion and dissection of education. To set up a definition of this word, let us look at its etymology. Educate: circa mid 15th century. From the Latin pp educare 'bring up, rear, educate,' which is related to educere 'bring out, lead forth'...

"To bring out or lead forth from
what exactly?" one might ask. Good question. It has been presented to me by Hillsdale College professor, Michael Bauman, that to educate means 'to bring one out of ignorance'.

Educate has changed in meaning over the course of time. While in one sense it still means 'to lead one out of ignorance', it now also means 'formal learning at a college or university'. This could also be called 'information gathering'. Due to this more modern idea of education it is little wonder that statements like the following have been made:

“I've never let my school interfere with my education.” ~ Mark Twain

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” ~ Einstein

“My education was interrupted only by my schooling” ~ Winston Churchill

Though different words are used, the same idea is conveyed - formal teaching or 'information gathering' can actually get in the way of being led out of ignorance. Often it is the character of a teacher, mentor, family member, or friend that really changes the way we view life, the way we

Do not misunderstand me. There is much to be said for learning one-on-one with a tutor and writing one or two papers a week for eight weeks. There is something to be said for the American style of learning through lectures and classroom discussions. However, there is also much to be said for reading, pondering, and thinking things through at one's own desk or kitchen table. There is something great to be said for learning lessons by observing a person's character; from conversations; from looking into the eyes of the homeless; from being still and letting the words of the Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, Lord's prayer, Confession, and Creed pour over your soul during evensong.

Life is so much bigger and richer than merely the classroom, or books by themselves, or even the inside of a chapel. If we allow God to be our Tutor and all the facets of life to be the books, classroom, and hands-on 'lab-work' as-it-were, we could have no better education - full stop.

When we are thus educated we will find that education itself is not the goal, but it is the process by which we become more fully alive, truly human. It leads us to be able to glorify God -because He has allowed us to know Him- and to enjoy Him forever, which is the fruit of life itself.

~ Johanna

Friday, July 15, 2011

Material for Sacrifice

Here is something I gleaned yesterday from the Elisabeth Elliot book I am reading called, The Path of Loneliness.

"IS it not legitimate, then, to think of loneliness (or whatever you struggle with) as material for sacrifice? What I lay on the altar of consecration is nothing more and nothing less than what I have at this moment, whatever I find in my life now of work and prayer, joys and sufferings.

Some people see singleness as a liability, a handicap, a deprivation, even a curse. Others see it as a huge asset, a license to be a "swinger", an opportunity to do what feels good. I see it as a gift. To make that gift an offering may be the most costly thing one can do, for it means the laying down of a cherished dream of what one wanted to be, and the acceptance of what one did not want to be. 'How changed my ambitions!' the apostle Paul may have thought, for he wrote, 'Now I long to know Christ.' "

~ Elisabeth Elliot (emphasis mine)

One further sentence in the book that snagged my attention was, "What we don't have now, we don't need now." This was written about someone not being able to make friends after a move... But I think it can apply to anything, and its converse may be just as true, "What we do have now is what we need to learn to be satisfied with." Not satisfied with forever, but until the LORD changes our vocation, places us in the community that we need, or blesses us with a spouse, etc. But what we don't have now, we don't need. We can live here and now as whole human beings.

~ Johanna

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

You Come Too: Lessons from Poetry

To the Cuckoo

O blithe newcomer! I have heard,
I hear thee and rejoice:
O Cuckoo! shall I call thee bird,
Or but a wandering Voice?

While I am lying on the grass
Thy twofold shout I hear;
From hill to hill it seems to pass,
At once far off and near.

Though babbling only to the vale
Of sunshine and of flowers,
Thou bringest unto me a tale
Of visionary hours.

Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring!
Even yet thou art to me
No bird, but an invisible thing,
A voice, a mystery;

The same whom in my schoolboy days
I listened to; that Cry
Which made me look a thousand ways
In bush, and tree, and sky.

To seek thee did I often rove
Through woods and on the green;
And thou wert still a hope, a love;
Still longed for, never seen!

And I can listen to thee yet;
Can lie upon the plain
And listen, till I do beget
That golden time again.

O blessed birth! the earth we pace
Again appears to be
An unsubstantial, fairy place,
That is fit home for Thee!

~ William Wordsworth

"Thou bringest unto me a tale / Of visionary hours." Wordsworth writes this of the cuckoo's call, yet he is doing the very same thing through his poem.

The whole poem is a tale of vision, bringing the reader's mind up and into the light. Wordsworth's poem gives one's mind the wings to flit through the air and momentarily forget any troubles that might be weighing him to the ground. "And I can listen to thee yet; / Can lie upon the plain / And listen, till I do beget / That golden time again."

This aspect of 'transportation' in poetry is precisely why one should read it. Poetry - indeed, good literature as well - has the ability to bring one out of one's self to think and feel things that ordinary life may not have yet taught him. I find that I learn much about the wide world, about good character, about hope, about sorrow, about love, about death, about Life woven through the lines of poetry and prose. You may do the same, 'You come too.' *

~ Johanna

*The Pasture, by Robert Frost

Thursday, June 23, 2011

On Fairy Stories and Innocence

We live in a world where fairy stories are thought to be for children only. We exist in a culture that thinks innocence in adults is impossible, unusual, or even detrimental. To be a 'grown up' one must be concerned with the weather, with bills, career, keeping up the yard, and the list goes on interminably.

It is thought to be quite childish to read fairy stories, to delight in rainy days (or sunny days), to find cheer in smelling the flowers blooming along the path of one's morning walk, to stop and watch a funny little animal in its daily habits, or some other equally small pleasure. Folks call you 'Pollyanna' if you are too cheery about how nice the day is, what lovely flowers grace the out-of-doors, how magnificent a tree or mountain are, how enchanting the stars are, and so on. They believe you to be insincere or out of touch with reality.

What if all of those so-called 'adults' are wrong? Perhaps you possess innocence and they have been lured away by the sensuality of worldly cares. It would seem that becoming an 'adult' is a dull and dreary affair filled with woes and cares. A 'grown up' does not remember how to imagine, or how to really play with children, nor do they know how to appreciate fairy stories.

Our culture takes fairy tales and flips them upon their heads, making the female character the heroine and emasculating the male rôle. Innocent stories are supplanted with sexual undertones, and in many cases, sexual overtones, too. Heroes of tales today are rebellious, belligerent, arrogant, and haughty; replacing the valour, nobility, maturity, and selflessness of past heroes.

The worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth are stories about men of valour, obedience, sacrifice for the greater good, ordinary and extraordinary men, and every day responsibilities and duties - all without even a rumour of sensuality. In these stories no one is even fighting for a girl, but for the good of the world. Not that fighting for a girl is bad, but it is not the end goal.

Yet it is these types of classic stories that awaken the warrior within us. These tales birth the desire to serve humbly alongside dwarves, elves, talking beasts, ancient kings, worthy rangers, and Gandalf or Aslan himself. When we close the book we are inspired to be better than we were when we opened it. We are ready to accept life's adventures and its daily happenings; to discover how big the world truly is; to do right even though it is costly; to be a true and loyal friend; to seek peace at our own expense and to fight when it is necessary.

For these reasons fairy stories ought to be read and re-read by adults to remind them of the things that are more real, more glorious or weighty than the airy matters of offices, bills, and parties. Real fairy stories (not the sort dispensed by Disney) have protagonists who are real, fallen men who are stretched to become better than they were.

True adults know that they are not the most important person in their sphere or the world. They take time to enjoy small pleasures, they seek innocence and self-sacrifice over sensuality and arrogance. They know the reality of hardship, sorrow, and loss, yet they do not focus on those things. They remember their armchair and kettle just beginning to sing on the hearth, as Bilbo did in The Hobbit; and it is the simple joys of life that give them the courage and strength to pursue right at any cost. These are the true grown ups, everyone else is just play acting.

~ Johanna

Post Script: This entry has been a few years in the processing. I have been labelled Pollyanna for being too optimistic and cheerful. I have been called immature for being more innocent than my peers. At first I was offended and felt somewhat immature and unrealistic... Perhaps I am. However, I have come to the conclusion that greatness must be tempered by humility; hustle and work must be balanced with enjoyment of small pleasures; and the stress of hard things in life must be brought hope through fairy stories. Stories show us reality better than 'real life' does sometimes.

Post, Post Script: You may notice that, unlike my usual entries, I said nothing of God by name in this one. Surely heroism, valour, self-sacrifice, and every good, true, excellent, and beautiful thing stems from God Himself. Of course, but I figured my readers already knew that to be true and knew that to be my belief. I think the character of God is very latent in this whole piece.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Academic Reason for Going to Oxford

.:The following text (except the essay) was written 8 March 2011 after I finished my final Oxford tutorial:.

Below is the paper that I came to Oxford to write. At least, it was the one (topic-wise) that I had envisioned. Getting to this paper took a lot of reading and ate a lot of hours of sleep. It is certainly not my best writing (I wrote the whole paper in 3-1/3 hours before my tutorial this morning), but the essence of this paper is the question I wanted an answer to when I had to pick my primary topic for Oxford "way back" in November.

The paper was well-received, my final tutorial went well, and I am sitting in disbelief realising that the term is over. It is a day of bittersweet feelings and thoughts. It is a day of sunshine and a few tears. I am very pleased, and very humbled at the kindness of the LORD.

And now, my final History essay for Hilary 2011:

Revolutionary Reflections

Why Did Edmund Burke Aid the American Colonies but Oppose the French?

“The fresh ruins of France, which shock our feelings wherever we can turn our eyes, are not the devastations of civil war; they are the sad but instructive monuments of rash and ignorant counsel in time of profound peace.”1 This says Edmund Burke early in his treatise, Reflections on the Revolution in France. Over and again in this work Burke chastises the French for the revolution they are staging. His above testimony is an incrimination of their deficient cause for revolt, something Burke decries loudly. Throughout Reflections he criticises the French on many points, chiefly the following: replacing the government without sufficient cause; lacking a moral and religious foundation needed for any sustainable government; and rejecting the rule of law, erecting instead the rule of man.

Burke’s reasons for denouncing the French Revolution are sound, yet they raise a valid question: why did he assist the American Colonies in their War for Independence but reject the French Revolution? The answer to this question lies precisely in Burke’s arguments given in his Reflections. Let us now consider those arguments more in depth.

Firstly, Burke is adamant that a nation’s government not be changed for ‘light and transient causes’2. He says, “The speculative line of demarcation, where obedience ought to end, and resistance must begin, is faint, obscure, and not easily definable. It is not a single act, or a single event, which determines it. Governments must be abused and deranged indeed, before it can be thought of; and the prospect of the future must be as bad as the experience of the past.”3 Here Burke is asserting that if one wishes to change their government there must be something vastly wrong with the government or with the individual. All other resources must be expended, other options pursued, and the future must look at least as bleak as the past before the thought of revolution should even be entertained. To underscore his point, Burke says that, “A revolution will be the very last resource of the thinking and the good”4.

Was the French Revolution founded upon such an egregious break in trust that the only response was revolt? Looking at the events leading up to the Bastille and the action at Tuileries Palace one would be hard pressed to find a series of offences worthy of rebellion. The elite resented their exclusion from the government of the country, the peasants felt the strain of an outmoded feudal system, crop failure led to the further poverty of the poor, all while the revolutionary ideas of humanist philosophers rang in the ears of the people. None of these things, separately or collectively, constituted a justifiable reason to overthrow the monarchy. France failed the first test of legitimacy for a revolution.

The second criterion for establishing or reshaping a government is a moral and religious underpinning. “All other nations have begun the fabric of a new government, or the reformation of an old, by establishing originally, or by enforcing with greater exactness some rites or other of religion.”5 This, at least, is the case of lasting governments. During the Revolution those in power took vengeance upon the church, executing the clergy and appropriating parish land. Though Burke could not see around the bend in the course of history, France would soon dispense with traditional religion to worship a Supreme Being with pagan ceremonies. More subtlety, the French had already traded the glory of God for the glory and adoration of man. Yet again, the foundation for erecting a new or altered government was made of sand.

The third thing Burke eschews in France’s Revolution is the replacement of the rule of law with the rights of man. As we have already seen, these rights of man superseded religion, it is only logical that they would displace law as well. Though France was ruled by many factions after deposing her king - some of whom penned a constitution and The Rights of Man and of the Citizen - the ‘law as supreme’ postulate was displaced. Yet Burke clearly says of a people that, “It is therefore of infinite importance that they should not be suffered to imagine that their will, any more than that of kings, is the standard of right and wrong.”6 A good portion of Burke’s treatise is dedicated to the importance of law being transcendent, not created by the will of man, as if such a thing were possible.

From the above points, one finds a deplorable lack of legitimacy in France’s Revolution. It is no wonder that Burke opposes their uprising. Further, it becomes clear that the very points Burke states as warranted grounds for resistance and the institution of a new form of government are precisely the foundation of America’s War for Independence. The Colonies had grounds for separation, clearly stating them in the Declaration of Independence. This declaration was only given after multiple pleas to the law were made, many attempts to reconcile were sought, and a final outright refusal to obey unjust requirements brought more penalties. Finally, the Declaration of Independence appeals to God as the One who endows men with rights. From letters, speeches, and other historical documents, we see that the Founding Fathers based their decisions - and the governing Constitution - on the law of God. This dichotomy between the French and the American colonists is clearly why Burke fought for the colonists in Parliament but rejected the French Revolution.


1. Burke, Edmund: Reflections on the Revolution in France Dover Publications Copyright ©2006; page 37
2. This phrase is from the Declaration of Independence, obviously showing how the Americans felt about the gravity of a change in government
3. Burke; page 28
4. ibid
5. Burke; page 35
6. Burke; page 93

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reflections and the Blessing of Solitude

After a whole week of lovely sunshine and zephyrs, I woke to distant fog this morning. Since my final tutorial last week I have been a bit melancholy; today's weather is much more fitting for pondering than the recent glorious Spring days.

End of term at Oxford is filled with a bittersweet feeling of relief from intense days of study, yet missing those very hours upon hours spent expanding my mind and asking questions of the texts. It is as if a continuing conversation has come to a premature end. There is so much more that I want to know about Romantic poetry and its authors. And I have only just begun to understand the philosophical, political, social, educational, and spiritual climate of the American Colonies and France in their respective "revolutions". Eight weeks were not enough to uncover the answers to all of my questions. Nor were they enough to learn the rest of the questions.

Then there is the loss of fellow-minded conversation and lectures at the C. S. Lewis Society each week. Even more acute is the void in the evening from 6.00-7.00, normally filled by evensong at New College (and on occasion at Christ Church Cathedral). That is a blow from which I might never recover.

This week I have spent hours walking around parts of Oxford I had never yet seen, since they were not on the way to the library or chapel. I have visited many magnificent and beautiful colleges. I have meandered down Addison's walk with a select few friends, purchased a first edition Lewis book, scouted out new places to visit, and sought solitude in familiar haunts. It has been a week of much needed stillness and time alone. Reflection on the last eight to ten weeks of work and adventure is vital.

These past few days have afforded me space to pray aloud; to speak of my faults and failures to the One who knows them, yet is big enough to hear them again. Indeed, He is the only One who can take my angry, unfiltered words of frustration and hurt. He is great enough to love me in spite of me. He is merciful to not simply leave me to suffer the consequences of what I have done. He is kind enough to change the desires of my heart. He is Love; and that means He will prune me in order to make me better. He will allow suffering and sorrow to forge me. He will not placate my sin, but excoriate me for it... Or it from me, as it were.

Where, oh where, would I be without stillness and solitude? No phone, no music, no chorus of voices ringing through the flat... Just silence and the steady footfalls of thoughts as they pad toward my pen or lips. If we did not have these times of solitude our souls would be impoverished. We would be but ephemeral bits of persons, not solid humans seeking to be more fully alive.

~ Johanna

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Things considered whilst walking in the drizzle

{Written Monday, 21 February 2011}

Today I walked down the sidewalks of Oxford and realized that it rather frustrates me that the British (and visitors to Oxford) don’t understand order. If you drive on the left side of the road, it should logically follow that you walk on the left side of the sidewalk. Ah, but no... Too often I find myself nearly having my head smashed by an unseen bus mirror because I am obliged to walk with traffic, rather than against it. Then there are those mental conversations about which way I need to sidestep to avoid oncoming pedestrians which result in a funny little dance. Left... No, right. No really, left. *Sigh*

Whilst observing my fellow travellers sloshing through the drizzle I learned that one ought to take a course in order to properly wield an umbrella. The girl ahead of me collided her umbrella with another woman’s, nearly removed a young man’s head by holding her rain-repeller at his neck’s height, and did not succeed at making it easy (or even possible) to pass her on the sidewalk.

When I wasn’t plotting my course or dodging mad bumbershoot-ists, I had a moment to think about my weeks in Oxford. Tuesdays and every other Friday are my favourite days. Tuesday mornings I have my History tutorial, where I often learn much about how to conceive questions that the text failed to ask. Midday on Tuesdays is made for walking all over Oxford in the spirit of exploration. I have nowhere to be in a hurry, I can literally stop and smell the flowers if I’d like. Evenings may be my very favourite, though, because I go to the C. S. Lewis Society. I don’t even pretend to be pretentious enough to ask a question, I just listen to everyone else’s. I wonder about my own questions, sometimes gaining the courage to ask them of the speaker afterward. Pondering ideas by Lewis or his contemporaries, meeting new people, talking with Jake (who usually goes with me), and setting up chairs for the evening are curiously rewarding events.

Every other Friday is rather different, but they all begin with me writing or editing my paper due at 9:30am. Sometimes I race to the OSAP office, sometimes I saunter; always I leave something essential back at the flat (quite usually my bus pass). My English tutor is patient with my terrible papers, teaches me more about poetry than I knew, connects things I might never have seen, and gives me a deep appreciation for imagination and vision. He has taught me much more than that, though. This tutor, like Dr. Bauman, has taught me that academics are good, important, and worth pursuing, but not at the cost of the individual. I am humbled at the time taken by these men to ensure that I grow as a person, not merely as a student or a writer.

I have made it to the New College cloisters, where I watch streaks of rain dash at the ground whilst pondering the things learned on my walk. It is a perfect day for reflection, reading, and writing. This is good, because my dabbling at writing has already begun with these thoughts, and must continue in earnest with my History paper that is due tomorrow morning. Farewell from this quiet place on this lovely rainy day!

~ Johanna

*Edit* You can also find this blog post on the Summit Ministries website.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

"You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts and civilisations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendours."
~ C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

It is fitting that I open this entry with a quotation by C. S. Lewis. You see, it was because of Lewis that I was out tonight. Do not panic, I am not seeing dead people. Tuesday nights are when the C. S. Lewis Society meets here in Oxford. I officially joined the society for the term this evening. That is beside the point. What matters is that neither you nor I have ever talked to a mere mortal.

The streets of Oxford offer plenty of mortal woes. They are often cloaked in flesh, have a dog at their feet, and are trying to sell you a British tabloid (the Big Issue). I do not know how to act when walking past a homeless person. My self partitions into two camps. One feels true pity or compassion for those in need, the other cynically wonders how that man will spend the change tossed in his coffee cup. Is he financially better off than the average tax-paying college student?

Dusk had come and gone, the stars could be seen from Christ Church courtyard, and I was on my way to the Lewis meeting. Granted, the time between Evensong and the meeting would put me there 45 minutes early - the only thing I would be early, or on time, for this whole day. Then I walked passed Christ.

No, really, I did. The man was sitting on the ground by Trinity College, asking for change. Unsure of my joining the Lewis Society or just paying the 2 quid fee for the evening, I knew that my pocket change added up to 2 quid 36p. So I smiled and said no. I stopped, thinking I had food with me, but I had the wrong bag. Offering my apologies I told the young man I didn’t even have food (meaning, to share). I doubt that even in my rain-splattered or windblown states I look homeless. Never-the-less the fellow misunderstood me, thinking I had no food at all. Out of his poverty (legitimate or self-imposed) he offered me his pack of biscuits. I tried to dispel the confusion, explaining that I had no food to give. I wished him a good evening and slowly walked away.

"And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner–no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment."
~ C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

I had been offered true charity in the young man's gesture. My steps slowed even more as I recalled to mind the Scripture I read yesterday in Matthew 25, “Whenever you have done it to the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.” At the corner I stopped, internally arguing that I still had 45 minutes. I could turn around and at least go talk to the fellow for a while. The words, “the face of love” played in my mind. I almost turned around. Instead, I darted across St. Giles to avoid the bus, the shadowed face by Blackwell’s imprinted on my mind.

Jake found me on a park bench trying to read Money, Greed, and God for Friday’s Summit class. I was sitting 20 feet away from a panhandler who had walked up less than five minutes after I sat upon that bench. I watched people ignore him as he called out to their shoes, “spare change for the homeless?”. Jake and I walked passed, not truly acknowledging him. In part this was due to his very different attitude from the young man I had seen a few minutes before. But the other reason was because I was still struggling with knowing how to show love the homeless. Do I take the time to talk with them and hear their stories? Do I offer them food? Do I pray for them as I walk by? How do I discern between the con and the man who, in spite of his best efforts, can’t get a job? Who are the homeless? Aren't they my neighbours, the ones I snub?

“Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —Christ
—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not His
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.”
~ Gerard Manley Hopkins ~

Where else do I see Christ and walk away? I know a few people I have done this with lately. I was looking for something else and missed those right in front of my eyes. How often am I missing the very face of Christ in the features of men’s faces?

“You have never talked to a mere mortal... [Only] immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

~ Johanna