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