Monday, September 27, 2010

the faith of a child

Luca, a first grader, composed a song on the bus. Some older girls sitting near him helped him with the rhyme scheme. He included a chunk of the Apostles Creed and has the makings of what could be a musical bridge.

I have a recording if you're interested. Not sure about I feel about putting students' stuff on my blog.

Margie, another first grader not to be outdone (or maybe just inspired), wanted to sing a song to me after class today

Her song also dealt with praise to God.

The sacred theme of their songs in contrast with almost the almost all secular curriculum I implement in music class (they sing one hymn per class and all their other sacred songs are learned in the regular classroom or chapel) reminded me of something my professor said this summer. My professor teaches in a Catholic university and found that her students most closely identified with choral music with sacred texts; because, she said, of their upbringing.

Luca and Margie, and even these college freshman, own something beautiful. They have a simple faith in God; not because they dialogued with proponents of every religion and then chose, not because they memorized books of the Bible, not because they read primary sources on canonicity; but because they believed what was told to them.

Is that kind of faith really beautiful? Aren't I supposed to give my children alternatives? To my way of thinking raising Christian kids does feel like a bit of brainwashing. But I can't ignore the fact that Jesus said 'Unless you have faith like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of God.'

That kind of faith must be valid.

I have been accused of being sheltered from different worldviews and the otherwise nebulous 'world.' I suppose it could be conversely suggested that I have somewhat of a 'blind faith.' This accusation is not true, but I can only thank God that he accepted the faith in Him that I had when I was three, and ask him to continue to cultivate that faith that took seed back then.

'now say you're sorry!...'

Growing up Christian one often hears youth pastors and other teachers preach against 'going through the motions.'

I am here to preach for it.

Today I had a disagreement with a good friend. She texted me to say she was praying about the issue. I feel deeply that I am right. I don't want to pray about it; I just want her to stop putting me off by 'praying' and listen to my side of the story!

But guess what. Since she's praying, I have to pray too.

I don't want to, probably because she 'thought of it first.' But, I have to.

So, I prayed a prayer that I didn't feel. Lord, please show me the right way to act in this situation and change my heart if need be.

Only in my head it was more like (Becky grits her teeth) Lord... please... show... me... (grunt from exertion) how... to... act...


I will tell my children to apologize after a fight with their siblings, even if they aren't sorry.

I will pray with my children, even if they didn't think of it first.

I will pray that icky prayer again tonight...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

hack thoughts on Eastern religion, forgive me for any ignorance

God's and Christ's relationship to one another provide food for thought regarding another question that has been nagging in my mind.

This summer I experienced a measure of peace and acceptance. Suffice it to say that it was relief from self-doubt, regret, and judging. I feel that the teachings and proverbs that brought me there stemmed from *eastern religion.

I live in the moment. I don't look to the past for nostalgia or regret. I don't look forward to a 'better time.' I accept where I am in my journey in life and I don't constantly wish to be more knowledgeable. I accept others because I know they are on a journey as well.

I know the Bible tells us to 'forget what's behind'. But stating the negative version of 'live in the moment' has not always solved my problem. In this case Yoda says it better, to my way of seeing things.

So I bought a book on Zen. I read the first two pages and realized that trying out any of that stuff means to go all out. Try it. Do it. Is that how the children of Israel felt when they worshiped idols? They wanted to try something new?

Though I don't know much about eastern religion; my gut feeling is that it is a rejection of a personal God. I have a feeling that in a way, the proverb about 'living in the moment' stems from a philosophy that is antithetical to my own worldview.

This is why: relationship.

On my 21 hour drive home from Minnesota I heard a sermon about the latter part of John 1. The pastor, Brian, was talking about Christ's reaction when John the Baptist's disciples started randomly following him.

They wanted to be Jesus' disciples because John told them Christ was the Lamb. They didn't know how to say that to Christ. Christ said "Why are you following me?" They said, "um, can we come over?" Christ said "sure."

As Pastor Brian said, Christ didn't say: "You want to be a Christ-follower? Ok. Believe in these three things and you're an official member." Instead he said: "let's hang out."

Relationships. It would seem that the highest realization of an 'Eastern' religion would advocate an inward meditation, one that is devoid of relationship with another person.

Perhaps a mystical relationship is achieved? A contrast with Christianity which asks us to literally dip ourselves in water and to literally taste bread and wine.

Here's another thing though:

Relationships in the real world are messy. They hurt. On the positive side, they are often based on memories and not 'living in the moment.' "Remember that time that we..." or, "you have proved a faithful friend." Do I reject all that for a peaceful, sterile, 'living in the moment?' Maybe I will, if those relationships hurt enough.

I feel that there are friends in my life that are denying my a chance to explain myself. Whether it is purposeful or not, whether they are hurting like I am or not, the thought exists: that I want reconciliation.

And I am finding that conversely there are other friends who I am not granting reconciliation to. But it's incredibly complicated. Even as a firm believer in communication, I don't know if we can fix the problem.

Relationships involve deep hurt and deep happiness.

All this is an allegory.

God offered us friendship. We blew it. He offered us reconciliation. Hence sin, evil, and unhappiness. Hence joy, peace, and gladness.

Here's to relationship.

*Disclaimer: I hope that my catch-all term 'eastern-religion' is not offensive to anyone. Perhaps there is a better term for specifically all the various forms of Buddhism and descendants of Hinduism? In this area I call upon the spirit of Bono "what you don't know you can feel it somehow" which is sort of my 'mantra' (haha mantra, get it?) this year.

I acknowledge that while any prominent religion is much more complex and well-reasoned than its opponents allow, and I have not studied in depth these religions, I do have a good measure of awareness of basic tenants of east-originated religions.

Finally, although the paradigm that has governed Christianity for the past 600-1000 years has been nicknamed 'western'; I am looking forward to discovering the 'eastern' in Jesus' teachings.

The Pleasures of God, or, a 'God-centered' post in which John 17 makes it all about us again, or, a post in which I compare God's glory to pizza

The other day in Bible class I asked the girls: "Why did God create the world?" A couple of girls suggested that it could have been because God was bored or perhaps lonely. A rebuttal to those charges (of God being bored or lonely) came immediately to my mind.

The vast amount of material in the Bible regarding God's satisfaction with Christ, and Christ's glory that he possessed even before the world began, prove that God is self-sufficient. Or as perhaps John Piper would say: God is happy without us. A human being may need to share experiences with others; but God is content with himself.

Here is an example of God's satisfaction with himself. Christ prays for us in John 17. Christ wants us to have something: a certain 'glory.'

My brother may say to me, "I had some great pizza at the corner store. I want you to have it." He wouldn't say to me: "I want you to try this pizza I had the other day. It had no taste and I will probably never buy it again." No, he wants me to have the pizza because it is good pizza. He wants to share it with me because it is something good.

1. The glory that Christ wanted us to have must have been something good, or he wouldn't have wanted to share it with us.

2. That 'something good' was something that Christ had with God.

3. That 'something good' was going on without us.

Later in John 17 Christ is still referring to something that he and God had, before we existed.

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.
... that they all may be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given to me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one...

Father I desire that they also... may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

So what I'm getting at is...

Christ and God were pretty happy without us. (sorry those of you finding this out for the first time. I remember the first blow to my spiritual self-centeredness: my first reading of Revelation 4:11)

But Christ wants us to share that happiness.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

more relationship

Didn't our hearts burn within us, as he explained the scriptures to us on the road?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer Reading: Anna Karenina Part 1

***Spoiler Alert. I highly recommend this book, so don't read this post if you think you might try Tolstoy:)

Just the other night a hometown football game/My wife and I ran into my old high school flame...

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers...

How many times have you heard a friend say about an old boyfriend/girlfriend, "I'm so glad I got out of that, because now I see what [that person] really was."

Did you ever wonder whether the changed perspective was really based on truth, or was it based on self-preservation?

The idea of (1) mental self-preservation techniques, and (2) limited and/or shifting perspectives due to pride, lust, love, or any other human basic need continually crops up to me as I read Anna Karenina.

First, a newfound religious zeal becomes the salve, or maybe even the lifeboat, to Alexey Alexandrovitch's injured pride.

Alexey Alexandrovitch did not merely fail to observe his hopeless position in the official world, he was not merely free from anxiety on this head, he was positively more satisfied than ever with his own activity.

"He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things of the world, how he may please his wife," says the Apostle Paul, and Alexey Alexandrovitch who was now guided in every action by Scripture, often recalled this text. It seemed to him that ever since he had been left without a wife, he had in these very projects of reform been serving the Lord more zealously than before.

And then a small scene in the middle of the book, that so far seems to me to be superfluous to the main plot, shows on a very small scale the violent changes that can happen to our mood, perspective, and candor with new acquaintances. Violent changes that can happen, and yet, like a sort of pin-wheel, still allow our pride to remain intact.

Vronsky and Anna, but especially Vronsky, are mentally thrashing about trying to find meaning in their newly isolated, carefree lives. Vronsky has taken up painting, and hears about another Russian painter in the Italian town where Vronsky and Anna are vacationing. Vronsky feels that it is his duty to support this painter, Mihailov; and Tolstoy gives us a peek into this obscure character's brain:

For the few seconds during which the visitors were gazing at the picture in silence Mihailov too gazed at it with the indifferent eye of an outsider. For those few seconds he was sure in anticipation that a higher, juster criticism would be uttered by them, by those very visitors whom he had been so despising a moment before. He forgot all he had thought about his picture before during the three years he had been painting it; he forgot all its qualities which had been absolutely certain to him - he saw the picture with their indifferent, new, outside eyes, and saw nothing good in it.

Like I said, violent shifts in perspective. Sometimes we encounter another creature of our own kind, another being created in God's image, and those people become the world to us. But thankfully for this guy, his pride comes back. Golenishtchev, Vronsky's friend, breaks the silence after everyone has been uncomfortably looking at Mihailov's most important painting and says a random, positive comment.

All Mihailov's mobile face beamed at once; his eyes sparkled. He tried to say something, but he could not speak for excitement, and pretended to be coughing. Low as was his opinion of Golenishtchev's capacity for understanding art, trifling as was the true remark upon the fidelity of the expression of Pilate as an official, and offensive as might have seemed the utterance of so unimportant an observation while nothing was said of more serious points, Mihailov was in an ecstasy of delight at this observation. He had himself thought about Pilate's figure just what Golenshitchev said. The fact that this reflection was but one of millions of reflections, which as Mihailov knew for certain would be true, did not diminish for him the significance of Golenishtchev's remark. (emphasis mine)

And there, in micro, I believe is what Tolstoy conveys in many other major characters and plots, that we will use any tool available to justify our decisions, or our circumstances, or just ourselves.

I guess God has given us these instincts to protect us. I guess. I think we are all thankful that love is blind. I consider Levin and Kitty (although I haven't finished the book and can't be sure that they are an appropriately happy blog post ending.)

Example 1. In the beginning of the book Levin comes to Moscow and finds Kitty at the skating rink. To him it seems that wherever she skates or wherever she finds to sit down and rest, the entire crowd is focused and aware of her. And she brings light and gladness to it all.

Example 2. Levin, once feeling that he has been denied any opportunity of marrying Kitty, finds peace in his life calling of farming; (self-preservation) only to have the peace shattered by one split second glimpse of Kitty. (violent changes)

Example 3. And Levin, after being married, and experiencing the exponentially more shifting perspectives of being one flesh with another human being, is able to think outside of himself.

In attending the elections, too, and taking part in them, he tried now not to judge, not to fall foul of them, but to comprehend as fully as he could the question which was so earnestly and ardently absorbing honest and excellent men whom he respected. Since his marriage there had been revealed to Levin so many new and serious aspects of life that had previously, through his frivolous attitude to them, seemed of no importance, that in the question of the elections too he assumed and tried to find some serious significance. (emphasis mine)

Oh Tolstoy, what does this all mean for me, and for epistemology? Will I someday marry a redhead, because he showed me attention, and say that all along I really DID find redheads attractive? Will I look at a Catholic friend's from-childhood guilt, only to quickly place it into an apologetic-for-Protestantism's grid?

I'm not sure, but I think Anna has thus far been exempt from any of this self-convincing thought monologue from Tolstoy's pen. And we all know what happens to her. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

the relationship

Verses I'm meditating on this week:

The next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them "What are you seeking?". And they said to him "Rabbi" (which means teacher) "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come, and you will see."

John 1

I just heard a sermon on this passage; and the pastor constructed a paraphrase similar to this:

Jesus saw that two guys were following him and he said "what do you want?" They didn't know what to say... so they just said (and we've all had neighbor kids like this) "uhhhh... can we come over?" Jesus said: "sure, come over."

Christianity offers us a relationship.

And then a memorable moment in one of Jesus' earthly relationships:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve: Do you want to go away as well? Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,"

Christianity offers us a relationship plus eternal life. Pretty hard to pass up...

accepting myself... probably due to some amazing professors i had this summer

I have hereby accepted myself. I don't feel bad that I don't have the desire or time to listen to independent music, and that I never discover music on my own. I am content with my historical studies in classical music, classic rock, and some pop; and I think I'm pretty darn cool for what I do know. The end.

Incidentally, any music recommendations?