Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘joy’

I have never noticed it in myself before, but a couple of weeks ago I didn’t believe people really loved me.  I believed they were being kind to me, but out of obligation more than out of interest in me.  So I avoided people; I didn’t pursue spending time with them unless directly asked.  (The times I did spend with them I enjoyed immensely.)  And I made sure that I was very useful, hoping that even if I wasn’t fun to be around, I would be helping people out to reward them for spending time with me.  

 

At the end of that week, I realized I had been self-centered, not thinking nearly enough about how I could be God’s vessel towards my friends.  I was not being respectful of them, disbelieving them when they said they would “love to have me” or that I was “welcome to join them”.  And on top of it all, I was believing lies.  They do love me, and I’m quite grateful.  

 

Being loved when you don’t deserve to be is strange.  Even with God I am so often tempted to believe in His pity and mercy and goodness but not in His love.  He does kind things for me because He is obligated by His goodness.  He does them to astound my gratitude.  Believing those half-truths, I obediently subject myself to Him.  I reassure myself that what God does is good.  I discipline myself to thank Him (which I don’t think is entirely wrong, but I’ll tell you what I love better: feeling thankful!).  

 

Yet YHWH really loves me.  One of those friends I was doubting a few weeks ago was sharing how God is teaching her about prayer, and how much He wants intimacy with us.  Marriage as a picture of Christ and His Church (us!) should remind us over and over that our lives were created for love and union and a delight in Jesus.  Years back I did a women’s retreat where we spent large amounts of time by ourselves, praying or resting or listening to music.  I remember believing then that Jesus loved me.  A song came on about Jesus’ wedding feast, about Him dancing with His bride, and I was so happy for His joy – a joy I could only believe in if He was getting something out of loving us – if He desired us.  

 

Teshuva (use link to “play” at top of webpage), an awesome band from the Denver area, writes: 

This is how I

Say I love you and

This is how I 

Prove it to you

By my wounds you are

Healed, you’re healed my child

There’s only so much words can say (Only so much words can say)

This can’t be said another way (This is the only way)

 

He has proven love, not just kindness or pity.  For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross.  

 

More than trust and gratitude, my response to really believing in God’s love is love.  Loving and being loved brings joy.  This week I’ve been so full of both, and for that I’m feeling grateful.  

 

I was talking to a friend about distrusting our emotions, not letting them be any part of leading our decisions.  He applied that to his walk with God, needing always a “legitimate” reason to do something, being completely skeptical of anything he felt or wanted.  I think that, at least now, with his friends he does some things because they are good things and he enjoys doing them.  My dear friend just got married in June.  I sure hope that when she kisses her husband it’s because she wants to, not because she thinks it is the wife thing to do!  When I read “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” this is something I think of.  He made our hearts, gave us emotions, and He wants them to be towards Him just as much as our minds, and our souls, and our actions and words.  The greatest commandment, the privilege of our lives as Christians, is to really love God.  

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

I read once that Tolkien wrote with the pessimism of the pagan poets [1].  They uphold honor in despair, dying well, the heroic quest at the cost of losing everything you love.  But I read Tolkien and see hope scribed into every chapter.  No light, whimsical child’s hope: Tolkien’s hope is not ignorance of all things capable of clouding the good.  It’s a “fool’s hope,” [2] where anyone can see that in all likelihood, if things go on as they are, the fool will be disappointed.  In Tolkien, the fools know themselves to be fools.

 

Elven-King Fingolfin’s story weighs on the side of hopelessness.  The Silmarillion describes him as “fey” [3] when he challenges Melkor himself, living up to the epic’s heroic virtues.  What hope has an elf against a Vala?  But the Vala ought to be contended, resisted, fought.  Though the high king of the Noldor (elves) finally fell, his fight was not without effect.  The Dark Lord Melkor limped forever after.

 

At first reading, it seems that Aragorn commends this sort of despairing courage when he instructs his friends, “There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.” [4]  But Gandalf, the wizard who knows his life-encompassing hope is foolish, lends a bit of insight early on.  Recognizing he is a fool, he embraces humility.  Do you hear it in Gandalf’s words? “Despair, or folly?  It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.  We do not.  It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.” [5]  He acknowledges that he may not have all the facts.  Indeed, thinking that he knew what the end would be was the prideful downfall of Denethor, who let his enemy select the facts he discovered, and so turn him to despair, and madness.  Tolkien’s works regularly discourage the assumption that we know the future.

 

He also discourages despair.  I know it doesn’t seem true.  There are some pivotal scenes driven by characters that rashly pursue death and glory.  Aragorn is accused of it when he takes the Paths of the Dead, but that perspective is refuted.  Though the way had been shut for long ages, the time had come.  Such is the way of hope.  Things go on in a certain way until the due time, and then change springs upon the world.

 

Perhaps most potent is the image of grey-eyed Dernhelm.  The warrior’s silent, calm assurance going in search of death chilled Merry.  And it awakens our empathy.  Why shouldn’t it?  Who hasn’t felt that life is going from bad to worse, and decided to rush forward to the end instead of waiting to be burned with the house?  I think maybe Tolkien intended to carry us along with this character, so that we could reach the same end.  Dernhelm was proud, seeking glory before duty, though demonstrating loyal love to King Theoden by staying close to him.  And glory was achieved.  And darkness did descend on the desperate hero.  Even as Dernhelm revealed herself as Eowyn, golden hair glittering in the storm-piercing sunrise like a figment of hope; she was cast down, poisoned, and taken for dead.  [6]

 

But now we come to it:  Tolkien’s hope is the kind that stands further and deeper than all those things – than despair and darkness and loss.  He knew about a resurrection hope, about seeds bringing forth fruit after they have fallen into the ground and died.  Maybe he knew that fruit is more glorious than merely putting an end to your enemies.  His hope embraces grief.  It accepts hard things.  Good is not determined by the outcome, but by some transcendent standard.  And this hope joyfully trusts that there is someOne good who may intervene yet.

 

For Eowyn woke, and repented her destructive ideals.  Day came again.  Darkness was not unescapable.  Faramir described the moment, “I do not know what is happening.  The reason of my waking mind tells me that great evil has befallen and we stand at the end of days.  But my heart says nay; and all my limbs are light, and a hope and joy are come to me that no reason can deny.  … in this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure!” [7]  So Eowyn moved and married, healed and tended gardens. [8]  Her story is a fuller exposition of the transformation the Fellowship underwent in Moria.  They lost their way and lost their guide.  They had descended black depths and awakened demons so that they lost hope.  But on the field high on the mountain slopes, “they came beyond hope under the sky and felt the wind on their faces.” [9]

 

[1] Hopeless Courage by Loren Rosson, III (http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/lord_of_the_rings_guest_03.htm)

[2] The Return of the King: “The Siege of Gondor” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 797)

[3] See etymology of “fey” at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fey&allowed_in_frame=0

[4] The Two Towers: “The Riders of Rohan” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 430)

[5] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Council of Elrond” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 262)

[6] The Return of the King: “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 823-824)

[7] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 941)

[8] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 943-944)

[9] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 323)

 

See also, The Silmarillion: “Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin” by JRR Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

There’s a lot of cynicism about the Church today.  And while I am stimulated by argument, by addressing something I identify as wrong, I don’t think of myself as a cynic.  Rather, this confrontation with status-quo is inherently hopeful.  I invest energy because I think Church could be better.

Before I left my last church, a few people were leaving slowly.  And my friends who were staying, they wondered why.  “There’s no such thing as a perfect church,” they argued.  “So why search for another kind of bad?”  Which reasoning rather baffled me.  What were they praying for?  Why did they do anything in the Church?  Didn’t they believe our community could be better?  And if we can get better, isn’t it possible that something better already exists?

Now, there may be other arguments for hanging around a church that is not as close to perfect as you hope.  But to say that leaving a church is for people with unrealistic expectations is silly.  Whatever your choice, your reason for staying should be the same as your reason for leaving: hope.  If you stay, be hoping to see God grow your church to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  If you go, may it be because you hope that God has more designed for the Church than the divided and sterile institution you’re leaving.

I didn’t leave the institutional church in despair.  There was hurt and disappointment over the group of people I had been congregating with.  But there was joy over the release God had given me – not release from fellowship or love or truth, but release from schedules and structures and enduring a view of Church that I no longer believe.  I went out looking for people of God doing life together, praying together, participating together in teaching and worship and celebrating Communion.  My search has been for a high view of our Bridegroom as the Head of His Church, of a supernatural (but orderly) view of the Spirit of our God as He orchestrates lives and relationships and meetings.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” – Hebrews 11:13-16

I am persuaded that there is something better than what I have experienced.  And I will desire it and pursue it.  The things I write on ChurchMoot really excite me.  What I read in the Bible about Church excites me.  The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.  Christ is purifying and strengthening His gloriously beautiful Church.  He’s preparing a place for us.  There are visions of unity and purpose and power.  A joy in knowing that we believe in, serve, and wait on an Almighty and Good God.

What’s more, I have hope that the people of God are being awakened to the biblical descriptions of Church.  Now when people realize church is broken, they’re seeking answers from God, and acting on them!  No longer will they betray the Body of Christ by their silence, by their tacit approval, by being accomplices.  They don’t want the world to think that what it knows as Church is the Beloved Bride of a Radiant Savior.  He purified for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works!  They want the world to see a light set on a lampstand, not some pitiful ember fading into darkness.

We are not a cult.  We are the Redeemed.  Joyful.  Saying so.  Hopeful.  Believing it is our God who builds His Church.  Waiting for our Messiah to come back – begging Him to come quickly!  We are loving, caring for each other, not afraid to weep or to rejoice.  The God who created the universe, the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead, indwells us.  He speaks through us, comforts us, guides and instructs us.  The same God who rattled the Early Church prayer meetings with mighty rushing wind is among us.  Let that be known.  Let it be proclaimed.  Don’t contain it in schedules and corporate models.  Joy might be practiced, but not rehearsed!  Truth should be so familiar that it can be ad-libbed.  We share in a life that is saturated with God, with no distinction between the times when we are doing ordinary work and when we are worshiping.

God called His people to abundant life, life in Him.  My hope for the Church is that we embrace it.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Spring is My Lady’s Domain

Spring is my lady’s domain

Autumn the field of her brother

Winter waits on yarning old women

Summer sweeps in young children’s laughter.

 

Time is the tale of seasons

Space present in jumbles of ways

My friends dance in the streets of lifetime

God catches men home full by joy-worn days.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

God gave gifts unto men.  Through His Spirit, He empowers His Church to grow into unity and the maturity of Jesus Christ.  Jesus promised the Spirit would guide us into all truth.  Paul specifically lists teachers among God’s gifts to the church.  Timothy Keller is such a gift.  (Actually this is the only book I’ve read by him, so I can’t vouch for anything else.) 

 

Do you read through the Bible and wonder what significance a fact or story had that God included it in His unperishing Word?  Do you ever find yourself astounded by discovery as you read, seeing depth and import in the passage that you never saw there before?  I love to find a teacher or author who has been granted insight into a part of the Bible that had always seemed way over my head (or beneath my notice).  Whether in only one chapter of all the books they’ve written, or but one exposition they gave aloud to a congregation or conference, I feel like jumping up and down, thanking God for this gift that draws me closer to my Savior. 

 

In Prodigal God, Timothy Keller blends a big-picture view of redemption and the Bible with the drama of one of Jesus’ most famous parables.  This is one of those rare books where I don’t feel like quoting or underlining, because entire chapters would be quoted and underlined.  One of the most moving points of the book is simply the title.  In the introduction, the author explains himself.  We often refer to this parable as the Prodigal Son – but Jesus specifically introduced it as the story of two sons.  Prodigal is a true description of the younger brother, who got all he could as soon as he could and spent it with equal recklessness and extravagance.  When we call the Father prodigal, we are talking about a whole different kind of spending.  He spent all He had on us, to find us and bring us back, and to welcome us into His love.  To be so extravagant also makes the word prodigal true of Him.  And how can any of His children be unmoved by His sacrifice? 

 

I met my God in this book, not for the first time, but oh, He was there!  His image sparkled as I read through descriptions of the commonly described “sinner”, the younger brother, to the older brother whose heart is equally proud and rebellious, but who is trying to use God and goodness for his own ends, to the older brother that should have been, the missing character from the pattern of the two preceding parables in the trilogy.  Who was seeking and saving the lost?  Is forgiveness really ever free? 

 

After forgiveness, what then?  What was God’s design for living as His children?  Timothy Keller spends the final chapter of The Prodigal God talking about feasts.  Jesus’ first miracle, a sign of the purpose of His ministry, is a (wedding) feast.  The night before He was betrayed, Jesus ordained a new feast for His followers as a remembrance of Him.  The close of this church age is a (wedding) feast where the Church is reunited with her Redeemer.  And eternity is something of a feast, living in the presence of God and eating of the tree of life.  Once again emphasizing relationship, this chapter presents salvation as “taste and see” believing that is lived out and continued in gratitude and celebration of the grace of God.  As anyone knows, celebration is not to be done alone.  In fact, quoting CS Lewis, Timothy Keller makes the point that relationship with God experienced in community brings out more of God than you could experience on your own.  Therefore the final challenge of Prodigal God is for you to invest in a gathering of believers with the same love with which you compassionately seek those who are lost, desiring them to share with you in the Father’s love. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

A God you know about, but don’t trust, that’s useless.  A God whose love you affirm but reject experiencing, that’s miserable. 

 

But He really is my God, by His smashing grace.  Knowing who God is (theology) increases the value of His love for me.  Because He is perfect, yet suffered shame, I praise His love more.  Because He loved his own Son so much, but sent Jesus to suffer in my place, I am humbled by His grace.  Because He is able to create and maintain the whole universe, yet chooses to interact with me on a daily basis, I crumble with joy!  Because He is infinitely good, I have peace passing understanding. 

 

I live in a sphere of truth as I know it.  Truth is something I crave and cling to because it enables me to love my God.  When a part of that sphere is bombarded with doubt (from within or without), I get defensive.  I whirl around in my little world, reexamining associations, texts, and experiences.  Whether I had been wrong about the truth or the doubt had been unfounded, I go through that experience every time.  Some questions are smaller.  Others challenge me to re-read my whole Bible with the tension of interpretation presented by a different view.  Contradictions can even turn out to be paradoxes when I go deep enough into them. 

 

To entertain questions, engage discussions, and comprehend a sense of truth (even as presented in creeds or “institutes”) is not, I conclude, wrong.  Here let me clarify.  If the motive for acquiring truth is to better experience God’s love and return it – if the pursuit is in the context of your relationship with God – and if the odyssey is not harming other people, then it is not wrong. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

This week I’ve been thinking about my focus at Christmastime. I love Christmas. The atmosphere intoxicates me. Silver bells, lights, carols, music, parties, sweets, friends, gifts, giving, cards, crafts, kids, memory, and history all bundle up and go dancing through the frosty nights as the year winds to its shortest day. Without the celebration, we might go mad within the shortened boundaries of daylight and warmth.

But I don’t like Christmas Eve service at church, or Christmas pageants. I recall a conversation from the movie Shadowlands, in which Jack Lewis observes that people are out of spirits at Christmas because they’ve “lost the magic.” If we make Christmas about rituals and charity, he says, of course no one is going to be having fun. I believe in living life to the fullest, in frolicing when there is joy so huge that I can’t keep it in. The joy and “magic” are my favorite part of Christmas.

Sermons seem so utterly out of place at Christmas. Jesus spent the interim of His life speaking. But on Christmas and Easter, He acted. He lived. He was Immanuel, the God-with-us. So I guess that’s what I want, is to jump into these days with Jesus, feeling vividly the wonder of the story. There are implications, but not today. For this week I’m not doing theology or studying orthopraxy. I’m living on the edge, ready to float away with the current of truth so real that I’m too busy knowing it to think about it.

That’s what I want. But somewhere in the midst of the magical, atmosphere of awe and merriness, I get lost. My mind forgets that the joy is Jesus’, that He is sharing it with me, and that I only get it through Him. Awareness drops off that the gatherings and giving is to honor my Jesus. The balance goes away, leaving this stressful anti-peace business.

Christmastime is sometimes called Advent. Ann Voskamp, a blogger I recently discovered to my delight and encouragement, has pointed me to the idea of Advent. We remember and celebrate the first coming of God in the flesh. We dance the dailiness of His presence, His moment-by-moment coming to us with more grace. And we watch, on edge, doing the waiting that is not impatient but eager, looking for the ‘blessed hope and glorious appearing’ of our Bridegroom. He’s coming back.

So I challenge myself, and you with me, to let the waiting inherent in the crazy Christmas world remind me that I’m waiting for my Savior, the Great King, to come for me. I am pursuing the balance that refuses to have any joy apart from Jesus. But I will have joy, because I cannot be with Him and not rejoice.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

I’ve been thinking this week about how I want passion and importance out of life: experience rather than growth. I do marathon moments getting all my fellowship in at long parties. But who do I do life with? Am I getting fellowship (with people or God) like sugar highs from which I crash?

I’m afraid of peace. Turmoil and battle seem so much more serious and important. I want to be serious about important things; that’s good. But can I be light-hearted and simple about everyday things?

What about the Bible? Do I demand that it inspire me, that my reading be passion-awaking and significant? Can I accept that sometimes my reading is ‘just’ daily bread instead of the Passover feast? Isn’t that what I’ve been learning in Psalms, that God calls us to do the walk, the daily movement with Him?

So I’m reading Romans 16 for my devotions. Vernon McGee described this chapter, “Paul has left the mountain peaks of doctrine to come down to the pavements of Rome.” Chapter 15 ends with a blessing: “Now may the God of peace be with you all.” Peace. Quietness. Contentment. Simplicity. And then the great apostle moves into common greetings of common friends.

One of the reasons I’m afraid to prioritize the little things and the constant relationships is that I don’t think I can be content if I give up the heights and the passion, if I blend the sacred with the normal. I don’t want to lose something good. But if I live as God calls, my life won’t be my dreaded version of simplicity; it will be better, more fulfilling.

What if by letting go we gain both passion and simplicity in abundance?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Last Friday I had some of my dear friends over to spend the night.  As the girls fell asleep to a movie in my living room, I prayed for them because I had to.  There was no urgent need, but urgent feeling.  The next day as we spoke I felt convicted to get back to praying specifically on a regular basis.  I have been praying, but it has been need-based, and not diligent. 
 
Sunday morning my pastor preached on prayer.  I know this fact, even though I wasn’t there, and that’s enough.  Sunday afternoon there was a youth leaders meeting where the veterans reiterated the essential role prayer plays in making a meeting or ministry successful.  Filled with a sense of the needs, and the knowledge that God wanted me to refocus, I had a marvelous Sunday and Monday filled with intentional prayer.  And then I stayed up late, and slept in and stayed up and slept in.  I’ve been praying, but it hasn’t been the intentional, set aside time I resolved to do. 
 
Wednesday my mom taught the Awana Sparks about the Lord’s Prayer, and in our weekly debriefing of funny things kids said, she shared part of her lesson.  Afterward I read a new article on one of my favorite websites – it was on the Lord’s Prayer, too. 
 
This week I also received in the mail the newest Michael Card album, Hymns.  The first or second song (most listened to if you push play right before you fall asleep each night) is Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.  There is a part of that song I remember a pastor talking about a long time ago.  The author of the hymn wrote “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it… Here’s my heart, o, take and seal it…”  He did wander.  That’s the testimony of his life.  He knew himself.  His heart needed sealed. 
 
So does my heart, because it wanders.  In some ways this week has been beautiful, but it’s only because I’ve spotted God’s grace and messages, not because I’ve had victory in yielding to them.  I know everything about the need to be content, but I just am not content.  My heart isn’t focused.  I’m not diligent with my time or energy, or responsible with my money.  I’m tired. 
 
On Sunday something said at the leader’s meeting reminded me of Galatians 6:9: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”  Like a breath of keenest fresh air to one suffocating, I needed every ounce of the hope in that verse.  There is conviction in Paul’s words also.  That is what I want to focus on today.  
 
Proverbs 4:20-27, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
Let them not depart from thine eyes;
keep them in the midst of thine heart.
For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
Keep thy heart with all diligence;
for out of it are the issues of life.
Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
 
The word “keep” in verse 21 is shamar, “keep, give heed” like a shepherd or watchman. The word “keep” in verse 23 is natsar, “guard, watch over.”  So Solomon’s words, inspired of the Holy Spirit, are to be kept.  And my heart is to be kept.  How is this done? 
 
The first thing Solomon mentions after this command is speech.  There is a lot about speech in Ephesians, but this reminds me also of James, whose vivid description of the tongue as the spark that sets a forest on fire opens with “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” 
 
We’ve probably all heard the question, “Who’s being walked?  The dog or the human?”  A man holds a leash with the cord wrapped around his hand several times in the manner of a bull-rider.  The dog strains ahead, eager, easily distracted.  Sometimes the man seems to be pulled along against his will.  Other times the firm hold on the leash restrains and directs the pet.  The image of a bridle in James is that of me being both dog and master, horse and driver.  The bridle doesn’t just restrain; it guides.  It controls and regulates.  This is self-control, one of the fruit of the Spirit, also known as temperance.  Many of the fruit of the Spirit involve a self-command or restraint. 
 
Solomon goes on to talk about our eyes.  Ok, I can’t resist.  One of the best songs kids ever learn is “Oh be careful little eyes,” and actually I think we should make teenagers and adults sing it, too.  Do you remember it?  Oh be careful little tongue what you say, oh be careful little tongue what you say.  For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little tongue what you say.  Oh be careful little eyes what you see.  Oh be careful little feet where you go.  Tongue, Eyes, Feet.  Ponder your path.  Don’t get distracted.  Keep control of your tongue.  Guard your heart.  Commit to focusing on wisdom and truth and goodness.  “Set your mind on things above.”  
 
Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit.  All the virtues are connected.  Love is a choice.  Joy is something we are commanded to have.  Peace, Philippians tells us, is a result of giving our anxieties to God in prayer.  Patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.  Meekness has been described as power under control.  This may be what Mr. Darcy had in mind when he defended his character and his quiet nature by saying, “Where there is real superiority of mind, pride will always be under good regulation.”  While at first impression this seems like another evidence of Mr. Darcy’s arrogance, it has been suggested by those sympathetic to his character that what he was saying was a strong enough mind knew how to keep his pride – his selfish impulses – under control.  His reluctance to speak when he might be tempted to go too far is a sign of his meekness rather than of his pride. 
 
Dennis Prager is a strangely blended Jewish moralist who speaks, writes, and hosts a radio show.  Though his is by no means an absolute authority, he makes a good point by saying that happiness comes from the mind making choices over the instinct for fun or pleasure.  The mind knows better than feelings.  It can make choices based on the long-term.  Essentially he is saying that self-control brings happiness. 
 
Self-control, or temperance, is from the Greek egkrates, “strong, robust; having power over, possessed of (a thing); mastering, controlling, curbing, restraining; controlling one’s self, temperate, continent.”  Strength is active, working both on itself and on progress.  Tolkien describes a curb not only as a limit to where one can go, but as a tool for navigation: a ditch, bank, or curb would enable one to stay on a road in the dark or in a fog.  So limits restrain us, but they also get us to our destination.  Solomon warns against off-roading. 
 
Peter says to add temperance to knowledge, and patience to temperance (2 Peter 1:6).  A pastor is told to be temperate in Titus 1:8.  He is also required to be sober: “curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate”  Titus 2:5 uses the same word to describe that which a young woman ought to be taught.  It is translated “discreet” in KJV.  Modesty is a consequence of discretion.  Sobriety is the opposite of drunkenness or dissipation, in which control of yourself is loosed.  Dissolution is a word meaning exactly that “cut loose”, and it leads to all sorts of sinful indulgence and decadence.  I need to be moderate. 
 
Paul depicted this virtue in 1 Corinthians 9, in the metaphor of an athlete. 
 
1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all,
but one receiveth the prize?
So run, that ye may obtain. 
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.
Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 
But I keep under my body,
and bring it into subjection:
lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
 
Every man who strives for the mastery (enters the contest, contends for the prize) is temperate in all things.  Verse 27 says “I keep under my own body,” the word used here is a practice of athletes, to use their bodies roughly to make themselves tough or conditioned.  It comes from a word for the part of the face that turns into a black eye if punched.  Some Christians known as ascetics took this too far; they were so focused on abusing themselves that they forgot to do anything fruitful.  Rather, this is the same word Jesus employs in Luke 18, where He is teaching me to be diligent in prayer. 
 
Luke 18:1-8, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end,
that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying,
Avenge me of mine adversary. 
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself,
Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 
Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her,
lest by her continual coming she weary me. 
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him,
though he bear long with them? 
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh,
shall he find faith on the earth?”
 
The judge was made weary (kept under, conditioned) by the widow’s persistent appeal. 
 
Back in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul also says that he brings his body under subjection, he makes a slave of it using stern discipline.  One stern discipline, an exercise in self-control and dependence on God, is fasting.  Fasting should never be about indulging my own cravings, whether sensual, for food, for the praise of men, or to soothe my conscience.  Isaiah 58, beginning in verse 3, contains God’s design for fasting. 
 
Isaiah 58:3-11, “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not?
wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?
Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure,
and exact all your labours.
Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness:
ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul?
is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
Is not this the fast that I have chosen?
to loose the bands of wickedness,
                            to undo the heavy burdens,
                                                   and to let the oppressed go free,
                                                               and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry,
and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?
when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him;
and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning,
and thine health shall spring forth speedily:
and thy righteousness shall go before thee;
the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. T
hen shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer;
thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.
If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger,
and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul;
then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought,
and make fat thy bones:
and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water,
whose waters fail not.”
 
In a paradoxical way, while fasting is about denying one’s self, it is for the purpose of releasing bonds and weights.  Fasting is reliance on God, not only for what I don’t have, but also with what I do.  Fasting is always accompanied with prayer.  1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.  In the Sermon on the Mount, right after Jesus speaks on prayer, He goes into teaching on fasting.  Though food is good, or other things from which you might fast, the exercise of self-denial and sacrifice and dependence and focus on God is good.  All things are lawful, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, but not everything is beneficial.  When I practice what is beneficial, I am stronger for the unexpected temptations when I must deny myself. 
 
I must be ready, then, by exercising self-control, to do good works.  Pray with perseverance and persistence.  Be steadfast.  Stand therefore.  Gird up the loins of your mind, and be sober, that you may be ready in and out of season to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.  Hope is even described in the Bible as an anchor – the image of stability and strength.  Do not be slothful, but fervent in whatever you do.  Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

I love Enchanted.  I like the subtle spoof it is on earlier Disney movies (even Lady and the Tramp!).  The music is fun, and I like the premise “What if the heroes and heroines of Disney Fairyland were in the real world?”  Everyone told me before I saw it that it was a funny movie, but I think it is romantic.  Plus philosophically I see a lot of good messages, for a change, on love and marriage.  By way of disclaimer, before I enumerate my appreciation for Disney’s new take on romance, I thought I’d tell you the 5 things I really didn’t like about Enchanted. 

 Oh, uh, Spoiler Alert.  Obviously.   

Enchanted’s weaknesses:

1.  Giselle’s clothes aren’t modest.  The situation with the shower is less modest, as conduct and visually.  At one point she puts her hand very unnecessarily on Robert’s chest.

 

2.  A tiny bit of crass humor and adult insinuation (of the kind that kids can rationalize as meaningless).

 

3.  The evil in the movie is scary and occult, using spells, fire, smoke, dragons, and old hags. 

 

4.  Morgan uses her dad’s emergency credit card for a shopping trip. 

 

5.  Robert, who has invested in a 5 year relationship with Nancy and was intending to propose, abandons her (with her permission) for a woman he was basically falling in love with while still giving her the impression he intended to marry Nancy.  Giselle was set to marry Prince Edward, and promises him she will return to Andalasia though she is having doubts.  She, of course, ends up trading him for the New York lawyer.  Robert puts himself in a tempting situation by taking Giselle for a walk, a boat ride, a carriage ride, and pizza; finally he dances with her.  There’s an issue of faithfulness and honesty here. 

 

Enchanted on Marriage:

1.  Dreaming

Giselle starts by dreaming of her prince.  She has an ideal of simple romance, handsome, present, and royal.  It makes her sing, gives her something to talk about, and gets her through lonely days in the forest.  Her perspective nearly gets her into a marriage that, the day after happily ever after, isn’t going to be much of anything. 

 2.  Kissing

In Enchanted, kissing is the activity of marriage or those who will be married.  It is symbolic of permanence and commitment.  Near the beginning of the first song, Giselle sings that “before two can become one, there’s something you must do.”  This is an allusion to the story in Genesis, Jesus’ words, and Paul’s quotation – in the Bible!  Compared to most movies, or even Disney movies, Marriage is given high priority. 

 3.  It’s You Duet

Because of Giselle’s shallow perspective on true love, when Prince Edward rescues her singing on his horse, she immediately assumes he’s the one.  He also looks like the statue she made based on her dream.  With little explanation, the Prince, who already heard her song, decides they’re made for each other (note the predestination) and should get married in the morning. 

 4.  “Strengths and Weaknesses”

Robert and Nancy’s take on marriage is slow, thoughtful, and calm.  They’ve analyzed each other, have a functional relationship, and think they’re ready to take the next step.  He does seem to care whether they break up.  She trusts him.  But they each value things that the other does not represent for them: romance, emotion, and fun, for example. 

 5.  Separating Forever and Ever

Robert is a divorce lawyer, bummer of a job for a movie about happily ever after.  But he’s put out of a job by Giselle’s entrance.  Separating forever and ever is a terribly sad thing, she cries.  She reminds a couple contemplating divorce that there are attributes of their spouse that they value and won’t find anywhere else.  They hold each other’s hearts, and that brings responsibility. 

 6.  Dating

Dating is getting to know someone before you marry them.  It usually involves a nice activity like dinner out or a movie or museum.  You exchange information on your interests.  It is good to note that Robert and Giselle come from opposite perspectives, each teach each other something, and meet in the blissful middle.  Robert says most normal people date.  I suppose that’s true.  And if by date you really mean know them before you marry them, I’m ok with that.  Courtship and friendship pre-wedding would fall under this category for the purposes of the movie. 

 7.  “I Always Treated Her Like a Queen”

True love is not about manipulation or exchanging favors.  Love does not worship the other person in a way that denies truth.  A person must offer him or her self in love, not some trampled pantomime of what the other person wants.  Honesty and sincerity are important. 

 8.  “I Will Save You”

True love isn’t the only kind.  Enchanted portrays the love of friends and children as equally valuable.  Marriage isn’t this self-contained, self-sustaining relationship that comprises one’s whole world.  It is meant to be in community and to create additional community.  Chip is a faithful friend to Giselle, relentlessly risking his life to save her.  Her prince actually shows a great deal of chivalry in going after her despite no real interest in her as a person.  And Morgan’s relationship as a step-daughter is an important measuring stick of Giselle’s right-ness for Robert.  Morgan is part of the picture, and her needs are valued. 

 9.  Pain, Risk, Good Times with the Bad

At a later scene, the couple once pondering divorce is happily reunited, willing to work through their problems.  Reality has its problems, but that doesn’t mean you give up.  Reality is worth sticking around for.  This is a theme that will resonate with both Robert and Giselle.  Robert got burnt by his first marriage, and is leery of emotional investment again.  The hopeful outlook of his client renews his willingness to try for more.  Giselle, her dream dance interrupted by Nancy’s previous claim, is seduced by the offer of forgetting all the memories of love she won’t get to share forever and ever with Robert.  The woman was deceived, and she ate.  But she learns she was wrong. 

 10.  “So Far We are So Close”

These are the lyrics Robert sings to Giselle.  She’d been encouraging him the whole movie to express his true feelings in the convincing mode of a ballad, and now he’s singing to her without realizing exactly the import of his actions.  The gist of his confession is that they’ve been through a lot together.  He’s been angry and frustrated and confused, and she’s been angry and confused and conflicted.  Now they know each other, their strengths and weaknesses, not through analysis.  No, they know each other through experience.  They came from opposite points of view near to the middle of true, happily ever after love… so close. 

 11.  “Most Powerful Thing on Earth”

Is true love the most powerful thing on earth?  Song of Solomon says love is as strong as death.  But God’s love conquered even that last enemy (by Christ dying).  Does a kiss change evil?  Are there still things you have to fight?  Yes.  Love is powerful.  It does not, however, preclude a battle and a reality of pain and effort, falling and catching.  Perhaps it does guarantee the ending. 

 12.  Happily Ever After

The credits song, Ever Ever After, says that happily ever after can be true if you open your heart to be enchanted.  I really don’t like the credits song.  It missed all the good strong points of the movie.  Happily ever after is portrayed in Enchanted as marriage.  It is relationship, forsaking all others, and embracing a new life with determination, enthusiasm, and joy. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »