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Posts Tagged ‘passion’

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

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The following is a sort of running commentary on the movie, Remains of the Day.  I wrote it while watching the movie.  The movie is subtle and deep.  I don’t get poems.  I like them if they are clever or rhyme, but not if they’re too deep. So when I do really start to catch on, I get excited.  This movie is like a poem.  If you can grasp the meaning by just watching, you might not be too entertained by this blog post.  It’s full of spoilers and observations about the plot.  Another aspect of this essay is that because I wrote it during the movie, it alternates tenses.  If I speak in past tense, I’m referring to something that happened earlier in the movie, but which I was just pulling together later.  If it’s in the present tense I am either making a point about the theme of the story or discussing events unfolding before my eyes on the screen.  Rather than making the tone consistent throughout, I have preserved the original, hoping that the natural flow will communicate more about how my thoughts were developing.  I’m essentially inviting you to view the movie with me. 

 

“I’m not leaving.  I’ve nowhere to go.  I have no family.  I’m a coward…  I’m frightened of leaving and that’s the truth.  All I see out in the world is loneliness, and it frightens me.  That’s all my high principles are worth.  I’m ashamed of myself.”  Emma Thompson plays the housekeeper in Remains of the Day, opposite butler Anthony Hopkins.  She’s not afraid of confessing who she is.  In fact, I’d say she’s more afraid of not telling who she is. 

 

It’s a movie all about loneliness: on one side about trying to feel nothing or at least to show no feelings.  Actions and words went together to prove dignity, the hallmark of British society.  The main characters never talked, then encountered people who do.  How do you adjust to the demise of aristocracy as a philosophy?  What the butler, Mr. Stevens, had always known as abstract turned out to be affecting personal lives. 

 

(Mr. Lewis is an interesting thread to follow.  He’s an American way ahead of the gentlemen in the democracy and equality world.  The way he uses rhetoric is too direct for them.  Initially he makes enemies everywhere.  People think he doesn’t care about England or Europe.  In the end his view of politics is proven right, and he also turns out to be very fond of England for its real value.  It is he who preserves Darlington Hall.  He represents America, I think, across nearly a century of its history.) 

 

It isn’t that the butler can’t express himself or can’t feel anything.  He just exercises self-control.  His loyalty was misplaced.  He chose self-control because his goal was dignity.  By the end of his life, he’s second-guessing the direction he chose. 

 

In the movie Lord Darlington explains why he wants to help Germany.  He had a friend who fought on the side of Germany in the First World War, and afterwards was so devastated by its effect on his country that he committed suicide.  Mr. Stevens watched a similar thing happen to his boss over the course of the movie.  He feels obligated to honor the memory of his former employer and helps do as a free man what he couldn’t do as Lord Darlington’s servant. 

 

Near the beginning of the movie, Miss Kenton the housekeeper comes into Mr. Stevens’ parlor bringing flowers and representing passion and life.  She does her job well and respectfully, but offers a whole different approach to dignity, one that is more open and faithful to herself.  She represents the other side of loneliness, the kind that feels alone even when she’s with other people. 

 

Mr. Stevens never says what he means, following the example described by his father: the butler in India shot a tiger in the kitchen and entered the parlor a moment later to say dinner would be served at the usual hour, by which time there would be no discernible traces of the incident.  All this calm, polite conversation to convey the death of a ferocious animal in the dining room. 

 

So when Miss Kenton enters his room, he says that he prefers his room private, unchanged, and (seeming to refer to flowers but actually not) free of distraction.  The relationship between the butler and housekeeper is reminiscent of Elizabeth and Darcy’s conversations in Pride and Prejudice.  Until she got to know Darcy, he seemed rude and unfeeling.  Once Miss Kenton likewise makes the patient and attentive habit of knowing Mr. Stevens’ character and tastes, she can, rather on faith, begin to interpret what he says or doesn’t say as a sort of code for his true meaning.  Given her openness, he has the great advantage over her: the comfort of knowing when she agrees, security of being aware when she doesn’t, and even delight when her position entertains – all while, at first, safely hidden in his own opinions. 

 

But she begins to see through him, utilizing Plato’s “plot is everything” to observe his life.  She notices he doesn’t like pretty women on staff, and speculates, “Might it be that our Mr. Stevens fears distraction?”  She has an excellent memory, and so no doubt began to understand what he had thought of her when she first entered his study with flowers years earlier.  He didn’t trust himself. 

 

Passion is a distraction from duty.  Or is the other way around? 

 

“Please leave me alone, Miss Kenton.”  He wants to be alone, at least partly.  And he wants her to physically pry the book from his hands, to talk and guess and look into his face for the answers he dare not show but can’t hide.  He freezes, utterly conflicted for a moment, craving and fearing her closeness. 

 

“We have each other.  That’s all anyone can ever need.”

 – Miss Hull on marrying without money.

 

Miss Kenton finds that being together in the same house isn’t enough.  She might content herself with friendship, but he can’t.  He must have formality or surrender to love, but he doesn’t know how to do the latter.  She can’t bear the rejection, which is worse than loneliness. 

 

She hurt him.  She loved him and she hurt him.  Maybe that’s why she left. 

 

He didn’t owe her anything.  She knew he didn’t, but she hoped anyway.  That made her tears all the more bitter and self-reproaching when he couldn’t let himself admit he was in love. 

 

Why does Miss Kenton do these things?  She sees the outside world as lonely, in contrast to the house and servants (though Mr. Stevens sees the house as lonely).  She above all fears loneliness, and works and sacrifices so that she won’t feel alone.  This is why she eventually leaves.  Though Mr. Stevens knows she is not alone, he makes the mistake of not telling her so.  And she flees to what seems a sure thing, an offer of marriage to a man who says he loves her. 

 

She is too needy for a marriage, and her husband didn’t always say what he meant, either – even when he first said “I love you.”  The movie ends with the question of loneliness still hanging. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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In high school Awana (Journey 24-7), students are required to read through the Bible in four years.  For each book they read, they most also give a summary to a leader.  I’m a leader (strange – I feel like a teenager still, even though I’m almost twenty four – unbelievable!), and tonight I listened to a young man summarize Ephesians, one of my favorite books of the Bible.  I don’t know if I mentioned studying the book this year to where each chapter explodes with meaning now (the word of God is living and powerful – energes).  Anyway, as a leader I get to ask questions to see if the student has really read the book or just the provided summary.  My leaders loved this privilege, and I follow their example. 
 
“What does ‘breastplate of righteousness’ mean?” I ask. 
 
This is from Ephesians 6:14, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.” 
 
The most annoying thing about this passage of Scripture is commentaries.  I open a commentary and the most common observations are the purpose of the pieces of armor – as though we needed help to understand that a helmet protects the head and a shield is to defend ourselves.  I believe the focus of the text is on the virtues listed, and the study ought to be 1. How they protect us.  2.  How to implement them. 
 
Much has been said about the grace issue here.  I believe in grace.  Righteousness is not something of our own.  Nor can it possibly be referring only to Christ’s righteousness imputed on our behalf in this verse.  Righteousness describes a way of life.  How do we live that life?  The New Testament is filled with the message: grace, faith, abiding in Christ.  “For I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.  I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law then Christ is dead in vain.”  (Galatians 2:20-21)
 
How does righteousness serve as armor?  How does it protect our hearts? 
 
Earlier in Ephesians, Paul writes: “(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth)  Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:9-10)  What is righteousness?  Strong’s says it has to do with “integrity, virtue, purity, correctness of thinking and feeling and acting.”  The figure of a breastplate is often associated with sobriety.  Sober is, also according to Strong’s, “1) to be sober, to be calm and collected in spirit 2) to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect.”  Purity of thought and action, truth over passion are all consistent with righteousness.  And these are conditions of the heart, or things which may affect a heart.  Think of this: if a heart is unprotected by truth and integrity, why shouldn’t it demand that its passions rule?  Why should it check its passions and prevent some that are not pleasing to God, not pure?  How would it even know to do so? 
 
Ok.  So most of us know mentally about purity and right from wrong.  We even know the truth.  But our hearts forget.  Some teachers rightly advise wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God against heart temptations.  Paul suggests an additional strategy.  A life built on reality, a life meet for the God who created us and the way He created us, is the best way to condition and exercise our hearts to submit to the truth.  What does James say about sin?  James 1:14-16, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.  Do not err, my beloved brethren.”  The heart and the righteousness go together.  Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”  This goes back and forth.  The heart must be kept to maintain our walk.  Our walk must be maintained to keep the heart.  And none of these are our work. 
 
This is my experience.  When I neglect my relationship with God (even if it is when I get caught up in “doing” things for Him), I slip up.  The temptation-induced lust in my heart births disobedience.  And then I don’t care in what category I put that sin, inevitably my heart is more vulnerable.  I experience more spiritual attack on my heart (desires, imaginations) and am more likely to get more and more distracted from my walk with God.  Once my focus, in fact, is on the things my heart wants and senses, my tone towards God gets accusatory, and for the silliest things I doubt His love.  This is because my heart thinks love equals worship and submission, but is not interested in loving anyone else, including God. 
 
Yet my experience with walking with God is so unaccountably opposite.  I believe these are spiritual realities.  But logic does not say how spending time in conversation with and dependence on a Being I cannot physically see or hear could so much affect my life. 
 
I have marveled so many times: “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13) 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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The various temptations of a single woman’s life:

1. To want companionship to cure the loneliness: just a friend who is so often there that it doesn’t matter so much when he isn’t, a friend whose conversation is lively and intelligent and equally willing to listen to and interact with me.
2. To want the security of having a major point of the future decided and knowing exactly what is required of me. On a spiritual level the Bible answers this question sufficiently for each day’s choices, but on a lifestyle level, the Bible is frustratingly silent about the activity of an unmarried woman.
3. To want romance: flowers and notes and special attention and stories to share with friends, to have the flutter of expectation and the thrill of affection.
4. To want a leader, someone to follow and help and believe in, who is capable of leading, strong and visionary and full of faith. A girl sometimes just wants a man to tell her what to do.
5. To be sad, full of pity and despair and just wanting to stop hoping so that I can cry.
6. To be aloof, proclaiming disinterestedness in anything I don’t already have, lying so that hope is kept silent and so that life is a series of functions. To lose passion, releasing it for the safer state of not caring.
7. To fill the various temptations with temporary flirtations or imaginings, books or movies, or the stories of the romances and lives of friends.

There comes a point when guarding against all these various temptations is impossible. I stop being pitiful, only to be assailed with the temptation to watch a chick-flick to fill my yearnings. I applaud myself for not wanting romance and find that I want security.

So instead of trying not to fall into this trap or that snare, I need to focus on what I know I need to do. Love God. Talk to Him. He is leader, companion, listener, giver, refuge, planner, lov-er, and passionate. Serve Him. Don’t think about myself and all those wants. Take them to Him when they overwhelm me. Share with Him the poignant ordeal of waiting. And be ok with the reality that nothing I expect has to happen except what He has promised.

I don’t want anyone to think I want to be single forever. Hearing friends admire my patience drives me crazy; I don’t want them to imagine that waiting is easy. But I will wait, if only because I know that I cannot get what I deeply want any other way. The question is: will I wait well? Waiting is sacred, an activity of God who created time and invites us to imitate Him in it, to share in what He feels as time marches on between beginning and end, desire and fulfillment, initiation and consummation. But waiting is not a virtue. Patience is a virtue, and contentment, kindness and selflessness. Will waiting produce and demonstrate these in me?

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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One can read over the brim of one’s cup, just as Treebeard the Ent studied Merry and Pippin in his mountain home over his entdraught in Middle Earth long ago.  Such was I doing when I stopped thinking about the words and became more attentive to the taste in my cup.  I was drinking a vanilla chai tea latte, hot, and slightly watered down due to my lack of tablespoon at work.  The flavor is one of the new things introduced to my life in a year that is rapidly flowing to its end.  I like it. 

 

But I miss hot chocolate.  Not that I never drink chocolate anymore.  That I drink chai tea when I would have been sipping cocoa is undeniable.  Life has changed.  My tastes have dutifully broadened as an expected part of growing up.  If they are broadened, they are also dispersed.  Now the intensity of my appreciation for chocolate is tempered by my acceptance of vanilla chai tea. 

 

Would my life be better if I had refused to taste chai tea?  If through loyalty I remained zealous for chocolate alone, could I still be a grown up and still be happy?  Would I be happier? 

 

Life is a choice whether to try new things.  Once surrendered to a new pet topic, to the diminution of my former sole passion, my experience says there is no possibility of returning to a single-passion life.  A new opportunity arises, and if I am consistent, is tried.  Causes ebb and flow, wax and wane now, each replacing the last for its moment in the spotlight. 

 

I haven’t really written anything in a while.  Inspiration departed.  Whenever that happens I get borderline depressed, because life seems to have lost its flavor, and my passion for each moment has waned.  I don’t like drifting, shallow waves of life lapping around an unresponsive me.  Leaving the metaphor, though, I keep on doing things: going to work, talking to people, checking email.  Even genuine smiles come to my face. 

 

Now, slowly, I think I’m coming out of my doldrums.  A week ago Saturday night, I completely spontaneously saw a movie, August Rush.  There were so few people in the theater, and I was so tired.  Reclined in my seat, I tilted my head against the back of the cushion, and absorbed a beautiful movie.  The soundtrack was uniquely expressive, imposing its presence and importance.  Music spoke in the movie.  It communicated identity, feelings, direction, summons, friendship, longings, and fulfillment. 

 

Afterward I escaped the scent of popcorn into a fresh midnight wind.  The air was too cold to linger, but I breathed it deeply, and memorized its touch on my face.  I felt the cold and the current.  My brother and I talked of how we love things and moments with feeling, and flavor.  They say something, and mean something. 

 

In contrast, the chocolate cake I had just before the movie was bland.  The color boasted bursting flavor, when in actuality the taste was dull and muted.  Not like fudge, or cinnamon, or grape juice.  Those things are so bursting with flavor that they assert their identities. 

 

Then a few days later was a day full of feeling, and a sense of doing things important, though everyday.  I cried near the end, for a few friends came home.  Tears break the walls of the world without passion.  That’s the metaphor of George MacDonald’s Princess Lightness. 

 

Yet when the walls are down, and I care about what happens around me, when I’m advancing my might on causes and people, there’s the probability that I’ll see the world in reality, and see myself as I am.  Couple this to just turning 23, to holidays and old friends, and I am sad now – not depressed, but sad in a sentimental way, in a fightable way. 

 

Sunday I went to Red Robin alone.  They offered me a free burger for my birthday in exchange for receiving their emails, so I went to redeem my coupon.  The staff was nice.  I brought a book about grace.  And in between sips of a chocolate shake and bites of luscious burger, I observed.  The walls caught my attention, bearing an eclectic collection of posters, prints, and photographs.  One fantastic picture showed downtown Chicago along the Chicago River in 1929.  Already the concentration of sky-piercing towers was a marvel.  Chicago is my favorite city.  I can’t lay my finger on the reason, only that when I am there I feel alive.  Every place is a story; every sound has a flavor; and every person has a style. 

 

I love Christmas for the same reason.  Each song is a tale, each note a rush of emotion.  Every light twinkles mystery into my soul.  Altered from its original intent or not, in December the whole country is united in focus.  No one asks why the stores all play music about snow, bells, peace, and Jesus.  It is understood when you wear red that you’re being festive.  Even those who have dropped out of church make it back for the memories of candlelight at Christmas Eve services. 

 

So today, especially at Christmas, I want to challenge you to seize the day.  Breathe the moment.  Live to the hilt.  Pursue life.  Feed on truth.  Praise beauty.  Remember.  Cry.  Hope.  Laugh.  Sing.  Love. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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