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Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

There once was a handsome young man named David.  What happened to me through knowing him probably had something to do with growing up – with turning 20 and getting my own car and being exposed more to the general world than this homeschooler was used to.  He walked into my life when I was 19 years old and I immediately went into such a daze that I didn’t even remember his name, but I remembered his smile.  We found ourselves shortly thereafter attending the same Bible study.  I was so thrilled to see him there, and that he gave my elbow a little pinch when he recognized me, that I felt sick the rest of the night…  C’est la vie.

Because I met David, I realized I wasn’t 16 anymore.  And not-16-year-old women shouldn’t be looking for the qualities of a 16-year-old boy in a man they’re thinking of dating, or marrying.  I began to remake my list, but I didn’t even know what being a grown-up meant.  What was it to be an adult?  How was it different being an adult, marriage-ready man from an adult, marriage-ready woman?

Responsibility, a sober view of the world, selflessness – these are some of the traits I came to realize were important.  Discerning them wasn’t as simple as checking off a list like: no, he doesn’t drink; yes, he has a job; yes, he says he’s a Christian.  A drink here or there doesn’t prevent realizing that we get one chance at this life and that everything we do has consequences.  (At the time, I was met with a lot of young men who didn’t take the consequences of alcohol very seriously.  But they were breaking into my mind the possibilities.)  In David’s case, irresponsible men can have jobs.  They use them to fund and further irresponsible lives.  And though true Christianity has to do with imitating Christ, who made Himself nothing, saying we belong to the Church is only a tiny part of participation in that kind of life.  People can lie.  People can be deceived.

Because I met David, I learned to be patient in developing relationships.  I wanted more, more, more of people whose company I enjoyed.  I wanted to rush, rush, rush to see where it was leading with this man.  But it had to be OK some weeks at Bible study to just see him and ask how he was, waiting for the deeper conversation here and there.  That way I was learning more about him than just my urgent questions.  When you’re friends with someone, you get all of them, not just the parts whose relevance you can foresee.

Because I met David, I had my first opportunity to really make the choice between going with my feelings and going with my principles.  I had been in a low place spiritually, but this choice began to wake me up.

Because I met David, I discovered how sick hope could make me.  I hoped the charming bright-eyed conversationalist would line up with my principles – if not right away, then later (*soon* later, but I didn’t know about assuming “soon” back then).

Because I met David, I began to face some facts about marriage, among others: that it would be two broken people working together, helping each other.  I was still inspired by the idea of matrimony, but I started to realize that I wouldn’t marry a perfect man, that I didn’t deserve one either, and that being good myself didn’t guarantee that the man I married would always have been good.

Because I met David, I realized that the call God makes on Christians is not, “go be friends with potential husbands and men with no risk to your own heart, but be sure to steer clear of anyone not interested or unworthy” – no, God says, “love your neighbor” and especially to love those in the Church.  So even though David chose not to pursue me seriously, and even though I was disappointed, and even though I was still attracted to him – I couldn’t just run away.  I had to keep being his friend, keep desiring good for him, while also surrendering my plans for him.

Because I met David, I still kind of believe that I have beautiful eyes and a great smile (particularly when inspired by a man’s attention).  I took a break for a while from being on the watch for a potential husband.  I realized that even playing it safe with relationships can hurt.  I stopped believing in fairy tales and started believing in love.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Last week after a prayer meeting I usually attend, a few of us got to talking about the Declaration of Independence.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,Libertyand the pursuit of Happiness.”  One says he doesn’t believe in the right to life, but in the right to property.  Another agrees with the declaration.  I say, “Um, what does ‘rights’ mean?”  And it sounds like a silly question, but we struggle with it.  If God gives a right, is it irrevocable, even by Him, even if we do something to deserve ourselves out of it?  If our right to liberty is limited – by nature, by moral laws, or by civil laws – what does liberty even mean?  When you die, do you lose your rights?  If your rights aren’t enforced, are you stripped of them or are they merely violated?  Does having inalienable rights just mean that the rules are consistent throughout your lifetime?

Some things, besides confusion, that I came away with, are: Libertydoes not mean either the ability or the permission to make the world the way you want it – even regarding yourself.  God owns the rights to life.  God sometimes delegates His authority over the rights of others.  The Old Testament emphasizes property rights in a way that exalts land ownership higher than I am accustomed.  Israelites could sell their land, but they got it back at Jubilee.  And fathering an heir to the land, to carry on the family name and almost to own the land, was very important.  Basically, a right that furthered our dominion responsibility given by God, is much more important than some right of self-determination.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I called this edition Pigfest on the Roof, and nominally themed it off of Fiddler on the Roof, inviting people to bring a traditional side dish or dessert for the feast.  But we did not meet on the roof.  Instead, we crammed 21 adults and 7 children into my living room, kitchen, and hallway.  I thought about taking pictures this time, but I am simply not that organized!

In the 3 hours we met, the Pigfesters engaged in seven separate debates.  Everyone behaved very well, which made moderating rather easier.  The topics were interesting and well-engaged.

  1. Because the government is anti-God and immoral, it would be immoral to pay taxes. Jesus said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.  But what is Caesar’s?  To how much was Caesar entitled?  When the sitting executive’s face is not on our coin, as it was in Jesus’ day, is it still to be rendered to him?  Does our personal judgment determine the justice of a tax?  Is the income tax even legal?  Is it rather unconstitutional?  But the resolution was giving moral reasons for refusing to pay taxes, not legal ones.  Must Christians submit to immoral governments?  Is doing something morally wrong in the name of submission ok?  In the Bible, children were wiped out with their fathers for the sin of the father, but we see no mention of justification because they were just doing what their fathers instructed.  Do the layers of responsibility in the government protect us from culpability?  That is, by paying taxes, are we not simply enabling the government to make good choices?  That they make bad choices is a potential consequence of our trust.  But, we are in a democracy where we the people choose our government.  Some of our taxes do go to moral things, like roads.  It was suggested that we look at the federal budget and deduct from our income tax a corresponding percentage to that which the government spends on immoral activities, and to enclose a letter of explanation.  There is a doctrine of Lesser Magistrates, which discusses the conflict between obeying contradicting authorities or whether citizens are required to submit to authorities not established by the higher authority (in this case, the US Constitution).  Jesus paid his taxes (the story of the coin in the fish).
  2. Men have no biblical responsibilities towards their families. Paul had to have been married, so it is possible he abandoned his wife for the call of God.  (This was highly debated.)  If a man does not provide for his own family, he is worse than an infidel – the Bible.  A husband is to love his wife as himself, which often includes caring for her needs.  At this point, the contributor of the resolution conceded that the Bible did have some responsibilities listed for men towards their families, so the debate shifted to what they are:  What is the definition of men?  It includes fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers.  Brothers were commanded in the Mosaic Law to take their sister-in-laws as wife if they were barren widows (law of the kinsman-redeemer).  Lot is an example of a man whom we do not, in our culture, consider to have been a good father.  He offered his daughters to the lustful crowd – and what’s up with that?  But, was he a jerk, or was he righteous?  Scripture is often addressed to fathers, which seems to be significant.  Some of the sons of Jacob slaughtered a city to avenge their sister’s rape.  Is that a responsibility?  God is presented as a Father.  Are we not to imitate Him?  Does God have any obligations to His children?  Obligations (and by implication, responsibilities) have to do with consequences.  When God takes an action, he is responsible for the consequences, and thus obligated to abide those consequences…  Likewise, a man is obligated to deal with the child he has if his wife conceives.  God’s fatherhood is often demonstrated in punishment.  But He is also merciful.  Are fathers, therefore, required to imitate God’s grace as well as His chastising?  Whence comes the impulse to provide and protect?  If not from the Bible, and if not from the character of God, then where?
  3. America has gotten worse since the Women’s Liberation movement. Worse was described as moral deterioration: divorce, abortion, crime.  And the women’s liberation movement was specified as that movement that rose in the 60’s and focused on equal opportunity, women leaving the home for the workplace, and sexual liberation.  Perhaps it is not the actual liberating of women that caused the moral decline, but the attitude women took.  Are we talking about a cause of moral decline, or is the women’s liberation movement yet another symptom of a larger rebellion.  It was a rebellion against God.  “We hate men” was not the origin of the movement, but rather, World War II empowered women when men were unable to work the factories and women left the home to take up those responsibilities.  Or perhaps women’s lib. started with suffrage.  Are not all created equal, even male and female?  Does that not apply to roles?  The real wickedness of the feminist mindset is not, “We hate men,” but “We hate God.”  For they are rebelling against God’s created order.  Perhaps women, though, were not the instigators.  Maybe men abusing their authority, really oppressing them (for example, physical violence) caused women to assert themselves.  What does this subject matter today?  Abortion is going on today, and is horribly unjust to fathers.  They have no legal right to stay the murder of their own child.  A result of the women’s liberation movement is that men were not allowed to be men, and so have abdicated their roles.  But shouldn’t men have stood up against the women’s liberation movement and defended the God-given order?  Those who did were slandered.  Really, emasculation is a result of the Fall and the Curse, when God told Eve that her desire would be for her husband, it is the terminology of desiring to be “over” her husband, just like sin “got the better of” Cain.  Women today do appreciate their liberties, without wicked motives, and make good use of them (women doing missions without their families).  The Christian worldview has been proclaimed as the kindest to women.  Are we kind to women to fight for equality in the area of sexual promiscuity?  Should we not have fought for equality the other way, of neither men’s nor women’s promiscuity being acceptable?  Even though we may disagree with the movement, we can use the women’s liberties today for good: a woman who doesn’t believe women should have the vote can choose to submit her vote to her husband’s views.  The movement is continuing even today, but is evolving, and so is not necessarily from the same motives as the feminists had in the 60’s.
  4. Sharing is unnecessary and not biblically supported. Sharing is defined as co-ownership, especially as opposed to lending.  The distinction between (and comparative value of) giving and sharing was a theme throughout the debate.  Are we saying that taking turns is unnecessary?  When a child’s friend comes over to play, what is the host child to do?  Should he keep his toys to himself?  Or – perhaps he should truly give the toy, not expecting it back.  Sharing is looking out for other’s interests, putting others ahead of yourself.  [Ownership] rights are unbiblical.  We put so much emphasis on our rights, but God calls us to give up our rights.  Christians are told to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Is there a difference morally between offering to share with someone else, and requesting that someone else share with you?  Sharing may be unnecessary when giving is an option.  But to whom are we to give?  How much?  Sharing makes life better and more efficient.  Instead of buying a toy for each child in a family, they can share one toy.  Sometimes there is no money to buy for each individual what they need, but they can have what they need if they all share one.  How is hospitality done if not by sharing?  God owns everything anyway; none of this property is really ours.  God made us stewards, and we are to exercise wisdom and discernment in how best to use what He has entrusted to us.
  5. God withholds because we do not ask. If we are obedient to God, then we abide in God’s love, and God does what we ask.  When we walk with God, He gives us the desires of our hearts.  The Bible encourages us to entreat God – even to the point of nagging Him.  How does God’s sovereignty fit into the equation?  Is God really dependent on our actions?  God gives some good gifts without prayer (common grace: rain falls on just and unjust; and special grace to Christians, but without us asking).  When the Spirit intercedes for our weakness, what if our weakness is that we don’t ask for the right things?  Can He bridge that gap?  Generally that verse is not interpreted as praying for us when we are not praying, but interceding for us as we pray.  God changes His mind when people act or plead with Him.  Either God lies or He changes His mind, for he told Moses that He would destroy Israel, and then God didn’t.  If our children acted that way, we would punish them…  It seems best to act as though what we do and pray matters, regardless of what we believe about the sovereignty of God.  Daniel knew God’s prophecy that He would do something at a certain time, but Daniel still prayed for it to happen.  Is God’s plan allowed to be malleable?  If not for that, could we have this redemption story: God creates the world perfect, but man sins, so God gets to demonstrate His lovingkindness by sending His only Son to die for us.  Or did God plan it that way all along?  Isn’t consistency an attribute of God?  Maybe God must only be consistent within His character (for example, mercy).
  6. Ownership for the sake of hospitality is the best kind of stuff and the best kind of ownership. Best is defined as optimal, in the short term and/or in the long term.  People are not equivalent to “stuff.”  The other reason to have a lot of stuff is to be like a dragon, hoarding riches and laying on them because they bring pleasure to you individually.  Are families included in hospitality?  If you own something for the purpose of benefiting others who are in your family, is that still the best kind?  There is this trend toward larger and larger master bedrooms, which serves no hospitable purpose, but often detracts from available space for hospitality towards others.  Hospitality, though, is an attitude, and can be demonstrated without stuff.  Should we buy a lot of stuff to be hugely hospitable?  There is a difference between purchasing stuff for the sake of hospitality and making hospitable use of stuff bought for other reasons.  This resolution did not address the inherent value of the property in question (ought we to be hospitable with our Play Station?), but rather, with the motive in possessing it.  Hospitality enables relationships.  Maybe a better kind of ownership would be for God’s call: some people need their own space to refresh in order to do what God has called them to do.  If it is impossible to share without making yourself useless, hospitality might not be the most important thing.  We should be willing to give up property when God wants us to do something else.
  7. Intimate friendships with the same sex is just as important for men as for women. Intimacy was defined as vulnerability especially in the senses of accountability and sharing emotions.  Men see the world differently: things versus relationships.  Guys do have as intimate of relationships, but do not express them the same way as girls.  Spending the day hunting and sharing a one-sentence commentary on their job (men) can be as intimate as a three hour conversation (women).  But the argument of the resolution is that men need to express more – a lot of times, and not in a way that looks like women.  Take, for example, David and Jonathan, who had a much closer relationship than what is common to men in our culture.  Men are afraid to reveal themselves, especially for accountability.  There is also a difficulty in expressing masculine intimacy for fear of seeming “queer*.”  Are women really good examples of intimate friendships, or rather than holding each other accountable, aren’t we gossiping and discussing things that shouldn’t be said?  Many men experience closer friendships with other men before marriage, and miss those relationships afterwards, but have been unable or have neglected to keep them up.  Men have been influenced by the doctrine of individualism, so that they overvalue doing things on their own and not asking for help.  The hard world necessitates a shell especially for men, who are in the world more than women.  Men don’t have time for relationships.  World War II hurt the willingness of men to be open, because they did not want to talk about the horrors they had witnessed or even committed.  Were male relationships more prominent in the past or in other cultures?  *queer in the sense of homosexual

Each 15-minute segment seemed to go too fast and be over too soon.  The incredible value of Pigfests it that they do not allow you to really complete a topic, or all the aspects brought up in the debate.  So we keep thinking and talking (and writing!) for weeks to come.  I think it is interesting how there are often two themes weaving their way through the debate.  At some points there were up to four people with their hands up waiting to speak, so the different threads were carried on well.  For myself, I had prepared a resolution, but the things I wanted to bring up with it were touched on in so many of the other debates that I decided not to present mine for debate.

All in all I am quite pleased with how the night went.  God answered all of my prayers for the party.  As hostess and moderator and human being I felt more focused than I have at some Pigfests, and for that I also thank God.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Marriage is like dancing with no music.  There is still an art, and still the beauty; there is also that dimension of more going on that you have in dancing.  But instead of the music being enough to give a girl an idea of where life is going, there is none; she must simply follow.  Give and take, go and come.  Trust.  Responsibility.  Cry for help.  Confidence.  Smile her delight.  Swing out, spin in.  Submit.  Dance. 
 
The hobbits watch in dreamlike fixation as a woman beautiful beyond their experience weaves her way around the table, in and out of the kitchen, gracefully dodging a man equally unique to the hobbits: big, clumpy, capering and energetic.  Styles so different, the two manage to make a fascinating dance of contrast and complement. How do they make it work?  What force prevents collision? 
 
Tom Bombadil sang about his lady when he thought no one was listening, and when he knew they were following, straining for his every word.  He praised her as beautiful and trusted her to be ready with hospitality.  Brave and free, each with few friends, the couple shared life and interests with each other.  Perhaps many nights were spent crafting a tale to spell his lady.  He gave her gifts and she did the washing.  They each remained who they had been before they met, but they sacrificed things and changed also, making a brand new life together.  When the hobbits asked Goldberry about her husband, she spoke with quiet respect, “He is the master.”  Perhaps there is no satisfying explanation of Tom Bombadil because he was a man who needed to be known rather than described.  There are no memorized steps of the dance with him.  Their house is full of the comforts of community: ready beds, generous tables, and long conversation by the fire.  Goldberry and Tom knew the value of relationship. 
 
Main characters in Lord of the Rings are unmarried.  Nine companions, the fellowship of the Ring, had the freedom to risk their lives and tramp across the world because they were not married.  A man or two was moving towards marriage, dreaming of the woman he’d left behind.  Tolkien was a real romantic, the kind who understood the pull of adventure and of chivalry, as well as of courting and of marriage.  This last is not too common in literature, that real married couples would be glimpsed in story and lifted up for their simple virtue and hard submission.  Immensely happy in marriage to Edith himself, this author did not shy away from representing marriage in his stories. 
 
Another example is found in The Fellowship of the Ring before the hobbits encounter Tom Bombadil.  Still in the Shire, they meet a hobbit couple, the honored Mrs. Maggot and her intimidating husband, Farmer Maggot.  It’s a dreadful name to inherit, let alone acquire, so Mrs. Maggot must have loved her husband, and made the most of it.  She too embodied hospitality.  Spin in.  Feeding a large working farm and family of sons and daughters, she didn’t mind at all to include three hungry strangers at her table, presenting them with heaping helpings of farm fare, mushrooms, and good homebrew.  Farmer Maggot was a good provider, a defender of his property – maybe less because of what it grew than of whom it harbored.  And when in the service of doing what was right he risked his own safety for newfound friends – this round hobbit reminiscent of the American rednecks – his wife stood at the door and cried out for her husband to be careful.  Swing out.  This isn’t just something people say.  Do you see women encouraging their husbands to do the right thing even though it is dangerous?  Do you hear people in unhappy marriages nervous about the other’s safety?  No, it comes from a heart of love, natural – yes, and common but only because the simple heart of marriage is common.  Isn’t that how it should be? 
 
There are other examples, men and women whose wedded bliss was interrupted by wars, disease, or accident.  Take Frodo’s parents.  Rumors ran wild that Drogo didn’t get along with his wife, and that she thought his girth was too large even for a hobbit.  They died together, though, out boating – and as far as the Gaffer was concerned, that was their only crime.  It left Frodo to the wildness of youth, an orphaned rascal living with an extended family too big to take good care of him and to teach him responsibility.  This again was the implication given by the sturdy gardener, who had carefully raised his own son under his eye and apprenticeship.  What an unlikely beginning for the Ringbearer, whose sense of responsibility called him into the darkness, surrendering forever the possibility of home!
 
Elrond’s marriage does not appear to have been happy.  His wife early (well, thousands of years into their relationship) grew weary of their home and left.  Why didn’t she stay for him?  Why didn’t he go with her?  Should he have gone, the Halfelven whose work was so large in preserving the Middle Earth for which his father had risked much more than happiness and comfort?  Should she have stayed, enduring without music, just for the following?
 
Many characters seem to have lost their mothers or fathers early, including Samwise, Frodo, Aragorn, Boromir & Faramir, and Eowyn & Eomer.  It was a hard time, and even marriage did not guard against sorrow and loss.  This is evidence that Tolkien’s ideal of marriage was not unrelated to the real world in which he moved.  His stories exemplify love and commitment in the midst of the hard times to which we can relate. 
 
Another splendid example of the exertions of marital love and the roles each person takes is the marriage of Earendil and Elwing.  Earendil, on behalf of his people, sought to reach the undying lands and plead for the help of the Valar.  He was lost at sea, hopeless, when his elven wife flew to him in the form of a white bird with a silmaril at her breast, and, lighting the way to Valinor, saved her husband and delivered his mission from doom.  He initiated risk, and she accepted the separation and the danger.  In this story the husband led the way on a mission to save the world (as all husbands should), and she supported him with strength of her own and encouragement.  I believe the story goes that the couple now above Middle Earth sails till time ends, in the heavens, her silmaril doomed to light the way for all men as the evening star. 
 
Many people in Tolkien’s tales are related to Luthien and Beren, who stole that silmaril from the crown of Morgoth.  Luthien was the daughter of Thingol (a high elf, one of the first to see Valinor) and Melian (a Maia).  Their marriage is another inspiration.  King Thingol loved Melian and worked his whole life to make her happy.  But he also respected his bride and took her advice.  This position Melian wielded to moderate her husband’s temper, thereby making him the best man, father, and king that he could be.  Ruling together, they preserved and protected a kingdom of peace, beauty, and, until fate started to unravel the spell of protection Melian had woven around Doriath, of justice. 
 
Thingol and Melian’s marriage is somewhat reminiscent of Celeborn and Galadriel, both strong and wise, with strong claims to the leadership of their people.  Yet they ruled peacefully side by side, together attending councils of the wise.  Again they both offer hospitality, but are cautious to protect their country against harm, for love both of land and of friends inside.  All the wives in Tolkien are beautiful, and all the husbands are valiant.  But not all the men are wise, nor are all women hospitable.  Celeborn and Galadriel represent together the best of Tolkien’s ideal.  They are happy and sad, serious and celebratory.  They are wise and strong, beautiful and kind.  People love them and follow them, not only in war, but also in peace.  Memory is important, and yet there is always curiosity to meet new things.  And so it ought to be in marriage.  Such I believe was Tolkien’s experience. 
 
My favorite marriage in Tolkien is one that hadn’t yet taken place.  Eowyn was independent; she was not free – not because she was a woman at home, but because she wanted things impossible for her to have.  Faramir pushed, and she took a small step away.  He pulled and she came close.  Before she knew what was happening, the simple steps were increasing in difficulty until she cried out, “My hand is ungentle!”  The princess grew frightened in the face of love and submission, though she had stood proud as the shieldmaiden of her king even against an enemy as terrible as the Lord of the Nazgul.  She cried out to one who seemed to know what he was doing, who was leading her into a place where she was less confident, where her only choice was to follow.  And the crying out was trust.  Her heart changed, or at last she understood it.  She chose freedom, stepped willingly away from her independence, and chose to love, like her partner, to see things grow well.  “Then I will wed with the White Lady,” he laughed.  She smiled her delight, and on the wall of the city their hands met and clasped, and they faced darkness and light together. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn 

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A couple years ago I heard a radio interview with an author who wrote novels based on Bible prophecy and current events.  He had the uncanny knack of predicting world events.  The first chapter of his first book, written before 9/11 (and published right after) described an airplane hijacked by terrorists to fly kamikaze into a target in the US.  So when I remembered his name long enough to find his newest book, Ezekiel Option, I grabbed it.  And then I read a fascinating intersection of prophecy and foreseeable world events. 
 
The scientific method requires a scientist to make a hypothesis and then to conduct a series of tests.  If x is true, then y.  If x is false, then no y or z instead…  Joel Rosenberg is a sort of scientist.  His hypothesis is that the Bible is true, and that certain of its prophecies are next on the prophetic timeline.  His test is that if this were so, international politics would be moving in a certain direction.  I don’t regret picking up in the middle of his series.  The first two books describe an attack on America that leads to a war with Sadaam Hussein, which at its conclusion produces an increasingly prosperous Iraq.  Ezekiel Option picks up about where we actually are in world events, and predicts a Russian alliance particularly with Iran, but with other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries as well. 
 
I pay attention to these parts of world news like a scientist testing a theory.  Joel Rosenberg, who, it turns out, doesn’t just see these things in visions but actually does a huge amount of research through personal interviews and worldwide newspapers and Bible study, helps me to stay up to date on potentially prophecy-related news items through his weblog.  Last night scrolling across the bottom of Hannity and Colmes or the O’Reilly Factor (late repeats of both) was the casual report: Russia, Iran & Qatar move towards oil cartel, would force EU to rethink energy policies.  Russia has sold arms to Iran.  Putin is moving more and more to be the strong central leader of his country, a requirement of the Ezekiel prophecies. 
 
Anyway, all of that is preliminary to this actual review of Joel Rosenberg’s fifth novel, Dead Heat.  When I first picked this book up from the library, my dad read it.  He said a lot of people died, and was mum about the rest.  So I wasn’t really in the mood to read about people dying.  After the elections last week, however, I remembered a quote on Joel Rosenberg’s weblog from this book, “What Bennett had never really considered carefully until now was the possibility that something else might devastate the American people, rendering them ineffective heading into the last of the last days. A financial downturn on Wall Street. The sudden collapse of the dollar. The beginning of another Great Depression. A series of devastating earthquakes. Or hurricanes. Or other natural disasters, like a tsunami… None of it was clearly prophesied in the Scriptures. Not that he could find. But perhaps he should have foreseen the neutralization of America by more carefully reading between the lines. If so, what else was he missing? What exactly was coming next?”(edited for spoilers)  Since it looks to me like this is happening to America, this economic depression and weak leadership essentially neutralizing us as a Superpower, I figured now would be the time to pick up Dead Heat.  I was in the mood for a depressing book. 
 
Except we hadn’t purchased the book like I thought.  Our collection of secondhand Joel Rosenberg novels had an empty spot at the end.  So I couldn’t just pick it up and read it last Tuesday night.  I read Lady Susan instead, a much more cheerful response, I must say.  But Mom found Dead Heat at a thrift store over the weekend, so I set about reading it. 
 
374 fast-paced pages led me from a close presidential election to the rapture and  beginning of the tribulation.  No book I’ve ever read has made me feel more vulnerable.  Waking up after dreams (casual dreams, not nightmares) continuing the book in my imagination, and as I read, I had to keep telling myself that there is no safer place than where God wants me.  There’s this temptation when I read Joel’s books to pack up and move either to Israel or some place safe like Antarctica.  God has given no guarantees on my life either way.  I could die, or I could suffer pain, or I could have a peaceful life like many have experienced in the past.  To be honest I don’t think I could run.  I like to be a part of things going on, even if they’re dangerous. 
 
Spoiler:  The book essentially opens with five nuclear bombs taking out four major American cities and the President and at least half the government.  No one knows who is responsible for the attacks.  Like the movie Crimson Tide (whose plot fascinates me), ignorance could be fatal for most of the world.  And in Dead Heat, there are virtually no voices urging caution. 
 
How do you know which world leaders to believe?  Are the more aggressive ones just equally afraid, or are the opportunistic, or are they part of a mega-conspiracy to destroy you?  Why is this happening?  What are the motives of the world leaders, or of the people sitting next to you?  Who has the answers?  How does one make such huge decisions when you haven’t had any sleep and you’re grieving the loss of millions of lives? 
 
Once again the book weaves the stories of fictional world leaders with that of the main character, Jon Bennett.  He and his wife have cashed in their portfolios to help an exponentially needy world.  And convinced that time is running short, they invest their lives in helping others and spreading Jesus’ love one encounter at a time.  This book is filled with references to salvation, to the love of God and the peace of accepting His provision for our sinfulness.  When any character asks, “what should I do?” the answer is always something Jesus says.  The answer is what Jon and his new wife Erin did: love people and tell them about Jesus. 
 
A theme of Jon Bennett’s story is responsibility.  Is he responsible for things that happen or don’t happen?  He asks a lot of if-only’s, and other people point blame-filled fingers at him.  Should he have stayed involved in politics, shared what he knew?  Should he have taken his wife to the infirmary sooner?  What about the choices facing him in the future?  What’s his responsibility?  How on earth do you decide?  The answer, of course, is to do the right thing, including loving even your enemies.  And God had blessed Jon with the answers when he sought Him. 
 
Near the end of the book, Jon has a revelation: his whole life he’s chased after measurable results.  He’s wanted to be a part of important things.  He wanted control.  And spending months in a refugee camp helping the poor wasn’t so measurable.  People weren’t responsive to the gospel like he thought they should be.  What difference was he making?  Was it worth it?  Could he have done something more productive?  What about now, when he was helpless as the world slipped into war and there was no one even to talk to about Jesus.  What is God’s purpose in that? 
 
Isn’t it our responsibility to do something?  Didn’t God put us here to get results?  Isn’t Jon to blame if his wife isn’t safe?  Isn’t that his job?  Jon’s to-do list had two columns: done or to-be-done.  But he learned something through his helplessness, a miniature of the helplessness felt by all the world at such a time.  Erin said God wanted her to “do the loving; I’ll do the converting.”  Love is not measurable.  People are not ever checked off your list as done.  And grace isn’t about accomplishments or blame.  Jesus says well done because we’ve been good and faithful, not competent and productive.  Jesus isn’t a CEO or a president.  He knows the end result, and He knows how He’s getting it there. 
 
God knows how the world is going to come to the last days.  Joel Rosenberg’s hypotheses aren’t all right.  He’s waiting like the rest of us.  It is possible that the time between the Ezekiel prophecies and the classic end times events (world government, temple in Israel, rapture) is longer than a book series will allow.  The rapture could come earlier than these devastating wars.  Or later.  Or the wars may not happen at all.  Given his reputation for correctly predicting the future, Joel opens his book with a sort of disclaimer: “I pray to God the novel you hold in your hands never comes true.” 
 
The idea of prophecy is an interesting one.  For centuries if a man sought to unite the world, he failed.  He was doomed to do so, because the time was not fulfilled.  Other elements of prophecy were not in place.  But at some point things are going to happen, and nothing will be able to stop them.  There will be that one-world government.  Any superpower or leader or ministry that stands in the way will be removed.  We put off disaster, continue peace negotiations about Israel, etc.  One day none of that will work.  Will it be that no one is left who wants anything different, or will God remove them from power?  Is there any difference? 
 
I (Lisa of Longbourn) am willing to say plainly that I think Obama’s presidency (based on the Dead Heat quote above) weakens the prophetic necessity of a violent neutralization of America.  But it increases other likelihoods.  When our enemies think we are weak, those who want us destroyed because they hate us (not because we’re in their way) are emboldened to attack.  Persecution may arise from inside, as it has in other countries that drifted toward socialism as we are doing.  Obama is ardently pro-abortion, and the longer our country massacres its innocents, the more likely we are to incur natural consequences (economic, military manpower) and supernatural judgment.  Dead Heat makes my final point, that it is possible America is prosperous because it supports Israel.  If we stop being their ally, we remove from ourselves the Genesis 12 blessing of God.  And if we ally ourselves with Israel’s enemies, we incur the curse of Genesis 12.  So we might be asking for bad things to come to America. 
 
I’m having a hard time shaking my mind free of the story.  I look out my window and wonder why people are so casual.  Why is my church doing ministry as usual?  Why am I sitting at my desk reading or writing when people are dying and, truly, millions could die at any minute?  Shouldn’t I say something?  Doesn’t the whole lost world (of which I’m increasingly aware) need to hear the gospel?  I watch the news and have to remind myself they won’t mention President MacPherson or UN Secretary Lucente or Iraqi leader Al-Hassani.  So this is a vivid piece of writing.  But I pray that its impact has more to do with my character and less to do with my imagination. 
 
This book challenges me to be urgent about the Father’s business, and to live out love, ministry, and faith all the more radically.  The more I feel helpless, and am humbled by my lack of control, the more I need God.  I need His direction and His peace.  I need to believe in His goodness.  And I need to lean on His instructions. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Christians occasionally run up against the argument that religious wars recklessly took the lives of thousands of people.  Take the Crusades…  So of course Christianity is a religion of hate and violence, and it is hypocritical for purportedly teaching about loving one’s neighbor at the same time.  Guilt by association is a hard reputation to shed.  It is hard for me to have to defend myself over a crime for which I don’t feel guilty, especially when I don’t feel guilty because I wasn’t alive then.  I want to be loyal, but consistency and honesty are more important to me. 
 
Pro-life groups have the taint of extremists who bombed abortion clinics.  But I didn’t do that or condone that.  In fact, I cannot remember a bombing of a clinic in America since I turned 13 and started paying attention.  Is murdering millions of babies ok because one of the thousands of protestors was inexcusably destructive? 
 
Zionists have been shamed by a branch of extremists who wanted to use terror to further their cause.  In the case of Zionism, as opposed to that of Islam, the difference was that they were condemned by the mainstream.  Strategists, leaders, and supporters of the state of Israel sought peaceful means of creating a Jewish homeland.  Only once attacked and threatened by hostile (to say the least) neighbors who denied their existence and legitimacy did Israel take a position of miraculous strength, and apply military power. 
 
Committing a crime yourself and framing your enemies for it is classic double-agent strategy.  The ultimate example is Emperor Palpatine and the Clone Wars in Star Wars.  Or if you’re more for history than fantasy, you might refer to Hitler excusing his invasions of Austria, Czechoslavakia, and separately of Poland.  Yes.  We’re talking the trigger for World War II. 
 
During our involvement in World War II, America made the distasteful and unjust decision to inter our Japanese civilians in labor camps.  In the interest of humble honesty, I always feel obligated to admit that occasionally my country is not defending virtue and liberty.  I’m a fan of history, not names and dates so much as the connections of the dots.  What were the politics, the motivations, the idealisms that drove countries to war and revolt, to peace and surrender?  What little difference in choices would have changed the course of the world? 
 
So I have to note that the president who ordered Japanese interment during World War II was a Democrat.  Knowing that makes me feel a lot less responsible.  There are almost two countries in this America.  They alternate power, a check and balance between irresponsible oppression and defensive freedom.  I never realized it before, but I’m more or less loyal to the Republican America. 
 
But. 
 
My Republican America participates and upholds the same Constitution that occasionally puts Democrat America in power.  Even if I’m voting against them, I’m still endorsing the system.  How much responsibility does that give me? 
 
Some lifestyles are a package deal.  For example, I’m learning that to believe Church should be held in homes is a lifestyle.  Substituting a gathering in a house doing all the biblical things for the Sunday morning “worship service” in a sanctuary isn’t sufficient.  My friends would call the package living missionally.  I already believe that Christian community does life together and that the most effective Church in history met more than once a week. 
 
Perhaps another package deal is living in a Republic requires political involvement.  I can’t just vote and say I’ve done my part.  In fact, for decades under the US Constitution there was no suffrage for women, and their participation in the government had to be more involved and influential than that.  They had to do marches and grassroots campaigns.  We must do that and more, like paying attention to our representatives in all three branches of government, and proactively holding them accountable.  Voting is saying, “Yes, I believe in and endorse this system.”  The responsibility, then, is ours to do everything we can to ensure that the system is honorable and efficient. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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I do try to be consistent.  The pro-life article I linked earlier, and especially the comments afterward, assumed that responsible people would have used birth control.  In case you’re wondering, the birth control I believe in is abstinence outside of marriage, and trusting God inside of marriage. 

Responsibility is not some objective standard.  I think we should view responsibility as to something or someone.  In the instance of abstinence, we are responsible to God to abide by His instructions, trust His providence, embrace His gifts, and thus receive His blessings. 

What makes me more angry than the confused, hormonal, and lied-to women who receive abortions are the complacent, indifferent Christians who equally devalue new life by so-called prevention.  A good friend did a research paper in college on “the pill,” and was horrified to learn that the medication embraced by self-proclaimed responsible Christian wives is an abortificient.  Translation: even in the birth control doses, the pill can cause abortions of not-yet implanted embryos.  The should-be parents never know unless they’re under invasive medical screening.  All they know is that – “what a relief” – they aren’t pregnant.  What shocked my friend even more is that when she informed the Christian population, who had to be ignorant to keep using the pill, surely; she found that the friends had heard of the claim that the pill is an abortificient.  To so many Christians who would love to see Roe v. Wade overturned, the facts about their chemical birth control were irrelevant. 

I’m a sheltered homeschool Christian girl who doesn’t really need to decide for herself on these issues yet.  First I was pro-life.  Then I was anti-abortion.  Then I was anti-“the pill.”  Now I’m anti-birth control.  I’m pro-children, would love to have lots of children, and will be serving in the church nursery tomorrow (despite the fact that I don’t believe in Church nurseries). 

Be responsible…

to God. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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