Decisions, decisions…

onoVGLU

It’s been many moons since I last wrote here! I’m keen to share with you a couple of lessons I’ve learned in the time I’ve been engaged. (For some reason that’s popular these days).

Most people have heard of having boundaries in relationships-You know, some kind of “thus far and no further” policy for physical contact. For christians, this seems to be no sex. However, if ‘No sex’ and no further is your policy, you’re in for a bit of confusion. For example, I’ve seen tickling matches working out pretty badly; For some, back massages can be extremely sensuous experiences; Indeed there have been times for me when even hand holding was pushing it, because I had so little self control. I’m not advocating saving hand holding until marriage 😛 . What I am advocating is a little bit of thought.

See, the issue that I’ve had to confront is not the action itself, but the attitude. Typical, huh? Keeping sex until marriage has been saving the best until last-keeping my future marriage special. Any little step closer to sex therefore, could be said to be taking away from the specialness of marriage. Just as I wouldn’t conceive of having an adulterous affair when I’m married, I shouldn’t be able to conceive of doing anything to violate the specialness of my future marriage now. If nothing else, “why am I doing this?” and “why am I thinking about this?” can be enough to derail unhelpful trains of thought/courses of action.

Sex, or “almost sex” doesn’t just happen. Sex is a course of action which results from a series of decisions.

Purity doesn’t just happen. It is a course of action which results from a series of decisions.

Final challenge: If you’re not going to value marriage as special and somehow distinct from other relationship statuses, what’s the point in getting married? Would you spend $20,000 on the big day if the day after will be exactly the same as the day before? Would you vow ” ’til death do us part” if you have divorce as plan B?

No matter what we do in life, occasionally asking “is this worth it?” is never a waste of time.

Christians, Be Careful What You Say On Facebook

I love this post. I don’t even know about the particular controversy it refers to, but I don’t need to. God calls christians to love, and to preach the gospel (and our need for the gospel). While sin needs pointing out sometimes, I don’t see that arrogance and pride aren’t in as much need of God’s grace as any sexual sin.

Let’s do some behaviour analysis!

worshippingHave you ever visited a church where after the band started playing, and the lights were dimmed, you found yourself surrounded by a bunch of people swaying with their eyes closed, waving their arms in the air? You are not alone. This bizarre and apparently inexplicable behaviour is one of the many ways I used to diagnose religious weirdos. But why is it that people engage in this strange display of arm waving? Join me as I explore  a range of contexts where it would be considered normal to use that same kind of gesture.

Case 1: You’re having a pretty good day so far. The guys behind the counter have seen your balaclava and your gun, and have sensibly chosen to put their hands up. That’s good, because you would have shot them otherwise. This gesture is a sign of surrender. It also shows that they’re not trying anything on where you can’t see. It was a real hassle on your last job, when someone pressed the alarm button. So the gesture also shows helplessness: they are unarmed, and at your mercy.

Case 2: You don’t know who designed the shelves in your parents’ study. They’re about at your head height, just low enough that you don’t need to stand on a chair, but high enough that you have to lift your arms above your head to get things down. This makes it a real pain when something’s hard to find, ’cause your arms get sore after a while. In this case, lifting your arms is to reach for something- often something out of your sight.

Similarly, consider when you grope for the light switch in the dark. You cannot see it, so you resort to trying to feel your way. If someone was quietly trying to find you in that dark space, you would only know it  by their touch. Maybe blind man’s bluff is a better example.

Case 3: One of your favourite people skips up to you wearing a cheeky grin. She’s got her arms behind their back. She says “close your eyes and hold out your hands”. Your obedience in this is speedily rewarded with a small trinket you’ve been drooling over. Here holding out your hands is your way of accepting a gift she wants to give you.

Case 4: You’re hanging out with your wife and daughter today. The little one isn’t quite speaking yet, but she has ways of making her wants known. When you come into the room she motions with her arms “up”. It’s hard to tell if she is happy to see you and wants a hug, or is happy to use you to escape  her high chair.

Case 5: There’s some good music playing, and no-one’s around to see you. You dance around and around, with your arms up, just like you’re at a rock concert. Dancing like this is fun!

Case 6: You just one a race. As you ran through over the finish line, you raised your arms ahead in victory!

Case 7: You’re trying on clothes with your sisters, and your younger sister gets stuck in a jersey that’s too small! She waves her arms around wildly as you wrestle it off her, over her head. The bible extensively uses changing clothes as a metaphor for being transformed into a different kind of person, and for being in right standing with God. Isaiah 61: 3; Galatians 3:27; Revelation 3:4-5… 

“a crown of beauty instead of ashes, …, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair”-Isaiah 61:3

Thus, it’s possible that in those awkward church scenarios,  when you’re surrounded by christians lifting their arms, that they’re doing any number of these things. They could be surrendering to God, and reflecting on his mercy. They could be reaching for God because they can’t see him. Maybe they long for his touch, or want to accept the gifts God is holding out. Maybe they long for God’s embrace, as a child wants her father’s comforting embrace. Or maybe they just want his help to escape unpleasant circumstances. Maybe they want to enjoy dancing with him. It’s possible that they are glorying in the Lord’s victory… or maybe they want to be transformed by God, and realise they can’t get out of the clothes they’re stuck in without his help.

For me personally, I dance with Jesus. I hug my heavenly Father. I reach out to the Holy Spirit because I can’t see him.

(Thanks to http://www.strangenotions.com for their kind, involuntary donation of the picture).

How to plan a house

Andrew and I are designing a door frame right now. It’s going to be red and black and silver, with bible verses, and lines from old hymns strewn over it. We’ll leave a couple of empty spaces for the grand opening, when the guests can write some words of their own. I’m thinking of giving it details, with flowers, and twirly bits; musical notes, you know. A great deal of thought has gone into the frame, and the door will fit just so, I think.

But it’ll be an awfully odd day if we open the door, and there’s no building behind it; or if there’s a bare, cold, horrid room behind it, with an uneven floor where the piles have slipped a bit, and panes missing from the windows. No! The grand opening of the front door is that of the whole house. Consideration should be given now for the relationships between all parts, for every room, and for the overall plan of the building. It goes (almost) without saying that a sound foundation is imperative too.

Now my door that I’m designing, with it’s pretty door frame, is my wedding. Of course :P. But the less obvious bit, the bit that many seem to neglect, is the preparation for once you step through that door. It’s strange to me that many couples put so much into a single day, and neglect to prepare for the time after. Where is the game plan for any marriage that starts with a fairy tale wedding? Where is the “after”, from the “happily ever”? Do you not have bills to pay, relatives to think of and visit, possibly children to raise? But all this merely pokes a finger at those who are short sighted. Oh no, that’s not the majority at all.

I’d say the majority are couples who’ve already lived together…who’ve done all the “after” already…So they decide, whether for aesthetic purposes or not, to maybe add a door to the place they’ve already built. They have a back door already, but adding the front door just makes it all a bit more presentable, and maybe more acceptable to the public eye. I would wonder in cases such as these, what it is that  they are trying to build.

If a two story house with a funny little rumpus room in the attic is what you’re going for, you build that from the foundation up, and you design with that end in mind as well. So what happens when you’ve built a rambling great shed, and discover that it’s not the home you were hoping for? Does adding a fancy front door make it more of a home? Can having a wedding change a wishy washy, meandering relationship into an intimate, purposeful marriage?

Anyhow, I’m sure you see the limits of this metaphor as well as I do. But from the evidence of my eyes: from relationships and marriages I’ve seen that worked and failed, I prefer to have my door purpose-built to be part of a home, and with the foundation for a solid marriage (that is, our individual relationships with Christ) dug long before I add the finishing touches, and open that door.

And at the end of the day, it’s just as well my fiancé and I are working alongside the master builder, hey?

Dear people of the internet, I intend for this to be the first of a series of letters. It’s sad that you can’t all see it handwritten, as it ought to be, but I assure you my writing style is the same :). As is my habit when I write letters, there will be a flavour of formula. I will greet you. I will chat of important or relevant topics in my life, and I will ask you questions :). I like questions. I’d like it if you answered them, too. At the last, I’ll tell you something I appreciate about you. It won’t be pat. It might not even be pretty, but it’ll be sincere. So here we go!

I’ve just had a glorious time this afternoon, meeting with people who wanted to hear more about the christian group I am part of on campus. We’ve explained the good news of Jesus to each other. We’ve taught each other. We’ve encouraged each other to follow God’s call in our lives, and to show others how amazing God is, by sharing (and I say sharing because we hold it in such high esteem) the amazing news about God’s forgiveness, love and transforming power. I also spent a bit of time with a special non-christian friend of mine, talking about how we know that the bible is reliable. Weren’t the eyewitnesses biased? Wasn’t the time between writing and the event long enough for oral tradition to have failed? Given how individuals’ memories are fallible, could we even trust the eyewitness accounts years after, even if they told the truth? I’m buzzing…and therefore completely unable to study at this point in time. Thus :).

I guess, friends, if you are interested in my answers to those questions, I could post them sometime. Are you? 🙂

It’ll be Easter soon. While the festival may be named after a pagan goddess, the time-first sunday after the Jewish Passover-is on the mark. Jesus died (not too controversial). He was buried-somewhat unusually, in a private tomb. Also not too controversial. His tomb’s hollow state on the sunday is universally agreed among scholars. So the only crazy part of the Easter story is what happened to the body, really. 😀 I mean, I know what usually happens to dead bodies, as much as the next person.

Onto psychology, I have a massive test tomorrow, so I will tell you about your own memory :D. What we just studied in class was the interesting fact that imagining past events (that didn’t actually happen) makes you far more likely to incorrectly remember them later on, as factual. The more times you imagine it, the more confident you become in this. And now: a field day amongst interrogators everywhere! If you get someone to imagine they committed a crime, then they’ll probably end up believing it! And if you get someone to relax, and imagine that childhood trauma (that you as a clinician are sure occurred), then that someone’s parents may end up getting in trouble for abuse they never did. Even mere time passing after imagining can increase your confidence that you were abused, or you committed the crime, or you saw that person do it, even if you denied it entirely at the get go. Would you like me to cite things for you? I can :).

I’m having fun writing this :). I wonder if I sneak more revision in, will it get boring? Most people get pretty bored by maths, but I have a test for that tomorrow too. …Perhaps it’s just as well I don’t know how to input it into this. Oh! I can give you a puzzle though! 😀

It was snowing in Winnipeg. The snow was steady and hard. At noon, a snow plow started out. It went two kilometers in the first hour, and one kilometer in the second hour. When did the snow plow start?

Now, my lecturer had mercy on us and told us the speed of the snowplow was proportional to the depth of the snow. He also told us the answer, so we could check…but you’re on the internet. You’re probably just going to cheat  check in the end anyway :P, if you do give it a go. This puzzle took me hours, even with me putting my head together with my dad’s, and one of my maths buddies’.

I guess if this was a normal letter, I might go on for several pages, but I am anxious for your replies. This is conversational letter writing!

Now, I appreciate how you leave me replies sometimes. I appreciate it enough that I want to encourage it ;). We’re all friends here, ne? My appreciation will get more…appreciative? …loud  as I get to see your honest replies :).

Further, I appreciate your existence. It’s beautiful :).

-Teresa.

Intended audience: control freaks, perfectionists, anxious wrecks, …and everyone else

Hello friends 🙂 It’s been a while.

I’ve done a lot of adventuring this summer. I’ve pretended to be a homeless person, a tourist, a local, someone who knows what she’s talking about, and someone who “has not the foggiest what you’re on about”. It’s been fun and awkward and tiring and awesome. But amongst the role-playing shinanigans, I’ve understood a little more of my role in the scheme of things.

1. What I can do in the world isn’t actually defined by my abilities.

That’s not to say that I’m a fatalistic person who just floats along as the wind blows or a helpless person who can’t contribute to society. I’m not even an anti-self-help guru just claiming “hakuna matata” or whatever it is!. What I’m saying is that every day, I find opportunities that I didn’t put there to do, to give, to speak…to make some kind of difference. And then when I do, give or speak, even if I think I do a terrible job, sometimes it just works anyway! The person gets the maths problem, or understands some truth in the bible that’s never clicked for them before, or they find a place welcome and safe. The defining power behind any success in my life is the Holy Spirit, by the grace of God, so I cannot boast. And God’s grace extends to using my screw-ups for good, and using my “okay”s for good as well. In fact, his grace extends to using everything for the good of those who love him. (No, not miracles! …It’s a bit late now, hey 😛 )

2. It’s okay for me to rest sometimes.

The world won’t stop turning if I chat with friends? The great commission will be completed even if I sit and read for a bit? I don’t have to do everything by myself? Preposterous! I’ve discovered that hey, God keeps working even if stop. I’ve discovered that part of living in community is helping each other out-and letting myself be helped. That one stings. It’s really obvious to you I guess…but it’s really challenging for me to see someone else do the heavy lifting and not offer to have a go…because I know that they know it’d just be my pure blind stubbornness keeping that heavy box/bit of furniture in the air.

3. It’s okay to not have it all sorted out.

It’s common now to have several careers in a lifetime. It’s normal to change your degree (maybe add/swap a major or minor) halfway through. I’m not saying it’s a waste to plan ahead, or see what kind of job you’re suited for. The beautiful thing is though, that we can go out there and find out…we can go out there and make a few mistakes! If God’s who he says he is, he’ll use whatever happens, and use it for our good, to teach us and grow us. Maybe if you don’t have a big plan for your life before you’re 21 you can figure it out as you go along. It’s okay. And maybe if your childhood dreams have all crumbled already you can give them another go. You could even build some new ones! 🙂 That friend, is also okay.

There have been a few themes coming through, right? We understand ourselves more when we see who we are as seen by the living God. It’s a scary thing. It’s something that I find myself wanting to fight sometimes, because I know I’m not the kind of person God wants me to be. But he doesn’t condemn me for my faults, because I’m forgiven. He doesn’t mock me for my failed attempts, but rewards me for trying…and uses them. The God of the bible is big enough to take a look at my life, with all its ups and downs, and smile.

He understands

I’ve had times in my life before, when I’ve been struggling-struggling under over-full schedules I self-imposed because I thought that to be spend my time usefully, I had to be busy, or struggling with fear of nightmares that haunted me, and haunted me, and hunted me down, or struggling for next to no reason at all, with loneliness and a weary acceptance of defeat: a weary acceptance of the idea that not only was I not really loved, but that I couldn’t be loved, or was fundamentally unlovable; even acceptance that I was completely replaceable: it ultimately didn’t matter if I was alive or dead.  I even contemplated (as a possible career decision) somehow going off and becoming a hermit, so if I was alone, it was by choice. …I even thought for a while that if I couldn’t be loved, I’d rather be feared and thus surrounded by loyal minions than completely alone! I’m not sure to what extent I believed it, but I thought it!

Amazing, and laughable isn’t it, seeing this array of weird, mostly self-imposed struggles all in front of you at the same time? Not that I believed each of these lies all at once, or that  I wanted to believe them…but I thought, looking at the evidence in my life and the world around me, that these were true.

I knew that God loved people, but somehow I couldn’t extend that to me. I knew that my family loves me, but it seemed kind of obligation-based. Biased reasoning lead to wrong beliefs, and wrong beliefs lead to biased reasoning.

But are you sure you’ve never thought something similar? Are you sure how you view yourself is consistent with the truth? If you’re sure, I challenge you :). (I won’t challenge you to a duel, because that would be silly). But I challenge you to look at your life, and all your relationships. I challenge you to listen.

As for myself, I can guarantee that I still have some munted beliefs about who I am or what part I play in the world. It’s not like I found some magic “I’m suddenly awesome” pill. But as soon as one such false belief comes to light,  I have someone who listens. I know I have someone who understands. And more than anything else, I have someone who loves me, and not only wants to help me, but has the power to help me change, and know the truth, and be free :). His name is Jesus.

The cool thing about Jesus is that he’s always here. He’s never too far away to listen, nor to distant not to want to give you a hug. And he’s always the annoying, but oh so necessary guy who is willing to ask questions, and challenge you, and nag you a little bit so you know the truth.  And he’s always (often annoyingly) right! Always! :). But he asserts this all lovingly, of course. :). Do you know him like I know him?

When a battle is won, the people laud the victorious general, but when prayers are answered in situations where God orchestrates human activity, people only see the pawns.

I suppose that could be read in multiple ways: to call down the general population, or the general atheist population…but I find myself convicted. Do I see God’s movement? Do I see how God answers prayer in my own life, and in the lives of those near me? And do I appropriately laud the general?

It’s so easy, especially when I myself am the pawn in question, to celebrate human endeavour, human virtue. But I know I get two different sets of marching orders each day. I get my orders from on high, and I get the counter-intelligence, the decoy orders from…the other guys. I like to think I’m wise for picking the right orders. I like to think I’m oh so accomplished, and oh so disciplined to carry out the orders. But the truth is, for a soldier, discerning which orders come from HQ, and following those orders are just part of the job :).

I am a soldier in Jesus’ army. I may not bear physical weapons (in fact, I intend not to), but I bear spiritual ones. Every prayer is  a powerful weapon, able to bring strongholds tumbling down. :). I follow orders because Jesus’ army is the only one capable of leaving new life, instead of death in its wake.

The question is: where do you get your marching orders? On what basis do you choose to follow them?

Everyone is a soldier.

One evening, a young woman was walking to a nearby town where her eldest sister lived, and she came to a crossroads. One way was a short road, through a dark tunnel, and the other was a longer, winding way, that went around the hill, brightly lit the whole way. She thought it was safe enough, since it wasn’t too late yet, and besides, the way was so short-so she took the tunnel road.

But while she was walking through the tunnel, robbers attacked her, taking everything (even her shoes!) They took her to a cell, and through the bars, a young robber with a hopeful tone promised that if someone paid her ransom she would be freed. An older fellow, with furrowed brows and a very evident holster on his hip elbowed his way in at that point, to promise, in a gravelly voice, that if no-one did come and pay her ransom, she would be killed. Personally. But the lass’s sister was barely scraping by as it was, with everything second-hand, and skipping meals so her children didn’t go hungry…and even in comparison to her eldest sister, the rest of her family couldn’t afford to pay. So when they left her, she huddled into the dark corner of her cell. She huddled, and despaired. And she guessed that that’s the way of the world, to lessen the value of the lives of the poor, anyway. And she realised with a sad smile, that think all she would about it, there was nothing she’d ever be able to do to help the world now. And the snores of her jailers, some soft and easy, and some deeper, more jagged and inconsistent, filled her cell.

But as the night dragged on, and the jailers snored louder and louder, until each breath seemed but an echo of the last, and she clasped her arms together inside her sleeves in a futile attempt to keep warm, she was surprised by a sudden movement in the shadows at her barred door. The was a heavily-hooded figure bearing something that glinted in the dark. Keys. And in a low voice, hushed but not a whisper, he said “Come with me if you want to live”. Clambering to her feet almost ended head over heels as she tripped on nothing in the dark. But she straightened her coat, and untucked her arms, and followed him out of her cell. They went out, silently, he retracing his steps without pause. Just as well, as she’d been blindfolded when she was lead in. It wasn’t until they had left the hideout far behind, and were through the tunnel that she dared to ask “Who are you?”.

Out of the shadows of his hood, an amused smile could be seen in the predawn glowiness. He merely said “I’ll take you to your sisters now, ay?”, and kept walking. And then she worried desperately, now trotting alongside and almost in front of her rescuer, now lagging behind, because as much as she wanted to be safe with her family, would they ever be safe? The robbers had also promised that if she should somehow go missing without a ransom, they would  take great delight in hunting down each member of her family, starting with the children. At least Mr. Eyebrows had gleefully expressed that, with the young man shrugging like it really couldn’t be helped. She turned to look back, wondering if she should just go accept her fate, but then looked forward, hoping desperately that they’d forget about her, or that they’d work out how poor her family were, and not bother. Eventually she stopped walking, and just stood, tears streaming down her face, and her head swinging like a weathervane on a gusty day. But he said “Don’t worry, I’ll take your place. ” And she was glad, and walked on. Glad even though by the socks poking through his shoes, and the toenails poking through his socks, he didn’t have much of a ransom to his name either.

And so she walked with a troubled, but grateful heart, past the first through houses as the sun struck the distant clocktower. 6am. Her sister probably thought she’d decided to leave a day late, and had forgotten to call. She was probably in her dressing gown now, flopping around the kitchen getting the kids’ lunches ready for school. Probably grumbling under her breath about her inconsiderate little sister, but relieved she didn’t have another mouth to feed. So predictable.

They finally got to the old council flat, and at the door, the younger sister threw her arms around the older’s neck, and bawled relief. This was met by an embarrassed hug, followed by questions. Questions that occupied both of them until, getting to the point of her rescuer, they looked out the door, and discovered him gone from where he had been standing by the letterbox a minute before. He had marched off (or rather, strode) off, without thanks of any kind. To his death.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. -1John4:9

Universal Religion

I bet you’re wondering what this post is getting at, already, aren’t you? 😀 Because not everyone has the same beliefs, and not everyone professes the same religion, right???             All in due course.

You see, language reflects people’s beliefs-there have been some influential psychologists historically, actually, who believed language determined thought.  https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Sapir%E2%80%93Whorf_hypothesis.html So if there’s a word, or turn of phrase that comes easily to your tongue, you can infer that (whether explicitly or implicitly) you believe in it-or that it means something to you.

This argument could open up an interesting can of words if I were talking to people who swore a lot.

But in the meantime, I argue that a large proportion of people-possibly even all- believe in or worship one thing in common.

Luck.

“I’m so lucky”; “Oh, bad luck”, “Good luck!”; “I’m fortunate that…”…

These ritualistic greetings, and almost codewords reflect a belief in an impersonal force, beyond our reckoning, that turns the world to our advantage, or not. Some believe they can influence this force-that doing certain things will change your luck. Walking under ladders, smashing mirrors, killing spiders…even cutting your toenails at night! These behaviours and beliefs vary from culture to culture, but the core is pretty consistent.

Now, having made you put your back up a little bit, I’ll put it up a little more :).

You see, luck doesn’t equate to probability, which can be measured, and which has mathematical laws governing it. Au contrare, luck is seen to be a fickle beast, unique to each person or situation. Almost as if, say, people were using it as an excuse for lack of skill on their part, or lack of effort. Or almost as if you were trying to make the world a more pleasant place by hoping it would be (for some light, extremely repetitive and amazingly sincere reading on that belief, feel free to pick up a copy of “The Secret” sometime. Then burn it.) The thing is, walking under a ladder does make it more likely for it to fall on you. The thing is, smashing mirrors is a great way to get fragments of glass everywhere. Possibly in you. Let alone the fact that the owner may be a bit miffed (especially if, say, they were the kind of person to whom mirrors are very important).

But the fact is, probability is not determined or influenced by luck. The stars aligning reflects more about how you tilt your head than it does your future, your past, or your personality. Amazing as it may seem, if you randomly select a group of people, you may get a group with the same interests, even the same name, randomly. Because that’s how randomness works. Sometimes statisticians use semi-random sampling just so that they can’t get those crazy random patterns.

And I’m not saying that there isn’t a God who does do stuff. But any god that really is God, wouldn’t be magically swayed by you saying certain words, or have to give you a bad day if you accidentally squash a spider. A real God-the real God in whom I believe-is bigger than all that.

And the thing is…The real thing is, if you don’t believe in luck, don’t follow the religion! Don’t say the codewords. Don’t obey the rituals!

And for goodness’s sake, please think about what you say!

🙂

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(Image from http://animal-backgrounds.com)

 

Feel free to comment below. Or argue :).