Saturday, 29 October 2011

Monday, 24 October 2011

What Do I Do Now?

Life is one big confusing jumble of decisions.  I'm at an exciting transition point right now where I'll be making many in my life in the next few months.  As much as I'm looking forward to it, a part of me doesn't want this season of my life to end.  I feel like I was just starting to get some things figured out.  I was excited about what I was able to do.  And now, depending on what happens in the coming weeks and months, I might not have the time to do those things anymore.

I have only the last little fringe of my teenage years left, and I already wish I had done some things differently.  I already wish I had made more of them.  And I know there are thousands of young people, especially young women, who are walking the same path I did and are discontent.  I want to speak to you specifically today, although I encourage all my readers to go through to the end.

I have come to believe that a part of the reason many Christian young women waste away their single years in discontentment is because they haven't found anything meaningful to do with their time.  Many finish school, with plans of being a homemaker someday, which is great, but then they just sit around waiting for life to happen, waiting for Prince Charming.  They get stuck and start to feel lost during their in-between years and grow very discontent.

That pretty much sums up the last few years of my life.  I'll be honest.  I used to think I would get married young.  Like, by now.  I'm still here, as single as ever.  But I'm happier now.  Yes, I still wonder how soon I will get married.  Probably almost every day.  But I've also started to fear how soon I will get married.  Why?  Because I have discovered something that excites me and I want to pursue that fully!  And I now have the best time of my life to do it, and it is oh, so short.  I don't have enough time to do all I want!

As Christians, we're often told not to follow the feminist expectations of our culture.  I agree.  But I'm also beginning to wonder if our young women are falling into a trap, by following the expectations of the church in some cases.  The church often likes to lay out it's own set of expectations for us.  It may go something like this: finish school, stay at home with your parents while you prepare to be a godly wife and homemaker, get married, have babies and homeschool one big, happy family!  Or go into missions if you're to singleness.  Something like that.  That's great, until you run into a problem.

Becoming a godly woman is an ongoing process.  Although spiritual maturity is important when considering marriage, you don't have to attain a certain degree of perfection first. (I believed that lie for awhile.)  I already know how to cook, bake, clean, do laundry and all those other things that come into managing a household.  What do I do now????  I have to do more than grow spiritually and help Mom keep house.  Well, get a job.  Done.  Life is still more than all that and work.  It won't be the end of discontentment.

I think part of the problem is many young women aren't keeping busy with meaningful pursuits.  They spend so much time thinking about their futures and waiting for life to happen.  The truth is, life is happening, and it's in your hands.  Do something great with it!

Simply put, find something that gets you excited, seek the Lord about it, and then pursue it with all your heart.  I'm talking about something you always long to do, and get super enthusiastic every time you do it or even think about it.  It will be different for everyone.  For me, this has come in the form of studying classics/literature.  I get so excited about it sometimes, I literally squeal.  And I have few people in my life who share my interest in it.

I want to take a moment aside to discuss the issue of education.  Young women in some Christian circles are often discouraged from pursuing further education or preparing for a career, especially if they desire, or are expected to be homemakers.  It doesn't seem practical and sometimes it's simply not affordable.  Very often, you won't even use it later on.  That's exactly why I haven't done it.  But someone once told me you can only teach your children what you know.

Education doesn't have to mean a degree or studying in a formal setting.  Education comes when you're inspired to learn.  You can do that at home.  Determine what you want to study, whether it's as broad as literature, or even just a new skill or computer program, and you can do a lot through books and online resources. That's what I'm doing right now.  I'm learning now what I want to put into my children to raise, teach, and inspire them to be the godly leaders this world needs. It's much easier to learn a lot of that now, than later on when I'm trying to take care of them all.

Girls, find something you love, pray about it, then pursue it with all your heart.  Catch a vision, and follow it.  If you can work part-time to make some money, and help at home and work on your pursuits the other part of the week, that's fantastic.  I have loved being able to do that.  If you want to learn, study.  If you have a special gift or talent, hone it and creatively use that to bless others.  Spend time serving in your church or community.  If you have a burden for the lost, bring the Gospel to them.  If it's for the sick and needy; minister to them.  If you have a burden for slaves and the sex trade, look into volunteering for the International Justice Mission.  If you grieve over abortion, be a voice for those babies.  Search your area for organizations where you can use your time and skills to bless the world and make a difference. 

There is so much we as young women can do with our single years.  They don't have to be wasted in discontentment, waiting for life to happen.  Yes, we still face certain roadblocks, but there's so much we can do more effectively and easily now than when we're raising a family.  We have time and a lot less responsibilities.  There are dreams we can pursue.  We can find purpose and fulfillment now.  Don't wait till it's too late then look back and wish you had done more with this time in your life. You don't have to follow someone else's definition of success.  Just set goals, develop a plan, then follow the desires that God places within your heart.

I could say more, but I will end with something author James L. Rubart wrote last week. I've read something similar before and it's really got me thinking. "At the end of the age I don't think Jesus will say, 'Did you sell a bunch of books?' I think he's more likely to say, 'Did you follow the passion I put inside you with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, no matter the outcome?'"  I want to be able to say "Yes!" to that.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Why Do You Follow Christ?

I have been studying a small portion of The Republic by Plato the past couple weeks.  It was a conversation on the meaning of justice, whether or not justice is a virtue, and whether a just man was happier than an unjust man.  The common belief among man was that injustice was far more profitable than justice, and that the unjust man, being able to do whatsoever he pleases without suffering the consequences was far happier than the just man, especially if he was thought to be unjust.  They believed that although justice was better than injustice, it was grievous and was only to be endured for benefits in the afterlife.  Plato himself, however, believed that man should be just simply for the sake of being just, not for the sake of any reward.

In this conversation, a man named Adeimantus makes an interesting statement regarding man's motivation in pursuing justice:

"Parents and tutors are always telling their sons and their wards that they are to be just; but why? not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of character and reputation; in the hope of obtaining for him who is reputed just some of those offices, marriages, and the like which Glaucon has enumerated among the advantages accruing to the unjust from the reputation of justice."

At first this idea that people are only just because of the rewards that are promised to them seemed to me a selfish idea.  But as I thought about it, I realized this is largely what Christians do.  Many Christians follow Christ simply for the reward at the end, for the promise of heaven when the toils of this life are over.  The Christian life is filled with decisions where we have to deny ourselves what our flesh wants and choose to be obedient to Him.  We often don't do it because we want to, but because of the blessings or rewards we are promised if we do.  And, of course, to avoid death and hell.

Is this a right approach to the Christian life?  Does Christ not deserve to be loved simply for who He is, for the fact that God created us, and He redeemed us from our sin?  Is He not worthy of our love even without all the rewards and blessings He promises?  It should be, but that is not the case in the lives of many Christians.  Many come to Christ initially to escape hell, many continue in the faith for the same, and for the promise of heaven.  I must admit that I myself am guilty in part.

What would happen if the promise of heaven was taken away?  Would we still love and follow our Lord?  Would He not be worthy of our love and devotion either way?  But then I have to wonder, would there have been a point in Christ's death and resurrection if not to grant us eternal life?

I am reminded that Jesus died for us for the sake of a reward.  Jesus Himself "for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb. 12:2, ESV)  Christ Himself has His eyes on a reward when He died on the cross.  He came to break the curse of death that sin brought into the world.  He didn't do it simply to save us from our sin, but to restore us to fellowship with our Maker and that we might one day be in His presence, see Him face to face and share in His glory.  So, it seems to me that the reward of heaven was a part of His purpose, but that shouldn't be the only reason we follow Him.

Like justice, following Christ comes with a price.  Yes, He promised us an eternal reward for our faithfulness, but it comes at a cost.  Jesus said so Himself.  Along with the blessings, He promised us trials and tribulations.  Is it worth it?  I believe it is.  We can look around at the unjust of this world, and they may seem happy, they may look like they have it made, but they don't.  I personally don't think it's possible for a man to live his whole life in sin and be truly happy, no matter how well thought of he is, how much recognition and possessions he has.  Deep down, his conscience will condemn him.  And whatever happiness he does have will last only until he dies.

Justice and the Christian life are wonderful.  But both come with a price and a reward.  So, I ask you, why do you follow Christ?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Great Books Reader

Introducing: My New Project!  Well, one of them at least.  It's called The Great Books Reader: Excerpts and Essays on the Most Influential Books in Western Civilization and edited by John Mark Reynolds.

Working in the book industry, I often get to discover great titles long before they come out and this was one of them.  So I was eagerly anticipating the release of this book, and it ended up getting delayed by over two months.  Frustrating. 

Now, for a little background on the book.  It was compiled by John Mark Reynolds, founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, the Great Books program at Biola University in California.  I tell ya, there's some universities I wish I could pick up and move here, and Biola is one of them.  Then if tuition paid for itself, I'd be all set.  This liberal arts and biblical studies program is like one of those far distant dreams that will never be realized.

I didn't really know what to expect before I got the book.  I didn't have a chance to preview it before I purchased it.  Being a couple inches thick and weighing nearly three pounds, it's a good-sized book.  It contains excerpts and essays on 30 different classics.  It was designed for those who didn't have the opportunity to study at a university to be introduced to these works.  People like me!  And the best thing is, it examines these works in a Christian context.  In his introduction, Reynolds explains why Christians should be well-read and how to approach the great books.  He explains how to go about studying these excerpts and bringing the ideas in line with God's Word.

I began by reading the selection of The Odyssey by Homer.  After working on it for a couple days, I must admit, I didn't really "get the point."  However, I wasn't ready to give up after that.  Next was an excerpt of The Republic by Plato, which I'm still working on.  Can I say WOW!!??  I got so excited reading it that I could hardly contain my joy.  I think I'm still just in the beginning of this study.  I'm pondering the meaning of justice, why people choose to be just, how we view justice or injustice and so forth.  That may sound boring to you, but there really is something thrilling about reading a work from around 2500 years ago, understanding their view of the world and human nature, and realizing that a lot of ideas really haven't changed!  It's incredibly inspiring!

I have a lot of work ahead of me.  In the coming months, I'll be diving into the likes of Augustine, Dante, Milton, Wesley, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Chesterton and much more.  Oh, then there's my other projects in between all that.  I get excited about all this stuff.  Yes, to get the full benefit, you have to do some tough thinking, but it is so rewarding.

"Readers lead, but the surrounding world does not encourage us to take the time to read.  It has never been easier to get books but never harder to find the quiet needed to study them." --John Mark Reynolds

Proverbs 3:13, 14 (ESV)
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Adam Young: Music and Blog

Today I reveal another one of my secrets.  That is, my enjoyment of Adam Young's music and blog.  Owl City, for those of you who don't recognize the name.  There, I said it.  I don't doubt some of my readers will be surprised at my interest in his genre of music (electro pop), but truth be told, it is just SO MUCH FUN!!!  It has a happiness effect.  Yes, I know there are many starry-eyed girls out there who dream of marrying him, but rest assured, I am NOT one of them.

Adam's music is hard to describe.  It's like he lives in a totally different world.  His imagination is simply incredible!  His lyrics range from fun, romantic, colourful, thoughtful, intense, to just plain cute and sweet!  Sure, half of his lines don't make any sense, but that makes it all the more fun!

I can't remember when I was first introduced to Owl City, but I'm guessing it was likely when "Fireflies" became a hit.  Shortly thereafter, I was surprised to discover that the singer, Adam Young, was a Christian!  The only song on his album "Ocean Eyes" that reflected his faith was "Meteor Shower."  His new album "All Things Bright and Beautiful" reflects his faith much more, which disappointed many of his fans, but I for one loved it.  The most overtly Christian, and probably also my favourite song on his recent album is "Galaxies."  The song is actually about Adam's perspective of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger explosion, and he also has an introduction fitting for it.  He also does a beautiful cover of the hymn "In Christ Alone".  I could write brief commentaries on almost all his songs, but then this would get entirely too long.

I've also been following Adam's blog.  Did I mention he was an excellent writer?  His blog displays his imagination and creativity as much as his music.  Being an extreme introvert, he shared an article a few months back called "10 Myths About Introverts."  Almost everything in that article describes me.  I loved it!  He writes romantic little stories like "I'll See You in My Dreams" and "I'll Follow You" that will make any girl's heart flutter.  He also writes about his trusting God to be bring that special girl into his life.  I was so encouraged by the following words at the end of his article "Sharks Keep Moving":

"Above and beyond all of this, I take great joy and comfort in knowing my Savior has it all blueprinted and planned down to the tiniest detail, and that my job isn’t to blubber and worry about the design — but to hush. To be concerned with the principles of morality, servanthood, discipleship and character, and ultimately, to trust.
For what is faith without trust?"

I've also appreciated his more devotional like posts, where he shares his insights on scripture and also his recent thoughts on John Piper's book Desiring God.  It made me want to read that book again.

Christians have varying thoughts on Owl City, but there's much I have learned and appreciated through him.  I think he sees beauty in this world that we often miss and he knows how to capture it and put it into words.  Sometimes that means it doesn't make any real sense, but it places in me a sense of wonder and awe.  I'm inspired to dream and use my God-given imagination and open my eyes to the beauty around me.  And, well, like I said, it's fun and makes me happy! :)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Courageous Review

I went to see "Courageous" yesterday afternoon.  It was about time.  I had been hearing about this movie for nearly two years and had people asking me about it frequently recently, thinking it was already out on DVD.  I didn't think they would play it in Canada, since none of Sherwood's previous films had so far.  But "Courageous" did come to Canada, and I drove an hour with some friends to see it.  Was it worth it?  Yes!

This story was based around four police officers, who through tragedy, make a resolution to be the men and fathers that God has called them to be.  There's another family involved as well, which I appreciated.  It gave the story more depth.  I also appreciated the fact that the men all had different family backgrounds and their stories ended differently, making it more realistic.  It wasn't a movie about five guys signing a Resolution and it all being smooth sailing thereon in.  It showed it for the tough stuff it really was.  They touched on a lot of different topics in the movie, but I never got the sense that it was too much.  The film also contained a salvation message, but it was worked into the story better than in their previous film.  In "Fireproof", I kind of felt like they stopped the story for a minute to preach a salvation message, which, don't get me wrong, was good, but could have been done better.  Overall, "Courageous" was a good story, filled with action, humour, and tear jerking moments.

I had determined before going to see this movie to pack tissues in my purse.  And sitting in the theatre just before it started, I remembered I had forgotten.  I could have used them.  I was a very emotional movie, but it also contained some great humour and I enjoyed the best, although most painful laugh I had had in a long time.

On the downside, the acting in some scenes was a little weak but it had a good script.  There's nothing worse than watching a low-budget Christian film with bad acting and a bad script.  Also, I found that in some places, the mood changed too abruptly.  I wished at times they would have given us a little more time to enjoy the happy moments.  Probably, one of my greatest disappointments was the fact that they left the "theme song," if you will right until the end of the credits.  Casting Crowns wrote the song "Courageous" for the movie, and it's an excellent song, but many people don't stick around to the end of the credits to actually hear it!  Here are some of my favourite lines of the song that apply to all of us:

"The only way we'll ever stand
Is on our knees with lifted hands"

"In the war of my mind
I will take my stand
In the battle of my heart
And the battle of the hand"

No, this wasn't a movie directed at me.  It was a movie mainly about fathers, but I believe there's something in there for everyone.  I walked away thinking about areas in my own life I need to work on, areas where I need to strive for more honour and godliness.  It made me want to hold out for a godly, courageous man and to be deserving of him.  It made me want to pray more consistently for my future husband, that God would prepare him to be that courageous leader of our home.  Frankly, we all need to be courageous.  We all need to take back the fight in some area of our life.  I know I do. 

If you haven't seen "Courageous", I would encourage you to go see it.  If you don't want to spend the money, wait til it's out on DVD.  It makes a good family movie, although some of the action and themes may be too intense for your young children.  Either way, it's a film we can all benefit from in some way.  Now I'm ready to see Sherwood make a movie for the women.