Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Aristotle on Virtue

I've been studying a portion of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics in The Great Books Reader.  The selection mainly focuses on virtue, and its meaning.  Here's a portion that stuck out to me.

"Both fear and confidence and appetite and anger and pity and in general pleasure and pain may be felt both too much and too little, and in both cases not well; but to feel them at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way, is what is both intermediate and best, and this is characteristic of virtue.  Similarly with regard to actions also there is excess, defect, and the intermediate.  Now virtue is concerned with passions and actions, in which excess is a form of failure, and so is defect, while the intermediate is praised and is a form of success; and being praised and being successful are both characteristics of virtue.  Therefore virtue is a kind of mean, since, as we have seen, it aims at what is intermediate."

He goes on to say this a little further:

"But not every action nor every passion admits of a mean; for some have names that already imply badness, e.g. spite, shamelessness, envy, and in the case of actions adultery, theft, murder; for all of these and suchlike things imply by their names that they are themselves bad, and not the excesses or deficiencies of them.  It is not possible, then, ever to be right with regard to them; one must always be wrong." --Both translated by W.D. Ross, 1908

I think Aristotle touched on something significant in these passages.  What do you think?  Is it right?  Is it Biblical?  Please share your thoughts.  Don't just be a passive reader.  Take time to think and let's generate some discussion.

Monday, 21 November 2011

What is Normal Anyway?

"I can't wait for my life to be normal again."  I say that a lot.  Maybe you have too.  For me, that statement is often followed up by "What is normal anyway?"  I have heard others ask the same question.  I have finally come up with an answer to that question.

When we say we want our lives to be "normal" again, we have, whether consciously or unconsciously, created an ideal in our minds about what our life should be like that we're not experiencing at the time.  Oh, and it's usually selfish.  When I say I can't wait for life to be normal again, what I'm actually saying is "I can't wait until I can live for myself again."

I'm recognizing in that time that I'm not in control of my life, and I want to be.  I usually like my life to be predictable, consistent and I don't respond well to curve balls. I want to be able to run my plans, my way, be able to make and stick to my schedule without anybody intruding, and no outside inconveniences.  It means a "normal" day at work that doesn't include rude or demanding customers, damaged products in my shipments to report, annoying phone calls or the endless chore of dusting.  It means I get to have an uninterrupted lunch when I want, I get to leave on time, and go home to a fresh hot supper.

When I'm at home, it means I get to carry out my day as I planned, without any family interruptions, responsibilities or demands outside of what I have previously taken into account.  It means there's not a whole lot of extra activities or events I have to attend that fill up my free time.  That's a brief description.  Basically, "normal" is a life centred around me.  At the root, it's completely selfish.

Normal is nice, but it's not how we are called to live.  Although normal can get boring too.  But in times when I long for normal, I have to remind myself that my life and my time are not my own.  I'm not in control of my life; God is.  I need to give my days to him and be open to whatever else He has for me.  I need to recognize that there may be other needs I'm called to meet that are more important than my own needs or wants.  So do you. We aren't called to settle for the normal.

This leads me to something else I have been thinking about.  When people get to know me, something that many notice is that I think.  I think in a way and about issues that most teenagers don't.  Most people mistake me for being much older than I really am.  Some assure me it's not a bad thing, but it still annoys me.  I guess you could say I'm not "normal" when compared to today's youth culture.  But I think a better word would be "common."  What we see among the youth in our day is common, but I don't think it should ever be normal.  When I see what defines most of "normal" North American teens, I know I never want to be named among them.

As Christians, we aren't called to follow the norm.  We aren't called to live "normal lives" characterized by selfishness, shallow thinking or the accepted lifestyle that defines today's youth.  God has called each and every one of us to something greater, which we should desire to follow after.  He desires for each of us to have a vision that goes beyond the expectations of this world.  He desires for us to give our days and our plans to Him, because His plans for our lives are greater than our own and ultimately a lot more satisfying.

Normal can be nice, but there's more than enough to go around.  Are you willing to let go of it and live an abnormal life, to go above the expectations of this world, to give your plans even for today to God and see what might happen?  It's not always easy but I can guarantee you that it will surprise some people and will bring much more glory to God.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Justin and Christa: Their Story

What would you do if you suffered from a disease for several years, experienced extreme pain and suffering on an almost daily basis, and saw no end or relief in sight?  What would you do if you had to watch your spouse, the person whom you loved more than your own life, spend their days and nights in endless agony?

Most of us wouldn't even want to imagine something like that, but that's Justin and Christa Vanderham's story.  Christa got very sick in New Zealand while attending a Bible school before she met Justin, but nobody could tell her what was wrong with her.  When they did meet and later marry, her symptoms were up and down, and they had no idea what the future held for them.

The beginning of their marriage became marred with constant suffering.  She was sick for over two years before she was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease.  The agony they went through was unspeakable.

This video tells their story over the last several years.  Honestly, it's no picnic.  Some of the footage is very unpleasant and shows the seriousness of what she battles.  But I'm glad I spent over an hour watching it.

I was blown away watching this.  In all honesty, I'm a complete wimp.  I never could have endured what Christa did.  A few years ago I began having some digestive problems, and although I came out very lucky, I think I nearly excelled at the self-pity thing through that ordeal.  Now, I still have to watch what I eat at times, but I'm healthy and realize I was have always been incredibly fortunate.

What amazed me the most was how Justin and Christa's love for each other and for God stayed so strong.  I don't know how many men would have cared for their young brides the way Justin did.  I think I can say Justin knows what it means to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.

Justin writes this on his blog on May 24:

"The stress and anguish of my heart are far too high to even think about food. 24 hours without sleep is common. I go days without realizing that I haven't taken a full breath because of the trauma we find ourselves in. Running up and down the stairs getting drugs, helping her throw up, pouring baths, giving her mouth-to-mouth oxygen, micro-waving heat bags, researching online, and making sad attempts at laundry and dishes is what fills most of my days.
  I am no hero. If this is what being a hero is, I wouldn't recommend it..." (emphasis mine)
I've only had time to scan and read bits and pieces of their blogs, but both Justin and Christa have some great things to say that I look forward to reading more of. 

Next to Justin and Christa's love and their ability to stay strong, I greatly admire the heart and love Christa has for other people.  She had a few good weeks and she was in the kitchen not only cooking dinner for her and her husband, but others who were going through a hard time.  Or she was making cards, writing to people, encouraging others, or giving massages from a hospital bed.  How does one display such care and selflessness in the midst of their own suffering?  God, and His love, is all I can come up with.

Yes, their video is a little long, but if you have time to watch a movie, watch their story instead.  No, it won't make you laugh or leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, but I doubt you'll regret it.  Also, check out their website and Justin and Christa's blogs.  And pray for them that God would continue to bring healing to their lives.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Where Are the Men?

I wrote an article for the girls a couple weeks ago, now this one is for the guys.  Hold on tight!  Some of you may write this post off, and I would understand why. I'm not here to bash men, but to share an article that addresses a common question among women, share my perspective, and hopefully encourage any guys who may end up reading this.

It's "Dude, Where's Your Bride?" by Kevin DeYoung.  I loved this article and not just because it tells the men to be men.  Kevin takes into account both sides of the problem, which is necessary.  I laughed right off at the start where he made that remark about girls reading Just Do Something and thinking he would be sympathetic, because I knew exactly what he was talking about.  I read the book a couple years ago and loved what he had to say on the marriage issue.

Before you go further, please read Kevin's article.  It'll save me some explaining.  It speaks best for itself.  I'm just here to add my thoughts to it. 

I've been reminded often of how lucky I am to be part of a church/youth group with nice guys who respect and look out for the girls.  Not every young woman has that.  But even so, the girls waaaay outnumber the guys.  When people ask me why I'm single (even at my young age), I have a number of answers, but.....I hate to put it this way, (and it's certainly only a small aspect of the issue), but I can count the number of eligible men older than me in my church on one hand.  And there's a lot of girls!!!  I know there are churches who have the opposite problem, but I'm not about to go "church-shopping" in hopes of finding someone.

Even so, the issue does not rest solely on the shoulders of the men, and I think it was very needful for Kevin to address that. Some girls are simply desperate, and well, scare the guys away.  Or they have impossible, fairy-talish standards.  Many of these graduate women that are filling churches aren't pursuing careers because they're feminists, but because they have to find something to do in the meantime.  Kevin addresses this matter more in depth in Just Do Something. Delayed marriage really does complicate education and career decisions for women.  As much as they want to marry and raise a family, they have to find a way to be profitable now.

"If you are single, pray more for the sort of spouse you should be than for the sort of spouse you want."  Yes!  I've realized this more in my own life.  If you want a great man, you have to be a great woman deserving of him!  You can't expect to have it all, and he gets little in return.  Keep praying for that amazing, godly man, but start praying more that God would change you to be that amazing, godly woman deserving of him!  Very often, our idea of marriage during this season of life is totally selfish.  Now's the time to turn it around.

Honestly, Kevin sums up perfectly what girls want in this one paragraph.  Guys, we aren't asking for you to be rich and attain the world's definition of success.  But this is what we are asking for.

"I don’t think young women are expecting Mr. Right to be a corporate executive with two houses, three cars, and a personality like Dale Carnegie. They just want a guy with some substance. A guy with plans. A guy with some intellectual depth. A guy who can winsomely take initiative and lead a conversation. A guy with consistency. A guy who no longer works at his play and plays with his faith. A guy with a little desire to succeed in life. A guy they can imagine providing for a family, praying with the kids at bedtime, mowing the lawn on Saturday, and being eager to take everyone to church on Sunday. Where are the dudes that will grow into men?"

I didn't share this to join the crowd of exulting women shouting "Preach it!  Let 'em have it!"  No, I just wanted to share my brief perspective on both sides of the issue.  I want to encourage the men to rise up and be men and  to share what it is that we as young women wish to see, at the same time acknowledging that we have a lot of work to do to be the wives you deserve.  We don't expect you to be rich, but we want to see you have a vision and godly ambition, being leaders in the church and in the home, to be able to trust you to provide for our children, and we pray that we would be worthy of that.