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Friday, March 30, 2012

180 Documentary

Ok, sorry about posting two videos right in a row but this is a really great documentary.
It's only 33 minutes long. So take a little while and watch it. It's a message that our culture really needs to hear. No matter how uncomfortable or shocking it might be, it's very true.

Oh, but do be warned, there are are some quite graphic images of the Holocaust and of abortion. I wouldn't advise letting younger children see it.

American Dream

This is a really good song. Listen.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Worth Fighting For

Sometimes it's tempting to just give up on the world.

The world murders more than 1 million babies every year; 3, 322 every day.

The world made it illegal to pray to God in school, much less speak about our Savior. They even changed the Pledge of Allegiance so that it would not contain the word "God."

The world is full of murder, hatred, racism, rape, idolatry.

And yet, Christians are supposed to be the light of the world. That's a pretty tall order for such darkness.We can't do it on our own.

But we have something to stand on. We are a city set on a hill. And as Matthew 5 tells us, a city on a hill cannot be hidden. The darker the room is, the brighter a little light seems.

One of my favorite scenes from the entire Lord of the Rings series is in the Two Towers. Frodo is just about ready to give up. The world is so dark. And his light inside is dying. There doesn't seem to be any reason to go on fighting. And it's so hard to fight. But Sam says to him:

"It's like in the great stories Mr Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr Frodo, I do understand. I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding on to something." 


Frodo: "What are we holding onto, Sam?"


Sam: "That there's some good in the world, Mr Frodo, and it's worth fighting for."


There is some good in our world.
And good is always worth fighting for. Good is the only thing that can triumph over evil.

Giving up is easier. But going on is right.

Keep on fighting because it's worth it. Keep on until the day when the earth is made new, and God will again declare of the world, "It is good."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Read, Read, Read Again

"I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." -C.S. Lewis

Friday, March 16, 2012

Faith

We did some yard work today. We're getting ready for my uncle's visit, as well as just getting rid of all the old fallen leaves and pinecones.

The flower beds were filled with dried leaves and weeds. So we had to clear out carefully around all the flowers and ground-cover.

The pansies were what caused the most trouble.

As I would try to pull away the weeds, I kept accidently pulling up a pansy stem as well. The lovely flowers are rooted so shallowly that it's pretty much impossible not to kill them in the process of trying to help them.


Pansies are beautiful flowers. They sit daintily in the quiet shade of the porch, and just look pretty. The light breeze causes them to sway gently and bend their graceful faces away from the sun. 

We do not want to have pansy-like faith. 

If the best we can do is to look good, then there is something majorly wrong with our faith.

With pansy-faith, when the Gardener comes to prune and weed away the things that are choking us, we are so weak and fragile that we cannot manage to stay rooted.

The winds and rains of temptation barely beat on our shoulders before we give up and succumb to them. 

This kind of faith makes us look holy and pleasing on the outside, but when trials come we droop. And we lose our only attraction.

Instead we should try to be like oak trees. 

Even the smallest oak sapling is firmly rooted in the ground. If you have ever tried to pull up a tiny oak tree, you know that it can be very difficult. 

It's their roots. Long, wide, deep, stretching, growing roots. Roots that drink up nutrients and always search for more. If the roots are healthy than the whole tree will be healthy. 
The rains can pour as hard as they like. 
The wind can bluster all it wants. 
And yet that little oak tree will stay grounded. 

I want to be like that. 


Thursday, March 15, 2012

End of Self

"When we come to the end of self we come to the beginning of Christ."

-C.H. Spurgeon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Friendship

(I am sitting here right now, pretty annoyed. Our internet is not working....and that means that I can't take my online omnibus class. I was in class enjoying a Recitation session on Tacitus' Annals of Imperial Rome, when suddenly the connection gave out and I was booted...
So yeah. That's the only thing I don't like about taking classes online....they're *ahem* online.


Anyways, I decided that while I'm waiting, I might as well write a blog post. Don't know when I'll be able to post it though.


That depends on when the internet starts working again....


But I'd better get on with it:)



     C.S. Lewis once said, "Friendship is unnecessary like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create it). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which gives value to survival."

That is so true. Anyone who has had a real friend, a loyal companion, a faithful confidant, knows exactly what Lewis is talking about.

Unfortunately, our culture has made a mockery of what a friend is. With facebook, twitter, IM, and all the gazzilions of other social networking sites, we can be "friends" at the click of a mouse. We can chat comfortably with perfect strangers because we have a computer screen hiding our true selves and true thoughts.
So, what is a real friend? Is it one of the thousands of names on your facebook page? Or is it someone you like to hang out with?

Or is it something more?

Well, I guess the best place to start would be with the Bible's definition of a friend.
   
    According to John 15, a friend is someone who will "lay down his life" for you.
   
     Proverbs 17:17 says that a "friend loves at all times."
   
     Proverbs 18:24 says that a "friend sticks closer than a brother."
 
     And finally, Proverbs 27:17 says that a friend should sharpen us as "iron sharpens iron".

Whew....You may be wondering by now if it's possible to find, or be, a true friend.

Well, lets look at some examples of friendships:

The first Biblical example that pops into my mind is David and Jonathan. I mean, those two were so close. Closer than family, because their families weren't loyal to them. David stuck closer to Jonathan than to any of his blood-brothers. Jonathan was willing to betray his own father's confidence when David's life was in danger because of it.

One more Biblical example is the friendship of Ruth and Naomi. Despite the difference in their ages, Ruth was closer to Naomi than to anyone else she knew. She says to Naomi in the well-known words, "Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried." (Ruth 1:16-17) Ruth loved Naomi at all times. Even when Naomi was poor and apparently had nothing left to offer Ruth. Ruth gave herself entirely to her friend. She didn't care about what she got out of the friendship, but only about what she was giving.

Aside from Biblical examples, probably my favorite story of friendship (at least that I can think of right now) would have to be that of Sam and Frodo in Lord of the Rings. Loyalty is so important in a friend. Sam was always, always loyal to Frodo. He loved him at all times, even when Frodo was anything but lovable; even when Frodo told Sam that he didn't need him at all. Sam knew better than that and so he kept on fighting Frodo's battles with him. He was willing to lay down his life for Frodo, and nearly did so several times. And in the famous lines, "I can't carry [the ring] for you, but I can carry you," he shows his absolute dedication against all odds.

Well, I know this post is getting lengthy.

But I'm almost done.

Friends are one of the greatest blessings God has given us here on earth. "Is there any pleasure on earth," C.S. Lewis said, "as great as a circle of Christian friends by a fire?"

And because friends are so wonderful, because they are something that "gives value to survival",  we have to be careful. It's really easy to fall into the trap of looking to other humans for our fulfillment. Friends, true or otherwise,  can quite quickly become idols in our lives and stumbling blocks on our walks with Christ.

We cannot let these friendships get in the way of our most important friendship with our Savior. Instead, our friends should be people who spur us on in our walk of faith, and who walk beside us.

 Instead of blocking the Light, friends should reflect it.


~Allie

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Brother's Birthday

Happy 14th Birthday Thomas!






                                                             I am so thankful for you.


You are such a good, 


And fun,



And loyal brother.


Have a wonderful birthday!!



Love, 
Allie

Friday, March 9, 2012

I Can

This is such an inspiring poem. And so true.
It's much easier to say you can't do something, instead of trying to do it.

When we're in the valley, we learn that we can do those things that always seemed so impossible. And that through doing them, we become stronger.

"I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13


Can't is the worst word that's written or spoken;
Doing more harm here than slander or lies;
On it is many a strong spirit broken,
And with it many a good purpose dies.
It springs from the lips of the thoughtless each morning
And robs us of courage we need through the day:
It rings in our ears like a timely-sent warning
And laughs when we falter and fall by the way.


Can't is the father of feeble endeavor,
The parent of terror and half-hearted work;
It weakens the efforts of artisans clever,
And makes of the toiler an indolent shirk.
It poisons the soul of the man with a vision,
It stifles in infancy many a plan; 
It greets honest toiling with open derision
And mocks at the hopes and the dreams of a man.


Can't is a word none should speak without blushing;
To utter it should be a symbol of shame;
Ambition and courage it daily is crushing;
It blights a man's purpose and shortens his aim.
Despise it with all of your hatred of error;
Refuse it the lodgment it seeks in your brain;
Arm against it as a creature of terror,
And all that you dream of you someday shall gain.


Can't is the word that is foe to ambition,
An enemy ambushed to shatter your will;
It's prey is forever the man with a mission
And bows but to courage and patience and skill.
Hate it, with hatred that's deep and undying,
For once it is welcomed 'twill break any man;
Whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying
And answer this demon by saying "I can."
-Edgar A. Guest.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Beautiful Things

I don't have much time to write a post today---lots of homework, rhetoric class, cleaning, etc. So I've decided to just post my currently-favorite song:

And watch this video if you want to listen to it....I recommend that you do. You can't really appreciate the song without hearing it.

Beautiful Things


All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us



 You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making new
You are making me new.                                    
                                                                                                           




Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Hippocratic Oath

A while back, I read the Hippocratic Oath. It is really scary to see the things that are missing from the modern version.
 Hippocrates wrote in the original, "I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give a woman an abortion."

Somehow...strangely, those words have completely disappeared from our new version. Without a trace.

Well, actually, it's much worse than strange.

Our culture is sick. And we refuse to see the Physician. Instead, we keep on insisting that we are well, that there is nothing wrong with us, even though all around us are the symptoms of our deadly disease.

In our culture, it's okay to abandon purity, because someone innocent will be the one to suffer instead of us, and it's our choice to make them suffer.

In our culture, the "kindest" thing to do is to end life that makes others' lives difficult.

In our culture, we are saving trees and murdering babies.

Of course, Hippocrates lived in a sinful culture as well. They did not know the light of Christ yet, and so the shadows of paganism dominated most of the world. But they did get something right: life, to them, was sacred.

Even though they didn't believe in the true source of life, they realized that life was something that should be appreciated and not taken for granted.

Because it's not granted. It's an amazing gift.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Christ Church Spring Ball and Conference

A couple weekends ago we went to Cary, NC with some of our friends for a ball and conference. Here's some of the pictures (special thanks to fhgphotography.blogspot.com!)

It was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to next time!

                                                        My friend and I. (I'm on the left)


                                                        Several more of my friends.




                                           Me, dancing the "patty-cake polka"



                                                       This one is called "Hunting the Fox"
                                                     Don't ask me why...I have no idea :-P

                                 

                                                 My friend's little brother dancing with me.


                                                                 The Billings family.



                               

                                                  My three younger siblings and me.


                                                  I have the cutest baby sister in the world! :-)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Tree of Life

On Friday night, I watched the movie, "The Tree of Life." It wasn't quite like any other movie I had ever seen. And I mean that in a really good way, although there are some scenes and symbolism that I still don't understand. There are many things that I would like to mention and praise, but I'm going to stick to one theme, which was mentioned in the first five minutes, and only implied throughout the rest of the story.

The first lines of the movie are a voiceover of Mrs O'Brien, a woman who has lost her 19 year old son:

"...There are two ways through life---the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow...Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries...Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things...The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by."

This was a hard movie to watch. In order to truly see that what Mrs O'Brien was saying is true, we have to see what it is like to live a life in the way of grace. And we also have to see what it's like to live a life in the way of nature. We see that way of nature in Mrs O'Brien's husband. He spends his entire fatherhood teaching his sons to be "men". He shows them how to fight, tells them there's nothing they can't do, and plays football with them. At the same time, he criticizes them without mercy, undermines obedience to God's commands, and morality ("if you want to succeed, you can't be too good!"), and responds harshly to every mistake they make.

Mr O'Brien: "Your mother's naive. It takes fierce will to get ahead in this world. If you're good, people take advantage of you."

He lives this quote out in his every action.

His attitude comes from living only for yourself. Without God, it's only natural, it's your nature to insist on your own way, fight for your own interests, use your power for your own benefit. As Mr O'Brien fights more and more for himself, he becomes more and more by himself. His attitude, anger, and hypocrisy push his wife and boys farther and farther away. He provokes his children to wrath. By the middle of the movie, one of his sons is praying that God would please kill his father.

On the other end of the spectrum, is his wife. She lives and breathes the way of grace. She sees the glory of a butterfly. She knows the importance of hide and seek. She feels the happiness, and the pain of her children. She understands how to love and how to sacrifice herself. Her boys find, from her, peace, contentment, and pleasure, because she doesn't live to please herself.

In the end, it takes the death of his second son, to show Mr O'Brien what his life is lacking. He realizes how his criticism, insincerity, coldness, and anger had pushed away his family. But, it was too late to go back. His children were grown. They had grown without him. Away from him. His life had flashed by. Because he had not loved.

Even though this is tragic, we can learn from it and be warned by it. Love. Don't let your life flash by. You only have one chance in this life, so get it right.
This isn't going to happen through you, though. The way of grace is the way of Christ. The way of the cross. The way of faith.

There is a final scene in The Tree of Life. It is a hopeful one. Jack, the oldest son, is a middle-aged man now. After a long journey, beginning at the beginning of his life, he has finally come close to rediscovering his innocent, childhood faith. He has almost caught the child that he used to be. His search has led him to a beautiful place where he is reunited with his family. Including his father. There is love and forgiveness. And grace.

I've finished now, even though there's a whole lot more that could be said. I know this is lengthy, but it's very important too. At least to me, it is.

Thanks for hanging in there and reading.

~Allie

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Grace

This is a speech that I had to write and deliver for Rhetoric.
It was supposed to be a promotion of an abstraction or an ideal. I chose Grace, cause I think it's the most important virtue.

Enjoy!


     A man is lying face down in a ditch. His body is crushed and broken, covered in blood. No one will take him out because they are afraid of the one that left him there. His flesh is rotting. And he stinks. A Physician and his Son are walking together and come upon that reeking, filthy thing that used to resemble a human. After looking at it for a moment, the Son touches his Father’s arm.
         “Father,” he says, “Can we save him?”
         “Yes,” the Father replies. “But only if you are willing to give up your own life for him; if you are willing to leave our home and take his place, take his enemies, take his death, even.”
         “I am willing,” the Son says. “If it is your will.”
And so, together, they gather the unknown, rotten body up into their arms and wrap it in the Son’s coat. And the Father takes him him home, where he feeds, clothes and heals him. The Son becomes an exile from his home, sleeping instead in the most squalid places, even a stable. He lives a peaceable life, harming no one. He tells people about his Father, about what an amazing Physician he is, about the many lives he can save, if only they trust him. Then, one day, the people turn against the Son, for no reason at all. They flog him and taunt him. And then they kill him.
        

         There is a key difference between mercy and grace, though sometimes they are used interchangeably. Mercy is being spared from something which you justly deserve. Grace, however, is being freely given something that you don’t deserve at all.
         We are that body lying in the muddy ditch. Forgotten. Forsaken. Grace is what the Son gives us. For no reason at all except that He loves us.

          Grace is covering shame with compassion. Grace is being able to lovingly give somebody something incredible that they do NOT deserve. A world full of grace would be a wonderful world.
        
         Unfortunately, especially recently, our country, community, and culture have been the exact opposite of grace. We may talk all we like about how we accept others as they are. But we don’t truly show grace. See, when we grudgingly “accept” someone just because we think we have to, just because they’re different and therefore entitled to acceptance, we are smearing the name of grace. Grace is something totally different. And better. I would go so far as to say that grace is the most important virtue. Because without grace, every one of us would die and go to hell. Because nothing else matters as much as Jesus’ loving gift to us. Because grace is what covers our sins in beauty even though we deserve to have them displayed in all their revolting ugliness for everyone to see.
        
         The word “grace” comes from the Latin word, “gratia” meaning “pleasing quality, or good will.” There are similar words to “grace” such as kindness, generosity, indulgence, and favor but none that truly express the meaning and significance as well as the word itself.

         Of course, our pitiful attempts at grace can not compare to our heavenly Father’s grace to us, just as a flea’s strength cannot compare to that of a lion. But still, we are instructed to be full of grace. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  Good stewards, as in a parable Jesus told, not only guard the things they are entrusted with. They also put the things to work. They use the things. We need to put grace to work in our lives and the world. If we don’t, we are being ungrateful for the grace we have received. If we are truly grateful, then we will try as hard as we can to spread grace, and in spreading grace we will be used to spread the name of Christ. The band, U2 got many things wrong in their faith, philosophy, and lifestyle, but they did get some things right in their song, Grace: “What once was hurt/ What once was friction/ What left a mark/ No longer stings/ Because Grace makes beauty/Out of ugly things.”
        
         Oftentimes, well, most of the time, really, giving grace to another means that you yourself will be hurt. This is a price that we must be ready to pay. After all, when we look again to the greatest example of grace that has ever been and ever will be, we see great pain. Jesus’ whole life here on earth was difficult and his death was the most tragic thing that has ever happened. But he never sinned once. We sin everyday, numerous times. Over and over again, we disappoint. Over and over again, we stray. How can we not feel at least obligated, if not happy, to show grace to the other people around us; the ones who make mistakes just like us. In closing, I will read from 1 Peter chapter 2, verses 19 through 24.  “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

         That’s what grace truly is: being willing to give up your life for another. Not merely your physical life, either. But, also being able to die to yourself every day; being willing to give up what you want to help someone else; being willing to give sweet words when what they deserve is anger; being willing to reach out and love the ones that aren’t worthy of love.

Welcome!

Well, hi! I'm Allie

This blog has two purposes, really. First, I love writing! I've worked on writing stories since I was eight or younger and I have continued on until now.  I hope to someday publish a book. I wanted a place where I could post my writings--and my opinions. So I decided to start a blog.

Secondly, the name. "Seeing From the Valley" may not really seem to fit with the first purpose. What does writing have to do with the G.K. Chesterton quote on the home page? Well, to me, that quote kind of sums up the way we should live each and every day: With contentment. Instead of just thinking about how dark it is, down in the valley, when things are hard, and we feel depressed, we need to realize that one way God shows us that he loves us, is by letting us seeing the big, real, up-close things in our valleys. It may be pleasant up there on the mountaintops, when life is care-free, and things are going just the way we want them to, but we don't get the hard, dirty, genuine life up there. And hard, dirty, genuine life is what makes us strong.

So,  I'm going to make every post on this blog with these two purposes in mind. Sometimes the second purpose may not seem to be there at all. But this purpose is not just a topic or a theme, it's a way of living. A way of looking at life. It's seeing from the valley.

~Allie