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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Musings



Sometimes i feel like I'm running head-long into a brick wall. . . over and over and over. Boy, does it hurt. But i keep stepping back and doing it again. Like it'll be different this time. Like I've forgotten the how it bruised me before. It's like I never learn. 

But that's sin for you. And that's a fallen human being. I am always going to mess up, everyday, nearly every minute. But that doesn't mean I can give up. 

C.S. Lewis said that, “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good." It's the trying hard, all on our own, that makes us realize how desperately we need Somebody else to try for us. It's our very sin that shows us --- in stark, obvious ugliness --- how much we, sinners, need a beautiful Savior. 

"And I've beat my head against so many walls
Now I'm falling down, I'm falling on my knees" (Rich Mullins). 

Awe, and gratitude, and love for Him --- they bring me to my knees. And all three of those are lovely, full feelings; overflow that makes me want to sing. 

And then there's sin. It also brings me to my knees. But I'm there because I've fallen, not because I knelt. I'm there because emptiness aches. "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight" (Psalm 51:4). 

I don't know how God keeps patient with us, but He does. And I don't know how sinners can be redeemed, but we will be. 

So no matter how many times I slam myself into that wall, I know that He'll take me back. And we'll try it again. And again. And we'll keep on trying again until the day when I won't fall down. Because "in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells." (2 Peter 3:13)

~allie

Monday, May 27, 2013

Remembrance

United States of America
Looks like another silent night
As we're sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children
And while we're lying in the dark
There's a shout heard 'cross the eastern sky
For the Bridegroom has returned
And has carried His bride away in the night...

America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King?

Will we be sleeping?
(-Casting Crowns, While You Were Sleeping.)


Today is when we remember and are thankful. We remember the ones who left home so we can stay home. And we are thankful for the freedom that sacrifice has allowed us to have. It's a day we get off work, cook-out, give thanks for the stars and stripes. Americans are glad to be American. Our good old 'Murica, we think, and we're proud.

 I'm a patriot. And I love my country. I'm infinitely grateful for the freedoms we do have, and to the ones who bled and died for liberty.

But, I think the greatest honor to them would be to make our country one that is truly worth them dying for.

And, instead, we are sleeping. Like the infamous frog in the pot, we have gradually accepted things that should never be accepted. One by one, we give up convictions and replace them with "tolerance". We are sleeping. And it will take His miracle to wake us up.

Today, while you're having a good time, while you're enjoying summertime, while you're hanging out with friends, while you're remembering sacrifices, make certain you're mostly remembering the greatest Sacrifice. Because without the freedom we have been given in Him, our earthly freedom, no matter how beautiful it is, doesn't mean a thing. 

~allie


When You Arise

A lovely quote to start you off this Monday morning. . .


"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."

-Marcus Aurelius

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Innocence, once lost, can never be regained. Darkness, once gazed upon, can never be lost."
-John Milton

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Knowing


       An essay I wrote. . .


     “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5).

            In the beginning there was this beautiful place. It was truly beautiful. And a man and a woman lived there. They walked in the garden where there were never thorns, and swam in the rivers which were never too cold; and they talked to God. They were naked, but they were not ashamed. And there was just one thing God told them not to do: “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). The man and the woman knew they should obey. And they were happy to obey. And everything was perfect. Until one day when Eve was told that she could be like God

And everything went rushing, hurtling, falling, down-hill from there.

 From the very beginning, from the very first sin, we have desired to be like God. 


What is it about that sentence? You will be like God. 


That was the sentence that condemned all mankind to death. This was the idea that made foolish men build a lofty tower into the heavens. Like God. That is why people look at the stars and try to read them, and try to know the future. 

 It wasn’t just the ancients either. We are just as guilty today, if not more so, of this craving for the forbidden things. We hunger for something that will give us power to know. The Secret. That’s the name of one cult. This name intrigues people. They want to know the secret, too. Whatever it is. We want to know. That’s why people try to talk to demons and the dead. We have to know. 

We want to know how to create; not only paintings and sculptures and trampolines and computers. Now we want to create life. So scientists spend their lives - not to mention millions and millions and millions of dollars – trying to make something living out of nothing. They want to know how it’s done. And so far they’ve cloned a sheep…after hundreds of failed attempts and hundreds of dead, deformed sheep. And now they want to go on to clone human beings. 

We cannot know everything. And we are foolish, and proud, to think we can. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” (Job 38:4). 

Where were you? 

You didn’t exist. And neither did I. And neither did any other person who’s ever lived or died. We have absolutely no control over anything that happens. We can’t control the color of the sky, the future, or even tomorrow’s weather. 

We are so utterly helpless. But our minds are so utterly finite, that we think we are powerful. 

This vulnerability, this cluelessness, should make us feel quite small. But not afraid. There’s
Someone infinitely more competent than you or I at the steering wheel. It’s stupid to try and snatch
the wheel away since we have no idea how to drive, or where we are headed, or how to get there. And it’s sinful too. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

There are things we should not know. 

God keeps the weight of knowledge on his shoulders, since it would crush ours. 

We’ve seen what the knowledge of good and evil did for Adam and Eve. They did not become like God. Instead they lost their innocence. They could not stand under the weight of knowledge. They realized they were naked. And they ran away from God, because they were ashamed. That's what the rest of the Story has been so far --- God chasing us, runaways, down and bringing us back.

Be thankful that we cannot know everything. Be thankful that God hides things from us. Even if we saw them, we could not understand. 

~allie

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Three Travelers.


This is an essay assignment I had on my Omnibus final: To imagine that I was living in the 1500s and that I met up with three men --- one a Roman Catholic, one a Lutheran, and one a Calvinist. We had to discuss the issue of the Lord's Supper. I decided to write it in story form.  

Sorry it's rather longish.      



           The rain gushes down in bucketfuls. I will be rather surprised if the entire sky does not fall down with it. I have never seen a bleaker night. My fingers tremble as I hold them over the dancing flames of the public house fire.
           
            “Oy. Tis a devilish dark night to be sure.” A crackling, German voice startles me out of my thoughts. “Thou wouldst not grudge old bones a warm spot at fire, would ye?” I smile and shake my head at the sopping wet old monk. He wrings his habit out on the floor and settles his rotund self into the chair beside me. “I’m Godfrey,” he says. I introduce myself now. And then we sit in silence, shivering.

            I can’t help listening the voices of two men next to us. They are growing louder. Especially one nasally voice.
             “You know nothing of religion,” he whines. “You’re nothing but a boy. And I am a priest.”
I turn to get a better look at the two. One is a young man with shaggy hair and the other is obviously – by the look of his garb – a Roman Catholic priest.
            “Does vocation have anything to do with knowledge of Scripture?” the young man asks. “Or age? ‘Let no man despise thou for thy youth.’”
            “Knowledge of Scripture?” the priest yelps. “Fahh! ‘Take eat; this is my body’ ‘Drink of it all of you, for this is my blood…” (Matthew 26: 26-27).  There is the Scripture. You do not know Scripture, Lukas. You deny Scripture. Those holy words of the Savior, himself, declare that the elements are indeed Christ’s flesh and his blood. It is no mere symbol. When the priest utters the consecrating words, the bread becomes his blessed flesh; the wine transforms into his very blood.” The wiry old man settles back in his chair. Satisfied. As if he has just eaten a large dinner.
           
            At that moment, Godfrey leans forward, screeching his chair across the sticky floor. “No, no my good man,” he crackles. “Thou doest not quite have it. For the elements do not transform into the flesh of Christ. They become something quite special. They become “flesh bread”. Not only flesh. Not only bread. But both combined.” He becomes quite animated, using his hands to talk.
The priest turns to Godfrey. “Flesh bread?” he says, further wrinkling his already wrinkled brow. “Flesh bread? What is this flesh bread? I do not understand you.”
Godfrey folds his hands and looks down his lumpy nose at the priest. “What is thy name?”
            “Alfred,” the priest replies.
            “Alfred,” Godfrey says, looking wise. “’If you can explain how Christ is both fully God and man, I will explain how the bread and wine are his body and blood.’” (Martin Luther). Alfred wags his grizzled head and mutters something. Godfrey smiles smugly.
            Suddenly the young man, Lukas, looks up.
 “He called himself a Vine, and yet we see,
He was a perfect Man, and not a Tree.
He called himself a Door; tis understood
We enter Heaven through Him, and no through Wood.
He called himself a Way, the which doth lead
Our steps to Heaven, yet none doth on him tread.” (Elizabeth 1).
Lukas brushes his hair out of his eyes and looks at all of us. Godfrey and Alfred gawk back.
            “Did you make that up, then, right here on the spot?” Alfred queries.
            “Oh, no.” Lukas laughs. “Queen Elizabeth wrote it. Not I. But it proves my point better than I could myself. Yes, Christ did say it was his blood. But it seemed to be a great habit of his to speak in metaphors and similes and parables quite often, you know.” The other two men are silent. Godfrey fidgets with his habit. Alfred runs a hand through his sparsely distributed hair. The only sound is the pounding rain.

            “You know,” Lukas says suddenly, breaking the stillness. “My friends, we don’t disagree on the presence of Christ in the sacrament. I would no more deny that, then the divinity of Christ, Himself. It is, however, the mode of presence in which we find dispute.”
            “It is quite literal presence,” Alfred speaks up. “Bread and wine becoming flesh and blood. Is that so difficult to understand?
            “Christ, he is present ‘in bread, with bread, and under bread’” (Luther) Godfrey nods as he talks. “But he is not bread. And bread is not him. Dost thou not see? It is a supernatural, unexplainable event that takes place. The bread becomes something that is not just bread. It is both.”

Lukas just shakes his head at them both. “Christ,” he says quietly. “Christ does not have to descend from heaven and become food and drink, in order to deliver his benefits to us. He is greater than that. By saying that he must become physical bread and physical wine, we are diminishing his greatness.”
       Again, the two older men sit in quizzical silence. Godfrey scratches his belly. Alfred takes a bite of his neglected biscuit.
I clear my throat and decide to speak up. “I, uh, I have a question for all of you.”  They turn toward me. “What is a sacrament exactly? I mean, what does Holy Communion do for you? What makes it so special?”
Alfred starts speaking at once. “The Eucharist,” he whines. “Is a unifying event. When we take the elements, we are sanctified. And we become one with God. Closer unity. Closer fellowship. When we eat the flesh, we are joined to Christ.” 
            Godfrey jumps in, “I believe differently.” We all chuckle as if to say we are not in the least surprised about that. “When we partake of Holy Communion, we are obtaining forgiveness of sins; the forgiveness that Christ paid for. If we want to be forgiven, then we must take and eat.”
We all turn to Lukas, wondering what the young man will say now. He sits silently for a moment. “A sacrament,” he says finally. “It is an external sign; a seal on the promises of the Word. We need assurances, to strengthen our weak faith. What does Communion do for me?” He smiles now. “’As bread nourishes, sustains, and protects our bodily life, so the body of Christ is the only food to invigorate and keep alive the soul.’ (Calvin). Just as my body would starve without food, so my soul would starve without Communion with my Savior.”
Then abruptly, he stands up. “It is late, my friends” says he. “I have greatly enjoyed our talks. I hope that someday we may come to be united on this matter.”
            “Over my dead body,” Alfred mutters. “And even then, I’d turn over in my grave.”
But Godfrey only looks thoughtful, and raises his hand in goodbye.
            “Farewell, my brother,” I say. “God pleasing we will meet again.”
Lukas smiles. Then without another word, he turns and leaves, trudging up the stairs to the bedrooms above.


~allie

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Beautiful Things.

What is the difference between symphony and cacophony? Between objectivity and subjectivity?
Between music and noise?

Short answer = Standards.

That's why, today, you can walk into a museum and see this -


Or this - 


...Our culture is rebellious and it resents any kind of standard, because standards point toward authority. They scorn structure and harmony, because they have been taught that nothing matters. Pattern require an Artist. And an Artist would have a purpose. But they have been indoctrinated to think that there is no meaning, no purpose, no reason for anything at all.  That's why so many people kill themselves. And that's why they call chaos "art". 

"There are truths," RC Sproul says of our culture. "But no Truth. There are beauties, but no Beauty. There are purposes, but no Purpose." 

And that's really what it comes down to. Postmodernism denies every big story. What's true for you 
may not be true for me. . . You have your way, I have my way, but as for the right way, there is 
none.

Since this hatred for any kind of absolutes (....except for their absolutely sure absolute that you can never be absolutely sure of anything....) pervades nearly all areas of our culture, it is no surprise that it has found its way into every form of art as well. We see it in paintings, sculptures, dances, music, plays. . . Everything has become utterly random

At least, they try to make it random, but their very struggle for no norms becomes a norm, in and of itself.

True, we do each have our own preferences about what is beautiful. He may like classical music, while she thinks classical is boring and prefers Taylor Swift. Some people love country music, others hate it. Some people enjoy ballet, some would rather break dance. We are all unique and so we all like different things, and different music sounds pleasant to different people's ears.

But should that preference be our only guide? Or is there something more? I was listening to a lecture by RC Sproul today and in this lecture he says that God is the foundation for all truth, because God, Himself, is true. God is the foundation for all goodness, because God, Himself, is good. And God is the foundation of all beauty, because God, Himself, is beautiful.

If God is the foundation of all beauty, then He must have certain standards that are present, and necessary, in everything that is beautiful. He doesn't, however, give us a specific list of requirements for beauty. There is no simple step by step process for discovering beauty. This is one of those things that "For now we see in a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as I also am known." (1 Cor 12:13).  

But the surest way to begin to know beauty, is to begin to know God. When we get close to the Artisit --- the One who is truly beautiful--- we are getting as close to pure beauty as is possible in this life.


If His standards --- the ones we see in His artwork --- are not there, then our artwork is not beautiful, no matter how much we might prefer it. Dr. Sproul made the point that we ought to embrace God's standards, even if they are not our personal preferences, because those standards are what separates music from noise, order from chaos, symphony from cacophony, beauty from ugliness.


Now, I've finished my rant and I suppose I'd better get back to studying for finals :) 

~allie







Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cosmic Philosophy

"The modern habit of saying, 'Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy and it suits me'--the habit of saying this is mere weak mindedness.  A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos.  A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon."

-Chesterton


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Happy Birthday Sophia!

My little sister is 13 today. And I'm sitting here wondering what happened to all the time.

It literally seems like just last week......or maybe last year at the longest......that this was her -


But I turned around today, and this is her - 

And I don't know how it happened, but my little sister is not so little anymore. 

I'm so blessed to have such a beautiful, generous, adventurous younger sister. And I hope she knows how much I love her. 

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace." (Nubers 6:24-26)

"For there is no friend like a sister in calm or stormy weather; To cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen whilst one stands." 
-Christina Rossetti.


Please join me in wishing Sophia a very happy and blessed birthday! 

~allie



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sometimes, words are not enough. . . You have to show what you feel. But then again, there's times when nothing you say, or do, is really enough. And all you can do is say thanks and show thanks. And hope they know how much you really mean it.

This is one of those times, and as I sat down to write this, I knew, clearer than I ever have before, that words on a page, or rather, a computer screen, no matter how many or eloquent they are, can't even begin to to thank my mom for all she's done for me.

I could keep on writing, and keep on listing, for as long as I wanted, but I would never be able to put it all down. Because, in short, she has given herself; She's given her life as something to be used up by us. And there's been so many days when I have completely taken all of that grace for granted. So many times, I have shoved her sacrifices back into her face. A mother has to be an incredibly strong woman to keep on loving through all the sin.

No greater love. 

Our culture tells us that love is a feeling; an emotion. But I've seen, and felt, emotions come, and then go again, many times every day. And I know for a fact, that emotions are not what makes a mother kiss her daughter forgiven after she has disobeyed over and over and over again. Emotions are not 
what make patience. Emotions are not what keeps a mother so faithful to her child, that she dedicates entire decades of her life to making sure that he starts out right, and keeps going right. 

The emotion-only kind of love is weak and rootless. 

I've realized more and more how much my mom truly loves us --- in spite of our sin....and in spite of her sin. And I've realized that loving is not passive. As C.S. Lewis once said, we have to act as if we loved someone, instead of just wondering if we do. "When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him." (Lewis. The Four Loves.)

True love, the kind that acts for the ultimate good of the loved one, "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (1 Corinthians 13:7).




I don't know how to write down all of my gratitude, so I'll just end this by saying --- Happy Mother's Day to my beautiful, amazing Mom.


I love you right up to the moon and back . . . a hundred times over :)


~allie

Monday, May 6, 2013

From Dust to Beauty


See creation as it is --- Defiled. BUT beautiful, too. Because that's what God sees when He looks at us. He sees His bride who has been unfaithful to Him. But there is still a remnant of her glory left. She is stained, but He has not forsaken her. She has betrayed but He will never betray. She is lost but He is, even now, working towards the day when He will purify her, restore her, bring her back to Himself. 
This world is a mess.

It would be easy to believe that it is all too far gone and that God has given up on it ---- given up on us. We have run away from Him so many times. Why would He even bother to keep on pursuing us? Some say that the world is only getting worse and that He will destroy it all, because there is nothing worth saving.

That's not true. He called it good. The only thing that keeps us from turning back is, in the words of Sam Gamgee, "that there's some good in this world and it's worth fighting for."

But sometimes I feel like none of that good is left. There is so much suffering, pain, sin. It's all so hard to deal with and hard to understand. Where is the beauty? Truth? Goodness?

And then I read something C.S. Lewis once said - "If tribulation is a necessary element in redemption, we must anticipate that it will never cease till God sees the world to be either redeemed or no further redeemable." And it hit me. The very fact that things are hard is proof that there is still hope.  Tribulation is necessary for redemption. And if there were no more tribulation in this life, then we would know that there truly was nothing left to fight for. We suffer because God is redeeming. When a goldsmith is making something beautiful, he must heat the metal until it is flaming red liquid. Then as it is re-hardening, he must beat it into the shape he wants. Redemption is like that. He heats and re-heats, shapes and re-shapes until that hunk of metal is something glorious. The only times the heat and beating and pain stops is either when the piece is finished. . . or when the metal is so hard or dirty or misshapen, that it is unable to be used.

"How can a loving God," they ask. "How can a loving God allow evil?" We struggle over this question. We torment ourselves. He is all-powerful. He is all-good. Why do babies get killed?
We never stop to wonder if it might be our definition of love that is causing the contradiction.

Maybe we don't know what love really is.

"If God is wiser than we, His judgement must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil." (Lewis, The Problem of Pain).

He is looking at all of history and all of future. We only see the present. And the present may be frightful. We may choose to see the world as something filthy that we cannot wait to get away from; something that will be demolished; something to throw away. Or we can choose to see through the sin. We can choose to look at the world through eyes of faith. We can see what He sees when He looks at the world --- a mess, but He makes beautiful things out of the dust. And He hasn't given up on His world, so why should we?

On the day that He died, victory was sure. He will crush the serpent and the serpent knows it. And in that day there will be no more sin. The truth that is half-hidden now by sin will be fully revealed.

 He will redeem his bride from the darkness she has sold herself to and will make her beautiful once again.

~allie

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Further Up and Further In

(This is an offshoot of something we talked briefly about in Omnibus class today. Thank you, Mr Martin for the inspiration!)

We sometimes tend look at our trials as if there's a set number of them; as if when we reach our designated quota of hardships, we will be able to drop our burdens and sail through the rest of our lives with nothing to worry us. We think that once we reach the top of this mountain, once we have crossed this bridge we've come to. . . once we've payed our debts. . . once we've dealt with this festering temptation. . . that things will be easy. 

But then they're not easy. And we wonder what went wrong. 

If I live my life always looking ahead to the time when life is easy, then before I know it, I will be old and I will have done nothing to better the world, or people, around me. Because life isn't easy. It never will be. Just as I have gotten over one bump in the path, I will trip over the next; just when I have really gotten control of one sin in my life, another one will pop up where I least expected it. Life is wild and hard to catch up to. And if you don't hang on for all you're worth, then you'll miss the ride, entirely.

"Of course..." said the Fawn. "The further up and further in you go, the bigger everything gets."  (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle). 

The further we go, the more we give, the harder we live --- the bigger everything gets. The hardships we plod through temper us for more hardships. Living in this City of Man, will test you and batter you, and try to defeat you. But, when it gives you its worst --- rejoice. Because the harder it has to try, the stronger you have been resisting. 

Don't wonder what went wrong. Look around you at everything that went right. Beauty is not always soft and easy to deal with. Sometimes beauty hurts. Sometimes, we forget what the word 'awful' really means. We have forgotten how to be full of awe, and instead we are only terrified.

Sometimes we forget to feel the beauty in tears, because we are scared of what grief will do to us.

Come further up! Come further in!

The further up and further in we go, the riskier things become. We have to learn to relish risk.

A life is quickly wasted by always waiting for the next day, next week, or next year. Don't wait for the perfect moment. Live this moment. . . even if it is messy or dangerous. It's your response to those awful moments that really counts.

Head further up and further in!

~allie