Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Our Father is Younger Than We" or How God is Like a Child

The following is one of my very favorite quotes:

A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough… It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again,” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again,” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
    • G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

I have no idea where I first came across it, I know it was years ago and, at various times since then, the line “for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we” passes through my mind. I really have no concept of time (with the exception of being on time for things, normally early), days, months, years, they don't mean much to me. Part of this is because I have a very horrible memory, so I think I live in the present more than most. Because of this poor sense of time, in some ways I feel ageless but there is another part of me that for a very long time has felt so very old. I remember the first time I read the Lord of the Rings and Legolas first ventured into Fangorn Forest and said something like “This forest is old, it almost makes me feel young again,” a part of me longed to walk there, for I wanted to feel young again, too. Perhaps it is sin that ages our souls, I can see how sin would make them feel worn out, weary, and old. Yes, souls are made of immortal stuff, but sin is the most corrupting thing in the universe and souls weren't meant to rust by it.

I also love the idea of God making “every daisy separately,” the idea that perhaps he paints each sunrise in the morning and the setting sun at night, sculpts each snail shell from the inside out. Children thrive on routine, on familiarity, on “doing it again,” but they also have a great sense of wonder, a love for the new, novel, and surprises; they have to, so many things are “firsts” each day of their life. Well, I think God is also childlike in this sense, he may paint the sky every morning and evening, but he never paints it the same way twice. He may follow a template when fashioning a snowflake, but each is a little different. He may shape each human in a basic human shape, but each of us are unique in uncountable ways. God may be all-knowing but maybe, just maybe, one reason he created us is because he hopes to be surprised. Maybe this explains “God's Hope in Man” that I talked about in a past blog post (on another blog, I'll repost it to this one sometime soon). He gives us the resources to reshape the universe and he's hoping we'll take up the spade and start digging, building, tearing down, and making new.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shower Thoughts on Economics

I wrote this after some thoughts occurred to me while taking a shower a few months ago, I hinted at my thoughts and a friend wanted me to share. Keep in mind, I know very little about economics and, overall, I do not follow the news. Saying that, I thought it was worth sharing, maybe?

Because my friend, Jake, asked me to...also, Jake, it is not a dream or anything I want to do, it was merely some thoughts.

While I was in the shower I was thinking about going to Wal-Mart for a few things. I have a strong dislike of Wal-Mart but it is the closest store to me and, I have to admit, having such a variety in one place in convenient. My dislike of it caused me to link Wal-Mart to how poorly our economy is doing. I thought about how there used to be small stores that carried mostly American-made and how towns and even countries used to be a lot more self-sufficient. If another town was failing or started to do poorly it didn't necessarily mean your town would start to do poorly and, especially, ones country's fate was not so closely linked to another. First the industrial revolution began to do away with this self-sufficiency; more and more products began to be made in factories further away, instead of your plow being made by the nearby blacksmith, your dress made by the local tailor, etc. Conversely, the factory towns became more dependent on imported subsistence. Then if an agricultural town did poorly, the factory town suffered as well, and if the factory town suffered losses and people were cut loose, then they bought less.

Globalization took this a step further and intertwined the fate of not only of towns, but also of nations. The phrase popped in my head, “Together we rise, together we fall.” Of course, with globalization there is also the fact that you add a lot of competition. You are competing not only with the company down the road, which has similar access to resources and workers with similar cost of living and, thus, similar wages; but companies across the globe that may have very different access to resources and employees with wages which are determined by totally different means than your own employees' wages. A side note: yes, I know much of the world has unfair wages and horrible work conditions but people rarely seem to also take into account that in some countries you can get a weeks worth of food for only a few dollars and buy a good pair of shoes for a faction of what you would pay here. In other words, you shouldn't just look at how much someone is paid and automatically think it is a horrible wage.

Oh, I almost forgot, in the shower I also thought about how, because each town is no longer self-sufficient and no longer has all the little stores nearby which can provide for your needs, there is not only all the gas and means of power expended in shipping things from far away, but also the added distance and gas you have to use to gain access to these products.

I thought localizing things and decentralizing things (having smaller stores) could help our economy, which is what we used to have anyway. Because I think Wal-Mart is a convenient evil monster that is chiefly responsible with doing away with most mom-and-pop stores, I thought of all this when I thought of going to Wal-Mart.

When I got out of the shower and started eating my breakfast I saw an article in Time called Go Glocal by Rana Foroohar which talks about how companies who are using labor/factories/supplies closer to home are the ones that are doing well and that more companies are likely to follow suit.

Specialization is one way in which states could be not so much in competition with each other. They could mostly try and cater to the companies which are already there, and, thus, not be short changing other states. Intentionally or unintentionally certain companies are already doing this by developing the programs in community colleges which will turn out the individuals they need. Also, it is bound to happen because of the companies starting to utilize small firms and companies to satisfy their needs (those small suppliers will grow and, as the larger company grows, the place where their needs are most readily supplied are right where they are).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Christ, the Most Hopeless Romantic

I wrote this as a Facebook note over a year ago and wanted to share it on here in hopes that someone would read it and be encouraged. :)

Do you ever get an idea in your head that will not go away, lingers in your consciousness, and demands to express itself? I sometimes do and the idea behind this is one of those things.

Often when I am in church or hearing or thinking about God/Christ and our relationship to the world, I can't help thinking that Christ's view of us is somewhat of a hopeless romantic's view. I look around and see he seems to have much more faith in us than is justified; his hopes for us seem so hopeful as to be hopeless, he thinks we can move mountains when we cannot move a molehill, and says we would be known by our love when we cannot even love ourselves. Think about it, God has so much faith in us that he made us his ambassadors to the world, Christ prayed for us all to be united as one as he and his Father are one, said we would be known by our love, and told us to be perfect as he and his holy Father are perfect. Pretty ridiculous isn't it? Talk about setting yourself up for a shattered dream and a misplaced hope. What an utterly hopeless romantic, rose-colored glasses wearing, delusional head-in-the-clouds dreamer that guy, Jesus, is.

Wait a minute, who thought we were worth laying down their life for? Who gave up being being an infinite being to be contained in a fleshly body so he could reach out and touch us? Who knows us better than anyone? Christ. Even knowing all he knows or maybe even because he knows all he does, he has faith in us and hope for us. He believes we can be light, salt, and love to the world. He believes that by our actions people can see God. What a horrifying and “awe-full” thought, what a responsibility and honor, what a testimony of faith towards us. But, after all, doesn't the Bible say we are made in God's image and that God is love, so are we not also love? Christ's hope is not misplaced, for God made us in his image and we are clothed in Christ. I think we have a lot more potential...if we could just get over thinking of ourselves as wretched and believe in each other and ourselves as Christ believes in us, who knows, we might even be able to change the world.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Possible Side-Effect of Globalization: The Learned Helplessness of Humanity

A simplified explanation of learned helplessness, courtesy of “Learned helplessness happens when people or animals become conditioned to believed that a situation is unchangeable or inescapable.” Or, to put it another way, they come to believe that no matter what they do, it won't make a difference.

I suppose I should preface this with the fact that I didn't grow up a hundred or even 50 years ago (or did I?:), so I can't really know how it was then, but I shall guess and someone can tell me if I'm wrong.

It used to be that there was “here” (my community, my area of space, my sphere of influence that most influenced me and I could influence) and “there” (that far off place that you may hear rumors about, but it seemed distant, other, not really part of your world). You knew there were a few families in need that lived down the road, the family who lost their father, the old maid who lived around the corner, the town next door that was struck by a tornado. There was a sense of “here” to those tragedies, trials, and disasters. If you felt so inclined to help, you could actually help by packing a box of food, by hopping in a truck and pitching in, by gathering your neighbors to raise a barn, bring in the harvest, or help to cut the hay.

Now, in a sense, everywhere is “here,” everywhere is brought close, to our doorstep and into our homes. With our own eyes we see the slaughter of wars fought a world away and with our ears we hear the yells of grief brought about by the latest earthquake. Everywhere is “here,” but our sphere influence does not reach to everywhere. The suffering of the world is laid at our feet, but our hands are a thousand miles away, our mouths are too far to try and whisper words of comfort, the tears in our eyes are too far away to heal the wounds of hearts.

There is so much to do, so many who need help, the world is so big that it's impossible to make a difference in all that pain. So we learn helplessness, we are paralyzed into doing nothing because it wouldn't make a difference anyway.

I once learned somewhere, that whenever you present some far away awful tragedy, when you share some humongous need, try to always also tell your audience how they can make a difference, give them something they can do to help. Otherwise, they're just left feeling bad and more helpless than they did before.

Until you are at a position where you can help someone across the world, focus on your own doorstep. Until you have the resources to grow wings to reach a world away, focus on where your hands can reach. There is still plenty to do where you are. Or, if your heart is touched to help those so far away, find an organization that you can support through time, money, work, or donations. Have a sharper focus, a more zoned-in passion and you never know what those little acts of kindness will inspire across the world or into the future.

In your desire to help everyone make sure you don't end up helping no one. Also, maybe take a break from the news every once in awhile or just focus on the local news.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Movie Review for Ender's Game

What it's about (for those who haven't read the book): Earth was attacked by aliens called Fomics (commonly referred to as Buggers because of their appearance), within a very short amount of time, they had killed millions and scorched a lot of Asia. A hero emerged and, in one battle, did something that caused humans to win the war.

In preparation for our next encounter, the International Fleet was organized and started searching for, testing, monitoring, and recruiting children from around the world to go to Battle School (a space station where they begin their military training).

The story follows Ender Wiggin, humankind's best hope, and maybe last hope. As well as being brilliant, he is chosen because he has both a ferociousness and an advanced sense of empathy. The powers-that-be hope this combination will allow him to understand the Buggers enough to defeat them.

In Battle School Ender quickly distinguishes himself and rapidly becomes a leader of an “army” with faithful followers. This is one of the most major areas where the movie is lacking, in the book you learn why those under Ender come to trust him and love him enough that they say they would follow him anywhere, but in the movie this whole time period is rushed. With a few words and gestures of Ender, they did a fairly good job hinting at these things, but I didn't feel it was enough.

Time is running out, so Ender's training is increasingly sped up and he soon finds himself at Command School, the last stop before he is put in charge of humanities military forces.

Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow are two of my very favorite books, I've read them both three times. Despite this, I tried my best not to have expectations going into the movie, but of course I couldn't avoid some.

First off, because they couldn't find any real kids who were young enough to fill the roles appropriately, they basically aged all the Battle School students by about 3 or 4 years, as compared to what their ages were in the book.

As always, in movies taken from books, there were a few small things that seemed unnecessarily changed that wouldn't have been hard to keep the same and, as always, those small things bugged me.

I am huge on character development, I don't care if it makes the movie two hours longer, I would rather the characters be well developed. For the sake of time and courtesy to those who don't want to sit an hour learning about a character, they didn't let you get to know everyone; which I thought was a loss, but others may not agree. I'd be interested to hear an outsiders' (aka someone who hasn't read the book) view who doesn't know all the back stories, did you feel you got to know people well enough to get attached to them?

If you read and loved the book, it kind of felt like they had the whole story on fast-forward. Saying that, I think it was a fairly good “abridged version” and stayed true to the basic story. As a stand-alone movie, not compared to anything, I think it was quite good. It was exciting, had cool special effects, fairly good acting, and a good and surprising story.

As with other movie reviews, you can go look at content rating for yourself.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Movie Review for Gravity. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney...but really only Sandra

The good: The movie kept you on the edge of your seat almost from the first scene until the end. There was practically constant action and/or tense moments. It did a wonderful job (coming from someone who has never been in space) of conveying some of the terror and helplessness one would feel up there if things started to go wrong.

The bad: You would think with one character dominating about 80% of the movie, you would feel like you got to know that character and would develop somewhat of an attachment to them, but I didn't, at least not as much as I wanted to. I'm not saying Sandra didn't do a good job or that her acting was bad, the writers, in their desire to keep the action moving, sacrificed character development and background stories.

I felt the ending was a little anti-climactic. Yes, the largest physical difficulty was solved, but from what we find out about Sandra's character, she's got a lot of issues. I suppose we are meant to be left with a sense of hope, that Sandra realized how precious life is and began to really live...but you don't get to see any of that, you have to imagine it all.

Wow, normally my posts turn out to be really long, I guess I just don't have much to say about this. If you're looking for a thrill ride that's a little introspective, then go see this movie. If you want something with a good story and character development, then pass.

I'm not even going to try to address any of the scientific aspects, because I know nothing about them. I know some scientific people have a hard time watching Gravity because of various issues.

Since there's already ratings, I'm not going to rate this like I do in book reviews. It's “Rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.” As far as people liking it, on it has a rating of 8.5 out of 10 according to more than a hundred thousand people, so I guess a lot of people liked it more than I did.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Response to “Marriage Isn't For You”

I'll freely admit, I've always been a hopeless romantic, just ask the girls I wrote poems and letters to oh so long ago. The first time I read the Marriage Isn't For You post, I read through it with a smile on my face, but then before I hit the “share” button, I thought about it some and read it again. After reading through it again something didn't sit just right with me, but I didn't realize what it was until I had read through a bunch of the comments (I don't recommend reading through the comments of anything that has gone viral, it can make you start questioning the sanity and decency of humanity).

All one comment said was, “Marriage is for God,” yeah, this is true, but without expounding, no one knows what the crap you're talking about. Another comment was fairly long but they wrapped it by saying, “God is happiest when we are happiest.” And that caused me to realize what didn't feel right about the post, my “hang-up” word was “happy.”

I went to the Bible to try and learn God's purpose for marriage and, if you simply read Paul's reasons, it's actually a little depressing for a hopeless romantic. Basically, Paul encourages people to stay single, but if they can't control their “passions,” they should marry as a way of having a righteous way of dealing with sexual urges. Well, that's not very romantic and if that's the only reason someone is marrying me, then I think I'll pass. So I went back further, to the verses where God talks about creating Eve. God said “it is not good that the man should be alone” so he paraded every creature in front of Adam that he might name them; even after that, God didn't think their was anything suitable to be a companion for man, to be his “helper” (which the word “helper” here is used elsewhere as a term referring to God as our helper, it is a term of honor). A cat or dog wouldn't do away with man's being alone; even though God walked in the garden with Adam, that didn't take care of Adam being “alone.” So God created Eve to be his companion and to chase away his loneliness.

I think God creates some people with a longing for companionship (an aspect of this being physical intimacy) which cannot be fully filled, while in this flesh, by God or anything else. Maybe it is a weakness, maybe it is better to stay single, if you can, so you can more fully devote yourself to God; but God has his writers again and again compare the relationship between Christ and those he has saved to the marriage relationship. In other words, God thinks marriage is something beautiful that can exemplify aspects of Christ's love as no other thing can.

Why did I get hung-up on the word “happy?” Because I don't think it dives deep enough. First I'll say, maybe the author of the post did intend a deeper meaning, but the commenter I spoke of did not. I'm not sure where and when this idea that what God wants most for us is for us to be happy slipped in, but it's wrong. Christ promised us peace and joy, but he also promised trials and persecutions to those that would follow him.

This next thought was influenced by C.S. Lewis and one of my Bible professors in college, but I think it is also implied in the Bible, “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete...” James 1:4. The idea is that this world is a schoolroom in which our souls are shaped into beings better suited to heaven, better suited to see God and praise him. C.S. Lewis and many others think suffering is one of God's greatest tools in this shaping (that's not to say he is always the cause of the suffering, only that he uses it).

In one of those poems I wrote when I was young, I spoke about wanting to shield the girl from all pain but of also wanting her to grow, so instead of promising to shield her (which is an impossible promise anyway), I promised to be with her through her pain, to walk beside her.

So why do I think we should marry? To fulfill a longing only another human can fill, and to fill that longing in them. To paint a picture to the world of what Christ's love for his church is. An addition to this painting can be made through having children and your love relationship with them, but if you can't/don't have kids, just focus on making your painting the most beautiful it can be.

Through all of our experiences I think we have the potential to learn aspects of God we could otherwise not learn, that we will one day share with one another once at our heavenly home. If you stay single and Christ is your sole lover, you will learn aspects a married person will not learn. If you marry, through that relationship, you will learn aspects of God's love you would learn no other way. Through having children, you would learn other things. And on and on, in all parts of our life.

So, I'm sorry, dear, wherever and whomever you are, but my primary goal is not to make you happy. A teacher once shared with me that when Paul said,”Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...” what he was saying is that I should live and love towards you in such a way that will make you whole and perfect, so that your soul is better suited to heaven, so that by the time I'm done loving you on this earth, you will be an even more beautiful bride for Christ. My primary goal is to walk beside you, whatever emotions you are feeling, no matter how dark the trial is. I cannot and will not shield you from all pain, but I will experience it with you, try to see the light in the darkness with you, even if it takes years and years and even if we still have to search for it in heaven. I hope we laugh a lot with each other, cause joy to spill from one another's hearts and faces. I will try to love you in such way that makes you more beautiful than you are, more ready for heaven. I hope you will do the same for me.

All that to say, marriage is a tiny bit for me, a little bit for being a light to the world, mostly for you, and all for God.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Worry for Our Country but Hope for the Church, Some Odd or Not so Odd Thoughts I’ve Had

I first wrote posted this (on another blog) on October 7th, 2008. I figured it applied as much or more to what some people are feeling these days, as it did to when I wrote it.

I have heard many Christians worry about our country and the path it seems to be going down, worry about the government and what it may do to religion (and Christianity in particular) in the future. First, I will say a simple, pat statement; do not worry about the Church too much, it is not ours, it is God’s and he will not let it fall. By saying that, I do not mean bad things will not happen and that we will not be persecuted but that, if the Church is what we think it is, it will continue no matter what man’s and satan’s evil plans may be. Think back to Gamaliel's words, “...for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” If this body, called the Church, is really from God, he will not allow it to fail.

Now for the hope. People speak of our government someday being against the Church as a horrid thing, and I used to think, when that day comes, I will simply run away to another place where I can live in peace. But after having thought about it some more, I have realized some things. The day we begin to be heavily persecuted in this place is going to be an exciting time, hmm, maybe that it not the right word, it is going to be an eventful time and growing time for the Church. For a while the Church may decrease and not grow in numbers but, at the same time, faith is going to be growing in those who are sincere. It will be a time of sorting, sorting out those who are willing to die for their faith, truly willing live in and for their faith, and those who no longer claim the name Christian. We will be able to taste our faith, to feel it, and see it, for it will truly be our strength and hope. God will be more our Father because it is He who we will have to run to for comfort and strength and peace. Heaven will be all the more closer, for it may reside just around the corner.

There have been times in the past when I have prayed, almost begged, for a physical evil to fight instead of the quiet whispers of evil which sneak around my head; I have been envious of Caspian and the dangers he faced, for he actually could face them, he could look them in the face and know what it is he is fighting. If things get bad it would not be as in those books, we would not take up the sword and face our enemies, but our physical and spiritual worlds would more closely collide and in so doing make our faith more tangible (I am sorry but sometimes my faith seems so distant).

I have a hard time thinking such a “horrid” future as horrid because, if we allow it, it could be a time of major unification in the Church. I think we would have a harder time judging a fellow Christian who may be a little different from us, when we look them in the eyes and see their willingness to die for their faith. In having a terrible common enemy against us, I think we would better remember who our brothers and sisters are. I am not saying there would no longer be differences, but that we would perhaps, hopefully, learn to more peacefully get along and love each other despite those differences.

I said the Church may decrease in numbers for awhile, because many or some may leave or forsake the Church, but, after a while, even while the persecution is still going on, it will grow. Look and remember how the Church grew in the New Testament while terrible things were going on, think of those places even today where the Church is growing despite persecution.

I spoke earlier of my maybe running as if it would be a bad thing, and it would be a bad thing if we all ran and forsook this country, but we can also look at it as spreading. Christians left certain places in the New Testament times to escape persecution, but they did not leave their Christianity behind, they took it with them and spread it to the whole world. One could think of it as a somewhat forced mass missionary movement.

I think I have shared enough of my crazy thoughts. I will just say, yes, it is sad our country may fall into disarray and evil but “the Son also rises” and will continue to rise until the end of time. With our help, God will take care of the Truth and His Message and no matter how opposed and oppressed it may be, the Church will go on and He will even cause it to be stronger because of it.

God be with us all, may he give us the faith and strength and courage to face tomorrow, whatever it may bring.