Thursday, October 20, 2016

Commonplace Book: Fall 2016

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.   -C.S. Lewis

"No Rayder, not having a friend doesn't mean you don't get hurt, it means you're so hurt all the time that you don't even know what it feels like to be whole." -Gwyn Roberts
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” — Mary Anne Radmacher

Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.” — Robert Spector (attributed)

There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life. That is the sort of bravery I must have now.                                –Veronica Roth

True love isn’t found, it’s built. -Anonymous

We are built for the valley, for the ordinary stuff we are in, and that is where we have to prove our mettle. –Oswald Chambers

God never gave us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.
                                                                                                -Oswald Chambers

Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.  -Oswald Chambers                                                                  

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.  –Aldous Huxley

When I say I love you more, I don’t mean I love you more than you love me. I mean I love you more than the bad days ahead of us. I love you more than any fight we’ll ever have. I love you more than the distance between us. I love you more than any obstacle that could try and come between us. I love you the most. -Anonymous

“Love is a block. If you put your head on it, you bear your neck to the axe.”  -Anonymous

"I was a candle again, flickering desperately against the wind. The illustration brought back the remembrance of Erich Remarque’s words from All Quiet on the Western Front: “We are little flames poorly sheltered by frail walls against the storm of dissolution and madness, in which we flicker and sometimes almost go out.”            
                         -Gwyn Roberts

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Captain's Log: Star Date 8.23.2016

It has been awhile since I last posted, (for which I apologize, especially to myself) but I am happy to be back with an update, however brief, on some of the things I have been doing in the meantime.

Since my last post, I have successfully finished my Emergency Medical Technician course. I took that online and on-site via a fire academy and passed my National Registry exam this month. With that accomplished, I applied to a volunteer fire department where I was accepted. I am excited and hopeful for where all of this training and knowledge will eventually lead me. It is odd to think that I took my E.M.T. course mainly on a whim, and now it is becoming such a central part of my time and education.
The biggest thing that has happened since my last post, however, is a move. Adjustments have been very difficult and I have not always been very optimistic, but I am confident that everything is in the Lord's hands and that nothing happens to which He has not given His consent, however confusing, impractical and unwanted it may seem to us.

Apart from all of my medical/fire training, I have kept myself busy with nearly 60 books, 33 of which I am happy to announce that I have finished. I hope to include short summaries, quotes and personal reflections from some of those books in a future post. In addition to those books, I am keeping myself busy with editing and finishing two books of my own creation. I hope to release the published version of at least one of those books by May, 2017.

Sorry I am unable to say more at the moment, but I hope to post more regularly now that we are somewhat settled into our new house. Until next time!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Reflections: March 3rd

       A.W. Tozer really is an incredible man, not afraid to shake up the Christian world with quotes like this: "A whole new generation of "Christians" has come up believing that it is possible to accept Christ without forsaking the world." (James 4:4 deals with that issue succinctly)
      And this: "Worship is no longer worship when it reflects the culture around us more than the Christ within us."

        "Lord what fools these mortals be!" quoth Puck. Indeed, what other creature spends one third of its life wishing to grow up and the last two thirds wishing it never had?

          That feeling you get when someone or something comes to your mind that leaves you absolutely incapable of focusing on anything that you're supposed to be doing. Some weird form of excitement captivating your entire thought processes.Had that happen to me a couple weeks ago. Who thought focusing on quadratic equations and the electron orbitals of twenty-five elements could be so hard? *sarcasm*

"At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him…Watch where God puts you in darkness, and when you are there keep your mouth shut. Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? Then remain quiet. If you open your mouth in the dark, you will talk in the wrong mood: darkness is the time to listen. Don’t talk to other people about it; don’t read books to find out the reason of the darkness, but listen and heed. If you talk to other people, you cannot hear what God is saying." –Oswald Chambers

Monday, February 22, 2016

An Essay on Man

Ahh reader, you have missed out on a classic piece of poetry and a stunning philosophical discourse if you have not read "An Essay on Man" by Alexander Pope. He who penned "Whatever is, is right", has met with criticism and praise from friend and foe alike. Voltaire praised the work as "sublime", and even helped in its circulation, but attacked the aforesaid statement posited by Pope because of the world of suffering he observed around him.
           If whatever is, is right, Voltaire reasoned, then God must allow evil to be victorious and grave sufferings to continue. Christians have also misinterpreted Pope's statement, but I think a fuller reading of the text would dispel much of the confusion and disagreement. The point Pope is trying to make, in his confused deistic sort of way, is that evil is allowed by God, but it is not caused by God and in the end, God is sovereign and good will ultimately triumph. I may not be exactly correct, but that is my interpretation at present. Pope's work definitely seems to echo Isaiah's words at times:

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9

While Pope came from the era of the "watchmaker God" philosophy, which held a strict view of God's relationship to man that left out the personal elements of the relationship, such as grace and divine love, I feel that his work holds good reminders for our present-day society, which seems to stray towards forgetting the infiniteness of God and our own finiteness. In a world where technology has made the supernatural seem obsolete and superstitious, the autonomy of man proposed by the world seeps into our own thinking at times. How easy it seems to be to restrict God to the confines of a little wooden matchbox, singing songs of His love while forgetting that He is a consuming fire; that He says that whoever would save his life must lose first lose it; that He has come to bring a sword. Alexander Pope brought God out of the box for me and reminded me of the healthy fear of the Lord that is essential in our lives. He reminded me that, as Gandalf says to Bilbo, "You are, after all, a very little fellow, in a wide world."
          In closing, I wanted to say I do not necessarily agree with everything Pope says, but I do agree with some things and I love his style. The selection I have included here is one that I memorized in 9th grade because I liked it so much. I'd be interested in your opinion about it! You can find the full text of the poem online.

Selections from "An Essay on Man"
by Alexander Pope (published in 1733)

       Go, wiser thou! and, in thy scale of sense
Weigh thy opinion against Providence;
Call imperfection what thou fanciest such,
Say, here he gives too little, there too much:
Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust,
Yet cry, if man's unhappy, God's unjust;
If man alone engross not Heav'n's high care,
Alone made perfect here, immortal there:
Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Rejudge his justice, be the God of God.
   In pride, in reas'ning pride, our error lies;
All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies.
Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes,
Men would be angels, angels would be gods.
Aspiring to be gods, if angels fell,
Aspiring to be angels, men rebel:
And who but wishes to invert the laws
Of order, sins against th' Eternal Cause.

Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutor'd mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind;
His soul, proud science never taught to stray
Far as the solar walk, or Milky Way;
Yet simple nature to his hope has giv'n,
Behind the cloud-topt hill, an humbler heav'n;
Some safer world in depth of woods embrac'd,
Some happier island in the wat'ry waste,
Where slaves once more their native land behold,
No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold.
To be, contents his natural desire,
He asks no angel's wing, no seraph's fire;
But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
His faithful dog shall bear him company.

   What would this man? Now upward will he soar,
And little less than angel, would be more;
Now looking downwards, just as griev'd appears
To want the strength of bulls, the fur of bears.
Made for his use all creatures if he call,
Say what their use, had he the pow'rs of all?
Nature to these, without profusion, kind,
The proper organs, proper pow'rs assign'd;
Each seeming want compensated of course,
Here with degrees of swiftness, there of force;
All in exact proportion to the state;
Nothing to add, and nothing to abate.
Each beast, each insect, happy in its own:
Is Heav'n unkind to man, and man alone?
Shall he alone, whom rational we call,
Be pleas'd with nothing, if not bless'd with all?

Presumptuous man! the reason wouldst thou find,
Why form'd so weak, so little, and so blind?
First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess,
Why form'd no weaker, blinder, and no less!
Ask of thy mother earth, why oaks are made
Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade?
Or ask of yonder argent fields above,
Why Jove's satellites are less than Jove?

In human works, though labour'd on with pain,
A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain;
In God's, one single can its end produce;
Yet serves to second too some other use.
So man, who here seems principal alone,
Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown,
Touches some wheel, or verges to some goal;
'Tis but a part we see, and not a whole.

Then say not man's imperfect, Heav'n in fault;
Say rather, man's as perfect as he ought:
His knowledge measur'd to his state and place,
His time a moment, and a point his space.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Reflections on A Severe Mercy

I have been reading a book by Sheldon Vanauken called A Severe Mercy, and as bad of a book reviewer as I am, I thought I'd say something about it here. Without giving too much away (because I hope that you will read it for yourself) I will say that the book is a true love story of a young couple. However, it is definitely not what you would think to yourself when you hear "love story". The first fifty pages or so are about the love story, but that gradually fades into the story of the couple's progression in Christianity, their experience at Oxford University and their return to the United States. Vanauken was a close friend of C.S. Lewis and the book includes some of their correspondence, which I found very interesting.
        The book discusses many issues, and the mid-section has some rather philosophical and theological bits, but it is definitely a good book. I find it interesting that before Sheldon and his wife became Christians, they had such a deep, lasting love for each other. One might dismiss this love as simple 'inloveness', but it was their commitment and selfless approach that made it last. They were dedicated to each other, to trust and to a rejection of materialism in their search for simplicity. They reached out for beauty and saw it in everything. Their conversion only cemented the beauty and perfection of their relationship. People might say it's rather fantastical, and that real life relationships aren't beds of thornless roses, but that hardly justifies the abandonment of the ideal.
         Now for a quote from the book and then a nice little rabbit trail.
          "The killer of love is creeping separateness...Taking love for granted, especially after marriage. Ceasing to do things together. Finding separate interests. We turning into "I". Self. Self-regard: what I want to do. Actual selfishness only a hop away. This was the way of creeping separateness....We saw self as the ultimate danger to love."  -Sheldon Vanauken

           This quote embodies their attitude and approach and clearly delineates selflessness as the fundamental prerequisite to any lasting relationship. In our present day culture, I feel that a selfish attitude has become even harder to evade when our minds are saturated with a worldly philosophy of autonomy. It is a sad indicator that pretty much every inspirational quote you find on the internet these days, and even some put out by Christian sources, pushes a philosophy of dream-chasing that essentially bulldozes anyone that might otherwise claim your compassion and sacrifice. As if there was ever an instance where it hurt when someone threw themselves with reckless abandon into the service of others. And there we find another misconception: that the service of other people is somehow the abandonment of personal joy and fulfillment. On the contrary, it is discovery of Christ-like joy and fulfillment in the pursuit of God's calling. Not everyone is called to be a missionary or drop everything in their life for full-time, professional ministry, (though even this is debatable) but everyone is called to witness to his neighbor, to be compassionate and selfless each day.
          And now, messieurs et mademoiselles, your pardon. The book is not really about the content of the previous paragraph, so don't get frightened off. These are merely the rambling thoughts of someone completely unqualified to write book reviews. Wherefore, my title is not A Book Review: A Severe Mercy, but rather, Reflections on A Severe Mercy. That instantly purges me of guilt. Au revoir!

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Sacrifice of Praise

I wanted to share with you all something that happened to me a few weeks ago, and I hope that it might encourage someone out there.

It was a Saturday afternoon and I had had a pretty terrible week. I was entirely drained and although I knew I was still able to praise God, it was the last thing I felt like doing. I looked around me and saw how totally exhausted I was and I asked myself, how can I go up there and genuinely present for the audience a picture of how worship should be, when deep in my heart I am so broken and tired of it all? When worship is the last thing that I feel capable of doing? I felt like it would be almost hypocritical to go up there and pretend, and indeed, it would have been, but that is not where my problem was.

My problem was that I didn't understand that praise and worship are not always the result of a heart overflowing with unspeakable joy and warm, bubbly feelings. Sometimes praise is a sacrifice. Sometimes it means crawling slowly up to the altar and placing yourself there even when every fleshly part of you recoils from the discomfort as it tries to recede into self-pity and depression. That is it really, for me. How odd that sometimes we would prefer to lie in sorrow and defeat than drag ourselves into the house of God. For in the end, we are the ones that benefit. By praising God, we take our minds off of our own struggles, and the more we praise Him, the more He shows us all the many times He has come to our rescue. In the end, every heartache and struggle is for our good and every time we pull ourselves together and praise God, it is not because He needs it, but because we need it.

And so next morning, I got up and I went to church and I praised the Lord because:

"The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble;  he knows those who take refuge in him."          (Nahum 1:7)

I'm sure I will feel the same way again before my time here on earth is finished, but when it comes around again, I will be ready, for:

"Though he slay me,  yet I will hope in him..."  (Job 13:15)

"For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:16)

"Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." (Hebrew 13:15)

So long for now....

(Credit: Firstly to God, who is always revealing Himself to me and proving Himself beyond doubt to be faithful; secondly to my mother, who listened to me when I came and told her what I was feeling and who showed me what a sacrifice of praise is. I thank God that she has always been there directing me even when I didn't/don't feel like listening. God knows where I would be without her....)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Winter Jam 2016

Well dear friends, whilst I was on vacation a week ago, I had the opportunity to go to Winter Jam in Jacksonville Florida. It. Was. Incredible. Winter Jam is a Christian tour that has been going on since 1995, I believe, and this year it hosted Tedashii, KB, Red, Matthew West, Sidewalk Prophets, David Crowder, For King and Country, Newsong and Lauren Daigle. Hands down, Crowder and For King and Country were the best. They were simply epic.."Run Wild", "Fix My Eyes," "Shoulders", "How He Loves", "I Am", "Comes As You Are"....It was fantastic. There is something thrilling about hearing ten thousand people singing How He Loves without having to have any musical accompaniment. I also enjoyed Matthew West's "Grace Wins" and "Do Something".
             I liked some of these so much actually, that I decided to post a few of them here.

For King and Country is definitely not your typical Christian band and I love their music. They have a unique setup and do not restrict themselves to the typical bass, electric and acoustic guitars. They used an accordion, cello, and a xylophone when I saw them, and also ran up and down stage with a set of huge hand-held cymbals, which was pretty neat. I've listened to their music for awhile and their songs have meant a lot to me.
           I couldn't decide which version to post here, but their official music video for "Shoulders" is also really good and I would encourage you to check it out. Also, YouTube has a lot of videos of their Winter Jam 2016 performances and those are really cool too if you'd like to kinda see what it was like to be there. If you do watch the videos, let me know which is your favorite and if one of those artists I mentioned above is your favorite, leave a comment!