Saturday, September 29, 2012

My road bike's new life

Can I buy an hour--or two?

This year's schedule really has me spinning in circles. Six classes, one day of child care, making fancy coffee drinks at the JFBC Cafe, training for a marathon, and trying to make some time for a Sabbath rest means my poor blog is neglected and I can't plan any farther ahead than about 24 hours! My Etsy store is empty and my photography business has dried up for lack of attention.

For all the insanity, however, I am learning a lot. The C.S. Lewis class is far and away the most challenging thing I've ever done, but I love every minute of it. It challenges me on every level: spiritually, artistically, and as an educator.

So far I think my best art piece related to the Lewis class has been my collage for The Problem of Pain. Lewis attempts to make sense of the pain and suffering in this world, and for the most part his logic is flawless. It is still so hard to see that a loving and merciful God allows such things to happen to the innocent, but without suffering, there can be no joy. If He didn't allow man to be cruel to his own, then Christ's work would be in vain.  Free will has consequences.

We're moving on to The Screwtape Letters. The reading is less heavy, but no less powerful. Every chapter has some element that strikes me to the core and challenges who I think I am and who I really am. Ouch. It makes me grateful every time I think about it that I know whom I have believed and He is able!!

So much to little time on earth. Grateful for an eternity to really understand it all.

Monday, September 17, 2012

This is Love

"This is love: not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin." (1 John 4:10)

This verse is committed to my head and heart in a song I learned years ago (GT and the Halo Express--not only for the kids). I've studied it, I've though about it, I've meditated on it. But I never considered it in terms of a Divine humility and the need for me to destroy my illusion of self-sufficiency.

In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis develops the concept that God allows pain in human life for a number of reasons, primarily, however, to remind humans of our limitations in front of the Almighty Creator of all things. Today's Western culture has become so secularized that God is forgotten, ignored, or even intentionally cast aside. We usurped the role of the Creator, putting our own hearts and minds at the center of conscious thought, and making ourselves a form of a god. Human nature always puts itself first until that self is surrendered in willful obedience to the One who made it in His image. This is an act of the intellect, emotion, and volition, which makes it utterly impossible to accomplish without supernatural aid.

Lewis's view is that we will not even attempt that self-surrender without pain or suffering as a motivator.  He says, "Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as He leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call 'our own life' remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him" (Lewis, The Problem of Pain chapter 6).  Why should we? If our own hearts and minds are contentedly at the center, why change it? "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" says the old adage. So, knowing the inclination of humanity, God allows circumstances to "break" us in order that we might take our eyes off our own self-centeredness and correctly re-focus on our true purpose in this life: to live in fellowship with the Creator.

Lewis calls this a "Divine humility" because it demonstrates God's willingness to accept us when what we have to offer him is worthless. If we come to God at our best and happiest, our offerings are only slightly sweeter than when we come to him utterly spent and empty-handed. Lewis says, "He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is 'nothing better' now to be had." (Lewis, Pain, ch 6) Ouch.

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

Certainly we know at an intellectual level that no human on earth has the capacity to be perfectly good, and yet that is what God requires of us. He cannot look on anything less. In our own scheme of things, it would be easier to throw away the imperfect project and start over. But God is so much greater than we can even imagine. He gave us free will in order that we might choose Him, knowing full well that we would not. Then He provided a way for us to reconnect with Him, knowing that a great many of us would thumb our noses at Christ and still put our own selves at the center. He pursues us with a passion of Love that is beyond the scope of human understanding, until finally, we determine to surrender our wills for His, and we come to understand that His Love is far greater than anything we could ever ask or imagine.

This is Love.

Teaching the Hard Things

C.S. Lewis=Mind Blown. This is not news to most people; it's not even news to me. Quite possibly the greatest apologist of the 20th century, and certainly one of the greatest minds, Lewis writes about the hard things of life unapologetically and with insight so deep that I fear I may drown in it. It is important to think on these things, particularly in our current highly secularized culture. It is critical to know what one believes and, more importantly, why. So, I will continue to challenge myself with the hard things--and to hold myself accountable to perseverance, I will commit to teaching the ideas to high school students.

When I suggested the class, I knew it would challenge my ability to think, understand, and teach, but I knew that God could (and would) use it somehow. Even if the only person who learns something is me, the time and mental energy spent is well worth the effort. However, even after just a few weeks, I see that students are taking it in and struggling through the material, not because they must, but because they WANT to learn it. I love that. And that motivates me to push myself that much harder.

Monday, September 03, 2012

On Fitting In

I've never been one of those lucky ones who had a small group of close friends who could read each other's minds. I was usually pretty low on the invitation list for birthday parties and spontaneous shopping trips. I knew people in every clique in high school, and even in college, but wasn't really a member of any of them. I've always been everyone and nowhere at the same time. I've always been able to bounce from one group to another without really missing a beat as long as I had some space in between to myself. Growing up that usually meant I had lots of acquaintances and friendly relationships, but not that soul-friendship I would read about in my ever-present books.

At the time I thought perhaps there was something about me that kept me from really fitting in anywhere. Why didn't God make me able to feel part of a group? I was certainly independent enough to rehearse with the drill team, have lunch in the drama group, talk intelligently with the honor society types, and end the day working with adults on a musical performance. But I still felt like I was missing out on the concept of a core group. Not having sisters, I envied those who did. I filled my days with activities I enjoyed, and I developed a wide variety of interests.

Thirty years later (how can that be?) I am reaping the benefit of "not fitting in." As a teacher, my experiences in so many different things allows me to connect with students better than if I had been relegated to one particular group of people. I can talk science fiction (Dr. Who, anyone?), NASCAR, football, music, theater, literature, religion and theology, philosophy, art, photography, running, and countless other topics with students because I enjoy them all. I like learning from my students whether their interests are astronomy or ballet. Being versatile means I can adapt lessons to individuals and classes and use their interests to make classic literature come to life.

Had I limited myself to one group or another, I doubt I would have the breadth of interests that I do. My greater challenge now is balancing my time between all the things I enjoy while continuing to learn and grow and connect. I like having people in my world with whom I can discuss literature and others with whom I can compare notes on sports. Instead of being everywhere and nowhere, I am just anywhere I choose to be at any given time. And I am grateful that God wired me differently, just as I am.