Saturday, April 29, 2006

Television: A Quote to Ponder

From All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes, by Kenneth Myers, Chapter Ten:

Television is thus not simply the dominant medium of popular culture, it is the single most significant shared reality in our entire society. Christendom was defined as a region dominated by Christianity. Not all citizens of Christendom were Christians, but all understood it, all were influenced by its teaching, all institutions had to contend with it. Christianity was the one great assumption of Christendom. I can think of no entity today capable of such a culturally unifying role except television. In television, we live and move and have our being.

What do you think?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Spam and Square One TV

Though I graduated from UGA almost a year ago, my UGA e-mail acount is still active through the end of May or so. It's a good thing, because Ebay sent an important message to that account a few days ago, and I'm glad I received it!

Date: Mon 24 Apr 03:20:15 EDT 2006
From: eBay Add To Address Book This is Spam
Subject: Please Review The Following Message!

Dear Member,
There is an important message regarding your account waiting for you, please read it an follow the instructions there, you can get started
by clicking here. If you have any questions, please visit the Contact Us page and we will respond to your request. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.



Learn more about selling with confidence.

If this email is inappropriate or in any way violates eBay policy, please help protect other eBay community members by reporting it to us immediately.

I nearly panicked and flew over to my Ebay account to read my important message that was waiting, except that I don't have an Ebay account. I use Father Dear's Ebay account, and his Ebay messages go to a Juno e-mail account, not my UGA mail account. You'd think they could at least spell all of their words correctly if they're going to try to scam people. Make it look official, people!

My UGA account sort of serves as a junk mail account right now, as evidenced by the enormous volume of crud that fills that inbox everytime I check it - mainly ads for unmentionable products. In addition to "Ebay" e-mails, in times past I've also received e-mails about my (nonexistant) Paypal account, various bank accounts from banks unafilliated with me, and at least one that claimed to be from my bank. Oh, and many e-mails from people in Africa requesting my help in securing an inheritance. All they ask for is my bank account number to deposit the money, then we can go halvsies on the spoils. What a deal! (I might add here a disclaimer admitting that there was a time when I was a bit less cynical with regards to such e-mails, and even held out hopes of making a profit from Microsoft's new e-mail tracking software :). I've wised up a bit since then, though, thanks to Brother Dear.)

Really, don't people have better things to do than make up bogus e-mails in the hopes of scamming people out of money? Get a real job! My name is Bob, and I'm a professional spammer. That'll impress the ladies. Really, have some self-respect.

I may chuckle when I get an Ebay notice, since I don't have an Ebay account, but many other people who received that same e-mail do have an Ebay account, so they may believe it. If you get an e-mail from a site you are signed up with, you may think that of course it's from them, after all you do have an account with them. They may even call you by the correct username. This means absolutely nothing, though. The genius behind spam is that statistically, it will always apply to someone. I am reminded of an episode from the greatest educational show ever produced: Square One TV. The show was on - you guessed it - math!

One portion of the show was called Mathnet (get the pun?). Mathnet was a detective series that detailed the antics of George Frankly and Kate Monday (later replaced by Pat Tuesday) as they solved day-to-day detective cases with the help of mathematics. At the beginning of each episode they would whip their calculators out of their arm holsters, punch buttons to "prime them" (?), and then they were ready to wield their deadly math knowledge in their fight against crime. It was great.

Mathnet. The story you are about to see is a fib, but it's short. The names are made up, but the problems are real.

Then comes the opening music. Dum, dum-dum-dum. Dum, dum-dum-dum. Dum, dum-dum-dum. Dum!

In one of the cases they solved, a woman claimed to be able to make predictions. She gained popularity and trust from people by relying on statistics. By predicting something that would apply to a portion of people, she would gain trust from those to whom it applied. She narrowed down her target group gradually, knowing that some of her followers would fall away with each prediction (since each prediction would not apply to everyone), but also knowing that her predictions would continue to ring true for a portion of the people she targeted. In the end she had a small group of people that believed her every word because she had predicted things about them (by statistics, not by foreknowledge). If Square One TV had been filmed in the days of computers, no doubt the woman would have gained followers by e-mail forwards.

Square One TV ran on PBS during my elementary school years, and I was a regular viewer. I even "starred" in many reenactments of the show :-D. I've known my Dear Friend Ashley for a long time; we first met at church when I was in first grade and she and Brother Dear were in second grade. I admire the fact that she has an appreciation for the finer things in life ;), including Square One TV. Many years ago, she participated in the solving of many exciting Mathnet cases with Brother Dear and me. Boy played George Frankly, and Ashley and I took turns playing Kate Monday (Did we also play Pat, Ashley, or did she come on the show after you moved?) and Jessie, the secretary. Good times :-D.

Each episode of Square One TV was a collection of short skits about various math concepts - always ending the show with an episode of Mathnet. Forever embedded in my brain will be a vision of the surgeons at General Mathpital operating on that giant "L", the Fat Boys singing "One Billion" (one thousand times one million, that's one billion. . . ), the Adding Family attempting to mentally add the numbers 1 to 100 in less than 3 minutes, and of course the Mathnetters discovering the Fibonacci sequence on the side of a brick mansion.

My favorite Square One TV song of all time is "The Mathematics of Love." It's kind of hard to forget the image of that guy in a toga singing, "I night, the starts were shining, II hearts, were intertwining. . . " It was great, and the background singers swinging to-and-fro with shiny togas and gold leaves in their hair just make the skit. For that great clip and more, check out this site that hosts some old Square One clips. Unfortunately no significant attempt has yet been made to release the old episodes to DVD :( , so loyal fans have attempted to preserve the memory of Square One via online clips.

*sigh* They just don't make great TV shows like they used to.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Signs That Summer is Coming

I really don't like summer in Georgia. *sigh* I'm not particularly fond of winter either, but that's beside the point. I absolutely love spring and especially fall :), but I have never liked the weather that accompanies that season between the Summer Soltice and the Autumnal Equinox. Actually, unfortunately the "summer-like weather" in Georgia is not confined between the above recognized distinctions of the solar year.

Actually, I have a very love-hate relationship with summer. The association is not all bad. I passed one quarter of my youth during that season. Summer has always been the season I most look forward to in the sense of extra freedom from school responsibilities (as a student, teacher, or tutor). I like Father Dear being home more (though he does usually teach something during the summer), and I love visiting friends and relatives. I like wearing lightweight cotton dresses, and I love going barefoot or with sandals and not having to worry about covering my feet from the cold. I love waking up early for a walk and not bundling up despite the early hour.

The rest of my associations with summer are mostly bad. I really don't like summer weather, at least the weather that accompanies the summer here in the South. The last few weeks I've been aware of a few of the signs that summer is indeed soon to come upon us.

(1) The Humidity

The humidity is back. If you don't understand what I mean by that, I envy you. Georgia feels like a swamp during the summer - a very hot one. I don't mind dry heat, but I don't tolerate heat + humidity well at all. Think of a spa. All day long. Or a sauna. Ick.

It is not a pleasant experience to air dry 40 inches of hair when the atmosphere is already bursting with moisture; it's sort of like walking around in a cloud for an entire day.

(2) The Mosquitoes

I discovered my first bug bites of the year this morning: two on my left foot, and one on my left ankle. I must have acquired them during my lengthy visit to the local park on Sunday. Georgia is practically a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and I try not to find myself outdoors in the evenings without ample coverage or strong bug spray. Unfortunately mosquitos really like me, while many bug sprays don't get along well with my skin.

My record for bugbites was just over 240 in 4 hours, one hot and muggy summer evening with some Dear Friends (the Trues and Freemans) in a backyard with ample foliage - read "mosquito breeding ground". Yes, for those of you with a mathematical bent, that was a rate of just over one bite/minute. I also discovered through that experience that Caladryl should not be applied constantly and, in fact, over-application of Caladryl can irritate one's legs more so even than a surplus of 100 bites/leg.

(3) The Sun

This Sunday I got my first real taste of sun-dodging for the year. We had a picnic after church at a local park, and the sun was out and beating down on us, so I donned an ankle-length skirt, a light-weight long sleeved blouse, and a wide-brimmed hat. I then quickly headed for the shade of a large tree, where our party was picnicking :).

Those who know me well know that I work very hard every summer to keep up my ghostly-pale complexion :-D. The last time I went to the beach was 2 summers ago with my Dear Friend Emily and her Dear Family. We were there for 4 days and I used an entire family-sized bottle of sunscreen by myself. But I didn't get sunburned! In fact I returned from Florida just as pale as when I went - mission accomplished!

Some of you may laugh at my antics to avoid the sun, but then you probably don't have the same level of melanin in your skin that I have in mine - practically zilch. I don't tan, as I try to explain to people; I just burn. I can get pink from the sun after 15 minutes under partial clouds. By the way, did you know that on a typically-cloudy day, 80% of the sun's rays still get through??? People laugh when I say this until they see my pink-tinged skin after I've spent an afternoon in cloudy weather with one or two sunscreen applications. *sigh*

For those of you gasping that I had the audacity to just color part of my text in red given, (a) my pinkish-purplish blog color scheme, and (b) the purplish text immediately preceding it, it's okay, calm down. I was merely trying to associate colors with each of the three signs I listed, and unfortunately red was the best choice for the part on sunburns. I recognize that there are times to couple colors that are otherwise to be kept apart. Even I sometimes wear red and pink together on Valentine's Day. . .

So yes, summer is coming, as evidenced by various signs I have been dreading. But then, as Mother Dear just pointed out to me amidst my typing, if we didn't have summer, we couldn't appreciate the other seasons as much :). And I am looking forward to a long break from teaching and tutoring. . .

What signs of summer have you witnessed recently?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Some Pictures from Our Fun Weekend :)

Our friends from TN came down for a one-night visit yesterday, and we had plenty of fun between dress-up, a photo shoot, a tea party, SET, chess, Narnia, experiments with hairstyles, baking and cooking, etc., etc. (On the subject of chess, I've decided my new strategy for chess is stalemate :-D. While I rarely am able to win at chess, it seems easier to get the opponent to put me in stalemate. . . *sigh* Maybe some day I'll be able to have a loftier strategy.)

It was Hannah's brilliant idea to have a photo shoot in the back yard, and she got some really good shots :). I'm rather inept with a digital camera, but my siblings (especially Boy) have some real skill. Here are a few of our favorite pictures that were taken:

An India-costume-turned-tea-dress. Delightful, no?

A Southern Belle

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Having a bit too much fun :). . .

Our azaleas are in bloom :)

A Precious Moments Doll?

Or a Fairy?

Mutual Adoration

A Narnian Dryad

Ring Around the Rosy. . .

Friday, April 21, 2006

Reflections on Sanctification

American Christianity tends to focus on only one aspect of God's salvation of His people, when in fact salvation is a three-fold process. Down South when someone becomes a Christian, people say he "got saved," as if it is a single event in the past. What's done is done. Through the ages (consider the reformers, for example), the term "saved" has been used in a much broader sense, in accordance with scripture. Salvation is not a one-time thing because salvation is not an event but a journey. I was saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.

When Christ drew me to himself by faith, I was justified as my sins were forgiven and I was declared righteous before God - justification is salvation from the penalty of sin. I am now being sanctified, as the Holy Spirit works in me to slowly conform me closer and closer to Christ's image - sanctification is salvation from the power of sin. Someday, when I am loosed from this imperfect, earthly body, I will be glorified, at last without even the temptation of sin - glorification is salvation from the presence of sin.

Being a child who was catechized, I've known for a long time the terms and respective definitions of the three aspects of salvation, but it has been only recently that I've really begun to understood sanctification. It is so easy to see sanctification as our pleasing God by cleaning up our lives by ourselves, rather than the Holy Spirit working through us to conform us to Christ's image. Truly everything good in me is of God, not myself, and sanctification too is only through God's grace and His enabling.

My intent is not to paint a fatalistic view of sanctification in which God robotically manipulates His people. Sanctification is by the Holy Spirit's working and His enabling, but man is still active! I am not at all an advocate of hyper-Calvinism or the
Let Go, and Let God theology! Given my past struggles with understanding sanctification, this post is intended to focus more on God's role, but it is not intended as a complete discourse on the subject.

It amazes me how God takes filthy people like myself, who have profaned His name and worshipped idols - either literal or figurative - and transforms them by His power and for His glory. Just study a few of our Biblical heroes to see the great work of grace that God does in the lives of fallen sinners. Adam's sin cursed all of mankind, yet God granted him a righteous seed and ultimately The Righteous Seed. David was a murderer and adulterer, yet he was beloved of God - a man after God's own heart. Peter was The Rock on which Christ built His church, yet he personally denied Christ three times! Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament, yet he assisted in the murder of Stephen and scores of other early Christians. If any Biblical character understood the grace of God, it was Paul:

I Timothy, Chapter 1:

15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

I used to not be able to understand this passage. How could Paul call himself the worst of sinners? Notice he calls himself that in the present tense, not the past tense. When he wrote I Timothy he was an apostle, a leader in the early church, divinely inspired by God to write the bulk of the New Testament. If anyone had it "together," he sure did! Okay, so he was still a sinner and his past was awful, but he was very Christ-like at the time of writing, and even with his past, there were zillions of people that had been far worse than him, right?

I understand what Paul meant now, though. Paul truly understood the gospel of grace. He saw his sin in all its shame - and he saw his sin more than he saw the sins of others - and he also saw Christ's blood covering over his sin. As Paul grew in his faith, his awareness of his sins, past and present, grew larger, and he continually became more and more aware of how filthy he was. The good news, though, is that his awareness of the cross also grew, covering over his sins! That is the message of the gospel, in a nutshell. God first shows us how very filthy we are, and then He picks up out of the mud and mire and personally cleanses us for His glory. He doesn't leave us to sanctify ourselves, but enables us and works through us.

Paul was once a Pharisee - likely a member of the very Sanhedrin that condemned Jesus to death. He aided in the stoning of Stephen and the persecution and deaths of scores of God's people. He did it under the guise of service to God, and he believed he was obeying God with his actions. He was very wrong, as the Lord abruptly revealed to him on the road to Damascus. God picked up this filthy Jew who was His enemy; He picked up the proud Pharisee who was breathing out murderous threats against His people. God jolted him out of darkness, showed him his sin, and proceeded to wipe away his guilt and his wicked ways.

God took a man who thought he had everything right before His Maker, showed him he did not, and then set about sanctifying him with His Spirit. If there was anyone aware of his own unworth of the mercies of Christ, it was Paul. He saw what he once was and saw what Christ was transforming him to be. He knew that this transformation was not by his merits, but by the merits of Christ. The old Paul was dead; Christ was alive in his place. Paul recognized that everything good in him was Christ, not his old self. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

I used to really not understand Paul's statement here in I Timothy, and it wasn't until God taught me about grace in my own life that I finally understood how Paul could make such a statement without false humility. Some of you may remember my musings on grace back in January and February (see pertinent posts here, here, and here to refresh your memory). I understood Paul's statement in I Timothy when I at last saw my utmost filth and Pharaseeism before God, when I finally understood that my sanctification (not just my justification and glorification) is also by God's power. Am I a passive bystander? Absolutely not! But neither is sanctifiation a matter of me pulling myself up by my own bootstraps. The strength and ability needed for sanctification is given me by God, as the Holy Spirit works in me.

Did you catch the last part of verse 16? Paul was shown mercy that Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Paul was saved not by his merits or for his own exaltation, but that Christ might display unlimited patience, that Christ (not Paul) might be an example to those who believe. One of my favorite old testament passages about salvation is Ezekiel, Chapter 36 (emphases mine):

22 "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.

24 " 'For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. 32 I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign LORD. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, O house of Israel!

Look at the glorious promises in this passage! We will be given a new heart and a new spirit; we will be cleansed from our impurities. We will be moved to follow God's laws - note the action is catalysted by God! Note also that this is not for our sake, but for the sake of His holy name. Our salvation is that His name may be famous, that His glory be displayed through the earth. The message of the gospel is that we are filthy and God is holy, but that God in His purpose and mercy has saved a people for Himself. We are to be ashamed and disgraced for our conduct, but then rest in the assurance that God is merciful even as He is holy. Salvation is not about man being good enough to please God or good enough to impress others; Salvation is about God's mercy and love to fallen sinners and about His name being made famous as He refines a people for Him.

Ultimately everything in all time has worked towards His overarching purpose of glorifying Himself. That is why He created the world, why He sustains it, why He saves His chosen people, and why He sanctifies His children. He saved us out of love, but not in order to exalt us in this life. That sounds very un-American, does it not? You mean it's not about me? That's right. It's all about God. Any good I have in me is solely from Christ, not myself. I was once dead to sin, not maimed by sin. Even my faith is a gift of God.

Anything good in my life or in the lives of other Christians is not of ourselves. It is by God and for God. That is why when we look at our brothers or sisters who may not seem as "sanctified" in a certain area as us, we should humbly think, There, but for the grace of God, go I. We are all in a violent, lifelong process of sanctification, to quote my pastor. When we, out of duty, confront fellow Christians regarding sin in their lives, it should be with an attitude of humility, realizing our own unworth of God's grace in our lives.

As we continue in our sanctification, our prayer should be that the good people see in us will be Christ, not us. May they see God's infinite patience as He transforms our twisted, sinful selves into His image, and may they murmur, Look what God hath wrought. May the focus be on Christ, not us! It's awfully hard to take such a humble view of things, is it not? I am the first to admit pride is a major struggle in my own life. But then, I am given a perfect example of humility - Christ Himself. Though equal with God, He humbled himself for the exaltation of the Father and His purposes:

Phillipians, Chapter 2

5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Christ became fully human so that He could not only suffer and die as our substitute, but so that he could also empathize with our situations. Christ was tempted in every way, yet was without sin. He lived a perfect life of humility and servanthood to the Father. Yet now He has been exalted! Humility, servanthood, suffering, death, and rejection had to come first, but He was promised exaltation when His task was done. Someday we also will be exalted and granted eternal bliss in the presence of God. Someday we will taste eternal pleasures at Christ's right hand.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Am I Obsessed?

Driving home from Bible study this morning, I was following Mother Dear, who had taken a separate car since she had to come a bit late. The numbers on her license plate are 0193, which I realized are all powers of three: 3^-infinity, 3^0, 3^2, and 3^1. I felt rather ashamed for having never noticed this before :(. I had previously noticed that the four numbers on my license plate (0244) are all powers of two: 2^-infinity, 2^1, and 2^2. Unfortunately our other two cars don't have similar "power" patterns, though one of them does have all perfect squares :). Am I psycho for noticing these things? I also automatically test numbers for divisibility by 3, 6, 9, and 18 when driving by road signs. . . then I add up all the digits and do the same thing.

Today I am dressed in a black skirt, black sandals, gray and black shirt, and silver necklace. Am I weird because I felt uncoordinated when I put on a blue-patterned apron for doing the dishes? I don't mind dressing using multiple hues, but if I already have a color theme, it kind of bothers me to break it. I arrange my M&M's by colors of the rainbow before eating them. My blouses are hung by hue and shade. My fabric is also folded and stored by color. And I've been known to twitch if Sister Dear wears a pink hair binder with an outfit that includes red - and she's been known to do that very thing just to irritate me. . . *smiles sweetly at her*

My obsession with number patterns has a long and glorious history, and I blame that completely on Parents Dear :). My obsession with colors is a little bit less explainable. I'm not sure where I got that. It also has a long and glorious history, though. By the time I was 18 months old, though I still called my mom "daddy", I could identify 10 colors. And I've been categorizing colors ever since.

That's navy blue, not midnight blue!

And yes, there is a difference.

A big one.

So, am I obsessed?

Monday, April 17, 2006


You look absolutely lovely today!

Oh wait, this post is about complementarianism, not complimentarianism ;).

Over the past several days I've mentally been drafting a post on complementarianism, but then I found that Lanier saved me the trouble with her thoughtful post on the YLCF blog. Last week the YLCF bloggers wrote a number of articles on masculinity and femininity, and I think Lanier's especially is very well done. She addresses the topic at hand quite well with far fewer words than I would ;). Here is a tidbit:

These days the striking and beautiful differences between male and female are treated as abnormalities; disfigurements on the face of an otherwise completely neutral and genderless society. Enemies of God’s design have worked tirelessly to shame these distinctions into obscurity, to the point that many growing up now have no reason to suspect that the differences have ever existed at all. It’s no wonder that the woman roused to her innate calling to be a woman is confronted with a confusing mess of conflicting messages. It grieves me to no end to consider all of the girls and young ladies out there who have been immobilized in their awakening quest towards true womanhood by the pervasive and pernicious idea that there is no such thing.

I encourage you to read her post in its entirety.

*Footnote: In a comment to her post, Lanier clarifies one of her comments - His design is a culture of men and women secure in their distinctions and incomplete without each other. Fulfilled and yet unfulfilled. She explains that she was speaking of the human race as a whole, not meaning that unmarried individuals are unfulfilled. . .

Sunday, April 16, 2006

In Christ Alone

When it comes to Christian music, I am drawn to the sacred and ancient melodies and words of our faith. Our forefathers do not have a monopoly on setting spiritual truths to music in a deep and musically rich way, however. Every once in a while a contemporary will pen something that just leaves me in awe because of its spiritual depth and truth.

Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend's In Christ Alone is one of those masterpieces. The words are firmly grounded in scripture - no fluff here - and they are combined with a rich melody. I can think of few hymns I would rather sing on the day that we celebrate Christ's resurrection, so I was excited to see it in the worship schedule for today :). I feel like I've been copying, pasting, and posting my favorite lyrics a lot over the past few days, but sometimes it is best to let others, who are more skilled and schooled in God's truths, say what is hard to put into words.

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt of life, no fear of death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

- Keith Getty, Stuart Townsend

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Reflections on Good Friday

Last night my family attended our church's Good Friday service. In past years our church has not had a Good Friday service, so I've only been to one twice before, at other churches. It was a very quiet, reflective service, more so than the other two I have attended. It almost seemed like a vigil, with the lights dimmed and the candles lit at the front of the sanctuary. The music was quieter than usual, and almost all the words spoken were scripture readings or corporate prayers. As a congregation we read through old testament and new testament passages of the crucifixion, ordered by the seven words of Christ upon the cross. After each, we prayed together and then sang a hymn. It was a time for humility and reflection. Easter in all its celebration will come soon, but Good Friday is a time to focus on the sufferings of the Christ, before we focus on His subsequent glories. Suffering is necessary before glory.

In America, Easter has become largely the Easter Bunny's holiday, but even amongst conservative Christians who do not "celebrate the Easter Bunny", the events of Holy Week are glossed over in the celebration of Easter. Good Friday is often a blip on the timechart of our salvation. We invite friends or neighbors to the Easter services, when we are all happy and joyful (rightly so) as we celebrate the defeat of death, but a close look at the suffering of our Lord is more uncomfortable for us, so most churches either don't have Good Friday services or they are sparsely attended. We are comfortable with the resurrection, but the crucifixion makes us squeamish. We can talk about Jesus dying for us, but then we want to quickly move on to the joy of the resurrection.

A few weeks ago my pastor preached on Christianity Without the Cross, taken from Mark 8:31-33. Next to the sermons he preached on the Pharisees (see posts here and here), this was possibly my favorite sermon he has preached since he was installed a few months ago, though I unfortunately won't have time to recount much of it here.

The passage for the sermon tells of Peter's own distaste for talk of the sufferings of Christ. As evident throughout the gospel of Mark, Peter would much rather speak of Christ's subsequent glories than his sufferings. Mark, Chapter 8 (ESV):

31And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."

Peter's problem is my problem as well. I admit that meditating on the events of Good Friday is not my favorite task. How can we fully appreciate His grace to us, though, unless we first understand, even to a small degree, the pain that my Savior had to endure for my sins and the sins of all who would believe? Like Peter, I would rather focus on the exaltation of Christ and His love and goodness. I'd rather not have to believe that my Messiah has to die for me, after all I don't really need that much help, do I? I'd rather Him remain the glorious King and the Good Shepherd.

Christ loves us and came to help us become better people. He will never let anything bad come our way. If we follow Him our lives will be rosy. God is a God of love and kindness. Jesus came to die for everyone because He doesn't want anyone to go to hell. God loves you just the way you are, so trust in Him.

Even those of us who don't hold to the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity gospel are like Macbeth in Shakespeare's play. We want to hold on to half-truths like the ones above because they give us hope by our definition and they make us feel good. We are assurred that we will triumph, but we triumph our way as we help God clean ourselves up. I'd be more comfortable with the gospel if Jesus came to help me become more like Him, but Christianity isn't about Jesus coming to help us become better people. Admitting that I need a Messiah so much that He had to come and die for me without my help is hard. When Christ died for me I was his enemy. I would never have chosen God if He had not chosen me. I was spiritually dead without Him; I wasn't drowning, I was dead!

I am never so aware of the penalty of my sin than when I meditate on the cross. I don't mean the cross in the flippant sense we often speak of it, wear it, or sing about it; I mean the cross and the torture that Jesus endured with love and compassion - the gritty details. For an unpretty look at the details of a crucifixion, I suggest reading this post on Mrs. B's blog. It's not nice, but it's part of the story of what Jesus did for His children.

It is easy to accept the love of Christ, but harder to accept the wrath of God, though both are an integral part of God's perfect nature. In the cross we see the wrath of God poured out on Christ, as He stands in our place. We see God's perfect Son speak with forgiveness, compassion, and love as He is in utter agony. It is hard to accept that it was necessary because of my sins - Do I really need a Savior that bad? Yes, I do.

In my eyes, the most difficult and poignant part of the crucifixion story is not the moment Christ's hands are pierced, or when He breathes His last, or even when He shows forgiveness to His persecutors. It is the moment when God the Father turns His back on His beloved Son, when Jesus utters, My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? I cannot even begin to understand the rejection that Jesus felt at that moment, when He, who was the perfect Son of God, was abandoned by His Father. I am the one who should have been abandoned, I am the one who should be rejected by God.

I'm forgiven because you were forsaken.
I'm accepted, you were condemned.

Hell is horrible not because of the torture, flames, thirst, beatings, or any other truths or speculations regarding that place of endless torment; Hell will be horrible because God will not be there. Hell is a state of permanent abandonment by God. To atone for our sins, Christ had to be abandoned by the Father. Suffering was not enough, dying was not enough, rising from the dead was not enough. The Father had to pour out His full wrath on this Spotless Lamb, and He had to turn His back on His Beloved Son.

That realization is to me more horrible, more discomforting, more sobering than all the other details of the crucifixion. In the Father's abandonment of His Son we see the full justice and wrath of God, and the weight and consequence of our sin. It's not a pretty picture, but it's part of the glorious story of God's love and provision for us. It's part of the story of His salvation of His people.

The good news is that the crucifixion and the Father's abandonment of the Son is not the end. After enduring death and rejection, Christ defeated death when He rose again on Easter! Together, the crucifixion and resurrection are the Good News. Separate, they paint an incomplete picture; Good Friday and Easter are the story of God's redemption of His people. Easter without Good Friday is meaningless.

Long ago He blessed the earth
Born older than the years
And in the stall a cross He saw
Through the first of many tears

A life of homeless wandering
Cast out in sorrow's way
The Shepherd seeking for the lost
His life, the price He paid

Love crucified, arose
The Risen One in splendor
Jehovah soul Defender
Has won the victory

Love crucified, arose
And the grave became a place of hope
For the heart that sin and sorrow broke
Is beating once again

Throughout Your life
You felt the weight
Of what You'd come to give
To drink for us that crimson cup
So we might really live

At last the time to love and die
The dark appointed day
That one forsaken moment
When Your Father turned His face away

Love crucified, arose
The One who lived the died for me
Was Satan's nail-pierced casualty
Now He's breathing once again

Love crucified, arose
And the grave became a place of hope
For the heart that sin and sorrow broke
Is beating once again

Love crucified, arose
The Risen One in splendor
Jehovah soul defender
Has won the victory

Love crucified, arose
And the grave became a place of hope
For the heart that sin and sorrow broke
Is beating once again

Love crucified, arose
The One who lived and died for me
Was Satan's nail-pierced casualty
Now He's breathing once again

- Michael Card

Friday, April 14, 2006

There is a Fountain

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

- William Cowper, 1772

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Yay! We get to go to a conference!

(read title in happy, sing-songy voice for proper effect)

I really like conferences because they are a great way to get a whole lot of information packed into a certain amount of time in a (hopefully) organized way.

Last July I really, really, really wanted to go to Answers in Genesis's weeklong Creation Mega-Conference up in Lynchburg, Virginia, but it didn't work out because of our summer schedule :(. I was really sad, because Creation Science is one of my (many) interests, thanks to Father Dear :-D.

This July I wanted to attend Vision Forum Ministries' History of the World Mega-Conference up in Hampton, Virginia, but funds and distance will prevent it. Lodging was going to be expensive, and the conference isn't held on a college campus, so there are no dorm facilities are available :(. I was sad because history fascinates me and I thought a quick panoramic look at world history would be very beneficial.

The main problem with both of these options was distance and lodging. Parents Dear suggested waiting until there was a conference closer to here (imagine that. . . ), since we do live in a populated area and eventually such a conference would likely be held somewhere in Metro Atlanta. So I waited.

Then I found out about American Vision's Worldview Super Conference that is to be held in Toccoa Falls, GA, which is only 1 1/2 hours from us :-D. I don't know a whole lot about American Vision, though I've heard good things about it. Is anyone else better acquainted with American Vision? The theme of the conference is Creation to Revelation. . . Connecting the Dots. There are a lot of well-known speakers who will be there, including Carl Wieland (scientist associated with Answers in Genesis), Doug Phillips (founder of Vision Forum and speaker for Institute for Creation Research), Gary DeMar (president of American Vision), etc. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the conference is the three evening debates they are hosting on Separation of Church and State, Creation and Evolution, and The Great Tribulation: Postponed or Fulfilled. I like debates :-D.

It looks to be an interesting conference and since it's so close, we get to go (Lord willing)! We don't even have to get lodging, since 1 1/2 hours is quite drivable for a few days - I commuted to UGA one hour from home 4-5 days a week for 2 years, so this doesn't phase me. Anyway, I'm excited because we just registered for the conference :). The conference is May 24-27, which unhappily prevents Father Dear from attending (excepting possibly the 27th), since he has finals and post-planning on that Wednesday - Saturday :(, but Mother Dear, Sister Dear, and I can still attend, Lord willing.

Okay, okay, so I get thrills out of odd things. Just humor me and smile :). Is anyone else going to the conference, by any chance?

Bill Amend would be so proud. . .

. . . to know that at least two people actually cared enough to complete his mathematical color-by-number comic on Sunday :). I of course did not take part, because that would have been so geeky. *rolls eyes*

The orginal comic.

And Hannah claims to have escaped the math geekish tendencies that run rampant in our family. *knowing chuckle*

Mother Dear is, of course, right in the thick of it all - and using a calculator! *hides face in shame* I suggested attempting to find or derive a divisibility test for 13, 17, and 19 - rather than relying on a calculator or using long division - but they would have none of it. If you're going to be geeky, I say do it properly!

The finished product, very nicely done :).

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A misplaced "good"?

'Tis Interesting how often I can read something and not notice little details, omissions, patterns, or breaks in patterns. I was reading Genesis 1 today for the umpteenth time in my life, and for the first time I noticed that God never pronounces the events of day two as good. In addition God pronounces "good" twice in day three and twice in day six. I had previously noticed the details of day six, but not day two and three.

Day 1:
And God saw that the light was good.

Day 2:

Day 3:
And God saw that it was good.
(after the waters are gather and dry ground appears)
And God saw that it was good.
(after the earth produced vegetation)

Day 4:
And God saw that it was good.

Day 5:
And God saw that it was good.

Day 6:
And God saw that it was good
(after the land animals were created). . .
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good
(after mankind was created)

Has anyone else noticed these breaks in the pattern (particularly the omission in day two)?

I think the additional "good" in day six is to emphasize that the creation was very good after mankind was created. Before it was good; after man it was very good. Notice also that in Chapter 2, when the creation of man is expanded, God said that it is not good for man to be alone, another break in pattern. Only after Adam's helpmeet was made was the creation complete and very good.

The omission of "good" in day two is a little more perplexing to me, as is the addition of another "good" in day three. Having no revelations myself, I turned to an authority on the subject :).

John Calvin's explanation:

Moses has not affixed to the work of this day the note that "God saw that it
was good:" perhaps because there was no advantage from it till the terrestrial
waters were gathered into their proper place, which was done on the next day,
and therefore it is there twice repeated.

So the expanse was meaningless or incomplete until the waters under it were gathered to make dry ground appear? His commentary helps a bit, but it is still a bit foggy to me. It almost seems like day two should have ended after verse ten instead of after verse eight. I wonder why God split the days as He did.

Any comments, speculations, suggestions as to why there is this break in pattern?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Is Finding a Husband a Game?

While we're on the subject of male-female relationships, be sure to check out Lydia's recent post on courtship. She did an excellent, well-balanced job with the subject!

Now continuing from my last post on The Rules. . .

As I stated in my previous post, The Rules hinge on the notion of turning a cold-shoulder to men whom you admire, remaining elusive and mysterious towards them. We women evidently can't be friends to men: we must be elusive butterflies, creatures unlike any other. I have some definite problems with this mentality. My dislike of this school of thought is founded on a number of reasons, most notably the following two: I don't like to communicate false feelings to people, and I like to be nice and friendly to people.

I don't like this notion of the cold-shoulder because it communicates false feelings. I really like him, so I'm going to act like I don't. That sounds dangerous, not to mention deceptive. Granted, there is a world of difference between the feelings one has and the feelings one relates, but concealing one's feelings is a whole different issue from relating other, untrue feelings. That's called lying. The Rules encourage women to hide their true nature, presenting a masked woman to men:

On a job interview, you don't act "like yourself." You don't eat cake if you're serious about losing weight. Similarly, it is not wise to let it all hang out and break The Rules as soon as you begin dating a man.

You may feel that you won't be able to be yourself, but men will love it!

Being a creature unlike any other is really an attitude, a sense of confidence. . . You're not desperate or anxious. . . You trust in the abundance and goodness of the universe. . . You're not cynical. . . You're an optimist. . . Of course, that is not how you really feel. That is how you pretend you feel until it feels real.

It sounds like the authors are explaining to women how to play a game, an intricate dance of flirtation, fantasy, and deception. If that is how to be a creature like any other, I don't think I'll join. It sounds to me like the authors like to play with fire.

I would think men would like to feel confident that they really know the woman with whom they are "falling in love." Men don't like to have the burden of discovering all of women's emotions! Remember Melanie? In the words of the authors of The Rules book, Melanie's boyfriend eventually proposed to the one girl he thought he would never get - her! I feel sorry for that poor guy, trying to decide if the girl he loved would ever have him. We women have more complex emotions, and we would do well to help men figure us out a bit.

Marrying someone because she is intriguing, for the purpose of spending your life figuring her out, is dangerous! Look at Marguerite in The Scarlet Pimpernel. She learned the hard way the danger of marrying someone because he was intriguing. Of course, it worked out in the end, but she could have been stuck with an idiotic fop the rest of her life, just because she was attracted to Percy since he was mysterious and elusive.

Certainly there is danger in exposing or concealing too many of one's feelings! In Sense and Sensibility Marianne and Elinor discover the pitfalls of either extreme: the former suffers from concealing nothing while the latter suffers from communicating nothing. Undoubtedly there is error on either side. My point is that we should not purposely communicate false emotions, something key to The Rules. Which true emotions we should conceal or communicate is another matter entirely.

I feel that this cold-shoulder notion also goes against common civility. I was raised to be nice to people, simply put. (Odd concept, I know.) If I give someone the cold shoulder it's usually because I'm uncomfortable around him, either because of his behavior/conversation or because of signals I have received that he may be interested in me (if I am not interested in him). Or perhaps we have nothing in common so we just don't talk much. Even then I'm still cordial! By default, I'm friendly. It seems the kind, polite thing to do, no? This refers back to my mention about following the Golden Rule rather than The Rules.

As a note of caution, there is a vast difference between being friendly to a man and throwing yourself at his feet. Miss Bingley would be a bad example of a woman who was overly-friendly (possessive, manipulative, jealous, slanderous to others, . . . ) with regards to Mr. Darcy, for the sole purpose of attracting his attention. Miss Bingley is a not a good example of a woman who did not give the cold shoulder to her chosen man. I'm not endorsing her type of behavior! I fully realize that care is needed when relating to members of the opposite sex. I do not relate to my male friends as I do to my female friends, even those that I know so well as to view as "brothers." There is an unspoken barrier in our relationship, not because we don't care about one another but because we do care about one another - and we care about our future spouses.

I am not giving license for wild-man-chasing behavior! Cold-shoulder = bad, but wild behavior = bad. We women should certainly not throw ourselves at a man or flirt with every man that comes our way. We are to keep our hearts and bodies guarded, careful in the way we relate to men. We should act as Ambassadors of the King, not as hussies desperately grabbing for a guy. I would like to someday pledge my whole heart to a man, as far as I am able, not the pieces that are left over from one broken relationship after another. As Gretchen Glaser recently said, "Forsaking all others" sometimes starts before you even know who you're forsaking them for.

One of my friends attended Taylor University in Indiana (yay!). There were two all-girl dorms on Taylor's campus: Olson Hall and English Hall. Olson Hall was known for the "wilder" types of girls who ran after the guys, and English Hall was known for the "Suzy-homemaker" types. A saying on Taylor's campus runs: Boys date the girls from Olson and marry the girls from English.

Isn't that the truth? Popularity and attraction are all well and good, but most men realize in the long run that the quintessential sorority girl (or the small college equivalent. . . ) doesn't make a good life partner. (The song Barlow Girls comes to mind here as well.) I think The Rules are, in a way, reacting to this wild man-chasing behavior, rightly realizing that in the long run, men do not go for "that kind of girl." Amen! - but let's make sure we're not reacting with an equally horrid suggestion.

I really don't like this notion that men and women can't be friends, because frankly, I don't just "feel the need" to be polite to people (including men), I also like people (including men). I like to study people. I like to learn about them and find out what makes them tick. Complex people, especially, fascinate me. I enjoy deep conversations, and many of those deep conversations are with men. My hope and prayer is that men realize that I regard them as friends and, if fellow Christians, as my brothers in Christ. They are not prizes to be won, but people with whom to converse and from whom to learn. Maybe someday I'll glance over at one of my brothers in Christ and realize that our friendship is turning into something more. As is often the case, L.M. Montgomery communicates this eloquently:

Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart it's pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps... perhaps... love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.

This idea of mutual companionship growing from friendship to love seems to be missing from The Rules. We catch a guy and then become friends; sounds backwards to me. The authors tell women how to act in the presence of a man they like: Be quiet and mysterious. . . Don't talk much. They should have added smile vacantly to keep with the theme. I think men want a life-long conversational companion, not a girl who is a big question mark or an elusive butterfly that flits about the room playing games.

Being a creature unlike any other is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on how you define the term. We certainly should strive to be different than the shallow types who throw themselves heart, body, and soul at a man. Christian women should be different because we are members of a royal priesthood, a chosen generation, and our difference should shine in every part of our lives! Men should notice that we are different, not because we wear lipstick when we run or because we ignore them or because we are mysterious, but because we conduct ourselves with dignity!

In Anne of Avonlea, Anne desparingly asks Marilla why Gilbert loves her. In reply Marilla says to Anne, "Because you made Josie Pye and Ruby Gillis and all of those wishy-washy young ladies who waltzed by him look like spineless nothings." Gilbert recognized something special in Anne, and it wasn't her recent facial or her elusive behavior - it was her substance!

Consider also the example of Ned Jones in Berkeley Square. Ned had spent his whole youth chasing women and treating them like disposable lovers. While hiding from the police for fraudulent charges, he finds himself working in the same household as Maddie, a girl of character and morals. She is so different from the saloon girl types he is used to, and he finds himself falling in love with her. Later in the story, in a moment of despair, he slips back into his old ways and finds temporary comfort with another woman. When Maddie finds out about it and confronts him, Ned's reply shows the awakening that his heart has had:

All right, I took another woman out like I've done since I was 15. You don't talk; not proper talkin'. You've a drink, a laugh. Easy. But suddenly everything you've always had ain't good enough. 'Cuz you seen somethin' else. And nothin' can ever be the same again.

Ned, once content with the shallow and temporal, was awakened when he finally met someone who was different - a creature unlike any other. Yes, Maddie was a creature unlike any other, but not the same creature as Melanie. Maddie and Melanie - two creatures unlike any other. I think we all know which creature we should strive to be!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Rules

I'm back with more gems from Sister Dear's Interpersonal Communications class! I'm finding some of the reading material to be both fascinating and amusing :). Earlier this week I posted on one method of finding a guy ;) and then a post on anxiety which I thought was timely given the topic of relationships, contentedness, etc. I'm still looking at articles on male-female relationships. Hannah also gave me an interesting piece on family relationships that I hope to scan in the near future, though right now I've barely skimmed it. I am enjoying more free time this week since the public schools are on Spring Break :). No tutoring!!!

The most interesting piece I've looked at so far is The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right. It's actually an entire book, but Hannah's professor just xeroxed off a few chapters for the class. If I ever find it at a thrift store or garage sale, I think I may have to get it, just out of curiosity. It's very interesting in a sad, twisted sort of way. It's essentially a manual for playing the old-fashioned game of "hard-to-get". There's about an ounce of truth to the concepts presented, and several hundred pounds of hogwash.

I have to applaud the authors, Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, for starting off on the right foot. They make no bones about the fact that women follow The Rules to find a lasting romance and a life-long marriage, of which most women dream, even if they hesitate to admit it (emphasis mine):

Modern women aren't to talk loudly about wanting to get married. We had grown up dreaming about being the president of the company, not the wife of the president. So, we quietly passed The Rules on from friend to friend, somewhat embarassed because they seemed so, well, '50s. Still, we had to face it: as much as we loved being powerful in business, for most of us, that just wasn't enough. Like our mothers and grandmothers before us, we also wanted husbands who would be our best friends. Deep inside, if the truth be told, we really wanted to get married - the romance, the gown, the flowers, the presents, the honeymoon - the whole package.

Perhaps I should begin by summarizing The Rules. The basic idea behind the book is that men like a challenge and will only appreciate something for which they have to work hard. We single women should be the elusive, lofty desirables who make men want to come after us. In the words of the authors (emphasis mine):

They [The Rules] are a simple way of acting around men that can help any woman win the heart of the man of her dreams. . . The purpose of the rules is to make Mr. Right obsessed with having you as his by making yourself seem unattainable.

My problem is the mentality that is behind The Rules. The authors seem to ignore the fact that the end does not justify the mean, nor does good ambition always result in success in the long-run. I think The Rules, at least the little I am acquainted with them, seem based on manipulation and snobbery almost - an attempt at superficiality that is a dangerous way to enter any relationship. Follow Rules X, Y, and Z to snag Mr. Right and live happily ever after!!??

The portions of the book that I read are riddled with anecdotal evidence. So-and-so didn't follow The Rules and ended up with Bozo; so-and-so did follow the rules and is married to Mr. Perfect who adores her. Wow, those few examples really convince me. I love all sweeping generalizations. *rolls eyes* The authors make some wonderful promises to those who commit to follow The Rules. Just a sampling:

If you follow The Rules, you can rest assured that your husband will treat you like a queen - even when he's angry with you. Why? Because he spent so much time trying to get you. You have become so precious to him that he doesn't take you for granted.

and. . .

When you do The Rules, you don't have to worry about being abandoned, neglected, or ignored!

and. . .

Read The Rules. Follow them completely (not a la carte) and you will be happy you did. How many of us know women who never quite trust their husbands and always feel slightly insecure? They may even see therapists to talk about why their husbands don't pay attention to them. The Rules will save you about $125 an hour in therapy bills.

Ironic that the authors offer $200 e-mail consultations or 1-hour phone consultations for $250 - and I'm not making this up!

The authors admit that playing hard-to-get isn't easy work, and they consistently acknowledge that:

It's easy to do The Rules with men you're not that interested in. Naturally, you don't call them, instantly return their calls, or send them love letters. Sometimes your indifference makes them so crazy about you that you end up marrying one of them. That's because you did The Rules (without even thinking about it) and he proposed! But settling for less is not what this book is about. The idea is to do The Rules with the man you're really crazy about. This will require effort, patience, and self-restraint. . . Keep thinking, "How would I behave if I weren't that interested in him?" And then behave that way. Would you offer endless encouragement to someone you didn't really like? Would you stay on the phone with him for hours? Of course not!

So, we women are therefore instructed to turn a cold-shoulder to the men we like, because that will drive them crazy and make them love us even more. Isn't that nice?

The authors first discovered The Rules from their friend Melanie, a girl who seemed to just attract men like bees to honey. Finally the authors asked Melanie what her secret was, and she told them:

One day, after years of watching girls like Melanie snag the men of our dreams, we asked Melanie how she got such a great catch. She took pity on us and told us about The Rules. She said that we were nice but we talked too much and were overly eager, and that we mistakenly tried to be "friends" with men rather than elusive butterflies, or, as she put it, "creatures unlike any other." Needless to say, we were offended by what seemed to us to be downright trickery and manipulation.

Hmm, I'm rather offended as well. Creatures unlike any other could be good (depending), but elusive butterflies? It's interesting to note that Melanie's grandmother (who passed The Rules down to her) was considered a romantic success because of all the proposals she received in her youth. Granted, I'm not trying to blame every refused proposal on the young lady in question, who may well be innocent in the matter (hehe, thinking of a certain scene with Lizzy and Mr. Collins. . . ), but a general pattern of frequent proposals and subsequent refusals does give one reason to question the motives and behaviors of the said young lady. . .

We're not allowed to be friendly to men, says Melanie? That rubs me the wrong way. . . I really don't like this notion of turning a cold-shoulder to men in whom you are interested, coupled with the picture of an "elusive butterfly." My dislike is founded on a number of reasons, most notably the following two: I like to be nice to people, and I don't like to communicate false feelings to people. This post is already rather long, so I'll expand my thoughts on that in my next post, to be completed very shortly, Lord willing.

It is interesting to note that The Rules hinge on the "believing in yourself" mentality that just makes me nauseated. Anything with that sort of mindset is not for me. I gag over commercials that urge people to buy something because "you're worth it." *shudder* Definitely not my cup of tea. Evidently it is the cup of tea from which a bonafide Rules Girl is supposed to drink: You tell yourself, "Any man would be lucky to have me," until it sinks in and you start to believe it.

There also seems to be an over-obsession with outward appearance. I will give the authors this: they recognize the value of neatness and orderliness and encourage good eating and exercise to keep your body health. They also encourage feminine dress, which I fully support! Of course their idea of feminine clothes is a little different from mine. . . but I'll spare you the details. After the positives I mentioned, though, their attention to outward appearance seems to go downhill:

Don't leave the house without wearing makeup. Put lipstick on even when you go jogging! Do everything you possibly can to put your best face forward. If you have a bad nose, get a nose job; color gray hair; grow your hair long. . . Manicures, pedicures, periodic facials, and massages should become part of your routine. And don't forget to spray on an intoxicating perfume when you go out.

I'm not claiming that any of the above is wrong nor that I don't do some of the above myself (see recent post on long hair. . . ), but it is more the way the authors insist that all these things are needed to attract men. Lipstick while jogging? Give me a break!

A final point of irritation is the absolute trust the authors have in their method. The reader is entreated, trust this process. It seems The Rules are viewed as a magical formula to find a perfect guy, and neither the formula nor the perfect guy exists on this earth! Call me strange, but I think that God is the author of romance. If I thought it was a matter of chance and game, I'd have reason to fret and worry with discontent at my current single status. As it is, though, I am commanded to rest in God's sovereignty, trusting in His perfect plan. Paints a different picture, does it not?

So, all in all I don't think I'll become a Rules Girl. I think I'll just be a girl of the Golden Rule, which certainly doesn't command me to lead men in an intricate game of guessing and flirtation. More importantly, I'm striving to be a Praying Girl, realizing that ultimately my romantic future is in the hands of He who created the love between man and woman. My method may not sell zillions of copies or be translated into 27 languages. It also won't garner me oodles of proposals like Melody or her grandmother, but then, as Amy from Little Women would say, "You only need one, if he's the right one."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It's someone's birthday....

Yippee!!! I (Hannah) am hijacking Susan's blog to bring you a post wishing my Sister Dear a very happy birthday! Yep, today, is her birthday. She is 22 years old. Wow. In honor of her birthday, I believe I shall write her a poem or two. Among my many other talents, I am quite poetic.

Susan is 22 years old.
As yet she bears no mold.
Her sister is great.
Her family likes cake.
She doesn't really like the cold.

If you aren't already tearing up, I'm sure you will as you read this....

Susan, fair maiden of the fields
Delighter in all things that are beautiful and sacred
May it be that hearts always float on the wind before you
That feet never stop walking, arms never stop moving
For you, fair maiden, for you
As you eat by day and sleep by night
Always, always thinking, breathing
May you find rest, food, and delight for you soul
In your home
Oh, happy home!
That which is so easily lost
And regained
When the cows return
For their sweet grass

Now let us move on.... The question must be answered, that which I'm sure all of you have been wondering! What is mathematically significant about the number 22? If you think of anything that I do not share below, please do share this delightful bit of knowledge!

There are 22 books in the Bible that have 22 or more chapters! Here are a few samples of chapter 22, verse 22 from some books...

Exodus 22: 22 Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan.
2 Samuel 22:22 For I have kept the ways of the LORD; I have not done evil by turning from my God.
Proverbs 22:22 Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court
Matthew 22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

If you add up the letters in Susan's name (Susan Elizabeth Garrison) you get 22 letters!

22 is a Schröder Number.
22 is a
Centered Heptagonal Number.
22 is a
Hexagonal Pyramidal Number.
22 is a
Pentagonal Number.

Twenty-two is the number of writable regular polygons in an Euclidiean circle: 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 24, 30, 36, 40, 45 , 60, 72, 90, 120 , 180, 360. These are twenty-two of the twenty-four dividers of 360 , the two first, 1 and 2, not defining polygons.

The Chemical Element Titanium has an atomic number of 22.

The Human head is constituted of 22 bones: 8 for the cranium and 14 for the face.

The twenty-two channels linking the ten "Sephiroth" between them in the "sephirotic Tree" of the Kabbalah. (I know you've always wondered whether it was 22 or 23 channels. Now you know!)

Several old alphabets had twenty-two letters: Chaldean, Sabean, Roman, Copt and Hebraic. The letters of the Hebraic alphabet are divided into three mother letters (Aleph, Mem, Shin), seven double letters (Beth, Guimel, Daleth, Kaph, Phe, Resh, Tau) twelve simple letters (He, Waw, Zain, Heth, Teth, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Tzade, Qoph).

And this is perhaps my personal favorite:

In the year 22 AD the Red Eyebrows defeated the main Chinese imperial army at Liang.
Go, Red Eyebrows!!!!!!!

(I got a lot of this lovely, fascinating information on the number 22 from

And last, but not least.... check out this really, really cool bit about today's date! Yes, today certainly is special!
Is that not so cool?!

Thank you for tuning into explorations into the number twenty-two. For now, I'm Hannah Garrison. Good-bye and good day!

Happy Birthday, Sister Dear! :-)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Few Thoughts on Anxiety

To go along with my posts on "finding a guy" - one already posted, the other forthcoming - I thought a few thoughts on anxiety (and contentment) would be appropriate.

I was reading recently in I Peter 5:6-7 (ESV):

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Now, perhaps this is not the case in all versions, but in the ESV, verses 6 and 7 form one sentence, rather than two, indicating some link between the humility of verse 6 and the anxiety of verse 7. I'm in a women's Bible study at my church, and we're going through I and II Peter using Carol Ruvolo's book Grace to Stand Firm, Grace to Grow as a guide. Before reading the lesson each week, I outline the passage and write down my thoughts and reflections on it. Then I take a look at a commentary (or two) to get another perspective. Then, finally, I look at the lesson book. That way I get to look at the passage with fresh eyes before gleaning wisdom from a few different angles.

I had been outlining the passage for the week, jotting down my own thoughts, and I stopped when I came to the two verses above. Why were they one sentence? I love finding similarities and parallels in verses in the Bible, so I am always looking for connections.

I kept pondering the connection over and over, praying for clarity. There had to be a reason they were connected, but I was not seeing the link between anxiety and pride! It didn't seem to fit to me. Normally anxious people are the meek, quiet types, not the really proud, pompous types. I could tell that I was missing something important, so I moved on, coming back to it a bit later.

I realized, after further meditation, that anxiety springs from a belief that God really doesn't know what he is doing; it comes from a mistrust in His sovereign plan. Anxiety is saying to God, "I think I can do better than you." Ah, some light was shed! Placing one's self above God in wisdom and ability - that would definitely qualify as pride! My revelation was further confirmed when reading the accompanying lesson in our Bible study book (emphasis mine):

Humbling ourselves under God's mighty hand fills us with bold confidence as it dissolves fear and worry. When we marinate our minds in his wisdom, accept our circumstances as ordained by His providence, and see ourselves as His perfectly loved children, we will, quite naturally, cast all our anxiety upon Him.

All our anxiety is rooted in pride. If that's a new thought for you, think with me for a while. Anxiety screams that we've taken over the reins of our lives and stopped trusting God. It shouts that our circumstances have bolted out of control and God hasn't curbed them to our satisfaction. And it orders Him to shove over and give us a shot at it. Anxiety puts us in the spotlight and blinds us to the fact of God's sovereign care.

So, like every other sin in my life, it seems, even my anxiety goes back to pride. I keep wanting my way, not God's way. Original sin, no?

Such a reminder about anxiety is always good during spring, when a young person's thoughts turn to love. It's also a good reminder with the upcoming wedding season. . . It also would have been a good reminder two months ago for Valentine's Day. . . Or over Christmas, during "engagement ring season". . . Come to think of it, a reminder about anxiety is good any time of year :).

Actually, it's really strange. I spent my time in college anxious that I would never find a husband and die an old maid - well, close anyway ;). Now that I've been out of college, though, I really haven't struggled much with anxiety regarding my single status. One of my best friends got married last month, and I honestly never had strong feelings of envy regarding her courtship or marriage. Not really at all, in fact. I can attest that this is totally a work of God in my heart, because I never could have predicted that it would have been such a joyous and peaceful time for me. I just couldn't help but be happy for her, and I realized that this was her time for marriage, not mine.

I've been learning more and more that God has placed me exactly where He wants me, and He will leave me there for exactly how long He wants me there. Does that mean I never wistfully think of finding the man of my dreams and beginning a home together? Of course not. I'm human, and I do think that God gave me those desires for a husband and children, however He may use those desires in my life. But I am learning more and more to trust God in His timing, even if His calendar is different from mine. He's God and I'm not, and that is comfort enough for me.

I'm not anywhere near desperate enough to tie a red ribbon on my cart to try to snag a guy (see previous post), nor am I likely to follow The Rules to catch a man either (post on The Rules to follow soon). Instead I'll just let my Heavenly Matchmaker do the work, in His way and His time. I trust Him way more than I trust myself, my family, my friends, Wal-Mart, or Yenta ;).

Lord, you created me and saved me, and you sustain and sanctify me. I am utterly and completely dependent on your sovereign care. Lord, how can I do anything but trust you? You are my God! I lay my hopes, dreams, desires at your feet, Lord. Take my prideful anxiety, and replace it with a humble trust in your plan.

It's April 4th!!!

Yeehaw! *does handsprings* No laughing at the image of Susan (a) doing handsprings, (b) in a skirt, (c) without breaking a bone.

Guess what's special about today :-D.

Monday, April 03, 2006

I'm not NEARLY that desperate for a guy. . .

Shopping List

- Eggs
- Milk
- Bread
- Mr. Right
- his phone number

- dinner for 2?

My Sister Dear is in an Interpersonal Communications class at UGA, and she's brought home some very interesting articles given out by her professor. Currently they are studying male and female relationships. Need I say more?

Here are excerpts from an amusing article written by Katherine Heine of the Waco Tribune-Herald (article title unknown):

"Nice melons."

"Thanks. I couldn't pass up cantaloupe for 68 cents a pound."

The grocery store pickup. Many don't attempt such a risky endeavor for fear of coming across as a desperate creep, as well as the threat of subsequent rejection under fluorescent lights amid crowds of often nosy shoppers.

I don't know, sounds like a good idea to me. . .

You observe an attractive brunette reaching for a box of Honey Nut Chex, your favorite cereal, and suddenly envision the exchange of sweet nothings between each sugary bite. Or you spy a handsome devil eyeing banana peppers and get lost in conversation about their ability to flavor most any dish. And the next thing you know, you are serving a roast encrusted with the moderately spicy vegetable at your wedding reception.

*sigh* I knew it was my prince as soon as he reached for that perfectly-ripe pepper. . .

Wal-Mart is hoping to capitalize on the potential of the underutilized store dating scene in the United States.

What aren't they hoping to capitalize on? *smirk*

The retail giant established "Singles Shopping" at 91 stores in Germany to test the popularity of the stores role as matchmaker. Each Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., singles tie red ribbons to their shopping carts to indicate to other shoppers that they are in the market for love.

Wow. If only I had thought to use the ribbon technique years ago. . .

Stores set up "flirting points" stacked with romatic merchandise, such as candles, chocolates and wine, to set the mood. Wal-Mart boasts that more than 400 people take part in the weekly rendezvous for some mindless flirting or the possibility of lasting romance.

Only 400 people? It must not have caught on yet. . .

This next paragraph is the best:

First of all, for every attractive being who ventures through the aisles of Wal-Mart, there are about 20 over-weight guys named Bubba dressed in overalls picking up dog chow for their pit bulls and Kix for their 12 kids from three previous marriages. I am all for one-stop shopping, but picking up bread, lunchmeat and a man in one trip seems more than a bit desperate and awfully callous.

Hehe. I can't read that without being tickled. That is great. And true. Especially down here in the South, y'all!

Well, my abdominal muscles have been well-exercised now. That was funny. I am excessively diverted :).

Disclaimer: I am not knocking those who have happened to meet their future spouse in a grocery store or other similar places. I merely find it amusing when people target those sorts of places as pick-up spots. I guess it could be worse. Here in the South people use family reunions. . . ;)

Stay tuned for more from Hannah's Interpersonal Communications file. . .