Sunday, December 31, 2006

All That Glitters is Not Gold

I've been informed by reliable sources that my blog is lonely. I've decided to come cheer it up ;-). So. . . I'm back from Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee, where I had a marvelous time with family and friends. Maybe I'll write a bit more on that later. I have a few pictures to post. Any wishful thoughts about writing some interesting Christmas posts seemed to vanish much like the last few weeks vanished in the blink of an eye. Ah well.

For now, though, I thought I'd muse on a few interesting things I pulled from my recent reading of Ben-Hur. I have about three different Ben-Hur-related posts swirling in my head. It's a good book, by the way. Read it!!! I've already waxed eloquent(?) on the Grove of Daphne, and some interesting observations I pulled from that chapter. I wasn't done with my musings on the Grove of Daphne, though. There was one other interesting scene in the Grove that caught my particular interest.

As Judah continues walking through the Grove, awestruck by the beauty around him, he succumbs to the lure of the Grove and begins to be drawn in by its power. He wonders how anything so beautiful could be wrong, and he understands how the Grove lures thousands into her service every year. It's mesmerizing and peaceful, and it must be. . . good? As he is walking tranfixed and caught under Daphne's power, he comes upon a statue of Daphne within the Grove:

He . . . came next to a grove luxuriant, in the heart of the vale at the point where it would be most attractive to the observing eye. As it came close to the path he was travelling, there was a seduction in its shade, and through the foliage he caught the shining of what appeared a pretentious statue; so he turned aside, and entered the cool retreat.

The grass was fresh and clean. The trees did not crowd each other; and they were of every kind native to the East, blended well with strangers adopted from far quarters; here grouped in exclusive companionship palm-trees plumed like queens; there sycamores, overtopping laurels of darker foliage; and evergreen oaks rising verdantly, with cedars vast enough to be kings of Lebanon; and mulberries; and terebinths so beautiful it is not hyperbole to speak of them as blown from the orchards of Paradise.

The statue proved to be a Daphne of wondrous beauty. Hardly, however, had he time to more than glance at her face: at the base of the pedestal a girl and a youth were lying upon a tiger's skin asleep in each other's arms; close by them the implements of their service - his axe and sickle, her basket - flung carelessly upon a heap of fading roses.

The exposure startled him. Back in the hush of the perfumed thicket he discovered, as he thought, that the charm of the great Grove was peace without fear, and almost yielded to it; now, in this sleep in the day's broad glare - this sleep at the feet of Daphne - he read a further chapter to which only the vaguest allusion is sufferable. The law of the place was Love, but Love without Law.

And this was the sweet peace of Daphne!


Perhaps I get strange thrills while reading that most other people do not experience, but this scene actually sent chills down my spine! It is most effective if read in full context, as Judah first walks through the Grove, becomes dazily drawn into its lure, and then suddenly comes upon such a startling scene and reflection. It is masterfully written, to say the least. Lew Wallace has a skilled way of weaving strong themes throughout the text of the book, in fact.

And it really communicates an important idea much better than a theological treatise possibly could. We learn through the eyes of Ben-Hur, just what a Love without Law looks like. We wonder, with Ben-Hur, how anything so beautiful as the Grove could be wrong, and then we are startled when we come upon an unexpected mole on the perceived perfection of the Grove.

Beauty (at least perceived beauty) does not mean purity, and calm is often not true peace. And this picture in the Grove communicates this beautifully! If only we as Christians could remember this, and truly internalize this! Man (myself included) is so prone to look on the outside to judge something, or to assess something based on circumstances. Something is "beautiful," so it must be good. Right?

But yet, we must remember that Satan often appears as an angel of light, and wolves love to appear in sheep's clothing. Satan's schemes are subtle, and he rarely labels impurities with a blinking neon sign that says "SIN." He's much more clever than that! Think of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. He coaxed Eve, he sweet-talked her, he lured her. And she took the bait!

Now, I hope it is obvious that I'm not saying beauty is therefore to be mistrusted. A cursory glance at my previous post on the Grove should banish any such inklings! My point is only this: all that glitters is not gold. Outward "beauty" does not mean inner, true beauty. So how do we discover what is true gold? Through the usual means of grace: prayer, reading and hearing the Word, the sacraments, and Christian fellowship.

Philippians, chapter 4, certainly gives a good set of guidelines for discerning gold from pyrite:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Wow

I always wanted to be Time's Person of the Year. Who would have thought that would ever happen? Is anyone jealous?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

On Tinted Spectacles

These musings are brought to you by a "random" reference to rose-colored spectacles that I heard on the radio while driving earlier today :).

Perhaps you have, like me, heard the old addage about people hopelessly in love seeing things through "rose-colored glasses," or something along those lines. I've heard this refer to two different things: (1) an optimistic view of the world in general or (2) an optimistic view of their lover in particular. People in love tend to see each other in a rather optimistic, often unrealistic light, you might say. Love covers over a multitude of flaws ;-). Being a recovering hardcore cynic, I've been known in the past to roll my eyes at people who definitely seem to support the idea that "love is blind."

But one thing I've been pondering over the past several months is that there is a nugget of the Gospel in the silly blindness of lovers. Remember, human romance is merely a small picture of the Greatest Romance of all time: the romance between Christ and His church. If there ever was a lover who overlooked His bride's faults, it was Christ. He promised to remember our sins no more. Christ typifies "love is blind." He perfects it. He shows fallen humans what it truly means to love unconditionally and what it means to look upon His bride with great joy, overlooking her faults.

But, of course we must keep in mind that Christ does not merely cover His ears and hum in a vain attempt to "think positively" about His bride. He forgives and forgets our faults because He died to cover them. Ignoring our faults would not have been a sweet sentimental thought on His part; Christ went beyond sentimentalism and provided a way for us to be delivered from our faults. That is true love!

So how does this apply in human relationships? Well, first of all, we are commanded to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Just as Christ showed His love for the church by purifying Her, so we are to show love to our fellow Christians by exhorting them. And husbands are to be a type of Christ to their families (I don't envy you, men!). But also, as men and women, we look at each other through colored glasses - grace-tinted spectacles. The love that provided a way to forgive our sins is the same love that provided a way to forgive the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We mess up big time (understatement of the year!), and Christ forgives us. So when our fellow Christians sin against us, the Gospel of Grace allows us to forgive them and remember their sins no more. Wow.

So in a sense, Christians are commanded to be silly lovers, and look at their fellow Christians through colored glasses - grace-tinted spectacles. How do we do that? By grace. The grace of God that forgave us is the same grace that allows us to forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Checking In. . .

I know I've been absent from Blogger too long when Ashley tells me that she's stopped checking my blog!

Shortly before Thanksgiving I forewarned everyone that I would be rather sporadic on Blogger through the end of December. Well, it's proving true! I've barely kept up with reading blog posts for over a week :-P. I'm still here, though, and hopefully I'll be able to post something more interesting soon, but nothing earth-shattering at the moment ;-). Since just before Thanksgiving my family has already hosted five sets of out-of-town company, and we have two more coming into town over the next week. And I've been out-of-state twice as well! And we're heading up to Indy next week. Thus go my excuses :).

I really do love Thanksgiving and Christmas, though, because I have an increased opportunity of visiting with usually-far-away friends and family :). During high school, several of my friends moved away (should I get a complex?), but we still keep in touch when possible, and the holidays are the best time to do that.

Next Wednesday (the 20th) is my last day of teaching for the semester, and I'll be done with tutoring the day before :). Happy, happy! I'll definitely enjoy a break, though I enjoy both teaching and tutoring for the most part. I wrote my final tests this morning, and I am pretty much done with out-of-class prep until grading-mania next Thursday :). Also, Boy is flying into Atlanta tomorrow, and staying for about 2 weeks :). Yay!

One more note of interest, make sure to check out Anna's second installment to Beginning Sewing.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Happy Birthday, Boy!

That's right. Brother Dear's birthday is today! This makes him 2 dozen years old :).

Twenty-four is a neat age for him, because it is 4 times his birth date (the 6th), it is 4 factorial (4x3x2x1), and also his birthdate times 24 equals the greatest integer of all time: 144! Yep, 6 x 24 = 144. And the fact that 6 is a perfect number makes it even more fun. Oh, oh, and the two digits of 24 (2 and 4) add up to his birthdate: 6. This is too fun. Oh, and I just thought of another one. His birthdate is 12/6 (December 6th), and both 12 and 6 are factors of 24. Hehe.

Brother Dear and I are only 16 months apart (minus one day), and consequently were sometimes mistaken for (obviously fraternal, I hope!) twins when we were young. We still have some similar features, most notably our ghostly pale complexions. . . And that hair color that seems to run in the family :). But really, I love Ben very, very much. He moved on Georgia Tech's campus when he was 17, so we haven't seen as much of him since :(, and now he lives in Seattle of all places!!! But we get to see him next week for two whole weeks! So that's happy.

Probably one of the things I most admire about Ben is his (sometimes painful) ability to speak plainly to me. He doesn't do it often, but usually when he does I remember it and take it to heart, even if I don't acknowledge it at the time. I specifically remember one instance in 4th grade that Boy has probably long-forgotten. I was, um, how shall I put this? . . *extremely* prideful as a child, though often well-hidden to most people. Brother Dear and I had Sunday School together when we were in 5th and 4th grades, respectively, and we had weekly memory verses and catechism questions. We were some of the few in the class who actually did our memory work every week, and I was rather proud of it, whereas Ben shyed away from mentioning his accomplishments. One time when I was proudly rattling off catechism questions or something of that sort (for no reason, at home, I believe), Ben just calmly looked at me and asked me why I did that so often, and then told me that it came across as boastful. I gave him this weird look and acted like he was imagining things, but believe me, it stuck with me! And I was definitely more conscious of my pride thereafter, though I continued to struggle with it!

Moral of the story: Honest brothers are wonderful, and people may heed your advice even when they don't appear to care :).

Happy Birthday, Ben!!!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Funny Lark News Article

I thought this was funny :).

Monday, December 04, 2006

Voices Around the Blogosphere!

This is so much fun! Thanks to Lydia for starting the idea, and the Girottis for inspiring her :).

Lydia posted her voice today, as did Jessie, and John directed us to a sermon he gave (though you have to get through the scripture reading by other people to hear him). And of course I posted my voice as well. Anyway else care to join in?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

That's not me!!!

I finally figured out how to post a sound recording, after a bit of internet searching :). It doesn't sound like me! It's always weird to hear my voice, but Mother Dear claims it sounds like me, so I'll take her word for it :). Now I expect all my blogging friends to reciprocate and post clips on their blogs. (That's my attempt at a guilt trip.) Anyway, here I am.