Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I've always been a little weirded out by the idea of a "muse", you know the supposed spiritual-ish source of inspiration for artists.  I tend to associate it with paganism and fake spirituality - a fiction at best, a denial of God's glory and inspiration at worst.

But lately I'm starting to wonder if there's somewhat of a truth to it.  I say this because I know that my own writing (for myself, not the "required for class" kind) sort of comes in fits and starts.  Some of that is related to my schedule, of course, and when I manage to find time for myself, and what I'm thinking and feeling and passionate about.

But it also seems that some of it is related to the people I spend time with.  Just in the last month or so, I've realized that being with certain individuals makes me desire, or even feel compelled, to write.  Not in a crazy "OMG this is insane and I have to write it down right now so the whole world can hear me" kind of way.  No, in a kind of way that says, "I am confident in who I am, and what I believe, and what I've been gifted to do, and I'm going to do it now."  In a way that unwittingly nurtures me and my gifts and call, and that softens my rough edges without suppressing who God made me to be.

If our gifts are to be used for the building up of the body of Christ, could not the body of Christ build up our gifts?  And could not certain specific relationships, grounded in and led by the Holy Spirit, do so to a greater degree than others?

Maybe "muses", for Christians, don't have to be about pagan spirituality from which we run screaming.  Maybe they are people on this earth, given to us for a specific and significant reason, through whom the Lord works powerfully to inspire the nurturing and use of our gifts - not for our glory, or their glory, but for His glory.

Lord Jesus, lead me in the paths of righteousness, for your name's sake.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Who Loves Prayer?

I've been superstressed out lately about some stuff, or maybe just letting myself get stressed out about stuff that's not actually that important. I think some measure of it is harassment from the devil, but some of it is just lack of faithfulness and confidence and hope on my part.

But this is why it's so important to be grounded in the Word, in the actual text of the Scriptures, so that when you feel like there's nowhere to turn, God can bring them to your mind.

Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Discipline yourselves, keep alert.  Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.  And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.  ~ 1 Peter 5:7-10
If you don't have at least a word or two of that bouncing around in the back of your head somewhere, you're unlikely to find it when you need it.

But beyond that, I realized today, all of a sudden (duh), that prayer is such an incredible gift.  When we don't know the answers to things (important things, not what color socks to wear today), we can pray about it.  God hears our prayers, wants good for us more than even we ourselves do, and will lead us, guide us, and give us the answers, if we're ready to hear. 

If we have something bottled up inside that we just need to get out, and don't feel like we have anyone we can tell, God's there for that to.  He's always listening, always available, isn't trying to figure out how he's going to one-up your story with one of his own.

If we're just confused and don't know what we're feeling or thinking, He's big enough to handle that, and to help us sort it out.

Imagine if we had a God who didn't have time for us, who played mind games with us, who had more important things than us.  Imagine if we had a God that we had to placate with burnt offerings to win his favor, or who only held special councils that decreed unchangeable orders.

Imagine if we had a God who didn't really love us. 

Praise Him that we don't!  Praise Him that He has given us Jesus Christ, "who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.  Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."


Friday, October 7, 2011

On the Incarnation

So, I've really been in a writing mood lately.  I could say more about why that is, but for the moment, let's just leave it at the fact that I'm in a writing mood.  I should probably be in a "studying for my Prophets midterm" mood, but I'm not. 

I've really been digging St. Athanasius' On the Incarnation lately.  I read it a couple years ago for a class on early church history, and just read it again recently for my Christology class.  Fortunately, my second time through, I was prescient enough to use a different color highlighter, so I can see how my thinking changed, what was important or appealing to me at different times, etc...

This is a fabulous little book, and so for the edification of all 4 people who read this blog, I'm going to post some of my favorite quotes.  If you haven't read it yet, you should.  If you've read it before, pick it up again.  You can't go wrong with this one.
  • ...the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning.
  • was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us.  It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body.
  • For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by virtue of the Word's indwelling in a single human body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all.
  • The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the Father, Who could recreate man made after the Image.  
  • Men had turned from the contemplation of God above, and were looking for Him in the opposite direction, down among created things and things of sense.  The Saviour of us all, the Word of God, in His great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, halfway.  He became himself an object for the senses, so that those who were seeking God in sensible things might apprehend the Father through the works which He, the Word of God, did in the body.
  • For this reason was He born and manifested as Man, for this He died and rose, in order that, eclipsing by His works all other human deeds, He might recall men from all the paths of error to know the Father.
  • ...even in death He preserved His body whole and undivided, so that there should be no excuse hereafter for those who would divide the Church. [Why hello there, 2nd use of the Law!]
  • If you see with your own eyes men and women and children, even, thus welcoming death for the sake of Christ's religion, how can you be so utterly silly and incredulous and maimed in your mind as not to realise that Christ, to Whom these all bear witness, Himself gives the victory to each, making death completely powerless for those who hold His faith and bear the sign of the cross?

Whither Schrodinger's Cat?

So I've really had it up to here with all this "Q" nonsense.

"Q", which is the first letter of the German word, "Quelle", meaning "source", is the product of some scholarly idea about the overlap of certain Biblical texts.  According to the theory, the Gospel of Mark was written "first" (before any of the other Gospels), and Matthew and Luke basically stole from Mark and then embellished with their own details.  So everything that is in Mark, Matthew, and Luke actually came from Mark.  But there's also some events and conversations that appear similarly in Matthew and Luke but not Mark.  

So the question became: Where did Matthew and Luke get their stuff?  Anything that's unique to Matthew, or unique to Luke, is fine.  Anything that's in Mark, Matthew, and Luke obviously (obviously) came from Mark.  What about the stuff that's only in Matthew and Luke?  Well, the "scholarly wisdom" of the day says, there must be another source that they both drew on, some kind of "proverbs of Jesus" or "list of things Jesus said once" or whatever.  And since we don't really know much about it except that it's a source for Matthew and Luke, we'll just call it "Quelle", or "Q" for short.

Which I guess is sort of okay.  I mean, okay, so you notice that there's some interesting overlap in Matthew and Luke, and you wonder if maybe there's another document out there that they both knew about and relied upon.  Interesting thought.  But I really feel like that's as far as it goes.   Because the thing is, Q has never been discovered.  Ever.  No one found it in a clay pot at Qumran or stuffed between the mattress and boxspring in Pilate's house or tucked into Peter's crypt under the Vatican or hermetically sealed in the Virgin Mary's hope chest. 

So, we actually can't know if this Q thing exists "in real life".  There's a possibility that it does.  But like Schrodinger's cat, there's also a genuine possibility that it doesn't.

And therein lies the problem.  Because people don't say, "So, Q.  Maybe.  Wouldn't it be great to find that someday?" No no.  People talk about it like it's an actual, real thing.  Like they've read it.  Marcus Borg, in a conversation with N.T. Wright, declares that Q has only a brief narrative portion and the rest is all wisdom sayings.  Phillip Jenkins claims that Q does not contain a birth narrative.  Biblical "scholars" cite it all the time, relying on it to provide support for their arguments about...whatever.  People devote their entire scholarly careers to it.  They serve on boards and panels that attempt to exegete it.

It's ridiculous.

Just once, I'd like Marcus Borg or Phillip Jenkins to place a copy of Q in front of me and show me that it doesn't contain a birth narrative.

It's astonishing to me how much we can put onto the existence of Q when we know nothing about it and have no guarantee that it even exists.  What we do know is that the Holy Spirit did not see fit to place it in the canon.  So either, it doesn't exist and we're wasting our time on a figment of our scholarly imagination, or it does exist but it's really not that important in the grand scheme of things or it would be in the canon and so we're wasting our time on something that's of little to no value.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jesus In My Heart

"I believe that many who find that 'nothing happens' when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand."  ~ C.S. Lewis
Yeah.  This.  It's so hard to explain to people sometimes, the richness, and the spirituality, that I find in the intellectual life.  I think others think it's strange that reading Athanasius or Lewis or Ratzinger or Luther or Moltmann or Augustine can bring me to tears, and to a greater love of God, than an hour of prayer.  Or "official prayer", as I like to call it.  Because working my way through a "tough bit of theology" ends up being a form of prayer for me.  Is it the same as morning and evening devotions, moments of spontaneous prayer during the day, or corporate prayer during worship?  Of course not.  Those are all different, and I need all of them.

But for some reason or another, God has wired me up in a way that the way to my heart is through my brain.  I've struggled against that for a while, because it's "not supposed to work like that."  There seems to have developed in modern Protestantism (and possibly the RCC and EO, although I don't know for sure) this dichotomy between "head knowledge" and "heart knowledge", and the preeminent question well-meaning evangelists want to know is whether you know Jesus in your heart, and not just your head.   To a certain extent, this is fair.  Doctrine doesn't save us, Jesus does. 

But there are a few of us for whom "head knowledge" leads to "heart knowledge".  As I've thought about this more in recent months, I've been reflecting on the fact that, although I grew up in the church - there every Sunday unless you're on your deathbed - I never really got to study the faith.  I had parents who had me baptized, taught me to pray, memorized Scripture with me, explained atonement theology in language a 4-year-old can understand (when you cut your finger on the side of the can, you have to let it bleed a little so it will wash the germs out, just like Jesus' blood on the Cross washes our sins out), and so on.  But when I got to college and had to take actual theology classes and actually read the Bible and other theological works and think about them and talk about them and process them that I somehow actually started believing - like, actually, really believing - all the stuff I was taught as a kid.

It's when I'm reading and pondering and processing and bouncing stuff off others and playing and writing that I can almost literally feel myself growing closer to God.  Again, that sounds strange, I know.  And I don't always like talking about it, because people tend to look at me like, "Um...yeah..."  But such is life.  I'm learning from dear friends lately - some who are wired similarly, and some who are wired quite differently - that this is okay.  It's God's gift to me that I can grow close to Him in this way, and while I have to be careful that I don't fail to "translate" it for others, it's a good and beautiful thing.

Praise the Lord! 

Sign. Me. Up.

I love love love the domestic life.  Even though I don't get to do it very often, the opportunities I have to wash dishes and do laundry and oversee homework and get kids ready for bed make my heart sing with joy. 

I was babysitting tonight for some friends who have three kids in elementary/middle school.  I met the younger two when they got off the bus, gave them some time to unwind from school, inquired as to the status of homework, and then headed out to pick up their brother from middle school football.  Waiting in the parking lot, I started working my way through Moltmann's The Crucified God for class on Thursday.  When the kiddo had at last collected all his books, clothing, and supplies, and said goodbye to all his friends, he climbed in the car and I put away Moltmann.  On the drive home we talked about school and field trips and underappreciated defensive tackles.   Back at the house, I set the kids to clearing off and setting the dining room table, while I got supper (frozen pizza) ready.  (Side note: gas stoves terrify me.  I always think I'm doing them wrong and that I'm going to kill us all...)  When everything was ready we sat down to dinner, and then the kids cleared their plates and unloaded the dishwasher.  While they busied themselves with homework, musical instrument practice, and TV, I washed all the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen and dining area.  Then I worked on my own homework (Moltmann!!) for a while, until it was time for the youngest to get ready for bed.  We cuddled in bed ("I like being babysitted!") and read Happy Haunting, Amelia Bedelia.  Back to Moltmann (extremely interesting, but seriously, 75 pages of him is kind of a lot to work through and take in), enforcing the "20 mins of music practice required" rule, and following up on homework.  Eventually the kids' mom got home and I headed back to the dorms guessed Moltmann...

Anyway.  Phenomenal day.  Utterly fantastic.  Call me crazy, but when I'm doing these kinds of things, I feel like I'm doing what I was made to do.  I feel happy and good and productive and self-confident and loving and loved. 

It's so hard to say that, though, because it's so...deserting the sisterhood, or something.  It's just not what women in the 21st century are supposed to say, and it's certainly not what they're supposed to feel.  And the more I tell God to please show me what I'm supposed to be doing, and to make His desires for me become my desires for me, the more I feel like this.  So, there's that.  Which is good.  But I'm also struggling to believe God's promises for me, that He will grant me the desires of my heart, that He's not just letting me feel this way now and then planning to snatch it all away from me later....Wow, I sound like a) a terribly faithless person, and b) a total heretic/blasphemer.  I don't mean to.  I'm just lacking for encouragement right now, and I don't really know why or where it's coming from, but I'd like it to stop, please.

But back to the goodness.  It's rare that a person gets to have two - count 'em, two - freaking phenomenally fantastic days inside of a week.  But I have.  And I love it.  Mmm...yay God.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Can I Get An AMEN?!?

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered.  "No one is good but God alone."  ~ Mark 10:18


That is all.