December 30, 2008

Hi. My name is Art and I'm a chronic rhetoricist.

AP English and my studies in effective, rhetorical writing have taught me that every essay needs a hook, roadmap, thesis, body, and summary.

Sometimes, even when I'm happy with something I've written, I'm compelled to add a hook, or put in more figures of speech. I will rewrite my emails because I don't want the recipient to get the wrong impression. I spend time perfecting and polishing what I write, not just for clarity or grammar, but because I know it will make it sound or read better. In essence, I change my initial, personal reaction to something I think is more palatable to my audience.

Do you think this is dishonest/insincere to myself and my ideas?

December 28, 2008

Privacy rights are puzzling.

What are privacy rights? The right to keep your thoughts and personal life to yourself? An article in The Economist called "How the brain buys" sparked my interest.

Researchers, aided by new technology, the article explained, are making more and more discoveries about neurology as it relates to shopping. For example, one study found that if coffee was categorized, (mild, dark roast, nutty, or even A, B, and C) customers "were more satisfied with their choice."

Technology could go even farther. Small machines could be installed on top of a shopper's head to measure brain patterns.

However, the article continues...
"The notion of shoppers wearing brain scanning hats would be ridiculous if it were not so alarming. Privacy groups are already concerned about the rise of electronic surveillance that records what people do, let alone what they are thinking."
But I wonder: what exactly are privacy rights? Suppose we say that our privacy rights only protect our public actions, not our private actions or our thoughts.

Without even reading our minds, which I'm think most would consider to be unacceptable, there are countless things machines or people could monitor and track:
  • time of day we shop
  • time spent at each shelf/rack
  • words we say
  • preferred brands
What would you feel comfortable allowing? I'm not just asking this theoretically: the rise of technology makes this more relevant than ever. Is it ethically justifiable to track buying patterns?

I'm now asking for answers and discussion, mainly on two questions.

1) What really is ours? That is, what is a reasonable distinction between what we have the right to keep unknown and what is open to the public?

2) Where do we get the idea that we even have rights?

December 19, 2008

Needing God

I need God.

It sounds simple and obvious, but it is something I ought to say more often.

God completes.


Revelation 3:1b,2
"I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strenthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God."

The Church in Sardis was criticized because it was dead, incomplete. God sets us a high standard- we are called to be new creatures.

But often, I don't act like it. Why?

John Bunyan wrote,*

“These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters are no sign that God has forsaken you; but they are sent to test you, to see whether you will recall that goodness, which up to now, you have received from Him and if you will live upon Him in your distress. Be cheerful, Jesus Christ makes you whole.”

See, Jesus Christ makes us whole and complete. With Him, we can withstand trials without falling. He enables me to be alive. It's foolish for me to ignore Him.

God makes action possible.

A few weeks ago, I was, again, facing a block in my striving to reduce world hunger.

All the arguments I presented in my speech weren't enough to quench the problem- it wasn't that I wasn't convinced. Instead, it was my feelings that were getting in the way.

Absence of my feelings, to be precise: I wanted to feel for the starving children. To want to spread knowledge of the tragedy. I wanted to be passionate about solving hunger. I knew I couldn't trust my feelings, but that was easier said than done. I thought that if I felt nothing, I couldn't act. To some degree, I suppose that's right. If you don't care, don't speak up.

But my wonderful mother was determined to show me otherwise. "You're not doing it because you want to," she said. "Aren't you doing it to bring pleasure to God? Isn't that what you say in your speech?"

She was right. I wasn't trying to fight world hunger for myself. It was for God.

I wrote in my journal that night,
"Dear God,
I can't fool myself into thinking that if I invoke your name, my feelings will be set straight. But what I do know is that this will serve You. I cannot be certain of the results, but my motivation is clear- not for myself, not by myself.


I need you, God. You give me life and meaning. You power me and inspire me. I want to please you, God. ... I want to please you."

I know I must act, though I'm not yet quite sure how. I want my works to be complete. But not without the founder and motivator of my faith! I have to stop focusing on my ways and my arbitrary prerequisites to action. I have to be willing to relinquish my control and instead give my all to Him.

I pray for ideas, opportunities, and, most of all, wisdom. To God be the glory and power forever!

*John Bunyan, quoted by James W. Bruce in From Grief to Glory (Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 34.

Blogging Questions (a short survey, if you will)

If I posted about Economist or Wall Street Journal articles I found interesting, would you appreciate it?

November 25, 2008

Who Am I: Answered by Casting Crowns

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You're

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Who Am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again
Who Am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me

I am Yours
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
'Cause I am Yours
I am Yours

November 24, 2008

Who Am I?: Thoughts from Scripture

I came across this passage a few days ago. It totally blew me away.
Daniel 9: 20-23
While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Isreael, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, "O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

At the beginning of your pleas a word went out. You are greatly loved. Isn't that amazing? Daniel enjoyed such a close relationship with God that He was always by Daniel's side.

But keep reading:
Daniel 10: 10-11
And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, "O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you." And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling.

"Man greatly loved" is almost Daniel's name, his definition. It describes the most important part about him.

So maybe A. W. Tozer was right. What we believe about God is the most important thing about us. That still doesn't answer my questions about the mystery of humanity: how we're all created in the image of God, but we are all different, but it doesn't seem to matter any more.

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion.

November 23, 2008

Who Am I?: My thoughts

"Be yourself" they say. Do they realize how difficult that is?

I don't want to be merely composed of my ideas or actions. It doesn't make sense to me for my definition to be encapsulated in the things I love.

I desire to be appreciated for who I am. But who am I? Thinking about it doesn't seem all that encouraging. I know I'm a sinner, yet a redeemed one. I can be confident of God's love, but that's not because of me. It's all Him. His grace- not my delightful personality or my own thoughtfulness for others.

Isn't there something that makes me myself and not anyone else? Or are the differences I see non-essential characteristics?

Maybe I don't need to discover myself. Maybe it's only my pride that makes me want to be unique. How can I know?

Tomorrow, look at another view of what defines a person.

November 22, 2008

Who Am I?: Quotes

People are different. But why? Is the only distinguishing factor between us the things that show on the outside? Our looks, our actions, our likes?

Or is there something, deep inside of us, that is unique? How can we know who we truly are?

Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote: The things that we love tell us what we are.

A.W. Tozer held that “What we believe about God is the most important thing
about us.”

Or what about this quote from an article called Names and Labels on Boundless?

As for me, you can post labels on my forehead that are accurate so far as they go. Male. 5'11". Writer. 31 years old. They help the advertisers know if I'm a candidate to buy an MP3 player, and help you decide if you'll regard me as friend or commodity.

But do they begin to describe who I am?

"If I label you, it doesn't begin to do you justice," you might say, in your more charitable moments. "So I'll name you George Wylie Halitzka, Jr.1 I call you by your dreams, your frustrations, your idiosyncrasies. I acknowledge your fears and pleasures, knowledge and ignorance, strengths and weaknesses. I call you George."

It seems to say that a name reaches into the depths of a person's being.

Who's right?

To be continued...
Part 2

November 2, 2008

The English Language: breathtakingly complex, yet undeniability imperfect.

Reading in Lamentations 1: 16-17, I was amazed by the beauty of the poetry. What must the passage have been like in its original language?

"For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my spirit;
my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed.


Zion stretches out her hands, but there is none to comfort her;
the Lord has commanded against Jacob that his neighbors should be foes;

Jerusalem has become a filthy thing among them."


What sorrow it describes! Yet even with English's adaptability, some ideas can't be communicated by words alone.

I never have found the perfect quote. At best I have been able to find a string of quotations which merely circle the ineffable idea I seek to express.
-Caldwell O'Keefe

For that I'm glad. Even though language is so vast and powerful, able to incite a war yet also melt a heart, it can still not capture the essence of every idea, for ideas transcend the limits of language. It's mind-boggling to think of infinity.

October 30, 2008

Tongue, do not become my adversary

"Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue." -Proverbs 17:28

When do I stay silent, and when do I speak? Others-centeredness needs to guide my actions.

Even my most pressing puzzles can't direct all discussion. I want to be wise- but not merely to satisfy my desire for intellectual stimulation.

My yearning to help can't override the need to serve others. Will I let cooperation replace control?

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." -Matthew 7:7

I rejoice that God never tires of our foolish questions or our repeated stumbling.

October 29, 2008

Argue effectively

Does excellent debating argue the idea or argument itself, or the argument as presented?

Debating against the idea may encourage more growth, but may misinterpret the meaning.
Debating against the argument as it was explained to you increases the likelihood of winning the argument or even convincing your opponent, but the response may not hold up under closer scrutiny.

Does your answer change depending on the circumstances, (real life or a debate round)? Why or why not?

August 27, 2008

Through The Noise

"There are many kinds of noise in our lives...The doubts that swallow us. The depression that becomes our identity. Inside our heads, the world is shouting at us. And all too often- we listen."

- Adam Hardy and Elizabeth Kays, Through the Noise

As the Communicators for Christ Through the Noise program came to an end, I felt overwhelmed with emotion. All this inspiration to stand, act, and speak through the noise- yet no clear way to put it into action. The program blew me away, and it took what seemed like hours to gather together the scattered pieces of self so I could think clearly.

Only three days later, I found what it meant to be swallowed by doubt. And only now do I glimpse the extent that noise invades my life.

You wouldn't have wanted to talk to me at 10:30 last night. My doubts towered over me. I was stubbornly afraid that though I wanted to do something about hunger, I didn't care enough.

I thought about William Wilberforce, who spent nearly all his life to fight the slave trade. Then- I thought of myself. The pain I felt seeing the starving faces of children may have shot through my soul, but I wasn't agonizing over it. Sure, I wanted to start a project and write a persuasive speech against this incredible human suffering, but what good would that be if I just didn't care enough? Would my efforts be any good if, a year from now, when I had finished giving my speech in competition and community, I just moved to something else?

I wanted my mom to just tell me "it'll be okay- I know that you do care enough for it all to work out." But she didn't. Instead, she said that maybe I didn't care "enough." But, she asked, what was enough? She made me realize that even if I wasn't going to devote my life to fighting hunger, it was still worth doing something now. And perhaps, this doubt and depression was a weapon of the Enemy designed to prevent me from doing good.

Then, it seemed as if I could finally see again: I knew that I wasn't just devoting time to a cause for fun. I was doing this to please God, to fulfill his desire that we care for others' need for food. I realized: if I wasn't going to do something, who would? If there is a burning need, shouldn't I do something to take care of it?

God is good. He made me realize I can only find peace through striving for His glory, not my own.

* * *

Before we can stand through the noise, we must first identify what is preventing us from hearing the one Voice that truly matters.

What noise is in your life? Are your doubts or depression preventing you from bringing as much glory to God as you could?

August 11, 2008

Exposing myself

Sharing my thoughts with others is so intimidating. When I start to speak or write, I feel as if I put in the spotlight, all eyes fixed on me. And I am afraid. I'm afraid that if I speak what I think, I'll show myself to be an imperceptive, juvenile child. I'll fail in front of those I want to impress.

I don't mind sharing my views on morality - those are clear to me and I usually know what is right - but it's my opinions that are the hardest to say. My first instinct is to blame others, and say that years of people disagreeing with me have caused me to remain silent, but I know that shouldn't deter me.

The first part of this issue is fear. But what is there to fear? God has not given us a spirit of fear! I should step out boldly, knowing that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

But compounded to that fear is my desire to look good in front of others. I've been wrong more times than I can count, and I don't like others to see my weakness and jump to a conclusion that I'm foolish and incompetent. But in my desire to let others see the "real me," unencumbered by my faults, I've actually only covered up who I really am. The "real me" is not an intelligent, witty, beautiful lady who never makes mistakes- it's a sinful human, who, by God's grace, attempts to bring beauty into a broken world.

God is my leader, and my goal should be to please him first. Even as I long for others' approval and attention, I know that earning those cannot be my focus.

However, as a debater, I desire to play the devil's advocate. Isn't there still a place for my desire for human approval?

I'd like you to give me your thoughts on a few questions:
  1. Why does fear exist?
  2. Is it beneficial to speak your mind even when you aren't quite sure of yourself, or would it be better to wait until you are reasonably certain?
  3. Can trying to please humans discipline you into a better person, or will it only teach you a wrong mentality of self-consciousness?

August 9, 2008

Writing (in the spirit of 22 words)

How can writers communicate a story with excellence, letting Christ and their Christian world view shine through, without sounding didactic or unrealistic?

Waiting and watching the crowd pass by

I hear a strange blend of sounds- a little girl asking her parents questions, the click-click of heels, the squeaking of flip-flops, the clacking of suitcases, loud footsteps on the escalator, and who knows what else.

I wonder, what are these people are thinking? A woman walks by and smiles at our dog. Does she ask herself why a dog would be here? A man talks loudly on his cell-phone. Why would he have this conversation in public? Perhaps he knows that I, or any who observed, would remain in his memory as nameless as he is in mine.

As the people pass and pause, I make eye contact with some. Yet seeing the "windows to their souls" doesn't help me glean much insight. Perhaps I just don't read people well (and I've certainly come to that conclusion before) or maybe they have trained themselves to keep those windows sealed tight, enshrouded by stiff curtains, so others can not see their vulnerability.

Some of the people look exhausted from a stressful day. Others have a blank stare, letting me know that the airport is a very mediocre place to be. But for some children I see, life is still an exciting adventure. They try to squeeze their small hands from their parents' firm grasp. A little boy is walking next to the baggage pickup, using the edge as a handrail, oblivious to the threat of germs or diseases.

Watching these people yields a strange sort of contentment. I will never understand their heart of hearts, but, perhaps, my naive and childish guesses will come near to the truth.

G-reader Blues

Update: I've gone back to reading blogs, just in a more limited way. And, as a side note... someone else feels the same way.

I'd invested a fair amount of time into my responsibilities for that day. I deserved a break...right? So I reach for the computer, sign into my email, and open my Google Reader. As I read the entries, I pause to read others' comments. While I'm at it, why not check out some of the links on the blog's sidebar? Before I know it, I've wasted 20 minutes in the black hole that is the blogosphere.

Sadly, this isn't just one isolated example. I'm ashamed to admit it, but it happens often. And those minutes add up.

Today, while following the link trail, I stumbled across a post about what not wasting your life looks like. It made me think- am I wasting my life? I hope not. Self-justification inevitably started to kick in. I'm devoting so much of my time to speech, debate, and my studies! I'm preparing myself for adulthood! But I realized that I could still make better use of my life today. I resolved not to waste my life.

Fast forward a few hours. I was again on the computer, reading some of my favorite blogs. This has got to stop, I thought. So I started work on this week's school. One of my assignments, in Money Matters for Teens, was about giving back to God. Somehow, every time the word money was mentioned, my brain substituted the word time. A commitment in the book read:

Dear Lord,
Thank you for providing me with an average income of $__ per __. By signing this note, I 'm acknowledging that I'm not the owner of this money; You are. You've appointed me manager of this money and all the other things you have given to me.
I'm grateful to you for my position. To acknowledge that it's your money, and to thank you for the opportunity to manage it, I'm committed to return __ percent to you on a regular basis for __ months.

This became a strong statement about time management- it's not really my time to waste. Slowly an idea formed in my brain. I finished the rest of the chapter, and again opened my G-reader. I canceled all my 19 subscriptions, except for my Bible verse of the day. If I do check my Reader, all I'll see is something worth spending time on.

* * *

Don't take this the wrong way. I love blogs. I appreciate how they encourage, entertain, and inform me. But I decided it was time to take a fast from my Google Reader.

I'm not going to waste my life.

"And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell."
- Mark 9:47

June 26, 2008

Think

You're sitting in the car. You're washing dishes. You're lying awake in bed. What is your mind doing?

My mind (if it isn't memorizing bible verses or poems) is thinking. Not just thinking about what I'm going to wear tomorrow, but actually pondering life's great questions.

For example, what is the root of irritation? I thought about this a while and found that people get irritated when someone's actions contradict your own plans, beliefs, or knowledge. So basically, the reason people get annoyed is selfishness.

Why think?

People applaud a documentary as "thought-provoking," comment that a book "makes me think." But why should we think? One answer is that expands your knowledge and makes you a fuller person. Another is simply for pleasure, or to avoid wasting time. Perhaps the strongest reason is that we should be able to understand the times- and that involves thinking though important issues. What do you think? Why is asking life's questions useful?

If you do decide to ask yourself questions, what do you do with them? One thing that I've found extremely useful is to write them in a little notebook, like Lord Kelvin.

George Mulfinger and Julia Mulfinger Orozco write of Lord Kelvin in Christian Men of Science:

[H]e started using a green notebook to jot down his thoughts- calculations, diagrams, or ideas for experiments and scientific papers. He got into the habit of carrying this little green notebook around with him all the time. ... Over one hundred of these green notebooks have been preserved and show the amazing versatility of his genius.

Think and write. Talk to others about your thoughts. Puzzle over questions together. And finally, once your thoughts are clear, speak! Use your ideas and insights and incidents of your life to bring glory to God.

June 25, 2008

Better blog writing

I just came across this excellent article on how to blog well. I'm still wondering what makes a blog popular, but I'm working on improving the quality of this blog. Enjoy!

May 26, 2008

Emptiness

She stares at the long rows of food
Fruit, grains, and beans smile sweetly back
Invitingly, they call to her:
“Pick us! Buy us! Eat us! Be filled!”

She fingers the coin in her hand
Slowly, she shakes her head.
She knows— Not yesterday, today, or tomorrow
Can she taste those delicacies.

Numbly, she exchanges her precious coin
For a pound of shortening and a pound of salt
Poverty has taught her well
Mud cookies are better than nothing.

As she leaves, the foods’ taunt bites her ear:
“Wretch! To eat dirt like a worm!”
“Come,” they dare. “Were we not made for you?”
Temptation. Seduction. And always—

The agonizing pain of starvation.
“This hunger is far worse than death!
Oh, unattainable delights,
Can my emptiness never be filled?”

May 13, 2008

Abstain From the Passions of the Flesh

1
I walk through the cold hallway
The steady click, click, click of heels
Echoes, resonates, on the walls
It is all I hear
With a crowd around me, I am alone

2
His smile catches my eye
Hello, he calls, still grinning
I pause, taken up by his gaze
(Ugh. That young man knows he’s attractive
and he milks it for all it’s worth.)
He looks at me, his eyes laughing
Stop pursuing me!
Stop drawing me in!
I scream inside
You may be handsome but…

3
Oh! I do not need your affection
(Whether or not you give it-
it could be my mistaken impressions
or perhaps I read you rightly)
I have a better man than you as my friend
(Not that I cannot be a friend to you,
but my thoughts need not dwell on you)
Thank you for reminding me of my Savior, sir!
It is He who deserves my first allegiance
And here is with me,
holding me in his arms,
reminding me of his everlasting love.
I see I am not alone, nor was I ever.

So long, my man!

May 9, 2008

Goals

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.
James 4:13-16, NIV

If you think about goals for a even short while, it should become apparent that all goals are not created equal. But what differentiates an admirable goal from a selfish one?

Take, for example the goal of a closer walk with God. Is that something we accomplish by hard work, or a gift God gives us? Will God open our eyes, or can we actually choose to see?

What do I know?
  • God wants us to obey his moral will.
  • We should read, listen to, study, meditate, and memorize His Word.
  • We are witnesses for Christ, always examples of what Christianity looks like.
  • We should always seek to glorify His name.
  • No goal can be achieved without God.
  • Goals based on pride ought to be shunned.
Starting with that, I think can make a few conclusions. For one, a goal such as: "I will commit to studying my Bible more deeply and paying more attention to what God is saying" is to be commended. A goal that decides our means of doing something is fine.
This gives birth to a new idea: We can make the our goals out of means, but God decides the end.

For example, just because John Q. Smith thinks that increasing the output of his Bible-printing factory by 500% in 3 years would ultimately glorify God, doesn't mean he should set those stats as his goal. If he did, he'd be more likely to be focused on worldly success rather than whatever God's plan for the company is.

Also, think about Joshua 1:8's promise of "then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success." If we make it our goal to be successful, God will probably frown on our self-aggrandizement. Yet if our goal is keep God's word constantly in our hearts, God will reward us with success.

Would it be right to aspire to convert 3 people to Christianity a year? No- because we can't really control the outcome of our actions. All we can do is to plant or water seeds. God is the one who yields the increase.

Even with all this cleared up, I'm still quite confused as to what goals are "good" and what are "bad."

What about making goals about Bible memory? Should you just attempt to memorize 60 verses and say "if the Lord wills it?" Or should you push back your low expectations, realizing it is completely possible to memorize the verses and that just attempting won't give you enough incentive to work harder.

I think the answer to these kind of questions is found the concepts of priorities and motives. Making it my first priority to memorize a certain number of verses will not benefit me much. Instead, I should aim first and foremost to bring glory to God, realizing that the reason I memorize is not to break records but to keep His word always available for use. Therefore, it doesn't matter so much exactly what goals you make, but with what motives and aims you have.

Finally, let's look at eternal significance. Will it matter in heaven exactly what I do? Not really, or else everyone who did follow an exact plan for their life would be condemned to Hell. Ephesians 2:8-10 say:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are saved not by what goals we make, but by God's grace. But since we are saved, we should follow the paths prepared for us by doing good works. Making goals is a wonderful way to push us toward excellence. Having competence will help us to do good works.

What do I want you to take from this?
  • Goals should only concern how something happens. God will decide what comes of our endeavors.
  • Our motives and priorities matter- they differentiate between a selfish goal and a godly one.
  • Finally, what are we trying to acheive? Our goals do not decide our salvation. Our sins have already been atoned for by the work of Jesus Christ. Nothing we do will change that. Setting goals is only useful if it makes us more able to impact the world for Christ.

April 17, 2008

The Answer to the Dilemma

We have already seen how both deepness and shallowness can have terrible effects, so how then should we live?

The problem I've suggested to you (that is, either to be deep or to be shallow) is actually an either-or fallacy. The problem with both of them is that they put self first. Deepness encourages you to keep a large store of ideas in your heart, unwilling to share them with others. The message you send is that God isn't doing anything in your heart or that you don't trust in God to solve your problems. Shallowness shuns taking things seriously. Shallow actions reflect the idea that self must be served above all else.

I would propose that there is another possibility. We must be deep in Christ, not ourselves. (This proposal is not completely original. Much of the philosophy of this article was inspired from this post.) A mature outlook on life is not a problem- it is a gift! Yet we cannot be so caught up in our own intelligence that we forget that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We must be able to accept the fact that we cannot understand everything. But unlike the shallow response of wasting your life, it is imperative that rely on God to fill us.

What does deepness in Christ look like? I think that it is certainly a way of life. It involves putting self away, and being willing to devote everything we do to furthering God's kingdom. I will be the first to admit that I am far from reaching this goal. I have ignored opportunities to bless others, I've relied on my own understanding to win debate rounds. But if we set high standards for ourselves, we will be pushed to grow more.

I think the key to being deep in Christ is humility mixed with hope. That philosophy stems from 1 Peter 5:5-6.

"Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

Deepness in Christ will help avoid the problems presented in Parts one and two. The farther we delve in God's immeasurable depths, the more able to communicate His love we will become. Just like Aslan's followers eagerly went "further up and further in," forgetting themselves in their love for their leader, we will gain true joy in the pursuit of a deep relationship with our Lord. I'm not trying to write like an expert or a sage. All I know is that I love God, and following Him brings me joy.

In the words of Steven Curtis Chapman's song Dive,

I'm diving in, I'm going deep in over my head, I want to be
Caught in the rush, lost in the flow, in over my head, I want to go
The river's deep, the river's wide, the river's water is alive
So sink or swim, I'm diving in!


April 6, 2008

The Option of Shallowness

If deepness* can lead to such disastrous consequences, what then shall we do? The option of shallowness** beckoned to several characters in literature.

First, let us examine the life of Dmitri, the eldest brother in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. He was one of the sensualists, yielding readily to his desires. Hot-tempered, impatient, and wild, he cared little for his future. His one aim was to have the girl Grushenka. Any happiness he reached from his actions was short-lived. His unwillingness to consider the consequences of his actions earned him a bad reputation, which eventually led him to be accused of murdering his father. This accusation was an error, but the court's decision was never reversed.

The next character we inspect comes from Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. One man, Augustine St. Clare, acts merely on his beautiful, saintly daughter Evangeline's requests. St. Clare does not spend time thinking about his future. He shuns spiritual discussion and refuses to have clear-cut views on slavery. He doesn't think what problems his actions may cause. When Eva dies, St. Clare is devastated. Uncle Tom (his slave and the protagonist of the book) tries to bring St. Clare to Christ, but death takes St. Clare first. Life is too short to allow to be shallow!

Have you watched either of The Princess Diaries? Princess Mia is silly, immature, and inestimably shallow. She relies on her feelings to make decisions, looks to her emotions to choose her future husband. She turns away from wise counsel, choosing instead to do what feels right. Her chief virtue, apparently her "heart of gold," translates merely into kindness to cute kids. (Naturally, wealth and beauty don't count as virtues.) Mia's immaturity and shallowness cause her great embarrassment and serve to put a bad face on her country. Hers is not the character we should strive to emulate! Sadly, girls across America choose this shallow character as their role model.

By looking into the lives and struggles of Mitya, St. Clare, and Mia, we see the results of choosing the option of shallowness, both on the characters themselves, and on the lives of those around them. People are always watching us. As Christians, our lives are to be beyond reproach. Clearly, we cannot fully serve Christ when our lives are shallow.

Continued in Part 3: The Answer to the Dilemma.

*By popular demand, the most relevant definitions...
Deepness:

Difficult to penetrate or understand; recondite: a deep metaphysical theory.
Of a mysterious or obscure nature: a deep secret; ancient and deep tribal rites.
Very learned or intellectual; wise: a deep philosopher.
Of a mysterious or obscure nature: a deep secret; ancient and deep tribal rites.
(American Heritage Dictionary)

The intellectual ability to penetrate deeply into ideas [syn: astuteness]
(WordNet)

**
Shallowness:

Lack of depth of knowledge or thought or feeling [syn: superficiality]
(Wordnet)

March 23, 2008

Deepness seen in literature

This post is part of a three-part series of posts that will explore the concepts of deepness in literature, shallowness, and the answer to the questions posed in the first two parts.

Is depth of thought a virtue? First, let us look to books for examples of deepness.


In Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel Emily of New Moon, we hear Aunt Ruth speaking about Emily:

"But the thing I dislike most in her is that she is unchildlike--and deep as the sea. Yes, she is, Laura--deep as the sea."

Emily certainly is deep. She spends her time writing letters to her dead father, making up stories and poems, and thinking her own secret, unreachable thoughts. She confounds, mystifies, and allures those around her. Yet what does her deepness accomplish? It helps her writing, certainly, but what lasting value does it have? It seems that while it may be delightful to confuse and worry others by living on a different plane, it serves no real purpose to bring glory to God.


In The Amazing Adventures of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton, Father Brown encounters a man named Kalon who calls himself a prophet of Apollo. This man is a prime suspect for a murder.

In the long and startled stillness of the room the prophet of Apollo rose...His robed form seemed to hang the whole room with classic draperies; his epic gesture seemed to extend it into grander perspectives, till the little black figure of the modern cleric seemed to be a fault and an intrusion, a round, black blot upon some splendour of Hellas.
"We meet at last," said the prophet. "Not even faintly could you understand how little I care whether you can convict me or no. The things you call disgrace and horrible hanging are to me no more than an ogre in a child's toy-book to a man once grown up. "

This "priest of Apollo" is so deep, so inaccessible, so larger-than-life. He claims to understand life so fully that even death cannot harm him. Yet Kalon, most confident of all men, is revealed to be fraud. When his scheme falls apart, his countenance and aspect are transformed, showing nothing more than a gruff, angry man. Is this the kind of deepness we strive for- a trusting in oneself and a spotless appearance serving as a facade to the sin within? Certainly not!


Finally, turn with me to the pages of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. John (a.k.a. Mr. Savage) is the only man who will not conform to the demands of the new society. He is repulsed by the rampant shallowness and submission to the desires of flesh. He understands that without a moral standard, man is empty and trapped. But his deepness and his unwillingness to give up his Shakespearean ideals only drives him to the depths of despair and misery. His suffering serves no purpose to change the culture. Why should we take the trouble to think if it will only lead us to insanity?

What are the logical conclusions of all this? Well, if deepness only bewilders and distances you from others and makes you go mad, then we should strive to live on the surface and not dare to dig deeper! According to logic,* we should shun the intellect and live a shallow life to avoid the dangers of thought.

Continued in Part 2, The option of shallowness.

*D v S Either deep or shallow
~D Not deep
Therefore, S Therefore, shallow.


March 18, 2008

What hast thou done?

"What hast thou done? thou hast mistaken quite
And laid the love-juice on some true-love's sight:"
Oberon, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III, Scene II

Oberon blames Puck for causing the ridiculous mix-up of lovers depicted in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. Although the confusion was based mostly on Oberon's nebulous directions, he can still blame Puck for the mistake. We all know fairies are flawed beings, falling easily prey to the wiles of the magic love-juice. Puck was given the responsibility to resolve the lovers' disputes, but fails miserably and succeeds in making things much worse until the play is finally resolved.

Not so our God! Daniel 4:35 says:

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, "What have you done?"

I love this verse. It displays so eloquently God's majesty and power. I picture God's hand, immeasurably larger than the multitudes scattered below, stretching out around the universe, controlling all things and shaping the course of history. We are unable to stay his hand or question his decisions, quite unlike the unhappy Oberon angered at his mischievous attendant. And again, the results of God's endeavors are far different than the results of Puck's well-intended interference. We have no need to to stay God's hand or question his decisions.


And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28, ESV

It's a comforting thought, is it not? We are not ruled by petty fairies who mistake Lysander for Demetrius. Of course, it is not that we have no part to carry out to make our actions align with God's moral or individual will, but God's sovereign will will be fulfilled no matter what. We can rest assured of God's promise to never leave us. His promise to the Israelites from Joshua 1:5 still holds true:


No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.

March 9, 2008

I am a radian

When studying rotational motion we find:

1 rev= 2Ď€rad
1 revolution (360 degrees) equals two pi radians.

However, a radian is really nothing. People cancel it out automatically. The only way a radian takes on meaning is in the context of the circle.

Take this a little farther, if you will- suppose that God is like a circle. It seems a reasonable analogy to me: He had no beginning, has no end, and is perfect.

Seeing as
"I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20), I do not live by my own power. I may try to- (and try I have!)- but my attempts to live without letting Christ shine through me have yielded miserable results. It seems much easier, of course, to live on my own strength. Yet I cannot- my life only takes on meaning in the context of Christ.

I am a radian.

March 7, 2008

My vision for this blog

God has laid a burden on my heart to begin this blog. I've been convinced that I must strive for excellence in all I do, and to "do hard things"- small and insignificant as they may seem. So I've worked on those goals- trying to serve my family, submit to my father, and be diligent in my studies. But besides improving my own character, I want to encourage you in your spiritual growth as well. Hopefully, this blog will encourage me to live deeply and to improve my ability to explain my thoughts while giving you some food for thought and a push to draw closer to your Savior.

My title is inspired by Romans 12:2. I want to separate from the world's desires and priorities, and instead to be transformed by the renewal of my mind. Clearly, it won't be easy- but I know it will be worth it.

One of my favorite verses gives me a reason to "think outside the globe":
"And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." -1 John 2:17 (ESV)