February 28, 2009

CASC Captures Spirit of the Century

On February 27, the Coalition Against Self-Complimentation was formed. Its purpose is to counter the tendency of thoughtless self-promotion. In the founder's words, "We praise ourselves- I praise myself- far too much. CASC wants to change that." The signers to the CASC agreement have made a simple commitment to halt their self-complimentary statements in favor of a more God-focused approach to gifts. At first glance, this pact appears to disallow earnest appreciation of ourselves, but signers are quick to explain how enjoying what God has given and pridefully expressing their pleasure with themselves are two very different things. Their intent can be summarized by the words of Romans 12:3:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

A movement to counter an opposite trend, that of self-depreciation, is in the works. Signers to CASC plan to found ASSD, the Agreement to Stop Self-Depreciation, in the near future.

-Michael contributed to this article.

February 14, 2009

do you like being crabby?

I don't either. I don't like being wrong, annoyed, or impatient. Regardless, I still am. I'm powerless.

What am I? Nothing. A lifeless lifeline, a heart of clay. (It scares me that I'm quoting U2.) I am swayed by my situation: if I am content, it's only because times are easy. If I love, it is only because another loved me first. By myself, I let the stresses of tournament season make me ugly. I'm devoid of meaning. My actions are inconsistent with my desires.

Ephesians 4:14-16
"...so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."

I am a child, tossed by the waves around me. What am I good for? In Jon Foreman's words, both of our hands are equally skilled at doing evil. I am stuck in original sin. My nature is so successful at doing evil, so practiced, so cultivated! It controls me.

I want to feel solid ground under my feet. I want to speak the truth in love. Jesus says "I am the way, the Truth, and the life." He is, if you will, "the form" person, and he is able to make me whole. Not just an empty shell, where emotions and thoughts and circumstances grapple for control. He can make me a human who knows, speaks, and acts according to absolute, objective, truth.

When I am a whole person, I fit properly into the body of believers. Through "unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God" the body of Christ begins working. Is it really possible that the body of Christ was intended to plan speaking venues, discuss issues, and serve one another like a well-oiled machine? I think so. He changes us completely, so we stop tearing each other down and start building each other up in love. We grow to resemble He who is our model of consistency and meaning. God is excellently suited to do good. Both of his hands are equally skilled at ruining evil.

I want to get rid of my incompleteness, my bondage to sin, and my skill at doing evil. So I must hold tight to the immovable rock of Truth. It's hard for me to believe, but I have the assurance that Truth is real! I am changeable and untrustworthy. Alone, my life is meaningless. Truth is solid and consistent. Truth transforms.

February 11, 2009

Friends, facebook, and self-focus

Why do I keep inflicting pain on myself? Whenever I hack into my sister's facebook account, I'm so overwhelmed by sadness. To know so much about people's lives and not be part of it is vastly depressing to my little mind. To realize that people have their own lives and they get along quite well without me makes me want to break off into independence and live the life of a hermit. At the same time, I want to jump aboard the facebook ship and start racking up friends.

But why?

Two reasons, mainly. The first is noble. With access to facebook, I can keep up with my friends. I can stay updated on what's important to them. I can understand them, what makes them tick, how I can bless them better. I can encourage them when they're down. Of course, a few of my friends aren't on facebook, but still. Through the blog world, I've gained access to my friend's thoughts, and I greatly appreciate it and enjoy it. Facebook would be like blogger on steroids.

Yet the second reason makes me ponder. It seems a main motivation to join facebook is ME. I want attention. Status. Approval. Love. I want to satiate the awful desire to scream "I miss you!" to the world. And I don't know if I can condone joining if I'm so self-focused.

I'm certain there are other factors involved, such as easy access to pictures or staying up-to-date on birthdays, but the reasons are centered around connecting with friends and garnering affirmation for myself. I don't need to make decisions based on insecurity. I don't need to place a stumbling block in front of myself as I try to "do nothing from selfishness or conceit." Nor do I need an excuse for misusing my precious time.

So for now,
I remain yours most sincerely,

Art Notonfacebook

February 8, 2009

"Balance is Best"

That was a contention out of my old negative case. But, upon further pondering, I don't think it's true.

I've thinking about how so many extremes exist:
Relaxed v. Stressed.
Popularist v. Anti-popularist.
Passive v. Aggressive. (From Grace's class on speaking styles at MASTERS.)
Deep v. Shallow. (Here is the answer I proposed when I blogged about it earlier.)

Often, we seek for a balance between the two. We do sometimes manage to become reasonably balanced, but as long as we're slaves to sin, stuck in the muddy waters of self-focus, we can't get rid of the combined shortcomings of each attitude.

God's way is on an entirely different dimension. With Him, the focus changes from our self, to God, and consequently, to others. See the illustration below.



I've heard that we need a balance between self-indulgence and self-neglect. We can't get depressed and put ourselves down, but neither can we let our pride prop ourselves up. Yet if both of these are self-focused, how is balancing them going to solve anything? There are so many other examples of searching for balance between two flawed extremes. Balance so often proves useless.

Wisdom necessitates that we completely change our mindset.

We, like little fish, swimming in the muddy river, somehow need to sprout wings and fly. It's as impossible as converting a drawing of a person into a three-dimensional human being. But when the Artist breathes life into us, the copy becomes real. The dead becomes alive. The children of men become children of God.

Balance simply can't hold a candle to that.

February 6, 2009

Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt

"Beyond a shadow of a doubt" is one of the most brilliant phrases I've ever come upon. Besides elegantly rolling off your tongue and lending itself to dramatics, (just imagine a speaker emphasizing the word "shadow" with a big hand gesture) it uses simple words to reach complex topics.

Beyond: it doesn't deny that doubts exist. But it suggests that we've come far enough along that doubts don't matter. "I'm past that," it seems to say.

A shadow of a doubt: it's profound because it gives an airy, ungraspable, concept physical properties. It reaches up into the clouds and pulls the doubt into the material world. It makes you wonder, what does a doubt look like? I imagine that a doubt starts out like a little tiny bug or worm. (The shadow would be rather small. "Beyond a shadow of a doubt" now seems to be drawing attention to the tiniest details, like how Christmas eve finds no creatures stirring, "not even a mouse.")

But the miniscule doubt slowly starts to eat away at solid truth, and grows bigger and bigger until it turns into a fear. By that time, truth has started to crumble. Perhaps it has already have turned to dust, and will soon be blown away in the wind.

"Beyond a shadow of a doubt" firmly establishes certainty. The fact is so strong that it cannot be affected by doubts in any stage of their life (larva, pupa, or adult). Even the shadow of that doubt (and shadows can grow long in the evening) is too small to touch the truth. Isn't it beautiful?

February 5, 2009

Energy Trilemma

Right now, I'm in the middle of writing an essay on Frederic Bastiat's The Law, which I'd definitely encourage you to read, if you haven't already. I'm pouring (almost) all my creative energies into it. It makes me wonder: what is the best approach to the use of our energy?

A few things I do know. That "whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31) That we ought to work for the Lord. (Colossians 3:23-24) Also, that God gives us wisdom to make decisions. (Proverbs 2:6)

These are the choices I've identified:
  1. Invest all of our being into everything we do? (When I try to do that, and stay up late at night writing debate briefs, my mom says I'm too intense. Plus, I often get a cold. If we "focus" on everything, won't everything actually be out of focus?)
  2. Ration our strength? (But God will provide enough strength for us. He makes us live. We are only human beings who have no place deciding if we can accomplish something.)
  3. Focus on a few things? (Ah, but then the "less important" things in life won't be accomplished, such as *cough*school*cough*. It also means multitasking isn't such a great idea. It's very hard to determine which activities should be focused on.)
I know that I'm often unsuccessful at finding balance. But is balance what we want? Is there an ideal way to invest ourselves? Your thoughts would be much appreciated.