Reflection


Are we always free to change?  It was argued in my Existentialism class today that no matter our past, we can always reinvent ourselves and pursue a different life.  I disagreed, however, and I have the famous Irish playwright Oscar Wilde in my corner.

Wilde was blessed with an extraordinary story telling ability.  The characters from his plays and novels leap from the page in vivid plot and description.  Oscar Wilde was known for his gits to be sure, but he was also known for his lecherous behavior which eventually led to imprisonment and disgrace before his death.

Wilde gave both personal and literary testimoy to his destructive behavior.  Shortly before his death he wrote the following words:

I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease…Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in search for new sensation.  I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber, one has some day to cry aloud from the housetop. I ceased to be lord over myself. I was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it. I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace.

Wilde witnesses the effect that behavior has on character here.  The choices that we make today will determine what options we have in the future.  If I make bad choices, I damage my soul and distort my character.  If I continue down the wrong path long enough, I rob myself of the very freedom that I had once treasured; I will indeed cease to be the captain of my soul.  Wilde wasn’t the first to discover this truth, of course; Aristotle stated much the same thing and the principle of moral sowing and reaping is clearly taught in Scripture (Galatians 6:7).  Every decision we may effectively limits our future decisions: for good or evil.

Wilde’s literary autobiography is contained in the novella, The Picture of Dorian Gray which relates the story of an innocent young man’s descent into debauchery and self-destruction.  Throughout the story, Gray learns that he is able to take part in the vilest of behavior, yet suffer no consequences to his body or appearance; the eponymous picture suffers all of the damage.  However, Dorian eventually discovers that the picture is a representation of his own twisted soul, and at the climax of the narrative when he reveals the ruined painting to the artist who created it (just before murdering him):

“It is the face of my soul.”

“Christ! what a thing I must have worshipped! It has the eyes of a devil.”

“Each of us has heaven and hell in him, Basil,” cried Dorian
with a wild gesture of despair.

Hallward turned again to the portrait and gazed at it.
“My God! If it is true,” he exclaimed, “and this is
what you have done with your life, why, you must be worse
even than those who talk against you fancy you to be!”
He held the light up again to the canvas and examined it.
The surface seemed to be quite undisturbed and as he had left it.
It was from within, apparently, that the foulness and horror
had come. Through some strange quickening of inner life
the leprosies of sin were slowly eating the thing away.
The rotting of a corpse in a watery grave was not
so fearful.

His hand shook, and the candle fell from its socket on the floor
and lay there sputtering. He placed his foot on it and put it out.
Then he flung himself into the rickety chair that was standing by
the table and buried his face in his hands.

“Good God, Dorian, what a lesson! What an awful lesson!”
There was no answer, but he could hear the young man
sobbing at the window. “Pray, Dorian, pray,” he murmured.
“What is it that one was taught to say in one’s boyhood?
‘Lead us not into temptation. Forgive us our sins.
Wash away our iniquities.’ Let us say that together.
The prayer of your pride has been answered. The prayer of your
repentance will be answered also. I worshipped you too much.
I am punished for it. You worshipped yourself too much. We are
both punished.”

Dorian Gray turned slowly around and looked at him with tear-dimmed eyes.
“It is too late, Basil,” he faltered.

“It is never too late, Dorian. Let us kneel down and try if we
cannot remember a prayer. Isn’t there a verse somewhere,
‘Though your sins be as scarlet, yet I will make them as white
as snow’?”

“Those words mean nothing to me now.”

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. (Hosea 8:7)

 

I recently noticed that the popular NBC TV show, Heroes, is boasting a new series with the promo “In every hero there could be a villain”.  It seems to be centered around the idea that the heroes are also the villains at different times throughout the drama.  I think I can relate.  But I would argue that in every hero there IS a villain.

I have been a believer in Jesus Christ since I was five years of age.  I was dramatically converted from a life of thumb-sucking and temper tantrums, I like to say.  In reality, I know I was “born from above,” as John chapter 3 puts it, because of the warfare that has raged in my soul ever since, among other reasons.  Recently, I have felt frustrated with some of the ways that I have been tempted and, at times, given in to my old nature, the sinful power in me, the “villain” that opposes everything I want to be for God.  I’ve been asking myself alot of questions.  Questions like:

Where does my desire to tear down another person in order to build myself up come from?

Why do I worry about the future when I am promised my needs will be cared for forever? 

What keeps me from sharing God’s truth to my aquaintances every chance I get? 

Why do I care so much about my own comfort? 

Why do I fear for my own loss when everything that really matters I already have, and that which I have I can never lose?

Why do I lose my joy?  How can I fix my eyes on any earthly situation for more than a moment when I could be gazing (spiritually) into the eyes of my Redeemer?

How can I neglect to truly pray when I know that all that I could ever want is found in the whisper of His name?

Why do I choose to feed my physical thirst and neglect feeding my spiritual thirst when my appetite for the former is never quenched, but the latter springs up unto life eternal? 

How is it that I can sin and not shed a single tear when Jesus Christ wept over my sin in the Garden the night before it cost Him His life?

Why do I no longer tremble when I think of how close I came to spending all of forever in eternal damnation and punishment?

How can I forget so easily the agony of that night in the garden or in Pilate’s palace?  How is it that Golgotha slips so quickly from my mind?

Why does my anger rise up within me when I am ridiculed – do I not deserve every word against me and more?

How can I choose the evening sitcom over bedside prayers with my children?

How can I allow images of women other than my wife to linger in my mind?

What causes me to desire to deceive or withhold information in order to be praised by my peers or obtain a larger paycheck?

Why do I choose to stay in bed some mornings when I could be exploring the riches of the Holy Scriptures?

Why do I quickly question and want to rebel in my heart against any and all authority set over me regardless of who it is? 

How do I fall in love so quickly with anything and everything that tickles my fancy when it displaces my first love for my Savior? 

Why do I fail to be content when I already have everything that is good for me?

These are just a few of the questions that lately have plagued my mind.  I want to do what is right.  I want to be holy.  I get so tired some times of struggling with my self.  I see in me this law that all that I don’t want to do, that I do.  And that which I want to do, I don’t do.  What a treacherous man I am!  Who will rescue me from from this war that rages in my soul?  Thank God that I can be free through Jesus Christ, my Lord.  So with my mind I am serving this principle of Christ, but with my flesh I am serving this principle of sin.  (See Romans 7:22-25 – my own paraphrase) 

Once again, my victory over this arch enemy deep within lies in Scripture.  Romans chapter 8, verses 5,13, 14, 26 & 32 seems to spell it out.

Verse 5 teaches me to set my mind on the things of the Spirit.

Verse 13 teaches me to put to death the actions of the sinful nature (the flesh).

Verse 14 commands me to follow the Spirit.

Verses 26 & 32 prompt me to pray for the victory.

Can it really be that simple?  Yes, I think it can be.  Has God’s will ever been hard to understand?  The difficulty is in obeying these simple commands daily.  This battle that I face every day is won by following these four commands.  When I keep my mind on spiritual matters (the Word of God) through memorizing, meditating and mentioning (Psalm 119:11 & Joshua 1:8) it consistently, I have obeyed the first command.  But I have only begun the battle.  When I refuse to obey the desires of my sinful nature, I have gained another part of the victory. 

Thirdly, I must follow the Spirit of God.  “Follower” is a synonym with “disciple”  from which we get the word discipline.  We must discipline ourselves to follow the new law of the Spirit.  Over 1000 commands are given in the new testament and by God’s grace, we are to follow them.  Not as legalists trying to obtain God’s favor, but as children seeking to please Him who has made us accepted in the beloved.  But, even this is futile if we fail to follow verses 26 & 32. 

It is only when I add quality time before the throne of God, allowing the Spirit to pray through me in groanings that often cannot even be uttered, that I ensure I have done my part and have been victorious.  Yes, and I know that I am victorious over this principle of sin because I am more than a conqueror through him that loved me and that predestined me to be conformed to the image of his Son.  (Romans 8:30 & 37)

Praise God for the victory that I have over the villain inside me when I simply trust and obey the truths of His word!   And I don’t even need to watch the TV show.

 I Think About These Things… 

The Mayan Long Count Calendar ends December 21, 2012.  Why is this significant?  I decided to research this event and found the following:

 Is there something significant we should know about the Winter Solstice date of December 21, 2012? Yes. On this day a rare astronomical and Mayan mythical event occurs. In astronomic terms, the Sun conjuncts the intersection of the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic. The Milky Way, as most of us know, extends in a general north-south direction in the night sky. The plane of the ecliptic is the track the Sun, Moon, planets and stars appear to travel in the sky, from east to west. It intersects the Milky Way at a 60 degree angle near the constellation Sagittarius.

The cosmic cross formed by the intersecting Milky Way and plane of the ecliptic was called the Sacred Tree by the Maya. The trunk of the tree, the Axis Mundi, is the Milky Way, and the main branch intersecting the tree is the plane of the ecliptic. Mythically, at sunrise on December 21, 2012, the Sun – our Father – rises to conjoin the center of the Sacred Tree, the World Tree, the Tree of Life..

This rare astronomical event, foretold in the Mayan creation story of the Hero Twins, and calculated empirically by them, will happen for many of us in our lifetime. The Sun has not conjoined the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic since some 25,800 years ago, long before the Mayans arrived on the scene and long before their predecessors the Olmecs arrived. What does this mean?

Due to a phenomenon called the precession of the equinoxes, caused by the Earth’s wobble that lasts almost 26,000 years, the apparent location of the Winter Solstice sunrise has been ever so slowly moving toward the Galactic Center. Precession may be understood by watching a spinning top. Over many revolutions the top will rise and dip on its axis, not unlike how the Earth does over an extremely long period of time. One complete rise and dip constitutes the cycle of precession.

The Mayans noticed the relative slippage of the positions of stars in the night sky over long periods of observation, indicative of precession, and foretold this great coming attraction. By using an invention called the Long Count, the Mayans fast-forwarded to anchor December 21, 2012 as the end of their Great Cycle and then counted backwards to decide where the calendar would begin. Thus the Great Cycle we are currently in began on August 11, 3114 B.C. But there’s more.

The Great Cycle, lasting 1,872,000 days and equivalent to 5,125.36 years, is but one fifth of the Great Cycle, known scientifically as the Great Year or the Platonic Year – the length of the precession of the equinoxes. To use a metaphor from the modern industrial world, on Winter Solstice A.D. 2012 it is as if the Giant Odometer of Humanity on Earth hits 100,000 miles and all the cycles big and small turn over to begin anew. The present world age will end and a new world age will begin.

Over a year’s time the Sun transits through the twelve houses of the zodiac. Many of us know this by what “Sun sign” is associated with our birthday. Upping the scale to the Platonic Year – the 26,000 year long cycle – we are shifting, astrologically, from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. The Mayan calendar does not really “end” in 2012, but rather, all the cycles turn over and start again, vibrating to a new era. It is as if humanity and the Earth will graduate in the eyes of the Father Sun and Grandmother Milky Way.[1] 

Ok, but it’s only 2008.  What is happening closer to today?  Let’s see, by law all analog broadcast television has to be digital by February 17, 2009.  On February 17, 2009 all full-power broadcast television stations in the United States will stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and begin broadcasting only in digital. Digital broadcasting will allow stations to offer improved picture and sound quality and additional channels“.[2] 

The countdown has begun.  I wonder why February 17th was chosen?  Maybe it has to do with Michael Jordan and Paris Hilton’s birthdays?  Or Geronimo died on this date in 1909?  The odds on favorite has to be,  Pope Pious the VII declaring Saint Clare of Assisi the patron saint of television on that date in 1958?[3]   

Many have questioned why conversion to digital is necessary.  According to www.dtv.gov congress decided dtv is necessary.  (strike one: if congress thinks it’s a good thing  hold on to your wallets.)   The DTV booklet on their site such a move is necessary to free up limited bandwidth for public emergency services usage (or so the argument goes) and that is a good thing but they attached a glaring rider… and new wireless services, such as wireless broadband.” [4] 

 So who benefits?  I am not naïve enough to believe the government is doing this on my behalf, for my benefit. Why is Congress so Gung-Ho about the public viewing DTV and HD programming?  That is another thing that has bugged me for years… why do they call it programming?  And what do they mean by programming?

In an Image driven culture DTV and High Def will once again draw everyone’s attention back to focus on the altar of the entertainment gods.  They were tired of their worshippers multi-tasking and wanted undivided attention .  So will DTV make programming (however you define programming) easier?

 part 2

So, what is the magic behind all this forced conversion?  I was a radio technician in the Marine Corps and I understand a little about signaling so I’ll see if I can keep this very simple.  The exact wording on this change concerns “full” power stations specifically for the February 17, 2009 change over.  What this means is the full power “analog” station uses what they call the entire envelope for a given frequency.  It takes tremendous power to drive such a signal so it is less efficient and more costly to provide such a signal.  What the FCC is doing is telling the “full power stations that they need to broadcast digitally on only a portion of the frequency band.  The full band of any given frequency has an upper portion (upper sideband) and a lower portion (lower sideband).  The current analog signal uses both the upper and the lower portions, pushing the entire width to deliver the signal.  What will now happen is the stations will use only a portion of that signal (usually lower) to deliver the signal.  It will take less power to deliver the signal and it will “free up” the rest of the frequency for other uses.  In turn it will allow the government to auction twice a$ many license$ for the $ame amount of frequencie$.   (cha-ching!)

So why won’t your TV work if the station stays on it’s current frequency when it cuts over?  Because your receiver will not be getting the entire signal it requires in order to process the picture and audio after the change over.   This will require you to either buy a set top converter (cha-ching) or a new television (cha-ching, cha-ching).

I still wonder if there is some connection between a enhanced visual image and programming?  If normal analog signal programming produced the couch potato… what will HD programming produce?  If DTV will allow multicasting on the same frequency can HD imbed subliminal images and programming that will only be able to be detected in the subconscious?  I’m not trying to be an X-files Mulder-ite here but I think about these things.

So what will 2012 bring?  Will it bring the next phase of human evolution?  When this once in 26 thousand years event takes place and the long count calendar is “reset,” will we find we are evolving to a higher plane of existence?  If it is so then it scares me to think that the next evolution of man will be built on the foundation of our current condition.   What will be the necessary agency that drives the change?  What overwhelming need will ignite the spark for change?  Will it be: Biological? Psychological?  Spiritual?  I don’t know since I don’t watch enough Oprah.  But next year I can see it in HD.  I digress.

Order cannot come from disorder, if there is no absolute standard where we can anchor ourselves morally we cannot hope for something better to arise from that which is already broken.  Without a standard there is no difference between “is” and “ought” and each one is left to practice what works for them.  Wait, we are already there aren’t we? 

It’s 2008, the Mayan long count calendar ends in 2012.  Charlie Manson will be eligible for parole in 2012.

I think about these things

 


A Message from  

 

“A number of people called our attention to this clip from the popular TV series ER. It really is amazing for secular television.The “Fair Use” law allowed us to teach from it, without violating copyright laws. It has wonderful evangelistic potential, so please use it all over the Internet.”

To me this one is worth re-posting for WOTM.

Tight SlippersJonalyn Grace Fincher’s book, Ruby Slippers, has proven to be a pioneer book on femininity and discovering the soul of a woman.  I will be reading and re-reading this to contemplate the stimulating concepts that are presented.  I must admit that my own perception of the feminine soul has been challenged.The first analogy that we examined was that of corsets. We layer our corsets so tight so that our soul begins to suffocate under the weight. Another striking analogy that Jonalyn utilizes is that of Grimm’s Cinderella.  Unlike the Disney version, Grimm paints a picture of two step-sisters who cut off parts of their flesh to fit into shoes that were not meant for them. They had normal feet but demolished what they had to try to squeeze into shoes meant for Cinderella.

“Often the roles we play are like pinching shoes. In order to fit into some role, we squeeze ourselves, contort ourselves, even cut off part of ourselves. We accept these roles, and the contortions they sometimes demand, and we call it womanly, submissive even.”

Much like the step-sisters, we slice off parts of our soul to fit into the molds that we are expected to wear. We cut away crucial parts that God intends for us to grow and use. What we don’t realize is that while we fit into the shoes, our souls are bleeding. Why do we accept this as a necessary part of femininity without going to the One who created us to find out what He expects?

God created each woman unique. When we chisel away what He gave us, we are limiting ourselves to the narrowminded expectations of society.  I think its a sad commentary that we are satisfied with the shoes that are handed to us and we struggle to fit outselves into them without asking God what He wants for us.  How unfulfilled our lives become!  We must toss the corsets and man-made shoes to lay ourselves bare before the all-loving God who knows us…really knows us. But, this is so scary! Who are we without our corsets and tight shoes? Do we dare expose ourselves for who we are? 

We must remove human opinion from its pedestal. We must regard God’s opinion as the basis for our femininity. I love how Jonalyn puts it: “It’s time to remove these stifling shoes and corsets so we can walk closer to Christ.”

Reality Television is King since the writer’s strike has deprived us of our fix of sit-coms and drama this season.  All the reality shows; such as: Smarter than a 5th Grader, Deal or No-deal, Dancing with the Stars, American Idol and a host of others; have flooded the cable and airwaves in a rush to fill the void.  

As I sat there this week watching the Biggest Loser I began to think about what I was ingesting, no, I don’t mean foodstuffs, but thoughts and ideas.  What are the bait, hook and tackle? 

The Bait:

One only has to look around at the average waistline and you can see how our lives of ease and/or materialism-induced-stress have weighed on us.   Daily you can find articles, self-help programs and a mountain of books trying to get their collective arms around the problem of obesity.  In fact we have spent so much time gathering this information that we have had little time for anything else, especially such trivial things as exercise, play, and the like.  At some point one has to conclude it is time to stop thinking about it and do something about it. (I haven’t reached this radical point, yet.)

wide-load.jpg

So here is the positive premise, if we see people engaged and succeeding in the attempt it will motivate others to get up off their lazy keesters and do likewise.  So… someone put it on television for the masses to see and hopefully emulate.  This is a good thing. 

The negative premise is that now that it is on television our voyeuristic natures kick in and we watch others play the game instead of engaging in it ourselves.  We’ll just sit here and watch how it’s done.  This is not so good. 

The Hook:

Always hidden in the bait is a hook and this is no different.  The hook is the game, who will go who will stay.  How do they accomplish this?  Ah, here is where psychology sets the hook, “challenges and temptations!”  It would truly be a boring show if all it was, was watching rollie-pollies sweat and work out (no matter how much the trainers rant and rave).   One can stand to watch only so much flabby jiggling and man boobs.  Therefore, there has to be some other angle, the hook is: game-play during temptations and challenges.   

The manipulations, the deceptions, the intrigue; and that’s just the commercials.  Raw human nature is front and center in the reality show.  Wrath, envy, greed, gluttony, sloth, lust, and pride are the stars, with the players as supporting cast.  Being the voyeurs we are, we enjoy watching it in others as they stumble and fall below the yellow line.  (Yes, it is a cynical view but I believe an accurate one.  It’s like NASCAR, the reason a huge percentage watch is to see a wreck.)  In short it’s addictive

The Tackle:

All this leaves us with the final two ingredients, the weigh-in and the elimination room.  Who will be the biggest loser this week?  Which team will have the greatest percentage weight loss?  Who will be exempt, who will go home?  Ooooo, I get tingly just thinking about it.  Here is the payoff for watching the sweating and the puking and the jiggling: someone is going home.  Who will it be?   

In summary I have to say that I find these reality shows entertaining on the surface but since my mind is warped and wired differently I find these same shows somewhat disturbing.  I realize it is a game, but it seems to reinforce the idea of situational ethics.  The, “I am going to do what it takes to make sure I come out the winner,” the Zen of (Donald) Trump if you will.  That may be understood to be the “American Way” but it is far from the Biblical Way.    

These shows are the very antithesis of Biblical Christianity.  They promote greed, the Bible says to give; they bank on covetousness, the Bible condemns it; they manipulate and lie to get to the next level, the Scriptures tell us to sacrifice self and put others ahead of ourselves.   Even the Golden Rule has changed from, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” to “do unto others before they do unto you.”  Each week millions tune in to get their weeks fix of existentialistic materialism and we never see that it is not only our waists that are getting thicker.  Think about it.   

Well, just thought I’d weigh in on the matter.

Photo from:http://www.dogpile.com/clickserver/_iceUrlFlag=1?rawURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.brainfart.org%2Fdisplay_image.asp%3Fid%3Dwide_load.jpg&0=&1=0&4=204.9.89.53&5=98.16.20.233&9=1b7e198a3cbc43cb9aafabc15f74c801&10=1&11=info.dogpl&13=search&14=372380&15=main-title&17=1&18=1&19=0&20=0&21=1&22=plwbduwW%2FgM%3D&23=0&40=MmNZ7ovFAlQMex5Go2DtCg%3D%3D&_IceUrl=true 

611ldbwioml_aa240_1.jpgI am in the process of reading Ruby Slippers by Jonalyn Grace Fincher.  The book so far is insightful and intriguing.  I was most fascinated by the introductory chapter, which delves into the dilemma of the “corsets” that we wear.

We all wear corsets. We often layer them, multiplying their effect, tightening the cords around our soul, until we look culturally appealing, Christianly appropriate, and feel wretchedly uncomfortable.

As I read this, I had to meditate on my own life. Jonalyn lists corsets that women may wear: the single corset, the sexy corset, the mother corset, the Christian wife corset, the working wife corset, and the list goes on. There are certain roles that others expect me to fulfill…the submissive wife, the doting mother, the office woman, the academic, etc.  These areas are not wrong, actually quite the opposite. The Bible commands me to be a loving and submissive wife and a good mother. Where we have seemed to miss it, is that we put on the “corset” to fit the given role because it is expected of us. We act a certain way and even speak in the tone that is expected in that role. We reduce ourselves to “act the part”. What we are actually doing is suffocating our souls.

Before God made me a wife or a working woman/college student, He made me a living soul, a female soul. In discovering who I am in Christ, I am made free and able to more completely fulfill the responsibilities He has given me. God created me with a personality, with certain gifts and talents.  So why am I content to simply wear the corsets that are assigned to me? Why are we all content to suffocate our souls?

I do not believe Jonalyn is advocating a woman (or man) freeing herself (or himself) of the commands that God has set forth. Rather I believe we have gotten our priorities skewed.  My primary responsibility as a child of God is to discover who He made me to be, and then I am able to filfill the secondary responsibilities. Rather than stuffing my soul into the wife corset, I am now able to be the wife God intends me to be.  Rather than tightening the cords to fit others’ expectations, I am free to live as Christ intends me to be.  Layering corsets stifles the soul, but Christ gives us the freedom to live as He designed us: as female (or male) souls.

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