Archive for March, 2010

The Real Meaning of Easter

Bay Area Fellowship in Texas is giving away $2 million in prizes to people who attend church on Easter weekend. Each person will receive a gift bag, but more impressively, some attendees will win cars, Fender guitars, flat screen televisions, iPods, furniture, and my personal favorite (almost worth the plane ticket), skateboards.

The pastor, Bil Cornelius, says of the giveaway, “We’re going to give some stuff away and say, ‘Imagine how great heaven is going to be if you feel that excited about a car.’”

I do not understand how promoting materialism is going to increase people’s understanding of what Jesus did for us. Perhaps I’m missing something.

Consumerism and materialism are real problems in our society. We are bombarded with advertisements and messages that say, “Stuff will make you happy.” This beer will make you into a strong and respected athlete like Lance Armstrong. This car will make you more macho to counteract how emasculated marriage has made you. This body spray will make you irresistible to the ladies. Your life will be better if you buy and consume more and more.

The gospel teaches the opposite. Happiness is not at all found in material possessions or worldly things. Love, hope peace, and joy are found in Christ alone.

Paul writes in Philippians (3:7), “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” Paul considered all the things he attained in life – material possessions, achievements, reputation – as rubbish, averring that those things have no value in light of what he had gained in Jesus Christ.

Matthew quotes Jesus as saying (6:19-21), “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Material possessions are fleeting and worthless. What is worthwhile and meaningful is in heaven, it is the eternal, not the temporal.

God does bless people with material wealth, and there is nothing wrong with that. But how is promoting materialism and treating church like an Oprah show going to help people understand the gospel? The gospel is that Jesus loves us so much that he lived the life we should have lived and died the death we deserved to die so that we may have eternal life. He desires to have a *relationship* with us, not so that we can “get stuff.”

“We really checked hearts on this,” Pastor Bil said.

Oh, really?

“A lot of people won’t come to Easter services because they think, ‘Well, I haven’t been good.’ … That’s not what it’s about. You don’t have to be ‘good’ to come to church.”

Bil’s statement here is correct; you don’t have to be good to come to church. You do not wait until you are healed to go to the hospital. Churches are like hospitals for the spiritually wounded. You do not need to wait until you are free of issues to come to church; this is impossible. Come to church because you admit that you need help. The hole in your life that you have tried to fill with women and/or men, video games, television shows, alcohol and drugs, sex, work, and money is not working for you. So maybe try God.

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Regular Day at the Bibliotheque

Here is a brief lesson in philosophy. Absurdism, which is related to existentialism and nihilism, holds that humans’ quest to find meaning in the universe is pointless and will inevitably fail because no such meaning exists. From a philosophical point of view, the Absurd refers to the discrepancy between a person’s search for meaning and the impossibility of finding it.

As a Calvinist Christian, I believe there is meaning and design in the universe.

However, I do find many interactions and experiences to be absurd, in the sense that I try to find meaning in them when there is no meaning to be found.

Case in point is my experience at the local bibliotheque this afternoon.

Me: Can I check these books out here?

Uber-Serious, Ultra-Nerdy, Stoic Library Guy: Yes. [USUNSLG scans my library card.]

USUNSLG: You owe $0.60 for overdue books.

Me [Handing him the change]: Here you go. I returned one of the books today. I haven’t quite finished the other one, so I’m hanging onto it for a few more days.

USUNSLG [in a menacing voice]: That book is going to continue to accrue fines, you know?

Me: I know, I’m livin’ on the edge. Ten cents a day, whew! I don’t know how I’m going to afford it.

USUNSLG: Hmmph.

Advertising and Masculinity

 

Does our society really view marriage as emasculating? Dodge apparently thinks so.

I went to the movies last night. I get really annoyed that the movie theater charges me for a ticket and then they proceed to pollute my mental environment with advertisements. Not only did I have to sit through fifteen minutes of ads prior to the twenty minutes of movie previews, I was also handed a print advertisement with my ticket purchase. If the advertisers are going to pay the theater, why should I have to pay them, as well? (This is how television works. Granted, we pay a fee for the television service like cable or satellite, but television shows themselves are paid for by the advertisers, not the viewers.)

One particular pre-preview-pre-movie commercial, apparently originally aired during the Superbowl, which I missed since I do not watch television, caught my attention.

This commercial shows various men’s serious-looking faces, while a narrator states the following:

I will get up and walk the dog at 6:30 am.
I will eat some fruit as part of my breakfast.
I will shave.
I will clean the sink after I shave.
I will be at work by 8 am.
I will sit through 2 hour meetings.
I will say yes when you want me to say yes.
I will be quiet when you don’t want to hear me say no.
I will take your call.
I will listen to your opinion of my friends.
I will listen to your friend’s opinion of my friends.
I will be civil to your mother.
I will put the seat down.
I will separate the recycling.
I will carry your lip balm.
I will watch your vampire TV shows with you.
I will take my socks off before getting into bed.
I will put my underwear in the basket.
And because I do this…I drive the car I want to drive. Charger.
Man’s last stand.
(The text on the screen at the end reads, “Man’s Last Stand.”)

The Dodge commercial’s implied message is that men silently put up with women’s endless lists of unpleasant demands, and thus must exert their manhood by putting their feet down with their wives in order to drive a masculine car (sure, whether a Dodge Charger is up for debate, but let‘s focus on one thing at a time).

In other words, the commercial implies that men are emasculated in a marriage. Examples of this emasculation are withholding their views (I will be quiet), carrying makeup (lip balm), and, heaven forbid, paying attention to their wives (I will take your call). Men can then regain their masculinity by number one, standing up to their wives (Man’s last stand), and number two, buying a supposedly masculine car.

Incidentally, I do find it a bit strange that many of these statements seem unpleasant, like sitting through meetings, faking nice to friends and in laws, and watching vampire shows (ugh, don’t get me started), and couched in the middle of all these distasteful activities is the statement, “I will take your call.” Since when is taking a call from one’s wife an objectionable activity? That seems sad to me, as I would like to believe that many spouses enjoy each other’s company.

Does our society really believe that marriage is so emasculating that men have to take a final stand against the women they marry? Is marriage so unpleasant that men hate doing things that make their wives’ lives a bit easier? Why get married if women are really so pesky and demanding? Why get married if you will feel like less of a man for contributing to the income and affairs of a household? Is buying a car really going to make anyone any happier or more manly?

Moisturizer

 

I make my own moisturizer and cleanser.
Body:
Mix 2 drops of lavender essential oil (or your favorite essential oil) per 1 ounce of safflower oil.
Apply after shower to towel dried skin.

Face:
Mix 1 part castor oil to 1 part safflower oil (if you find this too drying, use less castor oil).
Apply a very small amount after shower to towel dried skin.

You can also use this facial mixture to clean your face. It will remove dirt, impurities, and even waterproof makeup.
Apply a quarter-sized amount to your hands and massage into skin for a minute or so.
Wet a washcloth with hot water from the tap, warm enough to open your pores but not scalding.
Hold the washcloth to your face until the cloth starts to cool, rinse it out, and repeat a few times.
You are trying to steam your skin, open the pores, and release impurities.

I have very sensitive skin and the oil does not cause me to break out. My skin is much less sensitive to these forms of moisturizer and cleanser than to popular manufactured products with their questionable ingredients (Dimethiconol, Carbomer, Methylparaben).

What are we doing tonight?
Tonight? We make soap.

I Think

A friend of mine, who is probably on the verge of getting an alias on my blog, sent me an email. “Penny for your thoughts,” he wrote.

I think that the following questions are music to an INTJs ears: “What do you think?” “What’s your opinion?” “What is your input?”

I think that pharmaceutical companies are scary. I refer to them as Big Pharma. Drug sales are fueled by marketing, not efficacy or safety. In other words, the best-selling drug in our country is the one on which Big Pharma spent the most money advertising. It has nothing to do with how good or safe the drug is, or what its side effects are.

I think advertising pollutes our mental environment, Big Pharma being a prime example. In general, advertising (think of print ads in magazines or commercials on the “electronic bookshelf” you have your furniture pointed at) promotes dissatisfaction.

I think that some bands are good even though they are popular and mainstream. But sometimes I am a snob and I don’t *want* to like them because they are popular and mainstream. I am the same way with books. I totally won’t read Twilight or Harry Potter.

I think that the Keurig they put into the office next to mine (for anyone to use) is going to take my caffeine addiction to the next level.

I think a lot about how to constantly change up my workouts (to keep them interesting and to enable myself to make progress and not plateau). A person cannot really get stronger and get leaner at the same time. I mean, it depends on the person’s existing body composition, but especially for people who already have little body fat, it is difficult because it’s like trying to gain weight and lose weight at the same time. Yet, I can never quite decide which I want.

I suppose if I had to choose, I prefer to get stronger. To me, it is easier and more fun. When I lose weight (which I am not at all trying to do), I feel weak, and I don’t like it. Conversely, when I am able to lift more weight, I feel so strong and empowered. Incidentally, over the past two years since I learned to work out properly, I have gained a lot of muscle, but I have not gained any weight. Every woman on the planet struggles with body image (thanks in part to advertising and the promotion of an unrealistic ideal), but I have never felt as secure in my body image as when I started to weight train properly and get strong.

Many women, I think, underestimate their strength. I see women who military press 10 pound dumbbells. “Your shoulders are stronger than that!,” I think. Sometimes I want to go up to them and encourage them, but I never do. That is how I became stronger and felt better about myself, though. I had people who handed me more weight than I thought I could lift, they encouraged me, and I was able to lift it.

I think teenagers are very fascinating. They are in a stage of life where they are searching for identity. They are no longer as authentic as young children are, yet often, teens are still more authentic than many adults. Teenagers have an intriguing balance of idealism and cynicism. They expect and thirst for a lot out of other people and out of life, yet they mistrust people, especially adults (many times rightfully so).

Teens experience all the same insecurities and struggles that adults face, yet they do not have the experience to understand how time changes things. I think that most adults marginalize and discount teenagers, yet often the teens are right (e.g. “I shouldn’t have to do this homework, which is really just busy work, because it is a waste of time that I could be using more productively, and I’m never going to use this crap in real life.” Yes, that actually is true.).

Clarifying Rebelliousness

To expound on my earlier post about rebelliousness, I have a few more thoughts.

It is natural to give into worldly desires or whatever, as we as Christians still have our sin nature thanks to Adam and Eve. (My friend has a t-shirt that says, “My Bad. -Eve”) That is the beauty of grace, that God loves me even though I have my sinful nature.

What I mean by rebelliousness is that I wish I could wake up every morning and give the entire day, all my actions and thoughts, to God. I do often pray that, yet two seconds later, I’m unconsciously taking back my words, thinking about how I can glorify myself today rather than God. The rebelliousness comes into play in virtually everything I do. Every decision to be made, there is a Godly voice and an evil voice (“Share the gospel with this person,” versus “I don’t feel like talking to anyone right now.” or “Wait to learn this guy’s heart and character,” versus “What’s the harm in letting him kiss you.” or “Spend time with Me,” versus, “I would rather do something else.”) Granted, I don’t always DO the rebellious thing, but there is a part of me that WANTS to do the rebellious thing.

I KNOW intellectually that doing the Godly thing will make my life better. Maybe not easier, but better, and perhaps simpler. But I still want to do the sinful thing (sinful in the sense that everything that is not of faith is sin, so that even “good” things done for selfish reasons are still sinful).

Rebelliousness versus Obedience

 

Sometimes it is difficult to be a Christian. I want to hang onto the world, worldliness, and at the same time, I want the benefits of being one of God’s children.

I like to listen to secular music. I have listened to it all my life, and I enjoy punk, hard rock, and electronica. I want to date “like a normal person.” I spent 14 years (from my first boyfriend at age 13 to the time I became a Christian at age 27) dating without knowing how to date in a Godly way or have healthy relationships, and it is difficult to change old patterns. I want to watch mainstream movies or read pulp fiction because these things are entertaining.

However, trying to hold on to worldliness is ultimately to my detriment. Secular music contributes to my use of bad language and a false understanding of love. Trying to hang onto old ways of dating does not glorify God, and it only causes stress and distance from God. What seems glamorous or appealing proves empty and unsettling. Watching mainstream movies promotes dissatisfaction and disappointment. Relationships in mainstream media are portrayed as if another person can be your everything and can totally fulfill you, but this is not reality.

In our society, we are bombarded with fairy tales. We see men who desire and idolize women; they are the rescuers, saving us from our “real life” that is full of hassles. We see women who are airbrushed beyond what is realistic. We see advertisements and listen to songs that promote sexual and sensual temptation. And we want to hang onto these fairy tales, because they are alluring. Movies and advertisements promise a happy ending as a result of being lustful (“sex equals love”) and greedy (“buying stuff equals happiness”).

God says through Paul in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” When we submit our wills to the control of the Holy Spirit, we gain these “fruits,” or benefits. Often, I want to follow my own will and live a worldly life, yet I want to reap the benefits of the Spirit anyway. But in reality, Godliness and obedience, tough as it may seem at times, increase peace and joy.

Elisabeth Elliot, in “The Path of Loneliness,” writes, “Sometimes we prefer to struggle even when we are quite clear about what we ought to do. Struggling in such a case only postpones obedience. . . Sooner or later someone is bound to come along and say just what we hoped to hear, ‘Go with your feelings.’ This may seem the easiest way until we try it, whereupon we find that feelings are always canceling each other out – which ones shall we go with?. . . [but] those who go with feelings will never inherit the kingdom of God.”

I can always find someone who will tell me what I want to hear, who will say what I need to give me license to do what I want to do outside of God’s will. Several people have told me lately, “Follow your heart.” That could mean that I choose to follow God, because Jesus in my heart enables me to be obedient and to love others. Or it could mean that I follow my sinful heart, my rebellious desires.

The deep desire of my heart is to follow God and to be obedient. While this path does not make life easier, it makes life simpler.

Yet it is easy to get distracted, to get caught up in the moment, to be influenced by worldliness and to falsely believe that I want worldly things.

Elliot writes of a woman who is joyful in her singleness. Elliot asks the woman if she is lonely, and the woman replies, “Oh no. You see, I have a sense of expectancy every day. What does the Lord want to do with me today? I have no agenda of my own.”

What must it be like to wake up every morning with a wholehearted acceptance of God’s agenda, giving Him my day, my heart, my obedience? I so desire to operate at this level. It must come with such a sense of freedom and love and peace. So why would I keep holding onto worldliness and rebellion?

Well, if I were perfectly obedient, I would not need Christ. Paul writes in Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” I am a work in progress, and sanctification will continue until the day I die. God does not expect me to be perfect right now.