This is becoming pretty fun (even though some of the timing is a bit dodgy at this point)!
I have been lately mulling over a few thinly related things in both solitude and communion that touch my relationship with Christ. I cannot fully recount all, but I will share the bulk of it.
I had the good pleasure of sitting next to a friend and former teacher last week at the opera. The unplanned meeting proved to be tremendously uplifting. She shared the things that God had done in recent days. We praised our Lord for His faithfulness to even those with waning faith.
I opened my heart to a sermon Sunday night about a few verses in the beginning of the book of John. The preacher focused momentarily on the self-sufficient nature of the Trinity. He guided his listeners through the basic truths that God needs nothing other than Himself to live. He does not need anything in His creation to exist. Inter-trinitarian love is sufficiently perfect in itself; God does not need an object of affection outside of himself for perfect love to exist (He could love perfectly without you or me or any other creature fallen or pure). These are simple, basic truths about the nature of the only true God. But when fully grasped they mean so much more than the few simple phrases belie.
-If God can love perfectly without loving you or me, then that means that the love He shows to us is superfluous.
-If the love that He has for you or me is pure overflow, then the smallest affection would be enough for us to fall head over feet in gratitude.
-God allowed the trinitarian fellowship in which perfect love existed to be momentarily broken in the death of the incarnate Christ. Christ died to save us. God was willing to sacrifice Himself as well as an ancient relationship within the Trinity in order to preserve us.
-The incredibly high degree to which God demonstrated His perfect love to us necessitates an eternal gratitude. Because of the Word and Grace we can express that gratitude through the righteousness that God commands in the lives of those whom He saves.
-Conclusion (boiled down): An accurate understanding of God will affect how we live and think and make choices.
There are two over-arching themes that encapsulate all of the above. First, I learn a lot about God through how He works in the lives of others. I love hearing how God worked miracles in the lives of His children. I love it when people show how He is the God of their lives and not just the God of the Bible. Why try to contain God between two calf-skin covers? Why not prove your experience by the Word and see how through prayer and providence God is proving Himself more and more faithful to His chosen ones every day? And why not share such experiences with others? I know that hearing about the mighty deeds of our Lord among His people is as much if not more telling of His grace than pure, solid academia (I'm not talking about emotion vs. mind but rather experiential vs. cognitive).
Second, I learn a lot about God through how He reveals Himself in his word. If you preach then please, please preach Christ. Preach the word as God spoke it. It is so much more effective than a verse-backed political rally, conduct checklist, or anecdote recital. Tell me about my Savior. Teach me something about who God is. The Living Word preached in pure simplicity and faithful study to what God is communicating about Himself has always changed me and made me more reverent for His authority and divinity than anything else. I don't want to be entertained. You don't have to impress me with your wit. I will respect you so much more, preacher, if you get out of the way of what God wants to show me. When I think back on the sermons and lessons that caused me to grow I find that they are seldom filled with drama and humor, but with truth. I don't mind if you tell me that something is sin or something else is a good thing to do. However, if you teach me about who God is then I am more likely to see sin for what it is and righteousness for what it is and want to choose right.
The professor of my classical literature course periodically encouraged her students to remember her lessons should we revisit any of the literature ten or twenty years after graduating. I've cheated and I'm finishing the Metamorphoses again a few years early.
Reading Ovid again at a more relaxed pace has been thoroughly enjoyable. I've never noticed until recently how Ovid ends a book with the beginning of a tale and then finishes the story in the beginning of the next. The style evolves one book into the next which reinforces the namesake of the work. He also uses frame stories to encapsulate the various accounts into one book. Brilliant.
But rereading it has brought doubts against one particular lesson. Ovid frequently brings up the nasty topic of Cerberus. Cerby is the ostensibly fierce guard to the underworld. Dante would tell you that he is so mean that he's even eternally gnawing on Judas the betrayer. That is the Cerberus that I took notes on. But the more that I learn of this three-headed dog through the Metamorphoses the more I distrust his reputation.
First, if you've never heard the sad tale of Orpheus and I told you that he died while trying to save his beloved Euridice from the clutches of Hades you may assume that it was the dog that got him in the end. However, the silly dog played no part in Orpheus' death. Instead the beast practically rolled over when Orpheus played a song. Orpheus went skipping through the gates of the underworld unscathed.
Point the second: you've got Psyche's ordeal. She had to go get some beauty cream from Persephone to give to Aphrodite (the latter was still angry at Psyche for being more beautiful so she made her jump through hoops to appease her wrath, the Greek gods hold grudges like that). Surely Cerberus would do the little beauty pageant winner in! But wait! What's that Psyche has up her tunic? Honey cakes! Yes, she throws some treats down for the pooch and Aphrodite gets a new jar of concealer. Word apparently spread because Aeneas did the same thing.
Third, we come to Hercules. His is most believable because he had to actually wrestle the beast into submission for the last of twelve labors set to him by Eurystheus. However, the wrestling (in some accounts) was only done as a technicality. Hades was going to give Hercules the dog but thought it unfair so he told Herc to go ahead and play with it for a while to make the whole labor thing look legit. Hercules even appears to have tamed the ferocious beast because he set the creature in guard of a grove after showing it to Eurystheus. Eventually (somehow) the tamed Cerberus made it back to Hades without a scratch.
So, as you can see, this hound of hell is nothing more than hype.
It is given. My girlfriend tells me that the problem with actually doing things like this and showing people means that they'll know that I can do it. It means that they, the folks with the money and the jobs, will come with their contracts and their pay checks and coerce me into performing the same dance over and over again.
Well, this is the first flash animation that I have EVER done. So please be kind (also, I can't seem to get the quicktime files to upload correctly so this gif with all of its grainyness will have to suffice). The animation is part of a series that I am working on for the BJUPress science texts. They will go home with the teachers on compact disks. There never was a better bargain driven.
Have you ever found yourself in (what I'm going to call) one of those stock moments of life? The kind of moment where you suddenly come to yourself and realize that you are living the kind of thing that ends up as part of a Vic Borge act.
Stephen and I were talking at lunch a few Fridays ago about how certain songs are meant for certain activities. Some are written for general things like play or entertaining a dinner party. Other songs have very specific purposes. Some songs are meant for morning tea and the newspaper when the weather is very damp. Stephen says that the song “Two of Us” is for folding laundry. He says that it is part of an entire play list on his iPod that he specifically compiled for doing laundry. I had never thought of making a soundtrack for everything in life (especially the behind the scenes stuff like laundry).
I started a play list for doing laundry a few Friday nights ago. It starts with “Two of Us”. So far its only other companion is “L'Appuntamento”. I spent that Friday evening house and dog sitting and doing my laundry. When the play list ran out of songs for the folding I starting watching a romantic sort of movie that I had heard was good (it was) to keep the ears and eyes occupied while the hands busied themselves with warm fresh fabric. The work agitated the dog. I was slowly unraveling the nest he had made of my dryer-fresh clothes. The work made it hard for him to pay attention to the movie (yes, this dog will sit and watch television if you turn the machine on).
And then I laughed at myself. I spoke to the dog. He listened patiently. “Do you realize how pathetic we are? It's Friday night. We should be living life to the fullest in a coffee shop somewhere. But here we are in old denim and not very white cotton watching a chick flick and folding laundry and listening to love songs. Alone. I miss my girlfriend.” Duncan only cocked his head and raised his ears in ignorance, but I chose to read into it as mild sympathy. “You need to go out, don’t you?” He knew what those words meant and jumped through my towers of permanent press toward the door.
Since then I've started a few other incidental play lists. I now have the 'Swankified' list for big dinner parties as well as the 'Jacky' play list for dessert. I find now that I cannot mop the kitchen without blaring bagpipes.
I'm deliberately not making any play lists for those awkward and mundane moments of life (though it would be nice if stuck in a lull in conversations to whip out your iPod and say, "I have a song just for this!"). And I am even more deliberately avoiding those stock moments. I can't play piano as well as Vic could, anyway.