Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas


Why do I love Christmas?  Well... I love the family time.  I love the lights.  The traditions.  The decorations and the music and the eggnog and frosty breath swirling around the rosy cheeks and shining eyes of carolers and the memories written in the smells of candy and cold and Jimmy Stewart saying "I wanna live again."

But my favorite thing about Christmas is that Christmas is a celebration and proclamation that the Father gave His Son and His Spirit to and for His subjects who had fought against His reign; that the High King of Heaven came down to earth and slept in a feeding trough; that the eternal Son of God bound Himself in time and the immortal, invincible Christ died, and that that life and that death and the 33 years in which Jesus walked this earth served as the midpoint in a two-part story, changing the watchword of History from "one day" to "this day," crashing down from sky to earth among the song of heaven and nature and shattering to pieces every man and every kingdom which stood between the King and His Kingdom, and leavening the earth 'til His blessings flow as far as the curse is found.

That's what Christmas is about.  The triumph of the skies.

Let earth receive her King.

#JoyToTheWorld
#MerryChristmas

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sparrows and Surprises

Psalm 127 and Matthew 6 encourage believers to have faith- a faith that removes worry and stress; the faith of a child who never wonders how his daddy is going to put food on the table come next mealtime, but rather lives under the happy assumption that his daddy has everything under control. 

The Lord gave me a few opportunities this week to practice such faith in a very practical way. Many of you have probably heard about my latest album project (if you haven't, here you go: http://resoundingmusic.com/the-womb-of-the-dawn/ ). It was scheduled to come out Friday; I'd been pumping that release date for a long time in the marketing of the project; had a bunch of people "going" to the event. Thursday night, I hit the sack planning to make a few polishing tweaks on a few tracks and get everything uploaded in short order.

Friday morning came and brought with it the White Screen of Death. Bad news for album release day. Lots of visual display issues for my computer; couldn't even log in on some attempts. There had been signs leading up to this before, but nothing this bad. By God's grace, a phone call with Apple tech support resulted in getting everything up and running properly quickly, and the computer performed well all day long; album submitted to CDBaby, marketing finished, I shut her down. Had even worse problems every time I tried to start up after that. God held it together (it's really inexplicable that it performed so well on Friday) for just as long as I needed it. Then, next day, I was supposed to mix a track for #BoundMovie (on one of those "The film festival is coming! The film festival is coming!" deadlines). I went to bed Friday night knowing that the next morning I had some serious tech support to do before I'd be able to do so; called Apple again, and we couldn't fix it in-house; I'd have to go in for repairs. And the nearest store that could do such a thing is about an hour away from my location. Drove in, they had the part we thought might be the issue, switched it out, it appears that it really was the issue, they sent me on my way, and by about 4:00 in the afternoon I was back up and running. (Oh, and before anybody makes Mac jokes, it was a graphics card that had been serving me faithfully since 2008. So there's that.)

Add to that that Joseph Santoyo had prepared the vocal tracks so well, and the thing was done with time to spare.

On roller-coaster events like that, I think we have two reactionary options:

1. "DAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!! WHATAMIGONNADO?" *stress* *pull hair out* *more stress*

2. "Whoa. That was unexpected. I can't wait to see how God works this out. Looks like I need to..." 

God is faithful. We should be faith-full. #Hudelson2014 #GodProvides

Friday, November 28, 2014

IT'S DONE!!!


Praise God.  It's been an amazing journey.

The work on this album was done over the course of years... with revisions, live recordings- the scope of this project dwarfs anything I've ever done before. Praise God. It has been a blast. Get the album here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Life is Short and God is Long


Life is short and God is long;
He the Singer, we the song.
We are small, the world is vast,
And marches on when we are past.

There are so many stories here,
So many things worth smile or tear,
So many joys and pains and hopes
Villains, victims, philanthropes-

So many books that can't be read,
So many tears that won't be shed,
So many songs that can't be heard,
To which we're deaf as if they were-

Were not, had never been at all,
A thousand passions' trumpet calls
Which, as soldiers far away,
Wake not our night, nor stir our day.

So many stories left untold
By those who lived them- now grown old,
So many thoughts and dreams and fears
And deeds of daring, kindness, cheer,

So many little looks and sighs
And little children's lullabies
And winter nights and summer days,
And heroes never known nor praised,

They all march past- for what we see
Is but a glimpse of melody,
An echo of celestial song-
And life is short, and God is long.

And yet, as short as it may be,
And sin-blind as so often we,
There's life, and opportunity
To hear and taste and touch and see,

And though we cannot see all now,
Can't read beyond our final bow,
Yet what surrounds us, and the path
That's laid before our feet- to laugh,

And never waste a moment when
The LORD says "Go," but to begin,
To see it all- though it's not much,
It's all our tiny hands can touch,

Can grasp, for now- to live, to leave
No stone unturned, no moments sheathed,
To look at them, and Him, not me-
No mirror- there's too much to see!

And if we're blinded by the scope,
That only serves to give us hope,
For God has given us a part,
Our daily bread, our beating heart,

The lost bewilderment that must
Fill every mortal serves to just
Send childish excitement through
The veins of chosen people who

Once lost in sin have now been found,
And lost again in glory-sound,
Lost not in fear, but wonderment,
And thankful to be called and sent,

Surrounded by so many gifts,
And joys and pains and falls and lifts,
The myriads we cannot know
Are not for us, but these are so!

So thank our God for what He gives,
And beg Him to cause us to live
A faithful life, with nothing left
When double-bar is writ by Death-

For though it ne'er can all be seen,
Nor felt nor heard, all that has been,
Yet God has granted us to see,
To feel, to hear, to live, to be,

And while in Christ eternity
Will uncover the mysteries,
The poetry of Time, of lives
Will all be laid before our eyes,

Yet here and now I hope and pray
That while it yet is called "today"
I'll fill my ears, my eyes, my heart
With my God-given story-part,

And drink it in, and pour it out,
And live, and die, and have no doubt
That I sang all that was my song.

For life is short.

And God is long.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Feast of Eggshells


Dad's sermon yesterday was on holiday peace.  What is the foundation of peace around the family table?

Is it our ability to bubble wrap truth, sweep sin under the rug, and dull the sharp edges of reality before they make their way into our conversations?

That, of course, is no peace at all; doesn't matter how good the turkey is, because all anyone can taste is the eggshells they've been walking on.

"Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife." (Pr. 17:1)

But there's the other option.  There's peace founded upon Truth; unity forged in a common, fiery passion for the Kingdom of God.  Kindness is only true kindness when paired with truth; love is only true love when it works in terms of God's Word.

And that peace?  I'd take bread and water and that peace a thousand times over a feast of eggshells.

But the kingdom of darkness is always asking the Kingdom of Light to settle for the first kind of peace.  And not just asking; demanding.  Take the teeth out of the Gospel.  Be the Wilsonian hailstorm of cotton balls.  Ignore the elephant in the room, the lumps underneath the rug, and the sounds coming from the closet and behind the couch.  Jesus would want you to be nice, after all.

Ssssshhhhhhhh.

That's not love; that's not peace; that's not joy; and that's not what Christ calls us to.

Doesn't mean we should speak truth without kindness.  But it does mean we shouldn't speak kindness without truth.

Light has no fellowship with darkness; there are no treaties in the war between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.  Our love for others should cause us to call them into the Kingdom- not to follow them out of It.

Doesn't necessarily mean that we can't still enjoy the company of family and friends who are at war with Christ (though it may mean that).  It does, however, mean that we cannot enjoy that company on the devil's terms.

If Jesus makes you uncomfortable, then I hope when you are around me you are uncomfortable.

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you." (John 15:18)

Our goal shouldn't be to get people to hate us.  But with brothers and sisters across the globe being tortured and beheaded for their faith in Christ, shame on us if we miss opportunities to be persecuted just a little bit for Jesus because we're too nice to be loving.

Because Jesus, and only Jesus, brings true peace, true love, true joy to the world.

#JoyToTheWorld

Friday, November 14, 2014

Veterans Day


A few days back was Veterans Day.  In thinking about American veterans, I'm left wanting to say two things- "thank you," and "please."

Thank you for all the pain and the sacrifice, all the things you've endured, for giving your then for our now.  Thank you for the sleepless nights and the heartbreak and the haunting memories.

And please.  If I may ask it, please make one more sacrifice for us.  Please endure the pain of reliving those memories so that those memories may not be forgotten.  Please tell us your stories.  Please etch the lessons forged into your soul by the hell-fires of war into the minds of your children and your grandchildren.  Please make this one last sacrifice.

Because we want to hear.  We need to hear.

In saying "thank you," I don't mean a cursory tip-of-the-hat that makes me feel like a better American.  I don't mean some jingoistic "everything America does is perfect" blind endorsement.

I mean that I am grateful for your commitment and your sacrifice, and I mean that I don't want you to pass away in obscurity, ignored by the nation for which you died, and I mean that I don't want your memories and your messages to follow you to the grave, and I mean that the regrets that you have are regrets that we can learn from, and the mistakes you made are mistakes we can avoid, and the sins of the past can be forgiven in Christ, but the lessons of the past do no good if they are not taught to the people of the present, and the passions and hopes and dreams that led you into the face of death are passions and hopes and dreams that should quicken our pulse, and the cheers of victory you shouted are cheers that can and should echo in the hearts of those, like me, who have lived in a time where there's always war and never victory, and the heroism you showed is an example that strikes fire in the heart and sends sparks into the eyes of every boy who hears of it.

And we need more boys with fire in their eyes.

Thank you.  We needed you.  We still need you.

We need our history.  We need our legacy.  A generation of Americans is growing up today isolated from everything that made America what she is.  We have no history, and so we have no future.

The Israelites wrote down their tales of valor; David's mighty men had their deeds inscribed into the heritage of their people.

For too long I haven't taken things like Veterans Day seriously.  I say this to my shame.  When I see others pouring themselves into the lives of the dying generations, and when I see the joy it brings to those precious and disappearing forefathers of mine, I am convicted.  I am inspired.

I pray for God's Grace, that I may be the kind of person who says "thank you."  And who then sits down to listen.

"Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will show thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee." - Deuteronomy 32:7

#VeteransDay

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The House of Mourning

"A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says, "She is gone." Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all; she is just as large as when I saw her. The diminished size, and total loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says, "She is gone," there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout, "There she comes!" and that is dying."

- Bishop Brent



"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart." - Ecclesiastes 7:2 

I am wont to tease and gripe in a coffee creamer sort of way about the fact that nobody dies in the movies anymore- coffee creamer, because I'm half-and-half; part of me is just having fun teasing friends who like the happy endings, but part of me truly does believe that we as a culture are missing something.  I think what we're missing is the opportunity to visit the house of mourning.

In today's culture, we are invited to hop on a bubble-wrapped train that promises to protect us from the thorns of reality.  Yet I fear that when we are insulated from the thorns we are also blinded to the roses.

Obey God, Work Hard, Have Fun

Over the past few days I've been reading the book of Ecclesiastes.  I think it's my favorite book of The Bible (if one can have such a thing).  It seems that the message of the Preacher is something like this:

Life is short.
God is good.
Obey God.
Work hard.
Go have fun.

Don't spend too much time philosophizing; don't confine yourself within the walls of a library and re-live others' lives when you could be out there getting sweaty and bloody and dirty and building and being built and teaching and being taught and touching and being touched and loving and being loved; go do real things and enjoy the doing, and do it all from the sweet security of faith in a Perfect Providence and obedience to His perfect Law.

Yet this whole discussion is predicated on the recurring exclamation- vanity of vanities!  The rising and setting of the sun of our lives adds no weight to the rising and setting of the sun that lit them; no extra tear falls from the writhing clouds to join the rivulets cried by those left behind.  Life marches on; the universe keeps spinning; babies are born and old men die and the auroras still paint the sky; snow falls and melts into the flowers of spring which fade into the colors of autumn and then the snow falls again; falling stars keep falling yet the void never feels their loss; the ants never cease to march, the waterfalls continue their endless cascade, and we feed the worms with our flesh and return to the dust from which we were sculpted.

Death and Taxes

A worldview that is cut off from Christ is a worldview that is cut off from hope.  (1 Cor. 15:32)

For the unbeliever, death only has sting.  The godless may still present and desire the beauty of a noble death, because the Character of God that is woven into the universe- and their hearts- tells them that it's a beautiful thing, and in their hearts, they know and feel that a selfless death is the highest form of love. (Rom. 1, John 15:13)

But that is small consolation for someone who also sees death as the last page in their story.  An epitaph celebrating their goodness matters little if they are no longer alive to read it.

For the Christian, it is another matter entirely.  Death is the key that removes the chains of flesh and sin and frees us to run into the presence of our Savior. (Philippians 1:23)

For the Christian, a good death is not just a tragically noble, vapid conclusion to a meaningless saga.

Without Christ, bittersweet goodbyes end on the bitter. In Christ, they end on the sweet.

So when a Christian deals with death in his art, it should not be in a fatalistic, existentialistic, hopeless, empty way; we can't act like death is a dreaded inevitability, like taxes; we can't treat death as something to be avoided at all costs, like doing the dishes.

On the other hand, we may not handle death flippantly; life is precious, and therefore death is also precious. (Psalm 116:15)

But why not just ignore death altogether?  Why not live as if there is no last page, no double-bar line, no end credits?

Because the thorn is part of the rose.  The period is part of the sentence.  And if we spend our sentence denying the period, we miss the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the period- and to make the most of our sentence.

We can watch the grand finale in awe and giggle and chorus "ooh!" and "aah!" and point and whisper and let the falling embers reflect brightly in our eyes and the eyes of the children on our lap, who are only just learning not to be afraid of the distant rumble- or we can see in the grand finale only the finale, and spend those last thrilling moments wishing it weren't over; wishing that we could have the grand without the finale, when God has build a world in which they dance inseparably.

I think weddings and funerals are two of the most beautiful, inspiring events ever.  They paint exclamation points- one white and one black, but both clear and beautiful in their own way- on the brevity of life.  It all goes so fast.

The living takes it to heart.

"Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last." 
- C.T. Studd

And when we live with this perspective, so many things that would cloud our vision begin to melt away, and suddenly sunsets are brighter and little babies are more adorable and hummingbirds are more amazing and history is more exciting and current events make us want to cheer instead of tremble.  God is telling His story, and it's a beautiful one, and if we could just get lost in it for a while we would come back changed.

Of course, I'd prefer to stay lost in it.  To sit up the whole night of my life, unable to put the book down. 

When we're in God's story, things get so much simpler. 

Obey God.
Work hard.
Have fun.

There's joy there.  There's meaning there.  When we are walking in God's world, when we are a note on His score, then there is a reason for life- and for death; then we need not fear, but only obey; our duty becomes deliciously simple: do what God wants us to do, and then watch what happens.  So our life becomes the most productive it could be, for it is poured out onto the track that God sets before us and says "run," and it also becomes the most beautiful and joyous and peaceful, because now we have a reason to rejoice in the sweat and the sunshine and the tired legs and the cool breeze and the pain and the joy that follows when we do so.  And when we see the finish line ahead, we might just run a little harder.

“Cowards live for the sake of living, but for heroes, life is a weapon."
- N.D. Wilson

Nobody Dies These Days

Have you noticed that, as a general rule in American movies, nobody ever dies?  We'll bring computer-generated skyscrapers tumbling down on a city full of people, our hero will produce widespread mayhem as he leads the police on a merry chase through the city streets, and so on, but nobody important ever actually dies- or, if it's a Marvel movie, they die and come back to life.

So... what's wrong with that?

God as the Master Storyteller wrote a story that has sweet fragrance and tender velvet petals- and thorns.  Lots of thorns.

One day, God will wipe every tear from our eyes.  One day, the story will be brought to glorious fulfillment, the good guys will win, death will die, and there will be forever a sunrise.

But here, now, God has given us sunsets.

And the man who learns to see the beauty in the sunset, because he loves the One who painted it- who learns to admire the ruggedness and the sharpness of the thorns, because he trusts the One who sharpened them- who embraces all of the life he's been given, and thanks the Giver, and drinks it to its dregs- who runs until he can run no more, and cries until he has no tears left, and then laughs, until he collects more tears so he can cry again, and then cries them out so he can laugh again- how would that man live?  How would he die?  What would be the look on his face in the moments before he crosses the finish line?

It is said that every runner has two great fears- that he will not finish the race, and that he will finish the race knowing that he could have done more.

I pray that God will give me the strength, the vision, the drive to run this race of life so exuberantly, so passionately for His Kingdom, drunk on His goodness, lost in the thrill of His novel, the story of His symphony, that I will come to the end of it all and be breathless on my deathbed, not from weakness, but from excitement, not for want of air, but for fulness of days, and that my eyes will still shine like those of a little boy going on an adventure, and my children will see in me a man who, even as he says "goodbye," says also "turn the page!"

Friday, October 10, 2014

On Dismembered Spiders


Malachi (3): "Praise The LORD, I won't get out of bed."
Sophia (7): "If Eve hadn't sinned, would we all be perfect?"
It's so amazing watching these kids grow up. Praise God for His mercy and working in their lives. They are such a joy. Oh God, forgive me for the times I see in them an obstacle rather than an opportunity, a problem rather than something precious... I don't want to miss those chances to tell bedtime stories, to hear tall tales about the now-dismembered spider that used to dwell on our front porch, to hold hands, to wrestle and tease, to try- and fail- to answer questions as old as time asked by minds just now given the chance to comprehend the world, to try to hear through the traffic jam of thoughts and words and ideas which inevitably bottlenecks at a mouth that hasn't had enough practice keeping up with its mind- it goes so fast. Oh to enjoy it while it is mine.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Womb of the Dawn – First Taste

Here’s a taste from the upcoming album “The Womb of The Dawn.” This is a rough Behind-the-Scenes preview; the orchestration is very nearly complete, but the vocals are a practice track Faith sent to me which I threw into the orchestration with hardly any time given to mixing and mastering; waiting for the official studio recording sessions- early November, God willing- in a room and on a microphone that will do better justice to her voice before I sink time into perfecting the mix. Still, this is enough to get me very excited! Any and all sharing and general hubbub-raising is much appreciated and, more importantly, please keep this project in your prayers.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Last Goodbye


Seeing photos from a family who has been spending time at the WWII memorial honoring the "twilight men," in the words of Mrs. Beall Phillips, and hearing news of the death of a dear friend's grandmother, and watching another precious family go through the loss of their joy-beam of a mother to cancer- it's overwhelming. Life is so short. We are so small. It all goes so fast, and we are swept along, pitiful and helpless. We are a breath, a blade of grass, a raindrop whirling, racing, tumbling to earth in the midst of a cosmic hurricane. Yet God has given us in His great mercy the opportunity to be a part of His eternal Kingdom; to touch eternity; to tell stories; to have children; to fill the unforgiving minute with a life orchestrated by a forgiving God; to *run.* And through the death of Jesus Christ and His triumphant resurrection all this sorrow and this pain and this death that is the necessary counterpart of life in this fallen world- all these goodbyes have lost their finality, and have been washed from hopeless darkness into a bittersweet and overwhelming light. Where is your sting, O Death? Where is your victory, O Grave? You were a terrifying emptiness looming over the end of life which races towards us, melting centuries into years into days into epitaphs- now you are a liberator.
O God, give us eyes to see the beauty in the sadness, to be gripped by the power of Your story, bubbling over with childish exuberance, anxious to see what the next page holds; give us hearts so overwhelmed by Your overwhelming Glory that we cannot but shout Your praises from the valleys and the mountaintops alike.
"And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
Oh praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God!
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod!
Oh praise Him, oh praise Him,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!"
So as I pray for my friends who are saying their last goodbyes, I think about that phrase. "Last goodbye." It's true. Death is the last goodbye. Because after that goodbye, there's one more hello coming, and there are no more goodbyes after that.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

He For She - thoughts on Emma Watson's UN speech


Wow. Very, very interesting.
I certainly appreciate her call for... less... anti-man-ness from the feministic culture. Her approach is winsome; her demeanor is calm and genuine. Her emphasis on the devaluing of fatherhood is HUGE, very appropriate, and about as relevant as possible.
But the whole speech convolutes and combines so many issues that it's hard to know exactly what we're talking about. I wish someone would give some specific examples of the gender oppression that we're talking about, because it would be easier to... talk about.
See, I *am* a HeForShe. I'm just the kind of He that likes to open doors for She and give up my seat on the lifeboat for She and take a bullet for She. And while Emma has done a very good job addressing some things (correctly or incorrectly) from an ideological standpoint, I am left wondering... what is this supposed to look like, practically?
Should SpecialOps start accepting female applicants? Should I or should I not believe in chivalry? How about all-male sports groups like the NFL? What exactly is supposed to happen here? Can I play in the WNBA? And is the fact that I would have a better (which doesn't mean good) chance of succeeding there than in the NBA something that needs to be... somehow... modified? Is offering to carry a heavy item for a woman gentlemanly or insulting? Am I participating in the oppression of womankind by giving a lady my parachute?!?!?!?
The simple fact is that men and women are equal in value.
The other simple fact is that men and women are not equal in a zillion other ways- not in the sense of better or worse, but in the sense of different. Men are stronger. Women are better at having babies. Kids go to Dad for math help and to Mom for a bandage and a kiss.
Interestingly enough, in the pursuit of gender equality, we are actually devaluing both sexes. The girls who don't want to "look muscley"- is that a bad thing? Are they wrong, or less of a woman- er, person? Is it a bad thing that men don't express themselves like women? Are the men who don't generally like to cry in public any less truly themselves? Or is it possible that their ability to control their emotions is *part* of who they are?
Of course, and most importantly, Scripture makes distinctions between the roles of men and women, e.g. Nehemiah 4:14.
Emma's speech assumes that there really are no significant differences between men and women- in capability, in calling, in anything!- and and I am not sure that that actually leads to valuing men and women more at all.
The big round of applause on the applause for "rights over my own body," which means "rights over someone else's body in my womb," must be noted.
As far as the whole pay-differences thing goes, and setting aside for a moment the discussion on gender roles when it comes to careers, that's an issue that is best left to the free market, and not to political campaigns.
So, I appreciate the invitation very much. But what exactly am I being invited to?

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Call to War

Please note that in this post I am speaking in general terms about events like 9/11, but I do not at all wish to detract from the very important duty held by every American to remember the brave and courageous individuals who chose honor over life on that day, and on many days like it, throughout our nation's history.  Their legacy should be treasured and honored by every one of us.
_________________

What exactly is it that we remember on September 11th?  What is it that we constantly remind ourselves and one another to "Never Forget"?


On September 11th, this year, I received a soundtrack I had ordered; the music from the film United 93.  On the back of the case, the dedication is begun thus: "This music is a prayer for peace..."

And I am left to ask- a prayer to whom?

I love America.  But in times like these, it is worth asking- what is America?

I love America like Maximus loved the dream that was Rome.

America represents so many wonderful and precious things, and for years has been the bastion of Christian civilization- a city on a hill sending the darkness into terrified retreat before the light of freedom, truth, and law, all of which stem from the Holy Word of God.  And I love those things.  I am, by God's grace, ready to die for those things.  And I love the dream that was America.  And I am ready to die for that dream.

But America is not what she used to be.  Shackled by oppressive government, muzzled by political correctness, and, worst of all, gradually succumbing to a cancer of the soul, America is dying the long, painful death of a nation whose sturdy foundations are slowly crumbling beneath the deteriorating shambles on top.

And all the patriotism in the world, all the bumper-stickers and troop-supporting and #neverforget- they are powerless to change that fact.  Electing Romney instead of Obama might stick some bungee cords on the burning wreckage, but in the long term it is all coming down anyway.

So when days like 9/11 come up, and the cries to remember and the cheers for the American spirit and all the happy hoopla and empty jingoism of today's great American facade explode across social media, I find myself at a loss for words.

The true patriot, it has been said, will not say "my country, right or wrong."  He will say "my country- when right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be made right."

Real patriots are honest, not blind.  So let's be honest.

- Islam (and it's not radical Islam; it's true Islam) is on the rise, flexing its tyrannical muscles and slashing and burning and beheading as it marches over lands protected by Crusaders and forsaken by their children.

- The entire political structure of our nation has hit a point of self-perpetuating implosion.  The economy still has some foundational pieces left, creaking and groaning under the weight of tyranny, and weakening from within because of the rot of moral decay; it is only a matter of time before Atlas shrugs.

- Christendom as a whole- Western civilization, the beacon and anchor of the prosperous world- is committing a convenient suicide, slaughtering millions of their own children and "controlling" the rest from ever entering the world.  We may say with pride that no enemy is necessary; we have found a way to dwindle ourselves into nothing on our own.  If Islam weren't such a bloodthirsty religion, they could wait a few years and rule the world anyway, given the drastic multiplication of their families and the rapid subtraction of ours.

Meanwhile, the Church of Jesus Christ has largely forsaken His Word, throwing the Lion of Scripture into the cage of dispensationalism, retreating from the head of the culture to pass out Gospel tracts among those at the tail.

Judgment starts in the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17), and when we look at the nation we, the Church, have built for ourselves, or rather destroyed for ourselves, this truth should make us tremble.  For "culture is religion externalized," and the culture of America is American Christendom externalized.

To return to my newly acquired CD, the "prayer for peace" is representative of the broader state of "good-ol-boy" religious America.  We're a big fan of "God," though we're generally pretty good about being ambiguous as to his identity, and we hope "God" blesses America, and we send both prayers and good feelings and thoughts to our neighbor in need, and our politicians are good church-going folk, and we are all happily happy in our politically correct mess of religious pottage.

Oh yeah, and we pray for peace.

Problem is, this world is a world at war.  Since the fall of man it has been the children of the woman against the children of the serpent.  Peace is a wonderful thing, but true peace will only happen after complete victory.  Until then, we need to keep the Crusader cross painted bright across our shields, our swords sharp, our arms strong- both physically and spiritually.  Spiritually, for offense, for the Gospel will conquer (Matthew 16:18); physically, for defense, for the godless will kill (Proverb 8:36).

Islam will not hesitate to behead me, or you, or our loved ones.  Humanism generally prefers something more sterile, like abortion, or gas chambers, or euthanasia.  Socialism is happy just to kill the society and leave everyone in it to scrape out whatever existence they can.

But they're all at war against Christ.

What is the solution?  Violence?

No!  Not at all.  Christians should be ready to take up physical arms and shed real blood in real battle if the time comes where they must do so in defense of the innocent.  But Christianity, unlike Islam or Marxism, was never to be propagated by the sword.  The solution is to fulfill the two primary missions of Christendom- the Dominion Mandate, and the Great Commission.  Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; go therefore and make disciples of all nations, and teach them to observe all- all- that Jesus has commanded.

We must have kids, and teach them.  We must love people.  Preach the Gospel.  Live the Gospel.  Grab a trowel and spread the Gospel thickly into every little crack and cranny of life.  Make disciples, not just converts.  Run for office, and make Scripture our platform.  Vote according to Biblical principle, not just conservative ideals.  Engage the culture.  Make the movies, write the music and the books, paint the pictures, tell the stories, take the helm for the Glory, by the Grace, and under the Word of Christ.

The gates of hell cannot prevail against the faithful Church of God.  So if the gates of hell are prevailing, then we need only look at ourselves.  How are we failing in our duty?

There are a few that come readily to my mind; a few gaping holes in the walls of Jerusalem that the reformer-Nehemiahs of today have the opportunity to repair.

- We are ashamed of God's Law, and we are afraid to bring The Bible into the political realm.  We have a cart-before-horse perception of the "separation of Church and State," and it has rendered the Church's influence on American politics largely impotent.

- This has left us, politically, advocating a spayed-and-neutered "conservatism" which tries to adhere to a form of Godliness while denying its power, which is God's Word; the result is just a cleaned-up humanism which, rather than warring against the advance of the realm of darkness, jumps into its sandbox in hopes of slowing its progress on the tower of Babel.

- We have a truncated view of the Gospel.  Instead of a multi-generational, dominion-taking, life-and-world-changing Message, we have reduced It to a matter of "praying a prayer," going to church on Sundays, and exchanging swear words for bywords.  We have made the Gospel into an invitation to a party instead of a call to war.

- Maybe that's the biggest thing.  I think we've lost sight of the antithesis.  We've so highly spiritualized Christianity that we struggle to see Its ramifications for the myriad speculations and lofty things raised up against the knowledge of God which swirl around us day-in and day-out.  Until we realize that we are in the war, we will continue to lose it.  The movies we watch, the food we eat, the jokes we tell, the very way that our children learn math- this is all part of the war, and we must learn to identify it as such and take it captive to the obedience of Christ.

The twin towers were a symbol, and their fall was also symbolic.  Prophetic, even.  That is America's future, unless we repent.

So when we remember the tragedy of September 11th, let us not remember it with the pride of a nation of overcomers looking back on another trial we have surmounted.  Let us remember, and shudder, knowing that, unless we repent and return to the ways and the Word of God, that was only the prelude to the nightmarish symphony that is the future of America.

___

P.S. There is hope.  Lots of hope.  God is doing amazing things in our country, and I'm excited to see His Hand moving and reforming and building the new even as the old collapses around it.  But hope is to be found in Christ, His Word, His Church, His War- not in conservatism or patriotism as an ideal apart from Him.  And that, in a nutshell, is the entire sum of what I'm saying with this post!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Coming Soon...


God willing, this will be coming out by the end of the year.  Your prayers are appreciated, for except The LORD build the house, I labor in vain!  Cover design and artwork by Matthew Sample II.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Godzilla on Patriarchy


Well HSLDA just threw a bunch of people, myself included, under the bus of public opinion.

Smooth move, Batman.

Before I start, I want to say something about the term "patriarchy," which is... a rather loaded word.  I insist on using the term because I'm tired of letting the world confiscate, misconstrue, chew up and spit out terms that represent well, sometimes explicitly, the teachings of Scripture- patriarchy and dominion among the rest.

Now, in response to HSLDA.  I genuinely appreciate their statement that they will continue to represent folks like me who disagree with them.  I do not so genuinely appreciate the unilateral slash-and-burn treatment given to the patriarchal heretics, especially since I would apparently be one of them.

Which isn't to say that I would adhere to HSLDA's representation of what patriarchy stands for.  In this article, the author topples arguments like skyscrapers in a Godzilla movie, and I'm happy to help Godzilla out by kicking down a few bricks, because I never liked the skyscrapers anyway.  But HSLDA not only destroys the skyscrapers- it blames all the wrong architects for their existence.

Just a few things that stood out from the article: "Treating children well and treating women well is intrinsically the right thing to do."

Remind me again what the battle cry of patriarchy, "Women and children first!", was talking about?  'Cuz I kinda forgot.

Here's another really good one: "Patriarchial teaching: Higher education is not important for women."

This is not only a gross (i.e. either ill-informed or intentionally dishonest) misinterpretation of the passage they cited, but it's also vigorously not true.  No advocate of patriarchy that I know would ever advocate, or has ever advocated, "keeping girls dumb." The validity of the college model for higher education is indeed questioned by many in my circles... and not just for girls.

This: "In sum, patriarchy teaches that women in general should be subject to men in general."

Is rather humorous, because that summary actually doesn't sum up the previous points listed (the ones that actually had citations, however misinterpreted they were); it makes a huge leap and a new claim which is indeed contrary to Scripture... and to patriarchy, which is about patriarchal headship- that would be fathers and husbands, men placed in a relational leadership role by Scripture, not unilateral male headship, AKA "hey random lady, make me a sandwich!"

There is also an element of gender roles that is a more general teaching of "patriarchy" (and of Scripture)- for instance, in the civil sphere, we would advocate gender distinctions in positions of leadership (Is. 3:12).  We also aren't a fan of putting women on the front lines.

This is all, I would assume, similar to the traditional complimentarianism that the author himself adheres to.

This: "Women are not to be the de facto slaves of men. Women are created with dignity equal to that of men. Women have direct and unmediated access to God."

...

...

...

Seriously?

That's a straw man par excellence, a powerful, vigorous, bold refutation of an argument no one ever made.

Like, ever.  Well, OK, I think Islam teaches something like that.

This: "Daughters should not be taught that their only and ultimate purpose in life is to be the “helpmeet” of a man."

I am glad that he said this.  In every critique, we would be wise to search out the seed of truth, however big or small, that we could learn from.  This is something I myself have had to wrestle through in the past, and we in "the patriarchy movement" need to be careful to distinguish between a very true Scriptural proposition- that woman was created for man, and that she was "created to be his help-meet" (Gen. 2:18)- with a false and dangerous application thereof- that the only purpose in a woman's life (or a man's life, for that matter) is marriage.  We treasure marriage, and so we should, but we mustn't idolize it.

This: "We have a really easy way to know God’s universal commands. They are written in the Bible."

I'm pretty sure we all agree.  Condemnations of extra-Scriptural legalism need to be had, but it might be good to stick to specific legalisms instead of taking a carpet-bomb approach to a large subculture of American Christianity.

This: "When it is claimed, for example, that God never wants any daughter to leave home until she is married, the patriarchy movement goes too far."

Again, good for us to hear; the Botkin sisters have done a great job addressing concerns like this in a few of their recent talks, one of which is entitled "It's Not About Staying at Home."

Yet critiques like these could perhaps be postulated better thusly:

"Hey, sometimes it seems like y'all are teaching this.  Are you sure about that?  Because I don't see that in the Bible."

As opposed to:

"Hey, y'all obviously all believe this as an inherent part of your system, so I brought my flamethrower."

This: "It is from their stories that I have learned that these men’s teachings are being applied in ways that are clearly unwise..."

Hold the phone.  Sounds like the problem is with the applier, not the teaching.  I seem to recall some of Martin Luther's teachings being applied rather, um, erroneously, yet struggle to justify a Burn Luther's Bones Facebook campaign.

This: "The personal failure of Doug Phillips in the area of marriage and his mistreatment of a young woman bears directly on the legitimacy of his teaching."

BURN THE PSALMS.  Because David gots issues, y'all.

(And before you build the straw-man that I am comparing the teachings of Doug Phillips with the Divinely-inspired writings of David- I'm not.)

Yes, "you will know them by their fruits."  Mr. Phillips' downfall is a worthy catalyst for a season of close examination, and indeed is reason for his stepping down from a leadership position (which he did).  But I don't follow Doug Phillips.  I follow Jesus Christ.  My family follows Jesus Christ.  My church follows Jesus Christ.  We were greatly blessed by the ministry of Doug Phillips and Vision Forum.  But insofar as we followed what they taught, we did so because what they taught was Biblical.  Even if they were the blind hog that stumbled across the acre of corn, the blindness of the hog doesn't change the sweetness of the corn.

This: "Teachers who claim that they speak for God on matters of personal opinion should be suspect."

Is always true, of course.

This: "Treating one’s wife with love and respect is the best antidote to patriarchy that I know of."

Is, by implication, an enormously slanderous and blatantly false representation of the teachings of patriarchy.

This: "But if officials believe that the homeschooling movement promotes teachers and ideas that inherently treat women as second-class citizens or result in physical or sexual abuse of children, then we can expect that homeschooling freedom will be negatively impacted."

If officials come to the conclusion that the homeschooling movement promotes these things, I fear that it will be largely because of articles like this.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Courtship, Round II

So my recent post about courtship generated some discussion, debate, and a response from the person I responded to about his brother-in-bloggery's response to- OK, I'll stop.


First of all, I praise God that said response was written graciously and in kindness. I'm also actually e-mailing with Mr. Ohlman personally, and I hope that our blog exchange, by being a public one, will be edifying those who watch it from the outside, and will represent Christ well by remaining cool-headed, gracious, and downright fun.  :-D

I shall first define two terms that I will use a lot:

"Courtship" - young man approaches father, discusses possibility of pursuing daughter, father eventually says yes or no, then young man courts daughter who also eventually says yes or no.  (I'm grossly and glibly oversimplifying and generalizing here.)

"Betrothal" - father approaches father, notes rather candidly that Junior and Junia are of similar age and bent, and they discuss the possibility of contributing an extra child to one another's households.  (Note that we are talking about arranged marriage, but NOT about forced marriage, which no one is advocating.)

Two different approaches which play out a lot of the same principles.

Now, to Mr. Ohlman's article.
Master Hudelson assumes that courtship is a Godly and wonderful method of finding a spouse.
This is true, at least for the purposes of my article, though you have to be careful with terms like "courtship."  I'm more concerned with the Biblical principles we're playing out than with the practical applications, which will differ wildly from case to case.  There are plenty of courtships that are neither Godly nor wonderful, and plenty of non-courtships that are both.
He points out, and agrees with, Jeff’s analysis that in courtship many men are turned down in the process.
Truer a word ne'er was spoken.
Given his assumptions that courtship is a Godly system (see #1), he then concludes that all of these rejections and delayed marriages are reflections of God’s will.
Now it's getting interesting.  I have a feeling we need to define "God's Will" here, or else we're both going to end up finishing the debate, raising our flags in triumph only to realize we're on two different battlefields.  "Hey, what's that flag over there?!?  Hand me them binoculars!"

But we'll return to this later; I'm going to skip down to some of the bigger issues here.  Mr. Ohlman provides a list of Scriptural passages (for which I am very grateful! HUZZAH for bringing Scripture into this discussion!) and then the principles that he derives from them.  I have no quarrel with any of the principles; all of the didactic passages given lend themselves explicitly to Mr. Ohlman's interpretation.

The principles given in the verses were, in summation:

- not good for man to be alone; woman is created as his helpmeet
- marriage provides relief from sexual temptation
- man is called to enjoy sexuality within the context of marriage
- marriage provides for Godly descendants

All of this is as Biblical as the Pope is Catholic.  (Or maybe just as Biblical as the Pope isn't.)

But then comes this paragraph:
We then examine courtship in light of these examples and commands and we see that the multiple rejections of marriage, the delay of marriage, and the denial of marriage is something that, at least on its face, stands in direct opposition to everything that God teaches about the importance of marriage, and yet many avid courtship advocates claim it to be “God’s will”.
We've made a leap here.  Mr. Ohlman has, in the above paragraph, added an element of time which was notably absent from any of the cited passages.  Marriage is good, for the reasons listed and many more.  (Paul also had a lot to say about the benefits of singleness, but let's save that one for later.) Yet I see no "Best By" date stamped by Scripture across the foreheads of the young men and virgin daughters of Israel.

Now, we come to the marvelous logical circumlocutions of mine which led to the title of Mr. Ohlman's response.

Courtship leads to either rejection or marriage.  Rejection or marriage clarifies God's Will for a young man's life.  That which clarifies God's Will is a Good Thing.  Therefore, Courtship is a Good Thing.

I don't think this is technically circular reasoning; rather, Mr. Ohlman is calling attention to a premise in my argument which, he says, I need to prove.  His whole point is that rejection of a Godly suitor is not a good thing.  Thus the premise of my argument- that these rejections are helpful to young men- is false, and my argument collapses like a Jenga tower.

Only problem is that I suspect we have here a case of pots and kettles. Mr. Ohlman, in saying that I need to prove that these rejections are A Good Thing, also assumes that the rejections are not a good thing; that they are not a valid way of discerning God's Will.  Yet that is one of the points that I would ask him to prove.

I have no desire to simply throw the logical ball back into his court, however, and engage in a hearty round of "you started it!" I believe the burden of proof is his, because the accusation is also his.  Mr. Wilson and I agree that rejections are a feature, not a bug, of the courtship model; we see those rejections as playing out Scriptural principles like a father's protective authority (Numbers 30).  If Mr. Ohlman wishes to overthrow our Jenga tower, he is obliged to do the removing of the sticks.

Mr. Ohlman makes an excellent point about "God's Will."
A quick theological point. Everything that happens is ‘God’s will’ in one sense. A drug crazed maniac drives his car through a mall and kills sixteen people… that was God’s will. God certainly could have stopped it, and God will certainly use the incident for good for those that love Him (Romans 8:28). 
But that isn’t the kind of  ‘God’s will’ that we are looking for in the courtship process. We are looking for the kind of will that indicates that we are acting in obedience to God.
Very well said.  I couldn't agree more.  Here is where our problem arises:
If courtship is, as we advocate, an unBiblical system that unjustly and sinfully rejects, denies, and prevents thousands of Godly marriages: marriages that would have, if they had been allowed, reflected the nature of Christ and the church and Glorified God… then the results aren’t ‘God’s Will’ in the sense required.
Does this not assume, then, that God could not be working His Will through the rejections and denials?  Mr. Ohlman's view of Courtship as some sort of Marriage-Be-Gone is not one I share; to say that Courtship prevents Godly marriages is to make a few large assumptions.  First, that Courtship does not often result in Godly marriages (which it does), and Second, that Courtship thwarts God's Will instead of guiding us into it, presumably because it sometimes- indeed, often!- results in non-marriages.  Said non-marriage is Very Bad because of the Best By date.  Don't want spoiled milk in the fridge of singleness!

I am still unconvinced that "rejection" is A Bad Thing in itself, or a bad way to discern God's Will, and would like to be convinced from Scripture that it is.  Personally, I find rejections quite helpful.

I also find myself wondering- how does betrothal address any of these perceived problems differently?  Does betrothal guarantee young marriage (if we assume that young marriage is, inherently, a good thing)?  Does it guarantee that there will be no rejections, no delays?  I don't at this point see how it does.

The previous article- the one I first responded to- objected to Mr. Wilson rejecting suitors for his daughters.  Again, I don't see how this is any different in effect from betrothal, where fathers would still be discussing and, presumably, sifting through prospective in-laws.
Courtship is not Scriptural, and we can demonstrate that. Scripture does teach a path to marriage; a path that does not boast in, but shrinks in horror from, the idea of thousands of Godly young men going to Godly fathers for the hands of their Godly daughters and being sent away rejected, frustrated, celibate, and childless.
First off, as a young man who has been through this process, I guess I technically am "rejected," and I'm certainly celibate and childless.  Yet life moves on, and I am happy to be single for as long as God wants me to be single, and to labor for His Kingdom within the household of my father until my Heavenly Father decides to bless me with a household of my own.

This is an underlying assumption in Mr. Ohlman's article which truly bothers me: that, for anyone who is not called to a lifetime of singleness, singleness is a less-than state, a holding pattern, a time in which fruit rots instead of ripens and one's effectiveness for the Kingdom of God is suspended indefinitely.

I'm a huge fan of youthful marriage.  Love it and hope for it myself. Marriage is A Good Thing.  But it isn't The Good Thing.  The goal is to walk in obedience to God and labor for His Kingdom, both before and after the wedding day.

I would very much like to see the Scriptural demonstration of why Courtship is not Scriptural.  My contention is not that the Betrothal approach that Mr. Ohlman advocates is unBiblical.  I see both Scriptural precedent for the model and Scriptural principle in the application.  So I am not opposed to Betrothal in the least.

What I am opposed to is the proclamation that Courtship "unjustly and sinfully" deals with the spouse-finding process, when as far as I can tell Courtship also plays out the Biblical principles in question very well.

Long story less long, I think finding a spouse is a messy, sloppy, happy, sticky process that can happen a zillion different ways, and that we should be more concerned with applying Biblical principles to the process than with worrying about exact formulas and titles.  Is the headship and protective role of the father over his daughter recognized?  Are the parents honored in the process?  Do the young people have accountability?  Does the process allow them to discover whether they are equally yoked?  And so on.

I see Biblical precedent for a Betrothal approach.  I do not see any Biblical commands for a Betrothal approach.  Therefore, to condemn a system advocated by believers desiring to play out God's Word in the spouse-finding process as malum-in-se when Scripture never does such a thing is to tread dangerous ground.  I would much rather stand on the principles that Scripture says should be than on the things that Scripture shows can be; to contend that one system better plays out the commands and the precedents than the other does is very different than saying that a system advocated by many and for Scriptural reasons
should be rejected by all God-fearing believers and should be damned to Hell as the false doctrine that it is.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Epitaph

Many things it could be wished to etch upon the memory
That sleeps behind coruscant eyes of upward-looking babes-
To leave glinting as embers behind life's flaming ephemerae-
To weave into the trail left by the drop among the waves.

A thousand things he would want said by fellow players on his page,
Fellow fleeting droplets in the wave that bound him to his destiny,
Who shared with him a moment upon God's eternal story-stage,
Until, their moment past, they left a faint but changeless memory.

But now, just now, around him swirls caressing, kindly summer winds,
An ember-sun leaps auburn off the evening ground to whence it came,
It burned him yesterday, you know- that little, happy pain just lends
Another note that sings into a story writ to praise The Name

Of its great Author, Jesus Christ, Who makes it all to shimmer bright,
The notes of life- sad, gleeful- dance together to His symphony;
Overwhelming beauty, glory-weight enough to crush the night,
To call to life His children and to write His foes their elegy-

A thousand tons of water shatter, broken, now a million shards
Of sparkling life and looming death that fall back to the ceaseless flow
Of ocean, hissing down the sand, and there resume the ceaseless march,
But not for him- his march will end; the tide of history will grow;

Triumphant, it will fill the earth, 'til all the nations bow the knee,
'Til mountains melt and cedars fall invisible beneath its swell,
For all the world will tremble, all the world will soon rejoice to see
The Glory of the Monarch Whose great story it was made to tell.

And telling, now, of course it is!  His mind returned to simpler things,
Sticky honey on his fingers, the sound of laughter carried clear
And long by wind, echoed by the waves, gulls with their percussive wings
A song, to which great counterpoint he was sent, with note, and ear.

So maybe, if his years were melted into lines of epitaph,
The thousand wondrous things he'd love for those few words to say-
Here, at least, and for right now, he can see his final paragraph,
The words he yearns to see upon the stone that marks his going away-

Here lies a man who would give thanks for blessing and for chastening rod;
Who always found the treasures every little thing would fain disguise;
Who fought to see the glory in each word of life hand-writ by God;
A man who read His story with a child's wide and wondering eyes.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Courtship: a response to a response to a response to a critique

Seriously. 


So, first, for context (you don't have to read all of these for my post to make sense, but do know that my post did not appear ex nihilo):




And now, for my response to a response to a response to a critique; namely, some thoughts on Mr. Woodward's concerns with the courtship model as advocated by Mr. Wilson.

-------

I'm a young man who has been graciously "turned down" three times by fathers who I really respect.  I'm a big fan of young marriage; I would love to have a wife, and continue to pray for one, and I'm very much looking forward to finding the woman that God has for me.

So, on first impression, it might seem that everything Mr. Woodward wrote is "on my side," and I should be very happy to see it stated publicly.  But that is not the case.  If Umstattd's article was a bowl of frosted flakes sprinkled with mushrooms, this article simply splashed a straw man into the milky mixture.

Mr. Woodward comments that, in the case of Mr. Wilson rejecting 14 of 16 suitors for his daughters, "That’s a failure rate of nearly 88%!"

Mr. Umstattd, in his article, rightly pointed out that the goal of courtship is marriage- at least if that is understood, in response to the idea of "casual dating," to mean that courtship is a marriage-focused get-to-know-you process.  Courtship isn't just chaperoned hanging out so that we can update our Facebook status; we're actively seeking to know whether God wants Boy and Girl to become Man and Wife.

So courtship is marriage-focused... but I would contend that the goal of courtship isn't marriage, if I may perform a little pirouette on my use of the term "goal" (bear with me).

One of the things I love about the courtship process is that the success or failure of a courtship is not and cannot be judged by whether or not it results in marriage.  A successful courtship is one which results in all parties concerned being able to move forward in singleness or in matrimony confident that they are doing so in the Will of God, and without having succumbed to a bunch of preventable temptations.  That's the goal of courtship.

I would say that, in the case of Mr. Wilson and his two daughters, both now wed to The One that God had for each of them, the success rate of their courtship would be 100%- and not just for the girls, nor for the happy husbands, but also for the rejected young men, who were blessed by God with clear direction coming in the form of a gracious "no" from the young lady's father.

To say that it's a matter of fatherly pride or a snobbish and highfalutin' family- does this not assume a great deal about the father and family of the daughter, to the point of being slanderous of them and planting seeds of bitterness in the hearts of the rejected young men?  Does it not also make the young man out as a helpless victim?

Encouraging fathers and daughters to not be over-picky and to have Biblical standards is a good thing, but laying the blame entirely on their shoulders and never stopping to tell the young men in the equation to man up, learn from the rejection, strive to improve and grow, press on, seek first the Kingdom, and praise God for giving clear direction- no wonder so many rejections happen!  We're making a bunch of rejectable young men!

"It's not my fault... it's those mean fathers... they just don't realize what an AMAZING HUSBAND I WOULD BEEEEE!!!!!  WAAAAAA!!!!"

"Oh yeah, he's totally the one for my daughter."

I don't mean to mock my wife-seeking brothers in Christ (remember, I'm in this boat too, y'all), but to say that it is just as much our job to be Godly, responsible men as it is the job of the fathers we talk to to shepherd the hearts of their daughters.  If we begrudge them for doing their duty, however imperfectly they do it, that's shame to our account.

For that matter, the young man has just as much right to conclude that the marriage isn't right and to move on!  The young man is no more under the magnifying glass of the father than the father, daughter, and their family are under the magnifying glass of the young man!

Thus, the boast of the courtshipper is not that courtship leads to rejecting a bunch of suitors.  The boast of the courtshipper is that courtship leads to rejecting the suitors that need to be rejected.

But the larger question is- what system of spouse-hunting is the one advocated by Scripture?  Courtship, ambiguous and imperfect though it be, represents the best model I have seen so far for playing out Scriptural principles like those found in Numbers 30.

And until the courtship approach is shown as unscriptural, all anecdotal evidence against courtship is really just anecdotal evidence for the fact that sin is a real bummer.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Childlike Faith



Luke 1:20+34 record responses from two people to surprising angelic news- Zacharias is told that his wife will bear a son, and Mary is told that she will bear a son.  The responses are less similar than the news.

Zacharias and Mary both asked for clarification. It would seem that Mary asked from a heart of faith; Zacharias obviously asked from a heart of doubt.

So it's OK to ask God about things we don't understand; it's OK to ask the Bible questions when we don't "get it." But we may never ask these questions from a doubtful heart that does not assume on faith the truth of God's Word.

The failure in our understanding is ours; we are not the judge to whom evidence must be presented, but the child to whom wonders must be explained.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Life in Pictures



Went to a funeral today.  Scripture says that it is good to go to the house of mourning; how much better when the house of mourning is also one of rejoicing and the tears and pain of loss and separation are endured in the context of the happy taunt, "O death, where is thy sting?"

Funerals and weddings are, I think, two of the most inspiring events to attend, largely because they so often feature a survey of the life of the person or persons they are focused on.

Seeing a life and legacy distilled into a ten-minute slideshow reveals so much about who that person is or was.  Hearing family testify to his influence; observing multiple generations of people assembling together to honor him, none of whom would be alive today if it hadn't been for his life; seeing the fingerprints of his legacy in the tears and the smiles of those who loved him, and whom he loved- it gives one cause to consider exactly what legacy he is leaving; how well he is investing the time which will so soon be gone; what things will really matter when the symphony of his own life is arranged into a ten-minute epilogue.

What pictures will sum up my life once it is over?

Will they be pictures of me being all awesome and amazing and alone?  Advancing the kingdom of me?  Seizing all the wrong opportunities and missing the right ones?

Or will they be pictures of me enjoying the dirt and sweat and sticky honey of real life, wondering like a child- and preferably with a child- at sunsets and at the One who paints them, smiling and loving and laughing and delighting in little things and little people (and big people) and epic plot twists in the story of a life too short not to relish the bitter moments as well as the sweet?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Trust

"Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man?" - Proverb 20:6
Friendship clearly entails trust; the closer the friendship, the deeper the trust.  Our trust, however, must be framed in the context of a Biblical worldview.  This is what makes accountability just as crucial in any Christian relationship, because a Biblical worldview informs us that, contrary to what we'd like to think, our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked.

As people grow closer to one another in friendship, the bond of trust also naturally strengthens.  Yet too often the amount of accountability in the relationship decreases with the same elegant equivalence as the heavy side of a see-saw.

It might seem that this is how it should be; doesn't trust enable relaxation?

Today I read another excellent blog post by Doug Wilson.  In one of the comments, a heartbreaking testimony is given by a woman who, years ago, was shamefully treated by her youth minister; this abuse didn't happen in the context of some unfathomable situation, but rather in the context of a situation which most of us probably never would have thought twice about.  He was just giving her a ride home.

Stories like this are all too common.

Is the answer to turn the old adage into a life motto- "Trust no one"?  Should we have an inner circle of friends that consists of Me, Myself, and I, and maybe my spouse on a good day?  Should the thought of a man at church shaking our daughter's hand send us scurrying for our shotgun?

Of course not.  It is good for Christians to grow in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace; we should indeed be able to trust one another (to whatever extent that trust has been earned).

Truth of the matter is, if I were to leave behind a widowed wife or father-and-brotherless sisters, there's no one on this earth that I would trust to care for them more than the families that attend my church.  I would trust them with my life, my family, my possessions.  That's what Christian friendship should lead to.

But that trust cannot be defined in such a way as to ignore the truth and inherent warning of Jeremiah 17:9.  I love and trust these people as my family in Christ.  But I know that their heart is deceitful and desperately wicked... and I know mine is too.

If our friendships are truly Christ-centered, truly open, truly free and honest, then there should be no shame in holding one another to boundaries.  We must not hide from the truth of our own sin nature.

If I ask a young lady to sit in the back seat and let my sister ride next to me up front- if a man from church says to my mom "hey, could we carbon-copy your husband on these e-mails?"- if a parent asks to sit in on their child's piano lessons- if a couple won't leave their children overnight at a friend's house for a sleepover (where did the idea that that was normal come from anyway?!?)- these are things that should not be a cause for awkwardness; they should be a cause for more trust.  I trust you because I can see that we both don't trust either of us left to ourselves; we both know that it is only by the Grace of Christ that we can continue to walk in holiness; we both desire to flee temptation. 

If we are truly hungry for holiness, then we should be happy when we find comrades who won't let us check out the other side of the menu.

It's not a matter of "eew, you might be a creep, no, my daughter can't ride with you alone for 8 hours to visit her aunt."  It's a matter of "but by the grace of God, we all would be creeps, so let's do our level best to help each other walk in the light and flee temptation."

It's not a matter of "I think you're a wolf in sheep's clothing" (although if you see a fang or a long gray tail, that wouldn't be an inappropriate observation); it's a matter of "we all have the heart of a wolf clothed in the robes of the Lamb, and until that wolf is slain in Glory this sheep will wrestle with the hunger pangs of a carnivore."

There is no benefit to be found by leaving the eyesight of the Shepherd or His flock; there is nothing to be gained outside of the confines of His pastures.

If anyone is afraid of boundaries, or uncomfortable with accountability, or maybe just thinks they are unnecessary- indeed, if anyone does not desire the transparent honesty of some form of protective standards- then that should be reading danger symbols on the Trust-o-meter.

"Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall." - 1 Corinthians 10:12

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Strength... or maybe Dignity

 

"Strength and dignity are her clothing."

It's a dichotomy seen in both our perception of male and of female roles: there are two kinds of men, the macho and the gentleman, and never the twain shall meet; there are two kinds of women, the manly superwoman and the gentle and quiet "priestess of the house."

Yet Scripture puts strength and dignity together. Adventure racing, antarctic journeys, and getting lost in the woods on purpose with nothing but a pocketknife and dental floss may not be everyone's cup of tea, nor is it less Spiritual for a man or a woman to be passionate about things other than mud and blood and sweat. But every Christian is called to be ready to do hard things for the Kingdom of God. 

I might step on some toes, here, but I think we in modern America have classified some things in the category of "rugged manliness" that should not at all be male-only qualities.

It seems a normal, standing joke that guys may like going camping out in the woods without running water, but that to ask a lady to do that is laughable.

Sacagawea, the women of the Mayflower, the brides who went west, and missionary wives like Elisabeth Elliot might have something to say about that.

Civilization is a wonderful thing, but sterility is not. If a broken air-conditioner or a cold shower is a heavy trial, how will we be prepared to take on greater refinements dealt by the Hand of God and consider it joy?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier


I've heard almost incessant raving reviews of this film (I think I heard one person say they didn't get what all the hubbub was about), but I have some trust issues when it comes to movies.  And films like this are pretty much why.  I think our culture has become a little too lactose-tolerant in our media diet.

Now, I enjoyed this film quite a bit; I think it was one of Marvel's best.  But until we all collectively admit that that's not saying very much, we will remain the cheese addicts that continue to fund these comical comic-book films and their exploits into Cheeseland.

Be forewarned that some stuff might get spoiled for you in this review.  Including cheese.  Lots of spoiled cheese.

The Good

The Worldview

Let's start with the good- and there was a lot of good to appreciate in this film.  When it comes to worldview goodies, this was one of the most message-on-its-sleeve films I've seen in a long time, and, contrary to the standard "follow your heart" hogwash, this film had a message worth sending: the dangers of liberty are far sweeter than the chains of security.  The Captain's refusal to abandon old-fashioned notions of liberty in the face of the ripped-from-the-headlines police-state methods of SHIELD and the peace-through-power methods of Hydra- and the fact that his stand is portrayed in the film as a good thing- makes this one of the most relevant sermons on liberty in the 21st century that I've watched in a loooong time.  As usual, Hollywood was able to preach their sermon without taking people out of the story; as not-so-usual, the sermon was a good one!  But the moral to this movie was not hidden in cryptic sophisms and symbols in the background; the message was clear, and has never been more relevant to Americans than it is today.  For this reason, and even if only for this reason, this film deserves a hearty round of applause from Americans who agree with Benjamin Franklin that those who are willing to give up liberty for security deserve neither.

"This isn't freedom. This is fear."
Captain America is my favorite "superhero" because, out of all of the others, he is the one man of strong moral character who does what is right because it is right and cares not what the consequences are.  Conversely, he doesn't pragmatically do bad things to achieve good ends, and he stands in the way of those who try- even if those who try are the "good guys." Of course, other heroes do these things, to some extent or another, but none of them do it for the same reasons and with the same conviction.

The scene where the nerdy computer tech says "I'm not going to launch those ships."  That was awesome.  We need more scenes and more films where regular people do not capitulate in the face of adversity.

In lots of action movies, the heroes steal cars (and everything else) and cause mass destruction and mayhem in the process, all without any apparent twinge of guilt, and certainly without repercussions.  This isn't heroic conduct.  Plenty of it still went on in this film, but a comparatively small amount of it was at the hands of the Captain, who, when he did hijack a car, told Natasha Romanoff to take her feet off the dash because they were borrowing it.  And with Steve Rogers, you can tell he actually means it.  I'd like to see more of this in modern action films!

The Art

Speaking of action.


This film has it.  Lots of it, and some of the best I've ever seen.  As usual with "superhero" movies, there was lots of CGI and plenty of explosions and crashes and yaddayaddayadda.  But this film featured more hand-to-hand, intensely choreographed, martial-arts-driven combat scenes than any Marvel film to date, and they were excellent.  Better than any I have ever seen before, in any film ever.  I'm now inspired to learn how to do a kip-up.


Even better, the martial-arts scenes didn't feel out of place (I'm looking at you, Taken 2), but flowed naturally with the story and in-between exchanges of gunfire.


And the Nick Fury car chase sequence was just as good or better than anything the Bourne films ever did, which is saying a lot.


Some of the acting was very good.  Nick Fury was much less of a source of corn than in The Avengers; less over-epic, more human and likable.  Whether this was a Samuel L. Jackson thing or a scripting and directing thing, I don't know, but it was a big improvement.


Robert Redford was stellar; by far my favorite performance of the film.


The music was very effective; while I didn't much care for Henry Jackman's score listening to it on its own, in the context of the film it drove the action very well.  I am not a fan of film sequels that switch composers, but I was so, SO happy that at least the main theme from the first film made one very clear statement at the beginning of the film.  Also, Jackman's chilling motif for "the Winter Soldier" was perfect.

The graphics and sets were outstanding and sometimes breathtaking; it was difficult to distinguish between CGI and reality throughout the film, and the interaction between the two was mind-blowing.


I really, really enjoyed the directors' style; sweeping, grand, colorful- the film was truly beautiful.

The comedy is also worth mentioning.  The comic moments throughout the film were made up of smart, believable, good humor, and they not only served to make the cheesy moments a bit more palatable but also made the whole thing more enjoyable and the people more relatable.  

"Don't look at me. I do the same thing he does, only slower."
The Bad

The Worldview

Total egalitarianism- no distinctions between the roles of men and women- is one of the strongest, most clear sermons that this film preaches, and it preaches it by example. 

The main female characters in the film only retain one aspect of femininity- their sexuality, which is played up and emphasized and used by them for their own advantage.  Beyond that, they are judged on their ability to, more or less, act like men.  It's not degrading to say that women and men were created for different purposes.  It is degrading to say that the things women were created to do are worth less than the things the men were created to do- and that's exactly what we see modeled in films like this.

This film has plenty of females in it, but very few ladies.  (The ladies I'm referring to are the extras in the crowd scenes.)

If there's a room full of people being tyrannized over by a group of big tough bad guys, 99 times out of 100 it will be a girl who whips out the gun and the ninja moves, breaks the spine of evil, and coaxes the whimpering men out from behind their desks, gently using her pink camo handkerchief to wipe the tears from their eyes.

Seriously, it's getting rather old, Marvel.

We're raising a generation of guys who no longer see it as their duty and know it as their instinct to step up and protect the innocent.  Should women do this too?  Of course!  But the role of defender is primarily a male role in Scripture (Nehemiah 4:14).  It should be normal and expected that if a bad guy needs taken down, any and every man standing in the near vicinity is ready to do the taking down.

There is a huge opportunity for Christian storytellers to resurrect this lost idea of manhood and womanhood being two different things.  We have to construct an alternative culture.  We have to present the beauty of the right way.  If all anyone ever knows is the wrong way to do things, we cannot be surprised when that is what their actions- and art- reflect.  It's harder to tell stories that show the power and beauty of a Godly, visionary woman of character- a wife, a mom, a homemaker, an Abigail Adams or Elisabeth Elliot- than it is to clothe an athletic woman in tights, choreograph an intense fight scene, and make audiences say "wow, she's awesome!"  But those are stories that need to be told.  American young ladies today need to hear about real women of strength, and look up to them, and realize the power that comes from living in such a way that others will say "wow, her God is awesome!"  Our stories must provide that influence.


The immodest, skin-tight garb that the women wear is old hat for superhero movies, but The Winter Soldier took it to another level, with a couple of shots slid in which were obviously framed for the sole purpose of drawing attention to the heroine's body.  Reducing her to her shape.  This is so degrading to women (not to mention it's certainly not edifying for men).

I thought it was disappointing and a bit out of character that they scripted a few swear words in for the Captain.

The whole relationship between Natasha and the Captain was a little ambiguous... not sure where they're going with that.

There was certainly a lot of violence, mostly of the comic-film sort.

Speaking of comic-films, there is a worldview issue that I would like to hear discussed more when it comes to any and all films of this genre.  What, exactly, is communicated by films like this, where "normal people" are passed over in favor of "superheroes"?  Are we in some way denying God's reality?  Is this a way to escape from the constraints that The Master Storyteller has put upon us and turn ourselves, for two hours, at least, into Batman, or Superman, or Ironman- someone invincible, all powerful, and amazingly good-looking in Spandex?

What are the edifying benefits of having these superhuman heroes, as opposed to telling the stories of real men and women doing real and amazing things for the glory and by the grace of God?  It's a lot more inspiring- and inspiring in a deeper, more soul-changing way- to read about Shackleton's voyage than to see Superman hold up an oil rig.  So are these comic-films fueling a modern-day flight from God's reality?  If the medium is the message, is the medium of fantastical super-films headed in the right or the wrong direction?

Overall, though, the worldview of the film was much better than most Hollywood productions.

The Art

The feminism that saturated the worldview of the film also damaged its artistic value. The women in this film are a steady source of cheese because they are just.  So.  AWESUM.  Favorite feminicheese moment was when two guys broke down the door on Agent Hill, maybe 30 yards away from where she was, and she didn't hardly look in their direction, fired off two rounds from her little handgun, and went right on with her business, never breaking a sweat or showing a twinge of emotion on her "I am the coolness" face.  If it had been a bad guy making that shot, and two good guys coming into the room, the bad guy could have had two fully-automatic shotguns and a bazooka and he still would have missed.  If it had been a more believable actor making that shot as a good guy, he or she would have had a startled reaction, ducked behind cover, and fired until making sure the threat was nullified.    Not Agent Hill.  She's too cool for, you know, realism.  She's a machine.  The same is true, of course, of Natasha Romanoff, and even of the blonde girl who, at the end of the film, is shown hitting bullseye after bullseye before we pan up to a shot of her facial expression.  Which was also "I am the coolness."  Corn-E.

But this is all true of the guys, too, and I'll get to that in a minute; the bad art here specifically related to feminism is that it's just not realistic.  There's a reason special forces only take male applicants. 

That said... this film contained enough cheese to feed an army of super mice, and that was definitely not just the ladies' fault.   Like this guy:

Epic bad guy pose.
I like to call him The Winter Cheese.  Everything was an epic moment with him.  Standing up was an epic moment with him.  Slowly he rose from the asphalt, never raising his head from behind the veil of hair until his body was fully erect, presumably to preserve chiropractic form and awesomeness.

Seriously?!?  A normal person wouldn't do that.  Therefore, cheese.

Cool face-covering mask.  That's epic, except that it apparently serves no purpose (like Bane's did) except to delay the plot twist for a little while.  Normal people don't wear face masks for no reason.  Helmet, yes.  Face mask, no.  Therefore, cheese.

Another issue de la corn was the invincibility of everyone.  (Though I'll grant you that it was far better than Man of Steel.)  Falling from buildings, getting shot and stabbed and beaten and going through car wrecks and nobody ever has any long-term negative health problems resulting.  Nick Fury even dies and he's still not dead.  

Marvel has only successfully managed to kill off one primary character in all of the mass mayhem they've orchestrated in their films.  And that was by being stabbed... once?  Poor Agent Phil.  He didn't get the SHIELD invincibility memo.  Of course, he's probably still alive in some underground cave and will come out of cryo-freeze in a future Marvel film.  "Agent Phil: The Summer Civilian."

Constantly denying realistic consequences not only gets old; it cheapens the film, because the storytellers are not willing to force the audience to deal with deeper emotions, and eventually it becomes "the boy who cried wolf."  "Oh, sure, Captain America has been shot 18 times, stabbed, burned, crushed, and thrown out of an airplane, but... it's a Marvel movie.  He'll be OK somehow."

That really makes it hard to get emotionally involved in the struggles of the heroes.

I thought they were going to let us really be sad and feel the loss of Nick Fury, and for the period of time where he was dead, the film was more powerful for it.  But no, we have to stay superficial, and just when we were about to really pull on those heartstrings, the movie says "just kidding."

There were holes in the story big enough to fly a helicarrier through.


For example... Natasha Romanoff disguises herself as a diplomat to go to a meeting.  Only problem is... what happened to the actual diplomat?

Or how about Nick Fury, who has just been through a car chase involving multiple collisions and an explosion which flipped his car upside-down, but he's able to use some laser-digging thing to dig through the roof of the car, through the pavement, and make a tunnel into the ground, at a pace so fast that apparently The Winter Cheese figured it wasn't worth pursuing him (even though Fury would be trapped in there and one hand-grenade dropped down the opening would finish the thing), and without having to actually move any dirt (apparently he vaporized it, or something).

That's pretty impressive.  Or maybe it's just...


Speaking of aged dairy deliciousness, Marvel's got a big problem on the horizon.  They cannot keep up this raising-of-the-stakes forever.  In Hulk, a monster in the streets.  In Thor, an invasion by aliens. Captain America, Hydra's invincible army.  Iron Man- well, they've kept those stakes pretty believable, thankfully.  The Avengers, more and badder aliens and a helicarrier.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier- three helicarriers, each armed with weapons designed for mass extermination, by the command of the same dudes he beat in the last movie!!! 

And then in the easter egg scene, we see the same dudes that he's beaten in both movies... WITH THE ALIEN'S STICK!!!  And the guy says "this isn't the age of heroes... it's the age of miracles!"  OH NO!!!

That sums up Marvel's problem.  "Not just heroes, but superheroes.  Not just superheroes, but aliens.  Not just aliens, but miracles.  Not just miracles, but..."

It's already starting to get ridiculous.  I think this is probably tied to my question about the value of comic-films.  Once we leave the boundaries of reality and start to find satisfaction in the super-real, I think the long run effect is similar to that of drugs, sin, and adrenaline rushes.  It always has to be more, bigger, better.  Films like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Saving Mr. Banks find their meaning and the emotional impact of the story by taking us on a journey within the reality that God has placed us in and giving us another look at it, taking us a bit deeper into it, getting us a little more excited about it, giving us a greater appreciation for it.  But with movies like The Winter Soldier, where the satisfaction seems in some ways to be derived from how unreal and fantastical the story is- if every one has to get more unreal, more far-fetched, even broader in scope- if that is our standard of measure, we will reach a point where the only way a sequel can be better than the prequel is if it is also worse.  Because we aren't connecting with hearts and minds anymore- only bodies.  It's only a physical rush.  Kinda like rock music over against classical music.

OK, moving on from that, the bad guys are amazingly skilled in the million ways they find to miss the simplest targets.  It's really quite impressive.  I couldn't miss that shot if I tried.

I thought the film was too long by about four scenes; there were multiple points where it could have ended satisfyingly and powerfully, leaving the viewer wanting more, but instead they went with the "give the audience everything" approach.  I think a couple of good points for the film to end would have been:

- on the shot of Captain America laying on the shore where he had been dragged by The Winter Cheese

- after the Captain said "on your left" in the hospital room

Either of those would have concluded the story well, but left the audience saying "NOOOOO!!! It can't be over yet! Give me more!"

Which is always a good thing.

In Conclusion

If you like superhero movies, action flicks, and cheese, this is about as good as it gets.  I enjoyed the film a lot, and look forward to seeing it again, but while it's one of Marvel's best efforts it did not transcend the stereotypical limitations of the comic film and give us a story that takes us on a real and deep emotional journey.  Lots of fun, lots of flash-bang, a good message, but, unfortunately, not much more than that.

I will say, though, that if I ever pass you when I'm out running, it will most likely be...

"On your left."

3/5