Movies

As you probably know, I have a number of friends who have busied themselves with the work of movie making over the past several years. Well, their hard work is paying off. Several of them have recently released official trailers. I’m going to share three of them here. First up is Beyond the Mask.

This shows a lot of promise, and I look forward to seeing it in the theater. Speaking of theaters, Burns Family Studios has started a grassroots campaign to get this film into theaters. But they need your help. To find out how you can see this film at a theater near you, visit www.beyondthemaskmove.com. Next up is a film from Henline Productions in which my brother plays the small role of greasy, grimy, horrible slave driver in Polycarp.

Last but not least, Stacey Bradshaw, our leading lady from The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club, plays in a short film featuring the topic of adoption in Wanted.

Post by Wanted – The Movie.

Thanking Thee

A few years ago, my sister asked my dad to write a Thanksgiving song for the children’s choir at High Country Baptist Church, a church her husband pastors. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good recording of the song. You’ll have to take my word for it that Dad wrote a lovely melody. But he also wrote the lyrics, and this is how they go:

 “Oh, Heavenly Father, grant that we

May ever rightly thankful be,

Forgive us, Father, when we fuss

And fail to show our faith and trust,

Thanking Thee. Thanking Thee.

When You let troubling times arise,

And bitter tears come to our eyes,

Teach us to praise instead of wail,

And let our thanks to Thee set sail

To the skies, to the skies.

Oh, let us ever grateful be

To Thee, now, and eternally.

And let our voices sweetly ring

When every day we rise to sing

Thanks to thee, thanks to thee.”

This was specifically written for children, but when you think about it, Christians are all children to God. And it’s remarkable how like children we can act when things don’t quite go the way we want them to. We adults have more sophisticated ways of wailing and fussing and stamping our feet, but the underlying attitude is the same. We don’t trust and we think we know more than God does. It is hard to see our lives through God’s lens. He doesn’t often let us in on His designs for us, at least not at first. So like my music students who sometimes chafe and grit their teeth when I make them count and play or say their note names and play, we protest and buckle under the mundane, the waiting, and the pain God sends for us to bear. Just as my students don’t understand what the discipline of counting and saying note names is doing for them in the long run, I can’t figure out why God won’t just snap His fingers and make me mature instead of putting me through His paces. Yet, He tells me to give thanks whether I understand or not. But many times I don’t feel thankful at all, and I’m hard pressed to think of anything to be thankful for. How do I do it!

Last Sunday night, I was sitting in a church service listening to a Pastor preach through Psalm 100. He mentioned something about how thanksgiving is closely related to confession of sin. At that remark, I tuned in a little closer. He continued to say that when giving thanks is mentioned in the Bible, it closely follows repentance and confession. Why? Because of God’s forgiveness. The greatest reason for thankfulness is not the car God provided for me, my physical needs being met, my possessions, or my family, though I ought to thank Him for those things. The ultimate reason to give thanks is salvation and the forgiveness God offers when we become repenters—the very first time and all the multitudes of times after that. So, if my dog dies, the car breaks down, someone hacks into my computer and steals my identity, my boss fires me and I don’t know how I’m going to pay the bills, there is still cause for thanks left to me. Because God’s forgiveness is a perpetual reality and eternal life is mine right now, I can give thanks while I’m saying my “note names.”

So, with that I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness:

Come before His presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord, He is God:

It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people, and sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gate with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise:

Be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.

For the Lord is good;

His mercy is everlasting;

And His truth endureth to all generations.

Psalm 100

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Concert!

557706_10151824777009424_470042064_nToday I write to you from a used 325 dollar Macbook Air. For the last several years, I have been doing my work on a faithful Toshiba laptop, bought for me by a friend when I was really, really poor. Well, last Friday it met its end through some dreadful malware and, judging from the way it was acting, an assortment of viruses. It literally happened in the space of two or three hours. So I harrumphed and grumped and groused for the next hour until my friend, Seth Haley, most likely tired hearing about it, took it upon himself to search Craigslist for a used Mac. He located one in Mishawaka for an exceptionally good price that evening. The next day, Justin and I zipped up there, paid for it and zipped back. It works beautifully. I’m so thankful to have found something so quickly and for just the right price. I have wanted to get a Mac for quite a while, but the price of even the refurbished Macs turned me off. So, here’s to the new old computer. May it live a long and healthy life. And may I not do anything stupid with it, like drop it or something.

Today is probably the only day this week I’ll have any down time. That’s why I’m writing now as opposed to Thursday when I normally post. The reason being that the orchestra I play in, Kalamazoo Philharmonia, will be performing on Saturday. So, on top of my teaching/writing schedule, I’ll have an extra rehearsal and a concert on Saturday. That boils down to six hours in the car just to drive to Kalamazoo as opposed to my normal two. But it is a worthwhile effort and I’m looking forward to playing our concert repertoire. On the program is a Rondo by Poulenc, a Gymnopedie by Satie, a Prokofiev violin concerto, and last but certainly far from least, The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. It’s no slouch program, that’s for sure.

One of the things I really like about playing in the Kalamazoo Philharmonia is that, even though only a few of us are professional musicians (by that I mean only some make a living playing in multiple orchestras or teaching fulltime), our conductor treats us as if we are. He never picks easy stuff for us to play. So, each concert feels like a major accomplishment. I, for one, feel as though each major piece we play adds one more piece to the puzzle of my playing technique. Consequently, I believe all the musicians involved grow a little more each year.

Jun-Ching LinLast night, we had our first rehearsal with soloist, Jun-Ching Lin. My stand partner and I let out a little sigh of absolute bliss after only two or three bars of his playing. It was exquisite. He has such a beautiful tone quality and his vibrato is so smooth. I know the audience will enjoy his performance.

So, to all my readers in the Kalamazoo area, I hope you’ll be able to make it Saturday night. I’m including the link to K-Philharmonia’s event, The Ballet Russes, where you will find more details, directions and ticket information.

 

The Barbarians

Potty-Mouthed-Princesses-Drop-F-Bombs-for-FeminismI had intended to write another of “My Favorite Nonfiction” articles this week. My book of choice was Ideas Have Consequences by Richard Weaver. I read this book for the first time last year and ate it up. While I was refreshing my memory on the main points of Mr. Weaver’s arguments, I came across several quotes which unfortunately brought a video to my remembrance. Probably most of you have seen the video or something about it, Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism, floating around Facebook or making the evening news. When I saw something about it the first time, accompanied with the usual rhetoric of “empowerment and equality,” I just rolled my eyes and kept scrolling. One gets tired of having one’s eyes assaulted with sensationalism. Using six-year-olds to get attention albeit for a “worthy cause” seemed an all-time new low. I fully intended to put it out of my mind and go about my business. I realized today that I kind of have to say something about it. So, here I am, late to the party as usual.

Unfortunately, I watched the clip and now wish I hadn’t for reasons I will explain below. But since I have, I’ll give you a few initial comments on the video itself. The things I’m going to list next are what I consider side issues. The main problem runs far deeper.

  • First of all, I find it interesting that in a society where the only thing that makes sexual acts with children illegal is a child’s inability to give informed consent, little girls were given scripts containing the frequent use of the word “f–k”*(in case you didn’t know, this word is a vulgar expression for sexual intercourse), gestures that indicate sexual intercourse, and discussions of sexual assault. Somehow, that just doesn’t seem right to me.
  • Secondly, the first point voiced in the video is so illogical that it borders on absurdity—namely that somehow we find profanity more offensive than sexual assault and wage inequality. I think pairing profanity with sexual assault and then describing both as offensive is a bit insulting to those who have experienced sexual assault. Profanity is offensive. Sexual assault is far, far worse than offensive. Besides that, I don’t know anyone who finds sexual assault and wage inequality less reprehensible than little girls spewing profanity.  But I do know a lot of people, including myself, who find sexual assault reprehensible, wage inequality unfair, and little girls spewing profanity as offensive. I do not need to applaud filmmakers who put filthy words in little girls’ mouths to find rape and sexual abuse wicked and perverted.
  • Third, the claims raised and the statistics used to bolster the claims regarding sexual assault and wage inequality are not entirely accurate. See here and here and here. This is not to say that there is no problem, but inflating the problem doesn’t help anyone.

For argument’s sake, let’s suppose that the video’s claims are entirely factual. The bigger problem remains. And here is where Richard Weaver comes in. In his book, Weaver takes us all the way back to where the problem began—William of Occum. He says, “It was William of Occam who propounded the fateful doctrine of nominalism, which denies that universals have a real existence [read: transcendentals and ideals]…The issue ultimately involved is whether there is a source of truth higher than, and independent of, man; and the answer to the question is decisive for one’s view of the nature and destiny of humankind. The practical result of nominalist philosophy is to banish the reality which is perceived by the intellect and to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses.”

Weaver then lays out the logical progression from that point forward, a progression which modern civilization has dutifully followed, “The denial of universals carries with it the denial of everything transcending experience. The denial of everything transcending experience means inevitably—though ways are found to hedge on this—the denial of truth. With the denial of objective truth there is no escape from the relativism of ‘man the measure of all things.’ The witches [referring to Macbeth] spoke with the habitual equivocation of oracles when they told man that by this easy choice [deny transcendentals] he might realize himself more fully, for they were actually initiating a course which cuts one off from reality. Thus began the ‘abomination of desolation’ appearing today as a feeling of alienation from all fixed truth.”

Because of this lack of fixed truth, Weaver says society is gradually but surely losing grasp of any concept of propriety. And yes, I mean, propriety, not prudery. Propriety is the fading notion that some topics and some situations must be handled with more care and sensitivity than others. The opposite of propriety is sensationalism, shock value and a general disregard for time, place and method. My parents, grandparents and their parents simply did not speak of certain topics within earshot of children or in mixed company. This is not because these topics were inherently wicked or taboo. It just meant that some things like sexuality were too precious and too important to be bandied about lightly. It also meant that children had not reached the mental or emotional maturity to treat those topics with the care they deserved.

But so often, that kind of discretion towards important topics is considered inauthentic by the barbarians as Weaver calls them. The barbarians want to strip everything of its symbolism, its ritual, its protective coverings, and make it bare. The barbarians think themselves very brave and original for doing so and getting to the dirty truth. “Forms and conventions are the ladder of ascent. And hence the speechlessness of the man of culture when he beholds the barbarian tearing aside some veil which is half adornment, half concealment…His cries of abeste profani are not heard by those who in the exhilaration of breaking some restraint feel that they are extending the boundaries of power or of knowledge…Every group regarding itself as emancipated is convinced that its predecessors were fearful of reality. It looks upon euphemisms and all the veils of decency which things were previously draped as obstructions which it, with superior wisdom and praiseworthy courage, will now strip away. Imagination and indirection it identifies with obscurantism; the mediate is an enemy to freedom.”

You see, there are ways to address issues like sexual assault and wage inequality, one of which is not coaching children to be profane. The cause simply does not justify the method.

At the beginning of this piece, I mentioned that the problem goes deeper than profanity and you’re probably wondering when I’m going to get around to telling you what it is. It is this: That there is any debate going on about the appropriateness of this video. There should be no debate. It should be roundly and uniformly condemned by culture as a disgraceful example of sensationalized junk. It should be tossed out by feminists (I’m pretty sure Susan B. Anthony with her eloquent speech is rolling over in her grave at such an exhibition), anti-feminists, conservatives and liberals, to the man and to the woman. To be fair, it has been in some corners. But in other places, it’s been praised as brave, bold, and empowering.

So, how do we bring this kind of tripe to an end? As a society, we’ve already followed Weaver’s progression from denying universals down the line to embracing the sensational. Is it even worth fighting? I say yes. And the most effective way to begin is to stop being a consumer. Don’t hit the play button. Don’t share it. And while we’re at it, let’s do our best to stop the spread of other kinds of sensationalism. For instance, when that pastor of a mega church stands up on his stage with a big bed up there as a prop and with a mischievous glint in his eye says, “Now we’re going to talk about sex,” as if he with “praiseworthy courage” will now get more real and transparent than all those prudish Christians huddling under their hymn books in embarrassment, don’t buy it. Turn it off. Walk out. There’s as much grace, beauty, and discretion in that as there is an earring in a pig’s snout.  Other examples of sensationalism are as follows: News (perhaps not all, but quite a lot of it is); political ads with dark, eerie music (can I hear an amen?); a lot of movies; reality TV shows (yes, even Duck Dynasty and 19 and Counting, though I cringe at the thought of the trouble I’m going to get over this one); those idiotic “camp gyno” commercials, and the list goes on. Of course, these are all sensational to greater and lesser degrees, but I believe the principle still stands.

Anything that smacks of shock value, sensationalism and desperate publicity stunts doesn’t deserve our attention. Anything that offers the “inside scoop,” headlines that blare “*well-known personality* tells all,” anything that handles a serious, beautiful or sensitive topic in a flippant and disrespectful manner is not fit to be seen. So, what happens when we stop paying attention these stunts? Well, like that silly boy on the playground who teases people to get a rise out of them, the barbarians just sort of give up and go home when we stop adding fuel to their fires. Of course, it’s better when everybody stops being a consumer. But one person at a time is better than no one. Little drops of water make up an ocean and so on and so forth.

Speaking of which, don’t watch that stupid F-bomb video.

*Please don’t try to argue that this word no longer carries an inherently sexual meaning. I often hear people say that this word is a general term to express disgust or strong emphasis. The point is, it is  a disrespectful term for the sexual act and that’s what gives it its shock value, even when it is divorced from its original context.

Walk With Me

The Valley of the Shadow of Death by George Inness
The Valley of the Shadow of Death by George Inness

A week or so ago, my Dad emailed me and asked me where he could find a piece I’d written a number of years ago called, “Walk With Me.” If you recall from last week, I wrote about 9/11 and how it factored into the many reasons I experienced a long time of doubt about my Christian faith. I wrote “Walk With Me” towards the end of that time. It was really a turning point in my mind. I noticed a definite change in my emotional state after I wrote it,  a giant sigh of relief you might say. At any rate, since my Dad was looking for it on my blog, I went hunting for it, too. I realized I had never posted it here. So, I decided to do it today. Enjoy.

Jesus said, “Walk with me.”

So I left everything behind me and walked with him. The place was beautiful where we walked. The path was bright and shining. I sang for joy with the birds, and the flowers smiled up at me from the ground.

“I love you, Jesus,” I said.

But as we walked, a cloud slid over the sun, and a little mist fell from the sky. I began to feel cold from the damp.

“Oh, well,” I sighed, “I guess everything can’t be perfect. I still love you, Jesus.”

But a cloud had come into my mind that I couldn’t shake. The path began to get muddier and went up a hill. My breathing grew heavy, and my feet started to ache.

“Jesus, I’m getting tired. Can’t we stop for a while?”

He said, “Walk with me.”

“But I’m too tired!”

“Hold my hand.”

So I held his hand, and trudged wearily on. We climbed higher and higher. Soon, the way was so steep, I was crawling on my hands and knees over sharp rocks. I began to bleed.

“Jesus, where are you taking me?” I asked, panic rising in my heart.

“Walk with me,” he said.

We came to the top, and the sight that met my eyes sent my heart into my throat. It was dark. The wind had begun to blow wildly. A canyon stretched before us, so deep, I could scarcely see the bottom. I heard strange voices and unearthly cries and mutterings. Savage screams floated up from that pit as the wind whipped my hair back and forth.

“Jesus,” my voice shook, “what is this place? Why did you bring me here? What do you want me to do?”

“Walk with me,” he said.

“But how? There is no bridge!”

But then I saw it. A thin board, bowed and rotting, stretched from one side of the canyon to the other.

“Jesus!” I said in fear. “How can I walk over that? I’ll fall. It’s not safe!”

He held out his hand and said, “I will keep you safe. Do you believe me?”

“Of course, but…” I turned around and looked behind me. I could go back and forget this impossible journey.

But I heard a voice say to me, “If any man puts his hand to the plow and turns back, he is not worthy of Me.”

I turned back around, took his hand, and began to walk. My heart pounded so hard, I thought it would burst. I stepped onto the plank and it shook. On the next step, the board made a terrible cracking sound.

“Jesus,” I screamed, “I’m going to fall!”

“Look at me,” he said. “Don’t look around you. You will not fall.”

So I looked full into his face and began to walk again. The fear subsided, and I walked with more confidence. We reached the middle of the board, when a sudden gust of wind, a clap of thunder, and a horrible scream rent the air. I looked down and saw the gulf. I felt the terrible wind and shook with fear. In a panic, I jerked my hand free and lost my balance. I fell and fell and fell, and the farther I fell the darker and heavier the air became. I hit the ground with such force, I could not breath for a long moment. The darkness pressed in on me and crushed me. I felt things slithering around me and dead men’s bones.

A strange, evil voice began to whisper in my ear, “You have failed. You wouldn’t trust him. You never did in the first place. You fooled yourself into thinking you did, but you know better. Even in the beginning, you sighed when it began to rain. That’s just fine, though.  He doesn’t really exist–only in your mind.

“But I heard him,” I sobbed. “He asked me to walk with him.”

“You’re imagining things. If he exists, why doesn’t he come and get you? You can’t even see him. If he exists, why did he let all the people, whose bones you lie on, die such terrible deaths? If he is alive, he is not loving.”

Fear. Fear, is my only reality.

“Is it true?” I think. “I can’t see him. I can’t hear him.”

Fear eats at my heart. Many voices join the first, hurling accusations at me until I put my hands over my ears and crouch down into the ground.

But another voice, a calm, still voice says, “Out of the deep have I cried unto thee, O Lord.”

I struggle to my feet and stretch out my hands.

“Jesus!” I cry.

The voices get louder and louder. I feel cold fingers reaching up to grab me and pull me back down. I kick myself free.

“Jesus, ” I scream. “Jesus, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

My groping hand immediately finds his.

“Jesus,” I weep, “is it you?”

“It is I. Be not afraid.”

I can’t see his face, but I remember his voice. I hold on to his hand and follow him up and up. The farther we go, the clearer his outline in front of me. Fear still grips me, but I will never let go of his hand again. Finally, after stumbling in the dark for hours and hours, I begin to see a light from far away. It is Jerusalem.

Jesus says again, “Walk with me.”

And I walk with him. I am tired, but I can’t let go of his hand. We come to a river. A wide, wild river. he turns to me again.

“Walk with me.”

I am afraid, so afraid.

“Forgive me, Jesus,” I say.  “I will walk with you.”

The river is cold and the current is strong. The water is deep, and I can’t feel the ground. But I hold on tightly to his hand and look into his face. The water goes over my head.  Through its rushing, I can see his face and hear his words of comfort. My head breaks through the surface and I near the other shore. My feet can feel the bottom, and I slowly wade to land. I collapse on the shore with my hand touching the hem of is robe. I can feel the warmth of the light coming from Jerusalem. I can feel the love that he has for me.  Weak, I try to lift my head to look at his face.

“I love you, Jesus,” I say.

He reaches down, lifts me in his arms, and carries me through the gates into the light of God’s glory.

Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.

I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing:

I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.

I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried:

mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.

Psalm 69:1-2

Why art thou cast down, O my soul?

And why art thou disquieted within me?

Hope thou in God:

for I shall yet praise him

who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 42:11

My Favorite Non-Fiction Part 1: The Girl With the White Flag

the girl with the white flagWhen I was a little girl, I lived out in the country by a dairy farm. The closest town was a teeny-tiny place called Pittsford, MI. And in that teeny-tiny town was a teeny-tiny library run by two middle-aged ladies who were usually engrossed in watching the soaps whenever I came in on my great book search. Small though it was, I loved that library. It had a pretty nice collection of books. One shelf was groaning with the weight of the complete works of Sir Walter Scott. What a combination–soap operas and Ivanhoe! Anyway, every summer, the ladies found the wherewithal to put aside their soap operas long enough to run a summer reading program for the kids. That first summer, I read enough books to qualify for a grand prize. Spread out on a table was a large collection of books I was allowed to choose from and take home. Among them was The Girl With the White Flag. Possibly because I was being urged to hurry up and make a decision, I picked it out over the other fictional options available. I don’t think I even read it for a couple of years as it didn’t look that interesting to me. But once I did read it, it’s themes stuck with me and made quite an impact.

Written in Japanese and translated by Dorothy Britton, The Girl With the White Flag is narrated by Tomiko Higa, and relates her childhood fight for survival in Okinawa during the final days of World War II. After losing her mother to natural causes, Tomiko and her brother and two sisters lived with their father on a farm. Charged with providing food for Japanese soldiers, he left on business shortly after American ships assembled off the coast of Okinawa and began a sea and air bombardment of the island and sent 60,000 troops ashore. When their father did not return, the four children hastily gathered the few belongings they could carry with them and headed south, trying to get away from the fierce fighting. Only a few days into their exodus, Tomiko’s nine-year-old brother, Chokuyu, took a stray bullet in the head and died. The girls were forced to bury him right where he lay and continue on. In the panicked crowds of refugees, six-year-old Tomiko got separated from her older sisters and wandered alone. Foraging for food in the knapsacks of dead soldiers, escaping death by narrow threads, and facing horrors that we can barely imagine, little Tomiko not only survived, but faced her situation with a bravery that’s hard for me to comprehend.

One of the many things that touched me about this book was how Tomiko often tried to comfort and help other people even while she ran for her life and searched for her sisters. She writes of one instance, “After walking a long time, I found myself on a wide road where I could see the sea on my left. I had no idea where I was. The road was muddy, and the canvas sports shoes I was wearing kept sticking in the mud. It was hard going as I picked my way, trying to avoid the worst places, and then right in front of me I saw a soldier lying in the road. Poor man, I thought, as I started to walk past him, he must have been killed by one of those bullets. By that time, I had seen so many dead bodies here and there that I had become quite used to the sight and was not frightened. But the soldier I thought was dead suddenly reached out his hand and grabbed hold of my ankle. As I let out a scream, he looked up at me with a grim expression and said, ‘Little girl, how’s the war going?’ I thought for a moment, and then replied, ‘I think Japan is winning.’ Whereupon, the terrible expression on his face gave way to a gentle smile. ‘So we’re winning. Thank you. Banzai!’ he said in a rather hoarse voice, letting go of my ankle. Then his face fell forward into the mud and he did not look up again, nor did he move any more. I did not really know whether we were winning or losing the war. I was simply doing as my father had taught me. ‘Tomiko,’ he had said, ‘it doesn’t matter what you hear or who tells you, you mustn’t ever say that Japan is losing, even if you’re wrong.’ But even if my father had not told me to do so, I don’t think I could have had the heart to let down a dying soldier with bad news. Although I was in a desperate situation myself, I still wanted to comfort him.'” Her life reminds me of Proverbs 20:11, “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.”

It’s a story that reminds me of the kind of courage and kindness of which even the littlest people are capable. Every time I read it, I am inspired and also thankful for the relatively peaceful life I’ve experienced. I pray that if hard times should come to the United States, I would have the courage of Tomiko.

Courtship Schmortzship

imagesAs you might have noticed, there’s an article making the rounds on Facebook called “Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed.” I read it sometime last week and found it to be quite interesting, though I didn’t agree with most of it. It did, however, hit a nerve, and judging from the reaction I’ve seen from many of my friends, I was not the only one. If you have not read this article, you should before reading any further. 

I’m a single girl in the last year of my twenties. I have one failed relationship to my name and two instances where guys have been interested in me and I could not return the favor. For the longest time before all of that, I thought I must be ugly because no one ever seemed interested and no one ever asked for me. I have since then discovered that I am not ugly and am actually quite attractive. At least the failed relationship I mentioned was good for that realization. Not only that, but every parent of marriageable young men with a five mile radius of me wants me for a daughter-in-law. If only their sons were so enthused. So, what’s the problem? According to the article above, girls like me stay single year after year after year because either courtship requires a guy to want to marry you before he gets to know you or your dad is an overbearing control-freak. The author of the article recommends a return to good “old-fashioned” dating. Hmmm. I sent the article to my brother-in-law to get his perspective. Jason is always good for a rational, non-reactionary, Biblical response to such things. He did respond, and I asked his permission to share his comments here. They are as follows:

“Bottom line, I thought that the article was poor and unhelpful. We need good conversations on topics like this in order to gain wisdom, but this kind of article doesn’t promote wisdom. Here’s why I think this.

The problems begin with the title, “Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed.” That’s a big claim, and if one is going to make such a claim, one needs to have something to back it up. This is what the article fails to provide. It would have been much better if the author had titled his article “Why We Need to Improve on Courtship” or “Suggestions for Courting Christians” or even “Why I Believe Dating Is Better than Courtship,” or something along those lines. That kind of humility in the title (and the article) would have gone a long way toward making this a vehicle for gaining wisdom instead of a reactionary exercise.

I suspect, though I could not verify it simply by reading this article, that some of the underlying problem prompting this kind of reaction is embodied in the sentence, “Each year I waited for courtship to start working….” If the trust was placed in this methodology, then that was a problem to begin with. It reminds me very much of reactions against Christian schools. Back in the 1970’s, starting Christian schools became very popular, even though many Christian schools had a weak basis. In the past ten years, we hear all the reactionary comments about Christian schools not working. I think people had misplaced expectations to begin with. A good biblical understanding of sanctification would be a great help at this point. The distorted understanding comes through loudly in this statement, “The deal was that if we put up with the rules and awkwardness of courtship now we could avoid the pain of divorce later.” When I read that, I wanted to exclaim, “What???” If this is really the way the author thought about courtship, then it is no wonder that courtship is a disaster. It was practically guaranteed to be a disaster if it was built on such an unbiblical foundation.

The author uses his grandparents’ generation and their dating practices as a foil for courtship. The unspoken assumption is “It worked for them.” But, with all historical integrity, we can ask, “Did it really?” Actual statistics don’t bear out the author’s paradigm. The entire twentieth century was a progression of getting worse and worse in the marriage and divorce departments. The “greatest generation” was pretty morally confused, in my opinion, and it showed in all kinds of ways, including relationships.

Another burr in my saddle regarding this article was that it was not well informed historically. The author makes unfounded generalizations, even in terminology like “traditional dating.” What was “traditional” about the way his grandparents dated? Actually, the way they dated was fairly “new-fangled” when they did it. The author also fails to take into account current sociological trends in general, like the fact that all Americans are waiting longer to get married these days and more and more of them are staying single, including the ones who date around like crazy. This is not an issue that can be compartmentalized as a courtship issue. Thus his entire cause-effect paradigm is open to serious doubt. For example, he puts in bold the statement, “a commitment to courtship is often a commitment to lifelong singleness.” Really? How does he know this? Anecdotes? What does he have to say to all the young women who have pursued dating with gusto but end up single?

So, by the time I got to the bold headline “Why the Courtship Divorce Rate Is So High,” I was about ready to stop reading this article. This is written by someone who seems to want to get lots of shares on Facebook by using shrill rhetoric. He goes on in the text to admit that there is little research on courtship divorce rates. So why put in bold what you admit you do not know?

At any rate, without interacting with every point he makes, I would have liked to see much better interaction with Scripture. Again, if he is going to claim a “fundamental” flaw in courtship, then he needs to demonstrate why it contradicts Scripture. He actually doesn’t even attempt to show that it contradicts Scripture (which, again, would be fine if he had made a more modest claim about his argument). I would have also liked to see much more rigorous moral reasoning, anchored in permanent moral truths, demonstrated in the broad expanse of human experience. If this article passes for good moral reasoning, may God help us all.

Now that I have given my unvarnished opinion about the article, I’d like to also say that I think the problems he reacts against are real problems. They need to be addressed. But articles like this just perpetuate the problem by adding more mess. Surely if the courtship groupies were spewing out simplistic, sloppy moralism, then throwing simplistic, sloppy, pro-dating moralism into the mix will help, right? Well, it will help create more mess. It won’t help people become more like Christ, which is what we are really after.”

So much for that. Since reading Thomas Umstattd’s article, I have come across some articles on the subject that I found to be far more balanced and helpful. Top of the list is an article by Jesse Jost, “Saving the Baby: An Alternative to Courtship.” Here’s another good one, “Courtship: It’s Just Coffee,” by Hal and Melanie Young.

Thoughts, anyone?

Conciliar Post

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Several years ago, I was attending Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac. I had signed up for a history class with one, Tim Smith, and appeared two morning out of every week in the front row with a large coffee. (Not that I was bored, mind you. I was just exhausted, as most college students usually are.) I sat on the right hand side of the front row and a relatively quiet young man, named Jacob Prahlow,  sat on the left hand side of the front row. That particular semester, we also ended up in a biology class together. Jacob made himself useful by wielding the scalpel when it came time for us girls to dissect anything gross. He obligingly cut stuff up while we made notes and tried not to gag. I noticed several things about Jacob. First of all, he was serious. Finding serious-minded young men in the halls of SMC was a practical impossibility. Second, he read a lot. Where most of the student body had their noses in their phones, Jacob usually had his nose in a book. Third, his reading material often centered around theology, philosophy and the like. I thought that was splendid. We got to know each other a bit, discovered that we were both in the family of God,  and parted ways after Jacob left SMC but continued our online acquaintance. The years passed. I watched, green with envy, as Jacob went off to Oxford for a semester. Shortly after that, I began giving music lessons to a few of Jacob’s younger siblings and was around while the family prepared for  a wedding in which Jacob married his sweetheart, Hayley, and moved away to continue his education. We kept up on Facebook, still. Mostly, I spent a lot of time  reading all the articles he frequently shared on Facebook, because the subject matter fascinated me. (I recently complained to his mother that Jacob needed to stop posting all of those interesting articles because I lack self-control and have frittered away hours of the day reading them. But I guess that depends on your definition of “fritter.”)

Recently, Jacob contacted me with a request. He and several good friends were looking to start a blog which would, to quote from the blog’s mission statement, “exist as a collection of theological conversations, journeys of faith, reflections on Christianity, and commentary on current events from a Christian perspective. Conciliar Post promotes edifying dialogue that informs, encourages, and challenges people around the world. The authors hail from a variety of Christian traditions and use this website to host an intentional community in order to facilitate the true exchange of ideas and to encourage loving action. We believe life is a journey whose end is union with God and every day is given for this end. Conciliar Post functions as a place where those journeying toward God may humbling, faithfully, and dialogically reflect on important issues, bolster meaningful dialogue, and grow in our relationships with Christ.” Would I consider being a contributor at Conciliar Post? Without much hesitation, I agreed. I’m really looking forward to this opportunity.

Conciliar Post goes live on June 16, and I hope you’ll take the time to investigate it. Watch for my article, “The Gray Hair Stays.”

 

Justin and Mom

This week, my brother celebrates his twenty-sixth birthday. Plus Mother’s Day is coming up shortly after. So, I thought I’d cover them both in one handy blog post.

Come to think about it, Mom and Justin are the two people I spent the most time with as I grew up. My two older siblings were off to college and then married when I was still pretty young, and my Dad was gone teaching most of the week. So, it was just me, Mom and Justin at home together. Poor Mom. She worked hard homeschooling the two of us. “Stop day dreaming.” “Be diligent.” “Whining and crying will not help you understand math.” I often wondered why she stared off into space at lunch time while Justin and I cut up. Not anymore. I’m pretty sure she was taking a mental break.

Mom was also the one who anathematized sugar in her household, much to my chagrin. Sugar…and processed foods…and ramen noodles…and pop…and all kinds of stuff my childish heart craved. Oh, I would get so frustrated! All of my friends were eating that stuff. What was the big deal? In spite of our protests, Mom fed us lots of beans, rice, salads and whole grain, whole wheat, homemade bread. She made us take chewable vitamins and dosed us up with vitamin C and garlic and tried to get us to drink nutritional yeast in water, put Bragg’s amino acids on our salads, and take spoonfuls of wheat grass juice. Blech. That last item never went over very well. Boy, we had it rough. Justin and I decried health food. Yet, if you peered into our adulthood cupboards now, what do you think you’d find? Well, you’d find lots of garlic, vitamin C, Bragg’s amino acids, lots of beans and rice, and lots of veggies in the refrigerator. Mom, you done good. We’ve come full circle. (Although I still won’t take wheat grass juice.)

Justin, who used to be my annoying little brother. He is still my little brother, but all grown up and quite responsible. We used to fight and clobber each other over the head with blunt objects and then fiercely defend one another from little friends who attempted to do the same. As we grew up, we stopped clobbering each other and began working together. Truth be told, Justin is the one I hold responsible for turning me into a published author. (I leave it up to you to decide whether he should be blamed or commended for this.) Where I would hide away with my pen and paper, Justin would charge boldly in holding up my writing for all to see. “Hey, my sister wrote this. Pretty good, huh?” Justin has and probably always will have an uncanny ability to incite all of his friends to creativity. “Write me a script,” he said. So I did. “Write me another one,” he said. So I am. With the each confident command, I get the silly notion that I actually can write a script. And in spite of myself, I do.

So, to Mom and Justin, thank you for all that you have meant in my life. Thank you for loving me the way family should. Thank you for putting up with my faults and foibles. Thank you for your criticisms and encouragements. (You’re not always right, but thanks anyway.) I love you both.

Happy Birthday, Justin! Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Tatting as in Lace (Not Tattoos)

My bookmark
My bookmark

The last several days, I’ve been working on some tatting projects I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. Tatting is a very old form of lace-making that’s become somewhat rare this last century. When I was about fourteen, I lived on the campus of a Christian school/college. One day, a middle-aged lady moved to the campus in her very old camper. Our pastor let her park it there while she built a house with special materials. She had horrendous allergies to pretty much everything. She couldn’t wear synthetic fabrics, stay in a house with treated wood, eat much beyond fresh fruits and vegetables. Even those, she had to rotate so she wouldn’t develop an allergy to them. She was and is one of the sweetest, kindest people I’ve ever met. And she knew how to tat. She made some of the most beautiful things. After meeting her, she offered to teach me and I took her up on it. I’d go over to her little camper one night a week and we’d sit and tat and talk about our favorite books. Thanks to her, I now have a skill that few people have even heard about.

The process
The process

This week I took some of my free time (when I wasn’t writing my fingers to the bone!) to work on these tatted bookmarks. This little cross took me about an hour to make and I’m working on my second. A few days ago, I started searching for more tatting projects on Pinterest. Pinterest turned up some really pretty results which I’m sharing here with you. I love all the beautiful snowflake designs. They’ll make some pretty sweet gifts come Christmas time.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing when I haven’t been working on my script and other writing projects. Below is my “Future Tatting Projects” board on Pinterest. Have fun browsing!

 

Follow Amanda Barber’s board Future tatting projects on Pinterest.