Saturday, December 30, 2006

Surrender and rejoice

Until we're on the other side, we're going to be getting conviction. We're going to be seeing how utterly and terribly flawed and fallen we really are. We're going to be ever more aware of how desperate our need for sanctification is, and how terrible our need for justification was before Christ came. More and more clearly we will see the darkness in our own hearts, the rebellion of our natural selves against God, and the despondency and need of our condition.

The trick is learning to be encouraged by all of that. To be lifted, not depressed, by the faithful words of friends and family in pointing out our current flaws and weaknesses. To be grateful to God for His work in our lives. To have joy as we are broken and molded anew in the shape of Christ. It's too easy to be a victim of conviction. There is a tendency that has come down through the generations in my family to be a victim in general, to embrace a spirit of misery. Thanks to conversations last night with friends and family, I can see ways in which that has snuck into my life; I'm grateful about the exposure. It was something I was fighting, but it crept in the back door, and now I have to be even more aware. Conviction and trials are good things, and we ought to embrace them as gifts. That means joy. At the same time as we are embracing the trials and tribulations of our lives, we have to be careful not to become accustomed to grief or sorrow to the point where it becomes us. We have to walk in joy.

I'm still learning what that means. It's a fine line to walk, between acknowledging one's emotions and dealing with them, and letting them rule. Pain is real; sorrow is real; suffering is real; and to fail to acknowledge them is essentially to lie - to ourselves, to others, and to God. It is also to say to God that His care and concern for us are misplaced in that circumstance. At the same time, being consumed by our pain, our sorrow, and our suffering is to take our eyes off the Almighty and place them on ourselves or our circumstances, which is just as bad. We must learn to experience our emotions surrendered to God. Rather than ignoring them, and rather than being consumed by them, we must surrender them and let Him be Lord.

I've been thinking a lot today about surrender. So often we cling to parts of ourselves, to our hopes and dreams, simply because they're ours. We cling to notions we have of ourselves. We cling to who we are. When we then find that who we are is flawed, that our dreams are not God's dreams, that our hopes are for outcomes that will ultimately not satisfy us... we usually bury them. I do, at least. I shut myself off from them and close down and walk away, often despairing. It seems the only option to our natural self: when God says, "No," just bury it, hide it away and don't think about it so you don't have to deal with the pain. But our response instead ought to be surrender. Surrender ourselves, our everything. That's what He's calling us to. If there is a part of our personality, any part of us, that causes us to sin (or even just causes a brother to stumble), then we need to be willing to set it aside. That is not to say that we need to stop being ourselves, but rather that we need to give it over to God. Ultimately, He requires that of us with every part of our lives: that we give it to Him, and let Him remold it. Let Him use it in the times and seasons for which He's given us that aspect of ourselves, and let it lie in the seasons in which He is not calling us in that way. It's a challenge; there's no doubt of that. But it's worth it - because our lives surrendered to Him, wholly and completely, can then be used wholly for His purposes, for His glory. There is no better life than that which is given over wholly and completely to the Lord.

Should we be surprised, then, that when we commit ourselves to Him anew He requires more of us? - that when we begin to truly pray, "Make me like You," He points out how very unlike Him we are? - that when we say, "All for Your glory," He breaks us so that He can be glorified?

No. We should surrender, and we should rejoice.

God bless you all.

- Chris

Monday, December 25, 2006


The most beautiful images in the history of all the world stand in what seem to be polar opposition. The first is of a small child, born in what was most likely a small limestone cave that an innkeeper used for a stable, resting in the food trough for the animals kept there. Shepherds worshiped and angels sang of the birth of God Almighty as a helpless child into this world of fallen man. Despite the difficulty of it, there was a sublime glory and beauty to it that defied all understanding of man. Even now, two millennia later, with the story so firmly engrained in our minds that we sometimes have difficulty grasping it with the proper degree of awe, there is something unfathomably and wondrously compelling in the notion of the infinite power of divinity contained in an infant child.

Equally compelling - but disturbing in its darkness and seeming hopelessness - is the perfect inversion of this moment, a little over thirty years later. A man hangs naked, beaten to a bloody pulp, the flesh on his back so ravaged by a whip that bone and muscle show through. On his head is a crown of cruelly twisted thorns biting deep into his flesh. Nails pierce his wrists and his feet, holding him to a tall wooden cross, driven into the crowd and holding him above all the surrounding world - holding his shame, his humiliation, his pain raised up for all to see. Beside him hang two convicted criminals; he is guiltless of all but daring to speak the truth. He is the greatest radical that has ever lived. He is the only man who dared to obey utterly and completely. He is dying. His friends have deserted him. His God - His Father - His self - has been torn away; he is now sundered from his very being.

As incomprehensible as the first image may be, the second far surpasses it. The wonder of God's becoming man and entering our world to walk alongside us is far outstripped by the sheer impossibility of God sundering Himself from Himself and dying in every way possible - emotionally, physically, and spiritually - so that we might live.

This kind of perfect sacrifice demands our all. There is no room for laxity, for carelessness. There is no room for lazy living. There is no room for selfishness. There is no room for comfortable existence. The manger and the cross will not allow it.

What it will allow is -

a broken heart
a contrite spirit
a servant's attitude
a willingness to suffer
a life dedicated to proclaiming this good news to the nations

Our hearts ought to break daily at the price that has been paid for us, and instead we take it for granted. How easily we grow cold and comfortable in our walks; how easily we take for granted this salvation and forget the price that was paid for it; how easily we lose sight of those who are still lost, who are still desperately crying out for a Savior who has come!

People are dying, and we sit comfortably, sad because we did not get the gifts we wanted or happy because we did. We live as though the Gospel is a great story. We live as though we have no responsibility, as though Christ's work in our lives is enough, as if we are satisfied with this existence so long as our own salvation is secured. Perhaps we are. If so, we deserve every condemnation that has been heaped upon us. If we are lukewarm, we deserve to be spat out. The kingdom of God will not be advanced by our sitting on our laurels and resting in our own security. Our own lives are meaningless if not dedicated to the purpose of the manger, to the purpose of the cross. If we are not proclaiming this message with our lives and with our words every day - if we are not dedicating ourselves to holiness because of our love of God and our love of His people and our love of all those who are dying in this world - then of what avail is our faith? Faith without works is dead! Get up! Wake up! The price has been paid, the blood shed, and we wait! GO! Live, love, proclaim... the manger and the cross demand our obedience. God Almighty - the babe in the manger, the man on the cross - and the resurrected King of Glory - deserve our lives given over utterly.

The Savior came. He was born. He lived. He died. He lives. And He is calling us. Will we surrender our all, give up all that we have to follow Him and proclaim His victory and His salvation and His love?

Merry Christ-mas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The song my heart is singing

What is life?
A thousand roads, a thousand ways
Why am I so afraid to move
I crossed the line
I'm stepping out so come what may
I give it all cause I'm drawn to You

As long as my heart is beating...
Where You lead me I will follow
Where You lead me I give my life away
Where You lead me I will follow
Forever and a day
Forever and a day

I can't deny Your very presence is my life
And why would I ever turn away
Cause deep inside I know that I cannot rely
On anything less than faith

As long as my heart is beating...
Where You lead me I will follow
Where You lead me I give my life away
Where You lead me I will follow
Forever and a day

This is all I'm dreaming of
To live completely in Your love

So this is life

Where You lead me I give my life away
Where You lead me I will follow
Forever and a day

Where You lead me I will follow
Where You lead me I give my life away
Where You lead me I will follow
Forever and a day
Forever and a day

This is my heart. I will follow, wherever He leads. Because where He's leading is better than any path I could ever choose for myself, no matter whether it seems that way in the moment or not! God bless, all. Merry Christmas!

- Chris

Friday, December 22, 2006


I've been reading through a survey of the Old Testament the last few days, one with general outlines and then summaries for each of the books. It's quick reading, and not really the best written in some ways. I probably wouldn't recommend this particular survey to other people to read; I'm certain there are better ones out there (I just need to go find them!). What's been really interesting, though, is to see how history unfolds in God's overarching plan for His people Israel. While the author rather high-handedly and forcibly points this out, I find the simple documentation of the history of Israel itself much more compelling than his commentary, for the simple reason that it's so very clear what God was doing. He was preparing His people - and the world around them - for the coming of the Messiah. He was building the elements of the symphony together in ever-increasing crescendos until that first triumphant moment two millennia ago.

The farther along in history one goes, the more clear it becomes how utterly hopeless man is; how utterly consumed by his fallenness and corruption he is; how utterly depravity consumes his heart. Despite repeated demonstration of God's love and power, the people of Israel turned away from Him. Over and over again they fell into sin - the same sins, every time - and walked away from a God who was simply too difficult for them to get, too hard to understand... too impossible to touch. There is, to be certain, something for us to learn in our reading of Israel's history - to see how similar we are, to see how readily we fall back into the same patterns of sin in our own lives. But far more important is to witness God's sovereignty, and to watch Him unfold His plan, unhindered by all the failures of man. Grieved by them, yes, but not hindered. It is far more important to come to understand the difference between God's version of a covenant (an ancient form of binding promise) and man's version. God's covenants with Abraham and David stand out in particular: they are unconditional; no matter what man does in response to Him, He still fulfills His covenant.

The testimony of the Old Testament is to God's perfect sovereignty and to His character of love and care for His people. And all of it points to one "moment" in time: the 33 or so years of the life of Jesus Christ. From the moment He was born, to the moment of His crucifixion, to the moment of His resurrection, to the moment of His triumphant ascent (to the moment of His return!), He was and is the perfect fulfillment of all that the Old Testament had promised. All too often, we lose sight of the continuity of God's workings in history. He was not one God in the Old Testament and another in the New. Rather, He was divinely accomplishing His purposes in preparation for the first triumphant moment in this fantastic symphony He's creating in our history. The first one was infinitely magnificent in its utter tragedy. The second one will be utterly terrible (n the old sense of the word) in its extraordinary splendor and glory. All of it - all time, every event - is ultimately about Him: the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords; the perfect Father, the Redeemer, and the Comforter.

Merry Christmas.

- Chris

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Snow, etc.

Pure and white and amazing. It's still coming down thick, and the wind is still blowing hard. Some of the most beautiful sights I can remember involve snow. Some of my favorite memories involve snow. There's so much tied with it, I can't begin to describe them all.

There's just something about the world hidden away by a swirling blanket of purest white, the sky itself swept from view by the falling flakes of perfection, no two alike, no two the same. There's something seemingly perfect about it. What could be better than sitting comfortably in one's house with a cup of hot chocolate; or than skiing through fresh snow with more drifting down from the white blur of sky above? This is happiness embodied.

And yet (I hate to take a turn this way after that picture of beauty, but I feel I must) - and yet there are two men who have almost certainly died on Mount Hood because of this "beauty." Another confirmed. Three families grieving. Pray for them. Pray that those men make it out if they're still alive; pray for their families to have peace regardless. Pray that if those men have passed on, their families will be comforted.

I wonder, sometimes, at this existence. So very often beauty is set in contrast with pain and death. And so very frequently suffering is juxtaposed with the amazing. Why is that? Why does every good thing have to be mingled with sorrow? Equally perplexing, why is every tragedy tempered with some hint of beauty? It doesn't make any sense. In fact, nothing makes sense. Without an understanding of Joy...

Joy is that ineffable, inexpressible contentment and satisfaction that defies all explanation, that remains despite every emotion screaming louder than you ever thought possible. It's the knowledge that you are loved - and that unchanging, unshakeable. It's the rock-solid awareness that the One who has promised is rock-solid and His promises are solid as rock. It's peace. And peace is joy. And - like love - they are a choice. Daily, a choice.'

This post has rambled. I don't know what I'm really trying to say here, other than to reflect on what God has done, on who He is... in the snow, and in the grief it causes. He is. He is joy. He is peace. He is love. He is rock, unchanging, solid and reliable. In the beauty of the snow, and the suffering of families grieving. It doesn't seem to matter what I'm looking at, that's what I come back to: God is; He is enough; He is more than enough. May our Father bless you all, and good night.

- Chris

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


I think I need to clarify. Apparently that last post came out sounding a bit depressed. If so, it's for good reason; I've been dealing with seriously depressing things. But I need to make it very very clear that though the road is hard and sometimes dark, I do have a great deal of joy in the midst of all of this. I am not focusing on my pain because I think it is that important in the overall scheme of things, but simply because I see ways in which my testimony of God's faithfulness can be (and, I know from experience, is) an encouragement to others. If I have been remiss and emphasized my pain over His faithfulness, then I apologize; it has certainly not been my intent. Rather, my intent - always - is and has been to point to the glory of the One who is taking me through this. I do not understand all His purposes; these have been incredibly difficult months. Yet I have a great deal of joy in the midst of these circumstances, and peace uncommunicable.

Just thought I should clear that up. As I have noted before, His grace is more than enough. May His blessings fill your life - and above all, the blessing of knowing Him deeply and richly!

EDIT: My computer is working. Turned out to be the video card, which is good. I can replace it for probably less than $50. Which is good! Praise God for His faithfulness in that, as in all things!

- Chris

My life in song...

Two songs to essentially sum up my life right now:

blessed be Your name / on the road marked with suffering / though there's pain in the offering / blessed be Your name // every blessing You pour out I'll / turn back to praise / though the darkness closes in Lord / still I will say // blessed be the name of the Lord / blessed be Your name / blessed be the name of the Lord / blessed be Your glorious name


I was sure by now, God You would have reached down / and wiped our tears away / stepped in and saved the day. / But once again, I say amen / and it's still raining / as the thunder rolls / I barely hear You whisper through the rain, / "I'm with you" / and as Your mercy falls / I raise my hands and praise / the God who gives and takes away. // And I'll praise you in this storm / and I will lift my hands / for You are who You are / no matter where I am / and every tear I've cried / You hold in your hand / You never left my side / and though my heart is torn / I will praise You in this storm // I remember when I stumbled in the wind / You heard my cry to You / and raised me up again / my strength is almost gone how can I carry on / if I can't find You / and as the thunder rolls / I barely hear You whisper through the rain / "I'm with you" / and as Your mercy falls / I raise my hands and praise / the God who gives and takes away // And I'll praise you in this storm / and I will lift my hands / for You are who You are / no matter where I am / and every tear I've cried / You hold in your hand / You never left my side / and though my heart is torn / I will praise You in this storm // I lift my eyes unto the hills / where does my help come from? / My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth / I lift my eyes unto the hills / where does my help come from? / My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth // And I'll praise you in this storm / and I will lift my hands / for You are who You are / no matter where I am / and every tear I've cried / You hold in your hand / You never left my side / and though my heart is torn / I will praise You in this storm //

I am tired, and hurting. But I will praise Him. I am weak, and wounded, and oh so very lonely. But I will praise Him. I begin to understand just a hint of what Job meant when he said, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him..." I sometimes question why I ought to keep loving people so deeply. I see no reward in it other than pain. I do it because my God and King has said to. It is difficult, at times, for the simple reason that I grow weary of pain, of anguish, of sorrow. And all of those mark my life over these past months. Yet I have sought to be made like my Savior; what then should I expect? That I would live a happy, easy life? Hardly. He was a Man of sorrow who was well-acquainted with grief. One need only look at the lives of those who followed Him closest to see the cost that following Him closely had. Persecution, martyrdom, or exile awaited all of them. Why should we expect our pursuit of Him to be without cost?

I don't necessarily think this most recent turn is an essential part of that cost. It is a result of people's choices. My own, and another's. I failed. That person failed. Where is the blame? It does not matter. What matters is that we go on honoring God from this point forward. I do not yet understand what that looks like, but I know that God has a way. I don't know what else to say. I've done my part as best I could, and there has been plenty of failure on my part. I do not think things had to go this way. But I will not question God. I know that He has allowed this. Was it His perfect will? Honestly, I don't know. It doesn't sit right with me, doesn't ring true. But He has allowed it. That is enough.

Be blessed. Tomorrow's post will be one of joy, because I will not reflect on myself beyond this point till after Christmas. There is a time and a season for everything under the sun, and the time for reflection on self has, at least for now, come to an end, so that instead this space might point to the glory of the Incarnation.

Side note: prayers for my computer situation would be good. I'm writing this from my dad's PC because my own is no longer working. For those of you with technological knowledge, it's not even getting through the POST sequence. Preliminary diagnostics indicate that it's a video card failure; we're checking the system with another card tonight. If it's not the video card, then it's the motherboard. I'm hoping for the video card, because I can replace that for less than $50. If it's the motherboard, I'm calling it quits on this computer and getting a new one. Which is expensive, because what I need to replace it with will run be about $2000. If that's the case, God will provide. On which note, any prayers for provision for me in general right now would be appreciated, as I need more work.

God bless you all!

- Chris

Monday, December 18, 2006

"Life is pain, highness..."

2 point to whoever gets the title.

Perfect end to a perfect semester.

I wish I understood how God was going to be glorified in this, in forcing me through this much pain. I know He will. I just wish I understood why this is necessary.

Grace and peace be with You. His love is enough.

- Chris

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Harder, and harder, and harder...

I have to trust that my Father has a purpose in all of this. Why I've experienced the things I have in the last year I honestly don't know... save that I know that His calling on my life is one that will cost much and require much; and that He is preparing me for the trials that will come with what He is calling me to. Hope springs eternal from the eternal found of hope, our God and Father, whose Son died for us to have that hope, whose Holy Spirit fills us daily with perfect hope from Him alone.

Praise His name. Be blessed, all of you!

- Chris

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Interesting discussion

Tim Challies has once again stirred up a hornets' nest (as usual, in a good way!) by posting the first of what he promises will be a series on "Why I Do Not Homeschool," regarding his overall beliefs and ideology as pertain to the school system. Unsurprisingly, this has already sparked some heated discussion on his own blog, as well as elsewhere online, about the topic of homeschooling. I've been participating in the ongoing discussion over at The Line, and now Ted Slater has started a series on why he will homeschool over there. It's all well worth reading, especially if you haven't fully though through this for your own future. Even if it's a ways out, it's not too soon to start thinking and praying about what God will have you do.

I may at some point post my own thoughts on the subject... but they're complicated and I'll need some time to sort them out first, I think. And these conversations may just change my mind, who knows? In the meantime, enjoy the reading.

God bless you all!

- Chris

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A thought, and praise

I believe... that I may have begun to come to the end of the beginning. And only just begun, but begun indeed.

Praise be to God, who is faithful to His promises, whose mercies are new every morning, whose grace is sufficient for our weakness, whose strength is all we need to walk on. Praise be to God, who is holy and righteous and awesome and mighty and just and without compare in all the earth. Praise be to God, Lord of the Heavens and Ruler of Earth, Savior of the world, Messiah, King of Kings and Lord of Lords... the rock of our foundation.

On this rock I'll stand
That You will not leave or forsake me
In the palm of Your hands
I am sheltered from the storm
You're my solid ground
For Your word it is unchanging
Your truth always remaining
On You I'll stand

Grace be with you all, my friends.

- Chris

Monday, December 11, 2006

Musings on wisdom

What is knowledge? Understanding, that is a gift. Wisdom, an even greater one with understanding as its foundation. But knowledge - what is it that we should devote so much of our lives to pure knowledge? Unfocused, unchanneled, what is it? Simply knowing facts - no matter how many - does nothing for you. I could have all the knowledge of what makes a person tick the way they do, but I am no more than a heartless manipulator unless I can sympathize and empathize with them, and infinite knowledge is useless for true empathy and sympathy - unless it is coupled with love, with compassion, with mercy. Those offset the lack of experience, at least in this abstract conception. In reality, humans are essentially and fundamentally existential creatures. Our knowledge - and our wisdom - come from our experiences; our understanding is derived from watching and learning from both our own experiences and those of others. And certainly there is wisdom granted by the Holy Spirit.

But God is something else entirely. He is existentially wise; existentially understanding; existentially all-knowing. How could God sympathize with our weakness "before" He had borne it? How could He empathize with our limitedness "before" He had walked in it? Yet He is not bound by the limitations we are: He is wisdom; His perfect wisdom is not experiential in nature but essential. Likewise with knowledge, with understanding. The concepts find their roots in Him alone; without Him to give them meaning, what are they? Stochastic processes? Chemical blocks arranged in a particular way? The question is meaningless. As is every question, unless there is an answer that is true.

There is a brand of philosophy that postulates that questions are truer than their answers, that there is more to be understood of reality in the queries we humans direct at it than in any response we could hear. I must admit, the philosophy rings true: any answer we can posit is flawed and fails to measure up... but that is only because there is a Truth to measure up to. And Truth is worth finding, worth knowing, worth understanding... worth having as wisdom. Do we really understand what was meant by "I am the way, the truth, and the life"? I suspect we have only the foggiest of conceptions, at best. Truth is greater than we can understand, the way better than we can grasp, and life more abundant than our wildest dreams.

I want to know the Truth. Because that is wisdom.

- Chris

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Waxing lyrical?

I seem to be waxing lyrical right now. Lyrics for a song the Lord gave me this morning, subject to massive revision as I continue to pray through them and seek wisdom on what the music to them ought to be.

When our eyes behold anew
The miracle of Your birth
Perfect incarnation
Eternal God in
Temporal Man

We see a glimmer of Your majesty
We see and sing of Your glory

You are holy
You are awesome
You are mighty
You are worthy to be praised
Worthy to be praised

When we begin to understand
The wonder of the cross
Of a life lived from
Perfect birth to
Perfect death

We see a glimmer of Your majesty
We see and sing of Your glory

You are holy
You are awesome
You are mighty
You are worthy to be praised
Worthy to be praised

You are holy
You are awesome
You are mighty
You are worthy to be praised
Worthy to be praised

God will give me the music, eventually... until then, I'll praise Him best as I can.

- Chris

Saturday, December 9, 2006


[The formatting here isn't right. To see it properly, e-mail me and I'll send you the .pdf of it.]


Broken dreams
Shattered hopes
The ruins of life's great spectacle
Cast down in pieces on the ground

Glass fragments
Pottery shards
Empty vessels full of pain
Come humbled and broken to this place

To this place where
Where there's a Maker
Who'll renew again
That which is broken
Who will mend the tears
In the hearts of the shorn
Whose gentle touch
Reshapes the clay
Whose loving embrace
Is the promise of eternity

When we cry out
In the dark
When we falter
In blackest night

We find You there,
Still unmoving and unchanging
Rock of the Ages

So when my heart
So when my mind
So when my eyes
So when my lips
call out

Still You are God
Still You are King
You are Father and
You are Son and
You are Holy Spirit
Be ever praised.
Be magnified.
Be glorified.
Be exalted.

Embrace the suffering
Your grace is sufficient for me.

Some things never change

I take this test usually about every 3-4 months, it seems, after it's had enough time that I don't remember how I answered the questions last time. What's amusing is that, no matter my mood at the time, the results always come out almost exactly the same. Pretty much like this:

Advanced Global Personality Test Results
Extraversion |||||||||||||||||||| 83%
Stability |||||||||||| 50%
Orderliness |||||||||||||||| 70%
Accommodation |||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Interdependence |||||||||||||||| 70%
Intellectual |||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Mystical |||||||||||||||| 70%
Artistic |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Religious |||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Hedonism |||| 16%
Materialism |||||| 23%
Narcissism |||||||||||||| 56%
Adventurousness |||||||||||||| 56%
Work ethic |||||||||||||||| 63%
Self absorbed |||| 16%
Conflict seeking |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Need to dominate |||||||||||||||| 63%
Romantic |||||||||||||||| 63%
Avoidant || 10%
Anti-authority |||||| 23%
Wealth |||||| 23%
Dependency |||||| 30%
Change averse |||||||||| 36%
Cautiousness |||||| 30%
Individuality |||||||||||| 50%
Sexuality |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Peter pan complex || 10%
Physical security |||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Physical Fitness |||||||||||||||| 64%
Histrionic |||||||||||||| 56%
Paranoia |||||||||||| 50%
Vanity |||| 16%
Hypersensitivity |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Female cliche |||| 16%
Take Free Advanced Global Personality Test
personality tests by

Stability results were medium which suggests you are moderately relaxed, calm, secure, and optimistic.

Orderliness results were high which suggests you are overly organized, reliable, neat, and hard working at the expense too often of flexibility, efficiency, spontaneity, and fun.

Extraversion results were high which suggests you are overly talkative, outgoing, sociable and interacting at the expense too often of developing your own individual interests and internally based identity.

trait snapshot:
clean, self revealing, open, organized, outgoing, social, enjoys leadership and managing others, dominant, makes friends easily, does not like to be alone, assertive, hard working, finisher, optimistic, positive, likes to stand out, likes large parties, respects authority, practical, high self esteem, perfectionist, dislikes chaos, busy, not familiar with the dark side of life, controlling, high self control, traditional, tough, likes to fit in, conforming, brutally honest, takes precautions


*shrugs* Apparently I'm pretty stable. It's interesting, though, because there are definitely things in that evaluation I don't find accurate (though most of it I do). Particularly, "likes to fin in, conforming," don't strike me as terribly accurate descriptions of myself. Then again, what do I know? I'm not terribly objective, here.

I'll try to have another real post later... I'm processing a lot right now.

God bless you all. May His peace guard you.

- Chris

I understand, now... a little...

I finally get it, a bit - why things have been so hard this semester. Good conversation with a friend spurred some insight from the Holy Spirit. I understand a little now why the last many, many months have been so very difficult. It has to do with the wounds, yes, with the weariness, etc. But those things are tied into something deeper. Hope. What do we do when the wounds not only hurt but chip away at hope? Till it feels like every hope we've had in the last seven months has at some level been crushed or dashed? Till every place where we looked forward with expectation instead found another needle pricking away at the skin, another small dagger to the heart?

This makes sense of a great many things: why everything has been so bone-wearying, why the wounds have been so deeply piercing, why they've taken so very long to even begin to heal. It explains why I have been simply drained of strength to press on. (It's okay: God's strength is what we need anyway, and there is more than enough of His strength and power for us, and He makes a way for us in every trial.)

When all your hope is being drained, it's hard to keep going, because you begin to feel as if there's nothing to keep going for.

It makes your every effort seem pointless and meaningless.

When your hopes are all - every one of them - abstracted, it becomes difficult to persevere.

But we don't have to create hope for ourselves. We know Him who is the very Hope of our lives. When we fix our eyes on Him, it is then that the glory of what He is doing begins - just begins - to become real in our lives. And that glory is all the hope we need to run that race with endurance, to press on to the finish line with all that He has placed within us.

Yes, hope can be beaten and crushed. But where is our hope from, ultimately? Is it from our circumstances, our situations, our dreams? Or is it from - and in - God alone?

For You are my hope; / O Lord GOD, you are my confidence from my youth. (Psalm 71:5)

And now, Lord, for what do I wait? / My hope is in You. (Psalm 39:7)

I think I'm going to try to write a song out of some of the context of all of that. God needs to be glorified in my life, in every thing I say, in everything I do. Including in a season where all my hopes have been one by one crushed.

Is it, perhaps, so that He can fill up that space with a greater dream? With more perfect visions? With a deeper more abiding joy?

With hope that endures?

I believe it is. I believe my God is God. And He is good. And above all, He loves us. He loves you. He loves me.

- Chris

Thursday, December 7, 2006


I'll start by making a quick recommendation. I've seen the practice described in this article used, and have myself wondered how to counter it - given the tendency of all fallen men and women to want to manipulate each other for their own goals and agendas, we ought to be particularly aware of techniques like this one. As Scripture notes, we are to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. This article ends up - albeit, in all likelihood, quite unintentionally - giving good advice on how to do that in any and all "confrontations." Enjoy the read. I can't speak for the rest of the site, as I've yet to read it.

Sourced: Boundless Line

On a more personal note, I have to point out that growth is a very slow, but very rewarding process. It's easy to get caught up in the difficulty of the moment and simply lose sight of the big picture and all the things God is doing in our hearts. I was meeting with Chris Goree today, and I found in the midst of my conversation that I was remembering things the Lord has been working in my heart for a very long time - months and months, and in some cases years. I am also struck by the fact that, ultimately, these last six to seven months, as terribly difficult as they've been in so many ways ("bone-draining" was the adjective Chris used to describe the kinds of wounds and experiences I've gone through, and I'd have to agree with his assessment), nevertheless this is just a season. And as Solomon in his wisdom noted, there are times and seasons for everything under the sun. This is a season: a season of loneliness, of testing and trial, and of trust. Something tells me, too, that the particular instances of each of those that I've been experiencing will eventually be resolved, they will nevertheless continue to be descriptive of this existence until we make our transition to a better place. Only when we are transformed to perfection in Christ's likeness as we step through the doorway from this world into the next will we cease to be lonely, will we cease to be tested and tried, will we learn to truly trust. Oddly, though that seems like it ought to be discouraging, I find it instead to be encouraging - perhaps because I can see that this (long) moment is but an instant in God's greater plan for my life, and because I know that He does have ultimate resolution of these difficulties in mind for me. That is a very great comfort.

So we endure. We press on. We continue to learn to trust and know simply that God is God. Until our time is complete, we wait... but not without hope of a reward. No, indeed, for we know that our reward is in Christ; we have died and our lives are hidden with Him. If we are dead and we live for Him, then suddenly these "momentary afflictions" seem just that: momentary, in comparison with His eternal plan and the security inherent in knowing that He holds every one of our days in His hands, that He knows every hair on our head, that He not only knows every intimate detail of our existence but also cares about every moment of our lives... that He loves us more deeply than we can comprehend.

Truly, this is to live: to know Him and to seek His glory, to honor Him with every breath and to see His name magnified in our every deed.

I'm ready to start living.

- Chris

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Some clarification

Some clarification is in order, I think:

Some of my points on courtship in that last post were somewhat hyperbolic in nature. They arose in the course of discussions, and I said them to challenge people's thoughts on matters rather than because I wholly believe them myself. It is probably clear that the text is responsorial rather than contemplative in its organization and its thought process. Particularly, where I posted on the degrees of intimacy allowable before marriage, I set a standard well beyond what I believe is Biblically mandated - because I had the intent of provoking thought (which seems to have been the case). For example, I fully intend to kiss my wife before we marry - though I have the personal conviction not to kiss until we get engaged. And certainly, I think there should be deepending emotional intimacy before marriage - but we ought to guard it very carefully, always aware that we do not belong to each other yet. That ought to be our attitude: guarding the other person's heart, ever and always, because ultimately, while we are each other's in this life, we still are only temporary caretakers of each other, for on the other side of eternity, we are God's alone, and we will all have perfect intimacy with each other.

On the other hand, in the context of my thoughts on marriage, I'll stand by those quite firmly, until such a time as someone shows me a better way.

I find myself today marveling at God's grace, and His strength. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9, He has told us that His grace is sufficient. We now get to boast in our weaknesses, rather than decrying them, and to glory in His strength. I'm reminded as well as I consider this of Paul's word to the Philippians that we ought to glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in our own flesh. The harder my own circumstances get (some of which explain my long absence, though I do plan on being back more regularly at this point), the more aware I am of God's all-surpassing strength, and the more I become aware that my own strength is utterly inadequate. So now I get to boast in that weakness: I am emotionally drained, and in many ways I feel very lost and confused. Yet God promises that His word will light my path; and He knows our hearts and our trials... and He has not allowed us to suffer any trial we cannot bear, but He always gives us a way of escape so we can bear every test we encounter. It is His grace, not our own strength, that carries us through. The more difficult our lives become, the more it is Him that shines through and the more we vanish into His light.

And that is worth living for.

Grace and peace be with all of you. Lean on Him, not on your own understanding! (Prov. 3:5-6)

- Chris

Friday, December 1, 2006

Thoughts on courtship and marriage

I've had a chance to discuss marriage and courtship at some length on various forums recently. I'm reposting an edited version of the arguments I've put forward here, edited for clarity. I hope they're enlightening. (Side note: am I back? Sort of.)

I have to back up those who comment that calling courtship as defined by men like Josh Harris and Scott Croft rigid and legalistic - particularly without having tried it - is folly. It is clear that God has a right way and a wrong way for us to do things. We ought not take freedom as an excuse to sin, as you all recall. This is not a set of rules - it is more a set of guidelines of the heart, and some practical ways we can apply that. Every part of our lives is to be submitted, and not only to God in some abstract sense, but also to the guidance of those older and wiser than us in the church. We have the body for a reason. Without spiritual authority over us, we quickly veer off the path.

As someone who has pursued a young woman in a way that, for all my efforts not to, essentially ended up looking just like the world in terms of patterns of behavior (sure, we kept ourselves physically, but we wounded each other deeply emotionally) and having pursued just a little, and seen others pursue, in a way much more similar to what is being advocated by Croft, Joshua Harris, and others in a similar vein, I can speak from firsthand experience when I note that this new (old-ish) way is much better. Croft and Harris have it right. The old way has it wrong.

I think perhaps the clearest moment of revelation for me was in reading a book countering Harris and trying to elaborate on a Godly, Biblical way of making dating work, Cloud and Townsend's Boundaries in Dating. Clearly they were well intentioned, but equally clear was that they missed the entire point of Harris' writing: that it is the attitude of our hearts, not some specific set of actions, that God is concerned about (ie, at what stage you kiss - I'm not saying God doesn't care about sinful actions). In fact, I found it ironic that a book devoted to rebutting the "legalism" of I Kissed Dating Goodbye (a legalism I've never managed to find despite having read the book through at least four times) ended up itself being little more than a set of rules about "do this, don't do that in such and such a situation." It also ended up being a very self-centered approach, whereas Harris, Croft, and those like them are advocating an approach to dating that has as its foundation a heart of serving the other person in the relationship - of laying one's life down for them even as Christ did for the church and us as individuals.

The call is to purity - and purity is not merely physical. Purity is physical, but it is just as much mental, and it just as much emotional. To borrow your argument, where is the Biblical command not to have sex before marriage? You will not find it explicitly anywhere in the Scripture. We can, however, infer certain things from what Scripture does say on the matter. We infer that Because God intended our sexuality to be contained in the context of marriage, that we then ought to refrain from it before marriage.

Likewise, we see that we have a responsibility to guard emotional intimacy. There can be no intimacy unless there is corresponding commitment - at least, no level of intimacy that is healthy. We are defrauding one another if we enter into intimacy - physically, emotionally, etc. - without a commitment corresponding to the level of intimacy at which we are engaging one another. We are explicitly commanded not to defraud one another, and I see no way in which having a degree of emotional intimacy comparable to that which one would have inside marriage with a person outside marriage is not defrauding someone.

I'll put it this way: any intimacy that would not be permissible between a married person and a person they are not married to also ought not be permissible between any unmarried people. The principle is clear: if something is to be reserved for marriage, then it is to be reserved for marriage regardless of the timing and context. If we would frown at a married man for kissing a woman not his wife - and we must ask ourselves why we would, answering that it is because she is not his and he not hers, and thus they are defrauding each other and someone else - then we ought likewise to frown at any man kissing a woman not his wife. If I am seeing a woman, she is still not mine and I am not hers - until we are married. I thus cannot, in good conscience, take from her what rightfully does not belong to me as of yet. This is not legalism, but rather applying the whole of God's word as faithfully as we are able. [This is not to say that there is not a place for deepening emotional intimacy before marriage, but we ought to be very careful in guarding that - and all the more so with friends with whom we are not pursuing marriage. Too, we must consider the timing of marriage and engagement in this; but even here we must be wise.]

This is radical. I see that, because I have come to a much stronger conclusion regarding these things in the process of writing this than I originally intended to come to - but I have followed where the dictates of Scripture and reason have led. I understand many of you many disagree on the specifics of what this looks like, but I think the underlying principle is clear.

In terms of spiritual oversight, I think there is an inherent flaw in any vision that chooses to dismiss spiritual oversight. Croft himself acknowledges that this will look different for different people - as do Harris and most other authors I've read advocating a "courtship" mentality. I would comment that there is no reason one's personal spiritual partners and mentors cannot fulfill that role, even if she goes to another church. (And if one has none, then there is a serious problem.) The same for her. And ultimately, one should be in a position, I believe, to choose for one of the couple to move churches and be attending the same church: if two people cannot agree on that before marriage they certainly will have a challenge after marriage.

In terms of the reasoning why we ought to be under spiritual authority - and why we ought to ask permission of her father - this too is relatively clear from Scripture. First, we know that we are not to be in a position of not being under any spiritual authority; to the contrary we are always to be under authority. Second, the Biblical understanding is that a woman is under the headship of her father until she moves to be under the headship of her husband. It is only right, then, that a man interested in pursuing a woman ought to respectfully pursue the guidance and involvement of her father.

To ask a very practical question: given the opportunity for Godly guidance, prayer support, and the wisdom of those who have walked down this road before, why would anyone not take it up immediately? Whether that guidance be from a father, or from a pastor or elder, guidance is available. The only reason I can think of that would lead anyone to reject that is rebellion against spiritual guidance and authority.

[Aside: It is worth noting - and I hope that one of those who has followed the discussion on the Scott Croft article points it out to him - that the divorce rate statistics he quoted are indeed misleading. I and several others pointed this out in our response back when the Census bureau released new figures a month or so ago... marriage among Christians has a way to go, but when normalizing for church attendance alone I believe the divorce rate for Christians drops to around 30% or lower - not perfect, but far from looking like the rest of culture.]

There's a significant dichotomy culturally right now about - between those who still hold to that older way of looking at it which values beinga wife and a mother as the ultimate fulfillment in life, and those who don't, who have embraced the liberation ideology of modern radical feminism. Unfortunately for those in the latter category, I haven't seen many of them happy. The more women I see embracing careers at the expense of all else, the more I see unhappy women. (I don't have a problem with women working, by the way, I just think that men and women fulfilling natural gender roles is ultimately more fulfilling for everyone.) Then what, you ask? Well, all the women with college degrees I know raise their children, and as their children get to a point where they require less care, start working more and more, until after the children are gone they simply are working full time in a good corporate or similar level position. Nothing wrong with that, in my opinion. I see very few women having to sit at home baking cookies; most of the ones I know who do that do so because they enjoy doing so.

Nothing in the world ordinarily prevents women from going and doing after they finish raising their children - I've watched my own mother do it quite successfully, and she's very happy. There are exceptions, of course, but this generally holds true. I should clarify, though: I don't think liberation ideology makes women unhappy because of the difficulty of what they have to do. Quite honestly, I've never seen any job that compares at any level in terms of stress and difficulty to parenting well. Getting it right is far harder than running a company - I've seen people do both. Parenting successfully is ultimately both harder and more fulfilling than running a company, from every case I've seen. And the studies showing that increasing numbers of women just want to get out of the workplace and have children would tend to support the idea that ultimately, that is part of their natural gender role.

What really makes me sad is the false dichotomy so often stated - the split between "taking care of the kids for a few years" and "making a positive difference in society." Those used to be viewed as essentially one and the same. There was a time when people understood that in raising children one was accomplishing the most one possibly could for the future - far more than any change at any other level, because in so doing one is preparing those who will live in the future. It saddens me that we have lost that, and that we see children now as a burden or obstacle in the way of true success - perhaps a pleasant one, but a burden or obstacle nevertheless. There was a time when they were considered life's greatest blessing and challenge aside from one's spouse.

Suffice it to say that the happiest families I know by far are those where the man works, comes home and spends quality time with the family, and the mother raises the children until they're grown, and then goes into the workplace. The strongest families I've ever seen follow that through all the way to the point where the mother homeschools all of the children.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but I doubt it, particularly given the weight of evidence that backs it up. Doing things the "old-fashioned" way leaves people more content and happier. Why? Because it lines up with our natural design. It's that simple. Most of my close female friends ultimately want to be housewives. Not because they don't have ambition, but ultimately because they do - and they see that as a higher calling than any other available.

For me to have the opportunity to serve my wife, whoever she may be, by letting her fulfill that dream, is no difficulty, but rather a blessing beyond compare. And I look forward to the blessing and challenge of raising children, knowing that more than any other accomplishment I have in life, their lives will be my legacy.

Women didn't start becoming discontent until the breakdown of normal social patterns began to happen with the spread of the seeds of modern ideological liberalism, with the emphasis on secularism propagated by the gradual diffusion into the general population of Enlightenment ideals. That bred discontent for everyone, particularly as the pre-existing (and highly functional) models of society were slowly but surely deconstructed. (It is well worth noting that the collapse in the traditional family structure - and its occasional surges in strength - parallel [or rather, closely follow] the erosion and occasional resurgences of traditional Judeo-Christian values.)

There is another way. And it's not a Catch-22 once one has been liberated from the indoctrination of the modern liberal ideology. Men provide; women nurture. When the nest is empty (or even mostly empty, or getting that way), the women need no longer function with that as their primary role. It certainly never need be their only role.

- Chris