I Love Christmas Shopping

“Neither fortune nor position can shut out the awareness that the possessor lacks so much else,” said Huston Smith.  He probably said this while in a shopping mall, or at least this his how I feel when I walk through stores about this time.

My best strategy is to avoid the mall.  As long as I stay home, I’m happy with my wardrobe, my gadgets and my homemade coffee (really, I can make better coffee than Starbucks).  But it’s December, and I must risk wandering into that den of thieves in hopes of leaving with a few holiday gifts for my loved ones.

I Love Christmas Shopping

I genuinely love Christmas shopping.  It is the most guilt free of spending sprees because, unlike my usual selfish mall excursions, it is all in the name of generosity.  There is, however, the issue of funds.  This winter finances have been tight, and initially I was in despair about how I’d be able to afford gifts.  I took this in prayer to Jesus, and he gave me two answers: work overtime and sell stuff.

In a year of an insane production schedule, this has been the maddest two months at the factory.  Getting overtime was easy.  Meanwhile, my Varage Sale app got a workout as I sold everything that wasn’t tied down: clothes that are too big now, paintings, a set of books.  I have some bankroll to play with now.  I shop sales and get creative.

Christmas Sacrifices

The concept of sacrifice has become more real to me as I’ve prepared for Christmas.  A sacrifice is “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy” (New Oxford American Dictionary).  That is my reality as I shop.

My first sacrifice was to sell a set of books that I actually wanted to keep.  I knew they’d sell, and they were gone in a few hours.  The second sacrifice was working a Saturday when I was already exhausted from a busy week.  This week I also worked instead of sleeping, or going for a midweek run.

This is likely no more than many parents make for their kids on a daily basis.  But these small sacrifices prove gifts are a lot more than just the object: behind them is a sacrifice of money, the time that it took to earn that money, the time and gas money it took to go to the mall and pick it out, and also the loving thought that made them choose it for you.  I’m not trying to make a martyr of myself here, but rather to put that image in our minds when someone puts a gift in our hands.

The idea of sacrifice makes the gifts seem lavish, whatever their size.

Dangerous Shopping

Christmas shopping can be beautiful, but there is a dark side that I see in myself, and in Canadian culture as a whole. Have you seen those TV adds where they urge “get this for yourself?”  You deserve a new tablet, a new outfit, a new minivan (who buys a minivan as a gift?!).

minivan christmas

I admit that I see fifty things I want for every five gift ideas I spot.  Today it was the espresso maker that I eyed up at Canadian Tire (which, for my international friends, sells a great deal more than tires), and the hat at the clothing store.  I bought neither.  Yay me.  Other times I haven’t been so self-controlled.  I remember remarking last year, “It seems my shopping trip is incomplete if I don’t find something for myself,” even in it’s just an Americano from Starbucks.  It’s downright disturbing how generous I am to myself–far more generous than I am to my family.

This idea of ‘self-gifting’ could suck the life right out of Christmas giving.  It takes this act of generosity and spins it right back to selfishness.

It’s not about me.  It’s not about me. It’s not about me.

As I peruse the shining shelves of the mall, I keep repeating to myself, “It’s not about me.  I’m not shopping for me.”

Which is not to say that come Boxing Day I won’t be back in the store shopping the sales for myself.

But for now I get heady doses of enjoyment out stashing shopping bags in my closet, buying scotch tape and gift boxes, and anticipating Christmas morning when my family will get the treasures I picked for them.  Each box and bag represents something I gave up for them.  I hope it reminds me of the ultimate Christmas generosity: Jesus gave up the luxury and acclaim of heaven so he could be Emmanuel, ‘God with us.’

Enjoy your Christmas shopping. 🙂

 

I ‘John Wayne’ Through Life

Straight out of high school, I worked at a small meat packing facility. My job was to grind three or four hundred pounds of beef every morning and bulk-pack it for shipping. The tubs of beef weighed eighty to a hundred pounds each, too much for the average eighteen-year-old girl to lift. But I figured out a way to shuffle them off the cutting table onto my shoulder. Then all I had to do was stand up under them, stagger to the grinder, and heave them into the grinding pan.

There would have been five or ten strong men at the ready to help, but I didn’t want to ask. I was too shy, or too proud to admit that I couldn’t do it myself. So instead I permanently damaged my shoulder.

This fall I’ve had to grit my teeth and tighten my belt financially.  Last winter I had nice clothes but I’ve since shrunk out of them. No shopping spree could be justified.  So though my coat was shabby to the point of embarrassment, I decided to keep wearing it and wait for the right opportunity.

Well, last week my church hosted their Thanksgiving Food and Clothing Drive.  Free food and clothes for anyone who needed them.  I had an extended argument with myself, going “you ARE poor” and “no I’m NOT” back and forth and back and forth. Whether I fit the criteria wasn’t the true issue. The real issue was shopping among the tables, and then being seen up in the choir in my new threads.  If I walked through those doors, I would admit that I couldn’t provide for myself just then.

I sensed God saying ‘let me provide for you, here.” Still I hemmed and hawed.  Finally, I was running nearby so I wrestled myself into the building, looking like a schlep with my windblown hair and my sweaty gear. Even when I had my bag in hand and was looking through the stacks of gently used jeans, I had a hard time admitting to my friendly church family that I wasn’t there to volunteer.  I was there to ‘shop’.

I found some clothes, but in the end I wonder if it was more a lesson in humility than in provision.

“God gives grace to the humble,” the Apostle Peter said.  I remind myself that independence is good, but when I ‘John Wayne’ my way through life, a lone gunmen against my battles, I miss out on the greatest sources of strength I have: my family, and my God.

Why bust my shoulder, when a stronger arm can help me lift?

5 Fun Things Challenge: Day 3 Proof of Life

Hello Friends,

Three days I embarked on the ‘5 Fun Things’ challenge, a contest with myself to do a minimum of one thing every day–just for the heck of it.  This is an attempt to lighten up, enjoy life, and rest more.

So, what have I done so far?

As much as I liked OutstandingBachelor’s idea to page myself at work without disguising my voice, I work in a factory and I was afraid the supervisor would give me the gears if I called “Geralyn to Geralyn” over the two-way radio.  I can’t afford to get on her bad side right now. 🙂

Instead…

Day 1: Friday

1. I drew ‘Crash Test Dougie’ in the dust on the encapsulator machine.  Crash Test Dougie is a stick man with buckteeth and a big hat, whom I used to scrawl over my physics homework in high school.  Instead of being filled in with dust, Dougie became more and more distinct as the day went on.

2. Canceled the supper menu, which was tomato soup (who eats tomato soup on Friday night?  Boring!) and made pizza instead.

3. Invented a Pumpkin Spice Latte Frappe/Protein Shake.  It’s more intense than Starbucks and without the high-fructose corn syrup!

4. Watched three episodes of The Mentalist with my sister.

Day 2: Saturday

1. Rerouted my run through a park so I could look at the flowers.  I discovered ornamental cabbages.

2. Went to a fireworks show.  They shot the fireworks off to Disney tunes!

Day 3: Sunday

1. Shot guns with my brother.

2. Went on an ‘adventure run’.  I ran through my parents’ acreage–terrain composed of knee high grass, wildflowers, and the occasional ‘cow pie.’

Not my usual stomping grounds.
Not my usual stomping grounds.

Am I accomplishing the point?

I’m learning to keep my eyes open for fun, and then seize the opportunity when it comes.  I hope to make this a habit.

It reminds me of Jim Carey’s ‘Yes Man,’ where he says ‘yes’ to everything people ask him to do.

I’d  say to myself, “Run through the park and look at the flowers.”

“No, I’m tired.”

(Weedling, now) “It’ll be fun.”

“Oh, okay.”

Or, Jon says, “Do you want to come shoot with me?”

(Internally) “But I have stuff to do!”

“Oh c’mon, it’ll be fun.”

(Externally) “Oh, okay.”

I used to live by the philosophy that to refuse adventure was to impeach my courage and honour.  Maybe this challenge will restore some of my former spirit.  Two days to go.  Will you join me?

3 Pet Peeves About Romance Novels

Or Romantic Comedies, for that matter…

This Sunday, I watched a romantic comedy because the TV was on and I was too lazy to get off the couch and turn it off. Hugh Grant starred as a bumbling art auctioneer who fell in love with the daughter of a mob kingpin. Before I knew it, people were staging a wedding and faking their deaths, and I was thanking God that life isn’t like romantic comedies.

When I was a teenager I’d haul romances out of the library by the stack. Now I’d rather read the Encyclopedia Britannica or Crime and Punishment (which is both a crime and a punishment). The movie got me thinking: what about romance novels ticks me off the most?

1. Perfection Beyond that of Mortals

Not ALL of us can fall in love with a ripped highlander who has flowing blond hair, or a gorgeous billionaire businessman, or a cowboy with abs that roll like the prairies. Where is the hero who lives in his mom’s basement and plays four hours of video games every day (in the real world you can hardly move without meeting one of those)? How about the guy who’s working his butt off to pay off his student loan? And the only man with an average face and a slight potbelly is the hero’s best friend.

Not ALL of us ladies have a cataract of black curls, lips like spun scarlet silk (Listen to me. I’ll make a romance novelist yet) and work as marketing executives, fashion designers and fitness trainers. When will they write romances with women who drive beater cars, waitress on weekends to pay the bills, and wear Wal-Mart jeans? What about a girl who carries extra pounds with grace and doesn’t let her weight stop her from looking gorgeous?

Sidebar: I’ve yet to see a romance novel with a hipster man on the cover. Have you?  

2. The Ultimate Betrayal

You know it’s coming. The highlander is from the wrong clan, a sworn enemy. The billionaire is caught with another woman. The cowboy succumbs to the scars of his past and pushes his cowgirl away.

Will the heroine give her man the benefit of the doubt?

HECK NO!

Will they talk it out like mature human beings? Will they communicate so that the billionaire can explain that he was just taking his sister out to lunch, and they hadn’t seen each other in weeks so he was giving her a hug?

That would be too easy.

For all their professions of true love, trust isn’t a priority in romance novels or movies. “Love” will conquer the two hundred lies they’ve told each other. Love will magically make their clan rivalries disappear. True love conquers all.

Well, yes. But true love means hard work, baby. To love someone means to accept their big bad flaws and serve them and edify them even when you’re pretty sure you hate them. Storming off stage and plotting crazy revenge doesn’t come in to play.

3. The Sex

I’ve got to say it. I hate, HATE the sex scenes. Call me a prude if you will. I read mostly Christian fiction as a youngster, but I stumbled upon my first mainstream romance novel when I was young—eleven or twelve, I think. It didn’t take long for me to find the obligatory steamy scene. I can still remember it in vivid detail.

If I’d been an adult, would it have been better?

I don’t want my real, human, lover to have to compete with a hundred fictional highlanders, billionaires and cowboys. I’m no expert, but wise people have told me that, like anything else, intimacy takes work. It’s not mind-blowing the first time. But that’s not what the romance novel will teach you.

Those scenes feed our selfish desires and fantasies.  They’re porn in written form.

“Oh, but it advances the plot.”  Okay, I’ll give you that.  Generally I’ll accept small amounts of sexual content because they are necessary to the plot.

But play by play in meticulous detail?  Absolutely unnecessary!  Entire books devoted to ‘erotica’?  I don’t see how any good can come from that.

Brainwashing. Ack!

The rational mind knows the difference between fiction and fact, but the subconscious believes what it sees or projects upon the screen of the imagination. Though I thought they were just ‘harmless entertainment,’ the stacks of romances changed how I thought of love, myself, and men–and not for the better. In spite of years of reading and studying healthy relationships, I still haven’t expunged them from my brain.

I Still Love Romance

Ultimately, what makes me angry about these romance novels is the ‘something for nothing’ mentality. They give the idea that love is an accident. You ‘fall’ in love, and bam! Fireworks! Happily ever after!

It would be hypocritical to say that I hate romance.  On the contrary.  I can’t write a story without it.  But I’ve tried to build two things into my stories: sacrifice and uncertainty. What begins in attraction progresses to shared experiences, setting aside pride, conquering fears, and putting the other person above their own comfort. There is no perfect circumstance. Life is not fair, and at the end of the story, the characters are not riding off into the sunset. They’re standing side by side, staring into the face of the next storm.

I’ve got no judgement for you if you love romance novels.  I believe humans (ladies, especially) are hardwired to enjoy a good love story.  Just ask yourself.  Is this story really good?

Mind Altering Drugs at the Mall

I think they must gas us at the mall–spray us with some mind-altering substance.  I went in feeling great about myself, and now I feel like a slob.

I smelled something strong around the Abercrombie and Fitch.  I thought it was cologne or the scent of those special people who can actually wear Abercrombie.  But now I know what it was: drugs.

Nothing is right anymore.

My shoes don’t match my bag, and they don’t go right with these jeans.  That doesn’t matter, because the jeans are saggy around the butt so they must go.  I will slip into a pair of these hundred-dollar jeans and then all shall be well.  My t-shirt doesn’t hug my curves right, so I’ll trade it for another.  I’ll drop a hundred bucks on jewelry.  I’ll buy new makeup, I’ll…!

Collapse at Starbucks, exhausted and broke.

starbuck mini

The coffee soothes my nerves and washes away the drugs.  I see myself for what I am: a foot-sore consumer among thousands.  No one is looking at my clothes.  No one is looking at my hair.  They are busy looking at themselves, and their saggy jeans, and their outdated shoes.

Where has my reason gone?  Wasn’t I a fiscally responsible, ‘un-shallow’, free-spirited person just yesterday?  How did I get swept into this?

Drugs, I tell you.  They alter your mind.

So I sip my iced coffee and I resolve to smile bigger, to greet the sales people with more enthusiasm, to thank them for their help, to move with grace and peace, and mostly, to slow down–to stop this frantic acquiring and actually enjoy myself.  It may be the only way I stand out in the crowd.

 

Are You a Poser?

Today, on a whim, I walked into the sports store and tried on running tights.

All I wanted was to find shorts that would stay up on my non-existent hips. Running is hard enough without having to hike your pants up every two minutes. But the young lady who was helping me assured me that I wanted compression tights.

Let me digress to say that I’ve only been running for two weeks. I like it, but I have no inherent talent for it. This is the latest evolution in my fitness revolution (which seems to involve doing things I swore I’d never do).

running poser

I donned a pair of pants that could have been painted on, and peeked my head out of the fitting room. “Is this how they’re supposed to fit?” I asked the clerk.

“Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.” She looked me up and down. “Wow, your legs are so strong! Do you, like, do weight training besides your running?”

“Umm…” A moment of awkward silence passed.

See, I have legs like a speed-skater. As my Oma says, some people are just built to be Clydesdales. And though three months of lunges, squats and the like have certainly toned them up, well… I probably haven’t ‘earned’ them.

“No,” I said. There was no sense in lying. “I’m a rookie at this, really. I’ve been doing
calisthenics, or whatever, for three months and I just got into running.”

When she left I did a couple of jump-squats in front of the mirror and struck an athletic stance. Heck, clad in Under Armour, my legs did look pretty amazing.

You’re such a poser, I thought as I walked out of the store without the seventy-five dollar tights. You’ve been running for two weeks. Two weeks!  This isn’t the first time I’ve thought this.  Almost every time I go out for a so-called run, I feel like a fake.  I’m just not good enough to be called a runner.

But is that true? Am I a poser?  Or am I just a beginner?  There’s a difference, right?

Because I can’t help it that I can’t run 5 kilometers. Sure, I let myself get this out of shape, but now that I’ve begun I’m working as hard as I can. I’m following my program with military precision, and I can honestly say that today I pushed myself to my physical limit.

Doesn’t sound like a poser to me.

I often feel like a poser when I call myself a writer, as well. After all, I don’t even have a published novel—yet.

But am I committed? Yes.

Orrin Woodward said:

Most people can identify what they want, some will even check out what type of commitment it would take to achieve it, but only a select few will apply the first two steps consistently in order to pay the full price. It’s not lack of talent or a lack of time or a lack of opportunities that deny a person success in the West, rather, it’s the lack of a singular focus on what one truly wants. A person must be willing to surrender who he is to become who he needs to be in the quest for significant success. This is a price that few are willing to pay.

A fake runs only when it’s sunny, and only as far as it doesn’t hurt. A poser writes only when there’s inspiration, plays the piano when there’s time, is a loving friend when it’s convenient—insert whatever end you’re trying to achieve. But if you are paying the price, you’re no fake. You may have a long ways to go—like I do (don’t I know it!). But you’re a beginner, not a poser.

I suspect that I will look back on myself, six, nine months from now, and laugh at my feeble efforts at running–writing for that matter. But it can’t be helped. I must suffer through the first few weeks of Couch to 5K to make it to the real running. I must hack out a hundred blog articles, and a couple novels in hopes of hitting the really good stuff.

So let’s be patient with each other, okay? We’re just getting started.

 

Imagination Turns Dangerous

“Is it possible to read a story and not enter into it; to write a story and not become part of the script?”—Ravi Zacharias.

Isn’t it amazing how obsessed we can become with an ‘imaginary’ character?

I enjoy the BBC series Sherlock. I think it’s smart, snappy, suspenseful, and the actors are brilliant. But some people LOVE that show—they make Sherlock memes, Sherlock valentines, go to costumed Sherlock events, and write kinky Sherlock fan fiction. They masquerade as Sherlock and Watson by tweeting in character. Pretend long enough, and it becomes real, right?

Some girls dig Mr. Darcy and wish he was real, and in a moment of weakness I’ve probably done the same. I once cried because there were no men like Aragorn, Faramir and Eomir (from Lord of the Rings) in my neck of the woods.

In hindsight, that is probably for the best—the swords and all, but it’s hard not to fall for that kind of badassery.

Stories, whether on the page or screen, engage our imagination. In our minds, these people can be everything we want them to be. We can rewrite the sad endings, put the broken relationships back together, even insert ourselves into the story. As a novelist, I find I embody my characters and see through their eyes—like an actor, taking on the thoughts and intentions of her role.

But what if this becomes dangerous?

Ravi Zacharias, in his book Why Jesus, gives an extreme example:

In [The Dark Knight], award-winning actor Heath Ledger played the sinister role of the Joker with nearly satanic powers. Once again, you walked away from the movie thinking it was “just a movie.” But was it…?

In the real world, devoid of pretense, when the news of Heath Ledger’s sudden and mysterious drug-related death at the age of twenty-nine hit the news, the question being bandied about was whether his portrayal of the Joker had so overtaken his thinking that he couldn’t break free from the script of Batman. According to his co-actors and friends, Ledger ended up possessed by the Joker and unable to break free from the character, even away from the set… The sinister won the day and the Joker was no longer a phantom character, but was embodied away from the set with dire real-life consequences.

I got a taste of this phenomenon last winter. I was already suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (aptly initialed ‘SAD’) when I began researching Post Traumatic Stress disorder to add depth to a character I was writing. Immersed in the stories of soldiers, whose lives had practically been stolen by this affliction, I began to wonder if I was writing myself deeper into depression. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if it was me or Liam (the affected character) who was screaming inside my head–a little melodramatic, but scary all the same.

This reminds me of my responsibility as an author: to speak truth, mindful that whatever I weave into my story has the potential to be expanded on the screen of the reader’s imagination. And also, to choose what I read, and what I view carefully—because unlike the ideas that are force-fed in a classroom, statements a movie or novel makes are insidious. They creep in slowly, and stick while we are still saying “it’s just entertainment.”

Is it just entertainment, or is it real? Ask the guy who tweets as Sherlock.

Mother’s Day is from Venus

“He says, ‘You’re not my mother,’” she said as I rang up her stack of clothes. That was why she was buying her own Mother’s Day gift. Her husband wasn’t going to be buying one.

Her kids, well, I dunno.

That was just the first. I kept hearing it: “I’m going to go buy some flowers, since my husband won’t be.” “I’m buying my own Mother’s Day gift.” Etcetera.

Granted, these were far outweighed by the daughters buying clothes for their moms, the little girl with the long blond hair, who came running in to pick out a necklace with her daddy, and the sheepish husbands buying gift cards, who’d never be caught dead in a women’s clothing store for any other occasion (except Christmas, when they come in droves—sheepish droves).

But I found the whole scenario rather pathetic.

Some Men Have Dropped the Ball, Here

I’d never say that all men MUST buy their wives Mother’s Day presents. You’ve got to take budget into account, and specifically, the love-language of the wife. Not everyone receives, or gives love the same way. Some prefer quality time, acts of service, physical affection or affirming words over gifts.

So if gifts aren’t her thing, well, they aren’t her thing.

But clearly these ladies would have enjoyed a gift, so…

Fail.

Women Are Lousy Communicators

I’m tempted to say that the men are at fault. I mean, if they just knew their wives, they would have known she wanted a gift.

Give them a break.  I’m not very old, but I’ve already learned that it doesn’t work that way.

I’ve stood in the kitchen with my brother and my Mom said, “This needs to go downstairs.” I heard “please take this downstairs,” and my brother heard “this needs to go downstairs.”

I carried it downstairs.

I’ve been thoroughly pissed, ready to cheerfully wring someone’s neck. And my male boss and coworkers never picked up on the steam coming from my ears. But at least they didn’t ask me why I was crying… or maybe they just didn’t notice.

They don’t know, okay? (As a qualifier, I’m not a man, and I could be wrong. Correct me if I am).

Women are LOUSY at communicating expectations.  I actually am a woman, so I think I can say this with some certainty.  We speak in subtexts and hints and only one in ten is ever picked up.  But, like Einstein’s definition of insanity, we keep on trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

Still, the guy who told his wife “you’re not my mother” passed up on a simple opportunity to make his wife happy.  The investment probably would have paid off in droves–you know what they say: ‘happy wife, happy life’.

So, still a fail. Big fail.

But my favourite image of the day is that of the tall young Dad with tattoos, and the little girl with the streaming blond hair perching on his knee while picking out a necklace. Her brother stood alongside, also debating what to get. Finally the daughter picked out a silver pendant. After much discussion, the dad and son decided to go with gift cards. His wife will not have to buy her own Mother’s Day gift.

Why I Didn’t Watch “God’s Not Dead”

I didn’t go see the movie God’s Not Dead.  In fact, the idea of it disturbs me.

Perhaps it is hypocritical to call into question a movie which I haven’t seen, but hopefully I can be fair about this.  I’ve attempted to read up on it and get a good idea of what it is about, but I realize that any review will naturally be biased.  This is based on second-hand information.  Feel free to correct me.

That being said, essentially, I see the movie as a Christian pep-rally, propaganda movie–a sort of one-dimensional, thin portrayal that makes Christians feel good about being Christians at the expense of real thought.  Was the intention to be a ‘witnessing tool’?  An aid in apologetics?  I doubt it worked.

My beef with it is twofold.

Stereotyping and one-dimensional portrayal of non-Christians

In their review, Plugged’N (part of Focus on the Family) admits,

Pretty much everyone who’s not a Christian in this story is villainized for being mean, abusive, grouchy or narrow-minded. Several such sinners are condemned to either death or terminal illness, as if they’re being punished for their attitudes.

Obviously (the movie implies), if you’re an atheist you’re a jerk.  If you’re a Muslim, you’re going to violently kick your daughter out of the house for converting to Christianity.

That’s not a fair portrayal.

The Christians Win in the End (hurray for the good guys!)

Rembert Browne said:

This is a film in which antagonizers of Christianity are strategically given a platform to speak, just so they can be shut down.

If there’s anything that makes people irate about this movie, it is this one.  The atheist MUST be shut down, and therefore he cannot be given a true chance to speak.  Both sides cannot be argued fairly.  Why?  Is it because the questions he could ask are too hard to answer?

And what if the protagonist did not win the class over?  What if he had given his best defence and was still considered an imbecile?  What if he failed his class?  Would he be less ‘successful’?

And then, as if to make everything better, everyone ‘becomes a Christian’ in the end.

Rembert Browne again:

So yes, this movie is absurd.  It creates a fantasy world in the name of Christianity winning in the end.  It positions a David vs. Goliath scenario with the kid who believes in God and the professor who denounces that belief.  After losing to the student in the eyes of the student body, the professor has a revelation, gets hit by a car, and decides to give his life to Jesus as he lies in the street, probably dying.

And then we end with a rock concert.  What?

Perhaps what disturbs me most about this movie is that as Christians, we could do so much better.  It seems to portray unhealthy ways of engaging with our friends, neighbours, coworkers and professors.  I would rather see these two ideas promoted:

When engaging others, remember they are people.

It is entirely possible that their views are NOT well thought through, and that their religion (or lack thereof) is based on a shaky foundation.  But assume that it isn’t.  For the sake of their dignity as a human and an image-bearer of God, take the time to hear them out.  Get to the root.  What do they really believe, and what led them there?

Ravi Zacharias, Christian author and apologist, said that one of the most important qualities of an apologist is humility, and it takes humility to listen, risking that the other may have a good point to make.

Winning is not the point

There is no shame in bowing out gracefully, and there is no shame in being out-gunned. Learn from it. If you can’t win the crowd over, as long as you have spoken the truth and as long as you have conveyed God’s love and character, consider it a job well done.

I recently had a debate with a coworker that dragged on (by email) for almost a month.  A professor of mine, who I turned to for advice, urged me that arguing with him was probably not the best method.  I disregarded him at first, but I eventually realized that we were getting nowhere, and so in order to preserve the relationship, I bowed out.  It felt like caving, honestly, but it was the right thing to do.

Debates, if done well, are extremely useful.  If you keep your mind open, and focus on learning instead of winning, they will force you to reconsider what you hold dear–what is truth, and what is just pet idea of yours.  In the end, you are likely to walk away stronger (or perhaps with a new viewpoint).

If you are interested to learn how to engage people of other faiths, or defend the Christian worldview, I encourage you to listen to podcasts by Ravi Zacharias, read some of his books, or if possible, see one of his apologists in action.  Their simultaneous knowledge and humility is a great example to uphold.

By nature, a movie like this will polarize.  I get that.  Friends of mine who saw it all loved it, but it was no surprise that IMDB.com was full of vitriolic reviews (from Christian and non-Christian alike).

Gods not dead text

I expect there were instances where God’s Not Dead inspired thought.  Perhaps it stiffened the spine of some.  I appreciate the idea: stand up for your faith no matter what.  I just wish the movie-makers used a bit more wisdom in how they did it.  We, as Christians, are already viewed in stereotypes of hypocrites, bigots and intolerant fools.  Let’s not prove them right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Body: Slave or Master?

“I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize,” –the Apostle Paul.

I’m not an athlete—decidedly not. I took up ‘working out’ three weeks ago, and I’ve yet to wane in enthusiasm, though choir practices leading up to Easter services have put a temporary damper on things. Have you tried to sing for two hours—holding long phrases, hitting high notes–after working your abs?

That’s one way for a rookie ‘worker-outer’ to make a fool of herself.

In this short stint of exercising, I’ve learned is that determination is just as important as strength. One exercise I perform is ‘wall-sitting’—you know, the one where you sit against the wall as if in a chair, but there is no chair? For a minute I’m good. But come 70 seconds, my legs are screaming, and at 90 I am holding the position by force of will only–but I am holding it.

What would happen if I quit as soon as I hit the pain threshold? Would the exercise be effective? It’s that old axiom, ‘No pain, no gain.’ We put aside comfort for the sake of the greater goal—fitness in my case, and in St. Paul’s case, reaching many with the Gospel.

But are we willing to go that far?

I’ve heard enough (and done enough) whining lately to think not. Oh we human creatures can whine!

It’s so hard. Oh, it’s so hard—I’m so bored of healthy eating. It’s too hard to pack healthy food to work. I just want French fries.

My books won’t sell. Why won’t they sell? Why do I get these bad reviews?

All my pants are baggy.  I hate it when my clothes don’t fit.  I deserve new jeans.

I can’t hold those long notes—I have a cold. My lung capacity is diminished. My abs hurt from all those planks. I’m not out of shape, oh no, not me. 🙂

“So quit,” I said to myself, while walking through the grocery store wishing for pizza. “So quit,” I thought as the person on Facebook complained that they were bored with health food.  If it’s too hard, quit. Presto! Problem solved. Whining stopped. Commence pizza-eating. But you know you can’t eat like a normal person and get abnormal health results. I’m sorry.

You can’t be above average while acting average.

If the results simply aren’t worth the effort, just be honest with yourself and don’t say ‘I’m bored’ or ‘it’s too hard’. Say ‘It wasn’t worth it to me.’

An example: I stopped taking violin lessons when I graduated from college, and though I kept up playing for a while, I simply did not have time for everything I wanted to accomplish. I can’t stand to be bad at the violin, and I don’t want to put the time in to be good. It simply isn’t worth the effort, so I let it go. That’s why I’m not good at hockey, or Call of Duty even though I’ve enjoyed both. The result isn’t worth the effort.

But if what you want is worth it, prepare for the struggle. Prepare to give up whatever it takes. Prepare to ‘beat your body and make it your slave’.

In the passage leading up to the verse I quoted, Paul lists out his rights as an apostle and a leader in the Christian church and then says “But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ,” (emphasis mine).

Imagine being so passionate about your cause, your dream, your faith, that you’d put up with anything rather than sabotage it–whatever ‘it’ is.

This means losing sleep and leisure time, this means pain and pizza only on birthdays. This will probably mean embarrassment—even if it’s only the discomfiture of holding a ‘superman’ position on the floor of the locker room as your coworkers walk past.

I don’t want to do this. My body does not want to eat another omelet. It wants a chocolate muffin. My body doesn’t want to open up my laptop and start writing. It wants to watch TV. My body doesn’t want to engage my coworker in conversation and take an interest in her life. It wants to be silent and shy.

But who’s the master?  Me or my body?