Sunday, October 25, 2009

wRestling, Rights, and Remembering

Day 51, Summit Semester

Disclaimer: this is really long, but it’s really important. It’s what I’ve been wrestling with all Semester, and I’m now kind of maybe starting to get it…

(read the referenced blog first...for some reason, I don't think it posted last week, sorry)

So the “personal blog” I wrote last week was written Saturday night (10-17), and it was kind of coming from some of the frustration (and resignation) I’d been wrestling with for the past couple of weeks. Various things, those outside my control and those inspired by some of the Semester experience, have left me feeling less secure about my future plans than I was before coming here. (Perhaps, as Bauman asserts, I’ve been confused all along, and it just takes the right questions to make me realize it.) Seriously though, I felt to some degree that the rug had been pulled out from under me again, as far as my plans for the future.

And I really struggled with this. I struggled with not knowing. I struggled because I felt like I wasn’t trusting God like I should. I struggled because I felt I had, in some way, walked this path before (post-Implosion and college decision) and yet I was struggling with trusting God just as much now as then, though I have already seen Him work things out better than I could have planned or dreamed in a million years. It was frustrating because it felt like I had made no progress, that I was currently in an unstable spiritual state of not trusting God fully, and that I still really wanted to know what’s coming and I still have no idea.

I talked with Naomi, my mentor and small group leader, and she had some really helpful stuff to say. In a sense, she’s been in a place of not knowing any long term plans for the past six years, so she definitely understood what I was wrestling with. She said that sometimes the Christian life doesn’t seem so much like hills and valleys as it does this spiraling motion – often it seems we keep coming back to the same issue/problem/question time and time again, each time coming with a little more knowledge than we had before, which can inspire both hope (God got me through this once, we can do it again) and frustration (God why can’ t I learn this and move on?). There are times it just seems like I haven’t grown at all since the last time God tried to teach me this, and yet I know I have. Talking with her really gave me a better perspective, and I definitely had more peace after that, but it was still simmering at the back of my conscious for another week or two. Which led to Saturday’s blog of frustration.

And then came (last) Sunday morning, when God gave me exactly what I needed in church. It was amazing. The pastor is preaching through Philippians, and he was at the last part of Philippians 2, which is about Timothy and Epaphroditus…not exactly a passage obviously conducive to application. He talked about their example, how they didn’t look out for their own interests, but those of Jesus Christ, and how they were willing to and almost died for the Gospel. He talked about how far this is from our understanding of the Christian life today. We understand that if you join the Marines, you give up all rights – they own you and you do exactly what they tell you, even if you don’t like or understand it or consider it abusive. You signed up, and they own you. Yet we don’t carry this understanding over to our understanding of the God of the Universe, who created us and owns us more than the United States ever could.

He talked about how there’s no middle ground – we have “full devotion” or “no devotion.” There’s a straight narrow path, and an easy wide path – we’re not given the option of middle ground. We’re called to live holistically, and following Jesus costs me everything. We can’t have everything on our “middle road” and have Jesus. It just doesn’t work that way.

Going back to a theme of Bauman’s, I have no biblical rights, only responsibilities. I have no rights, only the obligation to remember and the responsibility to obey.

I have no rights. I have no right to assume college or the pursuit of Master’s degree or a missions career or marriage. I have no right to know God’s plan or where I’ll be next year or five years down the road. I have no right to my next breath. Jesus is EVERYTHING, and nothing can be better than Him. To paraphrase CS Lewis, he who has _________ + God has nothing more than he who has God alone.

I forget so quickly. And God knows this.

In the Pentateuch, God commands us to “remember” 18 times. In the same space, God “remembers” 6 times. Based on the rest of Scripture and my personal experience, we don’t remember well often at all. That’s why it’s commanded so frequently.

This idea of remembrance isn’t new to me. Pastor Syvelle talked about it when I was 10 at the Garden Tomb. It came up again when I was 16, in India. Later that year I wrote a paper about the connection between those – see here. That year in chapel, Mr. Gregory went with the theme of the Hebrew word “zakar” – meaning to remember and therefore live - for chapel as we worked through the 10 Commandments. I then put that term on a leather bracelet I made that summer and have worn since. I’ve been journaling consistently for the past four or five years. It’s something I’m aware of, but that I fail to practice.

And when I forget what God has done, and how glorious He is, how perfect and faithful, I get in trouble really fast.

God commands us to remember, because we’re stupid humans and we forget the important things really, really fast.

So when I forget what God has done, and live in light of my forgetfulness – walking in worry or doubt or fear – I am sinning. I’m pretty good at this.

There’s a quote I stumbled across on a blog one time, and I love it, because I think it sums up what I’ve been wrestling with really well.

“I find I fall the hardest when I try the hardest to do in myself what God wants to do in me.”

I’m called to live. To die. To surrender. To jump. To trust. To love. To work out my salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who works in me to will in to act according to His good purpose.

His purpose is good. It is good, because He is good. It is safe to trust God.

I’m called to remember – remember what God has done in history and in my life, and to remember those who have gone before me, those who have given everything to follow Jesus. How can I not do the same, for Him who is always faithful even as I forget time and time again?

The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O LORD, endures forever – do not abandon the works of Your hands!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day 50, Summit Semester

Trip to Mesa Verde….see FB pics and postcards coming soon to an address near you.

After we got back from Mesa Verde, about eight of us had a campfire up on the ridge. It was fun just hanging out. The fire was beautiful. I still can’t get over the stars. There’s so many of them, more than I’ve ever seen before, and it blows my mind to realize how big the universe is, and how amazing the creation of God is. There are so many things here that make the entire Semester experience so brilliant and beautiful.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day 49, Summit Semester

Ludicrous, Lacking, or Logical? The Validity of Lewis’ Trilemma
Why Evangelicals Can’t Write
Speaking the Truth in Love

The last two lectures were by far my favorite. They both deserve a blog all of their own, which will be forthcoming, but a summary is necessary now.

The first one was basically about how evangelicals don’t understand the mystery of the Gospel, or the symbolic power of the sacraments, and therefore we don’t understand the fullness of the Story in which God has revealed Himself and placed us. Therefore, we don’t communicate our own story creations well. It was fascinating, and something I definitely need to spend more time on.

The last lecture was the most significant and possibly the most important lecture we’ve had thus far. Dr. Williams has taught all four classes of Semester, and he’s kept up with many of the students in past years. He understands the tension we experience really well. Semester is amazing. To quote Williams, it is the closest thing to Schaeffer’s L’Abri as exists today and a true community of what the church is supposed to be. Which sounds incredible, but it’s infinitely more amazing to be here. It’s not just the intellectual brilliance, but also the community – it really is a family. And as much as we joke about it, it really is hard for us to relate/understand with the outside world, just as it is for them to us.

And yet the reality is we will be back home in five short weeks, which is a seriously kind of depressing thought. And Williams was preparing us for the fact that it will be depressing in some ways going back home, leaving the family we’ve had here for three months and going back to people we love, but people who simply haven’t had the experience of this community for three months.

With all we’ve learned and lived, seeing the vision of a Biblical worldview lived out in community, we’re going to want to go back and change the world, teach everybody everything we’ve learned. But it doesn’t work that way, and at a smaller level, that’s something we’re already realizing in our connection with the outside world. And Summit is training us to change the world, but we have to go about it in the right way. We have to speak the truth in love, earning the right to be heard by serving, not immediately assuming that we have all the answers that those in the outside world haven’t had the opportunity to learn. While that may be true, we can’t be frustrated with them for not having experienced what we’ve experienced.

And this is a genuine struggle. To a small degree, we already realize it, and it’s something I’ve struggled with on a much smaller scale coming home from missions trips or camps. And while we’re all looking forward to being home in one sense, we are definitely already dreading our departure in a little over a month. It’s a really weird tension, and while I’m not explaining it well, he and some of the other graduates here say it’s a lot easier to deal with if you communicate as much as possible with the people back home. So thus ends my feeble attempt to do such….

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 48, Summit Semester

CS Lewis on Goodness, Truth, and Beauty (Continued)
A Christian Role Model: Edmund Spenser
Deconstructing Deconstructionism

Tonight was the performance of “Revenge of the DWEMs,” a one-act play/ Socratic tetralogue Dr. Williams wrote about the interaction of Socrates, Erasmus (a Renaissance scholar), a New Critic (the dominant literary view of the past century) professor, and a postmodern professor. DWEM stands for Dead White European Males, the “source of all evil in the world” according to the postmodernist. The other three prove her to be a fool, though, and it’s a great and funny way to understand the conflict of literary criticism today.

I ran lights and did the program, both of which were fun. Those might show up somewhere later.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 45, Summit Semester

We had Dr. Donald T. Williams with us this week for a really broad course entitled “Literature: A Christian Approach.” I don’t know how it’s physically possible, but our lectures here just keep getting better and better! Seriously, it’s hard to comprehend how amazing Semester is and what a tremendous privilege and opportunity we have.

I really don’t have time to go into all of the lectures, but I will post the schedule here so you can be jealous. Dr. Williams definitely has a different style of teaching than Bauman – he claims Bauman is the best professor of the Socratic method alive today, and he won’t attempt to rival that. Dr. Williams presented his lectures as if reading an academic paper – so there was tons of great information, so much so that it was hard to keep up and take notes. It was great though – l loved it. (Not gonna lie though, I was seriously mad that the two lectures I wanted recorded the most were the ones my computer decided to lose – grrr.) I can’t say this was my favorite week, because everything else is so good too (!!!) but it was definitely incredible.

He gave three lectures every morning for 50-ish minutes each:


The Place of Study in the Christian Life
Repairing the Ruins: Thoughts On Christian Higher Education
The Necessity of Narrative: A Theology of Literature

Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Day 46, Summit Semester
Worldviews in Literature
The Expression of Emotion in Poetry

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Day 47, Summit Semester
The Praise of Christ in English Poetry
CS Lewis as a Literary Scholar
CS Lewis on Goodness, Truth, and Beauty

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day 43, Summit Semester

And now for a blog of a more personal nature:

Yo no se nada.

Seriously, it’s kind of overwhelming how much I don’t know. About everything. And I guess that’s kind of the point. I’m a (very) finite creature, still relatively young and inexperienced, and this is how the world works.

God knows. He knows what I do not know. He knows what I want to know. He knows what I think I need to know right now, and He knows the perfect timing in which He will reveal that.

As Ecclesiastes says, “Of the making of books there is no end.” There is always more to learn, more to study, and while this is good, this is not ultimate. The pursuit of knowledge is only good insofar as it leads to Him who is Truth.

As I so often need to be reminded, we’re called to seek the face of God, not His hand, nor His plan. Those are not ultimate. Knowing Jesus is.

Psalm 27:8. My heart says of You, “Seek His face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day 42, Summit Semester

We continued our discussion of Milton in Brit Lit, but also looked at his political theory in Politics. He wrote the Areopagitica, the greatest defense of the press ever written in English. He also wrote a book called On Education, which was an interesting perspective. Two quotes from him on the purpose of education:

“Education is that which fits a man to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously, all the offices public and private, in peace and war.”

“The purpose of education is to help repair the ruins of our first parents by learning to know God aright.”

In other words, education ought to be part of the process of redemption and sanctification - we need to learn to love God and imitate Him to possess true virtue in our souls.

Today was significant in a somewhat depressing way. It’s our half-way point through the Semester, a rather sobering thought. Perhaps because of our isolation, the rather strict schedule, or simply because we’re having fun, time has absolutely flown by here. It seems like we just arrived a week or two ago.

And as Bethany and I discussed last night, we’re all starting to realize that this Semester isn’t about how much we learn here. We’re learning a ton, but that’s really not the purpose. We’re realizing how much we don’t know, and won’t be able to figure out in the next six weeks. But we are being given the tools to think well and study well for the rest of our lives. With the questions we have to wrestle with now, and the new ones that are sure to come, that’s about how long it will take, too. We all have a list of books to read that’s about three miles long, and we’re always asking Bauman for more books. We’re not gluttons for punishment; it’s just contagious. Once you start learning how to really study and think, you want to keep doing it.

In that sense, Semester is somewhat different than I expected. But I love it. Where else can you wrestle with the big questions of life in a community that’s seeking the Truth together?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 41, Summit Semester

We started talking about John Milton in Brit Lit today, which is definitely interesting. Bauman thinks Milton’s always brilliant and poetic, even when he’s dead wrong. He’s certainly an incredible guy. He felt he was called to be a poet, which he thought was just as important calling as a pastor, because both are called to communicate the Truth in words to the people. He felt called to write the greatest English epic poem of all time, so he took six years at Cambridge for his BA and MA, then went back home for about nine years to prepare, read, and study to be the best poet.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 40, Summit Semester

This morning we had “Bible with Eric and God.” We’ve been reading through big chunks of the OT, and in class once a week we talk about major themes. The past couple of weeks we covered creation, the Law, and today we talked about the covenants we’ve read about so far: Noah, Abraham, and Moses.

At the end of last week, we looked at Shakespeare. Bauman asked us to read Romeo and Juliet in small groups over the weekend so we would be ready to discuss it today. I read it with Abby, Bethany, and Precious – it’s definitely more amusing reading it out loud. And if you ever thought the Old English literature and culture was nice and chaste….um, haha. Maybe not… Tonight instead of a lecture, we watched the film of Romeo and Juliet from the 60s. We awkwardly censored a whole scene, but it was good.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 39, Summit Semester

Charlie Pepitone, our art teacher, is familiar with all kinds of art, but his focus is theater. He has his Master’s in theater production or direction or something like that, and he leads an acting group around here. He’s taught college drama courses, so he definitely knows what he’s doing with theater. We spent art class today learning about theater, and it was really interesting. I was involved in all the plays and musicals in high school on the tech side of them, doing lights and sound, so I’ve had decent exposure to theater. It was really interesting to have a class with a professional actor/director, and hear what he tells his professional actors. Let’s just say it was different from my high school experiences, and quite fascinating.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day 38, Summit Semester

Today we went to Durango, which is about an hour away from SWL. We had lunch in a park, then we hung out in downtown Durango for a couple of hours. It was nice to have a day to just chill and not have a whole lot of driving or activity. There are several blocks of shops – mostly touristy kinds of stuff, but it was fun to go and look around. I hung out with Bethany most of the day, and that was good.

The most interesting experience of the day was a used bookstore. It looked like an old small house, and it was completely crammed from floor to ceiling with books. The aisles were so narrow that you often had to walk kind of sideways to get through, and you definitely couldn’t pass anyone. You had to back out and let them come through or some other maneuvering. It was kind of cool, but also had kind of a chaotic overwhelming feel to it as well.

After downtown, we had a little over an hour to shop at Wal-mart and grab dinner before heading back to the lodge.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Christianity and Culture diagrams

So I still haven't processed this enough from last week to do a decent job of coherently explaining what we talked about. We discussed so much and it's all so important. I want to write a book about it, but I have to get it straight in my head first. So that will be forthcoming, but until then, here are some of the diagrams from the lectures. I'll try to explain them, but they should give a quick idea of the complexity of some of the stuff we're dealing with. I loved this course though, and I will elaborate later...

Click on each picture to get a bigger image...

So this is the chart of the history of Evangelicals and Fundamentals in America the past two centuries. Ideas have consequences, and they have histories.

Culture is what we create and what creates us. We have to be able to "read" what culture tells us and what we internalize, and we have to "write" culture - externalize and create culture.

This is dealing with how we understand culture and our call to create from Genesis. Below is a larger version. God formed and filled the earth, and calls us to do the same.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bauman returned! He had only been gone a week and a half, but somehow it seemed longer. It was fun to have class with him again. We jumped right back into everything.

In politics, we moved from our discussion of John Stuart Mill and Libertarianism to Niccolo Machiavelli and The Prince and his theory of the politics of power. It’s pretty straightforward: if you want to get and keep power, you must become indifferent to questions of morality and Christian values. You also have to be a realpolitik – realistic about the world, knowing that it’s better to be feared than loved or hated. You have to be un-virtuous in a subterranean fashion – accommodate evil and get it done quickly under the table.

Beyond this, though, you have to be a “political virtuoso” – you have to be as good at politics and reading situations and people as a violin virtuoso is with his instrument. You have to practice for hours and hours every day for years to reach this level; you can’t survive if you’re an amateur. You have to have insight and perception others don’t have; you have to have careful and precise observation so you know how things are now and how they can be changed in your favor.

Here’s the frustrating part. I’ll just quote Bauman: “CHRISTIANS DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THIS! It’s not enough to send money to Focus on the Family, pray once in a while, and vote Republican. The guys we’re opposing know Machiavelli and they hope we stay just how we are right now. The typical Christian just hopes and prays things turn out well. Machiavelli says this is like rolling the dice and leaving things to chance, which virtuosos never do. God is in control of history, but He works through His people.”

Machiavelli said to be both a lion and a fox; Jesus commanded us to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. If we’re not wise in what we do, we can’t be harmless: we will inflict harm on our causes and ourselves.

Ronald Reagan is the best example of a Christian following Machiavelli’s principles. We’re starting to read When Character was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan by Peggy Noonan, so I’m sure I’ll have more to say about him later. Bauman also mentioned Phyllis Schaeffly as someone who knew what to do and did it well. He said she single-handedly defeated the Equal Rights Amendment by taking on both houses of Congress and 30 states and winning.

I asked Dr. Bauman why the Church is so terrible at influencing culture and politics and how we can change that. His reply was basically “the Church isn’t going to change. You have to learn and get involved and get good, fast.” Christian individuals need to study Machiavelli, study Reagan and Schaeffly and the like, and become virtuosos, not bumbling idiots who don’t really know what they’re doing or what their opponents are doing.

PS: See FB note for additional response to this + culture class from last week…

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day 32, Summit Semester

Today art class was a little different. Last week we talked about what it meant for something to be “sacred” and how to define “sacred arts.” We read a chapter on “midrash,” the Hebrew concept of inventing stories about the silences in Scripture to understand the text better. Most of us agreed that while that could be helpful to a very limited level, it’d be pretty easy to take that concept way too far. Anyways, our assignment was to create some form of art based on Genesis 22, the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. We could draw, write, sing, put together a play, sculpt, just about anything. It was interesting to see what people came up with. I did a sketch of sorts, using the words and the context of what we know about Abraham and the promises he had received before this. I used different verses, from Genesis 12 through 22, and a couple random ones from Hebrews and Samuel, to illustrate the scene. The history of what Abraham and Isaac have been through add so much to the story – you really have to get the background to understand the story at all.

This evening we had Jeff Ventrella come speak. He’s the vice-president of Alliance Defense Fund, an organization and network of Christian lawyers working to support Christians legally and especially protect free speech and First Amendment rights as it relates to Christianity. Jeff is in charge of their education department, which includes speaking to groups and overseeing Blackstone Fellowship, a nine-week internship they have for first year law students, to train them in a Biblical perspective of law.

He talked about natural law, and how that’s the foundation for private and social life in Western Civilization. Natural law isn’t innate moral knowledge, biological instinct, matters of consensus, the physical laws of nature, or moral law as known through the Bible. He defined natural law as “a notion of law that is both transcendent and imminent, and is therefore binding and knowable.”

He explained why we have to have natural law from an experience he had in a debate hosted by the Museum of Tolerance in San Francisco. The Museum of Tolerance was originally an organization created after the Holocaust to prevent that from happening again, but has since been hijacked by the Left. His opponent declared that there was no natural law, but that all rights came from the state. Jeff refuted this quickly, arguing that if the only source of rights is the state, and the only law is positive law, what we create, then Dachau was right and Nuremburg was wrong, because the Nazis did everything according to their positive law. There has to be a law above our law.

Wednesday morning, we had “Bible with Eric and God, “ our Bible survey class. We had read the book of Deuteronomy, and we talked about the Law and how we’re under the New Covenant. Bauman came back, but he didn’t teach because we had another lecture with Jeff Ventrella on law.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 31, Summit Semester

On Monday, our weekend day, we would have climbed the 14-er, but instead we had just a chill day in town. We got to use the internet for several hours, make phone calls, walk around and see the touristy shops, and we had lunch at the Mexican restaurant. We came back to the lodge around 3:30, and studied or hung out for the rest of the day. That evening was the long anticipated (for some) football game between the Vikings and the Packers, and there was a party at Bob’s house. (He’s the property manager for Snow Wolf Lodge, and he’s a really cool guy. He also has a really nice TV…) Almost-7-month-old Liam was enjoying watching everybody and learning to clap when everybody else did, but he got scared at the first touchdown when several of the guys exploded. The Smiths decided it was bedtime after that, haha. It was a fun, restful day.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day 30, Summit Semester

Last week John Stonestreet was here Wednesday through Saturday morning lecturing on Christianity and Culture. Bauman had a week off to stay in Michigan and not worry about crossing two time zones to teach at two different institutions several states away. We definitely missed him, but Stonestreet’s lectures were amazing. He and his family left after lunch on Saturday, so we had Saturday evening free. This was the weekend we were scheduled to camp overnight and then climb the fourteener, but it turns out there was a blizzard on the mountain. We decided to stay home.

We had a campfire Saturday evening, with s’mores and banana boats. I had never had banana boats, but they were fun. You unpeel only one part of the banana, hollow out the top, and then fill it with peanut butter and chocolate chips. Cover it with the peel and tin foil, then heat it in the coals. It was really good.

We told stories – stupid, “scary,” and funny, sang songs, and laughed a lot. It was a fun evening. About half of us then sleep outside. I was with five other girls in a tent, but a good number were just sleeping out under the stars. We were really grateful for the tent when it started raining at about 1 a.m. Gratefully, it didn’t get nearly as cold as it has other nights.

The next morning we had instant oatmeal and toast cooked over the fire, then we hiked up to the cross on the ridge opposite our lodge. During the first semester here three years ago, several of the guys erected this huge cross as a symbol of the legacy they wanted to leave. It looks really small from the lodge, but it’s definitely big in person. We hiked about two miles, I think, going the long way, which meant we weren’t bushwhacking all the way up. There were some steep parts, but it was beautiful. It was the last great chance to see the leaves in all their glorious color. Since then, the leaves have definitely been falling/turning more of a brownish color. We hiked over several beautiful ridges, and we saw a black bear on the opposite ridge from us.

Once we got to the cross, we had church up there. We sang several hymns, and then Benn (“Benn with 2 “n”s – it’s not short for anything, it’s just long for Ben”), who was at Semester last year and is the brother of Abby, a student this year, did a devo. He talked about humility and how that’s the defining characteristic of Christ in Philippians 2. It was a really cool time.