Monday, November 22, 2010

The hope of perfection

I heard a great story* on my recent field visit to France. As a recovering perfectionist, I was thankful to hear it.
J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were friends and fellow authors. They decided to write the kind of books that they themselves would like to read and went to it. Lewis began turning out novels at great speed, but Tolkien labored over his The Lord of the Rings, writing and rewriting it without being able to finish it.
Tolkien struggled enormously with jealousy toward Lewis at times. But he couldn't finish his masterpiece.
Then he had a dream that he was a muralist who had be hired by a town to paint a beautiful tree. Unfortunately, although he could see a magnificent tree in his head, all he could paint was a leaf. So the townspeople came and complained that he wasn't delivering what they were paying him for.
He then dreamed that he rode a train to heaven (hey, dreams are like that), and as he was watching the scenery go by, he saw his tree, just standing there. It was beautiful and exactly like he pictured it.
For Tolkien, this represented God's kind reminder that all that was needed was his best--eternity alone could contain the perfect version. He was able to finish his manuscript.
I do this a lot without realizing it. I think it's one reason I'm paralyzed by decisions--I want to understand and choose perfectly. But I can't. So God takes my bumbling ways and weaves them into something beautiful, the fullness of which I'll only grasp on the other side.

*I don't know if I got the story right--It's fourth-hand at least. But I like this version, and I couldn't find much on the interwebs about it, just this quote from one of Tolkien's letters: "There is a place called 'heaven', where the good here unfinished is completed; and where the stories unwritten, and the hopes unfufilled, are continued. We may laugh together yet..."

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Invisible Kingdom: Life in layers

Something I really want to study right now is the theme of the invisible, already-not-yet Kingdom theme in the Bible--and with it what it really means to love the world in the right way and the wrong way. So if I actually stick with this, I'll be posting along that theme every now and then.
For a long time I've thought about it like two transparencies on an overhead projector with colored dots on them. (This is probably because the prof that got me excited about the already-not yet still uses overheads). You've got sheet with blue dots sitting on another sheet with blue dots, and it looks like all the dots live on the same sheet. But they don't. So in a similar way, you can't see who's in God's kingdom with your physical eyes.
Lately, though I've been thinking about the way you can look through a screened window two different ways--either you focus on the screen and the background becomes blurred, or you focus on the background and forget about the screen. Maybe like one of those magic eye posters. But imagine if there were a whole other visual world that were layered over the one we walk in every day. And you, by practicing how you focus your eyes, could choose to walk around in the other visual world. You kind of have to have a matrix-y, cinematic imagination, but I think it works.
So we walk by faith, not by sight, right? The unseen things are eternal, but the seen things are passing away. So it's like living life in this world and making an effort to focus on the layer that's eternal. It applies just as truly to every moment, every place you go, every person you meet, but it's just harder to see. But once your spiritual senses adjust to this new layer, with its perspective, values, warnings and delights, it becomes more and more natural to live consistently with it.
And one day, the layer that seems so present now, will just fade away. If we've already been living in the invisible one, it'll become our only reality. If we've never lived in it, we'll have lost everything we've ever known.
I dunno, what do you think?

Related verses, books and music: 2 Cor. 4:18; 5:7 | The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis | Civil Twilight, Letters from the Sky: "Even though you've left me here, I have nothing left to fear, these are only walls that hold me here..."

P.S. Did you see the shark? The pic isn't mine, it's from this site, just to cover my bases.

The fabric of our lives

Nope, not cotton.
It's been part of my thinking for awhile that morality is woven into our universe in a similar way to the laws of physics. So that a thing is wrong not because God or someone else arbitrarily decides so or we reach it by consensus, but because it's part of the character, the reality of the universe. If God created it, then that would make sense--whatever is in harmony with who he is is in harmony with life and reality.
I don't really know a lot about the laws of physics, but I think have a pretty good handle on gravity (some days better than others, heh heh). So just like a person can't jump off a building without certain consequences, a moral or immoral act has positive or negative ripple effects in the person's life, their relationships, and the universe as a whole.
I've never really had "chapter and verse" evidence for this thought biblically, but it's kind of a sense that I get.*
So it was nice to read that Randy Alcorn** sees things similarly. "A holy God made the universe in such a way that actions true to his character...are always rewarded," and vice versa. But "that doesn't mean God always intervenes directly...When a careless driver speeds on an icy mountain pass, loses control, and plunges his car off a cliff, God doesn't suddenly invent gravity to punish the driver's carelessness. Gravity is already in place." (my emphasis).
As he says, the punishment is built into the sin--so that a pornography addict receives "shame, degradation and warping of the personality as a matter of course."
This just highlights the goodness of God. He's not arbitrarily handing down rules. He knows the way life works (cause he made it all), and he wants us to live it happily and abundantly. And Jesus willingly received the consequences in his body for our sin so that we could do just that.
*Randy does argue for this from Proverbs and Matt. 7:24-27
**in The Purity Principle

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Time to blog or get off the spot

Well, I can't sleep, and my mind was buzzing, so why not blog, right?
It's funny how I have a love-hate relationship with blogging. I feel kind of silly posting my thoughts as if the world needs more of this kind of thing. But it is kind of like having a conversation with no one in particular, which is what often is going on in my head. So why not post it so other people can join in? That way at least you can tell me if I'm crazy. :) And if I'm not going to blog, I probably should shut the thing down entirely.
I like what the writer of 2 Maccabees had to say about his book:

And if I have done well, and as is fitting the story, it is that which I desired: but if slenderly and meanly, it is that which I could attain unto. For as it is hurtful to drink wine or water alone; and as wine mingled with water is pleasant, and delighteth the taste: even so speech finely framed delighteth the ears of them that read the story. And here shall be an end.

Actually, I'm not sure what he means exactly; he has a rather dizzying intellect. (So I can clearly not choose the wine in front of him. "Just wait till I get going!") Basically, if you find it helpful read on, if not, "it is that which I could attain unto." Yeah.
Also, in other news, I think it's about time I had a blog about my missions journey. I think I'll make a new one (the Ghana one is old, and not really relevant), and maybe link it to this one somehow. Hopefully that will happen soon!
Well, one way or the other, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wow. So beautiful! The Kimyals in Irinjaya get the New Testament!
I love what the man says about his dream of holding it in his hands.
I also like the feather on the cross. :) You'll see what I mean.