Archive for April, 2014

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Grumbling

April 30, 2014

I came across a convicting passage in my reading today.  I think we’ve all felt a little “zinged” by our consciences when we find Scripture verses like this:

“We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.  Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:8-13 (ESV)

Oh, how easily I forget that God takes grumbling as seriously as He takes unbelief or sexual immorality!  And lest I think I have an excuse, here I am reminded that “He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability”.

The temptation to grumble is not too much for me.  If I justify it by saying, “My day was especially hard, and I deserve to gripe a little, because my situation is too harsh and unfair,” I am deceiving myself and complaining against the good God who gave me salvation and is so much wiser than me.

Imagine if some parents took their child to the best, most expensive theme park in the world, a place he had longed to go all his life – and the child spent the entire time whining because the sun’s hot, this seat’s hard, my feet hurt, I hate lines, my face got splashed on that water ride, the big roller coaster was too scary for me, and why can’t you buy me some more snacks?  Don’t you love me, Mom?  Why did you bring me here?

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” – Philippians 2:14-15

What if we Christians were easily recognized, even without a word, by our uncomplaining contentment?

It’s not a sin to be sad, or even to be angry or frustrated (depending on what you’re angry about).  Emotions are emotions.  They happen, because we are humans, not robots.  What matters is what we do with them, and how we react to hardships.  Do we react to roadblocks and troubles with entitlement and whining, or do we react with hands raised up to Him in thankfulness?  When we meet trouble, do we turn inward, muttering, “Why me?” – or do we turn to Him, crying out, laying our burdens on Him until our load is light?

This is something that only comes with training and discipline in godliness.  That became my focus for today – turning away from any grumbling, choosing patience and peace instead.  I always need more practice!

“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:22-25a

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Three More Favorite Science Fiction TV Shows

April 26, 2014

This is a follow-up to an archival post I put up when I was blogging previously, Five Favorite Science Fiction TV Shows.  Read that one first if you haven’t seen it before!  Listed in that posting were: Warehouse 13, Eureka, Doctor Who, Firefly/Serenity, and Battlestar Galactica (2oo4).  In hindsight I have to say Firefly takes the award for my favorite sci-fi show ever.  But here are three more of my husband’s and my favorite science-fiction shows!

As with the last list, I have to issue the disclaimer that these are shows written for adults, and some may have inappropriate material, bad language, or violence.  Please don’t simply trust my recommendation – use your own judgment and keep a remote handy in case you need to skip a scene.  I recommend things based on my personal opinion of their merit, not their flaws, but every show does have flaws.  🙂

I’m starting with 6 since the other article listed 5!

6.  Heroes

Some individuals, it is true, are more special. This is natural selection. It begins as a single individual born or hatched like every other member of their species. Anonymous. Seemingly ordinary. Except they’re not. – Mohinder

As the quote indicates, the superhero theory in this show is deeply rooted in macroevolution.  But you don’t have to believe in evolution to enjoy the story!  It’s the tale of superheroes discovering their powers, much like X-Men and other superhero tales.  And they all react to their newfound abilities differently.  Some use it for personal fun or scientific discovery.  Some, like the lovable Hiro, are convinced of their destiny to better the world.  Some use it for horrid, self-serving evil.

This show has some great pros to me and some cons.  The pros: riveting story, humor, realistic, compelling characters.  The cons: the last season or two took a big nosedive, in my opinion.  The writing went rapidly downhill, and what once was fantastic character development slid into a sludge of “characters doing whatever the writers need to keep the story interesting”.  They start doing weird things.  They flip-flop between good and evil erratically.  And the ending was…kind of lame.  So, I’d say – definitely try out this show!  But if you start getting bored or unconvinced, don’t be ashamed to get out while the getting’s good.  Writing this is making me want to watch it again, though…

7.  Fringe

Olivia: “Have you done this before?”
Walter: “I have used this technique to extricate information from a corpse once. You can do that if they haven’t been dead longer than six hours.”
Peter (sarcastically):  “Right, ’cause after six hours, that’s when they’re really dead.”

Whew, this show runs the gamut.  It’s a detective show.  It’s a show about parallel universes.  It’s a show about weird pseudo-science.  It’s a dystopian show.  It has romance.  It has horror.  It has humor.  It’s brilliant and bizarre and just plain weird!  It follows an FBI agent as she works with a (sort of insane) scientist to investigate unexplainable phenomena.  Most of their cases are based in actual pseudo-science, just taken to an extreme sci-fi level.  As the series continues the universe sort of unravels, multiple parallel universes open up, and they end up in the future, fighting world domination by a mysterious group of bald, spiffily-dressed men.  It sounds completely bizarre, because it is.  It’s also gripping and very addictive!

Disclaimers: I have not seen every single episode myself, and some were a little darker and closer to the horror genre than I like…icky murders, etc.  Don’t watch it if you’re sensitive to disturbing images or creepy stuff.  Christopher was the bigger fan of this one, but after I got hooked on it I insisted on watching it with him.  He keeps trying to find shows he can watch on his own when I’m busy, but I always glom onto them – sorry, dear. 😀

Continuing in the category of “Shows my Husband Tried and Then I Wouldn’t Let Him Watch Them Alone”, we also have…

8.  Continuum

2077. My time, my city, my family. When terrorists killed thousands of innocents, they were condemned to die. They had other plans. A time travel device sent us all back 65 years. I want to get home, but I can’t be sure what I will return to if history is changed. Their plan? To corrupt and control the present in order to win the future. What they didn’t plan on…was me. – Kiera’s voiceover in the opening sequence

That voiceover provides a nice summary of the show’s plot!  (“Sent us all back” refers to the terrorists and Kiera, not the entire world.  That confused me the first time I watched it!)

This is a fantastic show.  Christopher and I gobbled up the first two seasons we could stream online for free (we don’t have cable), and we are anxiously awaiting more.  Continuum has some interesting social and cultural commentary going on, and a strong protagonist who grapples with fascinating moral dilemmas (like, “If I may never get back to my future time, and my husband’s not even born yet here, am I still married?” and “What if I endanger the future by my actions to save the world in the present?”).  It has a fast-paced, gripping plot that makes it hard to watch just one or two episodes at a time.  It’s full of neat futuristic technology and time-travel theory – always a plus in our books!  It’s also very clean, although, as soon as I said aloud, “Hey, this show is so clean!” there was an inappropriate scene in the next episode we watched.  Of course.  😛  I could be remembering wrong, but I don’t believe there were many more like it.

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Fringe and Heroes are complete shows (although Heroes may have a sequel in production, I hear – yay!), and all their seasons can be streamed for free online with Netflix or Amazon Prime, if you subscribe to those services.  The two completed seasons of Continuum can be found on Netflix streaming, also.  Happy science-fiction discovery!

 What are your favorite science-fiction (and other speculative genre!) shows?  Why?

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How To Be Invincible

April 23, 2014

Suit_Of_Armor_Front_clip_art_hightDo you want to live a life free of worrying what others think of you? Free of the fear of making a fool of yourself. Free of the embarrassment of making apologies. Free of the shame of admitting you were wrong. Free of self-consciousness. Free of the gnawing misery of being left out or neglected. Free of the unhappiness and anger that comes when you are berated or corrected. Free of ever hurting your pride or feeling uncomfortably looked-down-on.

What if I told you there’s a simple secret to avoiding all that discomfort?

It’s humility.

All my life I have been burdened with self-consciousness. So many times I have agonized over what someone might think of me in the future, or might have thought of me in the past. I’ve felt the sting of knowing I was wrong and somebody else saw it and looked down on me. Every new chink in my armor was a painful ordeal. I am a people pleaser; the thought that I might have disappointed or angered someone was excruciating. I didn’t fill their needs! I didn’t inspire their admiration! Now they had a reason to scorn me, or seek the fulfillment of their needs elsewhere.

It took me a long time to realize this about myself – I wanted to be everyone’s sun, moon, and guiding stars. I wanted their day to be complete because they talked to me, or their life to be full because I, Bethany, was in it. I wanted to bring the joy and light to their existence. If I failed in some way, their whole world might come apart, because I was so vital and necessary! Horrors!

In other words, my desire to be helpful and “above reproach” came from a heart full of hideous pride.  I viewed myself as the center of the universe.

Over many years – and ongoing even now – the Lord has brought me to a clearer and better understanding of my own pride, and my real place in His world. Day by day, the armor is coming off. And you know something?

The less armor I wear, the lighter and freer I feel.

I never expected this, the joy of humility. It took me by surprise. You would think that to take off one’s armor would mean more wounds, more pain. But in reality, the armor chafes, it’s hot and uncomfortable, and it makes it hard to walk.  You don’t really notice that until it comes off.

Instead of making you vulnerable, I have found that humility makes you invincible.

When you know that you’re not one in a million, but only one among a million, it doesn’t hurt to be left out or neglected because you understand there are more important people, relationships, and things in the world than you. And that’s okay!

When you rightly see your insignificance in the universe, you stop being anxious about disappointing people, because you know their happiness and security isn’t on your shoulders.

When you happily put yourself in the lowest place, slings and arrows can fly harmlessly over your head.  No one can cut you down to size when you’re already short and trim!

When you can cheerfully admit you came into this world ignorant and still have lots to learn, it’s easy to ask “stupid questions” and put yourself out on a limb to learn new things.

When you are content to fill a little space, no space feels little.

When you know you aren’t the only trustee and representative of God’s truth, you stop feeling like it’s your sole responsibility to fix it when other people are – gasp! – wrong.  You also come to recognize that – gasp again! – you are wrong.  A lot.  And that’s okay too, because…

When you can freely acknowledge you are a sinner with nothing to recommend you, admitting wrong or apologizing to others loses its sting, and friends’ chastisement starts to feel like what it really is – a blessing and an opportunity, not a beating and a setback.

Who goes into battle without their armor on, anyway? Somebody with nothing to lose!

Or someone who knows God is on his side and all he needs is his shepherd-boy sling and five smooth stones.

God is with us. Pardon me if this analogy is slightly flippant or overdone, but I just saw another Marvel movie last night and I can’t help myself – remember Tony Stark in The Avengers, when he informed Loki, “We have a Hulk”?  Ha!  Hulk-smashes are puny and pathetic compared to what the Almighty Creator God, our Father (the real and only Avenger of evil), can do to His enemies. We don’t need an Iron-Man suit with Him as our heavenly Help. None can withstand Him! So when it comes to our real enemies – we have no need of armor.  He will fight our battles.  We can peacefully ignore the jabs and rocks thrown by the wicked.

And as for those that are His friends and our comrades – those relationships and conversations are so much easier without chain-mail and guards across our faces!

No matter what we are up against, I am finding that armor-free is the way to go. When He opens our eyes to make us truly humble, when we have given our lives and ourselves to Him without reservation, we will indeed have nothing to lose – and absolutely everything to gain, for one day the meek shall inherit the Earth.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. – Proverbs 11:2

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Trenches and Treasures

April 19, 2014

One night I dreamed I was one of the characters from my trilogy, except she and her brother were not involved in a science-fiction war in another world, but rather a small pocket of conflict in some middle-eastern country. The characters were with a group of rebels who had built trench works at the top of a desert cliff, fortified with wooden roofs. Their enemies – a terrorist regime of some kind – were in a fortress nearby, and it was clear that soon they would crush this rebellion and kill everyone involved.

My character had a nook of the trenches all to herself, and she was using it to stockpile a meager collection of candy and trinkets from the outside world. At one point her brother confronted her about the danger she was putting herself in by going outside the earthworks to gather these things. She broke down, clutching at the niceties, and sobbed because soon all her treats and baubles would be destroyed by the terrorists. Never mind that they were all going to die soon – never mind that her collection was of stupid, silly things at any time, not to mention in a war zone!

(I must insist here that the character is nothing like this in my real story!)

When I awoke, it occurred to me that this dream tied in perfectly with some of my recent musings about spiritual warfare. When I cling to creature comforts, covet worldly goods, or otherwise treasure up earthly things that are perishing, I am being just as pathetic as that character crying over candy and costume jewelry while she sits in the earthworks waiting to die. She knew full well what joining this rebellion meant, but instead of putting effort into their cause, she spent all her time heaping up any cheap junk that tickled her fancy. She was faced with physical death, but the destruction of her old way of life was more upsetting to her.

The more I have thought about this dream the more convicted I am. We read “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19a) and we tend to think of gold, jewels, moolah, yeah yeah, don’t be greedy and don’t focus on accumulating hoards of money and “stuff”…I get it. Right?

But the more I think about being a soldier for Christ, and living heavenward, “earthly treasures” grows broader as a category. Sure, it can mean money, treasure in a literal sense, but I could also apply it to idols like comfort, pleasure, or admiration.

TV show binges. Extra time lounging because I didn’t feel like doing housework. Lots of likes on Facebook. Yet another serving of bad-for-you food so I can taste that deliciousness again. Aimless hours of browsing on Pinterest. Nods of approval or other people’s affirmation that I look good, act right, or said something worth hearing.

I’m not saying Pinterest is evil or that it’s not okay to watch TV or relax a little or enjoy some dessert – being a good steward of our resources includes recognizing that our bodies (and minds) need rest and pleasure sometimes! This is honoring to God too. And of course it’s encouraging to know other people like and care about us. But where is our treasure? What cause are we fighting for? Am I diligently serving King Jesus during my “deployment” in this life, or am I wasting time and resources with frivolities?  (Those are “military resources”, after all, because I’m in the Lord’s army!)  Where am I investing my minutes, my hopes, my life?

“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:16-17

I am trying not to gloss over what God is teaching me here. It was simply a bizarre, adventuresome dream, but combined with my musings it packed a powerful punch of conviction. I want to remember that I am in the trenches, and turn my eyes and efforts toward what is important, the things that will have lasting value if the enemies come for my head.

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What I Am

April 17, 2014

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t know I was lost

Avicii, “Wake Me Up”

Have you ever wondered what you are?  Not what you look like, or what you do, but what you are, in your very essence?

Growing up, I treated my likes and dislikes like delicate fibers of my being that I must not break.  I felt like my identity and personality rested on trivial things like my favorite color and having super long hair.  It took me years to admit to myself – wait, am I actually admitting this publicly? – that The Lord of the Rings was not actually my favorite book/movie anymore.  (Gasp!  There, I said it.  But it doesn’t mean much because I don’t have a new ultimate favorite to replace it…so it still wears the crown, symbolically.)

I felt as though being constant, reliable, and unchanging was a valuable trait and one of my “strengths”.  If someone had told me, “Wow, you’ve changed,” even if they meant it as a compliment, I would have reacted with private anxiety and grief.  Changed?  What part of Bethany-ness have I lost?

Then I got older, and realized…oh…this person I am needs to change.  Maturity required it.  Sanctification required it.  And I couldn’t stop it, no matter how hard I tried.  God didn’t design me to be static – only He is unchangeable because He is perfect!

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I have changed a lot in recent years (for the better, I pray!).  Even though I’ve done away with a lot of the childlike ideas I had about defining myself, that only serves to tell me how not to understand my being.  Each time I need to write a description or summary of myself for a website bio, I am stymied.  I usually end up explaining my life circumstances, listing my hobbies and interests, maybe taking a stab at describing my personality.  But that feels so shallow to me.  I can do more than that for the characters in my books who came out of my imagination!

Obviously I can understand my own motivations and what makes me tick as a person – sort of.  But how do I define that?  How do I harness into words what I can barely wrap my head around?  I still have lots of questions.

  • How do we define what we are?
  • How deeply are our hobbies a part of us?  Am I inherently a writer?  Will I always be one, or is this wonderful pursuit of word-crafting something God has only given me to do for a season?  (I hope not!  But who knows?)
  • How much of my natural personality is based in sin?  Do I have to do away with my personality to be godly?  (I don’t believe so!)  Is it sinful to be reserved, for example, or absent-minded?
  • Is it actually possible to dig down and find a core of my identity and understand what I am?  Is there such a thing?  What does each of us reduce to, when you strip away all the nonessential frippery of this temporary life?  How do you define a soul?
  • Can I ever really understand what I am?  Am I even supposed to?

I know what a lot of you are thinking right now.  “You’re a child of God.  That’s what you are.  Your identity is found in Christ!  Stop overthinking all this existential tripe.”

Yes, that is absolutely true – my relationship to God is the most important facet of my identity.  But I’m not content to label myself “human being, redeemed by God” and leave it at that.  There are many children of God.  There’s only one me!

(Did God make me to overanalyze?  Is that part of who I am?  Is that a bad thing?  *grin*)

As I was writing this, it occurred to me – I don’t find it difficult to sum up who God is.  God is definitely complicated, mysterious, and so far above our human understanding that we could never completely fathom His ways and His wisdom.  At the root, though, in a summary…He is GOD.  There is none like Him.  It’s not complicated.  Maybe that’s what He meant when He told Moses His name was “I AM.”  Because He just is!  He has no problems describing Himself in a nutshell.  He created all the nutshells!

But we are finite.  We don’t exist in and of ourselves – our identities are rooted in who He is because it is He who breathes life into us.  Maybe that’s why we can’t define ourselves very well, except in our connection with God.

Me, a single soul?  I’m just one of gazillions of human souls.  What I want to know is what sets me apart from all the other human beings out there.  What makes me me.

Maybe I’ll never know.  Maybe this disconnect with defining myself is part of the fall.  Or maybe God simply created human beings to be complex, as He is.  There are so many of us!  We all have different thumbprints, different faces, different freckle patterns.  God is a God who loves diversity!  Black and white, introvert and extrovert, loud people and quiet people, active and reflective, bubbly and reserved, explorers and creators.  There are endless variations on the human personality (all in His image!), and we can barely understand our own selves.  Often we can’t even understand fictional characters to their depths…who were created by even more complex authors…who were created by an even more complex God!

I can’t fathom how amazing it will be to spend eternity with the Lord, not only delving deeper into knowing Him, but also the near-endlessly complex personalities of one another, and getting to the root of who we are and what He made us for, to sing His praise.  It’s going to be incredible.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal life. – 1 John 5:20

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How do you define yourself?  Do you find it difficult to do?

Many thanks to whoever wrote that Avicii song, because that strain of lyrics running through my head all week is what re-awoke all these musings and started this post to simmering. 😀