Yes, I have fallen off the face of the planet. I have no less than 3 blogs in my head that I want to write, but I am currently in scrapbooking hell and will not be released from my prison until this weekend. Bear with me and please keep checking back!
Yesterday, I sat down and read Letter to A Christian Nation by Sam Harris. Basically, it is his response to all of the hate mail he received from Christians after publishing his last book (The End of Faith). Although I'm sure not many Christians will read this book (and even Mr. Harris recognizes this), we should...because it is written to us. We should not be afraid to read books by people who hold a completely different viewpoint than us, and we should not write hate mail to them in response.
Mr. Harris makes some very good and important observations:
1) He begins with pointing out the fact that he, an atheist, and conservative Christians actually have some things in common. We both agree that either we are right or he is right...but we can't both be right. He is correct in pointing out that if we truly believe what our religion says, it leaves no room for us to allow for another way. He is critical of moderate and liberal Christians and their acceptance of all religions as acceptable paths to God.
2) He later points out that inter-faith efforts are pointless, since none of them(who truly believe in the tenets of their faith) are going to compromise on certain points of their ideology and values, and our core beliefs are not compatible.
3) That as Christians, we are sometimes so caught up in our "Christian values" and protecting them that we overlook the reality of suffering in our world. We focus on protecting ourselves even at the expense of the suffering of others.
On the whole, I agree with these observations. I don't agree with all of Mr. Harris' application of those observations, but I agree with the underlying point he is trying to make.
However, for such a seemingly intellectual man, I am surprised at the number of generalizations and definitive (always/never) statements that he makes without substantial facts to back them up. I had the overall sense that he was one of those people who is passionate about his beliefs and will argue all day over them, but that he is only using arguments and points that he has heard someone else use. His book does not lead me to believe he has done any real, objective, in-depth research himself. Sure he quotes some surveys, but he has clearly picked the quotes to support his opinions, not formed his opinions based upon the data.
Whether you agree with it or not, Lee Strobel's book The Case for Christ provides an excellent model for how to approach something like Christianity. If you don't trust Mr. Strobel, you could in the least follow his example (meaning, his approach) and conduct your own research. If I could encourage Mr. Harris to do anything, it would be to embark upon a research project like that. I'm not saying I think it would cause him to convert to Christianity, but I believe it would change his perspective on some of the issues he addresses.
The underlying issue that surfaces in Mr. Harris's book is the problem that most atheist seem to have: reconciling the concept of a loving, all-powerful God with the existence of suffering in the world. I agree this is a tough issue to face, but not one that is insurmountable. I also am pondering something my pastor mentioned to me tonight: that the issue atheists need to resolve is the existence of pleasure in the world. Why would it exist if we have merely evolved? Pleasure does not fit into the model of "survival of the fittest" and adapting to survive. And where would a desire for meaning and purpose in life come from, if not from a creator?
Anyway, this book offers some good insights and things for Christians to consider - about what we believe, how we behave and how we interact with the world. However, it is greatly lacking in any concrete, compelling reason to agree with Mr. Harris's assertion.
My heart rate increased with each email I read.
"Sorry, I already have roommates."
"No, I'm not going this year."
Pit pat. Pit pat.
"Someone else asked me already."
"I'm not going either."
Pitter patter. Pitter patter.
My heart sank. That was the last of them. Everyone I knew either wasn't going to Mount Hermon this year or already had a roommate. Tears welled up in my eyes. My immediate feeling was one of isolation and rejection. Doubt crept into my mind: does anyone really like me? They probably don't view me as a real writer (am I?). I don't blame them for wanting to be with other real writers. Maybe I shouldn't go. I haven't actually purchased my plane ticket yet. I could not go and only be out the $75 deposit. Is this a sign? I don't really have anything to write that is worth reading anyway. Why did I ever think my topic ideas were relevant or even interesting? Or that anyone would bother reading them? Honestly, do I really think I'm any good at writing? My entire support system crumbled underneath me. How could I make it through five days with real professional (published!) writers on my own? I reduced myself to a little girl trying to dress up in her mom's clothing. I was completely out of my league, and silly for thinking I might possibly belong.
My daughter woke up in the other room, screaming, so I went in to attend to her. As I rocked her back to sleep, I cried out to the Lord.
Why did I even think I should go? What are you doing to me, Lord? How can I make it through this conference by myself?
Depend on me.
I'm trying Lord, but it's so hard. I feel completely inadequate. I've been deluding myself into thinking that I actually had something worth writing, worth reading. Why would anyone even care about what I've written?
They won't. Your words and ideas are not that important. They are not good enough to attract the attention of editors, publishers or even readers. But my words are.
Conviction began replacing my doubts. It's a battle I constantly face: pride and self reliance versus total dependence on Him. I get caught up in thinking I have these wonderful things to impart and others should want to listen to me. I stray from the giver of words and wisdom, forgetting that apart from Him I am nothing. God placed the desire to write in my heart, but He never intended for me to fulfill that desire myself.
My prayer that night, and hopefully throughout my writing career (whatever that may eventually look like) became one of humility.
Lord, I want to be open to your words and your ideas. Speak through me Lord, and don't let my words and thoughts get mixed up into your words and thoughts. Let every single word I pen be for Your glory, not mine. Let every word someone reads from my hand point back to You. I want my goal in writing to be declaring your glory among the nations and your name to all people. Help me not to lose sight of the reason why you have called me to write.
Photo: Mount Hermon entourage, 2006
Uh, oh. There's the dreaded S-word. Right in the title. I said it. And I even implied that I might be dabbling in it.
Today this word is so loaded with different meanings and emotions that we shy away from discussing it. So let me clarify, to me submission is not about being mute, used and weak. I love the definition my pastor uses: submission is knowing the heart of the one you love and seeking to honor it.
Elizabeth George's A Woman After God's Own Heart recently convicted me to discover what it truly means to be my husband's helper. While her words were not new to me, they gently reminded me of my role as wife. Two phrases returned to me that I heard early in my marriage, "Remember, you're playing on the same team" and "As the homemaker, your role is to make your house a place your husband wants to home to." Since M has been born, I - as many women do - fell into the trap of spending all of my time focused on her. What little time I might have left over, I typically spent on myself. I had forgotten to place my husband first...even before my daughter. The tyranny of the urgent so easily overtakes us moms.
I set out to figure out how to be a better helper to my mate. I prayed that I could find ways to better serve him and be a better wife. The next day, a magazine came in response. I immediately spied the two page article on "Ways to Encourage Your Husband", filled with ideas submitted by women from around the globe. As I read the ideas, I was amazed that these women - most of them with 4 or more children - were able to pull off feats like having dinner ready when their husband got home, stopping their day an hour before Daddy got home to prepare for his arrival and encouraging him to take time for himself on the weekends doing thing he enjoyed. I realized I had no excuse.
I picked a couple of the ideas (the three I mentioned above) and implemented them immediately. I was amazed to find that having dinner ready wasn't too difficult, as long as I did just a little bit of planning in advance. And it wasn't too hard to plan in that extra hour before my husband got home. In fact, it made the getting dinner ready part easier. The weekends were a little more of a sacrifice, but I actually enjoyed doing it.
I found that my husband was extremely responsive. Our conversations had more depth, both of us acted with more grace and love toward each other, and even intimacy (physical and emotional) came naturally. I was thrilled with the results. I realized that this must be what submission is truly all about. It was fulfilling to be serving in the role God had designed for me, and it felt so right. My husband noted the difference, and I divulged my experiment. He told me that week he had felt more empowered, more confident and more like a leader.
The holidays came, and it was more difficult to walk in my new found role. I definitely noticed a difference in our relationship. Now that things are back to "normal" (whatever that is), I immediately implemented my experiment again. We'll see how it goes...and hopefully this time I can sustain it through whatever wrench might be thrown into our schedule.
Submission is a choice, ladies. And it's one I definitely recommend.
Photo: On the beach in Cape Town, South Africa, 2004
I'm a list maker. I make a new list every week, carrying over old tasks and adding new ones. I even have a task template to help me schedule my week. I love being able to cross things off my list; it gives me a great sense of accomplishment. I also love knowing everything that I intend to do; it makes me feel organized and busy. In fact, if I don't write something down on my list, you can bet it won't get done. My lists tend to be a brain dump of everything I'm thinking about, and it's like once I release it, it's gone. I lay in bed at night with thoughts swirling around in my head, and if I don't get up and write them down I will never get to sleep.
I can't find my current list, which must be hiding under the piles of Christmas decorations that need to be packed away and the new gifts and toys that haven't found a place yet in my home. So I decided that it's a new year, I'll just start a brand new list. That may sound simple to you, but it's a big deal to me. Surpsingly, I feel pretty good about my decision. Normally I agonize over the things I wrote on the missing list that I will never remember to do. Today, I consider those things tasks of last year. If I can't remember them now, they must not be critical to my survival.
Phew! It feels good to start fresh. Well, I'm off to make my new list! Happy New Year to all.