Coloratura Christian

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:4-5)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Grossed Out By the Cost of Sin

Martha_Martha has been posting on law and gospel. It is something that has also peeked my interest lately because I have been reading Leviticus. This time, I am going through it in more detail than I have previously, and pretty much every morning when I read, I'm totally disgusted.

The things they had to do in order to appease God's wrath against their sin under the law horrifies me. It makes me extremely thankful that we live in a time where Christ has fulfilled the law. (Matt. 5:17)

Although, I suppose when the priests performed those awful sacrifices, it would be a good reminder of just how disgusting sin actually is.

It seems like we, living under the new covenant, often view our sin through 'rose colored glasses.' It's so typical of Evangelicals to downplay the gravity of sin and therefore downplay the significance of the cross.

As my favorite cowboy likes to joke, "If you're going to wear a cross around your neck, you might as well wear an electric chair as ornamentation." I suppose if you were going to make a comparison, execution on a cross is a lot more grotesque than execution by an electric chair, and yet too often we think of Christ's death for our sin as a sanitized and almost romanticized event.

...He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our grief's and carried our sorrows;yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Is 53)

Calvin on 1Timothy 5:24

We must bear what cannot be immediately corrected; we must sigh and groan,while the time for the remedy is not fully come; and we must not apply force to diseases, till they are either ripened or laid open. On the other hand, when virtue does not receive the honor which it deserves, we must wait for the full time of revelation, and endure the stupidity of the world, and wait quietly in darkness till the day dawn.”

(His online commentary can be found here.)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Does Thin Equal Beautiful?

While browsing the Girl Talk blog, I came across a link to Ed Welch's message, Does Thin Equal Beautiful?. This grabbed my attention because I love Welch's book, When People are Big and God is Small.

I was surprised when he answered his own question with, "Yes, in our culture, thin equals beautiful."

It was a good reminder of the subtlety and danger of legalism in our lives. He is specifically talking about our Western obsession with food, diet, beauty and the wide spread problem of eating disorders. However, as he unpacked what an eating disorder was, it really just came down to legalism, and I found his message applicable to any area of life that legalism taints.

As a teenaged ballerina, my friends and I were all obsessed with food and our weight. In fact the amount of time we wasted thinking on these topics would probably be shocking to some people. I was amazed at Welch's insight into the life of a woman with an eating disorder.

It really is a works-righteousness. You sort of try to meet God half way, probably without realizing that is what you are doing. There is a sense of elation or worthiness when you have eaten well (in other words, very little), and a deep, overwhelming sense of guilt if you have eaten too much, which can only be explained as guilt over breaking a self-imposed law.

It is a matter of feeling guilty or righteous before God, yourself and other people based wholly on what you yourself have done.

Besides eating habits, in how many other areas of our lives do we fall into this pattern of thinking. Do we feel righteous or guilty based on how clean our house is, how much hospitality we have shown, how much we have evangelized, or how much time we have spent reading the bible that day?

Obviously these are all good things, but how easy it is to fall into the trap of feeling we are contributing to, or lessening our righteous status by doing (or not doing) these things well. A status that is in truth based exclusively on the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

When we fall into legalistic thinking, we are very much consumed with self. For this reason, Welch says it is often not enough to say pat Christian phrases such as, "Jesus thinks your beautiful" or "you need to find your identity in Christ." As true as these things may be, Welch says there is a need to find something greater outside of ourselves that draws our thoughts outward to something infinitely more beautiful than ourselves.

Welch uses the example of the throne room of God as described in Revelation 4. When standing before this holy God in all His majesty, we will not be thinking about ourselves. It would be nearly impossible for a person to be standing in such an awesome presence and be thinking about their appearance or clean house or good works.

After turning our eyes to Christ, his second point is that we should begin to think about other people. Not in a self serving kind of way, but rather thinking on how we can serve others and love others.

It seem that the "cure" for this type of self absorbed legalism boils down to Jesus words in Matthew 22,
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Lord of the Rings Meets Ikea

We saw the Canadian Opera Company's version of Gotterdammerung (the doom of the gods) last night, the final opera of Wagner's famous 'Ring Cycle'. In it, hatred and greed for a powerful golden ring causes the downfall of the gods, but the ring is finally destroyed in the only place it can be, the Rhine river, saving the world of mortals.

It was about 5 hours long, and yet I can't say I was bored for a minute. Between the singers and the orchestra, it was overwhelmingly pleasurable. The music was epic, dark and hauntingly beautiful. At least three soloists had the ability to pierce us with their singing. They had that indefinable quality that gives you tingles all over.

It is amazing to me that someone could compose 5 hours of genius music without relying on repetition to fill time. For those of you who don't know opera, most of it is extremely repetitive and has little breaks, sometimes with spoken text between the arias, recitatives and chorus numbers. Wagner's operas are composed straight through, always changing to accompany the libretto, with no major musical repetitions, and the music keeps flowing between scenes.

There are repetitive motifs or themes woven throughout the opera. Clint was more astute in picking these out than I was, but once we figured out which was which, it was pretty fascinating. For instance, there was always Siegfried's horn motif before he arrived on a scene, and the 'ride of the Valkyries' motif played when Brunnhilde's sister, the Valkyrie Waltraute, came to visit her.

There was one aspect of the opera that I didn't particularly like. They set the scene in modern times with Ikea-like furniture and flat screen computer monitors. Somehow they managed to pull it off. We didn't even blink when the Nibelung warrior's wore modern black business suits while carrying tall silver spears. The only thing they couldn't represent in this modern setting was Brunnhilde's horse.

All that to say, I would love to see the original Viking setting of the Ring Cycle, with yellow braids and horned metal helmets, but I was more than satisfied with being able to experience this version.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Irony of the Stage Mom

At the dance studio where I teach, I teased one of the mothers that she deserved the "parent of the year" award. I teach her daughter tap, and she is always at the studio helping not only her daughter, but also at least five other girls get ready for tap class. We got into a conversation about parenting and she exclaimed,

"You're not thinking about having kids, are you?"

I replied that I did want to have children a some point. To this she replied,
"You better think carefully about having kids. Your life will never be the same."

Another mom piped in,
"The best years of my life were when I was married before I had kids."

This topic was apparently popular with all the women in the waiting room, because after this I heard a series of complaints.
"All the money goes to the kids. You can't get anything for yourself."
"Make sure you do everything you want to do before you have kids. Go to shows, travel... because you never get to do anything after."

Something in me strongly resists the idea that life ends after you have kids. That the best is over, and the worst is yet to come. So in an attempt to turn the conversation around, I said lightheartedly,
"But you would not want to go back in time, would you? Don't you prefer your life now?"

"If I could go back in time," replied the 'mother of the year', "I would not have had my kids."

"Are you joking?"

"No, if I knew what I know now, I would not have had kids."
Needless to say, I was horrified, and speechless. All the other kids were standing around hearing this. This woman must have known much sorrow, but how could a mother say that? No woman in the room contradicted her, if fact, they all seemed to affirm her in her selfishness.

Maybe I am just naive, but I get excited when thinking about the privilege that women have to influence the next generation. I love reading about women like Sarah Edwards who found joy in raising the next generation to serve and glorify God. She worked hard in her life, but seemed to have great joy, and many of her children and later descendants are reported to have served society in great ways. (All our books are packed up since the bedbug incident, so I can't give an exact reference.)

I must admit that there seems to be few examples of Proverbs 31 type moms today, but ones I know are characterized by love and joy, and there is something truly beautiful about their lives.