28 November 2006

Homeschool Peace

This is really a continuation of the Place of Rest thread, but I got tired of the name. ;-D

We had a basic lesson last week that has begun bearing fruit in our children. When my dh and I first learned it, it changed the complexion of our relationship and our day-by-day walk.

In Matthew, chapter 7, we read the following:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”

As sinful human beings (remember, there are only two kinds of people in the world at this point in time: sinners and sinners who have been saved by grace, so this applies to us all), we are so quick to see the speck in our brother’s eye. “My feelings are hurt, so I don’t even have to look for the speck in your eye. I can see your log from the other side of the room! And it’s huge!!!”

What we learned turns this on its head. When I feel hurt, or upset, or frustrated, or angry, that isn’t an indication that your sin is big and obvious and I have every right to be hurt, or upset, or frustrated, or angry. It is, however, an indication that I’ve got a log in my own eye. I probably don’t see it - sin is deceptive and blinds us. Uncontrollable emotion is a neon sign pointing to the active presence of sin in my own heart and until I deal with that, I have no right or obligation to try to point out your sin.

21 November 2006

Opus #8

You ever lavish blessings mercif’ly
Upon us. Sinners all, we don’t deserve
Your cross, our guarantee.
Your kind regard and clement care preserve
Us warm beneath your wings. Your mighty hand
And strength sustain, conserve
Us now and through the swiftly slipping sand
Of time and all eternity. You give
Sweet hope of heav’n - joy, fanned
By heartfelt gratitude declarative
Of watchful charge and tenderness. Release
The fetter’d fugitive,
To those upheaved bestow your tranquil peace,
Abate the raging storm within, cruel weight
Of guilt remove, increase
Our trust and faith, our crooked ways make straight,
Unshackle us from foolish self-concern,
From hubris liberate.


© Lynne Spear, 2006

20 November 2006

Place of Rest, IV

I thought I was done with this topic, but I don’t think I’ve done an adequate job of communicating what I’m trying to communicate. Then, yesterday during the sermon, our senior pastor helped me clarify and I thought I’d have one more go at it.

His sermon was on Luke 14:1-24 and the topic was the failure of religion. He dealt with the failure of legalism (working to earn God’s favor and our salvation), pride (in our accomplishments toward earning God’s favor and our salvation), and presumption (assuming we’re good enough to earn God’s favor and our salvation). He finished up with a few application questions to help us gauge our own spiritual health in these areas, one of which was, “Is my mood based on my performance?” This question was the key.

If my mood is based on how well I’m doing, then that’s a symptom that I’m putting my faith in my actions and my ability to perform rather than in Christ’s finished work on the cross. Anxiety over how my day is going is a clear sign that I’m relying on myself and my (supposed) good works to try to earn the Lord’s favor instead of trusting in his unfailing love for me as expressed through the cross, and resting in his goodness and his plan for my day. If I can keep the gospel in focus, reminding myself that I’m an incapable sinner and that he’s done it all and given me all good things because of his grace, I can rest in him.

This morning, as I sat and made my to do list for the next few days, I saw a potentially difficult week with many opportunities for frustration and anxiety. As I prayed over the list, my prayer wasn’t that the Lord would help me get it all done (although without his help, I can’t), rather I prayed that I would be able to rest in him and in his grace today as I worked, in full reliance on his strength, keeping my focus on the gospel.

18 November 2006

The Prestige

The Prestige (2006), directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine

I don’t have too much to say because to say too much would give away too much. I will say that I’m finding it difficult to write about this film without referring to The Illusionist. When two films with so much in common, and yet in some ways with so little in common, are released so closely together, one can’t help comparing them.

The Prestige is the story of ambition gone wrong, revenge, and the inevitable moral descent caused by obsession and overweening pride - a cautionary tale, wherein the wages of sin is death. The Illusionist is the story of a man trying desperately to make a life for himself against all odds and what happens to him on that journey.

I wasn’t that drawn into the characters of The Prestige when all was said and done. At first, I felt a certain sympathy for them, but it disappeared like a bird in a cage during a magic trick. I also saw through some of the plot twists and wasn’t as terribly surprised by the ending as I was supposed to be.

The Illusionist had much much more heart and it was easier to become engaged with and care about the characters. I also fell for the illusion, only coming to understand what had really happened as one of the characters figured it out.

Of the two, I enjoyed The Illusionist more, but found both to be thought-provoking. If you’re only planning on watching one film about 19th century magicians, see The Illusionist. If you want to watch both, watch The Prestige first, saving the better for last.

17 November 2006

A Thanksgiving Toast

A turkey, stuffing, cider, bread,

Potatoes sweet and white,

Such grace and blessing, gratitude

For all within our sight.

For friends and fam’ly gather’d here

Upon this cheerful night,

Please lift your glass and drink a toast

To great big appetites!


© Lynne Spear, 2006

15 November 2006

Place of Rest, III

So what exactly is rest and how we live and teach from it? I don’t think Andrew was referring to physical rest (although a nap sounds great!). I think he’s referring more to peace. So that brings us to the question: what is peace? Let’s start with what it’s not. Rest on the outside with turmoil on the inside is no peace at all. Peace is not an entity unto itself, but rather fruit of the gospel at work in our lives.
“[T]rue peace is far more than the absence of active conflict. At the same time, peace is not permanent, unbroken relational serenity. It is not a destination at which we can arrive. ... Biblical peace is ... a lifelong focus, a process, a journey, a heart attitude, a matter of regular and careful attention. In its progressive, ongoing nature, peace is a lot like sanctification, to which it is inextricably bound.”
Love That Lasts, pp. 106-107
As I learn to apply the gospel to all of life, remembering that I am a vile sinner and God’s grace expressed in Christ through his death for me on the cross, my heart begins to change. This transformation frees me from focusing on myself and liberates me to think of others first. Others’ small sins against me are put into their proper place when I weigh them against the enormity of my own sin against God.

When I get upset, angry, or hurt, that points to a log in my eye, which must be dealt with before I try to tackle the speck in my husband’s or children’s eyes. This is an obvious reminder to me to stop and pray, asking the Lord to show me the sin at work in me, before I lose my temper with another.

Becoming more aware of my own sin doesn’t sound like it should lead to peace. But the bigger my view of my sin becomes, the bigger my view of the cross becomes. God’s grace is bigger than my sin, so this awareness shouldn’t lead to condemnation - there is, after all, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

This is completely contrary to the feel-good, self-esteem teaching so prevalent today, not just in the world, but in the church, too. How can this lead to peace? It sounds like utter foolishness. Ah, ha! It is foolishness and it’s this kind of foolishness that God uses to humble the wise ones in the world and to show his power.

Once we have a more accurate view of our own sin, we can see the cross more clearly and accurately. As we apply the gospel to all of life, we begin to know peace. And we must always remember that Christ is our peace (Eph. 2:14). Knowing him and his glorious good news of our salvation better, will bring us greater levels of peace and rest in him.

And, no, I haven’t arrived yet. As the Ricuccis said above - peace is a process and a journey, intimately tied to sanctification. I won’t arrive until I stand before the Lord face-to-face, but what a day that will be!

Film Conference Reviews

Mostly Martha (2002) (imdb); directed by Sandra Nettlebeck; starring Martina Gedeck, Sergio Castellitto, and Maxime Foerste; filmed in German with English subtitles

Martha is a chef, completely in charge of her world and everything in it, primarily because cooking is her life. Her fairly tidy world is thrown into disarray by the death of her sister and the arrivals of her 8 year old niece, Lina, and a new Italian sous-chef, Mario.

Watch how food is used in this film, specifically who eats whose cooking. A few other motifs to keep an eye on: the freezer and Martha’s hair.

I really enjoyed this film. The dynamics among the characters sparkled. My favorite was Mario (who couldn’t love Mario?).

This is in negotiation for an American re-make. How that turns out will depend in large part who writes the script and how the story is approached. (edit: the remake, No Reservations, is wonderful (we bought it), but again, not quite as good as the original in its use of those literary motifs that made Mostly Martha such a work of art.)

Trivia: Sergio Castellitto (Mario) didn’t speak German, so he delivered his lines in Italian and then his dialog was dubbed in for the German release. So, when we watch the subtitled version, we’re watching an Italian actor, dubbed in German, and then subtitled in English.

Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) (imdb), directed by Ang Lee, filmed in Chinese with English subtitles; Ang Lee’s first film made in Taiwan

Master chef Chu may be the master of his kitchen, but he struggles at home with his three daughters. The oldest is a Christian, the middle a successful airline executive, and the youngest a university student who works in a fast food restaurant. To top it off, Chu has lost his sense of taste - a disaster for a chef.

Ang Lee has cooked up a delightful film which tells the story of a family growing up, growing apart, and then growing back together as each family-member finds his way.

As with Mostly Martha, watch who eats, who doesn’t, and who cooks for whom. Also pay attention to how meals affect or express things about each character, especially the two protagonists (I’ll let you figure out who they are!).

This was re-made in English and set in Los Angeles as Tortilla Soup, directed by María Ripoll and starring Hector Elizondo and Raquel Welch. It’s at the top of our Netflix queue. I’ll post more after I’ve seen it. (edit: I've seen it - it's okay, but much of the great symbolism and metaphor of meal as communion was omitted, so I wouldn't rate it as highly as the original.)

02 November 2006

Opus #6

My ardor cools by slight degrees, a hoar
Frost chills my soul. The passion I held dear
In past is frozen. Breezes gust and roar,
Autumnal windstorm, frosty, insincere.
Hard, wintry ice weighs down mere’s rippled wave.
Dull leaves drift down and carpet ground - earth’s shroud.
All life in hibernation sleeps. My grave
And soul’s decease writ large, benumb and cloud
My heart.
I hear a muted hymn that swells
And grows, reminds me of your grace. Splash, drip-
Your love a supernatural spring that quells
My dread. Your care a fire that melts death’s grip-
A sun that brings new life: the blush on fruit
Of freshest rip’ning faith and tender shoot.


© Lynne Spear, 2006