31 October 2008

Re-Thinking Marriage

I've been contemplating the purpose of marriage lately. I've also been leading the Pride & Prejudice discussion in our Gileskirk co-op and we just watched The Taming of the Shrew.

Our modern world (newpapers, celebrity magazines, self-help books, films, television shows - both fiction and nonfiction) tells us that the purpose of marriage is to live happily ever after. Marriage should be about each spouse's satisfaction, fulfillment, and contentment. A good marriage itself is thought to confer these things. The underlying assumption here is that either the efforts of my husband are what make me happy or his lack of effort makes me unhappy. And if he's not making me happy, then the marriage isn't fulfilling its purpose, and therefore is somehow invalid or disposable. However, Jane Austen and Shakespeare shared a different view.

At the beginning of Pride and Prejudice, both Darcy and Elizabeth have some growing up to do. Even though Darcy is smitten by Eliza's 'fine eyes', after Elizabeth's initial interest in Darcy is quashed by his arrogance, she never really expresses a strong physical attraction for him, but is eventually attracted by his character and the growth she sees there. I read once that, without Darcy, Elizabeth would have ended up just like her father, distant and disdainful; without Elizabeth, Darcy would have ended up just like Lady Catherine de Bourgh, proud and unyielding. In other words, Elizabeth and Darcy are right for one another because they influence each other to be better people.

If we compare Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship with the relationships of the other married couples in the book, we see how important this is to Jane Austen. Mr. Bennet doesn't even try to make Mrs. Bennet a better person, but lets her go on in her foolish ways. He doesn't seem to want to influence anyone for the better, but is content to sit back and merely laugh at the folly of others, including that of his wife and younger daughters. Charlotte and Mr. Collins also have no gentling effect on each another, content merely to exist in the same house, spending as much time apart as possible. Lydia and Wickham not only don't try to affect change in one another, but actually reinforce each other's folly and sin. The author's attitude toward all these couples is clear - they are not examples to be followed.

In The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio doesn't love Katharina when he seeks permission from Baptista to marry her. He really wants her inheritance. He wants a wife, and because she's rich and he has no competition, she'll do. Katharina starts out hard, selfish, violent, lazy, ungrateful, unloving - in other words, a shrew. However, he, even with his less-than-romantic motives, is the right husband for her because he teaches her gentleness, duty, responsibility, gratitude, grace, and love.

Looking at the other couples (because foils can tell us so much about authorial intent), even though Lucentio and Bianca are head over heals in love, she has all the makings of a shrew as she rebels against her husband in the final scene; she may be gentle and beautiful on the outside, but it seems her heart doesn't follow suit. And Hortensio and the Widow, whom I suspect Shakespeare married to one another merely to give us another cautionary example as their courtship happens off-stage and out of sight, are in no better position than Lucentio and Bianca. Lucentio and Hortensio are losers in the wager of marriage because they have no influence over their wives.

Both Jane Austen and Shakespeare understood that the purpose of marriage is not our happiness, but our holiness

If the purpose of marriage isn't happiness, but holiness, unhappiness doesn't invalidate a marriage, or justify walking out when the going gets tough or boring and mundane. A husband isn't responsible for his wife's happiness. Rather, we are each responsible to influence our individual husbands toward godliness (not as a form of manipulation in an effort to make our lives easier, but out of love and even self-sacrifice, doing what is best for another) also eagerly expecting our husbands to influence us in the same direction.

Now, I'm not saying that marriage should be primarily a chore and a trial that we merely survive. However, we must realize that happiness in marriage is a result of focusing on the true purpose of marriage. As we strive to be more Christlike, iron sharpening iron, we will experience more joy. (This is just one more example of ethereal ideas having tangible consequences.)

Among all these couples in both works, whom do you think will end up being the happiest? My money is on Darcy and Elizabeth, and Petruchio and Katharina. And if they lived today, I bet they'd celebrate at least 50 years of marriage one day because they'd get through the tough times, even in a culture of easy divorce.


27 October 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Peggy, at The Simple Woman posted a meme back on the sixth and it's just gotten around to me. I've chosen not to participate in some of the sillier memes making the rounds, but I thought this one was lovely.

For Today...

Outside my Window... is a patio that's calling my name to do school outside in the cool weather

I am thinking... about the purpose of marriage, lately.

From the learning rooms... Eliza's phonics, Joel's math, Judith's Latin

I am thankful for... a local church made up of sinners saved by grace and not super-Christians

From the kitchen... breakfast quiche in the oven - sausage, bacon, leeks, green and yellow bell peppers, cheddar cheese, herbs and I'm going to attempt Mexican chocolate to drink (edit: I have a new love!). Chicken with some kind of mushroom sauce for dinner.

I am wearing... denim capris made from a pattern copied from an old worn out pair that I ripped apart, and a blue linen, embroidered blouse, barefoot, with my hair in a braid and reading glasses perched on my head.

I am reading... Nicholas Nickleby, 7 Steps to a Pain-free Life (about relieving back and neck pain), Penrod (aloud to the kids), The Warden (with my middles), Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome (arriving from Amazon on Wednesday)

I am hoping... that the path my naturopath and I are on will give me more energy, but I know it will take some time to figure it all out; and I'm thankful for the current results of the hydrocortisone I started last week.

I am creating...ideas for Christmas which I can't divulge because the recipients are also some of my Dear Readers; a Hawaiian shirt for Drew; and wintery clothing for me.

I am hearing... the fan in the window next to me that sounds occasionally like a choir as it oscillates

Around the house... lots of fans and open windows to cope with our nonfunctioning AC.

One of my favorite things...the gospel - not one of, the

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...work on school, clean the house, call my naturopath to report on Rebekah's and my progress, bake, rest, sew, start neck and back exercises

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

Not a new picture, but the best I could do for fall. This was taken a couple years ago when Drew and I were in Nashville for the King's Meadow Study Center Second Annual Film and Worldview Festival. Since our leaves don't change here until sometime in January, this picture helps me get into that autumn mood.


18 October 2008

Pride & Prejudice Ball Photos

Photos from the Pride and Prejudice Ball

Blast from the Past

Just a warning, really - I'm going to be copying my favorite posts from my old iWeb blog over here.  I'm going to date them the original date and time they were posted and include the pictures from each post.  I hope this isn't too much of an irritant for those of you who've read the entries before and who are subscribed to my RSS feed.  Feel free to skip!


17 October 2008

Decided, at last

First, the Lord reminded me powerfully yesterday that he is still on his throne and he will continue to work no matter who happens to occupy the oval office.

Second, I spent more time reading and researching (and praying). What I read was frighteningly eye-opening. You see, I stumbled upon a liberal blog and began reading some of the comments there. I read praise for a self-avowed Marxist (not the candidate in question), but the poster then denied that the man he was praising was really a Marxist. His reasoning? 'Well, I agree with him on everything, and I'm no Marxist, so therefore he can't be.' But on all the issues, the opinions of both these men line up perfectly with those outlined by Karl Marx…I guess Marx himself must not have been a Marxist, either!

These folks (and the author of the blog post they were discussing) don't think the liberal candidate is really liberal; he's actually just a (get ready for it) Reagan Democrat. (That sound you hear is Ronald Reagan spinning in his grave.)  They hope to influence him once he's in office. And, given the liberal candidate's voting record, that won't be difficult for them to do.

Third, I've been learning much more about that voting record.  This man can't be described as 'pro-choice', but as hard-core 'pro-abortion' - more rabid about the issue than even NARAL, which is quite a feat.  I'm sure that, through the abuse of the executive order power that's been in vogue with so many of our recent presidents, many, many more unborn babies will die under him as president.  Not only that, but many infants who are born alive will die.  He was the only senator in Illinois who lobbied and voted against a bill that would offer protection to an infant who survived an abortion.  That's unconscionable.  For more information about Obama's stand on life issues, see George Grant's pro-life blog, 'The Quick and the Dead'.

So, I've come to the conclusion that my vote must be cast in a way that will do the most to keep this man out of the White House and put in a man who won't cave to the kind of pressure discussed above. I don't know what the Lord has in store, but I now know that I can vote a certain way with a clear conscience, although my vote will be against the one candidate and not really for the other. And that no matter who wins, we must keep a close eye on things.  Eternal vigilance…

The scary parts of what I read?  Well, the absolute lack of coherent, logical thought of the man who wrote the blog and the folks who posted.  These folks' lack of real understanding of the Founding Fathers' philosophies and ideas.  And that my husband tells me that he hears things like this all the time (my kids don't tend to talk this way, so I don't hear it so much).

I also read a blog entry by Alec Guiness Alex Baldwin (I'm still waiting to see if he'll keep his promise to move abroad after Bush was declared the winner in 2000 - that was something I was looking forward to).  His stated thesis was, basically, 'What an Obama Presidency Will Mean'.  I thought I was going to hear about what he thought Obama would do for the country, how things would change, what Mr. Guiness Baldwin was hoping for as he looked to this future possibility.  But all he discussed was that an Obama presidency would put McCain in his place.  Yea … that was productive.  I'm so glad he had something of substance to offer.  (Okay, I'm removing my tongue from my cheek, now.)

I think this will be the last of my federal election posts, but I'd like to start looking at the local initiatives.  We still have to figure out what they are, what they really mean, and where we stand.  And there are lots of them!


15 October 2008


I've never been so frustrated and confused about whom to vote for.

God created society with four separate and distinct governing institutions, each with a separate and distinct sphere of authority: the state (civil government), the church, the family, and the self. If one of these institutions breaks down, it's not an option for the others to step in and take over its responsibilities; that leads to disaster. Instead, the other institutions must work to re-build that which has fallen, strengthening whichever one has broken down. Since the election is about the civil government, I'll focus there, but an understanding of this principle of jurisdictional sovereignty is key.

Civil government is responsible for (I may have forgotten a few, but this is the gist of what's been rolling around in my mind) …
  • protecting our rights - not granting them (which the government has no power or authority to do); this includes the rights to life, liberty, and property, freedom of speech, freedom to practice our religion - well, read the Bill of Rights for the full list; you get the idea. This doesn't mean protecting us from our own bad decisions.
  • defense - the military on a federal level, the police force and fire department on a local level
  • regulating commerce - not to make business decisions for us or to decide on productivity levels or where we should invest, but to protect us from one another where necessary (we are, after all, sinners); includes infrastructure
  • the judiciary - again, because we're sinners there will be crimes committed and there will be disagreements between people which need to be settled
  • relations with other nations - including treaties and immigration.
That civil government governs best which governs least. Our Constitution gives the federal government very limited powers; given that inch, they've flown to the moon. The federal level of government should have the least day-to-day influence on our lives as it is farthest from us and therefore farthest away from our influence. Instead it has the most. Can you name your mayor? What issues are before your city or town council this month? I don't know, either.

In addition to that, I'm a fiscal conservative who doesn't believe in debt (the only debt we have is our 16 year-old mortgage and we're working to pay that off as soon as we can) or consistently living beyond one's means. Tax dollars spent by the government actually belong to the people who paid the taxes (something most politicians and recipients of government largesse have conveniently forgotten or never knew). I also believe that the free market, while not perfect (nothing sinful man is responsible for can be), is the best economic system ever devised by man, giving the most liberty to the most people and raising productivity and standards of living. (Recommended reading: Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt and Basic Economics, by Thomas Sowell)

I'm a social conservative who believes that life begins at conception, marriage is an institution ordained and created by God, that parents are ultimately responsible for raising their children and do so with the support and encouragement of the local church and community, and that the family (as the main building-block of society) should be protected. I also believe that the family is primarily responsible for welfare by taking care of its own. If there's no family, or the family is unable, then the responsibility falls to the church or to private and voluntary endeavors. Private welfare requires contact with real people, real accountability, and real change; it doesn't sentence families to generations of poverty. We'll always have the poor with us, but membership in this group should be a temporary thing. (Recommended reading: The Tragedy of American Compassion, by Marvin Olasky and Bringing in the Sheaves, by George Grant)

So the question is, whom do I vote for? One of the major candidates is so far out of sync with the Constitution and biblical principle on all these issues that casting my vote for him just isn't an option. The other is one for whom I've never voted and whom I've deliberately gone to the polls late in the day to vote against (even though I knew Arizona would go for him). There are a few issues that separate these candidates, but they're simply different flavors of the same dish. Under both parties, government continues to grow, entitlements continue to mushroom, and our liberties continue to shrink. (Recommended reading: In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, by Charles Murray)

Do I vote for the lesser of two evils? Or do I vote for a third party candidate who shares my views on most of the issues even though he probably has no chance of winning? Do I vote principle or pragmatism? And is it really pragmatic to vote for the lesser of two evils?

No answers today, I'm afraid. Just questions.

14 October 2008

The More Things Change

Wisdom from the past.  Will we heed it for our future?

10 October 2008


I don't often write about politics, but I thought  this article was spot on.

And, for your enjoyment (although they're a bit bawdy at times and really best for those who appreciate Shakespeare): 

I have some observations, but no time right now to post.  The ball is less than 36 hours away and Judith's gown isn't finished, yet.


04 October 2008

More Wedding Pictures

A gal from church loaded a bunch of snapshots from Anna and Drew's wedding on Facebook.  I figured out how to download them and then I uploaded them to my Gallery.  Either click there or on the link in the sidebar.  I haven't gone through them yet, but will try to later this afternoon or early next week.

Now, back to sewing!

Fireproof (Spoilers)

Drew and I saw the Kendricks Brothers' newest release, Fireproof, last night. (Warning: this post may seem nit-picky, but I'm approaching it as a student, trying to learn what I can from those who are going before me, both things to emulate and things to avoid. The Kendricks have my utmost respect - they've done three times on a full-length scale, what I've only begun on a short scale - and which I can't really complete because my cast-members have all grown too much.)

Firefighter Caleb Holt is a hero to many in the town of Albany, Georgia, risking his life to save those in danger, but he's not a hero to his wife, Catherine. They're on the verge of divorce when Caleb's father gets involved, in an effort to save their marriage, and perhaps, Caleb, himself.

The story was solid and down-to-earth, about real people you might live next door to (if you're the Randolphs). There wasn't much that required suspending disbelief (except for Kirk Cameron's complete lack of southern drawl when even his parents were obvious southerners - maybe Kirk isn't so good with dialects and not trying was a better choice than trying and doing a poor job). However, there were very few surprises in the film, except for the last twist which, I must admit, I didn't see coming. The major third act plot point was fairly obviously telegraphed in the first act. I also didn't find it as sentimental as the Kendricks' past films - a point in their favor. And, no, I didn't cry, even though I was rooting for our protagonists.

Production values were better than Facing the Giants and much better than Flywheel. Their camera work is improving, but I'd like to see more close-ups to give a bit more variety and a closer window on the characters' reactions and emotions. Editing is improving, but I hope tightens up in future films.

Many of the actors seemed physically distant from one another, as if they didn't want to invade each other's personal space, which gave an akward feel to some of the scenes. (I understand this last point - it's something I'm learning to get over in my own acting.)

The humor helped keep things from getting too heavy. But it would have been nice if more of the humor and the secondary plotlines had intersected with the main plot. If most of the secondary plotlines had been removed, we would've had essentially the same film. Because of that, the storyline felt a bit loose with extraneous scenes.

I appreciated the visuals - Alex is learning to weave them in with less appearance of effort. The scene containing the turning point of Caleb's character was good - instead of preaching, one character asked another a question and the answer was exactly what he himself needed to hear and the point was communicated with a great visual.

I was grateful that they jettisoned the prosperity gospel overtones from their first two films, in which, everything about the protagonists needed to be changed, everything in their lives was falling apart, and everything did change through the course of the films. Fireproof homed in a bit more focusedly on specific issues, which made it easier to relate to the story.

The Kendricks Brothers' character development ability is improving. Jay Austin was a cad, plain and simple. Grant Taylor was basically clueless about almost everything. Caleb Holt, however, was a good guy, someone with friends, a generally nice person, but with flaws - much more like a real man.

I have a bit of criticism about the dialog.

First, all the main characters (Caleb, Catherine, Caleb's dad, and Michael) and the supporting characters whenever they had something important to say, seemed to speak with Alex Kendrick's voice. The rhythms of speech, the vocabulary, the phrasing all reminded me of interviews I've seen with Alex. While not cardboard, the main characters could have been more rounded and individual if they'd had their own individual voices. The brothers have shown that they can write characters who are individuals (many of the supporting characters sparkled with charm and individuality and had some of my favorite lines in the film) - I hope they apply this ability to their main characters in their next film.

Secondly, I think there was too much Christian jargon in the film. Our culture has lost its biblical underpinnings and words like covenant aren't as well understood as they used to be. Instead of trying to educate the audience about the meaning of the words, I think it might be better to talk about the concepts without necessarily using the words themselves.

Thirdly, everyone seemed to speak in complete sentences, even during highly-charged emotional scenes. This added to some of the stilted feel and slowed those scenes down, even while everyone was rushing through their lines. And it made the grammatical errors stand out in neon (although they always stand out in neon to me); it's easier to suspend that disbelief if the whole tenor of a character's speech makes those errors fit. Dialog needs to sound natural to the ear, even though it isn't really like real speech.

The film peripherally tackled a difficult subject - pornography - and made it work for a family audience. However, as difficult as Caleb's struggle was, I don't think it was real enough. Men don't walk away simply out of love for their wives - in addition to prayer and the Gospel working in a man's heart, it takes other men coming alongside and offering accountability and tough love to break that hold; the Lord works through his body.

Lots of pluses and minuses, but on the whole, I think it's a good, solid film and recommend it.

  • Caleb Holt's truck has a Jay Austin Motors tag on it, a reference to Flywheel.
  • The kiss at the end didn't involve Erin Bethea, who played Catherine Holt, but Kirk Cameron's real-life wife, Chelsea Noble, dressed up as Catherine - notice that we never see Catherine's face while they embrace and the kiss is filmed in silhouette.
  • Production budget: $500,000
  • To-date gross: $8.4 million

03 October 2008

Amazon Delivery

The Warden, by Anthony Trollope
David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
Island Boy, by Barbara Cooney
The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright
Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, translated and abridged by Walter Starkie
Babar and His Children, by Jean de Brunhoff
The Bird in the Tree, by Elizabeth Goudge (the first in the Eliot Family trilogy)
Green Dolphin Street, by Elizabeth Goudge
Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackery

Coming soon...
a used copy of The Dean's Watch, by Elizabeth Goudge

So what am I reading? Well, re-reading both The Warden with the middle kiddoes and Pride and Prejudice with the biggles, and I'm reading for the first time Nicholas Nickleby and enjoying it!

Although my enjoyment is a bit ironic - the intro to The Warden pointed out that Trollope didn't like Dickens' work. Dickens' characters are mostly one-dimensional, either black or white, good or evil (at least according to the author of the Introduction; I haven't read enough Dickens to know for sure, but I am seeing this in Nicholas Nickleby and remember not liking The Pickwick Papers because of the cartoonish characters; although Sidney Carton comes to mind as an argument that Dickens could write more fully-orbed characters when he wanted to). Trollope's characters, on the other hand, are much more nuanced and fully realized, a mixture of virtue, vice, and absurdity, as are we all. Even though I'm enjoying Nicholas Nickleby, I'm finding it doesn't demand much thought or character analysis. The characters are pretty much as presented - all sneering vice or blushing virtue. I'm not as drawn into this story as I am when I read Trollope. And although I'm enjoying NN and want to read more of Dickens (best in small doses), I think I like Trollope better. I find I learn more about human nature from Trollope, about beings made in God's image, yet subject to the fall and the pervasive presence of sin and selfishness. There really isn't a villain in The Warden. Everyone does what he thinks is best, even though some are mistaken in their understanding of the results of their actions.

And all this reminds me of Gene Edward Veith's workshop on the humours at CiRCE in July. I'm almost ready to get my notes out and start blogging through them.



…for the Stauffer family today as they bury their beloved Emily.  And still feeling a bit of shock.