Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blog Change

Just FWI, I, Rien, am moving over to a new blog.  If you still wish to follow, come along for the ride.  I'm over here now.  Join me as I travel out of the shadows and into the light of God's glorious word.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Boundless Summer Challenge—Task 2

The second task in the Boundless Summer Challenge was to read a series of articles entitled “Biblical Dating” by Scott Croft, think about them, and then discuss the ideas presented in the articles. The series consisted of the following articles:
  • An Introduction
  • To Kiss or Not to Kiss
  • Are You Ready to Date?
  • Just Friends
  • Navigating The Early Stages of a Relationship
  • Growing in Intimacy
  • Tips for Engagement
  • From "Hi" to "I Do" in a Year
I had read them once before—when they were originally published—but that was some time ago. After re-reading the, I find that I agree with the points Mr. Croft makes. I don’t know how to actually live what he has written about, but I trust that God will show the way.

An Introduction
In the first article, appropriately titled “An Introduction,” Mr. Croft states “Surveys consistently indicate that professing Christians behave almost exactly like non-Christians in terms of sexual involvement outside of marriage (in both percentage of people involved and how deeply involved they are — how far they're going), living together before marriage, and infidelity and divorce after marriage.” This fact is very sad. It shouldn’t be this way. As Christians, we are called to be different.

To combat this sad state of relationships among Christians, Mr. Croft suggests a different approach to dating—what he terms “Biblical dating.” He bases his arguments on various portions of Scripture that command us to put others first in some form or fashion in relationships.

Another thing I found interesting in the intro was Mr. Croft’s stance that commitment precedes intimacy on any level. That is, one should not begin to become emotionally intimate with someone outside of a committed relationship (dating/courtship, engagement, marriage) and physical intimacy at any level must wait until marriage. It makes sense. Emotional entanglements outside a committed relationship will lead to pain. If your goal is to build the other person up and treat them in a way that is glorifying to God, why would you engage in activity that does the opposite?

To Kiss or Not to Kiss
My opinion: Not to kiss.
Croft’s opinion: Not to kiss. Specifically he says “I believe the Bible to teach that all sexual activity outside of marriage is sin, and all romantically oriented physical activity is sexual activity. In my view, this includes premarital kissing.”

His reasoning: Kissing is a precursor to sexual activity and thus to kiss someone to whom you are not married is unwise. It makes you want more.

I think that for a lot of things, we think we can justify it as being “ok” before we do it. That while others may be doing it for the wrong motives, ours will be pure. But then, if we look back on our actions honestly, we find that we are no different from anyone else.

What is the point of asking how far you can go, how close to the line can you get, before sinning? Is there anything God-honoring in edging as close to sin as you can without actually committing the act? Did not Jesus say that to look with lust is to commit adultery, to hat is to murder, and such? Therefore, I would say that the act of getting close to the obvious sin is sin.

Rather than ask “How close to sin can I go?” we should ask, “How close to God can I go?” And the closer to God, the further from sin.

My reasoning is simpler—I want the first man I kiss to be my husband. This means not kissing until after “I do.” Even engagement is not close enough. I may want to kiss him before we’re married, but, God willing, I will wait. We can practice after the wedding.

Are you ready to date?
Croft: In my view, if you can't happily picture yourself married within a year, you're not in a position to date.
Me: Not necessarily married to a particular person, but just married in general. It shouldn’t be a “someday I’ll be ready so I’ll start looking” but an “I’m ready so I’ll start looking.”

Croft: First, the man should initiate asking the woman out
Me: Yes please.  But please be bold about it. I’ve been asked out once and the guy was several car lengths away across the parking lot and not even looking at me. I wouldn’t have gone out with him anyway but if he’d had the courage to look me in the face when he asked, I wouldn’t have come away from the encounter thinking him cowardly. I don’t know any guy that wants to be thought of as a coward.

Croft: He should talk to some of her friends, see if she's been asking about him, have one or two subtly suggestive conversations with her to see if she gives anything away.... NO! This is not initiation.
Me: Indeed. And in my case, it wouldn’t do any good. I don’t talk about such things and tend to be pretty guarded so “putting out feelers” wouldn’t even help.

Croft: Part of your role even at this early stage is to protect the woman of your interest from unnecessary risk and vulnerability by providing a safe context in which she can respond.
Me: I appreciate this greatly. It shows strength in the man that he is willing to risk my rejection and it makes me feel more worthwhile to know someone is going to stick their neck out for the chance to know me.
Croft: The idea [of talking to the girl’s father] was to protect the woman from potential hurt or awkwardness, to aid her in evaluating a man whom she might not have known well at the time of his initiation, and to help ensure that the relationship was carried out honorably.
Me: Yeah. If you go to my dad first, then he gets to deal with the awkwardness. I don’t have the “Uh…what do I say?” moment. Plus, my dad can see things that I can’t. And I love my dad and he loves me so I know he’ll evaluate a potential suitor carefully. He may see something worthwhile in a guy that I hadn’t. Or he may see flaws that need work before he’ll trust me to the guy.

Just Friends
Croft argues that there should be no close, intimate friendships between persons of the opposite sex outside of marriage. I agree. Even in friendships that aren’t particularly close, it is easy for one party to develop romantic feelings for the other. And that leads to pain for the “unrequited” party and, should the feelings ever be known, awkwardness for the other. Croft puts it well when he says “Why risk harm to your own heart or to that of a brother or sister in order to have a type of companionship that, outside of marriage, is arguably questionable anyway?”

Croft: But even if you don't accept that premise [that engaging in the types of emotional intimacy and companionship involved in close male-female friendships — outside of marriage and for their own sake — is wrong], such intimacy is still inadvisable in the sense that it delays and discourages marriage
Me: And if you really want to get married, why would you want to engage in behavior that discourages it?

Navigating the Early Stages of a Relationship
Croft: Guys, tell her why you have initiated or are initiating with her, tell her that you intend to pursue the relationship to determine if marriage to her is the right choice before God
Me: Please! I want to know why you asked me—out of all the girls you could have chosen, why me?

Croft: In these early stages, people should not be spending long hours looking into each others eyes over candle-lit tables or being alone together at one another's apartments. To do so courts temptation
Me: And you want to court the person, not temptation :-P

Croft: Also (and this may seem counterintuitive), I advise folks not to spend long periods in prayer together. Prayer is a wonderful thing, but it's also inherently intimate
Me: Prayer is when you should be most open and bare before God. If you’re praying with someone, then you’re going to either be extremely open toward them or your prayers will be stilted because you’re not willing for them to see that much of you yet.

Growing in Intimacy 
Croft: Remember those long candle-light dinners in restaurants I suggested were unadvisable in the early stages of a relationship? They can actually be good at this stage — especially when compared to long nights "chatting" on the couch at one of your apartments
Me: Yeah, not a good idea—until you’re married.

Tips for Engagement
Croft: Also, what do others (those that both of you have been seeking counsel from, under whose authority the relationship has taken place, Christian friends or family) think of the relationship? Does it look solid to them? Does the relationship seem to be good for both of you spiritually, glorifying to God, and Christ-centered?
Me: Please, please, please do not skip this step!

Croft: The wedding day is just like every other day in the Christian life — it is primarily about God
Me: Yes! I have been to weddings where this was so clear. They were the best weddings that I’ve been to. You get the chance to rejoice for and with the couple and worship the God who created marriage to begin with. Wonderful.

Croft: Just keep in mind the core principles: holiness, care for the other person's soul above your own needs, not defrauding one another, headship and submission beginning to play out and be pictured in a godly way for the world to see, relationships being played out corporately and under counsel, lack of inappropriate emotional intimacy, no physical intimacy, leaving marriage for marriage, being different from the world, bringing glory to God
Me: I think this about sums up the whole series


From “Hi” to “I Do” in a Year 
Croft essentially says that a dating relationship shouldn’t last more than a year. In part this has to do with his assertion that you shouldn’t start such a relationship unless you can see yourself being married in a year. But it also has to do with the fact that temptations are lessened (it’s a lot easier to wait a year for your first kiss than for two or three or more). And you should know by that time if you’re going to marry that person.

Obviously, this is not a rule that must be followed. But I think it is wise advice.

We All Settle
Croft argues that we all “settle” for a less-than-perfect mate because no one is perfect. And at the same time, no one “settles” because all we deserve is death.


My Conclusion
Overall, I found the articles interesting and full of good advice. I appreciated the fact that Mr. Croft puts forth his articles as advice and guidelines not rules. Situations are different for everyone, but the main point of the entire series applies to everyone: Put others first and honor God in all your dealings with others.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Boundless Summer Challenge—Task 1

I’m taking the plunge., a ministry of Focus on the Family, is sponsoring a month-long summer challenge to encourage its readers to grow in their spiritual walk. Today is day one. I have only the faintest idea what the daily challenges will entail but I want to try. It’s not easy for me. I don’t like not knowing what is going to happen. Not knowing what I’ve signed up for. But, as God is willing, I will face each day’s challenge when it comes—and not waste time worrying about what tomorrow’s will be.

Discipline in my walk with God is something I’ve struggled with for a while. I hope from this challenge to increase my discipline and grow closer to my God at the same time. I know if I seek the Lord with my whole heart, He will reward. And I look forward to that. :-)

Today’s challenge included the following steps:

2. Invite at least 3 friends or family members to join
3. Publish a note telling folk that I’m doing it (Now you can hold me accountable too!)
4. Spend 20 minutes praying about the challenge and for the participants

I’ve done the first three and am working on the fourth. Will you pray for me too? I would appreciate it.

Now for the journey.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On Women in Stories

I posted this first as a comment on Whispered Roars and then decided it was plenty long for a post in and of itself.

Ah, women in stories. A very interesting topic. I would agree that they must be strong of spirit and of character to be interesting heroines. I do not think they must be strong of body. Not that they can't just that they don't have to be.

I find that if the female characters are as good as or better than the guys in all physical activities, I don't like them. It isn't realistic (assuming your guy doesn't have a reason to be weak or isn't a wimp). Girls may be strong but, to borrow from Beowulf "Her strength--the battle-strength of a woman--was less than a male whose sword can shear through a helmet."

This is not to say that I think the heroines should be weak and soft, unable to defend themselves without the hero. Far be it from me to say such! My heroine can wield a sword with considerable skill and has made several attempts to brain uninvited visitors to her tent but it is only when she must fight that she does. And she doesn't act like a boy. And I think that if a spider does come crawling over her things, she just might freak out a little--much to her brother's amusement.

I think that the heroines can and often do inspire the heroes to fight harder. As I understand it, guys want to protect their women regardless of said women's ability to protect themselves. (I have five brothers so I think my source on this is fairly reliable :-D) I'm no weakling--my brother's know it--but still they will defend me if they think I am in any way threatened, be it physically or just by disrespect. The guy I admire most outside my family--though he might as well be another brother--has done the same thing. Even if they are not physically present, a simple token can remind the guys what they are fighting for (think Aragorn when he receives the banner Arwen has been weaving for him for years). So while other motivations do spur the heroes on, knowing there is a girl looking on/waiting to hear about it/joining him in the fight can inspire them to even greater deeds.

And what’s to say that physical fighting is the only way a woman can fight? Or a guy for that matter. What if your heroine isn’t a swordfighter but can wield words with such skill that the enemy is confused, or the hero gets the much needed aid. Perhaps the hero is on the battlefield while she remains at home guarding the keep, inspiring the men who remained behind for age or weakness, refusing to give up hope that her hero will be successful.

Modern literature seems to have forgotten that there is more than one way to fight and has placed the heroines in the battlefield alongside the hero at every turn. The stories in which I admire the heroine most are not the ones in which she is fighting with the hero at every turn, proving herself as good as a man. Rather, I enjoy those wherein, even outnumbered and with no hope of escape, the heroine holds firm to her convictions and fights back with every means available and does not give up hope that her hero, be it Christ or a man, will deliver her. There is no weakness in admitting you cannot wield a sword. There is in yielding to the slightest pressure and losing hope in the darkness.

So, it is my opinion that the heroines should be strong of spirit and character, as stated above, and when they are fighting physically, they should not be besting the guys at every turn. I also argue that there are other ways to be a strong character than simply physically.
After I had posted the above, "Squeaks" wrote:
"I agree with much of what you said, but I do disagree with some of your comments about the physical strength of women. I myself know a lot of girls who are more physically courageous at doing things than guys are. And that's here on earth. I think the whole girl vs. guy thing started back during the suffragist wars."

To which I respond:
I agree that there are many girls who are more physically courageous than guys. That, however, I would classify as strength of spirit, not strength of body. I simply wish to point out that it is usually unrealistic to have the girl be stronger than the guy at every turn. In general, a average strong girl will be weaker than an average strong guy. I am fairly strong for a girl but my brothers could all best me at feats of strength by the time they were in their teens. Hence my statement that guys are generally stronger than girls.

Now, on the subject of simple courage, far be it from me to say that guys are always braver than girls. That is a far different matter entirely. In fact, I think it may deserve a post of its own on my blog. :-) Courage is hard fought for some and easy for others. Some have it in greater measure. Some can face certain things but not others. (For instance, I would fight tooth and nail if someone tried to harm me or any member of my family but I cannot stand spiders. I have trouble getting within a few feet of those tiny creatures.) So a girl may be more physically courageous, but it does not mean she is more physically strong.

I would also add that I don’t think the girl vs. guy thing started with the suffragist wars. Rather, I put it much, much further back—the Garden of Eden in fact. Genesis 3:16b states “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” So I think that is where it started. Sin has exacerbated the problem and the feminist movement hasn’t helped. But it began there in the garden long ago.

What say you?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Castles in the Air (Pt 1): A Reflection

A journal entry from some years ago that is as true now as when I wrote it.

Castles in the air. Everyone has them. The building blocks are formed throughout our lives and we slowly build them as we grow. They are built with our dreams and desires. Some castles are destroyed by unforeseen circumstances; some are realized in their entirety. Others still become real in a manner completely different than that which the dreamer envisioned. Many castles are torn down when we dreamers hand over our blocks to the Master Architect. Only the Master can lay the foundation that will never alter for it is the Rock. He alone knows the plan that is best for our castles in the air. He knows how they must be built to become real, solid castles of realized dreams and fulfilled desires.

Often we try to change the Architect’s plans and build our castles according to our plans. When this happens, the Architect must cause what we have built amiss to be torn down so that He can replace our former desires with something greater and more noble than we could have ever dreamed. Many who will not submit to the Master Architect, find that though their castles are built, their dreams fulfilled, and all desires met, they still lack fulfillment and cannot find peace. Only the Master Architect can truly solidify our castles in the air.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Lion Vrie: A Review

War still rages in the once pristine land of Dionia. Morgui’s forces of Dairne-Reih have overwhelmed the few who withstood them. Luik and his fellow Dibor are fleeing for their lives, gathering what survivors they can find as they search for refuge. But a new threat has emerged. Now the Dibor and faithful Dionians must fight not only the demonic Dairne-Reih but also men—their once brothers who have chosen to side with the enemy. All seems bleak. But hope is not lost. An ancient sect of warriors, the Lion Vrie, return from the dust of history to help the weakened resistance. Hidden fortresses open their doors to the tattered bands of survivors. The Dibor regroup and prepare to face the enemy again.

The stakes are higher in this sequel to Rise of the Dibor. The effects of the enemy’s presence are seen more fully in poisoned lands and poisoned minds. Faith seems useless—but appearances can be deceiving. The Lion Vrie is a heart-wrenching story of perseverance amidst doubt, of struggles to understand how and why a loving God would allow such horror and pain to descend upon those He claimed to uphold. The answer is not simple nor is it complete—it cannot be for we are only in the second act and have yet to see the conclusion of the story—yet it still offers hope for the hopeless.

Christopher Hopper’s writing improves in this second installment of the White Lion Chronicles. While he still struggles with some homonym errors, they are rare and not as jarring as in the first book. More of the intricate world of Dionia is revealed and we are allowed to revel in its beauty despite the destruction that lurks in the shadows.

My absolute favorite part of The Lion Vrie comes when Luik explains to his fiancĂ©e why he would have her not fight in the coming battles despite her own warrior training. Hopper manages to get to the heart of the matter and I admire him for it. Once again, I would recommend this book to older teens and adults who enjoy fantasy with a solid Biblical worldview. But be warned—this story leaves one hanging and longing for the final installment.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rise of the Dibor: A Review

In a world where the first man and woman never disobeyed God and refused the serpent’s cunning, everything is perfect. The relationship between Creator and created is unmarred, beautiful in its simplicity and seen in every action. Treachery is unknown as are pain and suffering—and death. Luik, son of Lair has lived an idyllic life, never wanting, always joyful. But an ancient evil that has lain in wait since the beginning of the world and has at last found a chance to strike. The peace of Dionia is shattered. War ravages the land. Luik and eleven other young men, sons of kings, are gathered together and sheltered on a secret island. Trained as warriors, the twelve return to their homelands to find destruction and evil everywhere. And so they throw themselves into the fray, trusting to the Most High to guard their backs and hold them close when all hope seems lost.

Christopher Hopper weaves and interesting supposal of a tale in Rise of the Dibor. What would it be like in a land where sin was unknown? What would happen if evil did invade? Nobility and honor abound among Luik and his companions—a stark contrast to the treachery and selfishness of the enemy. Though long, the battle sequences are intense and intricate and one is frequently left wondering how the heroes could possibly survive the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.

Rise of the Dibor does suffer from some grammatical errors such as homonym substitution (hear vs. here) and poor punctuation (daggers weight vs. dagger’s weight) that can jolt the reader out of the story. However, Hopper quickly draws you back in with the intricacy of his tale. I would recommend this book to older teens and adults who are not “Grammar Nazis” and enjoy fantasy with a solid Biblical worldview.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Curse of the Spider King: A Review

Allyra is lost. 800 years ago, the Spider King’s forces swept in and destroyed the seven Elven Lords and their children. Driven into hiding, the elves have all but given up hope that they will ever be able to regain their homeland. Without the Elven Lords, what can they do? But then, there are stirrings in a distant land. Hints that perhaps the heirs of the lords yet live come from another world—Earth. Sentinels and Dreadnaughts—elite warriors of the elves—set out to find their lost lords before the enemy can.

Meanwhile, on Earth, only thirteen years have passed for the unknowing heirs of the Allyrian thrones. As far as the seven teens know, they are perfectly ordinary humans. Until dark creatures begin to stalk their footsteps and strange powers manifest themselves in startling ways and everything they know is turned upside down. Then, they must band together with their elven guardians in a desperate race to return to the homeland they never knew.

In this intriguing tale that turns portal fantasy inside out, Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper manage to weave their different writing styles together into a smooth tapestry of story. There are a few knots in the weaving—minor grammatical errors or not-quite-explained plot points—but they do little to detract from the whole picture. Since I have read all of both Batson and Hopper’s books, I was curious to see how they managed to mesh their writing. I was pleasantly surprised. The weakness of one writer was effectively balanced by the strength of the others. Batson seems to lean toward exaggerated characters in his writing while Hopper’s characters tend to be understated to the extent that it is difficult to tell them apart. Combined, we have an excellent cast, each with their own quirks and foibles but distinct without being exaggerated.

As for the story itself—I found it a bit slow to get started in some ways though the tension was set from the beginning. The two characters that the book stayed with the most, I found least appealing though still interesting. Because of the large cast, we often leave a character for long stretches of the book and can almost forget about their existence—almost. That said, I found this book an enjoyable, if light, read and look forward to finding out what happens next in the sequel Venom and Song. A second reading makes one realize how much foreshadowing the authors wove into the early chapters. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys lighthearted fantasy with deeper themes but especially to those of Junior High age.