Footloose (and what it says about mourning and dancing.)

The movie that defined a generation, right? An oldie but goodie?

Well, they did a remake in 2012 I believe, and I watched it and it sucked. So I was looking forward to seeing the original masterpiece. And it was basically the same as the new one.

Except I have to say, the cast made the original. Kevin Bacon and his best friend really get you through.

But if the movie defined a generation, I’m concerned. The teens in the movie do some really reckless, stupid things, and they don’t really explain why they thought it was a good idea.

But in the end Kevin Bacon makes a good speech with a good point, one I’ve been thinking about this week.

He convinces everyone that dancing is biblical. Which it totally is. I don’t give much for denominations, I figure, each to their own as long as it’s not against God’s word; but the no dancing trend in the 80s and in some churches still really gets my goat. The Bible says to praise God with dancing, David danced, Miriam led the Hebrews in a dance after they left egypt, and Ecclesiastes says there is a time to mourn and a time to dance.

I have no problem with dancing as long as it’s clean.  In fact some people consider it part of spiritual warfare to dance.

Biblical dancing is the best because you don’t have to be good at it, you just make it up, God doesn’t care. No one else does either if their heart is in the right place.

I just got done with VBS (VAcation Bible School) at my church, and there’s never been so much dancing and enjoyment at any VBS in my memory and I’ve been going to them and participating int hem since  I was 8 or 9 years old. sO I have a decade under my belt. The kids were loving th music, and so were the leaders, we all felt celebratory.

It was simple, but that was fine. It didn’t need to be big, the point was that the kids were just enjoying God, and so were the adults.

And for me personally, it marked the anniversary of my cousin’s death. I’ve spent a year in mourning you might say, though I didn’t go all Footloose with it, and now it seems like the time to dance.

Actually, you can dance all the time as a Christian, because our joys and our sorrows tend to intermingle. That’s our life. And it’s not a bad life. Not if you believe it’s just the shadow of things to come.

People really want to live forever nowadays. Or they don’t want to live at all. It seems to be one or the other. And I think for both the reason is they don’t believe in heaven. Or if they do, they believe in it as this abstract ethereal thing that hopefully exists, but it has no bearing on the rest of their lives. Even Christians fall into this.

But how does a heaven like tha fit into Jesus’s instructions to bring heaven to earth? In the Bible heaven is the place filled with the presence of God.

LEt me unpack that a bit. We in the church always talk about “the presence of God” but do we understand what we’re saying? How is it different then just saying God?

It’s complex. We believe or are supposed to, that God is so vast he can’t fit into our perception, so when He is with us, it is never fully all at once there, or it would overwhelm us. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 that we see dimly as through a glass. Like a telescope you might say. We look at God as something far away that HIs SPirit makes closer and bigger to us, but if we were close enough to see him clearly without the telescope, we would burn up. (Like the sun or a star.)

The presence of God refers to the amount of him we can sense and recognize. Though it is not the God only gives us a piece of Himself, when you get God, you get all of Him,  Just like the 1 John says whoever has the Son has the Father also. (And therefore the Spirit.) Only God could make himself both small enough for our minds to hold, and large enough to fill our bottomless void of needing love.

That said, heaven is the Christian’s dream, or it should be. Because in heaven our mortal limitations will be removed and we will be like Christ. Paul said “I will know even as I am known.” The Christian wants nothing more than to know God as well as God knows him or her. To finally have more than enough understanding of God.

We can’t have that here, but we are meant to be getting ever closer to it, because our eternal life doesn’t start in heaven, it starts on earth.

And that is why we say “Let heaven come to earth.” And goodness knows this earth needs some heaven.

To get back to the topic of dancing, mourning is at bottom not a part of heaven. Rejoicing is part of heaven. If anyone decides to embrace mourning as the truth of life, they have given up hope. And we shouldn’t do that.

If you’ll pardon me for using as superhero yet again as an example, I would point out Batman as someone who embraces mourning as the fuel for his fire. The only thing giving his life a purpose is his grief and anger.

Happy people puzzle cynical people, have you ever noticed that? And they annoy them. And they make them envious.

Now if someone is depressed, I know the answer isn’t as simple as just saying you perceive things the wrong way, but realizing that there is another way, and there is more to life is the first step toward wanting that for yourself, which is a step toward getting it.

And those of us who are already fairly contented with our lives, we need to celebrate that, dance, sing, have a party.

Until next time–Natasha

Irreverence.

I watch a lot of YouTube, and a lot of movies. This often gives you a look into the worst of humanity (the part of it that’s online.)

Like Furrys, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with liking anthropomorphic animals, but do you know the sick connotations that term has?

I hope not for your sake. But I’ve picked it up streaming through videos.

Anyway, you know what I notice, there’s a growing problem that’s being almost ignored by he folks who comment on this stiff. (Like I am now, I guess.)

Maybe this is familiar to you, some one who thinks they are super funny is going on aobut something, and they throw in some remark against God. (It can even be a non christian God.)

I don’t know about Buddhists, Muslims, or Jews, but this really bugs me when it happens.

The insolent tone these folks use is kind of disturbing.

I won’t defend other gods, but I don’t really think they are something to joke aobut when someone truly believes in them.

Take an example from a movie I recently watched (it wasn’t good, by the way) the main character calls God a racist b—, with no real grounds for it that I could see, and other people in the movie think this is great. And funny. She’s applauded for her…moxie, I guess.

You know what’s celebrated in our culture? Irreverence.

We laugh at it, even applaud. Those who are out of control and insolent to everybody are praised as fearless and independent.

I wish I could say it was just unbelievers. but I’ve seen it among Christians too.

Some of you 40+ readers will remember when it was bad to use the phrase “Oh my God.” or any other cockamamie phrase that threw around God’s name.

Now I hear that all the time in church.

It’s hilarious. kid shows even nowadays will not use that phrase, or words like “heck” or “darn” because it would bother parents, but I hear it in church. Even in Sunday school.

I use darn and heck myself. Because to me, they mean nothing, or nothing important. You darn a sock. Heck isn’t even a real word exactly.

But throwing God’s name around implies that you feel the same way about that word that I do about these two words. That it means nothing to you.

And I’m convinced that for many people, it doesn’t. The idea that God would even take offense to that, if they believe in him at all, never crosses their mind.

It may seem like I’m being judgmental to mind this. But I’m really not. It’s a serious problem, your language reflects your attitude.

Now people will swear up and down that that’s not the case. We all deny stuff. It’s not a spectacular example of human failings. That’s why we shouldn’t buy it. People deny plenty of things that are harmful to themselves and others.

It’s like my cousins who use exclamations like that because their parents do, and they never stop to think what they are actually saying. And their parents learned it from their parents. And so on.

Irreverence is a huge problem because it signals a lack of ability to take anything seriously when it comes to the Spiritual side of life.

The Spiritual may not actually be ridiculous, but as C. S. Lewis pointed out, treating it like it has already been found ridiculous is both lazier than trying, and creates a general attitude of flippancy that ruins morality.

I think it is also possible to take things too seriously, but at this point, the only thing we’re in danger of taking too seriously is ourselves.

So the challenge is, do we need to look at how we talk aobut things and start watching ourselves more closely.

I’m pretty sure I do.

Those are my thoughts for now, until next time–Natasha.

It was life changing.

First of all, thank you to the people who read my posts even when I’ve not written any new ones, I appreciate your loyalty.

Second, obviously, I’m back from my mission’s trip.

I know some of you will want to hear how it went and some probably don’t care, and here’s the thing, it’s as interesting as the person makes it.

I found after my mission trip last year that what was most important to me about it was not what everyone asked me about. They wanted to know what I did, I wanted to talk about the people and place itself.

This time around, I am more interested in what I did. Because I did it to get out of my comfort zone.

And I certainly succeeded there because I was uncomfortable about half of the time. I did not feel like God was just keeping me cloaked in grace this time around. Which means that it was not so easy and smooth as it was before. Part of the reason for that was I went with people I knew slightly instead of total strangers, and a lot more personal issues were involved because of that, nothing like a trip to another place to bring out everyone’s insecurities and quirks. I ended the trip by getting yelled at over something stupid and unfair. Lovely right?

And so I’m debunking the myth here that all mission’s trips are supernatural and life changing experiences, at least on the surface. They aren’t. I won’t say that this trip did not change my life, I believe it did, but not in the easily recognizable way we expect when we use that phrase.

If this trip showed me a little more about myself and the people around me; gave me a little more knowledge of how to do certain things; helped me overcome a few more of my fears; and gave me the chance to change lives even in a small way; it was life changing (duh on the last part right?)

If nothing else, I got a lot of cool souvenirs.

That was a joke, of course, though seriously, they have nice stuff at Swap Meets.

If you asked me what I learned through the experience, I’d have to say I learned that everyone is human. That is, I saw both the good and bad sides of my team mates, more than the team I went with last year, and these were not worse people, I dare say, they were just more able to lose their cool around each other. I realized that people have expectations of each other that are often not met, or not met in ways we think they will be.

But I also saw that the flaws that normally make me disinterested in being friends with someone can be compensated for. My team mates have plenty of annoying quirks (as I do myself) but they have a lot of good qualities that make up for them. The ones that don’t, well, they don’t.

And I saw myself in a lot of the annoying things they did; scary, right?

So, all in all, I can’t judge. The things that were seriously wrong I do have a hard time with. Maybe you’ve been there, you see sides to people that you just can’t excuse because it goes against your principles, not just your taste. When that happens, all I can do is back away.

That does not mean I will not care about those people, of course I will, but it is unwise to be intimate friends with someone who has a serious difference of principle from yourself, because when you need a good kick in the pants, how can you count on them to give it to you? The best friends remind us who we are, they don’t excuse us when we act out of character.

I have tried to be this kind of friend, with very little success, I suppose because I never actually know people as well as I think I do. Or else, they don’t know I know them that well.

I have waited a long time to find friends who will encourage me in my principles, and it can be a long and lonely search, but how can I be satisfied with less? Who is to say that it is impossible? It’s only impossible if you give up looking.

And on that note, I got to know some people better who did bring out the best in me. I hope to continue to know them more.

At the end of the day, I need to trust my instincts. My first impression of people is often mostly accurate, it just needs expanding.

So, that was this trip. And on the less emotional side, I did cross another thing off my bucket list: Rock Climbing. (I so recommend trying this if you can tolerate heights at all. It’s a real rush to conquer a climb.)

I hope everyone found something of interest in this post, and until next time–Natasha.

 

A strong mind and a soft heart.

Someone said recently, in a video I watched, that many people now have weak minds and hard hearts and we need more people with strong minds and soft hearts.

I agreed.

I suppose, however, that I didn’t really ponder what it meant, until I was reading “The Problem of Pain,” by C. S. Lewis. (Who, as some of you know, is my favorite author.) This book is as brilliant as his other books, but not fully developed in his style. It’s one of his earliest Apologetic books.

Anyway, I remember back when I hadn’t read any of Lewis’s books except The Chronicles of Narnia and eventually Mere Christianity, I had the mistaken idea that he was very much a reason-driven person; but once I learned more about him and read some of his other works, I found out that despite being brilliant, he was very much a believer in feelings being a guide as much as the mind.

To put it more concisely, Lewis would have favored both a strong mind and a soft heart.

The thing I noticed lacking in his non-fiction was an acknowledgement of how God affects our feelings, and uses our sense of need much more often than our sense of morality. But having looked closer, I see that he addresses that, just in a very reason-oriented way.

This appeals to me, since I hate to have things be too dumbed down for me to feel at all like I’m learning; but I have little respect for people who can’t get out of their mind and into their heart.

For me, it’s a temptation to despise people who are much less intelligent than I am, because I have never in my whole life been considered of average intelligence. I admit, I do get my share of vanity from this, but it’s no credit to me. I figure I just use the brains that God gave me, and the only reason I’m smarter than a lot of people is because they don’t use their brains.

Yet, I am not at all intimidated by people who are smarter than me in their ability to learn and retain information. Because I value wisdom even more than intelligence. (If they really are two separate things, and those who lack wisdom but have a high IQ are not really just smart idiots.)

Frankly, I don’t consider even those with Special Needs as stupider than me, because often they see things more clearly than a genius would. If anything, a lot of intelligence blinds you to the obvious. I have social awkwardness problems because I tend to get wrapped up in my own thoughts instead of sensing other’s feelings and reaction. As far as that goes, a dog might be more aware than the hyper-intelligent person.

Genius is not a bad thing, and when it comes out of a place of a lot of suffering, it can actually be a person’s link to sanity, the ability to go inside themselves and their creations instead of focusing on what’s around them.

But my point here is that intelligence is not the same as having a strong mind, a strong mind is a wise mind, and mind with a sense of humor. If you ever check out the book of Ecclesiastes, you’ll find a man who is wise, in a morbid way, but seems to have no sense of humor.

What about a soft heart?

Well, hard-heartedness is rampant nowadays. (When has it ever not been? The natural tenancy of man is to be selfish, unless he is consciously trying not to be.)

It’s a term we don’t really think about now, but it means to not let anything penetrate your heart. Neither pain nor pity nor love.

I move that technology has made us more hard-hearted. Charles Dickens would have agreed with me.

Also, being bombarded with negativity, and also propaganda. We have started to celebrate the hard-hearted; cold; and evil people of stories and real life.

You put out what you get put in.

As wrong as I think it is to admire any evil person for being good at what they do, I have to admit we’ve made it awful hard to admire the good. If someone is good, there is always some attack on their character, some dirt dug up, some rumor spread; to be fair, even the bad people get made  worse by rumors, but that only furthers the point.

Look, it’s okay to admire a good deed. I recently saw a short documentary of a celebrity (Julia Roberts I believe) taking vaccinations to a village in Africa. I think what she did was admirable, and she proved to be more of a down-to-earth person than I would have expected. (Because Hollywood seems to drive people crazy.)

That is admirable. I know nothing about Julia Roberts when she is at home, and not in front of a camera, but what she did was good. It’s good publicity for her, sure, but also for the cause she was supporting.

Getting back to the subject of a soft heart: A soft heart is an open heart, but not open to the wrong thing, that’s why you need a strong mind too. You need both.

And there is equal danger in lacking one but having the other, either way.

A soft hearted, but weak minded, person may end up supporting the wrong thing and in the end doing more harm than good to the same people they were trying to help.

But action without heart is sure to lead to an empty life or worse, one spent doing harm.

There’s plenty more to say on this topic, this post was sort of an introduction to the idea so I can reference it later without confusion, but for now, I’m done.

Until next time–Natasha.

Going back to the basics.

I revisited My Report Card post, someone just looked at it recently. Of course, the reason I re-read it is because, as I said in the post, I need my own advice.

Disappointed again.

Boy, it’s hard not to just let this become your attitude toward life, isn’t it?

Funny story: back when I was a kid, I got disappointed frequently for awhile, and one day I got it into my head that if I said I hoped for the opposite of what I wanted, then what I actually wanted would happen. It even seemed to work.

But what’s not funny at all is how many of us still think that as grown men and women.

I realize now that my negative thinking was more likely to prevent what I wanted from happening than to allow it, but at the time I had a rather negative view of myself. It wouldn’t be the last time I felt almost like I was cursed.

If you check out Genesis, you’ll find that the original human beings were indeed cursed, but it was for trying to get what they wanted by doing the wrong thing.

The Man was cursed with thorns and thistles and constant work.

The Woman, which to us at least sounds worse, was cursed with painful labor, even though of course, it’s not constant.

As John Eldredge has pointed out in “Wild at Heart.” The curses are more than just what they sound like on the surface.

Men were cursed with futility and failure. Which I think doesn’t mean things like work are futile, or that men will constantly fail, a curse is really a lot more about your perception of what’s happening.

And don’t men feel like their lives are futile a lot of the time? And like they are failing?

So do women of course, but for us it’s even more personal, I think.

It’s not just having kids, it can seem like whatever women do, it ends up being a long and painful process, and one we never really feel ready for.

And of course there’s the part about having desire for, and being ruled by, your husband.

Relationship difficulties, am I right? Not fun.

Women feel like their desires contradict themselves, after all. We want this, but we also want something very different. Ah! Why can’t we be simpler?

Well, where’s the fun in that? But my main point is this all feels like a curse… and it is.

But not completely. Like I said, it’s your perception.

The reason I think that is because Christians like to say Jesus freed us from the curse of Adam and Eve; which is true; but not in the way we think.

At bottom, a curse leads to sorrow and suffering. Jesus was cursed if you can believe it, because the Word says “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Which is what a cross is made from. Major suffering.

But Jesus does not free us from having to suffer and know sorrow. He knew plenty himself, and part of the deal of being a Christian is learning to be like Jesus.

I’d venture to say 90% of our problems as Christians come from not understanding what being like Jesus entails. Maybe even more.

I like better the answer I heard from another source, that Jesus’ suffering redeemed our suffering. The thing about a curse is, it never makes your life better. (Read “Ella Enchanted.”) But suffering can ultimately make your life better, if it is in the right hands.

So in a sense, maybe my younger self was right. But now that I know this, I know that my disappointments don’t have to make me bitter, or just plain delusional. (Why do we use delusional as a word to apply to people who believe things are better than they are? IT’s far more often the other way around.)

All that said, will disappointment hurt? YES!!

Does it have to break you? No.

It might, being broken isn’t as bad as being bent. Broken is fixable.

So is bent, but it’s harder, definitely.

But once you’ve cried, or ranted, or whatever you do to feel better; it’s time to pick up the pieces.

Because as bad as I feel, and as much as  might want to quit, I’ve come to far to give up now. I’m finishing this thing.

Frankly, I can’t accept defeat because I’ve staked everything on victory.

You can’t quit when you realize what you have to lose.

And looking at the bigger picture, I see that one disappointment is not worth throwing away everything.

In a way, I needed to write this more than any of you needed to read it, because I had to remind myself of all that.

Still, I hope it was helpful to someone else besides me, thank you for reading, and until next time–Natasha.

The S-word.

First of all, let me apologize for not posting so consistently, my problem is partly not having access to a computer as much.

But today I figure I need to post, so let’s talk.

Yesterday I had a unique experience, I went to teen bible study that talked about 1Peter 3. A little context, on that chapter, it’s about submission, honoring your wife, faith, and Jesus’ victory over hell and the devil.

Where do you start?

But of all the subjects that are controversial in a youth group, or in church period, or in any culture ever, submission is one of the top 3 or 4.

Now you all know my stance on feminism, and it’s no surprise then that I don’t view submission as a bad thing, but…I confess I haven’t liked the idea in the past, and I’m still growing into it now.

My problem with submission goes back farther than I even can remember; and it’s the same for many women. But it always, always is about not trusting men.

Most girls who have no initial problem with submitting to men have had good male relationships in their lives, and like a lot of girls, I haven’t. Partly because my contact with guys has been extremely limited living at home with my mom and no brothers, and only male in the house, my dad.

Despite my trouble with submission, I have stood up for it in the past, and still will; because it’s in the Bible, and God commands it, and for me that has to come first, before my issues, my mistrust, and my fears.

And fears are a big part of this. I don’t care how strong she seems, any woman who hates men and hates submission is afraid, deep, deep, down; and she is afraid of being found out.

Many women have been abused, physically and emotionally. Nearly all of us have been yelled at, manipulated, misunderstood, or mocked, by men. I won’t say it doesn’t hurt me when men act like women’s feelings are too much to handle or not worthy of respect, and then they mock things we are interested in.

But… that’s not every man. There’s a good portion of nice, sensitive guys, or strong and brave ones, hopefully a mixture of both, who are out there, and they treat women with respect. It’s a rare breed of men who would meet my standard of Uncommon (hence the term) but there are plenty who aren’t bad guys, and don’t deserve the sort of disgust and contempt they are often treated with.

And for the record, there are not many women who are what I would call a real woman, either. It’s rare for both genders nowadays to really be what they are. But I’ve talked about this before, so let’s get back to the subject of submission.

Like I said, women are afraid. That chapter we studied, 1 Peter 3, actually is one of the only passages in the bile to address that issue as the root of our struggles. It’s a big problem for men too, but women have a different sort of fear then men, and it’s harder to pin point, which is probably why it’s not talked about enough.

But in a nutshell, we are afraid of rejection, just like anyone, and also of not being enough; and if we’ve been hurt before, we are afraid that if we are hurt again it will break us.

So we tend to harden our hearts to avoid this, and we resist authority, or if we are not the type to do that, we resist love. Or maybe we hide instead, a lot depends on the personality, but the root of it all is fear.

I have been afraid, but unwilling to show it, so I would be belligerent instead. I’d put  up a fight over something not that important because something important had not been fought for a long time ago, and I was upset about that.

But the thing was, God never said you can get out of submission if you’ve been burned, on the contrary, it’s even more important then, and here’s why:

It’s easy to submit when you’ve never been deeply hurt, but it takes a very tough woman to submit when she has been hurt, and even more so if she knows she will be hurt again, whether she submits or not. (By submitting I do not mean submitting to being hurt on purpose, only to the possibility of it, which is very different.)

Doing the right thing is always harder at first than doing the wrong thing, but this rebellion against men has hardly helped our case anyway, and it’s destroyed many relationships. Sometimes you have to do the right thing and trust that God will take care of you no matter what.

And that’s a difficult thing to do, but so, so necessary if you want to heal. I know personally.

A word to the men: I just want you to keep in mind that girls need understanding. We aren’t taught about this sort of thing, and it’s left a lot of us feeling clueless about how to treat the men in our lives. Also, men need help with this too, it’s not just about girl power, it’s about man power too. I personally regret that guys get so overlooked on this front and they deserve respect just as much as girls do,.

But we need to keep in mind that it takes a lot less to upset a girl than a guy, usually; and so all of us need to watch what we say to and about people of the opposite sex. Also, though not always, it’s our actions that say the most to men about how we feel around them. And how we interpret their actions.

But since I’ve never been in a romantic relationship, I wont’ say anything about that, it’s just a general rule in any relationship.

Some final advice:

Men, don’t be afraid to invest in the women around you. Even if they misinterpret it, even if they hate you for it, and even if you have no clue what you’re doing, you’ll get better. And please, do not take any crud from girls just because they are girls. Stand up for yourself, but do it in the right way.

Women, don’t be afraid of every man just because you have been hurt. Don’t date anyone you can’t trust (a general rule actually) and don’t marry anyone who doesn’t treat the women in his life well. But also, don’t put down men just because they fail. We all fail. Most of us don’t really now what we’re doing. We need to accept that and be willing to forgive.

But even more so if a man (or woman) has been cruel to you, and especially if he or she has done it on purpose, the strongest thing you can do is let it go. It only gives them power over you if you let what they did ruin the rest of your life. And this goes for any relationship.

Now, read my advice to each gender and flip it around to apply to the opposite, because the truth is, we all struggle with the same stuff, in different ways.

Okay, I’ll stop this here, until next time–Natasha.