Christian Living

How to troubleshoot your sacrifice

Today I’ve been thinking about sacrifice. I like to listen to the soundtrack for Star Trek Into Darkness when I’m writing so I regularly have that scene where Captain Kirk sacrifices himself to save the ship in my head. If you haven’t watched it, well, I realize there are people who don’t like Star Trek. It’s never made sense to me but I do know it is a fact of life šŸ™‚ You can always watch the scene on youtube (although it loses something if you watch it without the context of the movie):Ā https://youtu.be/rGOb0VmVFcQ

Anywho, sacrifice is one of the themes that pulls together many of the great stories–including Jesus’ life and death. It’s also where the rubber meets the road in the Christian life. We all sacrifice things every single day. Right now, I am sacrificing working on my novel, spending time with my kids, relaxing, and catching up on my to-do list for the sake of working on this blog. Every moment, we’re choosing to do something at the expense of all the other things we could be doing.

That’s why what you spend your time on says so much about who you are.

Sacrifice is one of those integral Christian values that I personally think we don’t spend enough time talking about. Maybe because we forget that we’re already doing it all the time. We sugarcoat sacrifice so as not to scare off non-Christians because it sounds daunting and painful. And it can be.

But imagine that I ask you whether you’d like to sacrifice your week of work for an all-expenses-paid vacation to the beach (or whatever your preferred destination is). Would you consider that a sacrifice? I bet you’d be lining up to ditch work. I know I would šŸ™‚ I love the beach. Sacrificing to go to the beach is not a sacrifice–it is a joy.

Sacrifice is like an equation: (Present – sacrifice) + time = what God wants to give you. There are two parts to that sacrifice that change the equation: 1) the value of what you’re losing and 2) the value of what you’re gaining. You might not be so interested if I were to require your firstborn child in trade. Or a million dollars. Or your mint condition Star Trek collection šŸ˜‰

Paul says he considers everything as rubbish compared to gaining Christ (Phil 3:8). In case that’s not strong enough, check out the definition for “rubbish”: “waste thrown to dogs, like filthy scraps of garbage (table-scraps, dung, muck, sweepings)” (Strongs, 4657).

So… yeah, that’s gross. It reminds me of desperately trying to convince my baby girl to let me wash the doll she carried around and sucked on every single day (we eventually cheated and bought a second one so we could trade them back and forth). It was super precious to her but also super gross.

That’s the kind of sacrifice God calls us to. He doesn’t just take something from us without giving us something even better. Like Jesus talked about with the grain of wheat–all seeds have to “die” to turn into plants (Jn 12:24). We sacrifice and God grows something awesome out of it (Rom. 8:28; Jas 1:17; Heb. 12:1-2). Sometimes it might be something completely different. Sometimes it might be the same thing–just sanctified and made into something that benefits us (vs. a germ-ridden, dingy doll).

I was reminded today that when I struggle to sacrifice something to God, it has everything to do with my perspective. Do I really believe God wants to give me something better? Do I really believe something better exists? And am I willing to be patient? Seeds don’t grow overnight. Dolls take time to wash. Sacrifices take time to bear fruit.

So what about you? What is God calling you to sacrifice? And, if you’re struggling to go through with it, which side of the equation is the problem at?

Advertisements
Uncategorized

The Mechanics of Fear

A couple weeks ago my kids ended up in a ghost-story telling session–it definitely prompted some interesting discussions. One of the things we talked about is something I’ve been thinking a lot about in my own life. Have you ever considered how fear works?

As I’ve mentioned before, I love David Eddings’ series that begins with The Belgariad. It’s one that I read regularly. At the end of The Mallorean (which is aĀ continuation of The Belgariad), Eddings’ characters talk about one of the differences between the light side and the dark side: that the child of the light is surrounded by companions who all help accomplish the task whereas the child of the dark stands alone, working with minions rather than companions, if they work with anyone.

The characters realize the dark evens out this disparity utilizing nightmares and madness, that the dark fights a mental battle–one that causes them to fight themselves. I think this is a very apt portrayal of fear. I’m not talking about caution here; we need a healthy dose of caution to keep us from doing dumb things–as Dr. McCoy says, “Fear of death is what keeps us alive.” šŸ˜‰

However, the Bible says God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). Or how about 1 John 5:8, “Perfect love casts out fear”? Because of who God is and who we are as His children, fear is not supposed to ruleĀ our lives. I’m sure there are various reasons for that, but fighting ourselves is, in my opinion, a big one.

Maybe it’s just having lived in a state of fear for a long timeĀ and seeing the deleterious effects spread to every area of my life… but I firmly believe we don’t have time to waste on fear–nor do we really want the consequences. My kids and I were talking about how if you stay awake because you’re afraid of a ghost coming in while you sleep, you end up fighting yourself. You keep yourself awake. You make yourself miserable. And all for something that’s not likely to happen.

Fear works well to mess up our lives, but not because of something happening. It works because it turns our own imaginations against us and causes us to self-destruct.

Movies

The Beauty of Brokenness

I love Star Trek. I grew up on Next Generation. I remember when the first episode aired, back in 1987. It was like a holiday in our house because my dad had been quite into the original series. I’ve never been much of an Original Series fan myself, but I’ve been sucked into the Star Trek realm for all the rest of the shows and movies and my husband and I have made our way through TOS after watching the reboots (what is with the “Spock’s Brain” episode??–really, that’s the sort of thing that would make me feel like I had egg on my face if I’d written it). My kids have seen both Tribble episodes–the TOS and the DS9. They loved Into Darkness.

Anyway! I’ve been thinking a lot about the TOS charactersĀ lately–mostly because I LOVE the movie reboots (AOS). Star Trek and Into Darkness were top drawer, cream of the crop, all that jazz. I love the characters. The plots were both fine, but the characters just blew me away. And, as I’ve been reading AOS fan fiction pretty much continuously for the past few months, I’ve found myself pondering the differences between the AOS vs. TOS characters.

Let’s just talk about Kirk and Spock because we know most about their backgrounds and it’s easy to see what I’m talking about with them. So, in the original series, Kirk grows up in a loving, stable home. His father inspires him to join Star Fleet. He goes through some serious trauma in his teen years on Tarsus IV–basically, if you’re not familiar with the story of Tarsus IV, some kind of fungus that killed all their crops and for some reason Star Fleet didn’t come right away (or wasn’t aware of the situation) and so Governor Kodos used the crisis as an opportunity to put into practice his theories on eugenics and killed half the colony so that the other half could survive (see TOS The Conscience of the King). Kirk does have this great line in Star Trek 5 (yes, I realize it’s pretty much the only redeeming part of the movie) about how his pain makes him who he is. And we do see him with an awful lot of alien women, although I’ve read someone who made the case that he genuinely gets emotionally attached to them vs. the one night stands AOS Kirk indulges in. But on the whole, this Kirk is confident, stable, and uses his genius and charm to captain the Enterprise to great heights.

Spock from TOS suffers from trying to reconcile his two halves, and he doesn’t have the best relationship with his father–although there’s not a lot of insight as to whether that’s simply because he went into Star Fleet or if it’s of longer standing than that.

In AOS, Nero’s advent does a few things. For Kirk, obviously, Nero results in the death of his father even as Kirk is born (and if you look at the star dates, he’s born prematurely; unless of course AOS just forgot when Kirk’s birthday is). Kirk’s mother is off-planet, what seems to be frequently, judging from Kirk’s delinquent tendencies. I don’t think it’s a stretch to guess that Winona Kirk probably had issues dealing with Jim simply because her husband died as Jim was being born. I’m guessing that messed up a lot of that early mother-child bonding. Jim also has an uncle/stepfather? (Frank) who is at least verbally abusive to the point that Jim’s brother runs away while Jim is young. And we don’t know about Tarsus IV, but personally, I have no problem with the idea that it still happened and he still went. Hence, you end up with a Kirk who is brash, spoiling for a fight, clearly broken… he still uses his genius and charm to captain the Enterprise to great heights, but there’s an edginess there that’s not present in TOS.

For Spock, we don’t know exactly what Nero’s advent did. The movie shows Spock being bullied on account of his mother’s heritage. Fan fic authors speculate that xenophobia increased after humans learned from Nero that Romulans and Vulcans are cousins (something that didn’t turn up in the original series until part way through season one), resulting in deteriorated Vulcan-Human relations, and thus the bullying and his path to Star Fleet. He’s not accepted by the Vulcans. Obviously, after the first movie, Spock is dealing with the loss of his planet and the loss of his mother. She doesn’t die until much later in his life in the original series. Spock too is broken.

Guess which series has more fan fics?

If you answered AOS, you’re right! On fanfiction.net alone, there are more than twice as many AOS fics as there are TOS. I realize that there are more factors at work than just the characters–TOS is TV and the fans may tend to beĀ older and perhaps less likely to write fan fic, which is after all a relatively new phenomenon; AOS is a movie series and has garnered fans from across the age spectrum.

But looking at those facts really brought something I’ve been thinking about for a while into focus for me. As an author and a reader, I love watching characters develop, and the reality is that character development takes angst. People don’t change when life is full of fluffy happiness–there’s no reason to. If I were going to write a Star Trek fan fic, I’d write it in the AOS universe because there’s more room for character development.

As Christians, we often go to great pains to look like we’ve got things together. We think that if non-Christians see how messed up we are, it’ll somehow put them off the Gospel, or if fellow Christians see how messed up we are, they’ll judge us for it. But the reality is that brokenness is winsome to people. People like the gritty, messy reality of brokenness because they can relate to it. Nobody’s perfect. If we pretend that we are perfect, we are in effect telling people that they don’t belong in our churches (or coming across as hypocrites, since everyone knows that nobody’s perfect). If we pretend that we’re perfect, we miss out on the opportunity for true community within the Church. And everyone else misses out on seeing something beautiful as God takes our brokenness and redeems it.

I talk a bit about this in my new book,Ā To Push on the Rock,Ā but I love Kintsugi–the Japanese art of pottery repair where they would fill in the cracks with lacquer mixed with gold dust. Kintsugi pieces are beautiful to see. And that’s how I feel about reading/writing a story where you watch the character go through angst that changes them or talking to someone who’s in the middle of a difficult time in their lives–there’s such beauty in the brokenness.

So why hide it?

 

Uncategorized

More Adjustments

Well, so the benefit of doing blogging this way is that I have no idea what I’m going to talk about before I actually start talking about it. Hope you enjoy a more conversational style šŸ˜‰

In case you haven’t noticed, there are a few things I’m kinda obsessed with. I have been called nerdy a few times in my life. I love Star Trek (TNG is my fav; not much of a fan of TOS, but I do love the new movies–yes, I know that makes me a heretic). I’ve read more than half of theĀ Lois & Clark fan fictionĀ archive. We watch Speed RacerĀ (the movie) whenever we spend too much time with family and need reminded that faithfulness is key to changing the world, rather than running after any certain careers. I read David Eddings’Ā Belgariad/the Malloreon whenever I need to remind myself that following God is the short-cut to getting wherever is best for me, even when it feels like getting lost. And I can’t tell you how many days it feels like getting lost. I read Penelope Wilcox’s TheĀ Hawk and the Dove when I feel like my brokenness is a hinderance to God’s ability to use me–that maybe by virtue of my absolutely destroyed physical health and sometimes precarious emotional health, I’m unusable, the days when I start feeling sorry for my kids because they have such a sick mom, that kind of thing. I’ve read/watched more versions of Cinderella than I can remember–excited for Disney’s new version! Since it came out, I’ve been reading Rowlings’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows every year around Easter. And this year I celebrate reading Pride & Prejudice at least once a year for twenty years (woohoo!!). I do so love that book. We named our daughter after Jane Austen and Jane Bennet. Someone recently asked me how many books I read more than once and I didn’t really have an answer for that. As I’ve mentioned, books are part of my soul adjustment. I don’t think I could breathe without stories to remind me of what’s true–not that I’m saying that the Bible isn’t more important because obviously it is.

So since it’s New Year’s and time for Pride & Prejudice, I’ve started reading Pride & Prejudice fan fiction (in addition to reading Pamela Aidan’s fabulous Fitzwilliam Darcy Trilogy). I’ve been reading a lot of fan fiction the past 7 months–basically since I got sick in July. It’s amazing how being too sick to function opens up lots of reading time. Anyway! I have read so many terribly written stories that there have been days when I literally have wished I could take my brain out of my skull and wash it. It terrifies me when I realize some of these people actually thought their writing was editedĀ enough to post on the internet for all to read–mostly because I’m scared that my writing is really that bad, but no one has the heart to tell me šŸ˜‰ (ps–that wasn’t fishing for compliments, just sharing) Today, however, I read a version of P&P that I fell in love with called A Rush of Blackbirds. I could probably happily talk about character development for hours, so I’ll try to keep this short. Basically, the thing I loved about this version is that the author pushed Lizzie until she broke. It could be where I’m at in my life, but I am in love with stories that haveĀ lots and lots of angst. There’s something so satisfying about reading/writing a story where people are pushed far beyond their coping capacity and then somehow by the end, things work out ok.

In case you’re not familiar with the concept of fan faction, the author takes well-known characters/stories and basically changes something and then writes about how that change affects the rest of the story or sometimes they write the further adventures of the character. In this version of P&P, the author had Darcy get injured just before Bingley and co. were going to leave Netherfield, which meant that they all ended up staying. Darcy gets over his pride quite a bit earlier in the story. Elizabeth recognizes her own attraction to Darcy quite a bit earlier. I’ve never really spent a lot of time thinking about Elizabeth’s home situation, which is odd given how much my own family has played into my issues and how much Darcy throws her family in her face. This author talked about how traumatic it must have been for Elizabeth to have her father be so checked out, and yet how torn she was because she was his favorite. How hard it was for her to have her mother constantly put her down… for her mother to tell her she’d ruined the family by refusing Mr. Collins. How much she missed Jane, especially when she had some angst in her life and no one to turn to. And how even strong personalities reach a breaking point and need love to heal. It was beautiful.