Saturday, October 15, 2011

Making the Move

I'll be making the move to WordPress in a short while. Please update your links and feed reader!

awildernesslife.wordpress.com

Pride and Prejudice

is my favorite novel. Some of you are rolling your eyes right now, because it's so stereotypical -- a female English major whose favorite novel is Pride and Prejudice? Get out. Shocking. But hang out for a sec, guys. It's not for the reasons you might think.

Lots of people, both men and women, have the idea that Pride and Prejudice is a love story between two perfect characters. I've seen... oh, I reckon at least a half-dozen ranty posts and articles from men criticizing women for liking P&P, lamenting the existence of Fitzwilliam Darcy, the supposedly ideal man. I've also heard countless women talking in (understandably) swoony voices about the (rightly) famous BBC adaptation and Colin Firth's utterly delicious portrayal of one of the most well-known characters in all literature, or the newer adaptation with the equally delicious Matthew MacFadyen...

OK, sorry. I know I lost a few of you there.

The point is, the rather sexy movie/TV serial adaptations are not the book. The book is not even a romance. It's scarcely a love story -- it's really not about "love" as much as marriage, in a society where love was often considered a bonus to that institution, not a prerequisite. You want the bottom line? Pride and Prejudice is a (sometimes gentle, sometimes quite biting) satire of Regency society and relationships, with an especially sharp eye cast toward marriage and particularly men's roles in making marriage successful or otherwise. In plain English: it's about marriage and men, good and bad.

You know the old saw about Austen "writing what she knew"? I don't buy it.

More to come on the marriages and the men of P&P, what we can learn from it, and why men ought to read it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Grieving"

AUGH.

OK. Look. Most of the time I just roll my eyes at the psychology-isms that creep into Christian vocabulary, but I heard someone yesterday talking about "grieving the end of your twenties" and I just about lost it. Utter, utter crap.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In a poetic mood.

Whatever that means.

Sometimes the mood strikes me to write a poem. And sometimes I do, and it's awful, and sometimes I do, and it's "fair to middlin'" as my father would say, and sometimes it's just what I wanted. Sometimes I hit all those perfect authorial high notes -- lean, vivid, evocative, just the right combination of wit and punch.

I guess I have to realize that all my writing is like that -- that hitting "publish" on this blog is going to mean that I put a lot of things out there that I'm not satisfied with, that I go back and read months later and cringe at. I'm no "First-Draft" Lewis, and I never will be (alas?). And I realize that part of the discipline of being a writer is just continuing to hit "publish" week after week even when I don't have anything profound at the front of my mind. Because sometimes when I write a poem, it starts out as a sloppy ramble and ends up quite nicely summing up a thought filed away back in my brain. I reckon writing here won't be any different.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lent, Day 29? Or something? Maybe?

Thoughts on blogging through Lent, in no particular order:

It was SUCH a mistake to put numbers in the titles of these Lent posts. Yikes.

I don't know why I ever thought I could be a journalist. I can barely manage to hit "publish" my own dang blog every day (by which I mean "most days"), much less deal with an external writing deadline, with content that matters AND has to be coherent and factual, day in and day out. Thinking about it kind of makes my blood pressure go up.

This spring has been a tough one. Usually by this point in the year, I'm feeling basically free of the winter funk, and I'm busy, rested, and motivated. This year? Let's just say that the winter funk is persisting.

Not-unrelatedly, a friend and I are reading Russ Moore's new book Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ.



I'm working on writing up each chapter as I read it. So far the verdict is possibly least-surprisingly-awesome book I've ever read. By which I mean, Dr. Moore's stuff is almost entirely fantastic -- convicting, encouraging, focused on Jesus -- and this, being no exception, did not catch me off guard with its amazingness. I highly recommend it, not only for the practical theology content, but for the strength of Dr. Moore's authorial voice. Reading this book is just like being in class with him. He's funny, relatable, a bit provocative, really, really Southern (in that genteel, coastal South way, not a redneck or hillbilly way), and whip-smart. Oh, and he loves Johnny Cash.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lent, Day I am a terrible blogger!

Seriously, how Type A do you have to be to blog EVERY. SINGLE. DAY? Apparently a whole lot more Type A than I am. Tomorrow I'll start posting the next academic thingo, on the inerrancy debate. It's another one for a class, so I'll break it up into pieces again.

I got the sweetest letter in the mail from one of my Aussie besties last weekend, which was so great. It's really made me grateful for the fact that the Lord gave me a whole pack of fabulous friends in Oz when I went down there the first time just to visit one person. An incalculable blessing, really. I can't wait to be able to go back -- wish I could go every year but every two seems like a pretty good balance, since, so far, in the "between" years, I have Aussie guests staying at Chez Laura! Anyway, the letter was a whopper, long and chatty and newsy, with photos enclosed and a lovely piece of bona fide 3-year-old artwork. Aren't you jealous? Everyone wants cool letters from their overseas friends!

It was a bit of a crap weekend, to be honest -- or at least a slightly roller-coaster weekend: fun times with friends intermingled with a lot of OUCH. Plus, I spent almost four hours sitting in a coffee shop on Saturday getting absolutely nothing accomplished on the aforementioned paper. Ooh, but! Highlight! There's a newish restaurant in Louisville called Hammerheads, and anyone nearby needs to go ASAP. It's ridiculously good. Amazing. It's a total dive -- low ceilings, crusty old tables and chairs, zero ambiance -- with the most delicious food, focused on smoked meat, in a kind of gastropub way. Major yum.

In other news, I'm super excited to be reading through Russ Moore's new book, Tempted and Tried (read excerpts here and here), with a good friend. We're getting together to talk about it this week and I am stoked about it. Dr. Moore is the VP of Southern Seminary, as well as being one of the sharpest, most relatable, most theologically incisive dudes alive and writing at the moment. If you don't subscribe to his weekly podcast, The Cross and the Jukebox, you are missing out. Tempted and Tried looks to be a ripping read as well as a major encouragement.

All righty, that's all I've got. Peace out.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lent, Day 23: Ugh?

Does it make me a bad person that I just can't get worked up about the word "inerrancy"? Most people in the church I grew up in probably have never heard the word. That's ok. Some people have a problem with the connotation of the word -- that it's overly-precise or connotes a sort of scientific view of Scripture that's not in view when we're talking about truthfulness. That's ok with me too.  Some people don't like it because it refers, as a technical term, to manuscripts we don't possess (namely the autographs or original copies). I totally get the hesitation. If someone isn't rejecting the larger understanding of the truthfulness of Scripture or using a non-inerrantist position to excuse disobedience to God's word, I honestly can't make myself care that they discard the term itself. Is that wrong?

Someone is probably going to knock on my door in a minute and take away my Young, Restless, and Reformed card.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lent, Day 20: IT SNOWED YESTERDAY YOU GUYS

WASN'T THAT RIDICULOUS?

(At this point, you're probably saying to yourself, "Now she's just posting so she can say she's posted something." And you'd be right.)

So also yesterday, in addition to the SNOW WHAT NO WAY THAT WAS STUPID, I came across the funniest re-telling of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight EVER (seriously, I was wiping tears and doing that thing where you go back and read bits of it aloud... to yourself... alone... in your living roo-- wait, that's just me, then?), and briefly considered linking to it but it was so crammed with bad language (the whole site was, too; this wasn't just a one-off and although I have a relatively high tolerance for language in humorous settings it was about 1000% too much) that I decided against it. But if you're ever in the mood for a Google adventure, you will know it by its trail of F-bombs and its ABSOLUTELY DEAD-ON assessment of Sir Gawain and basically the entire King Arthur mythos. It's like Kanye and Mitch Hedberg chillin' in their dorm room, getting blazed and ranting about their Brit Lit syllabus.

Yeah, that's about enough.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lent, Day 19: UGH UGH SNOW UGH

Seriously, it snowed last night. Probably an inch of wet, heavy snow. Friday is the first day of April.

This week I'll finish the serious posts I started last week, and then I've got another paper due next weekend, so here's hoping I'll get that posted in pieces the following week. And then my sweet mama will be here to visit for the week! Hooray!

I'm so annoyed with the weather that that's all I've got.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lent, Day 18: Downton Abbey!

I am a sucker for the English Country House setting in books, movies, and TV. Murder mysteries, upstairs-downstairs type stuff, overwrought dramas -- you name it, I'll watch it if it's set pre-1940 at a country estate. So when I found out that Julian Fellowes, who wrote the screenplay for my absolute favorite movie (as well as for the heart-stoppingly beautiful The Young Victoria), had developed and written a Masterpiece Classics miniseries about a pre-WWI aristocratic English family with three eligible daughters and an entailed estate, I was sold. It's called Downton Abbey, and all you need to know is that Maggie Smith is in it, and at her gloriously condescending, sharp-witted best. The costumes, score, and scenery are nothing to scoff at either, and the supporting cast populated with faces you'll recognize if you're a fan of Brit flicks of almost any kind. Highly, highly recommended.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lent, Day 17? Maybe? Anyway: FOOTBALL

I am RIGHT NOW watching the first Aussie Rules football game of the season. WOOOOOO!

Basketball will always be first in my heart when it comes to sports, but Aussie Rules is SO MUCH FUN I can't even begin to describe it. I'm a total convert. Familiarize yourself with footy here, check out the official site here, learn all about my team here, and watch games here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lent, Day WHATEVER IT IS NOW: Oh, Honestly.

Why do I always think I'll have LOADS of time and brain power to work on the blog while I'm on vacation? You'd think that after twenty-whatever years of writing rubbish in my spare time, I'd have learned that vacation = no desire to think any thoughts beyond, "Ooh! I wonder if I can watch reruns of America's Next Top Model online somewhere while I drink my third cup of tea?" (Answer: obviously.)

Anyway, I will get back to that Very Serious Topic I started the other day or week, soon. Sometime before Lent is over. In the meantime, please visit Angus and nag him to post some more (football season is starting, Angus, and your reading public DEMANDS a really dishy footy/gossip post), or get out some tissues and read this touching post about Dave Brubeck, or go vote in the Fug Madness Sweet Sixteen, or something. Maybe tomorrow I'll have... oh, you know what, never mind. I'll be back tomorrow with some other nonsense.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lent, Day 15: Back From The Road Trip

Today in the car on my way back from seeing the fam in Indianapolis, I heard "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons, and then got home to find this in my blog reader. Appropriate.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lent, Day 14: Doctrinal Discernment, Part 1

So. In the field of psychology, there's this phenomenon called "cognitive dissonance." In simple terms, cognitive dissonance is when someone holds two contradictory ideas simultaneously without recognizing the contradiction. It's a mental block, of sorts, that keeps us from noticing or properly evaluating logical incongruities in our own belief systems.

Now, every human post-Fall has been subject to cognitive dissonance, but I think it's a particular problem in postmodern society. Throw in a slipshod or nonexistent education in the field of logic, and the vigorously pluralistic message preached from every media outlet in the West, and you've got a steaming hot, high-octane cup of Doctrinal Issues, Man, just waiting to give you the jitters.

And boy, are we ever jittery about it.

For those of you who don't know about this brouhaha with Rob Bell in the last month, first, welcome to the internet, and second, let me give you a quick rundown. Since Bell appeared on the scene several years ago with his wildly popular Nooma videos, he's come across as a basically likeable, incredibly compelling brother with some distressingly squishy positions on a few doctrines, and the typical Evangelical response to him has been equal parts brow-furrowing and eye-rolling, with the occasional rebuke thrown in.

But a few weeks ago, he released a promo video for his new book. And that's when the proverbial excrement hit the air-conditioning, to borrow Kurt Vonnegut's phrase. As is typical for Bell, he asked a very provocative series of questions that led a lot of people to believe that he had embraced Universalism. The release of the book a couple weeks later basically served to confirm that suspicion.  (If you want more detail about that business, the Google search bar is right up there at the top of the page; knock yourself out.)

But between the release of the video and now, no real consensus has emerged on how to refer to and think of him and other Universalists. Do we embrace a sort of agnosticism about their salvation? Do we think of them as unsaved, and seek to evangelize accordingly? Do we affirm their salvation and correct their doctrinal errors from inside the family, so to speak?

In other words, is it possible that a person can hold a heterodox position on this sort of issue and still be saved? Can a person's doctrine be as orthodox as St. Paul's, with one massive, glaring exception?

Can cognitive dissonance save us?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lent, Day 13: In Which I Narrowly Slide In Before The Deadline

Whew, this blogging every day thing is a trip, man. Just one day of, you know, doing stuff outside of my house with people and the whole thing almost collapses!

Rather than confuse you with some hastily-written nonsense about that thing I told you I was going to write about and still totally am I swear, I will just send you to this comic. You can thank me later. (Caution: occasional salty language ahead.) (Also, I just tried to spell "cautioin" and "occasioinal" but those are not words.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lent, Day 12: It Is Well With My Soul

This is an appropriate follow-up to yesterday's post, actually.  If you don't know the story behind this beautiful hymn, grab a tissue and read about it. I'm totally serious about grabbing a tissue. Don't say I didn't warn you.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control:
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul!

Horatio Spafford

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lent, Day 11: The Black Dog

This past week I was incredibly productive. I wrote a paper, got my tax stuff organized, worked on (and finished!) grades, cleaned my house, hung out with friends, took care of the last of Mt. Recycling that was in the closet, and did all the normal stuff of the week -- teaching, community group, cooking, errands. I feel rested and energized and am looking forward to a whole week of vacation in which to do things and see people and finish projects.

But a few weeks ago, my mood was very different. I could feel myself getting better as the days grew longer, but I was still struggling with what's probably the number one symptom of my seasonal depression: a knotty anxiety about getting anything accomplished. Even simple tasks like grading student essays look Herculean, and anything larger or more stressful I find absolutely paralyzing. I can even objectively recognize the simplicity of a task, and the necessity of doing it, but then my brain just shuts down when it comes to taking the first step. Churchill's "black dog" was still sitting ominously in the corner.

And when all this is going on, I am a very, very bad friend. I can handle getting together with friends to chat about trivialities; I can talk theology all day long because I enjoy it. I can certainly recognize my own sin (usually in an unhealthy way), but dealing with it productively in community becomes, again, an almost-insurmountable task.  But when friends are suffering and struggling -- and there's been plenty of that this winter -- I retreat in fear.

Whether I'm avoiding grading papers or paralyzed with anxiety about speaking into a friend's pain, the next thing that happens is a wave of guilt and condemnation. You should be able to do this. You're being irresponsible. You're a terrible person, and you're going to end up jobless, homeless, friendless and alone if you don't stop it. Do something! And the Black Dog rears his ugly head and says, You can't. It's too hard. Why bother?

And then, of course, the cycle starts again, because fear and shame are not good motivators.

But this last week has reminded me again of God's grace in the midst of this struggle. I don't know if my mood issues will ever go away or even improve. I don't know if there will ever be a January and February where dread and guilt aren't undercurrents. But I do know that in the Gospel I have hope -- the kind of hope that doesn't disappoint.

The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is at work in me, and promises that, as surely as the spring returns every year, the final renewal approaches that will never again cycle back into the bleak darkness of sin and death and despair. A day is coming when there will be no need of a sun to shine because the Lamb will radiate His own glory in the midst of the New Jerusalem.

So, friends, thanks for bearing with me through the difficult months of winter.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lent, Day 10: Toward Doctrinal Discernment

I can't believe I'm doing this.  I can't believe I'm going to talk about Rob Bell, just like every other freakin' person in the evangelical world right now.  Seriously. And on a BLOG, too! Oh, the humanity! But here I go, wading into the ridiculous fray of potential quadrupling of Google hits, and trolls, and really sweet-tempered "evangelical universalists" persistently nice-ing people to death in the comments section, and whatever other nonsense has been going on in the blogosphere the last couple of weeks.

But really, I'm only going to talk about Rob Bell in a kind of broad, referential way, as a starting point for what I think is another really important discussion for modern evangelical life. (That's a hint to trolls and argumentative universalists to take a hike, and to cage-stage Calvinists that there's not gonna be any ammo for you here. Hasta luego, Blog Crazies.)

The question is this: is there a point when we stop referring to someone as a brother or sister in Christ? When? Under what circumstances? Once we've reached that point, how universal or extensive, then, do we make that declaration -- to whom else do we apply it? What's the next step in addressing that person? That group? That movement?

So, for the next few days, Lord willing, I'm going to talk about what I think is a good strategy for thinking about and addressing people whose theological positions on certain issues are problematic or borderline unorthodox, without either being a total jerk or turning what ought to be serious doctrinal discussions into sloppy hug-fests where everyone feels good but nobody knows what the devil anyone actually believes about anything or if that even matters.

Stay tuned!