Friday, September 7, 2012

Robinson Crusoe: Thankfulness and Discipline

PREAMBLE

In the last few months, I've pared down my commitments considerably. One of the first side effects I observed was the desire, now that I had the time and energy, to, literally, put my house in order. That is now nearly completed - the interior has been restored to order and all that remains is the yard (although that is no small task).

I've also begun to notice old interests resurfacing - things I'd forgotten I enjoyed. The most recent of these is my interest in abstract thinking, pursued via reading and discourse. I've amassed a decent collection of literature over the last decade or so and much of it, particularly the non-fiction, sits as yet unread. In light of my recent revelation, I decided I would pick a starting point and work my way through the unread volumes. I am easily paralyzed by decision making so I asked my brother, who lives with me, to pick the starting point (or rather, starting bookcase). He suggested I try 'spin the bottle', so I grabbed a bottle from the fridge, spun it, and found my starting 'case. He then flipped a coin for me and, as it landed on tales, I began with the first unread book on the bottom shelf - Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.

I was nearing the end this morning and, reflecting on my penchant for moving from tale to tale so quickly that I allow myself no time for digestion, I decided I should make myself write little 'book reports' as I finished each book. (NOTE: Assuming I stick with this practice, I probably will skip over or amend it in the case of collections of poems & short stories.) Also, since what is a blog but a place for oft-ignored, self-indulgent ramblings, I thought this the proper place for 'sharing' them.

ROBINSON CRUSOE

Robinson Crusoe was written in a time when it was unsavory to write fiction unless it had some clear moral application (ie Aesops fables), so authors took to pitching their tales as authentic adventures.

Crusoe has a wandering streak that will not be denied and it leads him into one disaster after another until, at last, he finds himself on a deserted island. From my vague notions about Robinson Crusoe I thought he had his 'man Friday' with him this whole time. No, he lived twenty-some years in isolation with nothing but a few domestic animals for company and no one to talk with but his parrot, Poll.

Early in his stay on the island he comes to repentance and faith and it changes his perspective dramatically from one of misery to one of thankfulness. I enjoyed his musings on how foolishly discontent we are when Providence has provided us with so much - both materially and, greater still, spiritually.

A couple favorite quotes:
"...whenever they come to a true sense of things, they will find deliverance from sin a much greater blessing than deliverance from affliction"
"All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have."

Much of the book is taken up with his descriptions of how he ordered his days on the island and how he, slowly & persistently, worked out various problems - how to make bread, how to tame livestock, how to raise crops, how to fortify his residence. Reading this account, I concluded that, were I myself similarly stranded, aside from the worry which my want of skill should give me, I believe I would die simply as a result of my laziness. I lose focus so quickly when I set myself to a difficult task - I am so slow to undertake it and so quick to set it aside - that I doubt I could ever provide myself sufficient shelter or food before the want of such proved fatal to me. Thankfully, I do not have to settle for my current lazy state but can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, battle it. Realizing this, I was rather excited to have something of Robinson Crusoe's that I could practice - since I'm not likely to try my hand at domesticating wild goats or carving trees into canoes anytime soon.

The book ends, after Crusoe's inevitable rescue, rather abruptly. I actually flipped back and forth a couple times in disbelief. Aside from the awkward ending, I enjoyed the book & wonder at myself for putting off anything heavier than what I call 'airplane fiction' for so long.


Praying to keep Crusoe's lessons of thankfulness & discipline,
R

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Kittens & Fish

I've added a small aquarium to the house: a 5 gallon tank with a blue betta fish (Indigo) and a small snail posse. Indy is doing his job well, keeping the kittens (and myself) entertained:





How have I gone this long without an aquarium?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Singleness

Most everything I've read or heard about Christian Singleness has left a bad taste in my mouth so, having encountered two refreshing blogs about Christian Singleness recently, I simply had to share them.

The first is from the Gospel Coalition and was shared with me by a friend who recently remarried. It's entitled Singleness with a Purpose. I'm especially thankful for his second point. I've never heard anyone cast a vision for the way Singleness uniquely portrays Christ and the Church (if I have, it has escaped me and if you're the one who shared it with me...I apologize :}).

The second is from my friend Laura Roberts. She's a single gal a few years my junior. Her post from earlier today is titled A Thought or Two on Singleness and Sanctification.

I find that I am inspired when I have a vision before me. These blogs both work to cast a Biblical vision of Singleness. So often I've felt the vision set before me as a single woman was simply "prepare yourself for your future husband" (who, incidentally, may or may not exist and who, if he does exist, will only be my husband for at best 50 or so years).

The vision of these posts is "prepare yourself for Christ" (my now and eternal bridegroom).

Singles, be encouraged and challenged. Marrieds, encourage and challenge your single friends with the vision of these posts.

Ephesians 5:15-16
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Let us be careful not to waste our days, be they single days or married days.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Recommended Reading

I just finished a quick read through Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton and am going back to sink in and practice the exercises in each chapter.

If you're new to silence and solitude (or to spiritual disciplines in general), let me suggest Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline as a primer. There's even a study guide that goes with it.

Lastly, if you're not sure about the place of Spiritual Disciplines in the Christian life, I'd suggest checking out the chapter on Sanctification (ch. 38) in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. He only just mentions it, but the chapter gives a nice framework for thinking about practicing Spiritual Disciplines. This chapter is part of a larger section on The Doctrine of the Application of Redemption. The chapters are all pretty short and, for a theology text, it's an incredibly accessible read.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Camping!


I returned home today from my first camping trip this year - the first of several I hope. We camped in Hoosier National Forest. It was gorgeous. I'm just a novice camper but I really liked their camp grounds - cheap, plentiful bathroom facilities (which were pretty nice for camp bathrooms), good site layout, good proximity to hiking trails and lakes (open for swimming after Memorial Day, I believe), etc. Plus it's just over an hour outside of Louisville (no matter what Google Maps tells you).

Laura Short, a fellow Sojourner, camped with me and she brought along her 1yr old St. Bernard, Arthur. He was our great protector over the weekend :}



I got to build my first fire all-by-myself!! Laura gave me some pointers Saturday night and then, since I got up first today, I built this morning's fire.



We cooked our fancy (for camp meals) over the open flame Saturday night - skillet roasted fajita veggies and Italian sausage for me, roasted veggies with hummus and veggie soup with Quinoa for Laura. Laura actually brought a cutting board and prepped her meal from scratch. I just bought a bag of pre-seasoned fajita veggies from Kroger :}.





And, of course, chocolate-covered cream-puffs for dessert.



Between building my first fire all-by-my-lonesome, cooking my own meal over the open-flame, and setting up my tent so it actually stayed dry despite the rain Friday, I'm pretty proud of myself :}

I made a few camping supply purchases before I left town Friday and got to use all but one of them. I felt like a pro using my camping skillet and swiss-army-knife-style utensils. The tarp I purchased to put under my tent is ginormous! I think I could tarp my house with this thing. And I think my favorite purchase is my little LED lantern. It came in very handy...plus it's cute :}

Now that I'm home, I've started a "Camping Gear Wishlist". First item? Air Mattress. Me + Hard ground = Uncomfortable. Second item? Larger tent. I slept diagonally in my tent and I still didn't really have room to fully extend my legs and keep my sleeping bag and pillow from touching the edge of the tent.



I'm really looking forward to my next trip. I hope to try and camp during each break between Theology class sessions.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Bibliography of Non-Fiction

I was realizing yesterday that I've been diving deep into the non-fiction this past 6-9 months - well, deep for me :}. At any rate, I'm about to get another book (and I'm quite excited about it) and so I thought I'd share a list of these books that have been blessing and encouraging me lately.

1-Depression: A Stubborn Darkness, by Edward Welch
This book was a huge encouragement to me over the last year and I've been recommending it like crazy.

2-Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Bible Doctrine, by Wayne Grudem
I've been studying through this with some other women and it's been a huge blessing. We'll be reaching the half-way mark in a few weeks. Woohoo!

3-Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, by Bob Kauflin
I've started reading through this with a couple other ladies on our worship team. So far I've found it very accessible and it has been encouraging a right and renewed heart toward what we do as servants in this ministry.

4-Transformed Into Fire: Discovery Your True Identity as God's Beloved, by Judih Hougen
This is the one I just ordered so I don't have a personal endorsement at this point. But, it was recommended to me by the person who hooked me up with the first book so I'm optimistic :}. Hopefully I'll have more to say about this one soon.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is that a light I see at the end of that tunnel?

How am I feeling? Pretty excellent, thank you for asking. And you know what? I've been in that excellent mood pretty consistently since Friday night. Yep, that's right, Friday night.

Consider this my "Praise Ye the Lord" post.

Seriously.

I praise the Lord for the gift of this excellent mood. I can't remember when I last felt this good for this long.

(Note: I'm coming off an 11hr+ stint of programming. My thoughts are a tad...gelatinous...so please forgive me if I wander into incoherency)

Thanksgiving 2008 marked the beginning of a long, dark journey with that new flavor of depression I've been blogging about here. And I think I was dealing with a bit of depression even before then.

There are a few landmarks that stand out in my mind since that Thanksgiving:
- December 2008 is a blur
- January 2009 marked the onset of my anxiety issues
- I believe it was in March that I visited the doctor to see if there was a physical cause behind my fatigue, short-term memory & concentration issues, depression, and anxiety
- Around April I talked with Mike Cosper about what I was going through and he challenged the sorry state of my spiritual disciplines & got me the Depression book I've been raving about ever since
- In August, at work, I felt like I had suddenly awakened and wondered what had been going on for the last 6 months - I believe this was the result of my fatigue and concentration issues beginning to abate - I thanked God for this since I had started facilitating the Women's Systematic Theology class during the summer and was about to see what it looked like when I tried to do that while co-leading a CG; I also began to notice a cycle of anxiety issues
- Around the holidays (Thanksgiving - New Year) I had a set back into numbness; the fatigue returned but the anxiety issues temporarily abated
- Around January 2010 the numbness began to lift again and the anxiety returned but without the most dramatic episodes
- Since Mid-February I've started to feel more...capable...that's probably the best way to put it
- Sometime last Friday night, during the DPR CD release show, when I was mentally exhausted from a 47+hr week of programming, something shifted and I slipped into an *excellent* mood

I don't know what all God has used to bring this about, or how long it will last, but I will praise Him for this excellent mood as long as it's here. And I pray I grow in praising Him through the not-so-excellent moods as well.

Here are a few of my guesses as to what God's been using to bring about the shift I've seen just since February:
- I've had a couple good "clearing the air" conversations where I was able to talk out, with the relevant individuals, things I'd been suppressing for months. Even the thought that I could talk about those things was a change from before and I consider it a gift from God.
- The first of those "clearing the air" conversations came with an epiphany that shed significant, helpful light on my ongoing struggle with identity and contentment.
- I've been soda-free for almost 2 weeks now and have, therefore, broken the sugar-high cycle
- I've been enjoying my work more and more (which is itself a gift from God: Ecclesiastes 3:13)
- I've been feeling astonishingly free of fear (which also traces back to those "clearing the air" conversations and the aforementioned epiphany)

I thank God for these things.

Since I've shared my depression with you, O anonymous people of the internet, I wanted to share my joy with you as well. Please join me in saying "Thanks be to God!"

And let me also say "thank you" to those who have been journeying with me through this season. I'm so relieved by this good mood that I'm finding it easy to forget all the hard work & struggle that went on through the dark season (which, for all I know, will return tomorrow, but let us praise the Lord for the sun as long as it shines :}). I believe, by the grace of God, that I've grown in my ability to suffer well and a lot of that has been because of the help, encouragement, wise counsel, and accountability of the friends God has blessed me with. If this season had come a few years ago things would have looked much different.

Thank you God. Thank you for your faithfulness through this season. Thank you for growing me through it. Thank you for the *incredible* blessing of the community you have built up around me. Thank you for the moments of brightness along the way. Thank you for all the lessons I've learned (and am still learning). And thank you for this moment, for this excellent mood, however long it lasts.

Praise Ye the Lord.