July 28th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

This morning, I woke up, and I did not want cold cereal. I did not want eggs, either. These are basically the two available options at my house on any given morning. But cereal felt too unsatisfying, and I didn’t want anything hot. I wanted something cold, sweet, and fruity, like a pastry or a turnover.

So I decided to walk to the gas station in town and pick up a couple of Hostess “apple pies.” Let’s be clear: they are not apple pies; they merely masquerade under that title. They are overprocessed packages of carcinogenic calories, but that is what I wanted.

But my mother suggested a quick trip to the bakery just a couple of miles out in the country. There I would be able to buy a bag of some doughnut-y thing for the same price, and it would basically be homemade! It would be far tastier, there would be even more of it, and it would probably be at least as healthy for me.

I grabbed my wallet, put on a baseball cap (it’s too early to bother getting rid of my unmanageable bed-head), and hopped in my car. I drove to the bakery. I saw by the sign that they weren’t open for another 5 minutes, so I listened to some music while I cracked open Studies in Theology by Loraine Boettner, skipped right to the back of the book and got started learning about atonement.

This was very strange of me. Though I often want food, I can be so lazy that I would rather go without food I don’t really want, even if it is available, but I never do the work to get the food I really do want if that food isn’t readily available. To actually do the work to get food that I want was, for me, a rare thing. (Granted, driving may not seem like a lot of work, but it can be unpleasant enough for me.) So here I am, in an oddly hyper-motivated state: I have my goal, and I am working towards it. I have taken unnecessary steps to get there. I mean, I don’t even need to have such a goal as this: I could be eating frosted mini-wheats right now, but I have chosen what was in some sense, the harder path for the greater pleasure.

Shortly thereafter, the bakery opened, and I walked to the door. On the door was a sign that listed their hours again, and it also listed what services are available each day. On Tuesdays (like today) they don’t have a full bakery. They do bulk, and have a limited bakery. I didn’t know how limited, and I had driven all the way out there, so I would have been stupid to walk away without seeing what was there.

I walked to the front desk, and asked the lady what was available today. She repeated what was on the sign, and said that they didn’t have what I was looking for. I was not going to get a fresh, homemade turnover this morning. It was not meant to be.

I got back in my car and drove to the gas station where I picked up two apple pies. They cost $1.50 apiece. It was a rip-off. I enjoyed eating them; it just wasn’t how I expected things to end.


July 27th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

I’ve been trying to figure out for a long time just what goodness is. Goodness is this strange thing that is attached to God, sex, and ice cream. All three have this “goodness” thing. How can that be? What do they have in common that allows all three of them to be called “good”?

This is, to me, a very strange state of affairs. These three have been my paradigm cases of “goodness”. That three such ridiculously incongruent things can all be said to be good makes goodness and altogether mysterious and slippery concept. Furthermore, these three cases are also extraordinarily complicated in and of themselves. (Ice cream is, no doubt, the least complicated, philosophically speaking, but still, don’t get me started on the mysterious nature of the gustatory experience.)

The only thing I can find in common between the three of them, is that they are, in the right context, a source of happiness. I have no doubt that my definition of goodness will change in the years to come, but this is my definition of goodness now: “that which, in the right context, brings pure and unmitigated happiness.”

Ice cream is good. It can bring unadulterated happiness. The experience of ice cream, with some chocolate and caramel syrup, I might add, brings a smile to my face every time. But in the wrong context (i.e., when consumed too much), it can be a source of long-term pain (i.e. health problems).

Sex is good. (I speak from a rather limited experience, but I do know a few authorities on the matter.) I can’t vouch exactly for whether its participants generally smile, but I imagine that smiles aren’t the only way people express happiness. In the wrong context, however, sex can be a source of deep and lasting pain. Wrong relationships, or ones that have been wrecked, leave scars—scar that can be redeemed, but scars nonetheless.

God is good. This I know for sure. It is not a goodness that is soft and cuddly; God’s goodness can be violent and frightful. But for the one who stands in right relation to him, God’s goodness is the goodness from which all lesser goodnesses flow. To know God fully is to have no other desire or care but him. But woe to those who would stand against God, for they will fall, and their unhappiness will be forever, because God is good.

There are two ways in which this idea of goodness affects me. First of all, this shows me just how stupid sin is. Idolatry is saying that something other than God is my ultimate source of happiness. To over-eat is to say that food makes me happier than God—that food is better (more good) than God. This is ridiculous. Ice cream does not have more goodness than God! To view pornography is to say that these images and women are good—they are my source of happiness, they and not God are good and bring me pleasure. Again, when I realize what goodness is, this is absolutely ridiculous! All of my sin and idolatry is based on puny pleasures of messed up goodnesses that don’t bring pure happiness. Their joy lasts for but a moment, but the baggage they bring with them builds up and can be carried for a long time. God, in his goodness and love, has attached consequences to these that show their inadequacy—they do not bring happiness; they are not good.

Idolatry, then, is a hideous lie. To sin is to call something good that is not good (at least in some context). It is to say that this thing that I have made with my own hands, this wooden statue, can bring my more pleasure than can my God. When I sin, I am saying that compared my idol, God is incapable of bringing me the same amount of happiness and joy.

Put this way, it is plain just how ridiculous and nasty our sin is. When I sin, I am not just a rebel, but a flat-out idiot. No one is history can claim to have acted with more stupidity then me. I have climbed to the peaks of the mental mountains of lunacy. I have sat in the throne of the imbecile, and no one can cast me from it; it is mine forever. When I sin, then am I stupid.

The second way that this idea of goodness affects me is this, that it gives me an absolutely unmitigated hope for the future. I do believe God is good. His actions toward me is filled with lovingkindness. His chastisement is to bring me happiness, and the deepest of my hurts are going to be redeemed by him so that they will increase my joy in him still more and more. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for my God is with me. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for me. Like a fountain that never ceases to flow, that fills the whole earth with water, that floods above the highest mountain, so great is his goodness to me, and so great is my happiness in him alone.

Church History

July 7th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m working my way through an online class in church history. (I’m not taking the class for credit, but the recordings are free online.) Today I heard about the martyrdom of Polycarp. He showed any eternal perspective (and some wit) in the face of severe torture.

Polycarp 11:1
Whereupon the proconsul said; ‘I have wild beasts here and I will throw thee to them, except thou repent’ But he said, ‘Call for them: for the repentance from better to worse is a change not permitted to us; but it is a noble thing to change from untowardness to righteousness’

Polycarp 11:2
Then he said to him again, ‘I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, if thou despisest the wild beasts, unless thou repent.’ But Polycarp said; ‘Thou threatenest that fire which burneth for a season and after a little while is quenched: for thou art ignorant of the fire of the future judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly. But why delayest thou? Come, do what thou wilt.’

Bet you didn’t know that early church father’s spoke in KJV English, did you?


July 4th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Today at lunch we had fresh cherries. Cherries are distinguished from other fruit both by their fantastic taste and their long, flexible stems. Though I have eaten cherries many times before, today I tried, for the first time ever, to tie a stem in a knot in my mouth.

This is a feat of unmitigated skill, requiring strategy, spatial awareness, and great tactile sensitivity. I am pleased to announce that I did indeed tie the stem in a knot. It was not easy.

I showed it to my parents. “You know what this means, don’t you?” I asked.


“It means I’m a great kisser.”

“Is anyone a bad kisser?”

“Not in my experience.”

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