7 Quick Takes IV

— 1 —

You may already know that I self-published a simple children’s counting book because of Joseph’s interest in the dot flashcards the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential sell as their math program. We’ve now received our copy, and here’s Joseph’s reaction to his new counting book.

Joseph loves his new dots book!

— 2 —

Two Sundays ago, we visited both our regular church and the Catholic church, for a bit of organ, hymns, and good liturgy. The sermon was on the parable of the ten virgins. The priest confessed that this parable had always bothered him. Why do those virgins get punished so harshly for such a small oversight? Did the bridegroom really place such importance on the virgins’ being ready with extra oil? The priest proposed that the main desire of the bridegroom was not the perfect preparation of those virgins, but that they be there to welcome him when he came. What made them foolish was not only their lack of preparedness, but their embarrassment at being caught imperfect, with unlit lamps, when welcoming the bridegroom. Their pride, their desire to present themselves perfect with lit lamps, their refusal to admit to their lack of preparedness to the bridegroom, caused them to insult him by not even being present to welcome him. The priest proposed that had they waited with unlit lamps, they would have made it into the feast.

I enjoyed this alternate take for casting light on another underreported aspect of the parable, but even more so, was happy to see my notion of all Catholics being all works-based go up in smoke.

— 3 —

The previous sermon at our regular church had been on the Prodigal Son. I’ve heard a number of speakers look more closely at the older son, the one who obeyed the rules and never partied (though he wanted to) and wouldn’t party when his brother returned. Our pastor pointed out that although the younger son openly rebelled, wishing the father dead, the older didn’t serve out of love, either. He served to follow the law and fulfill expectations, out of a sense of duty and a notion that his father was a taskmaster. He served with grumbling, thinking that would please his father. In the same way, his father was openly generous and gracious to the younger son, but by inviting the older one (and we don’t know for sure that he declined!) also showed plenty of generosity and grace to the older one. The question remains, though: is it easier to repent of obvious, open sin, than of having kept all the rules to (perhaps unconsciously) eliminate the need for grace, for God, in our lives?

— 4 —

Note, also, that the father placed no demands on the younger son, neither for repentance (though that’s there), nor for restitution, nor conditions on future behavior. I doubt any of us fully transpose that behavior of free, unconditional grace to God. Most of us would submit that repentance is a requirement; many of us that at least an improvement of future behavior should be part of the transaction.

— 5 —

Then, last week’s sermon was on Colossians 2:7 and context. Our pastor first pointed out how focusing on rules stunts growth, just like telling an apprentice only what he’s not allowed to do in the workshop. Real growth requires not a certainty of not having broken commandments, it requires being rooted in Christ, growing through the constant interaction with him and the permeation of his “nutrients” into our lives. A thought I had afterward is that there’s probably a direct connection with how focused I am on rules and boundaries and how strong my need is to defend and justify myself. If I’m rooted in Christ, he is my defense, and my fruit is my defense. I can overcome hurtful accusations because of the strong connection to Christ, and helpful correction serves as healthy pruning; neither requires defense, because my justification is in my roots. But if I rely on my observance of rules, my accomplishments must be defended, my actions justified.

— 6 —

I’m not sure whether to be entertained by the carousel of candidates and the hoopla surrounding it, or embarrassed. I do loosely follow reporting on it, and came upon an article that talked about the houses of the GOP candidates. My vote goes to Michele Bachmann – but only if that is really her car in the driveway.

— 7 —

I was driving for work again yesterday and for want of a CD player in the company car listened to the radio. Once again they played a song with some version of the “I’d do it all over again” line. I think the tradition started a long time ago; the oldest example that comes to mind is Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien,” but there must be previous examples out there.

Here’s Edith Piaf – you can listen while you read on.

Where, I wonder, do these singers get the confidence to say that? Are they so certain there wasn’t a better way to live? Can anyone really know enough of what he’s done, its effects on others, the circumstances surrounding his actions, to confidently and categorically conclude that he’s done right – nay, that he’s done the best he could possibly have done? Or are they just terrified of the possibility that they could have done better, and talking up their own courage? After all, admitting an action was wrong (or less than perfect) becomes harder and harder as consequences snowball. I can make it personal: if I realize my bluntness hurts people, what is easier, going back to all the people I have hurt in the past and asking for forgiveness, or casting my bluntness as a virtue and their hurt as their problem? Oui, je regrette plenty alright.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

4 thoughts on “7 Quick Takes IV

  1. Linda

    So much to think about, so little time to comment! But I’ll quickly say this:

    1 – great video, greater reaction. He handles those pages really well, doesn’t he?

    7 – “je regrette plenty” indeed. I’ve had people say to me that they are confident in the decisions they’ve made and wouldn’t change a thing. This was in connection with childrearing, and it blew me away. They were so convinced they were right, they were sure all the things that went wrong were someone else’s fault, or “just the way things are with kids.” I can’t imagine being so confident — I imagine the Greeks would have call it hubris — but most especially as a parent.

  2. Linda

    #2 – “up in smoke” – incense, I’m sure. 😉

    #5 – Good point. I see an analogy to raising children, too. Some rules are necessary and helpful. Too many rules and restrictions stunt learning, creativity, and growing into maturity.

    #6 – Embarrassed, all the way. Not that the Democrats are any less embarrassing. But, silly me, I thought you liked Bachman because there was a simple, ordinary person-type car in her driveway instead of a BMW or Mercedes. I should have known what to expect from someone who rivals my brother-in-law in his love for cars, if not in actual possession of them.

  3. thduggie Post author

    #1 – Yes, he does, and that’s part of why I had the thought of creating the dots book.

    #5 – True. If we only teach our kids rules, there will come the time when they know them all, and they have no need for us because our job as purveyor of rules is done. They will also have a hard time coping in a world that doesn’t provide many rules.

    #6 – Don’t forget that Mt. Vernon and Monticello aren’t exactly 2-bedroom condos, either.

    #7 – There’s another reason I think regretting and admitting regret is difficult. I think sometimes regretting an action is confused with regretting its consequences.

    Say I regret how I treated a former girlfriend. Now, does regretting that mean that I wish I hadn’t married Janet? Not at all: I delight in what I have now, I don’t regret how things turned out, but I nevertheless regret what I did. God chose to bless me despite mistakes and wrongdoing, but that won’t keep me from regretting the mistakes and wrongdoing and purposing not to repeat them.

    At the same time, there’s no point in wondering what might have been, because marrying another woman would have changed the entire game plan. It might have been even better, or it might have been worse, but – as with any historical decision – it cannot be scientifically compared to the alternative. I think the fruitlessness of what-ifs is another reason people say they wouldn’t have it any other way or wouldn’t change a thing or however the latest pop song phrases it.

    In other words, I regret plenty, but I have also received plenty despite those regrettable actions, and this plenty received makes it easy not to dwell on the regrets and what could have been. (It’s also nice to know all my girlfriends are happily married and my past mistakes haven’t been able to prevent God blessing them, either.)

  4. thduggie Post author

    #5 – I did some yardwork today, the first in years, and found this weed that doesn’t show but a few leaves here or there, but has a network of thick roots. The odd thing about the roots is how easily they break – they make it easy to rip the visible part from the ground. It’s as though this weed was saying: “I’ll let you take my showy parts, take my pride, but I’ll make sure I keep a bit of root in good soil.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *