Book Review: The Superlative Stream

Greetings,

The Superlative Stream by Kerry Nietz
The Superlative Stream by Kerry Nietz

My last book that I reviewed here was A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz, and I gave it a resounding six out of five. It is, however, only the first in a trilogy, only the first two of which are published so far (hopefully the last one will come out later this year). I have the first two, and I can’t wait.
The second one is called The Superlative Stream (of course also by Kerry Nietz, duh). Now, sequels are hard to do. And trilogies are also rather hard to pull off (though I have seen more successful trilogies than sequels). There are several ways to go about it: you can just continue the story you started in the first books, which means each book kinda has an incomplete story arc, which is annoying, or you can make each one have a unique story plot, while loosely linking them together in an overall story arc.
The former is more like one book severed into three volumes. The Lord of the Rings is like that, but people rarely read them individually because it is so obvious they don’t stand alone (although he was able to create individual story arcs for each book as well, which is amazing).
The latter is kind of like beads on a chain. They are related, but not one unified whole. Stephen Lawhead‘s The Dragonking Saga is like that to a degree.
One way is not necessarily better than the other way: each has its own unique challenges and blessings.
But Kerry Nietz did ’em both (or at least he has done this so far).
I won’t give away the plot, which is marvelously and beautifully woven, but the way he did it was more like weaving many threads together on a wristband. It has definable sections that stand somewhat alone, but are very much obviously a part of the whole. Each one has its own personality, character, and design, but each one is a part of the structure of the whole. That said, don’t read The Superlative Stream until you have read A Star Curiously Singing: it won’t be nearly as good otherwise. But you are going to get that anyways, right? 😉
The Superlative Stream answers some questions about A Star Curiously Singing, but it also creates some more, while preparing the main characters to be hurled right back into a struggle that looks to be of epic proportions and magnetic awesomeness (magnetic in that you won’t be able to set it down, not that magnets will be fighting each other or anything).
Like A Star Curiously Singing, it also delves into fascinating theological and philosophical concepts in a dramatic and clear way, demonstrating some powerful truths about many things, including belief. I like the way Kerry consistently develops the main character, integrating doubt and struggles without voiding the steps forward that he has taken in the previous book. I hate it when people mess that whole thing up, and Kerry doesn’t.
And I love Dark Trench. Brilliant way to make a great character out of an AI being without violating the fact that he is indeed AI, and not human. Perfectly done.
So again, six out of five, on all points. Go get it. 😀

I'm Better than You

Alternate versions of Superman
Image via Wikipedia

And I’m proud of it too.

* grins * Calm down. Don’t close the page. Hey, I said don’t close the page! Wait! Come back!

Thanks… whew. Give me a chance to explain myself, eh?

People get so uptight when anyone claims to be better than them at something. Sit down until you are called upon individually to stand! Yipes…

Think about it: what does ‘better’ mean?

“It means you are superior to me.”

Right. It does. What else does it mean?

“That you are worth more than me!”

Right, that too.

* listens to stunned silence for a moment, silently chuckling *

I love lexicology… it’s so much fun.

Think about it. If I beat you easily every time we ever play chess, I am better than you at chess. If I beat you at wrestling, I am better than you at wrestling, and so on. There is nothing wrong with that. It is actually perfectly normal and inescapable. Everyone in this world is inferior to most everyone else on some level, and better than everyone else on almost none.

Let me say that again: everyone is inferior to almost everyone else in the world in some area, and almost no one is better than everyone else at anything.

So get used to it. We aren’t equal. I am better than you. At least at something. If I am paid more, that means I am (quite literally) worth more.

The question is not whether one person is better or worth more or superior to another in any particular skill, or even in all skills together, though. Even if someone was better than every single other person in the world at everything you could possibly measure each other by, his life would not be worth more. He would be worth more, but his life wouldn’t. Our lives are all equal before God, each one worthy of living, each one equally free to be saved, each one equally loved by God.

So if I say I am better than you, I am not talking about in that sense — quite simply because you can’t say it in that sense. People try, but they are stating an oxymoron. The value of your life is not predicated on what you do with it.

But does that mean I should say I am better than you, even when I am referring to intelligence, or vocabulary, or wrestling or chess skills? Should I be proud of it?

Well, proud has a couple meanings. It can mean justly pleased with something, or inordinately pleased with something. I can be proud of my friends for the way they maturely handle situations, or even proud of the fact that I finally worked my way up to one hundred pushups. I can also be arrogant and condescending about both facts.

This arrogance, occurs, I believe, when we get the two kinds of worth that I just talked about mixed up. If we begin to imagine that our value makes our lives any more valuable than anyone else’s life, then we become condescending and arrogant. If we see everyone as having something that they are better than us at, and value them for it, then honest appreciation for our own value is perfectly healthy.

Here is the key: if your appreciation for your own skills or value makes you thankful — honestly thankful — then it isn’t arrogance. If it makes you condescending, then it is the bad kind of pride.

So yes, I am better than you, and proud of it, but you are also better than me. And you should be proud and thankful for it.

That was probably, honestly, the most confusing article I have ever written… hopefully you all will be able to understand it. 🙂

A Defense of Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Da...
Image via Wikipedia

Well, this was supposed to be written and posted last week’s Monday, but things happened and it didn’t get done. So we can all pretend like this is last week, alright?

I watched the Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie with my mom and the other two of the 3Literati (Patrick and Juliet: we are the oldest three siblings). I went with this mindset: this is a movie, not a book. Thus, it isn’t the same as the Voyage of the Dawn Treader book, never will be, and shouldn’t be. So I sat back for a good movie.

And was utterly blown away by how similar it was to the book, and by how much biblical morals they were able to include from the original book. In fact, from what I have seen from the reactions of different people, a lot of people have actually missed a lot of the lessons in the books that were brought out in the movie.

I find that a lot of people complain mostly about the plot changes from the book. A few people complain about the plot itself (i.e., the mist was cliché, and etc.), but there always will be that small group of people who say that about practically every piece of media that is ever created. And besides, those kinds of things are more matters of opinion than anything else (I, personally, thought the plot was brilliantly done). So I will focus in the first part of this review on the changes of the plot from the book, and in the second part on the content itself as a movie for Christians to watch.

In the old days, people published books. And they way they went about it was quite different from the way they do it now. And the interests of the people who read books back then were possibly even more different. Actually, most likely more different. And so different things got published.

In fact, if you tried to publish practically any of the old classics now… it just wouldn’t happen. And even if you did, veeery few people would actually read it. The whole style and expected content was different. The way you structure plot, the way you developed characters, the way you set up scenes, the way you described things, the stuff you included, everything was different. Nowadays, books are a lot more like movies in a lot of ways. Now, I am not saying that either way is bad: in fact both are perfectly legitimate ways of writing books, and I enjoy both styles.

However.

The old way of doing book writing simply does not work nowadays, especially on screen. And if you put over a hundred million dollars into producing something, which is required for epic movies to be done well (though that price is lowering), you want to get something out of it. You need to rely on selling to a powerful enough market to support your venture.

So in the process of making an old book into a new movie, changes will have to be made simply to make it vendible. This is not a bad thing. This is actually a good thing. Sure, eventually, prices will lower and people will be buying movies like they buy ebooks (by the gross), and then you will be able to get away with more stuff and sell to niche markets, and that will also be a good thing. But at the moment, you can’t rely on the tiny portion of the world who actually is watching the movie because they read the books and who also actually want the movie to be exactly like the book.

It doesn’t need to be exactly like the book. It shouldn’t be exactly like the book. And with a book like Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is a prime example of old-style structure, changes have to be made to make it able to be made into a movie. No changes, no movie. Pretty simple.

And if you think about the changes that they actually made… they were pretty small.

* listens to the shouts of consternation and gasps of unbelief *

Right. You heard me right. 😀

They weren’t all that big. Think about it, what did you expect? That they would drop an island or two (they dropped only one, unless you count Felimath and Doorn), and that they would merge others (which they did). They did this quite masterfully, and retained a ton of detail from the book.

What else would you expect for them to change? I expected them to add a more obvious plot arc that tied everything together: the book was very episodic in nature. And they did. And they did a great job of it too, tying together the events from the book by their common elements and elaborating on those. They also added on several bits of plot without removing any of the original. And in the case of the morals, they actually made the original morals much easier to see (judging by how many people missed them completely).

No, I am not giving any spoilers, haha, in case you haven’t watched it yet. But my advice to you is this: watch the movie as a movie, without expecting it to copy everything exactly from the book. And then you will absolutely love it. Especially the ending.

Now for the content. This should be pretty simple: it was great. 😀

For an epic fantasy, in which there is generally somewhere some kind of immodesty in the female portion of the cast, it was incredibly perfect. There was no immodesty at all, which is awesome. As far as language, it was clean: no words you wouldn’t want to repeat. Gore was innocuous (non-existent in the cases of humans, and vanishing into green smoke in the cases of monsters). And in truth, the book was more ‘gory’ than the movie, especially when Eustace had to be un-dragoned. The movie handles this absolutely splendidly.

There was only one element that I would advise caution for younger viewers on: the sea serpent is pretty intense and… freaky. Totally freaky. Awesomely sends-chills-down-your-spine kind of freaky. I loved it to pieces, personally, but little members of the audience might have to close their eyes a bit. 😉

If you have questions about specific pieces of the plot, asking for justifications for changes they made, I would be more than willing to answer with my views on the matter. I wanted to keep this spoiler-free, but I will lift that ban on the comments section. 🙂

So have at it. On guard.

I Wanna Cookie!

Heart string
Image by Elin B via Flickr

Recently Jackson, a good friend of mine, wrote a response to a blog post that was against emotional purity and courtship, written by Darcy, not a friend of mine (yet, at least). He did a very good job demonstrating and pointing out the fallacies in the original, defending our need to guard our hearts from dangerous romantic attachments.

However, I am here not to refute Darcy’s article (or all the people who commented on the post agreeing with her), but to point out the things she had right, and expound on them.

Her primary premise is that the Cookie Model of relationships (my name, not hers) “damaged the part of [her] brain that makes healthy relationships function.” She says that seeking to guard your heart (in this way at least) “shut[s] down a normal, healthy, functioning part of [your] human heart.”

So what is she mad about?

“The idea that everytime you fall in love or get ’emotionally attached’ to someone, you give away a piece of your heart. The more pieces you give away, the less of your heart you have to give to your spouse someday. … Love doesn’t work that way. The more you give, the more you have. My 3rd child doesn’t have less of my heart just because I’ve loved two other children before him. And, really, I haven’t given them “pieces” of my heart. I’ve given them each all of my heart. The miracle of love is that it multiplies by being given.” [Emphasis hers]

Let me summarize this viewpoint that she is talking about, which is very very very common. Imagine your heart is like a cookie, and in each relationship you have, you give a part of that cookie to the other person. And so the more relationships you have, the less cookie you have left to give. And of course, you want to give your whole heart to your husband, right?

There are a ton of problems with this model. One of which is that it isn’t in the Bible at all, and another is that it contradicts a ton of what is in the Bible about relationships (or all of it, depending on how you look at it). I presented the beginning of the actually biblical model in this article here.

So go read that, so you know what I am talking about here. Seriously. Go. Now.

Okay, now come back. Thanks. 🙂

The differences here are obvious. Sending out strings simply does not deplete your stock of strings. And if that string connects with the heart of the person, and they reciprocate, your heart will grow, it will get bigger, and you will be able to expend more energy in creating more relationships or strengthening the relationships you have.

That is the correct model. The Cookie Model has the problem that it doesn’t differentiate between different kinds of cookie bits that you give to people. Thus, if you reason that you can’t give bits to guys to save yourself for your husband, you therefore can’t give bits to anyone (including God or your family or other girls) at all: only your husband. (And vice versa for guys of course.)

This is obviously fallacious and contradictory to Scripture.

So what is my stance? Do I believe that we can fall in love with people willy nilly? Do I believe that it doesn’t hurt us or damage future relationships to draw close to people and then routinely sever our ties with them?

No I don’t believe those things, and here is why.

There are different kinds of strings that you can tie with people. There are strings of trust that you tie with business partners. There are strings of friendship and comradeship that you tie with your buddies. There are strings that you tie with your family. There are strings that you tie with authorities. There are strings that you tie with sweethearts. There are strings that you tie with your spouse. There are strings that you tie with God. Any and all of these hurt when they are broken. The stronger the string, the more it hurts when it breaks or is severed. And when that happens, you are less likely to tie that string again with someone (and some people, often enough burned, refuse to tie any kind of string with anyone at all).

And you are less likely to accept strings from other people. You are less willing to get involved in relationships that others offer you. This is because your heart has been damaged: hurt, scarred, hardened. You are wounded. And although time can heal open gashes, it does not heal scars. You can work through them, but they are there. Only God can heal them completely.

Psalms 147:3 He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.

And God does not always heal. Oh yes, He loves you, and He hurts for you, and He will forgive your sins, and renew His relationship with you when you turn and repent, but if you deliberately and repeatedly damage yourself because He can fix you, He just might leave you with the scars so you will truly turn to Him and learn your lesson.

So yes, things are not permanent if you make a mistake and have to sever a relationship, but do you seriously want to stab yourself over and over again deliberately? No. Do not tempt the Lord your God.

Matthew 4:7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

And then there are kinds of strings that God specifically does not want us tying with certain people. He does not want us to make mentors (a type of relationship, and thus a type of string) of the ungodly.

Psalms 1:1 Blessed [is] the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

God does not want us to marry (a very strong kind of string) unbelievers.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

Notice that doesn’t just talk about marriage: it applies everywhere.

All that demonstrates is that God cares about where we tie strings, but where does it say what kinds of strings we should tie with people of the opposite sex, or only with our spouse? Does it at all?

I believe it does.

First, consider this passage:

1 Timothy 5:1-2 Rebuke not an elder, but entreat [him] as a father; [and] the younger men as brethren;

2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

What kind of purity? All kinds of purity obviously. Now there are several reasons why God chose to give this injunction just here, one of which I believe is that when you are entreating someone, you are tying some powerful strings, and you have to be doubly and triply careful what strings you are tying. And so we are to do this with every kind of biblical purity there is.

Now consider this passage:

1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: [It is] good for a man not to touch a woman.

2 Nevertheless, [to avoid] fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

5 Defraud ye not one the other, except [it be] with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Here we have two sides to a very important string: physical touch. We are enjoined to not touch the opposite sex before marriage, and commanded to do so afterwards. Realize that it is obviously not talking about any and all physical contact: it would be impossible to help a lady from a car or carry stuff for someone or shake a hand in greeting or live life in any sensible way.

There is an obvious difference between shaking someone’s hand in greeting and sitting on the couch and holding hands for no reason other than… holding hands. Very different. This passage is pretty obviously talking about the latter (especially if you take into context the rest of the Bible and biblical examples of male and female interaction).

This is a string specifically for marriage.

Now look a bit lower down in this chapter for another passage:

1 Corinthians 7:32-5 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please [his] wife.

34 There is difference [also] between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please [her] husband.

35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

This passage is bracketed with similar phrases, explaining its intent and purpose: to teach us something that will help us to serve God without distracting worries (which evidently will come upon us if we don’t heed this).

Paul explains that there is a vital, fundamental difference between married people and unmarried people, and implies a connection to a passage earlier in the chapter to explain it:

1 Corinthians 7:4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

When you are married, you are to love the other person as yourself, and care for them as yourself. They are your responsibility. And as such, you have a different focus when dealing with that person than with any other person in the world. You care about them, and you care about the world around you with a focus on helping and pleasing and building them up.

When you are not married, you do not have this responsibility, or you shouldn’t. This is a relationship that is specifically for marriage, and although it is possible to adopt it before marriage, it hinders your service to God: it is the wrong time and place for it.

This applies, as is made clear, in both the physical relationship and the spiritual relationship. If you tie these kinds of strings with someone you are not married to, you are being impure in spirit or in body or in both. That is simply the way it is, and the way God designed it.

But how do you know the difference? The problem that Darcy brings up occurs when we mistake friendship strings with romance strings, and thus avoid both, and I just showed the biblical problems that occur when you adopt both. The key is to know the difference, avoid the romance strings (out of their rightful place), and accept and create friendship strings as God commands (as brothers and sisters in Christ).

The key is in the same passage, look again:

1 Corinthians 7:32-5 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please [his] wife.

34 There is difference [also] between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please [her] husband.

35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

If you are entreating someone, seeking to help them, showing them love, why are you doing it? Are you doing it because of a possessive motive, or because of a selfless motive?

Look at it this way: if they decide not to listen to you, what is your reaction? How would you view that? Would it be saddening, but not personal? Would you take it as a personal injury (not that they didn’t listen, but that they didn’t change)? Or would you look at it as their choice, and since you were just doing it to help them, it doesn’t change you at all if they choose not to listen?

If you are entreating them, referring to yourself as part of your reasoning to convince them, then you are probably working off of a romantic relationship string. If you are entreating them, referring to their own, independent good instead, then you are probably working off of a brotherly, sisterly type of relationship string. Think of it in a marriage context if it helps: “I am your husband, and I want you to consider this for our sake” as opposed to the obviously more friend oriented: “As a friend, I noticed this in your life that concerned me, you might like to look at it.”

This obviously takes discernment and wisdom through Bible study, prayer, and close fellowship with the Holy Spirit and seeking God’s will. It isn’t easy. I am not saying it is. It is very hard. But it is important to consider and think and pray about.

Now I am sure at least one or two of you are wondering if this doesn’t sound just a little bit legalistic. 🙂

Well, thankfully, Paul helps me out of that sticky mess. 🙂

1 Corinthians 7:35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.

The whole point of this is not to add more rules and regulations to your life that bind and constrict your liberty in Christ. Most of these things aren’t even given as a command, but as godly advice (which, coming from the Bible, we ought to take as commands anyways, but I digress). The point is to help us, to show us something to help us to live better lives. This isn’t here to make our lives more difficult, but more good.

And also to help us to be better witnesses for Christ, to be able to behave in a comely, Christ-like manner without appearance of evil or making provision for the flesh. This is here to help us to serve God better.

So there is my answer. Yes, we should guard our hearts and reserve romance for marriage. But we also don’t have to be cloistered from the opposite sex, refusing to be friends with them.

Controversial topic (and passages), I know, so please comment with your perspectives; but also please be polite and back up what you say with Scripture — not anecdotes. 🙂

Serendipitous Super Share Saturday

brazilian jiu-jitsu
Image via Wikipedia

Hey everyone!

For those of you who aren’t subjected to my flooding torrent of shared content that streams through my various social sharing venues, I share a lot of stuff. Lots. Of course, not everyone will be interested in everything I share, and not everything I share is valuable to everyone. But some things that come through I don’t want anyone to miss, they are that good.

So here I am this Saturday, regaling you with the reiterated reminiscence of my ravagings of the online readership. In other words, here are a few of my favorite shares from this week. 🙂

Continue reading “Serendipitous Super Share Saturday”

I Want to Give Up

Irish Cottage
Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes, I just want to give up.

Just drop everything, settle down peacefully in some small corner of Ireland with a wife, and read books.

Of course, I would still be me… I would write, and learn things, and make websites, and probably start a church eventually. But I would forget about all these projects, leave them alone, drop them behind, ignore them. Too much effort, too much time, too much heartache and busy-ness. I want peace, I want rest, and I want to be let alone. I don’t want to be famous, I don’t want to have thousands of people who know my name, I just want to be by myself with my books and my family off in some green field with a castle in my backyard.

But would I actually be content? Would I be able to do it and actually have the peace I seek there? And also, haha, would I actually be able to restrain my inexorable talent and passion for starting big things?

I doubt it. And would I be able to ask the respect of a wife, if I have abdicated from God’s plan for my life? Would I be able to find God’s peace in my own path? No. I wouldn’t.

That path is for others, others whom God has called to it, but not for me. For me, the burden is a different, and in a way, a heavier one. But it is the only one for me.

And so I go on. I pour out a verdant torrent of projects, of plans, of ideas, of goals. I change the scheme, alter the mood, and overturn worldviews without blinking (no, I haven’t watched Tron, but I want to, and I am very familiar with all the clips on youtube, haha). I challenge presuppositions and I revamp systematic theologies. I break out of the mold and create new cultural mindsets out of thin air.

And I love it. Ask my friends: I can’t separate things from the Big Picture. Every idea I have grows to megalithic proportions, weaving itself into the entirety of my psyche, my plan, my life. I am chronically addicted to starting projects.

But it is tiring, it is exhausting, and it is wearying. But it drives me into God to find the strength I need, and when I go to Him, I do find it. That is how I know this is my path: if it wasn’t, I couldn’t do it.

And so on I go. Here I am. Here I stay. Here I stand. Here I go.

Review: A Star Curiously Singing

A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz
A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz

I am a guy that loves background. I love culture, I love language, I love it when an author takes a background premise, and works it out completely, considering each and every variable and permutation in the culture. I love it when I am taken out of my world and thrust into a completely different environment complete with a separate mindset and way of thinking that I have to wrap my mind around.

Of course, not everyone can pull that off. There are two skills that are required to do this, having just one is rare, and having both almost never happens.

The first skill is the creation of a consistent, deep world to immerse the reader in. This requires a mind that can think about our own world from the perspective of a non-resident: someone who can actually self-examine his deepest mindsets and presuppositions, and then experiment by changing them. To create a truly immersive culture, you have to create a complete experience: you have to not only engage all the senses, but also every facet of culture itself. In religion, in philosophy, in tradition, in castes, in work, in play: every little piece that makes up a fully dimensional culture, you have to have in place.

The second skill is the actual immersion of the reader in a way that makes them not only enjoy the experience of being in the new environment, but also enjoy the transition. To be jerked out of everything you hold as solid, and inserted violently into a completely foreign environment might make a cool roller-coaster ride, but it won’t make you many friends (except among hard-core weirdos who do that for kicks, of which number I am definitely one). The skill required to carefully and softly sneak a reader into a new way of thinking, into a new environment without them noticing the transition, is something that is almost impossible to achieve.

A Star Curiously Singing comes very very close. There is a tangible culture shock (which I thoroughly enjoyed), but it wasn’t so much that would throw non-weirdos off. You are immediately engaged and tied to the main character, and the curiosity about the world itself is practically a hook in itself. The deeper you go into the book the deeper the immersion becomes: it never really stops. I love it.

Kerry Nietz weaves a masterful story about a deep character in an intricate world with a powerful plot.

And I can’t wait to get the third book in the series. 🙂

Serendipitous Super Share Saturday

Hey everyone!

For those of you who aren’t subjected to my flooding torrent of shared content that streams through my various social sharing venues, I share a lot of stuff. Lots. Of course, not everyone will be interested in everything I share, and not everything I share is valuable to everyone. But some things that come through I don’t want anyone to miss, they are that good.

So here I am this Saturday, regaling you with the reiterated reminiscence of my ravagings of the online readership. In other words, here are a few of my favorite shares from this week. 🙂

Continue reading “Serendipitous Super Share Saturday”

Drop That String! Now!

The Voice of a broken heart

Greetings,

I like anatomy. I like studying how God designed the body to function, how each part works with each of the others, how the whole is a beautiful testimony to God’s eternal attributes.

But recently I discovered a whole new branch of anatomy, which I am voraciously studying. It is both fascinating and exhilarating, and I want to share with you some of my discoveries. The kind of anatomy I am talking about is spiritual anatomy.

The Bible makes it very clear that we have ‘inward parts’, separate, definable, individual pieces that make up our invisible man. We are not just flesh and bones, no, nor electrical impulses in the world’s greatest computer. These are only the tangible extensions to a magnificent work of art and machinery invisible to the mortal eye; they are merely the tools for a great being unseen to our mechanical eyes.

The Bible also makes it clear that we can’t truly examine ourselves. We can cut ourselves open and see the blood coursing through our veins, we can take pictures of our skeletal structure, but we cannot see our spirit, our soul, our mind, our heart. The Bible says that the Lord is the one who tries the heart, and knows it. We ourselves cannot, for our inward parts are deceptive and tricky: we cannot trust them (Jer. 17:9). We must use the Word of God (Jam. 1:22-25) and rely on the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14-16) to see ourselves in the way that God sees us: to study our anatomy.

Now to take a little leap to the side, and come at my topic from a slightly different angle.

People like to talk dogmatically about things like romance, love, relationships, etc. They announce that it is sin or consummate folly for someone to do such and such, and condemn those who disagree with them (or at least their beliefs). This attitude is practically ubiquitous.

But when pressed for their reasons, their foundations, they do not bring up any Scriptures (except for generic things like those teaching us to think of other first, which tell us why we ought to figure out the problem, but not the solution itself). Instead, they bring up personal experience, or the personal experience of reputable people, or statistical analyses, all of which are fallible, easily misinterpreted or misunderstood or miscommunicated, or simply mistaken. In any case, they miss the mark for what they should be bringing forth.

One of the primary things I see brought forth are analogies in the style of ancient Greek philosophers. They liken the heart to a sieve, to a jar, to a pipe, to a cookie, and to innumerable other things, and then draw dogmatic conclusions from these analogies.

A prime example: the command to not give your heart to too many people of the opposite sex or else you won’t have any left to give to your spouse, and your heart will be broken when you have to move on. This injunction has good motives, and the application doesn’t always go wrong, but think about it: this whole idea is founded upon likening a person’s heart to a cookie. You break off pieces of a cookie and give them away, it will of course run out eventually. And if the goal is to keep the cookie whole, then that would be a bad plan indeed.

But where is their basis for this likening of the heart to a cookie? No where. It is an arbitrary assignment, and they draw conclusions from it. The ancient Greeks did similar things, and drew ridiculously erroneous conclusions about practically everything under heaven. They analogized instead of studied.

And that is the problem: we are analogizing, instead of studying. Our attempts are doomed to failure, merely because we are trying to study ourselves on our own.

Remember? We can’t study our hearts on our own!

So how do we go about this? We go to God’s Word. It can show us what we need to know: it cuts right through the problems we have with seeing ourselves as we truly are, and clearly and articulately demonstrates to us what we are like inside. And it is all done by the world’s greatest communicator, and the one who originally made the heart. Surely God would know how to explain it all!

And He does.

Luke 6:45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Our hearts are treasure houses. A vessel for containing things. The amazing thing about this analogy is that it is so extremely consistent. All across the Bible, in every single mention of the heart that I have studied (which is most, but I can’t say I have examined all, there are tons, and this study is still a work in progress), this analogy is either consistent with the passage, or the passage supports it, or the passage clearly teaches it.

So I took that as a working hypothesis, and dug a bit deeper, looking at other parts of our inward man to see if they could shed further light on this concept. And the further I go the more astonished and surprised I am at how beautifully intricate and consistent the whole picture is.

Now remember, I am still doing this study, so a huge part of it is incomplete and I won’t stand behind all of it dogmatically. But this part I am absolutely sure about: the workings of the heart, at least the overall picture of it (the fine details are intricate beyond our ken, as the Bible makes clear).

So for this blog post I will focus on the heart, and that is plenty. And it is pretty important too.

Alright, so now I want to bring up a few clues as to how relationships work in God’s eyes.

Judges 20:11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.

1 Samuel 18:1 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

1 Chronicles 12:17 And David went out to meet them, and answered and said unto them, If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart shall be knit unto you: but if [ye be come] to betray me to mine enemies, seeing [there is] no wrong in mine hands, the God of our fathers look [thereon,] and rebuke [it.]

Colossians 2:2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

Colossians 2:19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.

That is just an introductory summary to the huge plethora of examples all across the Bible of this concept: a relationship is the tying of two hearts together (the heart is a part of the soul, in case you are wondering about some of the above passages: just trust me on that one until a later blog post, okay?).

This would of course be done by strings (what else would you knit with?). And this concept is also supported across Scripture.

Now things get complex, because it is mostly logical deductions drawn from other principles in Scripture. Mostly stuff like “The Bible says this does this, how does that fit into this model of the heart? Aaaaaahhhhh… so that’s how it works,” and etcetera.

And that is enough for a book. So I will kinda skip ahead. Realize that what I am going into now is more theory than fact, at this point. It has been confirmed by every test I have put it through, remains solidly consistent with Scripture, and only grows and strengthens as time goes by. It is also consistent with the other things mentioned up above: personal experience, experience of respected people, and statistical analysis. This isn’t the foundation, though, merely a fact that supports its claim to being a law of nature.

Heartstrings are a product of our hearts, coming out of them like everything else in our lives (“the issues of life” Pro. 4:23). They come out of our hearts and go out to other people to attach to their hearts. And depending on what we allow into our hearts, the kinds of strings we attach, and to whom we attach them will change.

When we choose to invest in someone else, in any way (time, words, gifts, etc.), you are sowing seeds of relationships in your heart, and those will come out as surely as the sun rises. Those seeds will come out as soul-threads that reach out to another person. That person has a choice: to accept or reject it (of course if they don’t recognize it they can’t accept it, which is where love languages come in: lexicology!).

If they reject it, it will attach itself to the outside of their heart. They will not feel attached to you, or have any ties to you, but you will be attached to them. In the same way, God’s love is attached to us no matter what we do or say. If we accept His love, it comes inside and gives us life (for that is what these threads are for), but if it is rejected, it stays outside, constantly there, constantly waiting, constantly drawing us.

If they accept it, it goes into their heart as another seed sown, and it rises again and goes back out to that person.

Now, there is a crucial point at this stage in the junction: if the original person accepts the returning thread (he doesn’t have to), the relationship is sealed. Some people only want to tag along, and actually don’t want any love returned: these people reject the returning love, and the returning thread attaches outside his heart. It has nothing else to do. This isn’t a healthy relationship.

What should happen, is for the first person to accept the thread into his heart again, sending another back out. This means they are in a healthy, friendly relationship: they have a “three stranded cord.” It will not easily be broken, and when it does, it will hurt both hearts: break them, and leave wounds. This must sometimes be done, but only God “healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

This is where we get such phrases as “he is attached to me,” or “she is stuck on him,” I believe, from this principle.

Now, we can harden our hearts, blocking all love from everyone, or exercise discernment through Christ to decide who to accept. To harden our heart is to damage it: blocking it from the love of God, which is the foundation of all virtue and godliness in life. Not a good idea.

Some people say they can put up walls around their heart and leave their heart the same: this is impossible. What they are doing is hardening their heart, not creating new additions to the structure.

So what about my original example? What about romantic relationships and whatnot? Still studying it, but here is what I have so far.

There are friendship threads, and romantic threads. They are tied differently. If you tie a romantic thread with someone, it is harder to break than a friendship thread (the right kind of romance, at least). And when you marry, all your romantic threads ought to be with that one person, not with half a dozen people. You belong to that person, and not all the others. So if you tie bunches of threads, you will have to break them at some time or other, or suffer the consequences. If you break them, you damage your heart, and make it harder for you to tie more threads that you should be tying. Of course, as I said, God can heal, but only if you let Him, and rely on Him to do it.

We have a choice about what to allow into our hearts. We must guard them with all diligence, because once something goes in, it will out again in the issues of your life.

So that is what I have so far, at least in part. A very small part, actually, come to think of it.

So what are your thoughts? Am I off my rocker? Have you noticed similar things? Do you have questions about how this could be implemented in various situations? 🙂