Eleven rules

Inspired by Chris Pratt (a rarity in Hollywood – an actor who advocates for morality) and Jordan B. Peterson, I came up with my own short, anecdotal list of rules that have been of help to me and have been developed from years of living.

 

https://www.etonline.com/chris-pratt-offers-9-hilarious-inspiring-life-rules-while-accepting-mtv-generation-award-104428

 

Not as profound as Solomon, but I humbly present the following:

 

Rule 1

Try to remember to be compassionate. If you fail, try again. You never know what someone else is going through and we all need as much grace as we can get.

 

Rule 2

Don’t forget that social media isn’t real life. Not even close.

 

Rule 3

Try to be humorous, but remember that comedy is mostly about timing. Not every time is appropriate for cracking a joke. Even sarcasm and sardonic wit have their place. But yes, humour goes a long way.

 

Rule 4

Stay away from stupid (people). John Wayne was heard to have said that ‘Life is hard. It’s harder if you’re stupid’. More cowboy wisdom: Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from any direction.

 

Rule 5

There is only one way to be saved; be single minded in your pursuit of working out your salvation with fear and trembling.

 

Rule 6

Be mindful of your Audience of One and live accordingly; repent often but sincerely.

 

Rule 7

Put a lot of thought into your opinions and stand up for them. Remember too that many issues are complex, and know that you could have only part of the story. Be open to amendments to that opinion. However if you’re certain you’re right, don’t wimp out. Base your thinking on authoritative sources and appeal to those when voicing your opinion. Remember that most people are closed minded and are predisposed to not hearing or seeing contrary evidence, so it’s hard not to get frustrated. However that has no bearing on the appropriateness of rightness of standing up for well developed opinion.

 

Rule 8

If you’re a man, live with honour. If you don’t know what that is, watch the movies of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood; study the ethos of the United States Marine Corps. If you’re a woman, I’ll have to get back to you on that, but remember that at his core a man wants to do the right thing and a subtle encouragement is better than a makeover sustained by many words (I wanted to say try not to nag, but that would come across as too unkind).

 

Rule 9

Be wary of blindly trusting people in authority. One of the greatest epiphanies of adulthood is that everyone is winging it. Everyone’s human, everyone has an angle and its puddysticks to end up abusing authority.

 

Rule 10

Treat all media reporting with a large grain of salt. If the mainstream media in the Trump age has taught me anything is that the media are more enthralled by their ability to manipulate the public with emotion rather than the pursuit of truth or fact. When you make an error of fact, admit to it. We should all be better than CNN.

 

Rule 11

Read Scripture. It’s the opposite of fake news, and is in fact good news. Being Biblically literate is a rare commodity in today’s world.

A future hope

The story has been told and retold countless times: a young hero discovers that he or she – while living a mundane life – is part of a grand story of resistance to evil, and our hero embraces the discovery of their place in the fight and goes on to win the first battle with the war just starting.

 

A series of movies is thus born and 40 years after the release of ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’, we have 10 movies in the franchise with who knows how many more on the way? As many as the House of Mouse (Disney) can manage to squeeze revenue out of. Will the commercial imperative to do a thing to death destroy the artistry of George Lucas’ vision? We’ll soon find out.

 

Along with Luke Skywalker’s discovery of his purpose and the hope of establishing emancipation from the stomping Empire, we journey to seeming hopelessness when ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and all seems lost. ‘The Return of the Jedi’ completes the trilogy and by the end the Death Star is destroyed along with the Empire and Luke has managed to redeem the soul of Anakin Skywalker who forsakes his Darth Vader persona.

 

The idea of hope isn’t merely a device, a hook on which to hang a story. For the Christian, hope is substantive, meat and potatoes, albeit future meat and potatoes.

 

There is a genuine idea that the Christian has a hope, a kind that is audacious to believe in, stunningly naive to the mind of an atheist, but that nonetheless exists. Its not something like fingers-crossed and whimsical, like discovering that fairies live in the bottom of your garden.

 

The hope for the Christian is an end to suffering, but that the suffering we endure has a purpose.

 

The hope of the Christian is a glorified body where there is no entropy, no decay, astigmatism, cancer, slow metabolism or anything of the sort; no susceptibility to colds or flu, communion with our Maker as it was meant to be.

 

“18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,* including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope* for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)” (Romans 8, NLT)

 

How can we trust that this hope isn’t just a sham?

 

When I purchase a burger at Burger King, I shell out money and receive a ticket or receipt with a number and I wait for word from the counter that my meal is ready. The principle is the same operational idea of our hope. While we wait, we get a promise in writing, something to hold onto.

 

As Believers, we have the Holy Spirit as a promise of our future hope. The analogy of course is very basic and inadequate. More than merely a flimsy receipt, the Holy Spirit dwells in the Believer and gives us hope in our otherwise hopelessness.

 

A receipt for goods is one thing, that’s a contract; God’s way is covenant, much stronger and in a whole different class than a contract.

 

When we think sin is going to drag us down, all of a sudden He puts our feet back on the narrow path. He helps us to read the promises of Scripture and see that they will be fulfilled, no matter our present circumstances.

 

The Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. This week I listened over and over again to Tim Timmons’ song: Cast My Cares:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpY_xDaFhvE

 

I have brought my cares to Him and will continue to do so, but sometimes in my weakness, in the midst of a desperate situation, I have no idea what to pray and how it can glorify Him. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us and expresses to the Father the things that we can’t even understand.

 

https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-spirit-helps-us-in-our-weakness-part-1

 

That’s a present help and a future hope.

Meet-cute

A meet-cute is saccharine plot device that sets up a meeting of the romantic leads in your typical Hollywood film. Not that I would know, but I suspect Bollywood and Nollywood have the same neat tricks, perhaps because it appeals to our romantic notions.

 

https://www.silverpetticoatreview.com/2016/02/24/the-meet-cute-10-memorable-first-meetings-in-film/

 

It would be a very brave film-maker who went through with making a movie based on a true story: like Lale Sokolov’s. Lale Sokolov was a prisoner and tattooist in Auschwitz concentration camp, whose job it was to tattoo the prisoner number on the arms of incoming captives.

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5247399/The-incredible-love-story-Tattooist-Auschwitz.html

 

It so happened that he met a young lady whose name was Gita and the two soon fell in love. In the midst of trying to survive from day to day in a concentration camp. A romantic treatment of this story would be about as awkward as the fictional musical ‘Spring time for Hitler’ in the 2005 movie, ‘The Producers’:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fsql523bSj4

 

Romanticism is for the movies. Real life is seldom filled with such serendipity, coincidences and background music when two people meet. Or indeed when anything of consequence happens.

Pure schmaltz

Recently I heard a new song by Steven Curtis Chapman called ‘Remember to remember’:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJz_rv5qC4s

 

Looking back at what God has done, and where he has brought a person should be devoid of romanticism and silly notions of perfection. Mountain tops and valleys, successes and failures. Reality and Grace like a combination of concrete and rebar in a construction that is durable, a bridge or building that can be used for as long as we live, standing in testament to how He has been a part of our lives and how our lives are a part of His kingdom and rule.

 

It’s good to remember the encounters that we have with God, each one memorable and profound and particular to whatever situation we find ourselves in.

 

11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”” (Psalm 77, NIV).

 

I remember the circumstances of meeting my future wife. It was no meet-cute. I remember the circumstances of meeting God (ironically in a re-purposed movie theatre), and I remember the times of meeting in good times and bad.

 

No Hollywood. No cheesy lines, no schmaltzy endings, as real as pavement. And I’m still here because He has sustained me, and that’s what I hear when a maestro like Steven Curtis Chapman who pours his heartache and triumphs into a song like this. As much as life has put the lines on his face, it also produces art that we can hear with our ears, art that reminds us to remember.

Tales of Winter

In Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (pretty much my favourite play), Leonato of Messina remarks to his Beatrice – who resists the idea of being paired with Signor Benedick – “you will never run made, niece”. To which she replies, “No, not till a hot January.” (Act 1, Scene 1)

 

It’s a delicious irony as before the play is through she does run mad (with love for Benedick). Another part of her statement strikes me as amusing, since in South Africa, it would be rare not to have a hot January.

 

While the weather is warming in northern Europe, on the toe of Africa, it’s getting colder.

 

Winter approaches. We do indeed have a hot January but a freezing June thanks to a 23-degree tilt of the planet as it orbits around the sun.

Cold and dark with detritus

The late Myles Munroe, a preacher from the Bahamas, once related to his audience the lack of logic shown by some Christians, who in the midst of a cold snap opted to rebuke the frost – in the name of Jesus – when it was clearly obvious that frost had a right to be present, being a part of winter’s arsenal.

 

I recently came across a poem by Christina Rosetti. It was used by Chris Tomlin in the lyrics for a song about Christmas:

 

“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago…

 

… What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.”

 

https://interestingliterature.com/2016/12/23/a-short-analysis-of-christina-rossettis-in-the-bleak-midwinter/

 

The idea of the wind moaning evokes for me Paul’s letter to the Romans where he talks of all creation groaning.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+8%3A22+-+25&version=NIV

Winter winds blow

In the midst of Winter and cold, we wait for the redemption of our bodies, and creation waits for that redemption too, as keenly as we await Spring and the thaw that takes place on the way to Summer.

 

Most of us don’t like Winter and I’m certainly not going to try convince you otherwise. But it is God’s will for there to be seasons and cold, seemingly with all the difficulties attended to that: colds, flu, worse traffic.

 

There is an interesting side to winter:

 

It provides a picture of the cleanness of snow and a landscape that has been washed white with forgiveness.

 

The cold of snow is a reminder of the value of being rebuked from time to time.

 

The woman whose household is prepared for winter where everyone is kitted out for the cold offers an illustration of value of mothers to a family.

 

http://thefederalist.com/2014/02/13/the-six-best-bible-verses-about-snow/

 

Winter is fascinating for the records that it sets or breaks:

 

The average Winter temperature for Cape Town seems to hover around the 15-degree mark however when we compare that with the temperature recorded at a Russian research station in Antarctica in 1983: -89.2 degrees. So cold that if you needed an electric device to heat up your room, you could leave the freezer door open.

 

The temperatures in Russia itself are slightly warmer; The remote village of Oymyakon averages temperatures on the order of -50 degrees.

 

According to the authorities at Guinness World Records, the largest snowflakes ever recorded measured a width in excess of the length of a typical ruler here in South Africa.

 

http://justfunfacts.com/interesting-facts-about-winter/

 

Winter is a time when I look at the power of nature as God created it. Nature can simply sweep us aside in a random storm. It puts into perspective for me the One who created it.