In case no one has noticed, I haven't been posting as frequently as I would like to. One great excuse is that I simply haven't had a whole lot of time to post. Another reason is because I don't know what to post about. Any ideas of things I could write on? Any serious ideas? I know I have enough funny ones coming...
The past couple of years I have been doing a history curriculum in which the author teaches history with a much different approach than most. I wasn't too sure about it at first, but I'm liking it more and more. The difference? Instead of having to memorize random facts, people, places, and dates, it gives you a huge overview of history. Within each subject, it narrows down on specific aspects, but it still keeps history in the broad sense. Why would this make any difference? It sure cuts down on memorization! After doing this, I feel like I can remember more than if I did history with just the traditional approach, and history just makes a whole lot more sense. Instead of pointlessly memorizing random things, it puts everything into a huge picture which can't be understood unless if you're looking at everything that happened before it and at the time. I guess this history program could be called a study of humanism. With each person you're leaning about, it makes you ask two questions. 1) Who (to the person that you're studying) is God? 2) Who, then, is man? Each of these questions is very easily answered after studying their lifestyle, occupation, and impact.
For example, if you were to look at a painting from the Reformation period and this particular person was of the reformed mindset, you would most likely see some everyday, ordinary things. Chances are, you would also see nature in the picture. Before the Reformation when the Catholic church had so much control, the only thing people thought should be painted were important things such as high positions in the Church and Madonna and Child. This was because the people living then were under such an illusion that they thought the ordinary, everyday man didn't have any importance. The only people who were very important were people that had positions in the Church. After all, to them, the Church was the gateway to Heaven. With this mind set, everything earthly was considered bad. Thus, nature and ordinary things were never painted. During the Reformation time period, the truth was starting to be made known. What a shock it must have been to those people to hear that the only way to Heaven was through the Son! The church started to lose their power and authority. The ordinary man and activities were painted. God created nature, so that, too, was painted. As the Reformation was getting underway, the Catholic church started to realise they were no longer the top dog, so they started commissioning people to paint them again to try to get the people to once again believe the Church was the only way. This is only one example of how much you can tell about a person's beliefs through the art of painting and sculpting.
Another way you can tell a person's beliefs is by what music they write. During the Middle Ages when the Catholic church had so much control, people weren't really aloud to sing in church. The monks in monasteries were the ones and only ones to sing. They had the "right way" of doing things, and they were the important people. Ordinary people weren't going to sing at their services. As the Reformation rolled around, however, people like Luther and Zwingli started writing hymns that the ordinary person could sing. They were also in languages that the ordinary people spoke - not Latin. Coming through and out of the Reformation, people started writing pieces and songs that also reflected their beliefs. Because I know how many of you love Bach (or should...), I'll pick on him. Because Schaeffer can say it a whole lot better than I ever could, I'll just write a quote from his book, How Should Then We Live?.
"JS Bach (1685-1750) was certainly the zenith of the composers coming out of the Reformation. His music was a direct result of the Reformation culture and the biblical Christianity of the time, which was so much a part of Bach himself. There would have been no Bach had there been no Luther. Bach wrote on his score initials representing such phrases as: "With the help of Jesus" - "To God alone be the glory" - "In the name of Jesus." It was appropriate that the last thing Bach the Christian wrote was "Before Thy Throne I Now Appear." Bach consciously related both the form and the words of his music to biblical truth. Out of the biblical context came a rich combination of music and words and a diversity with unity. This rested on the fact that the Bible gives unity to the universal and the particulars, and therefore the particulars have meaning. Expressed musically, there can be endless variety and diversity without chaos. There is variety yet resolution."
Throughout my study of history, I have found it extremely interesting to follow all these ideas through. Because of this history I have done, the different theological ideas and practices started making sense as far as why they did what they did. Nobody just wakes up one morning and decides to start a reformation. There has to be something leading up to it. This happens all through history. After doing just a little bit of history, it becomes evident that, to steal the expression, nothing happens in a vacuum. Everything that happens is a direct result of what has happened before and what people did in response to that.
I would strongly suggest that if you haven't already, read Francis A. Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live?. It is a very easy-to-read book, it's not dry, and it has plenty of pictures. It basically follows these ideas through Rome all the way to modern times, and it says it much better than I do.
History has continuity! Wow, I learned something this year...
I just recently ran across this article about problems with short-term mission programs. I have long seen that there were problems with it, but I haven't been able to nail it on the head. This article does, and I would highly recommend that you read it.
Before I say anything, I have to clear my name on the "neighbor" picture. That was actually taken at the Polynesian Cultural Center with people I didn't even know. We walked in the gate, they put the leis on us, they posed, someone snapped a picture, they walked off and did it with the next person. No choice in the matter, and it all happened within probably about thirty seconds. Everyone gets it done to them. Notice in my post I never said that the people in the picture were my neighbors. :)
Here is a picture of our neighbors and me:
The yacht club:
Overlooking Honolulu and the tall ship (Falls of Clyde)
The tall ship A place for cannibalistic activities
Overlooking Honolulu again
Wild chickens (they're everywhere there!) Some beach
Another picture of the tall ship
A model of the USS Constitution
An outdoor emergency warning system - on a fake palm tree
Hawaii struck me as a very laid back place. People don't really have much to do (at least from what I saw), so as soon as they finish work, they all head down to the beach where they surf/sail/canoe/snorkel until the sun goes down. At that point, they all tromp up to the grocery store (still with beach attire) where they buy dinner. They then head home where they go to bed and do the same thing the next day. Surfing and being Hawaiian is their religion. I sometimes think that they take their surfing more seriously than Coloradans take skiing or riding (if that's possible). Caucasians are by far the minority. I felt like I was albino there. Everyone that we came across was very nice. Even the security guards in the airport were cracking jokes. I was starting to get a little skeptical of all the "aloha-ing" and "mahalo-ing" thinking that they were putting it all on for the tourists. Though this is probably part of the reason, they really do truly say that in everyday life. It seems to me that many of the native Hawaiians are poor. The "real Hawaii" behind the tourist Hawaii isn't really all that kept up. Unlike here, there are hardly any new cars. If there is a new car, it's probably a tourist who rented it. There are hardly any bikers there. I think I probably saw five professional bikers (spandex and all) in the time I was there. All the roads are 35 mph unless it's a highway. If that's the case, the speed limit gets bumped up to a whole...55 mph. Wow! Something that struck me while I was there was the fact that the poor people who live there really don't get to travel anywhere. They could drive across the island (probably takes 1.5 hours) and stay there, or they could pay $600 for an airplane ticket. They're pretty stuck there. Would I go back? I haven't decided yet. I loved it there, but if I went back, I think I would like to take up surfing and do a whole lot more sailing. If any of you ever get a chance to try sailing, go for it! It's well worth it.