Ten Things

It was so much fun last week, I decided a reprise was in order. Here goes ... 


{hopefully Peter King doesn't sue me}

1. I think we all need friends who send random links to good music.

It's the best gift because it shows a certain level of thoughtfulness and the courage to spam you with "whatever," coupled with the confidence that you'll read it or link it or love it or all of it. 

My friend, let's call him JH, sent me this video. Your welcome. 

2. I think good storytelling crosses barriers. 

a. We (my wife and I) randomly watched Ernest & Celestine with the pixies this week. It's an animated movie--the animation is basically watercolors--about how a mean grumpy musical bear and an artist mouse become friends. It's beautiful; the story, the animation, all of it. 

What's more, it's in French with English subtitles. The girls actually watched it on their own twice without understanding a word and fell in love with it. Then I watched it and read the subtitles--now they love it even more. 

b. Good stories create worlds within your head--that is actually the difference between "imaginary" and "imaginative," according to C.S. Lewis (to be truly imaginative is to create better and other worlds. When good stories join with beautiful expression, like watercolor animation, then you experience something even more dynamic.

The girls loved the story because they "saw" the story. If Ernest & Celestine is considered iconographical art, then perhaps it operates in the way that C.S. Lewis calls, "an accompaniment" to life, or "life itself, in another mode." (Lewis, Spenser's Images of Life.)

c. I feel like in the so-called "Christian world" we like to talk about stories, and about our stories; we like to be the hero of our stories, which ironically sounds like the new self-help jargon. Perhaps we should spend more time actually telling good stories and stories that aren't ours, but stories as companions, life in another mode, new and better worlds. Isn't that what the world needs, an apologetic of beauty? 

3. I think laziness makes you an addict. 

a. Let me explain. The comfort and ease of the modern advanced world, like automobiles for example, tend to make us dependent and even expectant upon their services. We then become addicted to that particular kind of ease. 

b. We intended to buy a car here in England when we arrived. We sold both vehicles back home and were eager to find a nice used one here. But the location of our house and the comprehensive nature of public transportation in Oxford made us rethink our plan.

c. So, we decided--with a very large, "Gulp!"--NOT to buy a vehicle. For the first several weeks Chris and I both experienced a bit of anxiety, almost like nervous energy related adjoined to that decision. But we breathed deep and found we weren't nervous, just car addicts (not really addicts, but you get the hyperbole). 

d. Don't get me wrong, I love cars. Ask anyone who knows me. But one night Chris and I discussed how we used our vehicle back in the States and why we used it. Turns out, much of our busy-ness comes from the ability and ease and comfort of driving wherever we so please. 

e. But we found a new passion and a fresh invigoration with our present state. Instead of driving to "the shops" because we can, we go for walks. We've slowed down, not only our daily motion and commotion centered around driving a car everywhere, but also in our thinking. I feel slower, but in a good way. 

f. In a way, I felt like we were, perhaps, addicted to the ease and comfort of driving everywhere. That ease and freedom releases you from having to actually think about why: Why am I going to this shop? Why am I driving this errand? Do I really need to blow two hours in traffic getting to a place that only affords me consumer products? 

4. I think we can learn much from "Hipsters," Punk Rock, Grunge and Jesus. 

a. This one is coming next week (hopefully!) because I still haven't figured out what a "hipster" is. In fact, the definition changes depending on who you discuss it with. If you have a good definition let me know in the comments.  

b. I think hipster, punk rock, and grunge all basically mean and do and express the same thing. But what do I know? 

5. I think desiring a thing is easy, it's the vulnerability needed to reach into the Joy of faith that is hard. 

a. That first part is actually not altogether true. Desiring isn't easy, at least desiring the right and best things isn't. Lewis often talks about how it's not that we desire too much, but that we desire too little. (See "The Weight of Glory")

We live life duped into thinking all the best things are the things we can drive our cars to and purchase (see #3). Once we get past the mud holes of pop-culture desires, and finally find Christ as our hearts desire, then things start getting good. (For more our hearts true desire and spiritual longing see The Pilgrim's Regress and Till We Have Faces)

b. My friend JH (see #1) and I discussed this progression from desiring to Joy and determined that in order to reach the relational beauty of Joy we first needed to dive into the fearsome waters of vulnerability. 

c. To be vulnerable demands a heavy dose of trust and courage. 

d. To find Joy in our relationships with God we first have to desire him, not the mud holes. And then we must dive into the murky waters of vulnerability (this happens in a gripping scene in The Pilgrim's Regress) and trust that he has our backs. "Do you God, really?" That's the questions isn't it. 

But the answer to the question is, "Jump into the water and find Joy, find me." 

6. I think there cannot be anything more sweet sounding than your daughter sitting at her desk reading books for the first time. 

7. I think these are the three things in life you never skimp on: 

a. Toilet paper

b. A guitar

c. Your dreams

8. I think I love that Seattle won the Super Bowl. 

a. Say what you want about Richard Sherman an Peyton Manning. To me the bigger story is Russell Wilson: Steady, Fearless, Understated, Humble. He doesn't need to say much, because his play and his life say is it all. 

b. I love American football, but I tire of the constant "Me!" of it all. "I'm the best cornerback!" 

"No, I am." 

Who cares. If you think that you saying "it" does anything to quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, then you're an idiot. Shut up and play. I don't remember Barry Sanders always touting how he was the supreme running back of all the ages. 

I think Marshawn Lynch has the right idea. Shut up, and play. He's a beast and "the beast" doesn't need to talk--just bring the thunder.

And what of this "well, it's not bragging if it's true"? Bragging is not predicated on whether a statement is true or false. I've sat and listened to many a person, including myself (yes, I sit and listen to myself), boast when they had absolutely no cause to be doing so.

Bragging is bragging, and it's unseemly, but apparently it's "the way" of our culture. What "way" that is exactly, I'm not sure. 

9. I think bandwagon-theology needs to go away. 

a. And by bandwagon-theology I mean theological thinking that tends to permeate discussions whether they be online on blogs (such as this) or in small groups and such. The "thinking" to which I'm referring so often, and sadly, sounds like personal pontification--mere opinion--that ends up being hoisted up as gospel. 

b. I'm all for theological reflection. In fact, I love and encourage it. But I am also for sound thinking with the help of theological mentors and other resources. We're not going to get everything "right," that's not why I think it needs to go away. I'm not looking for "always right."

But I am looking for leaders, especially, to do more than offer bumper-sticker theological sound bytes that may sound good and brave and courageous and all of it but are, in fact, simply not thought out. 

c. I can't tell you how many times I've deleted a whole post or how many articles still sit in my "Misc" file that will never see the light of day.

I understand the blogosphere and the Internet in general is simply an aggregate space where we can test out ideas and such, but before we simply put out opinions that are actually real theological positions, let's do the work of right thinking.

And by right thinking I mean open a commentary or three and get some outside help. 

d. I have a post coming where I will go further into "bandwagon theology" ... but it's taking some time because, well, these things take time. :) 

e. Here's a nice blog where some serious thought goes into most of their posts. I'd love to find more of these. Please share in the comments if you know of any more. 

10. I think there is something terrifyingly wondrous about veiled beauty. 

a. C. S. Lewis reminds us that "Venus and Nature themselves are in this life seen only under veils." (Spenser's Images of Life) Venus actually means beauty and nature itself is out in plain view, and yet when you wonder into a wood or onto the sands of a beach you find that the view from far away was, in a sense, a veil. 

When you really get into the wood, it opens up into myriad forms of beauty--all wild and rapturous. 

b. I am still learning how this is true of my wife. What I mean is this; when I look at my wife from a distance I behold her beauty, her form, her aura. But it is only when I walk into her via intimate relationship that she, like the wood, opens up to me. A revelatory experience in and of itself (See #5).

c. I think men so often miss this about women. And don't think that I am poo-pooing a glorious form or the pleasure of outward appearance. I'm not. But the magic of beauty is that it functions in layers; the further into the wood we walk, the more wondrous things we behold. 

I think if/when men take the time to unveil a woman's inner beauty, then they will not only find beauty unveiled in all its wonder, but they will also find truth (that's another post altogether). 

Timothy Willard is the author of three books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life. He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. He lived in Oxford, England for two years studying beauty in the works of C.S. Lewis. He earned his PhD in Theology under the supervision of world-renowned theologian Alister McGrath. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.