Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Tribute to Gloria Estefan (the cat)

Many of you know our cat, Gloria Estefan Ainsworth. (Yes, her namesake is a latin pop singer.)

Well, this past week it became very clear to us that Gloria is sick (which we had suspected for some time). It had become a frequent occurence for her to lose all control of her bodily functions on various pieces of our furniture (I won't say which for fear some of you may never sit down in our house again). We always knew that Gloria was old, but she seemed to double in age just over the past week. After much emotional discussion and deliberation, we decided we could not keep her any longer. And so, Gloria is no longer with us.

Gloria came to our doorstep almost 3 years ago and won our hearts. We fed her tuna because she was hungry and alone. We never intended to keep her, but then we didn't really have a choice in the matter once she weaved in and out of our legs, purring sweetly.

Gloria was a great cat. These are some of the things I liked most about her:

1. Gloria was a pretty cat. If a cat can be feminine, Gloria was.

2. Gloria was de-clawed, which is nice for the obvious reason, but also because it meant that she had what we called "oven mitts" for paws. When she wanted you to pet her, she would "pet" you with her oven mitt paws until you decided to pet her. Sometimes we would purposely not pet her so that she would be required to sweetly tap us with her paw. It was very cute.

3. Gloria was the most unathletic cat I ever knew. She rarely played, and when she did you got the sense that it was out of obligation. We would dangle a string or poke her with a feather for a good 2 minutes before she would reluctantly and half-heartedly bat at it with her oven mitt paws. It was as though she was "too cool" to play.

4. On the other hand, in her younger days, we would often wake up to the sound of her wrestling with a plastic bag or tissue paper (her favorite sleeping surface). Upon one of us entering the room where this was happening she would do her best to look nonchalant, as if she was not really playing but merely looking at the plastic bag (which was difficult to believe since her body was half inside the plastic bag). We decided that she was a self-conscious player, probably embarrassed by her unathleticism.

5. Gloria only drank water out of a glass on my bedside table. If the glass was not at least 2/3 full she would meow at you until you filled it up. Although it sounds annoying, it was actually rather cute (but maybe that's just hindsight bias...)

6. Gloria would lay on anyone's lap, although her favorite lap was Dave's.

7. Gloria did not like to walk on uneven surfaces. Every time she had to cross our bed, which is covered by a fluffy down comforter, she would have to psyche herself up and then would cautiously feel around with her paw before every step. By the look of it, you would have thought she was crossing a perilous rope bridge over a ravine.

8. Gloria liked for her belly to be pet. And she had the softest and furriest belly.

9. Most of all, Gloria was a sweet companion. Whenever I was home alone at night, Gloria was a comforting presence to me.

Gloria, you will be missed. You were a great cat.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Us!

On June 25, 2005, exactly 3 years ago, I married the most wonderful man. At the time, I couldn't have imagined it was possible to love him more - but it is - and I do.

Before we got married, many people warned us that the first year was the hardest. By God's grace, it wasn't hard for us. It was much more natural than dating, and the Lord was kind to enable us to be gracious with one another as we learned to be married. At the close of our first year of marriage I began bracing myself for the second year. My rationale was that since we somehow escaped the difficulty of that "dreaded first year" we were probably due for a tough second year of marriage. Again, my expectations were not met. Our second year of marriage was just as good as the first, and in many ways better, as we grew in understanding each other and in maturity.

As I now look back on our third year of marriage, I am beginning to see a trend. Every year of marriage is better than the previous! How very kind of our Heavenly Father to design marriage to not only make us more like Christ but also to give us much joy and pleasure in this life!

Happy Anniversary, my sweet Dave! You are my highest earthly treasure, and I look forward with eager anticipation to what the Lord has planned for us.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Word on Christian Education

I came across this quote while reading Wisdom & Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning:

"Christian education, properly considered, always includes the goal that students will use their schooling to impact the world around them. Not only do we expect [graduates of Christian schools] to exercise discernment over their own lives and lifestyles, but we also expect them to be able to persuasively articulate a better way of life to those around them."

"We have to be careful, as we educate our students to live "Christianly" in this world, to do more than just teach them how to be a good example to others, should anyone care to look over their suburban privacy fences. Teaching them to think, to discern, and to behave wisely should be coupled with instilling in them a sense of obligation to contend for those same values throughout society. If we believe that Christian living is the fulfillment in this life of what God intends for human beings -- if being a Christian is, in fact, "good for us" -- then we can legitametly conclude that living in a Christ-influenced society can be good for anyone, even those who do not profess the faith personally. A gracious, articulate citizen who has learned to consider and to communicate within the whole range of human concerns will find it much easier to influence those living in the modern world than will those who have missed this set of skills in their education."

I found this to be a thought-provoking and helpful illustration of the benefit of thorough Christian education both for the individual child as well as for society. Although somewhat premature (seeing as how we have no children yet), this inspires me to strive to teach my children in such a way that they first embrace Christ themselves, and then are equipped to persuade others of the truth and beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What a high calling! And what grace must be given by God to fulfill this high calling.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

34 Years and Counting...

Thirty-four years ago today my parents were married in a small lakeside ceremony. They were 23 years old and smitten with each other, and I can happily say that they are still very much in love today at the age of 56.

I am so thankful to the Lord for gifting me with parents who love each other. Throughout my childhood, it was a regular occurrence for my sister and me to turn to one another and exclaim, "gross!" after witnessing mom and dad affectionately cuddle or kiss each another. However grossed out I might have been, I knew that mom and dad loved each other and my life was safe and secure as a result.

Now that I am a married woman, I can more fully appreciate the influence my parents' relationship had on me. It is so natural for me to express affection for my husband because I witnessed my mom's affection for my dad. I naturally desire to serve my husband through cooking him meals, washing his clothes, and keeping track of the details of our lives' because I watched my mom tirelessly do these same things for my dad.

I thank the Lord for my parents and their 34 years of marriage, and I pray for many more years to witness them grow in love for one another. I pray that Dave and I would continue to learn from them and model the same warmth and affection in the way we love one another.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An American Childhood

I just finished reading this memoir by Annie Dillard. She is an excellent observer and communicator of life, and her gifts are put to good use in this book.

Here is an excerpt of her describing an experience of her's as a small child:

"I lay alone and was almost asleep when the damned thing entered the room by flattening itself against the open door and sliding in. It was a transparent, luminous oblong. I could see the door whiten at its touch; I could see the blue wall turn pale where it raced over it... It was a swift spirit; it was an awareness. It made noise. It had two joined parts, a head and a tail, like a Chinese dragon. It found the door, wall, and headboar; and it swiped them, charging them with its luminous glance. After its fleet, searching passing, things looked the same, but weren't.

I dared not blink or breathe; I tried to hush my whooping blood. If it found another awareness, it would destroy it. Every night before it got me it gave up. It hit my wall's corner and couldn't get past. It shrank completely into itself and vanished like a cobra down a hole. I heard the rising roar it made when it died or left. I still couldn't breathe. I knew--it was the worst fact I knew, a very hard fact--that it could return again alive that same night...."

Curious to know what she's refering to? Read on...

"It was a passing car whose windshield reflected the corner streetlight outside. I figured it out one night."

Amazing. What's even more amzaing is that she does this throughout the book--totally sucking you in with her vivid descriptions. It's almost exhausting for your mind, but you are compelled to read on. I would encourage this book and this author highly.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Sad Reality of Childhood Obesity in America

* Please Note: This post is not intended to be an indictment of any overweight person or child. I am aware that there are many causes of obesity - including those that cannot be controlled or changed. Please read my thoughts with this in mind.

My heart was heavy after reading this Time magazine article: "How America's Children Packed on the Pounds." Here are some statistics from the article to give you a glimpse of the pervasiveness of obesity among children:

"In 1971 only 4% of 6-to-11-year-old kids were obese; by 2004, the figure had leaped to 18.8%. In the same period, the number rose from 6.1% to 17.4% in the 12-to-19-year-old group, and from 5% to 13.9% among kids ages just 2 to 5. And as with adults, that's just obesity. Include all overweight kids, and a whopping 32% of all American children now carry more pounds than they should."
Speaking of the rise of Type II Diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases (normally associated with people over the age of 40) among children, the article states:

"It's hardly a secret how American children have come to this sickly pass. In the era of the 64-oz. soda, the 1,200-calorie burger and the 700-calorie Frappuccino, food companies now produce enough each day for every American to consume a belt-popping 3,800 calories per day, never mind that even an adult needs only 2,350 to survive. Not only are adults and kids alike consuming far more calories than they can possibly use, but they're also doing less and less with them. The transformation of American homes into high-def, Web-enabled, TiVo-equipped entertainment centers means that children who come home after a largely sedentary day at a school desk spend an average of three more sedentary hours in front of some kind of screen. "

The scene described here is a worrisome one - not only because it inevitably leads to poor physical health, but more importantly because it is a recipe for poor spiritual health. Children who grow up learning to satisfy their every desire with food and mindless entertainment grow up to become adults who do the same. They find their comfort from food and lull their hearts to sleep with entertainment. "Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things (Phil. 3:19)."

As Christians, we should be concerned about childhood obesity, but not for all the same reasons that the secular world is concerned about it. We can agree with the author of this article that childhood obesity is a sad epidemic, that it is bad for the economy and future of America, and that something must be done about it; however, we must have a more biblically informed understanding of and solution to the problem. Apart from Christ, people (including children) will turn to other gods - in this case food - for comfort. Families and children need more than health education and "self-esteem" improvement (this is a separate topic for discussion altogether) to overcome obesity. They are sinners who need to be saved from their sin. Only then will they find true comfort and peace - in the Savior.

I am reminded that I once walked in this way too - living according to my flesh and satisfying all its desires. But thanks be to God that He has saved me from my body of death . My life is hidden with Christ in God, and I am no longer enslaved to food or any other thing. Praise the Lord for His salvation!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Powlison on the Dangers of Introspection

Over the course of the past two days, I have been listening to a message given by David Powlison at a 2007 Sovereign Grace leadership conference entitled, In the Last Analysis: Look Out for Introspection. As a student of biblical counseling (and therefore of Dr. Powlison), I benefited greatly from listening to this message. In it Powlison highlights the dangers of introspection when we "make self-analysis an end in itself instead of a doorway into grace, obedience, repentance, purpose, joy..." I am guilty of this. More than I would like to admit.

Further, he says, "It's like little children being given matches. We can use this most powerful gift [self-knowledge] in a way that ultimately can turn self-destructive and others-destructive, wholly contrary to the intention in which it was given."

Again, guilty.

We tend to think, Powlison notes, that "If I could only get to the bottom of why I do what I do I would be different." Rather, we must remember that "analysis itself changes nothing and mere analysis is not the goal."

When we fall prey to merely analysing ourselves, we "curve in upon ourselves" as the church fathers put it. Powlison explains this in-curving saying, "We are a vortex into ourselves, and our sins are about ourselves, so what could be a more fascinating way to look at myself than to try and figure out my sins... the world models that you're supposed to be about yourself, the flesh loves being about itself and can't imagine anything different, and Satan the liar who is himself utterly self-absorbed and full of pride and godlessness has a huge stake in lying to us, tempting us, reinforcing that self-centeredness... there's this huge inertia that pulls me down into me (emphasis mine)."

About halfway through the message I found myself asking the question (which you may now be asking): So is all self-introspection bad? In answer to this, Powlison reminds his listeners that "biblical self-knowledge is meant to take us out of ourselves. Accurate self-knowledge is a very good thing... the Bible is about self-knowledge... but it locates that process of knowing yourself in a much wider and deeper context."

For those of you who are familiar with biblical counseling, and specifically the ministry of CCEF, this movement away from introspection and "heart idolatry hunting" might seem strange and even unhelpful, especially from the lips of CCEF's own David Powlison. I had these thoughts. I mean, I can remember how enlightened I was upon first being introduced to the concept of heart idolatry and the depth of my sin. It was as if a light came on, while at the same time darkness swept over me as I saw a glimpse of the tip of the enormous iceberg of my sin. However, at the same time, I have not always used this self-knowledge and awareness of sin for good. Rather than be moved to prayer and repentance, I have become morbidly fascinated with my sin leading to, as Powlison describes, "paralysis of faith, of action, of obedience - because unless I understand everything I can't pray, I can't repent, I can't change, I can't love..." When this happens, introspection has become dangerous and is leading me down a path of sinful self-pity and fearful paralysis.

"Self-analysis is meant to be a doorway of grace. The problem is excessive introspection."

With every look inward, I pray I will also look to the cross and rejoice in Romans 8:1, praising God that "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Amen.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Welcome to the Ainsworth abode

I was long resistant to joining the world o' bloggers. The name "blog" alone was pretty much enough to turn me off. I mean, it sounds like some kind of onomatopoeia for an unpleasant bodily function. But alas, I have been convinced of the benefit of blogging, both for the working out of my thoughts as well as for keeping long-distance friends and family in-the-know.

My hope for this blog then is to do just those things (mentioned above), while at the same time promoting the name of my Lord Jesus Christ and bringing glory to Him. I pray that this blog will edify and encourage you, the reader, and I welcome contributions, correction and comments (and alliteration).