Friday, October 30, 2009

Bleak Moments...

About a week ago, I read Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis for the first time. Yes, I know what you are thinking - Steph, how is it that you have not read this book with your great love for Jack? Let me tell you, friend.... I don't know. I truly have no excuse. A great friend of mine has been hounding me about the Science Fiction trilogy of Lewis' for almost a decade now. And I will say it now - he is right, I was wrong in neglecting this for so long.

One of the biggest lightbulb moments for me while reading this was in the discovery of what exactly the Silent Planet was and why it was Silent. This is what I would like to write about now, so if you have not read the book, and you would NOT like to be spoiled - don't read this blog. However, if you don't mind a little spoiler, go ahead and read it - or you could go pick yourself up a copy of this very short 158 page book, read it, then come back here to discuss some thoughts.

OK, so spoiler readers and readers of the book from here on out.

Here is an excerpt from the book. It is Oyarsa (basically the head "angel" on the planet Malacandra) speaking to Ransom (our human hero of the book) telling him about Planet Thulcandra (aka Earth). Lewis writes,

"Thulcandra is the world we do not know. It alone is outside the heaven, and no message comes from it... It was not always so. Once we knew the Oyarsa of your world - he was brighter and greater than I - and then we did not call it Thulcandra. It is the longest of all stories and the bitterest. He became bent. That was before any life came on your world. Those were the Bent Years of which we still speak in the heavens, when he was not yet bound to Thulcandra but free like us. It was in his mind to spoil other worlds besides his own. He smote your moon with his left hand and with his right he brought the cold death on my harandra (upper level of the current planet, Malacandra) before its time... There was great war, and we drove him back out of the heavens and bound him in the air of his own world as Maleldil (God) taught us. There doubtless he lies to this hour, and we know no more of that planet: it is silent."

Lewis' myth-making here of the story of the fall of Satan is pretty amazing. He has an uncanny gift to be able to take what we know to be true from the Word of God and make it into another story/reality/myth that explains an idea about what we know. So for Lewis, Earth which is ruled by the Bent One is silent to all other angels. They cannot see or receive any messages from it, because the Bent One has silenced it to them.

This idea of silence as sin is striking to me. When I think of the injustices in the world - like a teenager being gang-raped for 2 1/2 hours while onlookers do nothing about it - I do not think of silence. The sounds of that one incident ring out in my ears - rage, anger, loudness, yells, screams, terror - sin is not silent here. It cries out in a loud, boisterous voice of ugliness to all the world. Yet the angels do not hear this, because they are separate beings and sin is not a part of them. To them, this world that is ruled by the Bent One is silent; and this is what brings great sorrow into my heart. Because sin has overtaken this world, and what God truly designed for this world is no longer visible or heard to angels.

The wonderful flip side to all of this is that once we leave the world of the Bent One and become a part of the plan of God, the angels rejoice in seeing us and hearing from us again. Luke 15:10, "Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

I have been challenged this week to be more active in this bleak, silent world. To borrow a phrase from Dr. Plantinga, this is "not the way it's supposed to be."

Monday, October 26, 2009

See the Art in Me

Well, a couple of days late on the promise, but here is the paper on Calvin, icons, and art that I recently wrote (slightly shortened and modified, but still pretty long - take it in chunks, if you must).

In Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin has proclaimed a very high view of God from the outset of the book. God is the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Author of Salvation. This very knowledge of God leads to a knowledge of self that finds humanity as utterly hopeless and constantly fallible in its search for God. Humanity does not find God; God finds humanity and declares Himself to them. Having set the stage for the relationship between man and God, Calvin begins 1.11 by titling it, “It is unlawful to attribute a visible form to God, and generally whoever sets up idols revolts against the true God.” It is through man’s “folly, nay, madness” that the icons of religion have been produced. Calvin writes that, “this brute stupidity gripped the whole world – to pant after visible figures of God, and thus to form gods of wood, stone, gold, silver, or other dead and corruptible matter – we must cling to this principle: God’s glory is corrupted by an impious falsehood whenever any form is attached to him.”

Something to understand about the time that Calvin, Luther, Zwingli and the other Reformers is that the Church was dripping with fashioned icons to Saints and God. Images of God were everywhere, little pictures (or icons as they were known) were in all of the Churches and people's homes, and worship was being given to these icons. So, Calvin addresses this problem head on and says that it is against God's second commandment - Do not make a graven image. For my Lutheran and Catholic friends out there, you may be saying to yourself, this is not the second commandment, so let's take a brief look into God's command in Exodus 20:4.

Calvin has separated out verses 3 and 4 of Exodus 20 into the first and second commandment of God. First, God has commanded that He alone is deity. To follow this up, the second commandment relates to the first and for Calvin, explains what worship is approved or rejected by God. Worshipping God alone is accepted and approved; creating any sort of image, likeness, carving that could represent God or any other gods is rejected. Calvin writes, “But God does not compare these images with one another, as if one were more subtle, another less so; but without exception he repudiates all likenesses, pictures, and other signs by which the superstitious have thought he will be near them.”

Luther, however, has combined Exodus 20:3, 4 to represent the whole of the first commandment of God. The force of the commandment under Luther’s view is that one is to “regard me alone as your God.” Luther is concerned with the intention of the heart, not the display of icons or art. He says, “That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.” Luther distastes the practice of works in faith and views this as the god that is against God, rather than a veneration of icons. He writes, “Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it. It is primarily in the heart, which pursues other things and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils.”

Both Calvin and Luther have a strong opinion formed before coming to the text. They have both seen an abuse of the first and/or second commandment in their time. For myself, the thrust of this commandment(s) comes in verse 5, “You shall not bow down to them or serve them.” It is because of this verse that I tend to agree with Luther’s view of the commandment that the action that God detests or loves is the intention of the heart in worship. If our heart is inclining towards worshipping an idol, then the purpose of sculpting that form will be for worship. However, if our heart is inclined for worshipping the one, true God, then the purpose for forming or painting an icon will be for aid in worship of the one, true God. The heart’s intention is pure, and the commandment is not broken.

During the time of the Iconoclast Controversy and the Seventh Ecumenical Council, iconophiles (people who were pro-icon) were asked to draw a clear line between worship and veneration. Veneration for man was done as an act of honor; worshipful veneration was “given only to the uncreated God.” Through the centuries, this distinction did not remain clear. The views of mankind as “brute stupidity” (said by Calvin) and “lazy-bellies and presumptuous saints” (said by Luther) shed light on why the distinction was no longer clear enough for the average layperson to grasp. A theology of worship and the place of icons in this worship needed to be addressed. Calvin argues in 1.11.9 that even a bow of veneration to the icons is a superstition. He says, “And there is no difference whether they simply worship an idol, or God in the idol. It is always idolatry when divine honors are bestowed upon an idol…because it does not please God to be worshiped superstitiously, whatever is conferred upon the idol is snatched away from Him.” Here is the heart of the matter for Calvin – worship is for God alone, man cannot distinguish between veneration and worship because the very act of bowing implies worship to the idol. Worship for Calvin must be “soli Deo gloria (to God alone be the glory) and finitum non est capax infiniti (the finite cannot contain the infinite).” In 1.11.10, Calvin describes the lengths these Christians are going to for icons – by taking up the sword in order to defend those who would burn them, by taking long, taxing pilgrimages in order to see images even if they have a likeness of it in their home. The outward actions show Calvin what is at the heart of the people. There has been a veneration not of just honor, but a bestowing of deity to the icons.

The use of icons in worship crosses a dangerous line. They had ceased being used as an aid in worship. They became the objects of worship, and therefore, took away what God alone deserved and should be given. For Calvin, there is no distinction between latria (worship) and dulia (service) – both are for God alone, not man and not an image. Since man cannot separate the image from worship, the image or icon should be destroyed. Calvin held firm to his convictions on theology and worship. Churches were stripped bare in Geneva. While he briefly accepts that art and sculpture can be a gift from God in 1.11.12, Calvin is vague about what can be painted or sculpted and in what function it can serve a purpose. William Dyrness writes, “Whatever Calvin’s good wishes might have been for those gifted in these arts, Calvin gives them no positive encouragement or guidance. As a result, artists and sculptors were mostly out of work in the Geneva of Calvin’s time.”

The theology of God that Calvin presents is one that I firmly believe and hold accordingly in my life. Worship as a response to this belief is an all-encompassing act. It transcends time and generations, and is an invitation by God to join in on something that is far bigger than ourselves that He has initiated through both nature creation and human creation. All of our actions in worship should point to God, and I agree with Calvin that the veneration of icons had crossed the line into worship of the icons and saints rather than of God. However, I believe that a reform in the area of iconography would have been more beneficial to the community rather than a destruction of church buildings and church art.

Luther had to deal with these matters more specifically because of the destruction of church buildings, icons, images and art in Wittenburg by the leadership of Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt. Luther addresses the destruction of images by seeking a reform of the heart first, rather than a destruction of property. He writes, “For when they are no longer in the heart, they can do no harm when seen with the eyes.” Mere destruction of images, for Luther, will only swell up pride and preserve the idolatry in the heart of “false confidence and pride in works.” In his sermon on the destruction of images, Luther uses the first commandment as his basis for what should be obeyed. It is the command not to have any other gods that Luther upholds as the principle. If images are made in order to be a god, then sin and disobedience to the command has occurred. He states, “where, however, images or statues are made without idolatry, then such making of them is not forbidden, for the central saying, ‘You shall have no other gods,’ remains intact.”

Luther’s concern for the heart and proper worship are evident throughout this sermon. His strong stance against strictly enforced destruction is because he sees the church replacing the works of pilgrimage and indulgences with the work of destruction. In faith and belief there is nothing that one can do to achieve any sort of good standing with God, and Luther sees Karlstadt requiring people to destroy images as a call for works to be performed. Luther desires that through right preaching and the Holy Spirit’s work on man’s heart, the veneration and worship of images will be destroyed in man’s heart and the icons that are improperly used and abused will be destroyed accordingly.

What then should become of works of art in the church? Cathedrals were built higher, more ornately to draw men’s eyes heavenward towards thoughts of God the Creator. Art, structure and images have been found to serve the church in didactical purpose. Today, power point screens run during times of praise with pictures of God’s creation – working to focus the thoughts and minds solely on God. One would be hard-pressed to find a church that did not have an operating flannel graph in use every Sunday during Children’s Church twenty years ago. Windows are filled with stain-glass that depict the lives of saints – reminding us of the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us and the communion of saints that we as believers now have come into.

Every aspect of artistic life in the church should serve as a means to bring glory and worship to God. In the construction of the tabernacle in the Old Testament it is said:

“Then Moses said to the people of Israel, ‘See the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahsamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver – by any sort of workman or skilled designer.” Exodus 35:30-35

Not that this can be a proof-text for art in Christianity, but it shows that God valued giving talent and skill to His people in order that a place of worship, a place where they could encounter God and receive forgiveness, could be constructed in a way that brought beauty and glory to God.

Calvin’s strong stance against any sort of images in the Church and subsequently a lack of direction for artistic expression does not sit well with me, a daughter of the Creator who has been given a creative drive and talent with which I have tried very hard to find avenues to express my faith and give glory back to God through my art. The abuse in the Church during the period of the Reformation and before is clearly a sin in the heart of man. Worship belongs to God alone. There is room for art and images in the Church though, as they serve to point to God, to direct the congregations thoughts and vivid images of their mind to God, and as they serve as an outlet for the artistically talented to express notions of Joy, Grace, Peace, Faith and Love in ways that only they are capable of doing – whether by a paint stroke, a click of a camera or the molding of clay.

The Book of Concord, ed. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959).

Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), vol. I.

Dyrness, William, Reformed Theology and Visual Culture (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Eire, Carlos M. N., War Against the Idols (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

Giakalis, Ambrosios, Image of the Divine: The Theology of Icons at the Seventh Ecumenical Council (New York: E.J. Brill, 1994).

Luther’s Works, ed. Conrad Bergendoff (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1958), vol. 40.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

One Step Closer to Knowing

By the end of tonight, I will have had a total of 3 classes in the past two weeks, as opposed to my normal 4 every week (8 every two weeks). Last week was "Reading Week" for Gordon-Conwell, but since I still have a class down at Boston College through the BTI, Ethics in an Ecumenical Perspective was still on! This week, two of my teachers had cancelled class for the week, so suffice to say I have had lots of time to read from the stacks of books that are required, work on my photography skills, and knock out a paper for my Calvin class (of which I promise to share my thoughts on tomorrow, but am not fully ready to blog about today).

For today, I have a rather "humorous" observation from my most eye-opening class of the semester - Ethics in an Ecumenical Perspective. It has not been the reading that I have found particularly eye-opening. I mean, for the most part I have understood that Catholics and Protestants think differently, approach ethics differently, and therefore, our writing on the subject will differ. What has been most eye-opening to me has been my interactions with my fellow classmates. The woman that I sit next to in the class, let's call her Kerri, happens to be a practicing Universalist (they come in all shapes and sizes at these "Jesuit" schools!). For the most part, she has identified whole-heartedly with those Ethicians that have proclaimed an Ethic of Love, Free-Spirited Will, and Good for Humanity type stuff. For those of you who are lost - just think Utopian Society based on Love and Respect for Humankind (without the hippy-dippy free love of it all).

For this class, we have a rather daunting 25-30 page paper that is due by the end of the course, and since we are quickly approaching November, most of the students' thoughts have turned to this paper along with their topics of conversation. So, Kerri asked me what I would be doing my paper on. I told her that I would be exploring this movement in the Evangelical world called the Emerging/Emergent Movement/Church (I am not going to particularize here on the differences, if any), their theological ethic, and how this has affected the Gospel of Jesus. She was intrigued and asked a little more about this, so I let her know that this movement was very missional focused, and related a lot to what Stanley Hauerwas (a moral theologian that we had read about three weeks prior) had written about in his book Resident Aliens. She asked what I meant by them being missional focused, so I told her that they had gone above any approach prior in Evangelicalism on how to affect and care for the poor, needy, diseased, etc. Their focus was to be like Jesus - the "pure Jesus" that came with a message of healing, etc.

I want to disclaim right here and now that I am still in the early stages of my study on this paper, so there will be more unfolding on this topic, but this is what I understand about this movement so far.

After I told her this, she got really excited about the movement, and asked what exactly I was against with it. Simply put, the Emerging Movement is doing great things in the way of affecting the world, the poor, and those that Jesus would have gone to first; however, there is an EXTREME disconnect between what they are doing, and what they are presenting as the Gospel. Long gone are the days of unrighteousness, sin, and repentance. The Gospel has become something else - a Secret Message, something that the Church has gotten wrong for centuries, and something that today is too offensive to be a part of any longer.

The funny thing is that by the end of our conversation, I gave her the name of some Emerging writers and their books, hoping that this would be a step in the right direction, leading her to a saving faith with Jesus. Maybe there can be something good that comes from this after all? Who knows except God above.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

...just call me Jack

The one class that I have yet to comment on is probably my favorite class I am currently taking. This is not to say that I do not thoroughly love and enjoy my other three classes, I do, but this class tops them all. The reading for it is magnificent, the lectures are fascinating, and if there were to be a field-trip, I would be about as close to heaven as I am going to get here on earth.

Have I intrigued you enough yet? Peaked your interest? Well, for the A students who read the title of this blog, they can deduce that his nickname is Jack. This is a self-proclaimed nickname, by the way, because his proper name does not have any way of breaking down to Jack. Give up? This course is on C.S. Lewis. Clive Staples - author, poet, philosopher, theologian, teacher, student, and just about one of the most intelligent men that have entered into this wonderful thing called Church History.

For my own part, C.S. Lewis became a part of my life when I was very young, and my father would read The Chronicles of Narnia to me. As I learned how to read, I slowly started reading them back to him, a chapter a night. Thus began my love for reading, for story and for the mystical land of Narnia itself. As I grew older, Lewis remained a strong part of my life. I read the letters to Screwtape, I wrestled through what it meant to merely be a Christian, and I attempted, at a pre-mature age, to understand the journey of the Pilgrim's Regress (which I re-read this past weekend and I still need an Encyclopedia for many of the movements and philosophies that are mentioned). When I started my undergraduate education, I was introduced to what are now my three favorite Lewis works - Till We Have Faces, A Grief Observed and The Great Divorce. Lewis became not just an author of wonderful fantasies and philosophy, but he became my teacher and instructor in greater things:
- what does it truly mean to love unconditionally,
- how are we able to see anything clearly in this world,
- have I truly abandoned everything of this world and started the walk on blades of grass that will not be plucked,
- how does one observe grief and believe in a sovereign, loving God

Lewis has taught me more than I think he ever believed or intended possible from these small books. He opened up a completely new way of thinking and brought questions to my mind that I never had before. In short - C.S. Lewis has been God's instrument in teaching me throughout my walk of faith.

Recently, we were asked to read Surprised By Joy, this is Lewis' autobiography of his journey to Christian faith. He is very open in it, for the secretive man that he was. He shares briefly of pain, of loss, of deep-seated hurt, of struggles, but than he shares openly and honestly about Joy, about longing for something that cannot be named - sensucht, about expression, about far-off lands of imagination and about homes that require a cup of tea and a good book in every room. Everything about Lewis draws me in - his wonderful mind that is able to be both analytical and creative is something one day I hope to be able to say of my own.

It has been his notion of longing or sensucht that I have been focusing on lately. He was trying so hard to find Joy, but when he finally reached the longing, he discovered that Joy was not even it - Joy was merely a signpost along the way. Joy, as some of you know, was given to me as my middle name. I have always truly loved my name, Stephanie Joy. Stephanie means "crowned one" - so I have considered myself to be the Crowned One with Joy. Not that many would consider me to be particularly "joyous" in personality (I hear that snickering), quite the opposite actually. I am a rather sarcastic spirit who hears "Smile" a lot because apparently there is a permanent frown on my face.

However, I do not think that being happy is the correct meaning of Joy. Joy is not necessarily loud and flamboyant, it is also not always marked with a smile. I truly believe that Joy is a part of faith. This is something that I have thought through now for almost 10 years. Where there is contemplative peace - Joy is. Where there is inexpressible worship - Joy is. Where grace and mercy abound - Joy is. Joy is far deeper than mere happiness. Faith in God the Father, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the Spirit happens and Joy exists for us, not as a longing, but as reality. Lewis longed for something, thinking that it was called Joy, but when he discovered his longing in the Incarnation, he realized that Joy was just something that came with the Faith.

I want to leave you with the words of Lewis in Surprised By Joy on this subject, because let's face it - as much as I love to write, and think that I do a pretty descent job at it, Lewis waxes more eloquently than I am capable of.

"In so far as we really are at all (which isn't saying much) we have, so to speak, a root in the Absolute, which is the utter reality. And that is why we experience Joy: we yearn, rightly for that unity which we can never reach except by ceasing to be the separate phenomenal beings called 'we.' Joy was not a deception. Its visitations were rather the moments of clearest consciousness we had, when we became aware of our fragmentary and phantasmal nature and ached for that impossible reunion which would annihilate us or that self-contradictory waking which would reveal, not that we had had, but that we were, a dream."

Monday, October 12, 2009

an Eye-Opening Experience...

This past week, we were assigned to panel groups in the Ethics in an Ecumenical Perspective class and had to come ready to discuss one of the assigned topics:
Stem Cell Research
Homosexual Marriage/Homosexual Rights
Illegal Immigration/Border Control/Economic Refugees

You were also assigned a role to play in your particular panel. One was a Catholic, one a Baptist, one a United Church of Christ (Universalist), and one a Lutheran. The Lord was highly favoring me and gave me the Lutheran role in the less than hot topic border control/illegal immigration. So, what's a former Lutheran to do when she needs to sound like a Lutheran? Why, call up her old, Lutheran-to-the-core dad and talk about border control! Come panel time, I was a full-fledged Lutheran ready to cry out about the right and left hand of God (I think I got an A that day for participation, thanks dad).

The beginning of the eye-opening experience was the other students in the class. Now, most of these students, going to Boston College and doing master work in Theology or Ethics or something of the sort are Jesuit. In fact, I think there are myself and one other woman in the class who are NOT Catholic or Jesuit. So, one man, who had been assigned Baptist and given the topic of homosexual marriage, merely quoted Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them," and used that as his opening statement. I laughed at this one A LOT, because this dear Catholic pretty much nailed the Baptist mentality on the head, and had a spot on southern accent while doing it.

During a break in the class, I was talking to one of the students - let's call him Harry for the sake of discretion. Now, Harry is a Jesuit, but also is a free-wheeling philosophical thinker. So, he would describe himself as a pantheistic polytheist. He told me this in week 2, we are now in week 6. I have been trying to wrap my head around this one for 4 weeks now, but it got further explained to me this week when he was talking about a paper he had to write for Christology. He said that he describes the incarnation as Christ being incarnated from all of the gods. Let's say this together, folks..... "WHAT???" A little later, when he found out that I still held the view of God's Providence and Predestination together, he called it "quaint." NO LIE, QUAINT!!!! When he asked for an explanation on this, I let him know that this is my hermeneutical view of Romans 9, and that I fully and firmly believe that God will be glorified through all of this mess that we call a world. I also shared with him something I had learned last week from my reading in Calvin's Institutes that God is restraining the devil from going completely off the deep end. So, while we see things as completely horrible and evil (like Hurricane Katrina, Hitler, Genocide in Africa, Apartheid, you name it), this is not the worst the devil can do. God is restraining absolute chaos, absolute evil, because He is working on reconciliation, He is giving the Church a chance to reach out and help. Now this is a completely separate topic that I have yet to fully think through, so I need to digress back to the point. My friend, Harry, once I mentioned "the devil roaming around like a lion," stopped me there and asked if I really believed in a person which is the devil or Satan. I sat there and said, "Well, yes. I do. I read my Bible and take it for what it says."

Now, this may sound like a Sunday School answer, folks, but what I was trying to tap into with Harry was that for me, as a Protestant Evangelical, I fully believe that the Bible has authority over my life as the revealed Word of God. I also read it in the literal sense, not some analogical/allegorical/morality myth mess. I really did not see the problem with John Calvin or William Perkins, who I had also read earlier that week The Art of Prophesying (fantastic book!), when they were saying that God has given us authority through His Word. We, as the Church, hold no authority over the Scriptures. And while I understood that these two men were speaking out against the Catholic Church in particular on this one, I did not really believe that any Catholic would really say that he has some sort of authority over what the Bible says. But, there is my friend, Harry, who has the freedom to become a pantheistic polytheist and conforming that to Christianity. Who also finds that my literal interpretation of the Word of God is quaint, and who when I said that my view of God is that "my God is far bigger than myself," said in response, "My God is Myself." I do realize that Harry is as far left as we are going to get in the liberal realm of Catholicism, but this was eye opening for me.

Some final thoughts. What is your authority? Do you truly live under an authority? If it is Scripture, are you attempting to explain away some passage in Scripture in order to no longer be under its authority? Have you really wrestled with that passage of Scripture, or do you just find it offensive and stick to your logical reasoning on the subject instead? Maybe it is time to wrestle?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I hope that Someday I'll see without these Frames.

A couple of weeks ago, I started reading John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, as seen by angst-y post previous about a week back. Now, to ensure you that I am not just a "wrathful God" person, there have been marvelous thoughts in my head on eternity as of late.

Calvin begins Book 1 by explaining that we know ourselves by our knowledge of God. The two are "mutually connected." He then goes into great detail explaining natural revelation of God and special revelation of God that would put our dear friend Tony Evans to shame for his atrocity written a few years back. The artist/creative side in me has always been amazed at God's natural revelation to us. Calvin expressed it most eloquently in 1.5.1 by saying, "Yet, in the first place, wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory. You cannot in one glance survey this most vast and beautiful system of the universe, in its wide expanse, without being completely overwhelmed by the boundless force of its brightness." Boundless force of its brightness - what a fantastic thought!

Now, we recently moved to New England, and I have not been disappointed in the least with the bold claim that one must see New England in the Fall in order to really understand and grasp the purpose of this season. The colors, the air, the simple breeze that blows through and makes you begin to wonder... there is a boundless force of brightness occurring. I love it, every single second. The most wonderful aspect of all of this is that I can truly enjoy this beautiful brightness because it points me to the Creator. He is in charge of the workings of the trees, so that they change their color and become a vast array of chromatic display that painters can only hope to capture one day with their brush. He has created the idea of "crispness," so that when the air blows through my hair, a sense of happiness and longing for something more overwhelms me.

I began to wonder as I read through Calvin, if I enjoy Fall and New England's version of the season this much with my poor eyesight and confined word expression of it now, how much more amazing will eternity be? I sit and marvel at what the Creator has done here, in this fallen world, and He is up there laughing because He knows that my mind will be blown when I meet Him in eternity. This is the wonderful thing about God - He has created each one of us with amazing gifts and talents and desires, and we get a taste of it here in this earth, but the real Joy will be when we see without these frames, and He shows us All of Himself. God is holding back here. This thought makes me weep, because I am completely blown away here by the beauty of nature. Oh, how SMALL my mind is and how AMAZING our God was, is and will be!