Category Archives: Holidays

A Chestertonian Valentine’s Day

From the essay “A Defense of Rash Vows”

The revolt against vows has been carried in our day even to the extent of a revolt against the typical vow of marriage. It is most amusing to listen to the opponents of marriage on this subject. They appear to imagine that the ideal of constancy was a yoke mysteriously imposed on mankind by the devil, instead of being, as it is, a yoke consistently imposed by all lovers on themselves. They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black and white contradiction in two words – ‘free-love’ – as if a lover ever had been, or ever could be, free. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word. Modern sages offer to the lover, with an ill-flavoured grin, the largest liberties and the fullest irresponsibility; but they do not respect him as the old Church respected him; they do not write his oath upon the heavens, as the record of his highest moment. They give him every liberty except the liberty to sell his liberty, which is the only one that he wants.

From the essay “Two Stubborn Pieces of Iron”

Very few people ever state properly the strong argument in favor of marrying for love or against marrying for money. The argument is not that all lovers are heroes and heroines, nor is it that all dukes are profligates or all millionaires cads. The argument is this, that the differences between a man and a woman are at the best so obstinate and exasperating that they practically cannot be got over unless there is an atmosphere of exaggerated tenderness and mutual interest. To put the matter in one metaphor, the sexes are two stubborn pieces of iron; if they are to be welded together, it must be while they are red-hot. Every woman has to find out that her husband is a selfish beast, because every man is a selfish beast by the standard of a woman. But let her find out the beast while they are both still in the story of ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Every man has to find out that his wife is cross – that is to say, sensitive to the point of madness: for every woman is mad by the masculine standard. But let him find out that she is mad while her madness is more worth considering than anybody else’s sanity.

It Takes No Courage to Be the Cynic

An article entitled “Happy Daughters Day” – written by Elyse Fitzpatrick – was published this morning over at The Resurgence. After reading through it (twice), I must confess to being tremendously disappointed. I expected more of a writer of Fitzpatrick’s caliber. And believe me: that’s a statement I don’t make lightly.

My Mom has already written a response of sorts, so I’ll try not to waste time saying what has already been said. Also, I have schoolwork calling my name – it’s in my best interest to keep this short and sweet. So, here’s my half-cent:

First, I object to Fitzpatrick’s definition of Mother’s Day as “the Law” – a holiday that necessarily “breeds discontent and guilt.” To this I respond (with all due respect): Says who? I want to know why Mother’s Day must be viewed through such dark lenses. Why is this a given? I don’t doubt that there are some people who do look at it that way; what I want to know is why Fitzpatrick assumes most people look at it that way, as if it’s the only sensible and clear-headed position to take. Implicit in all of this is the idea that only the “enlightened” see Mother’s Day for what it really is: a day of guilt and glorified naval-gazing. Only the naive and the sentimental – the kind of people who watch the Hallmark channel – view it as something worth celebrating.

Second, I object to the way Fitzpatrick denigrates “honor” and “gift-giving”. She rightly observes that “we live in a sin-cursed world,” but goes on to say that “no matter how much we try to honor someone we love, it always seems to come out wrong. We can give the sweetest presents with the best intentions but still… it just never turns out like we hoped it would.” To begin with, “always” and “never” are strong words. And while it is true that I, being a sinner and living in a sinful world, cannot give gifts with perfect love and honor, why does it automatically follow that I cannot give gifts without any love or any honor? Can I not rejoice in honoring my mother – and in future, my wife – simply because it’s impossible for me to do it perfectly?

Third, I object to Fitzpatrick’s glib assumption that Mother’s Day is really “a celebration of our own goodness”. Again I respond: Says who? She points out that “any time you seek satisfaction, honor, and glory in yourself you’re going to be dissatisfied” and she’s entirely correct in saying this. But why must we think that Mother’s Day is about all of that? The pagan may think of it in those terms; I see no reason why the Christian should. The Christian realizes that the only glory he/she has is in the cross of Christ – that doesn’t make it sin to rejoice and celebrate the beauty of motherhood on a day like Mother’s Day.
Venn-Diagram-mothers-E
It’s also worth mentioning that Mother’s Day isn’t simply about being a mother; it’s about being thankful for the mother God gave you. Everybody has one. As Sam Crabtree puts it, “The set of all people with no mothers is zero. The set of all people with mothers is everyone.”

I’m fully cognizant of the fact that Mother’s Day can be painful for some. And I don’t wish to be harsh or unfeeling. Paul tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”. Problem is, when it comes to Mother’s Day, it seems like we want to focus in on the second part of the admonition to the exclusion of the first. Are we called to have compassion, to encourage the discouraged and lift up the downtrodden? Of course. But that doesn’t mean we knock down the ones who are standing and tell them to keep their joy and thankfulness to themselves.

Nowadays, it takes no courage to be the cynic, the wet blanket, the ho-hummer, the forecaster of doom and gloom. It takes courage to stand up and say, “This is the day the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad!” Because the minute you do, somebody is going to play Eeyore.

Of Twitter-Ingrates and Getting Dressed for Christmas

While thumbing through my Twitter feed earlier today, I saw this:


So I did. And the tweets I ended up reading reminded me of a line from King Lear: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is To have a thankless child!” A few examples will suffice:

I’m yelling **** CHRISTMAS cause I only got 4 gifts under the tree.

I’m not even that excited for Christmas cuz I’m not getting an Xbox 360.

Only got an iPad 2 god mum I wanted a ****** iPhone 5 **** sake

And my mom went directly against me. she asked me if I wanted the black or white iPad. I said white, of course. tell me why mine is black..?

Well I guess I didnt get my much wanted iphone. **** my **** life and every ******* thing it.

Got That 60″ I Been Asking For, New PS3, & Like 4 Bills! No iPhone 5 Tho…

There’s something darkly funny about all this griping, and I’m tempted to make a crack about the fuzzy-wuzzy sentimentalists who think the Christmas season magically brings out the best in us. For now, however, I shall refrain. The point of this post lies elsewhere.

There’s this thing called the R.C. Sproul Jr. Principal of Hermeneutics, and the principal is this: “Whenever you see someone doing something really stupid in the Bible, do not say to yourself, ‘How can they be so stupid?’ Instead say to yourself, ‘How am I stupid, just like them?’”

This situation is different – I’m “studying” Twitter, not the Bible – but the basic idea still applies. So instead of adopting a self-righteous stance and giving these Twitter-Ingrates a condescending eye-roll, I should consider: how am I an ingrate, just like them?

I may not fill my Twitter feed with whining, railing, or blue language. I may not blog about how disappointing it was not to get that coveted iPhone (or what have you). I may not use Facebook as a way to vent my wrath against the cold and heartless universe.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not griping deep down inside.

In his book God Rest Ye Merry, Douglas Wilson observes that people are often trapped by “the expectations game” during the holidays:

Because everyone around you assumes that the day is going to be ‘really good,’ ‘special,’ or ‘fantastic,’ and is constantly telling you to have a ‘merry’ one, it is easy to assume that having a merry Christmas is an actual possession of yours, and if not a possession, at least a birthright. Consequently, the tendency is to sketch out in your mind what you would like that possession to be like. But it turns out, metaphorically speaking, that you get socks instead of the shotgun, or cookware instead of pearls, and the expectation lost is a set-up for real disappointment. This is one of the why holidays can be such an emotional roller coaster ride for so many, and Christmas is no exception.

Now take a look at Colossians 3:12-17, where Paul tells us,

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Says Wilson,

The text obviously deals with how we as Christians are to live all the time, and not just during the holidays. But the holidays are nothing other than what we normally do, ramped up to the next level. And so as we prepare our hearts for this celebration, ramp this up as well. Problems arise when we exert ourselves physically, emotionally, financially, and so on, and we don’t exert ourselves here. Think of this as getting dressed for the season – here, put this on. What should you put on? Tender mercies, kindness, humility of mind, meekness and patience (v. 12). That is holiday garb. When you are clothed this way, what are you dressed for? Snow pants are for going out in the snow, right? What is this clothing for? It is getting dressed for forbearance and forgiveness (v. 13). You are all dressed up and therefore ready to drop a quarrel, and to forgive  as you were forgiven (v. 13). But that is not enough – you need to put on another layer. Over everything else, put on charity, which is the perfect coat, the perfection coat (v. 14). When you have done that, what are you ready for? You are ready for peace with others, and that peace is saturated with gratitude (v. 15). You are also ready for some music, and particularly the music of grace and gratitude (vv. 15-16). And then, to crown all else, you are dress for everything – whatever you do, whether in word or deed, you can do it in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to the Father (v. 17).

Thankful

For the redeeming blood of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – who paid the debt I could not pay, to clothe me in righteousness that is not mine, to give me riches I do not deserve. “What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!”

J.C. Ryle: “The quantity of that blood may very likely have been small; the appearance of that blood was doubtless like that of our own: but never since the day when Adam was first formed out of the dust of the ground, has any blood been shed of such deep importance to the whole family of mankind.”

For my family – the craziness, the laughter, the love, the memories. The very people I should least take for granted, yet often do.

Erma Bombeck: “The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.”

For books, glorious books – can you imagine life without them? I cannot. What worlds would be lost, what wonders hidden! I count myself blessed to live in a home where such things are treasured – and that Book of Books treasured chief of all.

Niel Gaiman: “Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!”

For words – to speak and to write. But especially to write. Words gritty and elegant, small and great, earthy and sky-kissed. Words like “effervescence” and “lamprophony”. Words to sling across the page, to get drunk on.

Dorothy Sayers: “Do you find it easy to get drunk on words?” “So easy that, to tell you the truth, I am seldom perfectly sober.”

For writers – those who are what I work to be. Cormac McCarthy. C.S. Lewis. Charles Spurgeon. G.K. Chesterton. Ray Bradbury. Douglas Wilson. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Mark Steyn. Carl Trueman. The next best thing to being a genius oneself is to study those who are. These men are. And I thank God for what I can learn from them.

Thomas Berger: “Why do writers write? Because it isn’t there.”

For my friends – the near ones, the far ones, and the in-between ones. The ones I have seen face-to-face and the ones I hope to see face-to-face. In the words of a tiny yet well-known individual, “God bless them, every one.”

C.S. Lewis: “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which gives survival value.”

For my pastor – who takes seriously his responsibilities as a minister. Who shepherds his flock with diligence. Who preaches what the Word says, and not what he would like it to say. I know if I were speak this to his face, he would probably say that he’s “a black-hearted sinner.” True, of course. But he’s also a great and godly man, and one which I deeply respect. God bless him, too.