Wednesday, August 25, 2004
I decided that if people are not metacognitive, they really are in trouble at university. The vast majority at uni probably have this skill, but some clearly do not. I realised that if you can't look at a problem and think things like, "where do I start?" and "what is this asking me to do?" and "what is the relevant information connected to this problem?", you really have a problem - it's not a small problem either. I think this would lead to the person quite literally staring at a problem with no thoughts at all... if they can't realise what they're thinking, how can they think at all? If you can't ask yourself in your head, "what does this problem require me to do?" you have nothing at all to hang an answer on - you won't even think of an answer if you don't even know there IS a question!
So, evidently, such people just sit and stare... in this case - they draw a few lines on a page that look like the drawing on the question sheet. It's not what was asked for - but it's something. Of course, technical drawing requires powers of spatial reasoning - which, incidentally, is significantly improved by playing music - the link has more info. Spatial-temporal reasoning involves transforming and relating mental images in space and time. Spatial-temporal reasoning differs to language-analytic reasoning; generally, the sciences typically involve spatial-temporal reasoning, while arts and more language-analytic reasoning.
Some people evidently have not developed spatial reasoning and/or language-analytic reasoning. My heart really goes out to such people - especially knowing what they're going to get on this test. I wish I could help them. It is a passion of mine to help people in their minds. Unfortunately, minds are complex things.
Sometimes, I think that's why I really should write a book about this. It would require lots of research and revelation from God, but I would love to get down some things that could actually help people think better. Sadly, the people who would need to read the book probably wouldn't be the type of people who read, and even if they did they probably wouldn't understand it. Makes me think the speech-and-language-theory people have the right approach - one on one helping people.
Sadly, it is difficult for me to explain things to people who don't think metacognitively - because my thoughts and explainations are based on metacognitive processes. So, it is a sad irony - the people who might be able to help can't explain it to the people that they're trying to help.
That's why I wrote on an earlier post that it is crucial that people get taught well growing up - because once their brain is wired into thinking a certain way, they are closed to new ways of thinking. They literally cannot imagine thinking that way, and therefore they cannot.
Creative imagination is more that a nice daydream, it is the essence of developing new mental processes.
I only thought of that then, but it seems most smart people are creative, so perhaps it's right. Imagination is in essence the skill of creating something that did not exist before in your mind... it is the process that builds mental constructs onto which new ideas can be hung. Imagination builds the framework of our intelligence.
When I was young, I imagined heaps of stuff... I lived in an exciting world where I imagined stuff that made life always an adventure. I think it's more than just being 'a cute kid' to play such games, for they are crucial to development. What's more - I think it's important that we continue to imagine. Maybe we aren't going to imagine that we're King Arthur while waving a small stick around anymore, but the things we imagine are more advanced. Imagination is not limited to visual images, but can involve a whole lot of things.
It is a fact that you can learn to do something better if you imagine yourself doing it well, take sport for example. I think this is because imagining doing it well builds new mental framework onto which you can actually learn to do it well. If you can't imagine doing it better, there is nothing to build on - and maybe you won't be able to get better.
All this is very interesting, and far more deep than I had anticipated as I vented on stupid people. I hope you have found this interesting also.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
I wish to write a series of discussions on the fruits of the Spirit. Before elaborating on each of these, however, it is important to clarify what it is we speak of. We know what the fruit of the Spirit are, but how do they grow? I will endeavour to discuss this here, to show the nature of how we become like Christ when we abide with the Holy Spirit, and to describe the Spirit’s role in producing the fruit. I hope to go through each of the fruit of the Spirit in detail in later posts.
The fruits of the Spirit (the Holy Spirit), and fruits of evil desires (the ‘flesh’) that contrast to these, are the products of the character of our hearts. The ‘flesh’ are those parts of our character that are evil and in direct opposition to the characteristics of the righteous person (Gal ); it refers to the desires and inclinations we have which are contrary to what is Godly and right.
Now I should mention here that not all actions fall into either fruits of the Spirit or fruits of unrighteousness, for some actions do not stem from our character, but rather from merely our humanity. For instance, eating is neither of the Spirit nor of the flesh, but rather necessary for living. Like most ‘neutral’ actions, it can be tainted with righteous or unrighteous flavours because our character – also called our ‘spirit’ - always affects how we behave. This ‘spirit’ is different to the spiritual part of our being, just as the body is different to the mind. All our thoughts and actions flow from the seat of our thoughts and indeed our very being – the heart. It is in the heart that character is found. It is in the heart where our spirit lies.
The Holy Spirit is a person, and though He is a part of the Trinity of the Godhead, the fullness of God Himself is found in Him. He ‘lives in the heart’ of those who are His, and it is like we are no longer alone, but always in the company of the Creator. How we are changed because of this is no mystery, for we naturally adopt the character of those we spend much time with. The Spirit does not forge our character as a blacksmith beats and tempers a sword, but rather the Holy character of the Spirit permeates into our own character as the smell of fresh flowers eventually fills the room and the noses of those present. You cannot point a finger at the fragrance travelling and say, “look, there it goes”, for it is unseen and often very subtle, but it is no mystery.
So, it is by spending time with the Spirit of God that our spirit becomes like His, just as a husband and wife gradually become more similar in character as they abide together. The fruits of the Spirit are the result of the character of God becoming our own. The Spirit Himself does not ‘do’ the things that are referred to as fruits of the Spirit. Christ is the trunk, we are but small branches, and the Spirit is sap that flows in us – giving us food to grow. The fruit are what we produce as a result of abiding with God and having His character in us, in the form of the Holy Spirit.
Do not think that merely by being a Christian the fruits of the Spirit will be manifest. Sadly, I have met Christians who are notably lacking several. For the fruit cannot grow without a healthy branch for the life-giving sap to flow through. We are the branches, and as such we much ensure that we are not blocking the flow of sap to the fruit that could we could produce. Certainly, the Spirit does lives in us if we are merely small shoots rather than large branches, but how freely does it flow through us in our hearts and into our actions?
I never understood the way in which these concepts of the Spirit abiding in us and producing fruit until I experienced it myself. It is somewhat difficult to describe it in a different way, but I will make an attempt.
It is like our heart is a large house. The inner part of us – the sum of our characteristics - resides in this house just as a person would reside in their home. I imagine that different rooms correspond to different states of mind. For instance, one room may be labelled, ‘prayer’, another labelled ‘anger’, and another ‘pride’. There are many such rooms in the mansion of our heart – some are good, and others are bad. Throughout the day, we walk from room to room, sometimes praying, sometimes angry, or sometimes proud. We decorate each room with wall-hangings of our experiences, and furnish our rooms with cupboards and closets of our memories and couches made by the expert hands of habit. We are comfortable in the couches of our habits.
And so, we live. Each day a journey from one room to the next, occasionally adding or removing furniture or wall-hangings. Sometimes we stop to tidy a room by straightening our wall-hangings and picking up the debris of days gone by strewn over the floor.
We let the Holy Spirit in, after He knocks on the door ever so patiently, and we let Him stay with us in the house of our heart. But, too often, we restrict Him to only a few rooms – perhaps ‘prayer’ and ‘church’. Maybe we let Him also come in a join us when we are in our ‘pain’ or ‘hurt’ room. But when we go into some rooms, like pride, we bolt the door shut behind us. We restrict His access to our hearts, and so He cannot spend as much time with us as He should have. If we stop Him from coming with us everywhere in the house of our heart – in all situations and moods – not only can He not be with us in many rooms, but He cannot tidy those rooms by straightening some of the wall-hangings, tidying the cupboards and replacing the couches with better ones.
But, if we let Him have free reign in all places of our heart, what a wonder! It feels like there really is a holy and righteous God living in our hearts when we let Him have freedom there. When we want to sin and the Godly part of us longs to find strength not to, we are given strength in the still and peaceful words of the Spirit who simply says ‘no’, and it is enough. Things we used to want to do gradually change as the Spirit rearranges the furniture – the content – of our hearts.
What could be worse than not letting the Spirit have such freedom in our hearts? Perhaps it is when we let others into our hearts, and they tumble and trip on the mess that’s in our hearts because there’s very little light in some rooms. We seem to enjoy darkness that conceals the disordered and messy rooms of our heart, but we should not. The Holy Spirit should be as a light in our hearts – not placed in a cupboard or small room, but put in the centre of the house so that His light fills every crevice of our beings. When we allow Him to talk and be with us not matter what situation or mood we are in, and listen to what He says, we can truly say God abides with us.
But it is not enough to just hear God without obeying what He says. These are the people who are hearers but not doers of the Word. We must work with God in refurnishing our heart into a state of righteousness. Sometimes this refurnishing, this renewal, involves a shift in our attitudes or thought processes, but other times it can only be achieved by hard work – by doing actions in the real world like loving or being kind to others. For example, how can we say we have the fruits of the Spirit unless we do them? How can we say “I have kindness”, without ever choosing to be kind to others?
Yes, we have a choice about our actions, and we choose what fruit we produce because we choose to a large extent the content of our heart. It is best that we let God have free access to all parts of our heart. If we do this, it is like we are becoming bigger branches that allow the sap to flow more freely through us, so that the Spirit of God will be able to flow through us and into growing righteous fruit in our lives. So, over the next few posts, I hope to cover some practical aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, and hopefully see what they look like in practise.
Monday, August 16, 2004
With recent posts on the differences between Arminian and Calvist views, it seems the relevance to our faith was lost in the banter of big words. So, I bring into light the great divide between the two major views on the ever-quoted Romans 8:28. As we shall see, these differences affect how we live, because they influence how we think God works.
I shant quote the verse here, because there are grossly different translations of this verse. Instead, I begin by defining a few things: "We" are those who love God and are called according to His purpose of Salvation. "Good" must be understood to be so as judged by God, rather than people. Two views exist, which I give in list-form for clarity and brevity. I have attempted to write each view in a concise way that portrays the important connotations of the view. I present them as follows:
- God works with us to bring about good action (more Arminian)
This view is exemplified by the Revised Standard Version: "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." (RSV). This is my view, which holds that:
- God is the subject that brings about good action in partnership with us.
- In the Greek, 'together' is literally 'work together, help in work, partner in labour' according to Strongs.
- God works with each of us in co-operation with him so that we become more Christlike (inner action)
- Out of this Christlikeness, we can initiate and perform good deeds in the world (outer action)
- We can also act as facilitators for acts initiated and performed by the Holy Spirit (outer action)
- 'Good action' is thus both toward us (inner) and toward others (outer)
- Naturally, God only can work with those who love God and co-operate with His purposes.
- This has nothing to do with our state of happiness or our circumstances.
- God controls all things to have a good effect (Calvinist)
This view is exemplified by the New Living Translation: "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." It is presumably based on the KJV. Proponents of this view are forced to conclude - whether they like it or not:
- "All things" are the subject that has a 'good effect' on us because they are controlled by God.
- God does not change things, but rather is controlling them as they occur.
- Because God is all-powerful and controlling all things, it suggests ALL things that influence us are exactly as He desires.
- (The interpretation implies that there are no things that have a truely bad effect on Christians.)
- (Note the deduction that God is therefore responsible for evil things in the world.)
- "All things" also include evil (sinful) things. These things are being controlled by God, so they are not actually evil, but instead are good - because God is using them to ultimately have a good effect.
- (Note that this undermines the premise that these deeds were truely evil to begin with.)
- (This view is used to encouraged people to be happy about tragedy and evil.)
- (God respects the free will, and therefore free action, of people. Surely, "all things" includes not only good that people do out of their own free will, but also evil. There are all manner of blantant evil sins in the world, which often directly influence Believers. Does God control these things also? In order to control them, would He not have to control and over-ride the free-will of people? I do not believe He does, for it goes against the nature of a true relationship, and therefore I do not believe God controls "all things." If He does not control all things, He cannot ensure that all things have a good effect on us.)
- God does not exert this beneficial control to those who do not love Him.
- (Note this implies God is willingly and deliberately not acting when He has the opportunity to facilitate non-Christians into relationship with Him.)
- (Note this implies God is willingly and deliberately not acting when He has the opportunity to facilitate non-Christians into relationship with Him.)
- This view has everything to do with circumstances, because they are what God is controlling to achieve good effect.
- (This is seperate to the good deeds we perform and the actions the Holy Spirit performs.)
- Like view 1, this view should have nothing to do with our state of happiness - though it is often used to try to make people feel happy.
- (Many people who are, for example, grieving, hate to be told that "it's all for the best" - and it is for good reason! Being told God is controlling such tragedy portrays God as an unloving and ungracious God, not a loving Father! It plays down the validy of their tragedy to some twisted kind of 'good' instead of the tragedy it is. God does not need to make someone a tetraplegic in order to use them better for the Kingdom! He is concerned with the heart - for it is that which determines fitness for service. God is well-capable of using someone without tetraplegia just as much as that person with tetraplegia. )
- This should not be confused with God working with us in the midst of evil (or tragedy), and even making use of that evil, to help us become moreChristlike and perform good deeds.
- "All things" are the subject that has a 'good effect' on us because they are controlled by God.
In my most humble-yet-opinionated view, the first of these is sensible, the second is heretical - and we best learn to tell the difference.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Life is the flicker of a moment in time
Like the snap of a camera,
Flash before your eyes
Many faces, places hastening to slide
Like shimmering shadows in the light
Now echoes of teardrops trickle from the past
And faintly paint a memory of times that didn't last
But the colour soon fades as the shadows play
On the candle flickering away
What can I do, while the wax still burns?
Before attacking history obliterates my turn?
Can this one flame ever create from the ashes
The echo of a diamond in the minds of the masses?
For crashes of the shadows so hastening to die
are captured by the flicker of a moment in time.
Sunday, August 08, 2004
When I was young, I used to think that I should have implied worth. This is the type where our sense of worth comes from what others tell us - in fact, we have implied worth solely because others suggest so. For instance, most television programs and sports games have implied worth - everyone says they are worth watching. The All Blacks have implied worth, because the nation holds up them as our representatives in rugby - a process where a ball is passed and kicked around for little benefit for society. Niether rugby, nor the players themselves would be worth anything unless other people believed them to be worth something.
Basing our sense of self-worth on implied worth works for many people - the attractive, the popular, those in their respected circles of friends - because all their friends tell them verbally and non-verbally that they are worth something to their friends. But what happens when people start telling you the opposite? How do you feel when people start telling you that you don't matter to them, and they do everything they can to let you know that they think you are the most useless, pathetic, and unworthy loser on the face of the planet?
Here's how I felt: I felt I had a choice. Not many people realise they have this choice, but it's there... You can choose to base your self-worth on what others say about you, or on who you are. When people aren't saying the nicest things, the first option leads down the familar road to depression, so it is the second road that I chose.
I based my sense of self-worth on intrinsic worth. This type of worth demands a great deal of effort to maintain. There are two different flavours of intrinsic worth. The first type is based on what you do. You have to earn worth by your good deeds, your kind acts, even your excellent works. I tried this path also, and I did well. I excelled at everything I tried (I didn't try the things I wasn't good at, of course). The A+'s became the foundation of my happiness. It wasn't about competition - I didn't care about the other people, and I always knew there would be someone better than me. I was about achieving to the best of my ability. So long as I did that, I fulfilled my sense of intrinsic self-worth.
But soon I realised life is more than about what we achieve, it is about who we are. After tasting the flavour of achievement-based intrinsic self-worth for many years, I found the taste of state-based intrinsic self-worth. This type is based on our character - the condition of our mind, our heart, our love, our fruit of the spirit. This was surely where to base one's sense of worth, I thought. After a few years, though, I discovered that this type of intrinsic self-worth leaves something to be desired - something missing. It was something I was missing, like when you look for your glasses all over before realising they were on your head all the time. I had a fine sense of intrinsic self-worth, yet I felt I was missing a whole second type of worth that I hadn't yet discovered.
And then I found it. Yes, there is intrinsic worth, but there is also a far greater kind of extrinsic worth. This second type comes not from what we do or what we are, but from something bigger than ourselves. Like a link in a part of a chain, its worth comes not from the fact that it is a link, but that it is a link in the chain. This kind of value is not found in us - but in God.
We are jars of clay. It is not the fact that we are jars that gives us worth, nor is it the fact that we are made of clay. Nor would a given vessel be of any more worth if it were used by someone of great importance - for the vessel is not the important thing, it is rather what it contains! We contain the Holy Spirit. How exceedingly more important is the Spirit of the Living God that we contain than the earthen clay that we are?
I wish to expand this analogy more, to tie in intrinsic worth to this greater category of extrinsic worth. Just as a chain link is important because of its function, so is a clay jar. Everyone is a jar of some description, but there are differences in the clay. Some clay is riddled with sin, that oozes green corrosive, toxic liquid into the vessel. This corrosive liquid not only hurts all those who drink it, but it eats away at the vessel itself. Eventually, the liquid breaks through the wall and forms holes. Now, the toxic product of sin not only hurts those who drink from the vessel, but it also hurts those who happen to be under the leaking cup as it passes by.
But what a beautiful thing that God would fill us with His Spirit? How wonderful and healing is His Living Water? And how dreadfully it is tainted by the toxic byproduct of sin! Sadly, there are many filled vessels which are hardly fit for use, for the Water in them is so tainted by the sinful nature of the clay.
But what if the vessel lets the Water permiate its very substance? What if we let the Spirit into all corners and rooms of our heart to go where He please? Ah, how wonderful the transformation! As the Water and clay mix, it produces something entirely different in the clay - a new thing called righteousness. The transformation is not a sudden one, for it can take time to wash away the resilient dirt of sin, and the reaction is invariably slow. But what a difference can be noticed in a vessel made of clay riddled not with sin, but with righteousness!
Instead of toxic byproduct - righteousness oozes the Gifts of the Spirit. This righteous byproduct also taints the Water we contain - but it adds flavour, like lemon to water. And so not only do the righteous vessels contain the pure Spirit of God, but the Spirit delightfully mixed with the unique Gifts that exude from the heart of the vessel. This flavoured water may leak through the holes from sin - but all it will do is show others the water contained within... for God will continually fill us again when we obey His voice.
So then it is perfectly right to expect vessels to differ - from some the Spirit will taste a little bitter, while from others it will taste sweet, while yet others may make it slightly salty. This is the extent of our intrinsic worth, that some have more pleasing flavours than others. But this intrinsic worth pales in comparison to the extrinsic worth that comes from what we contain. A rusty tin is just as good as a silver cup to a man desperate to quench his thirst, and a rusty tin can still be used to give water to the richest king. It is the water that is the main point - it is the water that gives the cup its purpose, its very reason for existing. Likewise, it is not in the clay that we are made of nor in the taints of our substance that we find our worth, but we find true fulfillment because of the Spirit that we contain.
- In the music team at church (3 hours Thursday, plus an average of 6 hours Sun)
- My Wed night cell group (3 hours), and writing Bible studies for them (6 hours)
- Monday night cell group (3 hours)
- Tuesday night NAVS group (4 hours)
- Gym (3 hours)
- Church leader's small group (3 hours every 6 weeks)
- Crazy random church events that I keep on getting roped into.
- My two thesis supervisors to do my presentation (about 16 hours total including prep) and write a paper (heaps of hours)
- Lecturer of MATH171 for tutoring 7.5 hours a week.
- Lecturer of ENME211 for tutoring CAD 3 hours a week, and marking about 20 hours of assignments (must do before 23 Aug, giving me two weeks)
- Lecturer of ENCH263 for marking 40 exam papers - probably take about 30 hours total (must do before 23 Aug, giving me two weeks)
- God - trying to do 20-30 hours a week of recording music - needless to say this is not currently not happening at all
- God - trying to do the whole morning quiet time/prayer/bible reading thing, also not currently happening much
- Youth music team - heaps of hours
- Cajz - trying to get album made and released (this is also taking plenty of time)
- Friends - I think I have to make time for friendship in here...
*sigh* I can't do it all... I'm not doing even close to all that - it's just not possible. When I've finished the marking, presentation, and paper perhaps things will settle down a little. But I've been holding out for the music thing for sooooo long - we're talking 2 years of planning to do this... and now I have the chance and my time is being hungrily eaten by all these other nice things. Is it good to spend 2 years building up to a project and then not getting a chance to do it because you had your time too spread over other things?
Church is eating up my time like an insidious lizard with a large gluttonous mouth, and I am starved.
Don't get me wrong, I want to do all that I'm involved in... for different reasons. But I can't help but think I need less responsibility. But what do I do? I guess youth music team is probably the first to go - they just assume I'm able to play whenever they want at 5 hours notice anyway, cursed cell phone technology. Wed night cell group is probably the next, as much as I love teaching them and learning myself, and possibly NAVS. I might just flag the thesis paper - it seems unrequired at this state. I might also be able to palm off some marking - that would be nice, but I need the cash because I'm trying to be self-sufficient this year. The Cajz thing remains on the back-burner as always, regrettably along with spending time with God and the Bible.
Ideally, this is how I'd break down my week:
- 35 hours music
- 10.5 hours tutoring - no marking
- 1 hour each day with God and the Bible (7 hours)
- Monday night cell (3 hours)
- Tuesday NAVS (4 hours)
- Church music team (6 hours)
Perhaps I shall have to not be so overcommitted, as it is driving me literally mad. Perhaps I shall have to strike down the time-gluttonous church lizard and give my stupid marking the old heave-ho... go back to being broke, go back on my committment - that sounds so wrong - it's not a committment unless you're committed to it... *sigh again*
I wouldn't have trouble if my music committment was for someone ELSE... that would be easy to defend spending the time when it's for someone else. But I am my own master with recording music, and others don't see any responsibility there - "no, you don't need to commit yourself to your own work - only someone else's," they think... "Sure, God might be saying 'do music', but I better to what the church wants first... and if there's no time left well that's too bad."
It happened to my sister... she ended up feeling like she was no longer serving the church, but chained to it. It's happened to a few other people I know in music teams and ministry. Surely it shouldn't be like that?
That's another hour gone, =) I best get to work.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in? Not just in a common everyday sense when you’re among strangers or an unusual place, I’m talking about something deeper. It’s that feeling you had when you were 8 years old in a busy street, looking for your parents. You walk aimlessly searching, trying to see through the cracks between people who slide by and don’t notice you. You think you see them, but then the crack closes… more people slide by… and then they aren’t there. The more you search, the more you realise… you’re helpless and can’t help yourself.
Sunday, August 01, 2004
That's right, I've just finished the final mastering of this much-
anticipated and long-overdue album I recorded several summers ago
on a crusty machine with a microphone held together by
shrink-wrap... =) But, this album sounds pretty alright IMHO - and
exceptionally good considering the equipment.
Cajz - short for casual - has a laid back cafe-type background
style with hints of jazz, latin, and flamenco guitar. For some really
out-of-date info about Cajz, visit a very out of date site kindly
hosted by my overseas friend Aaron here. It's the first album I
have recorded, mixed, mastered, etc etc so of course there's room
for improvement and my upcoming ones will be much better - but
nevertheless, it's a rare classic... the beginning.
We need about $2000 to make a run of 500 to give to friends,
family, and to hopefully sell a few to people who we can
persuade =) This is a fair bit of cash, so unless people buy
them we can't make them. We could just release the album via
the net - but most people like the bells and whistles of having the
case. So, we though we could sell some to recoup the cost and
perhaps make the album less of a financial failure. I think we'd
sell these to the general public who can afford at $20 each and
to friends who also can afford at $15. The price will not be below
$15 for anyone so don't get ideas - here's why...
IF we can sell them ALL, we'll probably have optimistic maximum
sales of about $7000. Subtract manufacturing costs of $2000 and
divide by the 3 of us in the band and you wind up with $1666 each.
This hardly makes the 3 months+ work on this album worthwhile.
If you think $15 is unreasonable then you can go try making your
own album and see what you'd like to charge for it...
We hoping to sell a few in church - maybe at $20 minimum
donation each. Unfortunately it's not cheap to create music.
Naturally, the proceeds will all go to helping me make more music.
Speaking of which, this week will see the dawn of a new era...
Finally, I'm starting on the next album, "read between the lines".
And subsequent albums, "tangent", "something more" and "live
to serve", in no particular order. In reality I won't get all four
of these recorded and so I'll probably boil the four albums down
to only three... and of course I will probably run out of time.
I think I like 'something more' better than 'tangent' anyway.
"Live to serve" is an album of blatently Christian stuff, while the
others just have Christian spirit and faith-influenced lyrics.
Don't forget to comment on my last 3 posts... if you'd like. =)