Monthly Archives: April 2011

Eve’s Mistake, My Mistake

Back in January, my pastor’s wife loaned me a book by Debi Pearl, titled Created to Be His Help Meet. I have been reading it on and off, and have enjoyed (almost) every word of it! I don’t read much for pleasure any more (too many other things to do!), so last night, I found myself about a third of the way through the book. It was about there that Mrs. Pearl began talking about the differences between Adam and Eve. As I was reading, I had a strange idea.

How many times have I blamed Eve for being so stupid and ruining everything? If it weren’t for her, I sometimes think, we would still be living on a perfect earth. She should have known better! God told Adam point-blank that death was the penalty for disobedience (Genesis 2:16-17). Why didn’t she believe Him?

But as I was reading the story again last night, in the context of thinking about obeying my husband perfectly, a new idea occurred to me. Every single time I rationalize concerning the Word of God, I make the same exact mistake that Eve made. Take, for instance, submission to my husband. Every time I think, “Well, God’s rule doesn’t apply in this situation,” I am allowing Satan to deceive me into questioning God.

The problem is thousands of years old: Eve didn’t respect God’s supreme authority, and it’s even possible that she didn’t trust God to follow through on His promise. She wanted what she wanted so badly, that she allowed Satan to deceive her into rationalizing. She willingly chose to be deceived.

God is God. This fact alone requires our obedience.

First of all, Eve should have been willing to obey God because He is God. Because He is the Creator. Because He makes the rules (or rule, in her case). He doesn’t have to explain Himself. We often don’t tell our children precisely why we ask them not to say certain words or act a certain way. Sometimes, the explanation wouldn’t be good for them, like when I asked my five-year-old not to go around holding hands with and hugging on other boys (he was making some of the older boys in choir uncomfortable). Sometimes, we need them to obey immediately, and we don’t have time to explain. And again, sometimes, we just want them to recognize our authority and to obey us just because our position demands it.  God required Eve’s obedience. He told Adam that the consequences of disobedience were death. I’ve long figured that Eve didn’t really believe that God would follow through on His promise. She certainly didn’t understand the gravity of her situation. She didn’t know about all the sorrow she would bring into the world. But should God have needed to tell her the exact consequences of disobedience before He asked her to obey? No.

Sometimes I think we forget that God created us for His own glory. He wants us to tell Him how wonderful He is. He wants us to tell Him what an awesome job He did when He created everything. And He wants us to obey Him to the letter. Because He is God. We don’t need another reason.

How do God’s rules benefit me?

However, we humans often don’t follow God implicitly unless we can see how it directly benefits us. Don’t ask me why – it shouldn’t make sense, but that’s the way we are. We are sinful. Even before Eve took her first bite, she decided that she would do what she perceived to be good for her, regardless of what her Creator, her Lord, demanded. She was led to believe that perhaps God didn’t have her best interest in mind.

Luckily for us, God never asks us to do anything that isn’t good for us. He is the epitome of goodness and intelligence. He doesn’t make rules for the mere sake of placing restrictions on us, but for our own benefit. If you read through the books of Exodus and Leviticus, you will find that God made a great many rules and placed a great many restrictions on His people, and He didn’t always explain why. My husband and I aren’t Jewish, but when our son was born, we had him circumcised on the eighth day, just as God had commanded the Israelites. Now, we weren’t convicted to do so (at the time, we thought that God’s Law was only for the Jewish nation), but we figured He must have had a legitimate reason for creating a rule about it to begin with. We found out a couple years later that blood clotting is at its peak on the eighth day of life. What I’m trying to illustrate is: we don’t have to understand why God has asked us to do (or not to do) something. We need to just trust that He knows best, and that all of His intentions are good ones. When I fail to obey Him, I fail to trust Him.

Application

The difficulties begin when we start applying His commandments to our own lives. If we were to trust God completely, our lives as we know them would be turned upside down. Even Christians fail to trust God when doing so gets between them and the things they really want to do. The more wrapped up we are in the lifestyles and perceptions of our day, the harder it is to let go of our own desires and understanding, and trust God with everything.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

Here are some potentially life-changing applications, should we decide to obey God to the letter:

Be Careful What You Watch on Television

Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Romans 1:29-32

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Philippians 4:8

Submission to Authority

Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;

Ephesians 6:2

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

Ephesians 5:22

Does God tell wives to submit to their husbands, except when the husbands are wrong? Does he tell wives to submit unless the husbands are unsaved? No! In fact, he tells wives that their unsaved husbands can come to salvation through observing their wives’ submission in the fear of God. The only time we should not obey authority is when we are commanded to do something contrary to the Word of God. Period.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Romans 13:1

For me, this verse even means paying taxes on every penny and obeying the speed limits. This may be common sense for a lot of people, but I also know many, many Christians who are more of the “civil disobedience” type.

Gossip

And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.

I Timothy 5:13

Caring for Others

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

James 1:27

He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.

Proverbs 19:17

Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.

Proverbs 3:27

Resisting Worldliness and Conformity

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:2

Church Attendance

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

What about Old Testament Laws?

 

(I am updating this section as of 1/10/2017 because my perception of God’s Law has changed drastically in the last couple of years. I have to smile now, when I see that I wrote the phrase “Old Testament Laws.” It has come to my attention that there is only one Law given by God. The New Testament refers to many of the individual laws, but it is not a new law. I am not updating this post in an effort to hide the fact that I have changed my mind, but merely because I do not want to spread false doctrine. For a better picture of what I believe now, please see The Law Is Not an Example of Planned Obsolescence.)

Even though our salvation is not based on obedience to the Law, I maintain that all of them were instituted for our own good, and following them certainly won’t hurt us. Besides, once you get to know the Lord, you will want to please Him as much as possible by obeying His commands. In the following verse, God practically dares us to trust Him with our finances.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Malachi 3:10

Tithing is good for the Kingdom. It supports those who have devoted their entire lives to reaching others for Christ. It is good for us, too. By tithing, we prove our trust in God, which, when God blesses us in return, helps to increase our faith.

Keeping the Sabbath is also good for us.

And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27

Have we never stopped to consider that it is good for us, emotionally, spiritually, and physically to actually rest from working once a week?

Rationalization Is Our Warning Signal

I would venture to say that anytime we find ourselves rationalizing, we should stop in our tracks and do the opposite of what it is that we are wanting to do. Rationalization is the signal to stop and ask ourselves if we are trusting God, and to try to figure out what our motivations really are. If we have to rationalize, we already know what we should be doing, but we don’t want to do it. We are trying to find a way around it without hurting our consciences. We set ourselves up as God, and think: In this situation, I can see what’s best for me. For some reason, God’s rules only apply to our situations when we want them to. Any other time, we can find ways around them. That’s not respect at all! How would you feel if your teenagers treated you that way? My friends used to tell me, “It’s easier to apologize than to ask permission.” But if you know ahead of time that you are going to be apologizing later, then you already know it’s wrong. It’s a sin to dishonor your parents, husband, or God by doing anything that you suspect will garner their disapproval.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Do you believe that? Do you believe it enough to trust God to the point of obeying Him in all situations? That your situation isn’t the exception to the rule? Or maybe you think that God didn’t see this coming. Maybe it appears that things can’t work out by doing it His way; that it will only work out if you do what you think is best. Since when is your wisdom greater than God’s? Will you be brave enough to present these arguments before God when He asks why you disobeyed? I know the answer.

I’m not trying to be mean, but I am trying to promote a “No-Excuses Christianity.” Let’s get real, folks.

Can you think of any more areas of life in which we can apply this concept? I’m sure there are many, many more, and I would love to hear your ideas.

Advertisements

Memorizing a Foreign Language Song

Our studio-wide music festival is just around the corner – only ten more days, to be exact! Because the homeschool choir has been so busy practicing for contest, I have allowed the individual members of the choir to work on their own to prepare for solos and ensembles. Well, they haven’t been entirely on their own. The day I assigned solos, I also handed out my own personal plan for perfecting them on time. It’s the same method I used as a voice major in college. While a college student will need to move at a much faster pace (they will usually be memorizing six to eight songs per semester and performing three or four), this schedule is perfect for a beginning singer; it is especially useful when singing a foreign language song for the first time.

Week 1: Know when to breathe (between phrases, at commas if needed, etc. Never in the middle of a word or idea). Begin looking ahead at words and melody.

Week 2: Have a solid knowledge of the melody when reading from the score.

Week 3: Have a solid knowledge of the interpretation of the song. Be ready to give a short synopsis to the class. (If you can’t find a word-for-word translation online, try using Babel Fish.)

Week 4: Have a solid knowledge of the pronunciation when reading from the score.

Week 5: Be able to sing with accompaniment.

Week 6: Be able to sing the song using the words written on an index card (no peeking at the score). Bring the index card to class with lyrics written on it already. (I started using this little trick after reading Joan Frey Boytim’s book The Private Voice Studio Handbook.)

Week 7: Entire song from memory with accompaniment (no peeking at music or index card).

Week 8: Dynamics memorized and diction perfect.

Now, having a plan is all very well and good, but just how does a beginning singer go about learning the words to a foreign language piece?

The easiest way is to choose books that have CDs with pronunciation help on them. I love the books in The Vocal Library series, published by Hal Leonard. The CDs in this series also include the accompaniments.

What if you already have your music picked out from another source, and you don’t have access to a recorded pronunciation?

Well, you can do one of two things: You can learn the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) just for that song, and this isn’t too difficult, as long as you are willing to dedicate an afternoon or two to research. The information is out there, and readily available, but learning it can be a little time-consuming.

For the serious student of voice, I recommend studying the IPA in-depth, for at least French, German, and Italian (Spanish and Latin are easy enough without knowing IPA). If you decide to learn IPA from scratch, begin with Italian. Not only is it a great starting place, but I have had trouble finding Italian pronunciations on CD.

The other thing you can do is find a good online text-to-speech converter (Google “online TTS”). The free online versions aren’t great sounding, but the diction is usually pretty accurate, so they are a good choice if you are willing to put up with listening to an electronic-sounding voice. Some sites allow you to choose either a male or female voice in many languages. Some let you slow down or speed up the playback, and others even let you download the result as an mp3. It’s faster than learning the IPA, but more annoying and less educational.

Have fun practicing!

How to Efficiently Write a Great Research Paper

During my last two years in college, I wrote tons of research papers. While most of my classes only required one paper per semester, two of the classes that I took required three. As I read the syllabi for those classes, I realized that I needed to find a way to streamline my whole paper-writing process. This is what I came up with, and it worked really well for me.

Step 1: Choose a topic within 24 hours of learning that you have a paper to write.

Step 2: As soon as the topic is approved by your instructor, go to the library. Set aside two or three hours for taking notes (for a 1500 word paper – about 4 pages, double-spaced). I prefer to take hand-written notes – don’t ask me why. I always retype them anyway. Perhaps it’s because once I’ve written my notes once, and typed them once, I don’t have to reread them before I begin writing the paper.

Step 3: If you are researching something that is pretty obscure, try looking it up in the index of big books that cover a broad topic. Even if you can only find a paragraph or two covering your specific topic, you can still use that particular book as a source. (I had a teacher that required four different book sources and two online sources.) That way, even if you can’t find an entire book on your topic, you can still pull a different quote or fact from each book source. The rest you can find online.

Step 4: Write down bibliographical information immediately. You don’t have to format it yet – just make sure you have all the info.

Step 5: Take all of your notes verbatim, and make a note of which page you are taking the info from. If you begin a new page in the middle of your notes, make sure to note that as well. Instead of trying to italicize hand-written words, I use slashes to /set them apart/. If you have an idea of your own while copying notes, make sure you clearly mark it as yours.

My notes usually ended up looking something like this:

Book Title: Author’s full name: Publisher, City, Date

Page 17

Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah /blah blah/ blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah.

(Amy’s idea: blah blah blah.)

Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah (18) blah blah blah blah.

Type all of your notes into a single file.

Step 6: Spend a half hour taking notes from each book source. After a half hour – stop. Don’t allow yourself to get too caught up taking notes from any one source. You will never get finished! If you are researching a person, use each book to research a different era of the person’s life. If you are researching a different kind of topic, use each book to research a different aspect of that topic. Even if all of the books contain basically the same information, this is a good way to efficiently use multiple sources.

Step 7: Find your online sources, making sure they are from trusted sites. If you can use the school’s databases, all the better. Copy and paste all pertinent info into a single file. Copy and paste all bibliographical web site information at the beginning of each section. Since websites are in a constant state of change, make sure you include the access date (the date you copied the information).

Step 8: Print off all of your information. If you have more than twenty pages for a relatively short paper, you may want to delete some of the redundant or irrelevant material before printing.

Step 9: Decide how you want your paper to flow. Basically this is an outline. Biographies are relatively easy, since you will follow a chronological timeline. At the end of the paper, you can sum up greatest accomplishments, lasting impact, etc. Other types of papers can be easy as well; just decide on an order that makes sense, and stick with it. For example, your outline may look like this: Early Life, Interesting Turn of Events, Move to Boarding School, Work in the Field, Awards, Impact on Society, 200 Years Later, etc.

Step 10: Take several different colored highlighters or pens and mark your notes, using a different color for each point on the outline. Alternatively, you could bracket off each topic category in your notes, and mark the category in the margin.

You can either assign each category a color or a code. Your resulting notes will either look like this:

Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah (18) blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Or like this, based on the outline given above:

EL (early life) Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah.

ITE Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah (18) blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah.

IS Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah.

EL Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah.

MBS Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Step 11: Read all of your notes two or three times. Now put your notes away and write your paper based on the knowledge in your own head. If you don’t know a fact such as a year, a number, or a name, write a question mark there to be filled in later. Writing it this way, without the use of your notes, keeps the whole paper from seeming like a paraphrased imitation of your research (which is how most research papers end up).

Step 12: If your paper is too long, cut out the unessential stuff, or tighten up your sentence structure. If it is too short, read your notes again and look for interesting tidbits. Top your paper off by using one or two exact quotes per typed page.

Step 13: Go back over your research paper, and compare it to your notes, which should be verbatim from the sources, and make sure you haven’t accidentally plagiarized. Make use of your highlighted sections to find your sources easily, based on which section of the paper you are currently working on.

Step 14: Time for adding footnotes or in-text citations. You can look up your references easily by using your highlighted notes.

Step 15: Format your bibliography, footnotes, margins, etc. Set aside at least an hour to do this, instead of waiting until 20 minutes before you have to leave for class on the day the paper is due.

Step 16: If you are truly interested in your topic, and you have finished your paper early, now is the time to satisfy your thirst for knowledge and dig a little deeper. If you run out of time, you can turn your paper in the way it is. But if time allows, you can tweak it to your heart’s content!