Sunday, September 13, 2009

All That Jazz and God Transforming Sinful Natures

In another life, it might be nice to use some random postgraduate degree as an excuse to research a thesis on food blogs as carriers of cultural memes, with food as universal language, hunger and greed as international drivers, recipes as socially-transmitted information. Unfortunately for those lovely ladies slogging away in cavernous kitchens in the Middle Ages, the lack of the internets then and the lack of readily available plucked and washed swans in the supermarkets now means my collection of Medieval recipes shall languish sadly in their hotel rooms like craggy-faced Bill Murrays on the set of Lost In Translation.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake
So for the present, chocolate hazelnut cake as sappy nostalgia commodified into the product of flour, eggs, cocoa and heat; as bourgeois-aspirational Anglo-centric fetishistic faux-domesticgoddess/Stepfordwife-ness; as handy reference to the "original" Nigella Lawson Torta alla Gianduia, itself is a dessert that references other desserts and on and on until drowned out by liberal socialist types protesting the tyranny of the meta-dessert (or as Zizek might mumble through his chocolate and hazelnut-stained teeth, the Dessert of the Real).

Beo Crescent Teochew Porridge
In yet another life, the thesis would be about music as a barometer of societal values wherein freewheeling jazz was first subversion of object-oriented composition by oppressed minorities, but is now signification of modern/post-modern respectability, hegemony synonymous with the institutionalisation of improvisation, the entrenchment of laissez-faire composition. (With the great Dianne Reeves, however, jazz was secondary to The Voice. And what a fantastic concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall, well-supported by a tight band consisting of Peter Martin on piano, Reginald Veal on bass, Terreon Gully on drums. Much mirth at the gospelised lyrics. By the end of the second encore, the audience was engorged with two solid hours of mesmerising musicianship. Some discussion later about gospel as cultural heritage.)

Bunnahabhain Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Oh yes, and in another, research would be on the symbiotic relationship of food and music as culture and so, taken as an interdisciplinary whole, as rhetoric and symbols of particular worldviews and thus their effect, exported, on foreign cultures.

But there aren't many alternate lives in which to spread these ironically inherently meaningless thesis-misses togged in obfuscating semiotics; there's one life now to deal with, then death and judgement.

Making Espresso from Segafreddo's Classic Espresso Ground Coffee in a Bialetti Venus
Of some help in the important desert-of-the-real stuff in this one life might be the self-improvement section-ly titled You Can Change by Tim Chester I helped a friend purchase. A flip-through while waiting for a morning espresso yielded some interesting pull-togethers of Scripture, inter alia:

Introduction and Chapter 1: What would you like to change?
In addition to the Vaughan Roberts-style run-through of being created in God's image, how that image was broken because of humanity's rejection of God, and how humans are re-created in God's image, sinful behaviour was set out not just in the passé terms of lust, pornography addiction, adultery and alcoholism, but also in terms of the constant worrier, the grumbling of respectable Christian servants and the insecurity of "good-value" diligent well-taught blokes.

Chapter 2: Why would you like to change?
An important point missed out by most books on the subject. Anyone who has tried to work at changing themselves will know that motives are always mixed. Perhaps we want to change so God will be impressed with us and save us or bless us in some way by giving us health, a job, a spouse, a child etc. Or perhaps we want people to be impressed - to fit in or win approval, to show that we are godly or spiritual. Or we might want to feel good about ourselves and boost our self-esteem by claiming that our former sins are comfortably behind us.

Chapter 5: What truths do you need to turn to?
Behind every sin and negative emotion is a lie. Sinful acts always have their origin in some form of unbelief. People are given over to sinful desires because "they exchanged the truth of God for a lie" (Romans 1:24-25). Recognising that behind every sin is a lie not only gives us a radical view of sin, it also points us to the road out of sinful behaviour and emotions - that road is trust in God:
1. God is great - so we don't have to be in control.
2. God is glorious - so we don't have to fear others.
3. God is good - so we don't have to look elsewhere.
4. God is gracious - so we don't have to prove ourselves.

Chapter 9: How can we support one another in changing?
God is in the business of change and he's placed us in a community of change. Individual sin impedes the growth of the community as a whole. It stops us from growing together as the body of Christ. Even our private, secret sins affect the community. But the Christian community is the best context for change because it's the context God has given. Therefore the church is a better place for change than a therapy group, a counsellor's office or a retreat centre. God has equipped each of us with a gift so that we can contribute to the community as a whole. Together, we grow towards maturity by speaking the truth in love to each other; by confessing, being accountable, encouraging and rebuking each other; by being honest, open and transparent about our struggles so that we rejoice to be in a messy community of broken people but a community of grace. Sadly, many Christian relationships and friendships are less about sanctification and preparing for judgement and more talismans against loneliness and low self-esteem, support groups and social clubs, and gossip exchanges. How can we make our Christian friendships more heaven-oriented as God intended?

Not really meant to be a summary of the book, but a scratch-and-sniff to say that it seems like one that might repay some reading, with a Berean mind and Bible at hand of course.

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At October 15, 2009 1:13 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very thoughtfull post on Self Improvement. It should be very much helpfull.

Karim - Positive thinking


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