A Curious Girl

The musings of a girl who is curious in both senses of the word. Life, God, and York. Oh, did I say York? I meant Bradford!

Monday, January 30, 2006

So this is it...

In the shadows

Though I wait in the shadows and don't say a word
But to just pass remarks on things that I've heard
Though I wear a brave face, I've got fear in my eye
I just smile and laugh, I don't know how to cry

My heart's in a cage under lock and key
I'll keep it right there if I can
I'll just say the right words to the people I see
I won't bother them and they won't bother me

Though I walk wearing armour, as if dragons to slay
You won't catch me fighting my demons today
I'll wander away, I'll strike out alone
But I'm still wishing someone was calling me home

My heart's in a cage under lock and key
I'll keep it right there if I can
I'll just say the right words to the people I see
I won't bother them and they won't bother me

To love and get hurt - rather not love at all
My heart's crying out but I won't heed the call
I'd rather live coldly and not feel the pain
Stay out of the warm and go walk in the rain

The ones who have eyes don't think I'm brave
See a fortress or heart made of ice
They see covered-up wounds than need to be bathed
See a poor locked-up heart that needs to be saved

Isolationism sucks. So does loneliness. I just wrote an angsty entry about it but rather than bore you with it, I just thought I'd save it as a draft, give you this instead, go home and see if my housemates are around...

(Happy Birthday Chrissie)


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Christian Societies Nerd

May I possibly alert your attention to The Jesus Blog? It's a blog based on the person and teachings of Jesus, which lately has been given a lot of the Hell angst - see my Bible study on Hell from the gospel of Matthew, although recently I also posted on loving other Christians. May I also remind all Hell apologists to pleeeease post your opinions to my post Calling all Hell believers?

Been getting back into project work. I think my bacteria have a genetic problem, they're not responding to induction. I've also been to three Christian societies in three days. Ich bin ein nerd.

Christian Focus on Monday was quite interesting, in that I ended up defending Charismatic Evangelicalism. We had an activity discussing whether a number of fairly famous people were prophets or not. CF being the sort of society it is, Mahatma Gandhi was deemed extremely prophetic and Terry Virgo was deemed very slightly prophetic. Although I came to TV's defence (he was the only person of the group who actually spoke about prophecy and claimed to do it), I could see why, even excluding the fact that CF has liberal tendencies (and the more evangelical members weren't present), we were much more impressed with Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dietrich Bonhoeffer etc. Apart from Terry Virgo, all the other "prophets" were people who'd suffered dearly for their convictions, and caused major upheaval. They did seem rather closer to a Biblical prophet, even if they didn't actually claim to be prophets. It was a very curious debate - perhaps it's not really fair to compare Gandhi and Virgo. Not knowing much about Terry Virgo I couldn't discern whether he actually is prophetic or not. Although I like the title of one of his books - it's called God's Lavish Grace.

On Tuesday I actually missed a Christian society meeting (gospel choir!) and went to Childhood Regression Night instead. I had my face painted and sang the Doctor Who theme as a forfeit in Pass the Parcel. I love Childhood Regression night.

So yesterday, I went to a meeting for the campus Christian magazine, and actually got two articles accepted! Afterwards Lizzie, Peter and I went to do some proofreading. The articles I read for the next issue are all really awesome. Someone wrote one on "spiritual authority" which explained Sola Scriptura, and someone else wrote one on Jesus as a revolutionary, which avoided both tiresome trendiness and tiresome traditionalism.

I felt rather glowy all afternoon, as I did some clearing up around the lab and waited for my samples to be processed. Then I went to college CU! College CU is different from university CU because, obviously, it happens within the college, and so it's a lot smaller and more talking and no preaching. We did a Bible study on loving one another that made me wish I'd written a longer entry on it. We also had a discussion on "why evangelism?" which piqued my interest because of an obvious subject that I'm a bit obsessed with.

We'd separated into little groups to discuss it and come up with Bible verses. My group was showing off by looking at the Old Testament, so I suggested Psalm 22:27, and Phil, in my group, took an even more bizarre route and used Genesis 3:15. Most people went for ones like 1 Peter 3:15, or Romans 10:14. We shared our reasons for evangelism - to the glory of God, because Jesus says so, because we love our neighbour, because it's Good News. One guy whose name I can't remember was asked. He glanced at his group's sheet.

"Because Hell is real," he shrugged.

I simmered quietly, wondering if I should ask if that's Gehenna, Hades, or Tartarus, or perhaps advise he re-read Psalm 22:27, or ask just how happy he was with the idea of all his non-Christian friends and family enduring eternal torment.

What disturbed me was how off-hand it was. I wondered, does he actually believe in Hell? If What's-his-name really believed, would he say it as if it was just an obvious tenet of his faith, hardly worth mentioning?

I do like the Christians in my college (why'd you think I go to college CU otherwise?), but I felt less glowy when I went home... although I perked up a bit when I found Kate watching Celebrity Big Brother and insulting George Galloway. I even sat down to watch Desperate Housewives with her, when usually I'm too snobbish dignified to watch anything with words like Desperate or Celebrity in the title. Desperate Housewives wasn't quite as bad as I'd imagined, but I doubt I'll be a regular viewer in future.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Calling all Hell believers...

Hi folks,

If you've been reading my blog, say, at all, you'll know that I've been struggling with the idea of Hell. I guess you could put down my objections to two things:

1) If God wants to save everyone, why can't he? (see 1 Tim 2:4)
2) And if God won't save everyone eventually, why Hell?

(2) is my main problem, especially since there are very definite Scriptural objections to the eternal torment idea (see Edward Fudge's Hell Quiz for example, or even my analysis of Hell in Matthew) as well it being contrary to compassion and contrary to any frail human notion of justice.

So I thought I'd turn the tables a bit, and instead of stating my views and allowing you to object to them, I'd actually ask some questions! (If ya don't ask, ya don't learn ;) ) There are some things that make me very curious about Hell-belief - because really I've never managed to seriously believe in Hell without going crazy, and I wonder why others don't too (some do, and then they become universalists). Please respond with a comment.

1. How do you cope with the idea of Hell? That is, how do you live happily with the idea many people - perhaps the majority of people - being lost to eternal torment?

2. How do you reconcile the power of God (for whom nothing is impossible), the desire of God (who will have all men come to a knowledge of the truth), and the love of God (God is love), with a traditional belief in Hell?
(Question edited to provide a comparative)

3. Is Hell fair? Why?

4. How do you explain eternal punishment as the just response to a finite sinful life?

5. Is God happy with the idea of people suffering eternally?

6. How will God be all-in-all if some are in Hell?

7. To what extent do we have free will? If we have it now, will we have it in the Kingdom of Heaven or during eternal punishment?

8. What is the purpose of Hell? (If it is eternal it cannot be for correction of the sinner, and if it is conscious it cannot be for the destruction of the sinner.)

9. Forgive the apparent facetiousness of this question, but... If Jesus paid the penalty for sin, and the penalty for sin is eternal torment, why didn't Jesus endure eternal torment? (I guess you could rephrase this as "What is the penalty for sin and how did Jesus pay it?" but I was worried you wouldn't see what I was driving at...)

10. And finally how do you reconcile verses speaking of destruction (again, see Edward Fudge) or even salvation for all (see Craig Nolin's essay on universal salvation)?

Ayez l'amusement!


Monday, January 23, 2006

Some observations

Pandora, everyone's favourite new music site, rocks. I signed up for free membership, typed in "Brown Eyed Girl" and was given a lot of awesome music :D I've taken to carrying my headphones with me wherever I go. If this carries on, my narrow music awareness* might expand a bit.

I browsed a lot of bookshops today. I noticed

1. Such is the strength of Anne Rice's claim to fame as a horror writer, her book "Christ the Lord" is in the horror section of Waterstones. Either that, or "Christ the Lord" is actually horror, which is a very disturbing idea.

2. There's actually a cartoon version of Titanic. It got a "universal" rating because lots of people dying is very suitable for small children.

3. Artistic plagiarism of the Da Vinci Code cover gets very dull. And why are so many scholars of Christianity obsessed with Mary Magdalene?

4. Best critic's comment of the day, on The Messiah Code - "The quest for the Holy Grail meets Raiders of the Lost Ark". Yes, that would be "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". *rolls eyes* (Apparently the whole quote added Jurassic Park)

5. What is it with Mary Hooper and her "worthy" storylines? After two books on teenage pregnancy (megan, and megan2) and one on parental adultery (holly), I was not at all surprised to discover that she's also written a book - "amy" - on the dangers of meeting people on the internet.

6. Why do capuccinos taste better at Starbucks (yes, I am evil) but lattes taste better at Costa (you can actually get Fair trade, and if you have good eyesight you can even read the sign telling you that you can ask for it)?

7. In case you were wondering how coffee links with bookshops, York bookshops are almost as good as Cambridge for having coffee shops inside.

8. The Worst Witch Saves the Day isn't nearly as good as The Worst Witch all at sea. Jill Murphy's obviously forgotten that the people who enjoyed The Worst Witch all at sea are ten years older now. Or perhaps she's realised that the people who enjoyed The Worst Witch all at sea are now reading Harry Potter. (Poor her, I really feel she must have been a major influence for J.K. Rowling, and it must be extremely annoying that JKR stole her idea then did it better. I hate it when that happens.)

9. I'm Alice! (Beauty Queen?) is funny but not as funny as I'm Alice! (I think) partly because Alice's obsession with her own virginity is a bit irritating. But I admit, the bit where she gets a WWJD bracelet is very funny.

10. Why is it I have £30 of Waterstone's vouchers and haven't bought anything at Waterstone's yet? (I read The Worst Witch Saves the Day in about 20 minutes, and bought I'm Alice! (Beauty Queen?) half price at Borders)

There's actually a doughnut stall in York called "Kinky Donuts". I should have got a photo but I decided to go to a bookshop first.

I went to another Quaker meeting today. I thought the silence might help me pray but I ended up thinking about books. I spoke to a science teacher, who informed me that kids are scum. I told him he reminded me of my old biology teacher, who once said he could be a hitman, and he'd have a niche market because he's perfectly willing to kill children.

Ooh, apparently I like Coldplay. Who knew?

I spent my walk back from town thinking about The Secret Garden and A Little Princess (both by Frances Hodgson Burnett). I love them both and they were favourites of mine when I was a child. I was for some reason attempting to justify the Mary/Dickon 'ship. ('Ship is a fan term for relationship. Harry Potter fans have been known to divide into Harry/Hermione shippers and Ron/Hermione shippers. On this, I blame the fact that I was battling between Mary/Colin and Mary/Dickon) It's not just that Mary and Colin are cousins - Victorians weren't above a little incest, see Charles Darwin for an example (he married his cousin. They shared a grandfather. Weird!) It's just that Mary's always been a gardener, and she loves Dickon, so there.

And then in a fit of eccentricity I decided that Colin could have Sara Crewe (from A Little Princess if he wanted. They're both obsessed with Magic (which in a C.S. Lewis-ish sort of way, turns out to be God). Besides, Sara wouldn't marry a commoner, would she?**

No, the trouble is, I can see Sara spending her adulthood with a husband. She'd probably start an orphanage or something.

This was a random entry... but I thought you'd enjoy something other than angst :)

*I say "narrow", but perhaps "shallow" would be a better term. I am smarter than the average bear when it comes to classical music, Christian rock, hymns, modern worship music, 70s rock anthems, Don McLean and Simon and Garfunkel. However, I have a sketchy at best grip of what's in the charts at the moment, and am really a bear of very little brain compared to most aficionadoes of classical music, Christian rock, hymns, modern worship music, 70s rock anthems and any other sort of music really.

**OK, I'm betraying the one sore spot I have with A Little Princess. Why is Sara tragic because she loses her father and her riches, but Becky not tragic because she always was poor and never had parents? (Well, I presume she did originally, but you know...) Why is it good that Sara gets a beautiful room and just as good that Becky gets an extra mattress and the chance to borrow Sara's things? Despite Sara's continued insistence that they are just the same - "just two little girls" I get the impression Burnett was being a bit precious because Sara gets the better deal all the time, and at the end Sara is adopted and Becky is employed. The rich man in his castle, The poor man at the gate, He made them, high and lowly, And ordered their estate. That might have been how the world was then, but I can't help but wish that Becky had found some kind of parent at the end too. She's just a little girl too, isn't she?


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Stuck in the angst!

I remember when I had a life.

Now I seem to spend my days spending too much time on the internet and thinking about what to cook for tea (I'm having boiled eggs tonight).

Lizzie et al asked if I wanted to go to the Minster Ball tonight. Unfortunately I didn't get a ticket on time. The Minster Ball features good food, good music, crappy heating, and a speaker explaining the Christian message.

Now I suspect the CU would probably engage one of their better speakers for an event that costs £27 a head, but I wasn't amazingly eager to hear someone remind me what I find annoying about the CU. Or talk about Hell. Again.

Warning: More angst follows. Lots more angst. Take heart - if you're sick of it, imagine how I must feel :)

The trouble is, I've never really bought the whole "Bible as the inerrant word of God" thing. Actually I missed a Christian Union talk about it yesterday... but anyway. I was reading Deuteronomy last night and there was a bit where God told the Israelites to destroy all the nations that he gives them. I know I'm getting a bit "natural law theory" (as opposed to "Divine Command Theory") if I say I can't imagine God commanding that, but I can't. As the Sola Scriptura people and other fans of inerrancy tend to point out, if you're going to say that some of the Bible is untrue, what about the rest of it? I agree, it's a problem, but usually it doesn't bother me because I believe that since we can have a relationship with God, relying on a (let's say, almost entirely accurate) historic document is less important. It may be useful (cf 2 Tim 3:16) but what's essential is knowing God and obeying him.

This feels like a nasty confession to make. I've heard lots of people say that Bible inerrancy is really important and if you don't believe it you must be erring, and quoting that story about Billy Graham telling God that he was going to accept the Bible as the word of God and feeling an awesome peace... I probably am erring, but I've never believed in Biblical inerrancy. Partly it's just that I've never heard an argument that convinces me. Ultimate Realities argued that the Bible says it's the Word of God, God has no superiors who can give evidence to his case, therefore the Bible is the Word of God. All very enlightening, no doubt, but it doesn't convince me. It's not, I might add, that I don't believe the Bible is true. No matter how you might twist the inerrancy argument, the claim that the Gospels (for example) are entirely a work of fiction doesn't hold much water. But we have a problem when saying the Bible is inerrant, in that it's certainly not the only book that claims to be inspired by God. The Qur'an, for example, claims to be inspired by God too and although I don't agree, I admit that there's definitely a good case.

It troubles me because I seem to be going through swathes of Scripture at the moment but God seems to be refusing to pass comment. And everyone with opposing viewpoints seems to believe they have the right interpretation. There are hordes of arguments for every direction, yet I remain stubbornly unconvinced by any of them...

The Hell angst remains. I am bothered because I want to believe that it is not true, and wanting to believe something makes it so much easier to actually believe it. (Case in point: Did you believe in the tooth fairy? She takes your teeth and gives you money... what do you have to lose??) But the old "what if you're wrong?" lurks. You see, people don't just believe in Hell because of what they read and what they're told, it's because if Hell is true and we *don't* believe it, we might just end up there anyway... I remember Rowan Atkinson doing a sketch as the Devil ushering sinners into Hell... "Atheists? I bet you feel like a right bunch of nitwits, don't you?"

Even in my rather pathetic career as a scientist, I understand the importance of discovering truth rather than looking for the truth I like and believing it (Philosophy is really the science of ideas... or should I say that science is the philosophy of the physical).

I'm stuck, to be honest. Hell is too horrifying, Heaven too absurdly wonderful, God is too perplexing, Christ is too inscrutable. I cannot honestly understand why so many Christians seem content to believe in Hell, and a Hell far more horrific than C.S. Lewis could dream up... still haven't read The Great Divorce, but from excerpts I've read, Lewis seems to believe that you have to be really determined to get into Hell, which contradicts the view of charming theologians like Jonathan Edwards (no, not the triple-jumper) who believed that God is dangling us all over Hell and wondering whether to drop us or snatch us away. Such a belief does not make me want to believe in God and my repentance is pathetic, hoping more that he'll spare me (and everyone else) from the awfulness of Hell than that I can spend eternity with him. I cannot comprehend why such a horror would be necessary, useful or glorifying to God.

But then... a little voice suggests, if nearly all Christians believe in this God, this God who suffered greatly at the hands of his creation (but still much of his creation's going to be abandoned to endless anguish or destroyed...) if nearly all Christians are happy about this, believe that God is still good and merciful and even reasonable, then why don't I get it? Why am I such an emotional wreck at the mere suggestion of it? (I appreciate a story by universal reconciliation believer Charles Slagle, which I think captures some of the madness) Could it actually be that I am the terribly mistaken one... That God is trying to get the truth into my head, but I keep clinging to the nicer ideas and if I'd just get on with submitting to his will and the correct interpretation of the Bible, the evil idea that God will eventually heal and save his entire creation will eventually go away.

I just feel like there's no hope. Probably that's an exaggeration... but even if the Heavenly city is wonderful, and when we're there it's just like one of the nicer bits of Revelation, I think of those outside - according to traditional Christianity, they're weeping and gnashing their teeth, or the second death has come and they're just gone. I wonder how the Father can possibly be happy with such an arrangement. Doesn't Ezekiel say God takes no pleasure from the death of the wicked? Doesn't Jeremiah say that no one is abandoned by the Lord forever? But one day we'll lose our heart for the lost, stop loving the unsaved, and they'll be lost to torment, shame or oblivion. Perhaps. I cannot be convinced by any argument right now. Perhaps the "reconciliation" case is flawed, but whenever I read the arguments against it, all I seem to see is hate and hopelessness. (It's an extreme example, but see Don C. Hewey's refutation of 213 Questions without answers) I even feel that some of the refutations are narrowminded in themselves (see for example CARM's explanation of 1 Tim 4:10).

Still, what can I do? I shouldn't tell God what to do, but I'm having a lot of trouble trusting and serving him right now. I think how in October I was praying for "Kate" my housemate, who is an atheist, so that she would be convicted that God is real and I could tell her about Jesus. Last night we watched the news about a Muslim who may have been inciting religious hatred, so we talked about the craziness of Leviticus and discussed whether children who didn't eat their dinner would be stoned to death. I am a fantastic Christian example </sarcasm>.

Anyway, my boiled eggs await me. Have a good evening folks.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Chat with Supervisor

God bless my academic supervisor. He grabbed me just as I was about to leave the lab. I'd only gone in there for about 15 minutes to make some new cells, and left it late because I didn't think I could bear to see my project supervisor, since last time I saw him I smiled, muttered something about being a bit nervous about my exams, ran away and cried. Not kidding. He's such a nice man and I was really convinced I'd fail and that'd be the end of my short career as his project student. So I didn't see him, much to my great relief, but I did see my academic supervisor, (who'd sent me an e-mail last week asking to meet up that I didn't see until Friday evening). Anyway, he grabbed me, made me sit down, and asked me what was going on.

So I murmured, not seeing any point in putting on a brave face, "I didn't do at all well in my exams."

"I know. You left a note in one of them."

Yeah, I did. And even... oh the shame... quoted Holden Caulfield...

"Are you all right?"

He proceeded to badger me until he'd got most of the whole miserable story. He didn't even look surprised when I explained the Hell thing, and mercifully didn't act like it was stupid. Then he told me we can meet next week (oh, and get some tissues, Helen) and talk about it, and I might as well get on with trying to work hard this term.

And I thought he'd be mad and awkward about it. But no... he was really nice. And do you know something? Now that someone knows that I did badly, I feel much better!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

On the meaning of success

Riverside path
Originally uploaded by sweet-indigo.
Hi guys,

Sorry it's been a while since I last posted. Merry Christmas :) And a Happy New Year. I'm not doing New Year's Resolutions this year. I've decided to rebel since they've never done me any good anyway :)

So, term has started, and I am paying dearly for neglecting my studies last term. Oh boy. Trouble is, I've never been particularly disciplined. I read yesterday that the reason Tom Lehrer majored in Mathematics at Harvard was because if you did all the homework you didn't need to revise. That cheered me up a bit, since I was thinking that I'd love to be a writer as awesome as Tom Lehrer and it's nice to know he didn't like revision either (I wonder what he's doing these days? Apparently at 71 he was still teaching... Appropriate really, I remember noticing that Lehrer is German for "teacher". Wonder if there's a German word for "brilliant musical satirist"?).

I try and look on the bright side. If I fail my degree, there's a good chance I won't spend the rest of my life doing science, and can go back to merely dallying with it by reading popular science books and writing song parodies about it. What I really don't want is to disappoint my parents, and my project supervisor. I adore my project supervisor, he's one of the most interesting and passionate scientists - and teachers - I know. I guess I don't actually mind, since I don't have any dependent children or even a dependent boyfriend, being in Crappy Jobsville for a while (although I'm debating whether in all honesty I can morally work for McDonald's. Sigh). I guess my problem is that the things I am particularly good at don't really make for lucrative careers unless you're very good, or very lucky. (Although Lizzie tells me her mother, a Biochemistry graduate, had her first job in a chocolate factory... tasting chocolate. I said, "wow, perhaps I'll work a bit harder" :) )

I'm still vaguely toying with the idea of being a nurse. I ought to get some hospital voluntary work first and speak to the nursing students I know. It's just I am caught by the idealistic idea that if a career doesn't make the world a better place then it's not worth having :) Apparently hard work makes you happy, which makes me wonder if the problem with university is not the work but the free time :) Plenty of time for ennui and angst... My ideal job would be a) worthwhile, b) interesting, c) with colleagues I like and can work with and d) paid, because I am not a millionaire :) I guess I just feel fed up with the degree because I just don't know where it's going. It'd be lovely to find a cure for cancer or a gene-therapy for cystic fibrosis or something but it's rather unlikely I'll be involved with that. I got a bit depressed at work last year because although I did have good friends in Cambridge, at work, church, and of course seeing my friend David and going to our gospel choir, so often I felt like we students were given the "boring" jobs that our more qualified colleagues felt too clever to do. I guess I'd like to feel valued, too, because I don't really see the point of doing a job that a trained monkey could learn, anymore than I see the point of doing a job that doesn't seem worthwhile.

And I've been wondering if I didn't have something of a twisted idea of success. I remembered something my old form tutor said about success - he said he met a former student who was a brilliant scientist, and asked him what he was currently doing. Former student says, "I do gardening jobs half the year and save money. The other half I spend visiting tropical rainforests." Mr. B, in awe, said, "Now that is a very successful man!" (I think he was jealous because he'd been teaching for over 30 years :D ) Success isn't about having the right initials after your name. I'm reminded of a one-liner... "He got all As and flunked life" :) Isn't "success" something of an idol? Do we really think God put us on this earth to earn money, drive nice cars, become famous, etc?

...I was thinking about the worst things that could happen, because I'm an optimist like that, and was wondering what divorce must be like. I imagine it's pretty horrible. Then I thought about various Hollywood stars, most of whom have divorced at least once. And I figured success isn't that clear-cut after all. Or perhaps I remember my Mum, who's also one of my heroes 'cause she had to raise me mostly by herself until I was 12 and did such a good job, of course :) There are so many rubbish clichés about single mothers that I can assure you aren't true in the slightest.

My faith is still in an odd place right now. Still reading a lot and trying to pray and looking through the Bible. But I love that Jesus pretty much blew apart the idea of success. I guess that's one of the things I've always loved, although not done a particularly good job of following. He says you don't need to run around after food and clothing. He says the key is actually giving and not receiving. He even (crazy man! ;) ) taught that the poor, the meek, the peacemakers, the frankly inadequate and the persecuted were blessed and appears to have liked children best of all! (another thing I like about him... I love kids) He taught that being recognised as great by other people isn't really so wonderful... and that "stuff" isn't worth much. His entire life is a brilliant topsy-turvy example of success. Can you imagine Rick Warren's ministry done in the style of Jesus Christ? He recites The Purpose-Driven Life to a few hundred people, goes around teaching in obscure villages, getting threatened with death wherever he goes, then gets horribly killed by some angry detractors? No, I can't see it either, but I suspect not even Rick Warren, an incredibly powerful man, could rise from the dead, so I'm sure it's a good thing he isn't the Messiah, even if he could have got the Sermon on the Mount to a global audience :) But yeah - Jesus sells no books, gets moderate fame in his lifetime, has no children, and doesn't even participate in fundraising for his ministry. Dies at 33 years old. Even when he later defies death by coming back, something not generally done, he doesn't use it as a publicity opportunity, just to make the meaning of his death and resurrection clear to his followers. And don't I long that instead of petty successes that only last for now, we really can do things that advance the Kingdom of Heaven? Wouldn't it be great if at the end, we can look back to something in our lives and say, "It was hard, it was costly, but it was worthwhile because I did it for God... and because it changed things."

I dunno. I'd really like to do things that mean something to God, that aren't just pointless prizes for now but genuinely worthwhile. I'm really not sure where talents/vocations etc. fit into that. I'd like to think that they were created for just that purpose, and with God who created beauty and such an intricate and wonderful universe, that serving him isn't as dull and as rigid as some people would have us believe. Not in a "I'm a stripper for God!" sense, but in a sense that all our God-given talents are useful and good within his kingdom.