Thoughts From An Enneagram Newbie

Most of my readers find this blog looking for INFJ posts, so I’m sure many of you know I have a keen interest in personality types. Until very recently, my whole focus has been on the Myers-Briggs typing system. But someone finally convinced me to give the Enneagram a try. I was suspicious at first. It seemed strange, vague, largely negative, and not all that verifiable. Then I thought perhaps I hadn’t picked a good book to start with as my introduction and started prowling around online for recommendations.

And that’s how I found Discovering Your Personality Type: The Essential Introduction to the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. These guys know how to write a personality type book. This particular one is a short little book that packs a whole lot of information in its 224 pages, including their type indicator questionnaire (you can either purchase the test online or get this book and do the paper version). They’ve also written other, more in-depth, books including one that I’m reading now.

What On Earth Is The Enneagram?

The Enneagram of Personality Types is “a modern synthesis of a number of ancient wisdom traditions” originally put together by Oscar Ichazo (click here to read more). There are nine basic personality types and everyone is born with one type that dominates their personality. Continue reading

Letting God Define You

How do you define yourself? We all finish our “I am __” statements in different ways. We can go with something fairly basic, such as “I am a writer/sister/Christian.” That’s often how we introduce ourselves to people. But there are also less flattering “I am” statements that we tell ourselves. “I am anxious; I am too fat/skinny/unhealthy; I am a sinner not good enough for God.” Or sometimes we go with more positive self-affirmations: “I am a good friend; I am confident in using my gifts; I am a redeemed and forgiven child of God.”

How does God define you? Scripture reminds us in several passages that our “I am” is not as reliable as God’s “you are” (see 1 Sam. 16:7, Is. 55:8-9 and Jer. 17:9-10). He knows us better than we know ourselves and He can give us insight into His perspective. If we ask, He’ll reveal things about ourselves to us directly as well as through His word.

Some of the “you are” statements God makes about people are critical, such as when He describes all humans as sinner under a death penalty or rebukes Israel for their rebellion (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; Is. 1:18-25). But while part of God’s perspective on us involves seeing our faults, that’s not all He sees. For those in relationship with Him, His “you are” statements are overwhelmingly positive. There’s certainly a place for acknowledging our sins, abhorring ourselves, and repenting as Job did (Job 42:5-6). But we’re not to stay downcast. God wants us to have a realistic view of ourselves, and He values us far too highly for this view to not involve some incredibly positive things.Letting God Define You | marissabaker.wordpress.com

You Are Of Value

Aren’t five sparrows sold for two assaria coins? Not one of them is forgotten by God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore don’t be afraid. You are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7, WEB)

Our God cares even when a sparrow dies. But we’re not just another animal crawling around the earth that gets a moment of attention from Him. We’re valued highly — so highly that the Father and Son think you’re worth the price of Jesus’ life. And They thought that even before you were saved (Rom. 5:6-8). Continue reading

Idealist Villains: When NF Types Turn Evil

A few weeks ago I observed something curious in one of the personality type groups I frequent on Facebook. One member started a discussion about what kind of villain different personality types would be and there were a few types they didn’t even list. Their assumption was that most Feeling types wouldn’t become villains and especially not NF or FP types.

Rather than bask in the knowledge that we’re the lest villainous type a surprisingly high number of NFs jumped into the comments to defend our ability to turn evil. Most of their comments went something like this: “Well, I wouldn’t personally be a villain, but I could be because *insert reasons.* And on top of that, *insert fictional or real name* is a villain of my type.” I laughed at the number of INFJs who reminded people that Hitler was an INFJ while at the same time reassuring people they don’t feel Hitler-ish tendencies themselves.Idealist Villains: When NF Types Turn Evil | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Who Gets To Be The Villain?

I dare say when most people think about villains, they think of a detached mastermind. There’s a ridiculously high percentage of NT type villains (and correspondingly few NT heroes; it’s even harder to find heroic INTJs in fiction than it is to find NF villains). In real life, of course, people of any personality type can lean more towards the best version or the worst version of their type. No one personality type is inherently “better” than any other. However, society does stereotype certain characteristics associated with types as better or worse.

Prioritizing other’s safety over your own, a characteristic most commonly associated with FJ types, is often seen as a heroic trait. Hence, we see characters like Captain America with an ISFJ personality type. But what if you have an ISFJ character who decides only a certain group of people (or even just one person) is more valuable and it’s their duty to protect them? Suddenly the heroic trait doesn’t seem so safe any more. Especially when you consider the prime example of a villainous ISFJ is Norman Bates from Psycho. Continue reading

Our Christian Nationality

A number of years ago I was sitting in a church service listening to the minister introduce his sermon topic for the day. One of the first things he said was, “Close your Bibles and put them on the floor. I’ve got something to tell you this morning.” Smacks of Bibles hitting linoleum is a sound I hope never to hear again. While teenage me wasn’t brave enough to stand up and walk out, I did keep my Bible open in my lap so I could do my own study while he lectured on American history.

The United States of America, rather than something out of the Bible, should feel like a strange topic for a sermon. And yet I’ve heard other sermons, though much less extreme, preached about this topic on a fairly regular basis. Typically, it’s presented as something like “the Biblical history of our country” or “America’s Christian heritage.” The speakers usually do turn to scriptures, but they may spend more time quoting founding fathers and presidents than they do Jesus.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t a rant against my country or an article condemning people who love the U.S. of A (which I why I didn’t post this 4th of July weekend, though it would have probably gotten more views then). Nor am I saying Christians teachers shouldn’t quote writings outside the Bible. My concern is that patriotism for our physical nation has gotten muddled up with our Christian faith as if the two are, or should be, interconnected. But I don’t think they should be.Our Christian Nationality | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Not Of The World

When Jesus walked this earth, He said He was “not of this world” (John 8:23, KJV). At the Passover, He started describing His followers that way as well (John 15:19; 17:14-16). We still have to live in this world, as Paul points out in 1 Cor. 5:10, but we don’t belong to it.

“We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19, KJV). The present world is evil because it has fallen into sin and is under Satan’s sway (Gal. 1:4; John 14:30). I think most Christians would agree with that at least to a certain extent, otherwise we’d have no need for a Savior. But often, we think of this world’s evil as an abstraction. The world “out there” is wicked, “society” is evil, or there’s a spirit of wickedness at large “somewhere.” But maybe my neighborhood, this city, our country isn’t really all that bad.

Here in the U.S., we don’t yet face the sort of persecution that would serve as a constant reminder that this world isn’t a Christian’s home. I’m thankful for that, but I also wonder if it has made us lose sight of some important truths. The United States was founded with some Christian principles and a guarantee of a religious freedom, but it was never a “Christian nation” and it hadn’t even looked like one for a long time. And while you have the right as an American to get involved in pushing your country toward where you’d like it to go and a duty as a Christian to stand up for what’s right in God’s sight, this physical nation isn’t where we owe our primary allegiance. Continue reading

Lady Susan: Jane Austen’s Comedic Seductress

Once upon a time (in this particular case the 18th century) quite a few novels were written entirely as series of fictional letters. These were called epistolary novels. Evelina by Frances Burney is one example, but far more well known was Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and Clarissa. Jane Austen had probably read both Burney and Richardson when she penned her own epistolary work, Lady Susan.

In [Richardson’s] fiction, resourceful young women record their efforts to resist the advances of scheming libertines. The young Austen signals her audacity by turning the figure of the predatory male seducer into a highly unconventional (and middle-aged) seductress. — John Mullan in “Does Love & Friendship improve Jane Austen’s ending?

Don’t ever let anyone tell you Jane Austen was “just a romance novelist.” By the age of 19 or 20 she was perfecting her signature satiric style, turning Richardson’s well-respected style up-side-down, and inverting gender stereotypes for contemporary fiction. Predatory, aggressive, and manipulative women weren’t unheard of in fiction at the time, but making them the most engaging character in a story wasn’t encouraged. Perhaps that’s why she set the manuscript aside, choosing neither to destroy nor publish it (Lady Susan was first published 54 years after Austen’s death).Lady Susan: Austen's Comedic Seductress #theclassicsclub | marissabaker.wordpress.com

The story follows recently widowed Lady Susan Vernon. We enter the narrative as she announces her intention to visit her brother- and sister-in-law, Charles and Catherine Vernon, at their country residence. Though not happy to host the woman who tried to prevent her marriage, Mrs. Vernon welcomes her sister-in-law as cordially as possible. She becomes less cordial after her brother Reginald De Courcy arrives to meet “the most accomplished coquette in England” and falls head-over-heels for Lady Susan. And that’s after he’d heard from a reliable source that she’d left her previous residence after seducing the married Mr. Manwaring and stealing Miss Manwaring’s suitor, Sir James Martin, for her own daughter.

The first screen adaptation of this novella came out just last year. Titled Love & Friendship for some inexplicable reason (it’s the title of an unrelated work Austen wrote at age 14), I’m still not quite sure what to make of this film. While it preserves the witty, irreverent comedy of Austen’s novella, I still felt something was off about the adaptation. Transferring letters to dialogue made for some character meetings that didn’t make sense (Lady Susan and Mrs. Johnson wouldn’t have been able to meet in person so often; the companion who arrives with Lady Susan in the film isn’t in the book and only exists here to be talked at). And while several female characters were fleshed out more to help them hold their own on screen with Lady Susan, the male characters became even more buffoonish than in the novella (SPOILER WARNING: Reginald in the film is helplessly manipulated throughout the film, while in the novella, he’s the one to break things off with Lady Susan).

Also, why does every single character introduction stop the action with an out-of-context shot of them overlaid with a description of how they fit in the story? The costuming is beautiful, though, and Kate Beckinsale turns in a fantastic performance as Lady Susan. As in the novella, she’s by far the most interesting character.Lady Susan: Austen's Comedic Seductress #theclassicsclub | marissabaker.wordpress.com

I enjoyed reading Lady Susan. I’m a big fan of Jane Austen’s work and this is the first of her writings outside the six major novels that I’ve read. It makes me want to track down more of her juvenilia. It’s fun reading your favorite authors’ early works, especially ones they didn’t necessarily mean for other people to read. I’ve heard that the other stories she wrote as a teenager were even less “proper” than Lady Susan; certainly much less refined than the novels she polished up for publication.

It was also nice to read a short book from my Classics Club list. I love long books as a general rule, but honestly I’m starting to feel intimidated by the number of enormous books I chose. Three Dickens novels? what was I thinking! At least I had the good sense not to put Clarissa on the list (word count for first edition: 969,000).

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Is Your Church The Same As God’s Church?

How do you define “church”? A building where Christians worship, the clergy of a religious body, all the believers in a religion, a specific denomination, a public worship gathering — those are all definitions we use in the English language. If we say we “go to church,” we either mean the building or the service. If we say of a group, “this is my church,” we’re generally telling people which denomination we’re part of. If we say someone chose the church as a career path, we mean they went into the clergy.

But those definitions don’t really get at what “church” means in the Bible. In fact, the only part of our English definition that overlaps with the Greek word’s definition is “the whole body of Christians” (Merriam-Webster 3a). And because there’s such a difference, I think it’s important to look at what the New Testament writers were talking about when they discussed the church. We want to learn about how God sees His church, not just how human beings define it today.

Called Out Ones

In the New Testament, “church” is translated from ekklesia (G1577). It’s a compound word that literally means a “calling out” (Strong’s Dictionary). In general, it’s used of a “gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place.” In the church-specific sense, it’s “an assembly of Christians” that gathers in a specific place or “the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth” (Thayer’s Dictionary). Continue reading