- Michael Horton
Ramsey needs to read this article — The 40-Year Slump. Nothing has been the same economically in the U.S. since 1974. The fundamental changes that started then have made it much more difficult for many people to prosper.
Dave Ramsey says (url):
“If you are broke or poor in the U.S. or a first-world economy, the only variable in the discussion you can personally control is YOU. (In developing nations there are more variables available for personal control?) You can make better choices and have better results. If you believe that our economy and culture in the U.S. are so broken that making better choices does not produce better results, then you have a problem. At that point your liberal ideology has left the Scriptures and your politics have caused you to become a fatalist.”
So now that I realize I’m a liberal fatalist I’m left to ponder Mr. Ramsey’s ideology. Funny that’s it’s always liberal ideology and politics that cause us to leave “the Scriptures”. Jesus said “the poor we will always have with us (without saying why)”, Ramsey helps us understand that it’s their own damn fault.
Read the whole post. How freaking insensitive.
I have downloaded and am reading through Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), the Apostolic Exhortation by Pope Francis on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.
The document reflects the emphasis in the Church regarding “The New Evangelization.” As the Pope states,
Attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who helps us together to read the signs of the times, the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops gathered from 7-28 October 2012 to discuss the theme: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.
…I was happy to take up the request of the Fathers of the Synod to write this Exhortation. In so doing, I am reaping the rich fruits of the Synod’s labours. In addition, I have sought advice from a number of people and I intend to express my own concerns about this particular chapter of the Church’s work of evangelization.
* * *
Today, here is a portion of Evangelii Gaudium that reflects something observers of the Pope have noticed and about which many comments have been made. He has attempted to refocus the message and ministry of the Church around “the heart of the Gospel.” Without abandoning the Church’s moral teaching, he has sought to put it in proper perspective. He wants Christians to remember that our central message is not about abortion or homosexuality, etc., but about God’s saving love in Jesus Christ.
I’d like for us to discuss Pope Francis’s words today, and not my comments on it. However, I will underline certain portions of the excerpt that I find significant and want to point out to you.
34. If we attempt to put all things in a missionary key, this will also affect the way we communicate the message. In today’s world of instant communication and occasionally biased media coverage, the message we preach runs a greater risk of being distorted or reduced to some of its secondary aspects. In this way certain issues which are part of the Church’s moral teaching are taken out of the context which gives them their meaning. The biggest problem is when the message we preach then seems identified with those secondary aspects which, important as they are, do not in and of themselves convey the heart of Christ’s message. We need to be realistic and not assume that our audience understands the full background to what we are saying, or is capable of relating what we say to the very heart of the Gospel which gives it meaning, beauty and attractiveness.
35. Pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed. When we adopt a pastoral goal and a missionary style which would actually reach everyone without exception or exclusion, the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary. The message is simplified, while losing none of its depth and truth, and thus becomes all the more forceful and convincing.
36. All revealed truths derive from the same divine source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gospel. In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead. In this sense, the Second Vatican Council explained, “in Catholic doctrine there exists an order or a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith”. This holds true as much for the dogmas of faith as for the whole corpus of the Church’s teaching, including her moral teaching.
37. Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that the Church’s moral teaching has its own “hierarchy”, in the virtues and in the acts which proceed from them. What counts above all else is “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). Works of love directed to one’s neighbour are the most perfect external manifestation of the interior grace of the Spirit: “The foundation of the New Law is in the grace of the Holy Spirit, who is manifested in the faith which works through love”. Thomas thus explains that, as far as external works are concerned, mercy is the greatest of all the virtues: “In itself mercy is the greatest of the virtues, since all the others revolve around it and, more than this, it makes up for their deficiencies. This is particular to the superior virtue, and as such it is proper to God to have mercy, through which his omnipotence is manifested to the greatest degree”.
38. It is important to draw out the pastoral consequences of the Council’s teaching, which reflects an ancient conviction of the Church. First, it needs to be said that in preaching the Gospel a fitting sense of proportion has to be maintained. This would be seen in the frequency with which certain themes are brought up and in the emphasis given to them in preaching. For example, if in the course of the liturgical year a parish priest speaks about temperance ten times but only mentions charity or justice two or three times, an imbalance results, and precisely those virtues which ought to be most present in preaching and catechesis are overlooked. The same thing happens when we speak more about law than about grace, more about the Church than about Christ, more about the Pope than about God’s word.
39. Just as the organic unity existing among the virtues means that no one of them can be excluded from the Christian ideal, so no truth may be denied. The integrity of the Gospel message must not be deformed. What is more, each truth is better understood when related to the harmonious totality of the Christian message; in this context all of the truths are important and illumine one another. When preaching is faithful to the Gospel, the centrality of certain truths is evident and it becomes clear that Christian morality is not a form of stoicism, or self-denial, or merely a practical philosophy or a catalogue of sins and faults. Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no circumstance can this invitation be obscured! All of the virtues are at the service of this response of love. If this invitation does not radiate forcefully and attractively, the edifice of the Church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options. The message will run the risk of losing its freshness and will cease to have “the fragrance of the Gospel”.
Kevin DeYoung talks about a pastor's responsibilities and possible conflicts with writing books and articles. Among other good thoughts, he says, "I'm glad I read Martyn Lloyd-Jones before I ever wrote a book because I can hear the Doctor in the back of my head saying, 'The pastor is first of all a preacher and not a writer.' There is nothing wrong with being a writer first, but that's simply not the calling of a pastor."
He notes what a wonderful privilege it is for people to read anything you've written, which is a good reason for a writer to get over himself.
On a related note, Miles Mullin writes about contemporary tribalism among evangelicals. "This is the troubling reality of the personality-based leadership that encompasses much of American evangelicalism. Often, charisma and dynamic communication skills trump character and integrity as popular appeal wins the day," he observes. Like fans of sports teams who argue over purely subjective judgements, fans of preachers and writers defend their leaders against any accusation, sometimes even against obvious sins.
Despite heart-warming stories such as the Christmas Truce of 1914 and the redemption of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Christmas and its message of “peace on earth, goodwill to men”, does not always bring about compassion nor does it everywhere restrain evil.
“In late 1891, Tibbles and Susette [La Flesche] traveled to Pine Ridge, on of the Sioux reservations in southwestern South Dakota. Many had fled the reservation, fearful of the soldiers who’d come to quell any disturbances aroused by the Ghost Dance. Starving Indians danced to bring the savior, to se departed loved ones living again, and to see the whites driven away and a new earth returned, once again home to free Indians, the buffalo, the elk, and the antelope.
On Christmas Eve, soldiers slaughtered a band of Indians camped near Wounded Knee Creek; they were under Chief Big Foot and included men, women, and children. In one of the darkest moments of her life, Susette helped care for the survivors that escaped to Pine Ridge.”
~Women of the Frontier by Brandon Marie Miller
And this episode and other like it illustrate why we need more than a message from angels, more than the moral law that we know to be true: we need a Savior.
Today’s Gifts from Semicolon
A song: “I understand Christmas as I understand Bach’s Sleepers Awake or Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. . . When I am able to pray with the mind in the heart, I am joyfully able to affirm the irrationality of Christmas.” ~Madeleine L’Engle
A booklist: A Madeleine L’Engle Annotated Bibliography
A birthday: Nick Vujicic, Serbian Australian evangelist and motivational speaker, b. 1982.
A verse: God Knows by Minnie Louise Haskins.
Note from CM: Thanks to IM friend Lee Adams, for today’s moving meditation on Advent. He blogs at Homilies, Prayers, and Bread for the Journey.
* * *
I stood and watched him sleeping in his grandmother’s bed. “His name is Ezekiel”, she said. “He blind.” He seemed normal enough. Small for his age, maybe, but any three year old would be dwarfed by the immense king-sized bed where he lay. The grandmother, young in years as far as grandma’s go, but definitely an old soul, tucked the covers around his neck. The child never moved, but rested peacefully and secure.
“He blind ’cause his mama was bad on dope. She done gone to the jail down in South Georgia somewhere. She’ll be there until.” At first I thought she was going to finish her sentence with a stated limit on her daughter’s sentence, but she didn’t. The “until” was final and indefinite, firm but undefined. It was understood that Ezekiel’s mother was going to be incarcerated for a very long time. “I got custody of all her kids, except two. The other one’s is with my other daughter. They was older, and I just didn’t have room for all them.” She had four of her grandchildren in her care, the “other daughter” had three more, plus a few of her own.
She stroked Ezekiel’s face as she spoke, “I was on dope for a long time, then Family and Children Services took my kids. I got myself in rehab then, and got myself off the dope, and got my chirren back. I been clean thirty years. Ezekiel’s mama tried to get clean a few times, but she got other stuff going on in her head, like my sister.” The sister had rushed out the door as I was invited in, and was smoking on the front porch. She was talking non-stop, though she was alone. The grandmother said, “She talkin’ to her dead child. She talk to her all the time. If she start talkin’ like she’s mad or something, I just go pet her a little bit, maybe sing a little song to her, and she be alright. She schizophrenic, like my daughter.”
She only briefly mentioned Ezekiel’s grandfather, a fun-loving man, at least until he scrapes together enough pennies to buy a gallon of Glen Moore Gin. It’s then he does things to children that I dare not mention in my own home, for fear the demons that torment him might hear the notion of their handiwork, and consider it an invitation into my own children’s lives. It was the grandfather’s actions that had brought me to her home. He had forcefully poured Glen Moore down Ezekiel’s brother’s throat while the grandmother was at church with the other children. The child had been admitted to a local hospital with a blood alcohol content of .24. Pretty significant for a child that weighs a little more than 50 pounds. That’s where I came in, the Child Protective Services Investigator. The boy was fine; grandmother had grandfather leave the home; but per policy, I had to check on the well-being of every child in the home.
It was policy that led me to this boy, named for an Old Testament prophet; quiet, but speaking volumes to me as he slept in his grandmother’s bed. Adherence to policy led me directly to revelation of prophecy. Isn’t that how it so often goes? God strikingly displays Himself in the midst of our rigid routines, and opens our eyes to brand new possibilities we haven’t considered before.
The grandmother continued stroking the child on top of his blankets as she spoke, saying, “He a cripple, too”, gesturing toward a walker in the corner that looked more like a toy than a piece of medical equipment. “He blind, and he a cripple, but he a gift. It’s a miracle he even alive.”
I couldn’t stop looking at him, lying there sleeping. I wondered what he dreams about. I wonder if he dreams in pictures and color the way I dream, and wakes up in dark wonder, considering what he has envisioned in his mind. Maybe he dreams of sounds: the bark of a dog, falling rain on a tin roof, or the rambling voice of his tortured aunt, speaking to her lost child, somewhere between reality and fantasy.
Perhaps he dreams of textures and touch: the feel of grass beneath his bare feet, the pattern of the fabric on the couch where he sits most of the time, or the gentle, loving touch of his grandmother’s hands, calloused and firm but loving and compassionate all at the same time.
He could even dream of smells or tastes of grandma’s cooking. She was preparing chittlins (that’s chitterlings to you Northern folk), fried green tomatoes, and turnip greens for a Thanksgiving feast later in the evening. I swear, I haven’t been able to wash the scent out of the clothes I was wearing, despite several tries. How could he dream of anything else?
Or maybe he dreams of things I can’t perceive. Could it be that he dreams of those moments in his mother’s womb, times when the very hand of God traced the shape of his lips, shaped the contours of his face, and painted the color in his eyes? Could he be dreaming of times when that divine encounter was broken by the poisons that his mother transferred from her own body to his: a poisonous fruit passing from one hand to another, from hand to mouth, processed into nourishment that was as cold as death to Ezekiel; as welcome as mustard gas to an wounded and helpless soldier lying in the mud of a battlefield, alone, in the dark, waiting for his rescue. For my baby girls, their time in the womb was a period of nurture, warmth, safety, and care. They cried with great objection when they had to leave. For Ezekiel, the womb was a concentration camp, where cruel experiments were done on his body. He was so anxious to get out, he was delivered months too soon.
Or could it be within the reach of rational thought that Ezekiel, in that broken shell of a body, with eyes that cannot and will not ever enjoy a morning sunrise, a waterfall, or the wonder of the sight of a deer jumping a fence line in fall…Could it be that his dreams are filled with the wonder of hope?
If you look at Jesus’ phrase, “Suffer the little children to come to me” (Mark 10:14), the easy translation is to say that the word “suffer”, used in this context, simply means “permit” or“allow”. Looking at the word in these terms seems to limit Jesus to the role of a ticket taker at a movie theater, or even a backstage bouncer at a rock concert, saying, “Let’em through.” The word “suffer” seems more severe, more imperative, more urgent than simply saying “permit”, though. To me, it seems as though He’s saying, “Get the children to me, no matter what it costs.”
Jesus was the chesedh, full of mercy, manifestation of God, come to earth to endure the harsh justice our brokenness demanded: the justice of the unjust terms of the cross. He was the racham, moved with compassion down to his gut God, who was so inclined to set us free from the chains of death, that he took on our skin, our shattered dreams, our great joys, and our most desperate fears, and wrecked Himself in order to wreck them. There was nothing that He would allow to stand between Himself and His children. “Suffer them to come to me” was a secondary imperative: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel“, which translates in dirt road terms as “I must get to my beloved any way I can”, was primary. Before God demanded that children like Ezekiel be allowed into His presence, into the place where formerly only the best-dressed, most well-behaved, most mature and reverent and perfect church folk were allowed, He took the first step and came to Ezekiel. Dare we enter into the Holy of Holies? Can we resist, when the Holy of Holies sets Himself all round about us, in us, hopelessly, hopefully, hemming us in? And if this God, this Word became Flesh, was so violently determined, so “suffer me to get to My children”, is it beyond the realm of reason that He might invade and occupy the dreams of this little broken boy? Bad theology prays, “Lord, just be with us.” Good theology understands that He is already there. This Christ so consumed St. Patrick with His presence that the Irishman wrote in his epic prayer, The Lorica:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise…
If Christ so surrounds us, I find it unfathomable that He wouldn’t be present in Ezekiel’s dreams.
Just a few verses of scripture after Jesus’ imperative statement about children, another instance of mercy occurs:
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” (Mark 10:46-51)
I am reminded by Ezekiel that even in the worst of situations, there is the possibility of hope. It is only fitting that I would meet this beautiful child during Advent, the time when we await the celebration of Christ’s birth, and anxiously anticipate His return. We huddle with our friends and family, waiting to hear our Saviour say, “Suffer them to come to me”. We wait by the roadside, trapped in our despair, listening for the One whom we can’t see, hoping for the unseen. And when Christ passes by, not even the proper, best religious folks will be able to keep us away from Him.
Ezekiel sleeps peacefully and dreams of the day His Messiah will come: the day when Christ will say, “Suffer Ezekiel to come to me”; the day when our returning King pulls the child’s frail body to His breast like only a loving Father can, and speaks gently into his ear, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy…And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
- Isaiah 35:3-6, 10
I do not understand that discipline called "Ethnography," which seems to me the validation of a prejudice by means of an excursion.
One can no more understand the operation of other cultures from observation than can one so understand the sexual act.
Observation, in the case of each, is missing the point, and Ethnography, or "Anthropology," rests on a false assumption: that one may be free of prejudice.
Hugh Hewitt interviewed David Mamet, the legendary playwright who has recently "come out" as a conservative, a couple weeks ago. They were discussing this book, Three War Stories. They concentrated on the first story of this collection, The Redwing, which Mamet described as a novella dually inspired by George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman books and Patrick O'Brien's seafaring novels. So naturally I had to buy it.
This is one of those profound, densely packed works that probably ought to be read multiple times, and I've only read it once. But I enjoyed it, particularly the iconoclastic elements, which are many. I'm just not sure I entirely grasp the themes.
The Redwing is a very complex story, ostensibly narrated by a former sailor, galley slave, and spy who later became the author of popular novels based on his own adventures. He does not tell his story directly, but as a series of commentaries on his books, with which he assumes the reader is already familiar. So we have to piece his real story together, in non-chronological fashion. Thus we're dealing with a story on numerous levels - "factual" (though fictional) notes on a fictional work, based on supposedly factual events. This allows the author to play with the problems of the veteran who has a need to tell his story, but not all of it. He protects his country, first by risking his life, and then by concealing part of the truth from it.
Notes on Plains Warfare is an examination (which I thought extremely apt) of the dynamics of a war in which one side had a strong moral case, superior tactics, and greater resolve, but was crushed by an opponent simply more numerous, technologically superior, and more pragmatic. It is presented in the form of another memoir, by an American army survivor.
The last story, The Handle and the Hold, is a more matter-of-fact story, a little more linear than the other two, about two Jewish friends, a cop and a gangster, who join together to do a secret mission for Israel shortly after the end of World War II.
Definitely worth reading, but more work than the fiction I usually review. Cautions for language and mature subject matter.
Andi Unexpected reminded me of the simple mystery stories I read when I was nine and ten and eleven years old, nothing profound or even memorable, just a good solid mystery story for middle grade kids who like that sort of thing.
After the death of their scientist parents in the jungles of Central America, Andi and her older sister Bethany move in with their Aunt Amelie. While cleaning out the attic, Andi discovers a hidden closet and a mystery. Who is the mysterious Andora, who shares Andi’s name? Why does no one want to talk about her? Why are the local museum director and a history professor from the nearby college so interested in Andora’s story?
I felt as if a few of the plot points were a little rushed or unexplained. Andi says at one point that Andora is her great-aunt, but I wasn’t sure how she knew this bit of geneological information. I never understood how Andi’s parents decided to name her Andora after a mysterious woman that, according to the story, no one really knew by that name. Nevertheless, for fans of The Boxcar Children or series mysteries of that genre and reading level, Andi Unexpected may be just right. It looks as if Andi Unexpected is itself the beginning of a series.
- N.D. Wilson, an author more of us should be reading, explains the fundamental flaws in The Hunger Games. Self-sacrifice? Not hardly. "Revolutions," he says, "are not started by teen girls suicide-pacting with cute baker boys. Oppressive regimes are not threatened by people who do what they are told."
- George Eliot writes, "And when we stood at length and parted amid that columnar circuit of the forest trees, beneath the last twilight of starless skies, I seemed to be gazing ... on a sanctuary with no Presence to hallow it, and heaven left lonely of a God." She is being quoted in this brief post on art without God and what that means for morality.
- A father of boys and girls talks about their roles in the world as informed by Star Wars and other movies. There are many problems with his brief presention, which I'm sure a worldview class could pick apart for a month, but I think he asks some good questions and makes a fair point. What is a girl to take away from watching Star Wars? Hope the boys fight well so she can reward them in the end? What should a boy take away from that movie? That he must fight to win and get the girl in the end? (And to touch on one problem with this presentation, may I ask why I should assume patriarchy is wrong? Is it that men are mostly wrong?)
From The Pastor’s Justification:
I want to think of the flock God has loaned out to me not as items on a task list but as people made in the image of God, precious and broken and beautiful and sinful, like me. I want to see them as people, not problems. I want to see them not as obstacles in the way of some vague missional purpose but as the missional purpose themselves. The minute I begin seeing God’s people as problems to be solved (or avoided) is the minute I’ve denied the heart of Christ.
Carl Trueman quotes an email he received:
I worshipped this Sunday with my in-laws at their home church which is pastored by a man featured at this year’s [conference name supplied] with 6000 of my closest friends. My father-in-law has been dying for five years (renal failure) and is very likely within months of his death. I can’t get a pastor or elder from this congregation to come and visit him once, let alone make it a weekly priority to help him die well—in the full confidence of the Lord Jesus. But there’s time, mind you, for (yet another) conference.
Trusting that this fellow really had tried to get an elder from his father-in-law’s church to visit him before he dies, this is unconscionable. I know a pastor of a church who once said to someone asking about hospital visitation that he didn’t do it. Ever. Somebody would visit, but not him. He wasn’t saying it in terms of disdain, just matter-of-factly that that’s not in his particular job description.
I understand an individual pastor not making every (or even most) hospital/deathbed visits. But for the life of me I cannot understand an individual pastor making none.
(Pastors, with a public ministry: Your platform is not your grounds for pastoral legitimacy. It’s the other way around. And you might be able to fool your readers or wider audience, but you won’t be able to fool your local church for long. And you will never be able to fool God. There will be a reckoning for “hired hands” who don’t feed his sheep.)
Peace Child by Don Richardson tells the story of Christian missionaries Don and Carol Richardson and their attempts in the early 1960′s to bring the gospel of Jesus to the Sawi people, headhunting cannibals of New Guinea. Fro the Sawi, treachery was an ideal, and the only way to make peace between enemy tribes was to give the sacrifice of a “peace child” to ensure the treaty between warring groups.
“You want Hurip to die?” I asked.
“Yes!” Amio hissed.
Anxiously I rose and faced Amio, “Why?”
Amio’s voice choked with emotion as he replied: “Remember I told you my father Hato once gave a tarop child to the Kayagar, only to learn later that they had killed the baby and devoured it?”
I nodded, and Amio continued, “The man lying in this canoe is the man to whom my father gave that child! He is the same man who killed and devoured my little brother! Tuan, I’ve been waiting for years for a chance to . . .”
Now I was trembling, too. The Christmas spirit was not coming easily to the banks of the Kronkel that day. . . . was I really being realistic in hoping they would forgive their enemies for Christ’s sake?
For a moment I stood speechless before Amio, praying for wisdom. Then an old memory stirred in the bad of my mind. Reaching out with both hands, I gripped Amio by his earlobes. He was stat led, but he did not draw away. He listened carefully while I said: “Tarop Tim titindadeden! I plead the Peace Child!”
Amio shot back, “The peace child my father gave to Hurip is dead! Hurip himself killed him!”
“But the Peace Child God gave still lives! I countered. And because He lives, you may not take vengeance against Hurip. Forgive him, Amio, for Jesus’ sake!”
My fingers still gripped his earlobes.
Today’s Gifts from Semicolon
A song: Moon River, music by Henry Mancini. OK, it’s not a Christmas song, but it’s vintage Andy Williams. Enjoy.
A booklist: Barbara H and 31 Days of Missionary Stories.
A birthday: Andy Williams, b.1930. We always used to watch Andy Williams’ Christmas special on TV, back in the day.
Joseph Conrad, b.1857.
Moon River by Johnny Mercer.
Moon River, wider than a mile,
I’m crossing you in style some day.
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
wherever you’re going I’m going your way.
Two drifters off to see the world.
There’s such a lot of world to see.
We’re after the same rainbow’s end–
waiting ’round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me.
A Christmas idea: Redeeming Christmas, Kindness-Bombing by Juanita at Once Upon a Prairie.
How I wish Christian teachers and leaders would talk honestly to people about sex.
The other day I read an article about a video Tim Keller did for Jonathan Bethke. The article was called, “Timothy Keller Waxes Poetic About the ‘Magic’ and Pleasures of Sex in Marriage.”
Now, that headline oversells the actual claims Keller makes in the video. Still, the impression given by both the video and article is that (Christian) marriage always guarantees a deeply satisfying sex life while sex outside of marriage inevitably and always leads to disappointment, unhappiness, and disastrous consequences.
Pastor Keller, who was answering the question, “Why is sex outside of marriage so destructive?” says the following in the video:
Sex inside of a committed marriage is magic. It’s like blowing on the coals of this incredible beautiful and powerful flame. Sex outside of marriage is just a way of not giving yourself, but of receiving fulfillment and pleasure.
Here, you can watch Tim Keller for yourself:
First of all, I want to say I appreciate what Tim Keller has to say. I especially like the fact that he talks about the sexual experiences of married couples who are older. He has reached a season of life that gives him perspective about life and relationships and how sexuality fits into a bigger picture of years knowing and loving another person.
If I could categorize his teaching I would say it reflects the Judeo-Christian wisdom tradition. It represents a certain understanding of the order of creation and how the institution of marriage was designed to provide a haven for committed love between a man and a woman.
I share a belief in this tradition, I find security and safety within it. I commend it to others. I think it represents the best possibility for love and families to flourish. I am as traditional as Keller about marriage and I find his testimony attractive.
However, I struggle with what Christians do with such teaching and testimony.
Many believers have a theology of glory when it comes to issues like this.They are convinced that believing this moral teaching will most certainly translate into a better experience in their lives.
Therefore, they tend to speak simplistically: Christians have better sex. Married people have better sex.
And because sex outside of marriage is morally wrong, it must not be satisfying or meaningful. It’s just about people seeking pleasure for themselves.
On the other hand, married people, simply because they are married and on the right side morally, understand true commitment. Therefore, sex is automatically more rewarding.
To which I say: get real!
Being a Christian, being married, even being a considerate and loving person does not guarantee that you will have a satisfying and pleasurable sex life.
This is not arithmetic, folks. This is life, with all its complexities and caveats.
Sex is about human bodies — each one unique. It’s about bodies that don’t always respond the way we want them to, bodies that we’re proud of and embarrassed about, bodies that go through changes as we age, bodies that are subject to fatigue and illness and injury, bodies that sometimes enjoy touch and sometimes shrink from being touched.
Sex is about human psychology and all the crazy things we think about ourselves, and how those thoughts are affected by the most unexpected things in ways we can never entirely unravel and may find difficult to change.
Sex is about human relationships and all the ups and downs that go with being together with another person.
Sex is about human emotions and our inability to always control them or harness them in the service of love and intimacy.
Sex is about human experience. It’s about people who grew up in loving families and others who were regularly abused. It’s about people who have been deeply hurt in past relationships and find it hard to trust. It’s about people who are intelligent, who can learn easily, and others who don’t have much intellectual capacity and stay at a certain level of understanding. It’s about folks who have had privileges and an easy road and those who’ve been through the school of hard knocks.
No matter who we are, what kind of relationships we are in, and no matter what we believe, sex is mysterious, messy, disappointing, tender, funny, puzzling, embarrassing, magical, comfortable, perplexing, painful, invigorating, uninteresting, intense, infuriating, boring, addictive, fun, revolting, passionate, and exasperating. All those things and more.
At times it bonds us together with a strong sense of connection. At other times it puts thick walls between us. Sometimes we can talk about it freely, but not always. We keep secrets from each other. We look at pornography. We fantasize. We wonder if we’re doing it right. We masturbate. We imagine what it would be like to be intimate with someone else. We may give it little thought or find it an unpleasant idea. Frankly, we may not like sex. We may wonder if we are asexual or, on the other hand, if we are oversexed. We obsess about it, tell jokes about it, tease each other about it, or do our best to ignore and avoid the subject. We think and feel about it differently in various seasons and circumstances of our lives. We often don’t know what the hell to think and feel about it.
We never master sex. We can’t always add it up.
Being a Christian, having a high view of the marriage covenant, and holding strong moral convictions, even committing oneself to another person for a lifetime and working on that relationship diligently cannot and does not guarantee that a person or couple will know sexual satisfaction. It may not be “magic” and we may not be able to “wax poetic” about our experience.
At the same time, Christians must recognize that others who do not share these convictions may actually experience more rewarding sexual relationships than we do. Yeah, it’s actually possible, folks. This is not heresy or moral surrender — it is just how things are. We live in a big world and it’s a complex life out there.
We’ve got to get off this penchant for thinking that if something is true or right, it will automatically be better in our experience.
That is a theology of glory. That is a prosperity gospel. That is Christians trying to justify themselves before the world by claiming that God’s Kingdom always advertises itself by visible proofs.
In other words, stop trying to defend the faith by saying silly things like it leads to better sex.
That is not the Gospel. Much of the time, it doesn’t even add up.
"He sort of looked mean, but in a hygienic, Minnesota way."
Just recently I reviewed John Sandford's more recent Virgil Flowers novel, Storm Front, and noted that that book's light tone, and the fact that nobody got killed in it, typified the less serious quality of the Flowers books, as compared to Sandford's hugely successful Prey novels.
After reading Mad River, I need to modify that observation. Storm Front was a diversion. The Flowers books by and large are plenty violent, though the depravity level is perhaps a notch lower.
Mad River is a story about a killing spree in south central Minnesota towns, perpetrated by a trio of young losers - a couple on their way to nowhere and a slacker friend. Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Virgil Flowers is tasked with heading up the effort to stop them, and he's desperately trying to keep them from getting killed by the local cops, not so much out of professional ethics as because he suspects a murder-for-hire angle, and he needs them to tell him who paid them.
The whole thing is pretty unpleasant. Sandford accomplishes the difficult task of making these stone killers somewhat sympathetic, but I'm not sure whether I'm grateful for that. There's some humor, but it's mostly the graveyard variety. The writing's good, the characters well drawn and complex. But all in all it was pretty depressing.
Recommended on technical grounds, but I can't say the book was much fun. Cautions for violence, sex, and language.
Addendum, 10:12 p.m.: I just remembered what irritated me most in this book. At one point Virgil, addressing a group of people, uses the pronoun "Y'all." This is absurd. Virgil is a native Minnesotan, speaking to other Minnesotans. We do not say "y'all" in these parts. I'm certain Sandford knows this. I can only assume the word was inserted by a New York copy editor.
There is a great danger this Christmas season of missing the point. And I’m not referring simply to idolatrous consumption and materialism. I’m talking about Christmas religiosity. It is very easy around this time to set up our Nativity scenes, host our Christmas pageants and cantatas, read the Christmas story with our families, attend church every time the door is open, and insist to ourselves and others that Jesus is the reason for the season, and yet not see Jesus. With the eyes of our heart, I mean.
I suppose there is something about indulging in the religious Christmas routine that lulls us into thinking we are dwelling in Christ when we are really just set to seasonal autopilot, going through the festive and sentimental motions. Meanwhile the real person Jesus the Christ goes neglected in favor of his plastic, paper, and video representations. Don’t get distracted from Jesus by “Jesus.” This year, plead with the Spirit to interrupt your nice Christmas with the power of Jesus’ gospel.
I know it has been a while since my last post. I’ve never really been the every day kind of blogger, but the lull is still unique for me, I know. We’ve been in an especially eventful season of ministry over here, and the request in that last post is actually just one piece of why.
We lost our friend Anne this morning. I don’t have the interest right now in waxing theological about life and death and what-not. That will come later, I’m sure. I just left the hospital room about an hour ago, leaving Anne’s husband Jeff and son Mark and sister Eve, my wife Becky, Elder Dale and his wife Kim, and Barby (our church’s worship leader and wife of Elder Dave), as they prepared for the right people to come and take Anne’s body away. There were lots of tears in that room when I left it but lots of joy too, the kind only Christians can really understand. Yesterday as we kept watch with Anne’s family over her last labored breaths, I witnessed all afternoon and into the evening a steady stream of Middletown Church folks come in and out, spend time, share hugs and stories and smiles and tears. I left last night brimming with joy. What an enormous privilege it is to pastor this great church.
But I have to tell you about Anne. Just a little bit for now. Anne was a very Jesusy person. Here are just four reasons why that are very personal to me, that I just have to get out…
1. The first is less serious than reasons two thru four, but still important to my family. Anne and her husband Jeff introduced our family to our favorite New England vacation spot — Stonington, Maine. Three years ago in late summer, the two of them led the four of us to this sleepy little fishing village on the rocky coast. It’s not very touristy, which is why we love it. Jeff and Anne had discovered it a few years before and then had some friends move near there, so it became a regular getaway spot. The two years since, my family has taken our end-of-summer vacation week there. It’s become just the right place at just the right time for a family refresh and reboot before the hectic schedule of school and fall ministry season begin. Becky loves taking pictures all over the place. The girls love playing in the water (yes, it’s wicked cold, even in August). I love just sitting there, breathing. It’s kind of a selfish reason to be grateful for Anne, I guess, but it does remind me of Jesus because he’s always showing us new things — in his word as well as in his world — that become old treasures.
2. Anne also reminds me of Jesus because of her honesty, her directness, her passion, her forthrightness. Specifically, she was “Jesus to me” a couple of years ago when she asked if we could meet for coffee. As we sat one morning together at Cafe Terra in Rutland, I was nervous that she was nervous. It was difficult for her to do but she was letting me know that I had hurt her feelings with a careless word. Of course, I hadn’t meant to hurt her feelings, and we weren’t even in conflict. I wasn’t mad at her or anything when I hurt her, which was why it was so surprising to me. But something I said had taken her to a wounded place, whether I meant it or not. She couldn’t let it go, so she had let me know. Of course I wasn’t happy to know I’d hurt her. And I asked how I could make it right. (She said just listening would do it.) But I thanked her. She had done me a great honor. See, in my world, when someone is offended by something I’ve said or feels somewhat slighted or hurt in some way, it is more typical that I hear about it later on down the line and through a third party. Often I don’t even know who it is that’s upset. That’s understandable in one sense; I can figure out why that might happen. But Anne did me the great honor of telling me herself, to my face, as soon as she was able. She trusted me with her hurt. As saddened as I was by what she was relaying, I was also encouraged by the way she relayed it. She didn’t do it angrily or with any demands. But she was willing to risk my getting angry or my being defensive or whatever other terrible responses I could have given her in my flesh or she could have anticipated in her nervousness. She was willing to risk our relationship by telling me the truth. And our relationship grew stronger because of it. That’s like Jesus, isn’t it? Always shooting us straight, whatever it may cost.
3. Do you know the people in church or other community circles that most people have difficulty talking to? (I’m trying to tread lightly here.) There are some sweet, genuine people who seem to need more patience in conversation, more empathy, more grace in social settings, more time, less hurry. People you maybe don’t mind chatting with if only someone else will come relieve you. Well, Anne was a magnet to those people. Anne, like almost nobody else I can think of, had a heart for the people on the margins. Wounded people, people who feel unheard, people who feel misunderstood, people who we might call “emotionally needy” but are perhaps unaware of it, people like even me maybe — they were Anne’s friends. She always made time for the people that many of us selfish folks checked our watches with. Isn’t that like Jesus? Unhurried compassion with the lonely people on the outskirts of communal efficiency and social acceptability? Jeff says people have come in to pay respects in the last few days that he didn’t even know about, hurting people that Anne had regular tea appointments with to be a listening ear.
4. Anne was brilliant. Her insights in Bible study or even casual conversation often related to neurology or some intellectual thing she’d lately read. She was always answering questions by telling us some obscure thing the brain does. A recovering Catholic and a recovering flower child, she loved talking about her relatively “late” interests, conservative politics and Reformed theology. In the last few years, Anne had gone back to school. In her late 50′s she had decided she wanted to study psychology and parlay that into becoming a gospel-centered Christian counselor. (She absolutely devoured all the CCEF materials I fed her.) So this year, at age 61, when she was diagnosed with this brain tumor just a couple of months ago, we all just felt it was kind of . . . cruel? ironic? I don’t know. Interesting? The last meaningful conversation I was able to have with her was right after her first brain surgery. I said, “You’ve just spend three years studying the brain. And now . . . this?” She looked at me and said, “I know, right? God’s funny sometimes.” Funny? I’m not sure funny is the right word here, but I know what she meant by it. And now means by it, as she’s laughing it up with her brother Jesus in glory. (Anne has a great laugh, by the way.) Just like our brother Jesus, Anne faced death with a natural amount of fear and a Spiritual amount of faith in the Father who loves her, cares for her, and secures her. Like Jesus, she had abandoned her self to the sovereign grace of God.
Photo 1: Me and Jeff, in Stonington
Photo 2: Jeff and Anne
Margret [Reed] did her best to revive a few hours of Christmas joy for her hungry children. She’d saved a meager hoard for the occasion–a few dried apples, a few beans, a little tripe, and a small piece of bacon. The children watched as the treats simmered in the kettle, and when they sat down to this Christmas feast, Margret told them, ‘Children, eat slowly, for this one day you can have all you wish.’ For the rest of her life, not matter how grand a Christmas dinner spread on her table, Virginia never forgot what her mother did for them. ‘So bitter was the memory relieved by that one bright day, that I have never since sat down to a Christmas dinner without my thoughts going back to Donner Lake.’” ~Women of the Frontier by Brandon Marie Miller
The Reed family was a part of the famous, or infamous, Donner Party, a group of families headed for Oregon/California who attempted to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the fall of 1846. Many of the settlers in the party perished of cold or starvation when the winter snows trapped the group at Lake Truckee, now called Donner Lake to commemorate the unfortunate Donner Party. Margret Reed, her husband, James, and their four children—Virginia, Patty, James, Jr. and Thomas—survived the ordeal to settle in California.
Today’s gifts from Semicolon:
A song: One of my favorite songs by one of my favorite singers, Karen Carpenter singing I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.
A movie: I’ve become fond of The Ultimate Gift with a really aged James Garner as the grandfather/gift-giver. It made me feel old to watch and remember The Rockford Files when James Garner was young(ish) and played one of the great TV detectives. The movie has a great message, and if the plot gets a little thin at times, the characters and the heart make up for a creaky plot.
A booklist: Gift books for what they want to be when they grow up.
A birthday: David Macaulay, b.1946.
A verse: Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The entire poem has seven stanzas or verses.
I don’t understand people who get outraged over people paying the tax they owe, but not more than the tax they owe, unless they’re other people that they like, and then it’s okay.
It’s all very confusing to me.
And ministry is table service.
This is the focus and content of a remarkable chapter in Gordon W. Lathrop’s book, The Pastor: A Spirituality.
And this is the chapter that, most of all, sets the liturgical traditions apart from the free churches. This is what many of us who fled those non-liturgical congregations hungered and thirsted for. It wasn’t just that we wanted to celebrate communion more often or have a more structured form of worship. No, what Lathrop outlines in this chapter is a different vision of the Church, a contrasting culture, an entirely different mindset than what many of us experienced in free church evangelicalism.
Gordon Lathrop makes two simple points in this chapter:
To be the church means to come to the table together.
Christianity came into existence as a meal fellowship. Biblical images, some of them used in the early centuries of the faith, can help us understand the importance of this assertion. The food itself was now the very presence of Jesus, his encounterable body in our midst, his covenant-making blood on the lintels of our bodies. The meal was the taste of the feast on the mountain (Isaiah 25), the Spirit-given end of death itself, the gathering of all peoples to eat and to drink, like Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18), with the Holy Trinity. The gathering was now the qahal, the ekklesia, eating and drinking with God and sending portions to those for whom nothing was prepared, as in the account of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8).
To serve the church as a minister means to take up the role of a table-servant.
We would do well to recover the concrete meaning and the concrete connotations of “ministry.” Let the ministers be diakonoi. Let the gospel be set out as food, in the food, and in the relief for the poor. Christianity is a meal fellowship and diakonia is its unique idea about leadership. The words for this recovery, of course, are words from the heart of the Gospel tradition: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and table server of all” (Mark 9:35), and “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your table server, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. for the Son of Man came not to be served at table but to serve the table, and to give his life a ransom for the many” (Mark 10:43-45). Finally, the great table service of Christ to the world is the cross. There, by holy mercy, he is the server and the food, the very fruit from the tree of life for faith to receive and eat and live and also the very famine relief of God served up to all the needy world.
In all this, he is asserting the down-to-earth, lived reality of the Christian life and Church. Jesus introduced the Kingdom not so much in ideas as through incarnational action — by eating and drinking with people. Many of his sayings and stories reflect that, and come to us as examples of “table talk” that he shared around meals. Christianity, Lathrop says, is like that. It is a meeting, a meeting at table. Baptism is how we “wash for dinner.” When we gather, we not only share the nourishment of words and rituals, but also actual food and drink. Furthermore, recognizing that some of the family are unable to gather with us, we take them their meals and visit with them in Christian love. Also, knowing that many of our neighbors are hungry and short on resources, we take care to relieve the poor around us through sharing our bread and possessions with them.
The table service of the gospel belongs to the whole church, of course. But it is also the special calling of the ordained.
If someone asks me what I do, my proper answer should be, “I wait tables.”
I see to it that my family is fed and nourished and cared for.
I sit with them as one who is likewise hungry and thirsty and we break bread together.
At the table, we talk. We listen. We learn from each other.
We are fed.
Gordon Lathrop says, “When it is healthy, Christianity is a meal fellowship still.”
You can have your grand auditoriums, your preaching palaces, your gospel multiplexes, your all-purpose campuses that house every conceivable program.
I’ll be meeting with friends at the table.
* * *
This is part 4 of a series. Here are links to previous posts:
Quentin, Sarah, Ben and Cat are kids with one thing in common: they each experienced a head injury that brought them to the International Center for Advanced Neurology (I-CAN) to try to recover their brain and themselves. As Cat says, “The most terrifying thing about hitting your head so hard is when you wake up missing a piece of yourself. . . Things you could once do–kick a soccer ball without losing your balance, play air guitar with your best friend, climb in a kayak, or stand steady on the houseboat deck to pinch dead blossoms off the geraniums–all gone. Erased. Whole pieces of you are missing because your brain bumped against your skull.”
I still remember reading the best-selling medical thriller Coma by Robin Cook back in 1977 or 1978 when it first was published. It may have been that book plus a few personal experiences with doctors that made me lose faith in the medical profession. Since then, lots of “medical thrillers” have been written and consumed both by me and by the general reading public. And we probably trust doctors and the entire medical profession only a little more than we trust the government and politicians. All this to say, Wake Up Missing is not going to help the younger generation to become any more trusting than I was/am.
It’s a middle grade novel, but it is scary. “Something about this clinic isn’t right,” and Cat and her new friends may not be well enough in the brain to figure out what’s wrong before the evil mad scientist doctors mess up their brains for good. It’s a tad on the unbelievable side, but with some willing suspension of disbelief, it’s an enjoyable ride.
If you like this book, then I’d suggest:
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Stewart.
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen.
“This perfect Christmas read-aloud was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of La Madonna del Gatto, which show Mary cuddling both the baby Jesus and a cat.” ~inside blurb of The Christmas Cat
What ever happened to “the Little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes?” Well, like all idealized portraits, the image of a Jesus, even as a baby, who never cried, never expressed any emotions at all, and certainly never made any trouble or expressed a preference, has become inadequate, and we’ve come around and circled back to a Renaissance view of a Jesus who laughed and cried and pooped and even maybe, had a pet cat.
The Christmas Cat tells the story of Jesus’ birth in a stable where a tiny kitten comforted him with it purrs. The story continues with Jesus’ early childhood, and then the flight to Egypt, during which the cat again saves the day, and Mary’s frayed nerves. “The rhythmic rumbling, as always, soothed the baby, and Jesus fell sound asleep.”
I’m not all that fond of cats (or dogs), but The Christmas Cat is a story that will captivate the imagination of young animal lovers everywhere and give them an image of the baby Jesus with whom they can identify. Of course, I would tell my children that The Christmas Cat is an imaginary story, that we don’t really know if Jesus had a pet. But we can be sure that according to Scripture, Jesus was “fully human in every way” (Hebrews 2:17). Why not a pet cat for the boy who would grow up to preach that not even a sparrow falls without the Lord’s notice and care?
The illustrations in this Christmas picture book are by Amy June Bates, who has several children’s boos to her credit, including the easy reader Martin’s Dream by Jane Kurtz. The illustrations in The Christmas Cat a soft and colorful bringing the animals and people and first-century travels of the Holy family to life.
If you want to add a Christmas picture book to your collection this year, The Christmas Cat is a good, solid choice.
Today’s Gifts from Semicolon
A song: Mark Steyn on White Christmas by Irving Berlin.
A movie: Semicolon family’s favorite Christmas movie is White Christmas, corny jokes and all.
Phil Davis: When what’s left of you gets around to what’s left to be gotten, what’s left to be gotten won’t be worth getting, whatever it is you’ve got left.
Phil Davis: I want you to get married. I want you to have nine children. And if you only spend five minutes a day with each kid, that’s forty-five minutes, and I’d at least have time to go out and get a massage or something.
Phil Davis: How can a guy that ugly have the nerve to have sisters?
Bob Wallace: Very brave parenting.
Bob Wallace: Miss Haynes, if you’re ever under a falling building and someone offers to pick you up and carry you to safety, don’t think, don’t pause, don’t hesitate for a moment, just spit in his eye.
Betty Haynes: What did that mean?
Bob Wallace: It means we’re going to Vermont.
A birthday and a book(list): Rex Stout, b.1886.
A verse: Mistletoe by Walter de la Mare and Lines for a Christmas Card by Hillaire Belloc.
A Christmas idea: Let Us Keep the Feast: A Book Recommendation for the beginning of Advent (today)
The Day Before
A sermon for the first Sunday in Advent, 2013
‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
- Matthew 24:36-44
I have a friend named Michael Spencer who died on Opening Day of the baseball season in 2010. I mention the time because Michael was a lifelong baseball fan, a die hard supporter of the Cincinnati Reds. He died in the evening, after the Reds lost to the Cardinals, 11-6, at Great American Ballpark. We who loved him like to think that he was happy to know another season was underway, and even though the Reds lost, that it was going to be a long season, and on Opening Day there is always hope.
About five months before his death, Michael, who was known on the internet as “The Internet Monk,” wrote an article called, “There’s Always a Day Before.” In that piece, he said:
We all live the days before. We are living them now.
There was a day before 9-11.
There was a day before your child told you she was pregnant.
There was a day before your wife said she’d had enough.
There was a day before your employer said “layoffs.”
We are living our days before. We are living them now.
Some of us are doing, for the last time, what we think we will be doing twenty years from now.
Some of us are on the verge of a much shorter life, or a very different life, or a life turned upside down.
Some of us are preaching our last sermon, making love for the last time, saying “I love you” to our children for the last time in our own home. Some of us are spending our last day without the knowledge of eternal judgment and the reality of God. We are promising tomorrow will be different and tomorrow is not going to give us the chance, because God has a different tomorrow entirely on our schedule. We just don’t know it today.
Michael wrote this because at the time he was reflecting on the unexpected diagnosis of a terminal disease that one of his friends and coworkers had just received. The man had been a picture of health who took excellent care of himself and was devoted to serving the Lord at the Christian school where they worked. Then one day the doctor looked him in the eye and said, “Leukemia.” The day before, Michael’s friend had no idea. The day before, he thought he had many, many more days of being with his family, doing his work, enjoying life. But on the next day, everything changed.
The ironic part of the story is that, just a few weeks later, my friend Michael Spencer went to the doctor and received a similar diagnosis — only this time it was colon cancer. That was right after Thanksgiving in 2009. By the end of December Michael had undergone brain surgery. In January it was getting so he couldn’t write much anymore. Before you knew it, he was in hospice care, and he died on Opening Day in April.
The day before, he had been writing articles like, “There’s Always a Day Before.” Then the day that changed his life came.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us of this same fact of life. Jesus tells us no one knows when God will intervene and life will change dramatically. He says it will be like the days of Noah. While Noah was out building his boat, everyone else was going about business as usual — getting married, raising their kids, working in the fields. They didn’t have a clue that the skies were about to open up and wash it all away.
Jesus also says here that it’s like when a thief breaks into your home. You aren’t expecting that; you don’t see it coming.
In the light of this reality, Jesus says, “Keep awake…, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. …Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Israel was under Rome’s control, and within a generation after Jesus lived, there would be a revolt. The Romans answered with their military might, and in 70AD Jerusalem was besieged and ultimately destroyed, the Temple was demolished, and the people of Israel were scattered, never to be a nation in the land of Palestine again until 1948. It was the day before a world-changing event.
On the very week when Jesus spoke those words, he gathered with his disciples on Thursday evening and shared a Passover meal with them. On that night, Jesus said, “This is my body, given for you. This is my blood, shed for you.” That was the day before a dark day we all remember. The next day was Good Friday, when Jesus actually gave his body and shed his blood on the cross.
We never know, do we? That’s why the book of Proverbs says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (27:1).
I realize this subject is hard for all of us to hear and discuss. There is a superstitious part of us that thinks, “If I talk about it, something bad is going to happen.” However, let me turn this around a bit and give another perspective.
Jesus died on Good Friday. Then came Saturday. The disciples didn’t know it, but Saturday was one of the “days before” too. They thought Friday was the momentous day, the day that brought the great change. Jesus was dead. His voice was silenced. The movement he was creating was in disarray. They themselves were huddled in a house, afraid for their lives. Their hopes were dashed. Everything had changed. From now on, their days would be days lived without Jesus.
But we who know the story remember that Saturday was a “day before” too, and that Sunday brought about a change even greater than that of Good Friday. On Sunday, their lives were changed completely once again, this time by the words, “He is risen!”
You see, “the day before” doesn’t always indicate a bad change. It can also be the day before a day of grace. It can be the day before something so wonderful that your life will be forever changed for the better.
There’s a day before the coach announces, “You made the team!”
There’s a day before you get a letter saying, “You got the job!”
There’s a day before he gets down on his knee and says, “Will you marry me?”
There’s a day before the doctor looks you in the eye and says, “Congratulations, you’re going to have a baby!”
There’s a day before you get your driver’s license, a day before your name is called and you walk across the stage for your diploma, a day before you sign the papers and the house is yours, a day before you hold your first grandchild, a day before they honor you at a retirement ceremony.
You see, when Jesus says, “I am coming — be ready!” he is not just warning us about trouble to come, about God’s judgment falling on the world, about changes that we do not want or welcome. A day is coming when Jesus will bring salvation!
He is coming to bring life more abundant.
He is coming to forgive our sins and set us free.
He is coming to calm our fears and give us peace.
He is coming to heal. He is coming to make the lame to walk and the blind to see.
He is coming to bless the poor, those who mourn, those who have little power in this world, those who hunger and thirst for justice.
He is coming to pour out his Spirit upon us, empowering us to live new lives of loving God and loving our neighbors.
He is coming, ultimately, to make an entirely new creation in which there will be no more crying, no more darkness, no more death.
And here we are today. Today is “the day before.”
What will tomorrow bring? One way or another, Jesus is coming.
How can we make ourselves ready today — on this, the day before?
* * *
Let us pray:
God of today, we accept this day as your gift. May we live this day in your Good News that no matter what tomorrow may bring, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Header Photo: http://1x.com/member/paradowski
One day the seminary students came to Elisha and told him, “As you can see, our dormitory is too small. Tell us, as our president, whether we can build a new one down beside the Jordan River, where there are plenty of logs.”
“All right,” he told them, “go ahead.”
“Please, sir, come with us,” someone suggested.
“I will,” he said.
When they arrived at the Jordan, they began cutting down trees; but as one of them was chopping, his axhead fell into the river.
“Oh, sir,” he cried, “it was borrowed!”
“Where did it fall?” the prophet asked. The youth showed him the place, and Elisha cut a stick and threw it into the water; and the axhead rose to the surface and floated! “Grab it,” Elisha said to him; and he did. (2 Kings 6: 1-7, Living Bible)
“In solemn truth I tell you, anyone believing in me shall do the same miracles I have done, and even greater ones, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask him for anything, using my name, and I will do it, for this will bring praise to the Father because of what I, the Son, will do for you. Yes, ask anything, using my name, and I will do it!” (John 14: 12-14, Living Bible)
For our Scripture readings today, I have chosen the passages from the Living Bible. Why? Because of its utter lack of religiosity. I don’t want there to be any trace of religious feeling in what we are looking at. God wants to meet us in these words today in the reality of life, not in some put-up job of dressed-up churchiness. For either Jesus means what he says in a real way, or … or all we have is another Sunday sermon that has nothing to do with our lives the rest of the week.
First, we have a story featuring the former farmer-turned-prophet Elisha. It’s a story common to teachers everywhere. A student breaks or loses something that doesn’t belong to him. I taught both high school and college for fifteen years, and I can attest to this being an everyday happening. In this story, a group of seminary students goes down by the river to chop down trees. In doing so, one of the students lets his axe fly from his hand and—splash!—into the river it goes. “Oh, no,” the student cries, “that wasn’t my axe.” Elisha walks to the water’s edge. “Is this where it went in?” he asks. He takes a stick, just a regular stick, throws it into the river, and the iron axe floats to the surface.
No group prayer was prayed. No theological lesson was taught. We don’t hear an exhortation to have more faith. Not even a moral lesson—”be careful with that which is borrowed”—was preached. Instead, we simply see a man of God do something usual with a very unusual result. Somehow Elisha knew if he would throw a branch into the river, the axehead would float. Did he pray? We don’t know. He simply believed—believed, we can assume, that God would do the impossible.
Then we have Jesus speaking to his disciples. This is near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. His students have seen him do many miracles. Water into wine. Blind men see. The deaf hear. Even dead people raised to life. Jesus, knowing he is about to return to his Father, tells them, “The things I have done you can do, and even greater things.” Then he says something that is shocking in its simplicity and audacity. “Anything you ask my Father, he will do it so that his name will be praised.”
Not any religious thing.
Not anything that meets a bunch of theological criteria.
Just … anything.
Even if it is to retrieve an axe we lost due to our carelessness.
It seems to be a dangerously reckless thing for Jesus to say. Anything? Does he really mean anything?
What if we get it wrong? What if we ask for something that has unintended consequences? What if we ask out of selfishness or ignorance? What if we, in our humanness, ask for something that is not in the best interest of anyone?
“Yes, ask anything, using my name, and I will do it!”
Don’t attach baggage to “using my name” that Jesus did not intend. He was telling his disciples to use his name when they came to make their requests before God. Think of the phrase “mention my name” when you read this. Jesus is not saying “ask anything” and then taking that back by saying “in my name.” He is giving his followers permission to use his name to enter where they otherwise would not be allowed to go. By saying “anything,” Jesus is handing over his American Express Black Card and saying, “Go for it.”
Dangerous, yes. Reckless even. No religious requirements. No limits on what we can ask.
So I have two questions for you this morning.
Why do we put limits on what we (or, more likely, on what others) can ask of God?
And if you were really to believe Jesus means what he says, what would you ask?
Let us pray.
I guess I’m just filing this under the “discussions I thought we’d not be having in 2013″ category — At least not in semi-respected church circles.
That said, the people involved with Vision Forum have a lot bigger issues to worry about at this point.
I used to let myself get all kinds of indignant when I read about the silly things fundies do. Now, I laugh. It keeps me sane. I do still wonder, though, what path of knowledge and experiences it would take to shake their hardened assumptions enough to break out of such simplistic thinking. In reality, that’s not easy, since they have a tight-knit support system, dysfunctional as it is. And there’s another level where I want to let them be, except for the emotional harm that I know happens to some of them.
I’m reluctant to say it, but the writing quality seems to have dropped between this third book in the trilogy and the first one. Fans will still want to know what happens to Tris and Four and their city of factions, but they may be as disappointed as I was in the dialogue and plot development in Allegiant.
First of all, there are character motivation and plot continuity problems. POSSIBLE SPOILERS!!! At one point Four is supposed to have joined a rebellion and betrayed the entire compound in which he and Tris are living, and in addition, caused the death of at least one character. He is put on “probation” by the authorities. Then, he proceeds to go wherever he wants, talk to whomever he wants, and become involved in yet another rebellion. It seems unlikely to say the least.
Tris, too, is able to see and hear and get information way beyond the trust level that she has earned, and her ability to escape death and serious injury is nearly magical. I found it difficult to understand how the society where Tris and Four find themselves can be so security-conscious and at the same time so negligent in supervising and guarding against these teen “strangers”, some of whom are believed to be “genetically damaged” and therefore prone to violence and unbalanced choices.
Tris and Four promise each other to be completely honest and to keep no secrets from one another. Then they both tell half-truths and keep secrets from each other. And the motivation for their doing so is inadequate and unbelievable. Four believes a girl he barely knows and keeps secrets from Tris on her behalf—because he’s feeling insecure? Tris has her own secrets that she keeps for the sake of—not burdening Four?
Four and Tris become more and more physically involved with one another in this book, while at the same time arguing over issues of honesty and keeping secrets from one another and forgiveness. The book shows a true picture of how a romance can “heat up” physically while the couple involved have to endure misunderstandings and betrayals and continue to “choose each other” daily in order to stay together. But Tris and Four act extremely mature and make critical choices in life and death situations in one moment while at the next juncture they’re dealing with and exhibiting immaturity, jealousy, and possessiveness at a middle school level.
I predict that lots of fans are not going to like the ending, but the last few chapters were actually my favorite part of the book. Four and Tris really grow up fast in the last quarter of the book and show us the maturity that I wanted to see throughout this third book. To get to the ending I also had to endure superfluous characters (a homosexual couple introduced solely for the purpose of “diversity”), unexplained rabbit trails, and awkward pacing and dialogue. But I’m glad I finished the book. And I’m looking forward to the Divergent movie. (Divergent is scheduled to be released on March 21, 2014 in the United States.) However, unless the movie people–directors and screenwriters—do something really special with the second and third books in the trilogy, I probably won’t bother seeing those movies, if they even get made.
As you emerge from your tryptophan-induced coma, I have some startling news for you. Eating turkey doesn’t make you sleepy. Really. So get your butt off the couch and get washing those dishes already. There. I feel I’ve done my duty to our nation as a whole. Now, pass me another piece of pie and let’s get rambling. I’ve got a lot of football to watch today.
Pope Francis just does not let up. This week he released “The Joy of the Gospel,” setting forth his vision for the Church. He makes it clear that he does not mean for there to be business as usual in the Church. And you know how well institutions like the Catholic Church do with change.
Speaking of change, you’ll need a pocketful if you want to tour the National Cathedral after the first of the year. It will now cost you a sawbuck to walk through the Anglican edifice in our nation’s capital. It’s a beautiful building, but I’m not sure it’s worth ten bucks. Anyone want to challenge my thinking?
There are more charges of plagiarism against Mark Driscoll, brought forth by radio talk show host Janet Mefferd. This time it seems he lifted passages from a D.A. Carson Bible commentary. I’m waiting for Driscoll to throw someone under the bus, saying that he trusted a ghostwriter to do some of the work for him. That’s just a guess on my part. Otherwise Driscoll will have to admit that he used others’ words without giving proper attribution. (He could employ the “independent creation” defense, saying that all on his own he came up with the same words as Carson on the same subject. But that’s not really believable in most cases.)
Faith and Doctor Who. Discuss. (I’m relying on you for this one. I’ve never watched the show. Sorry.)
I would blow up my TV before I would ever watch a show that follows the Ed Young, Jr., family around. Please please please tell me that this will never be.
Remember we reported last week on how someone found Bibles in Costco labeled as “fiction”? Well, the pastor who initially sent out a picture of the mislabeled Bibles wants to make it clear he was not upset with Costco, nor does he support the call for a boycott of Costco. He said most are missing the main issue: Is the Bible fiction or isn’t it?
Fortunately, however, the American Family Association has another boycott target for us: Radio Shack. Their offense? They use the word “holiday” instead of “Christmas.” Can you believe it? With crimes like this being perpetrated in our nation, it’s amazing there are any Christians left at all. I guess you’ll just have to find another place to buy your batteries.
Are you a hunter? Then you’ll want to know that in Montana, it’s always deer season—that is, as long as you are using your car as your weapon. A new law states that if you hit a deer—or an elk or a moose or an antelope—you are entitled to eat it. Let no roadkill go to waste. Or go to your waist. Whatever. And here are ten foods that are better for you than you thought. Of course you knew peanut butter would be on this list. As we read in 2 Opinions chapter three, peanut butter covers a multitude of sin. At least that’s what I think it says…
And finally, Religion News Service has released their Holiday Gift Guide. Sure, there are some interesting ideas listed here (like the Awkward Moments Children’s Bible). But I’m convinced you can come up with some better ones. Like this ugly Christmas sweater from the Tipsy Elves. Send your nominations to me so we can all know just what to get for that hard-to-buy-for person on our list.
Birthday candles were lit this last week for Boris Karloff; Bruce Hornsby; Robin Roberts; Donald Duck Dunn; William F. Buckley, Jr.; Pete Best; Joe DiMaggio; Amy Grant; Chick Hearn; Jimi Hendrix; Joshua Harris; Berry Gordy, Jr.; Ed Harris; and Jon Stewart.
So you thought I would choose Jimi for the bonus video today, did you? Wrong wrong wrong. Let’s try some Green Onions together, shall we? Enjoy.
“[R}eally good books. Good or even great because they make the right connections. They pull together for us a world that is falling apart. They are the words that integrate us, stretch us, comfort and heal us. They are the words that mirror the Word of creation, bringing order out of chaos.” ~Katherine Paterson
Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.
Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.
After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read. That’s how my own TBR list has become completely unmanageable and the reason I can’t join any reading challenges. I have my own personal challenge that never ends.
I’d especially like to have your links to your reviews of Cybils nominees. Come on, Cybils reviewers, share with us.
Three wonderful authors, for whose work I am very thankful, were born on this date. Any of their books would make lovely Christmas presents.
1. C.S. Lewis
Lewis is the best writer and the most profound thinker of the three, the one whose work will stand the test of time. I predict that Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and Till We Have Faces, in particular, will be read and appreciated a hundred years from now. Because he died fifty years ago on November 22, 1963, he has been remembered with many, many articles and blog posts this month. Here are links to just a few from this year and from other years.
50 Years Ago Today, RIP Jack
Jared at Thinklings: Remembering Jack (2005)
Lars Walker at Brandywine Books: The Feast of St. Jack and The Great Man’s Headgear
Hope at Worthwhile Books reviews Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in Lewis’s space trilogy.
Heidi at Mt. Hope Chronicles writes about her appreciation for the works of C.S. Lewis.
Jollyblogger reviews Lewis’s The Great Divorce.
2. Madeleine L’Engle
Ms. L’Engle is the most likely of the three to have her work become dated. However, the science fiction quartet that begins with A Wrinkle in Time may very well last because it deals with themes that transcend time and localized concerns. And I still like The Love Letters the best of all her books, a wonderful book on the meaning of marriage and of maturity.
Madeleine L’Engle favorites.
In which I invite Madeleine L’Engle to tea in June, 2006, before her death last year.
A Madeleine L’Engle Annotated bibliography.
Semicolon Review of The Small Rain and A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L’Engle.
Semicolon Review of Camilla by Madeleine L’Engle.
My Madeleine L’Engle project, which has languished this year, but I hope to get back to it in 2009.
Mindy Withrow writes about A Circle of Quiet.
Remembering Madeleine: Obituaries and Remembrances from September, 2007.
3. Louisa May Alcott.
I love reading about Ms. Alcott’s girls and boys even though many people are too jaded and feminist to enjoy books that celebrate the joys of domesticity and home education.
Circle of Quiet quotes An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott on the wearing of blue gloves.
Carrie reviews Little Women, after three attempts to get though it.
Claire, The Captive Reader re-reads my favorite Louisa May Alcott novel, Eight Cousins.
Claire, The Captive Reader revisits Rose in Bloom, the sequel to Eight Cousins.
Sam at Book Chase reviews Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen.
Joyfuly Retired sponsored an “All Things Alcott” Challenge in 2010 where you can find links to many posts about Louisa May and her family and her novels.
Also this from Ray Bradbury:
Taken from this page with similar images and quotes.
We here at InternetMonk like to think we are an indispensable part of your life, and this morning, we are going to prove it by providing you with all the reason you need to skip the madness of early-morning shoppers and allow you to stay in your pajamas inside your warm house.
It is the first (and most likely, last) Jeff Dunn Christmas Shopping Guide.
That’s right. I’m going to share with you some great gift ideas that will make Christmas morning merry and bright for all. And the best thing of all is you can do it all from the comfort of your own Barcalounger. Just click on the handy links to take you where you need to go. So put on the coffee, grab your credit card, and let’s go shopping. We’ll start by taking the elevator to the first floor:
There is one book that you will want to give this year. It’s the perfect gift because a) it is spiritually uplifting and encouraging, and b) it’s short. Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal records the great Southern author’s struggle with learning to pray. The entries were not written to be published, but were meant as prayers themselves. Personally, I think she could write out a grocery list and it would be better than 99% of the stuff that sits on bookstore shelves today. O’Connor died way too young and after only two complete novels and a few short stories. A Prayer Journal belongs next to all of her other works. (Don’t let on to the iMonk writers, but they might just be getting this in their stockings.)
Now let’s visit our next department:
Have you noticed how old people keep putting out albums that sell? Glen Campbell, Neil Young, Elton John and Paul McCartney all put out new albums this year, and all sold fairly well. Could that be because there is so little good new music these days? Yes, it could be that. There is, however, one album that came out this year that knocked my socks off. Meet Me at the Edge of the World by Over the Rhine is the best new album I’ve heard in a long, long time. If I were driving from Portland (ME) to Portland (OR), I could listen to this the whole way and be happy. This is Americana music at its finest. This is the kind of music that will make you thankful music exists. You will want to buy copies of this double-disc set for each of the music lovers on your list, but don’t forget to include a copy for yourself. You’ll be very happy you did. (Thank You emails gladly accepted.)
I was going to say do yourself a favor and skip all electronics this year, but I do want to share one idea. I have become increasingly dependent on my Google Nexus 7 tablet these days. I use it to access iMonk and even write essays for posting. I have my entire Kindle library at my disposal on this tablet. I use this to pray the offices each day, and have Biblegateway on it for my Bible reading. I check email and can see the weather conditions using fairly-accurate radar information. I even use it to listen to WLW radio from Cincinnati. It can fit in the pocket of many pants. And it does all this with just the white of an egg. Other than this, skip all electronics this year. You don’t need anything else.
I am now to an age where the thing that makes me happiest when I get home from work is to take off my shoes and put on my slippers. And not just any slippers. Last year for Christmas I got a pair of UGG slippers, and my feet have been very happy ever since. I wear them to the store or over to my friend’s house to watch football. I think I may have worn them to church once or three times, too. Give your feet a gift this Christmas and buy a pair of UGGs. I want another pair—UGG Australia Men’s Ascot Leather Slippers, 10, China Tea. You may think that slippers making me so happy is weird, but that’s only because you don’t have a good pair of slippers, do you?
Ok, there is your list, all made out for you. A book, a CD, an electronic item, and slippers. Toss in some candy canes, and your Christmas shopping is done.
Now, back to eating turkey leftovers.
First of all, happy Thanksgiving from the Wilsonians! There are so many things to be thankful for this year, but more than anything else we are thankful for salvation and redemption through Christ. There is nothing in this life quite like knowing and being loved by our Savior! On a smaller scale, we are extra thankful for the precious life He has created and entrusted to us with baby Deacon It has definitely been a year FULL of blessings and unimaginable joy. We are undeserving, but so thankful for all that He has done and continues to do!
Now onto the update...
How far along? 36 Weeks! That's NINE MONTHS of pregnancy... pretty mind blowing.
How big is baby Wilson? An ultrasound last week confirmed that baby wilsonian is a big boy! Right now he's clocking in around 7 lbs with another month to go.
Maternity clothes? Yes. I've really learned how to stretch my wardrobe these last few months (literally).
Stretch marks? *Sigh* Found my first little stretch marks last week. They're pretty tiny though, so I think I'm still in pretty good shape.
Sleep: Yes and amen.
Best moment this week: Too many to name! Since the last update we went on a wonderful babymoon to Wimberley, had our annual CYS fall retreat, church picnic and a fun ultrasound.
Miss Anything? I wish putting on shoes was a little easier, but with only a few weeks of pregnancy left I'm soaking up all of my super-pregnant moments
Movement: SO MUCH MOVEMENT. If he is anything outside the womb like he is inside the womb, then Jeremy and I are going to have our hands full!
Food Cravings: Nope.
Anything making you queasy or sick: The orange glucose-test drink from earlier this week. I may never drink orange soda again...
Labor Signs: No major labor signs, but he is definitely sitting lower than before. I can feel my body preparing, so I'm hoping he makes an early debut!
Belly Button in or out? Both.
Wedding rings on or off? Still rocking the stand-in ring.
Happy or Moody most of the time: All of the above.
Looking forward to: Holding my sweet boy.
I woke up and got to work on time this morning. I have a warm house. I can wear whatever I want to my job. My coworkers are kind and joyful lunatics. My boss let me stay an extra hour to get some stuff done (and a little extra cash). New merchandise. A friendly mailman.
The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes
Robitussin. Books. Coffee. Doctor Who. The songs of ascent. Podcasts. Ruggles Green. Allergy meds. Tea. Magazines. A working phone. Netflix. The Book of Common Prayer. Knitted lace. Cold weather.
You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
Cellos. New guitar strings. Good-quality inexpensive headphones. The Macy’s parade. Our country’s mythologies, for better or for worse. The mothers and fathers of my faith. Twitter. Access to information. Literacy. Handel’s Messiah.
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find
A church where I can serve and love. Its people, who have loved me continually. The body of Christ witnessing faithfully around the world and throughout time. That God still speaks by His Spirit–and that by the same Spirit I can speak to Him. That Jesus didn’t look at me and refuse to help, but that He loved me despite my bad record. “No guilt in life, no fear in death.”
Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before, O my soul
Worship His holy name
Happy Thanksgiving. Find your 10,000 reasons today.
Thanksgiving Day (U.S.), 2013
To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.
I think the dying pray at the last not “please,” but “thank you,” as a guest thanks his host at the door.
Sanctity has to do with gratitude. To be a saint is to be fueled by gratitude, nothing more and nothing less.
A quiet disposition and a heart giving thanks at any given moment is the real test of the extent to which we love God at that moment.
A sense of astonished gratitude is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.
Prayer is sitting in the silence until it silences us, choosing gratitude until we are grateful, and praising God until we ourselves are an act of praise.
Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
Gratitude goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.
It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!
“Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.” ~Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation of a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer, March 30, 1863
Some hae meat and canna eat, -
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
“For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves, we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread. The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet…. Shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host, and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long?” ~Rebecca Harding Davis
“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.” ~Henry David Thoreau
Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
"Home to Thanksgiving" by Currier & Ives, 1867
"He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient." (W.J. Cameron)
I've used that quotation for Thanksgiving before, but it was a long time ago. On the old web site, I think. Anyway, I like it.
It occurred to me today how closely thankfulness is connected to faith. One of the most common hindrances to faith-at least in my experience-is worry about the future. "Things are all right just now," I say to myself, "but what about tomorrow? Being thankful feels too much like complacency. I have to keep my eye out for what's coming down the road."
This is one reason, I suppose, why Jesus tells us to cast no thought upon the morrow. Worry kills thankfulness, and lack of thankfulness destroys our spiritual perspective.
So have a blessed Thanksgiving. I hope you spend it with people you love. Or, alternatively, that you love the people you're spending it with.
And eating sweet rolls, Ho-Hos, and Ding-Dongs. Just watch your fingers on those pages.
Jeremy Olshan gives us advice on making money found in great novels. "Don't expect, however, to find explicit tips on spending, saving and investing baked into the texts like messages in fortune cookies. Novelists and dramatists seem suspicious if not disdainful of those who dole out advice about money - which is perhaps why, when they do offer worthwhile personal-finance counsel, the words tend to be put into the mouths of imbeciles."
Here are his gleanings:
- Read Defoe to understand money. In Robinson Crusoe, the narrator finds a drawer full of gold while searching his ship's wreckage. "I smiled to myself at the sight of this money: 'O drug!' said I, aloud, 'what art thou good for? Thou art not worth to me, no, not the taking off the ground; one of those knives is worth all this heap; I have no manner of use for thee; e'en remain where thou art, and go to the bottom as a creature whose life is not worth saving.' However, upon second thoughts, I took it away."
- Read Trollope and Dickens to spot the next Bernie Madoff. "Rereading these Victorian novels," Olshan writes, "I've been struck, in a way that never occurred to me in high school or college, by how often the plots turn on bad financial decisions."
- Read Eliot and Flaubert before swiping that credit card. "Emma Bovary isn't brought down by cheating on her doctor husband but by racking up ruinous amounts of debt."
- Read Dickens to learn the difference between saving and hoarding.
- Read Tolstoy before heading to the car dealership. "The old poker player's adage that if, after a few minutes at the table, you can't tell who the sucker is, it's you, is more or less true in every financial transaction."
Irene Gallo, an art director with Tor Books, went to their press building in Gettysburg, PA, to see A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time, Book 14) being printed and bound. "The whole process looked like a marvelous bit of Suessian-magic to me, with long conveyer belts that doubled up and looped around," she says. (via Loren Eaton)
Speaking of Mr. Eaton, his 2013 Advent Ghost Storytelling is up.
On Sunday, Advent begins. My annual habit has been to listen to only Advent and Christmas music from the beginning of Advent to the end of Christmastide.
This year, I am adding at least one playlist that consists of seasonal music about the coming of winter in our hemisphere and in our hearts. I have worked on it this past week and refined it a couple of times in preparation for our Thanksgiving trip later in the week, and thought you might be interested in seeing it.
Music is the soundtrack of my generation’s life, and many of us have been making “playlists” of favorite songs since the days of reel-to-reel tape recorders and then cassette mix-tapes. A playlist like the one I’m presenting here today is not simply a list of recorded songs, it is a window which allows a glimpse into the heart of the one who has put it together.
These are not just songs I like about December and the coming of winter — rather, they help define “winter” for me. They reflect the creational, cultural, and emotional contexts in which I think about the redemptive events we celebrate during the month.
With that in mind, here is my “December” playlist…
1. A Hazy Shade Of Winter, Simon & Garfunkel
We start with the upbeat, jangling sounds of Simon & Garfunkel at their sixties folk best, as they capture the spare, windswept landscape wondering, “What’s become of me?” “Look around, leaves are brown. There’s a patch of snow on the ground…”
2. Winter Birds, Ray Lamontagne
LaMontagne gives us a lovely, intimate winter ode that contrasts the dying of the year with warm, life-sustaining love.
The winter birds have gone back again
Here the sprightly chickadee, gone now is the willow wren
In passing greet each other as if old, old friends
And to the voiceless trees it is their own they will lend
The days grow short as the nights grow long
The kettle sings its tortured songs
A many petaled kiss I place upon her brow
Oh my lady, lady I am loving you now
3. A Long December, Counting Crows
“I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower, Makes you talk a little lower…” Why? Because this time of year contains the paradoxes of this song — a growing darkness and isolation mixed with the hope of new beginnings.
4. A Roving on a Winter’s Night, James Galway, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason
A traditional winter folk song, with fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and James Galway’s sweet flute playing. “A roving on a winter’s night, And drinking good old wine, Thinking about my own true love, He broke this heart of mine.”
5. White Winter Hymnal, Fleet Foxes
Kids “all swallowed in their coats” playing the snow. Pure joy. What could be better?
6. Snow, Loreena McKennitt
An ethereal meditation on a walk through the winter landscape:
The road before me smooths and fills
Apace, and all about
The fences dwindle, and the hills
Are blotted slowly out;
The naked trees loom spectrally
Into the dim white sky.
…Then all is silent and the snow falls
Settling soft and slow
The evening deepens and the grey
Folds closer earth and sky
The world seems shrouded, far away.
7. Snow On High Ground, Nightnoise
An lovely Celtic instrumental to prolong our meditation on the season’s scenery.
8. Icicles, Patty Griffin
A tender, intimate song for when “we just want a little sun for ourselves.”
9. Winter, Bill Staines
Bill Staines has been a favorite folk singer of mine for over thirty years now. From New Hampshire, he knows about winter, and knows how to sing about it with wistful charm.
10. Sometimes In Winter, Blood Sweat & Tears
From BS&T’s iconic second album (it won the Grammy over Abbey Road), this was the only song not featuring David Clayton Thomas on vocals. Steve Katz wrote and sang this poignant tune, which finds him walking through “snow and city sleet,” longing for lost love.
11. December, David Gray
“What happened to the skies? December.”
12. I Am a Rock, Simon & Garfunkel
A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
classic. essential. winter. listening.
13. Frozen Charlotte, Natalie Merchant
One of my favorite female vocalists from the 90′s, Natalie Merchant sings this lush wintry song of waiting.
Still as the river grows in December
Silent and perfect blinding ice
Spring keeps her promises
No cold can keep her back
I want you to remember me that way
14. Song For A Winter’s Night, Gordon Lightfoot
Another classic folk song about winter, the Canadian troubador paints a picture of longing for the warmth of love amid the chill: “I would be happy just to hold the hands I love, On this winter night with you.”
15. Sister Winter, Sufjan Stevens
I fell in love with Tracey Thorn’s cover of this song last year. This year I’m spending time with Stevens’ moving original. Amazing.
16. Caroline I See You, James Taylor
I was married in the month of December long ago, so I had to save room on my list for this lovely, sentimental December love song by my all-time favorite singer-songwriter. “Make it melt like chocolate.”
17. Bells Of New York City, Josh Groban
A cinematic song of New York City in the wintertime, captured marvelously by Josh Groban.
18. Cold as It Gets, Patty Griffin
A song that puts the “bitter” in bitter cold. Hunker down ’til it passes.
I know a cold as cold as it gets
I know a darkness that’s darker than coal
A wind that blows as cold as it gets
Blew out the light of my soul
19. Getting Ready For Christmas Day, Paul Simon
We need an uplift after Griffin’s dark meditation. This one does the job, with its exuberant beat, Simon singing the blues, and samples of black preaching urging us to keep the faith and get ready for the big day.
20. River, Joni Mitchell
This is the classic December song for those mourning lost love and wishing they could just skate away. No one could ever cover this song and make it sound as heartbreakingly beautiful as Joni Mitchell’s original rendering. Gives me chills every time.
21. Every December Sky, Beth Nielsen Chapman & John Prine
Stop and take note. This is my favorite lyric of any December song. Profoundly beautiful and hopeful. (Here’s a LINK to a YouTube video of Beth Nielsen Chapman singing this treasure.)
Every December sky
Must lose its faith in leaves
And dream of the spring inside the trees.
How heavy the empty heart,
How light the heart that’s full.
Sometimes I have to trust what I can’t know
Sometimes I have to trust what I can’t know
We walk into Paradise;
The angels lend us shoes.
‘Cause all that we own,
We’ll come to lose,
And Heaven is not so far
Outside this womb of words.
With every rose that blooms
My soul is assured
It’s just like a song I’ve known
Yet still unheard.
And every leaf of fire lets go,
Melting in the arms of earth and snow.
And if I could hold you now,
You’d enter like a sigh.
You’d be the wind that blows
The answer to “why?”
You’d be the spring-filled trees
Of every December sky.
22. Get Me Through December, Alison Krauss
Sometimes this is all we can pray: “Get me through December, So I can start again.” And no one but Alison Krauss can pray it with such delicate grace.
23. New Years Day, Mary Chapin Carpenter
One of our very best songwriters leads us to a hopeful ending: “I dwell in possibility, On New Year’s Day.”
"Okay," she agreed, turning her eyes to the valley, lost in a blue haze of morning mist. "I don't know about you, but my life has ceased to have linear chronology."
This is the book I'm so proud of - the first book I borrowed electronically from the public library for my Kindle, thus dragging myself, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century. The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead, third in his ongoing Bright Empires series. I've enjoyed the previous books, and I enjoyed this one, once I'd acclimated myself to it. Which is a bit of a challenge. It's hard enough picking up a sequel to a book you read a year ago; it's worse when the book purposely messes with time lines and has a large (and growing) cast of characters.
The central character of the series is Kit Livingstone, who was initiated by his late uncle into the art of jumping around in space and time (and alternate universes) through the use of "ley lines" - geographical locations that focus cosmic forces (or something like that). There are also the adventures of his former girlfriend Mina, who got stranded in 16th Century Prague but did quite well for herself, thank you very much, as well as various descendants of Arthur Flinders-Petrie, an archaeologist who had a map of the ley lines tattooed onto his torso, which is now preserved in what is called the Skin Map, for which good guys and bad guys are desperately searching.
Good stuff. I'm not sure whether I recommend reading these books now, though, or waiting for all five to be published so you can read them in a string and reduce continuity difficulties. Whatever you do, read them in sequence.
I note that Lawhead includes several positive Roman Catholic characters here, so he seems to have gotten over the contemptuous anti-Catholicism that was apparent in some of his earlier books. I also noted, with surprise, some problems in word choice - at one point he uses the word "approbation" to mean the opposite of what it really means. He also has a male character speak of "humankind" rather than "mankind" in a scene in the early 20th Century. This isn't impossible, but it seems anachronistic.
Still, good stuff, and I think Lawhead is better in this sort of genre than in epic fantasy. Recommended.
If you know me, you probably know I love theatre. There is not much I love more than theatre. And every day I fall more in love with it.Â
There are several reasons for why I love it. I can't deny that it is just plain fun. But there is so much more than that. It's hard, it's challenging, it's scary, it's vulnerable. But it never fails to move me. (Good theatre... To clarify). But, one of the biggest blessings that has come from studying theatre at Baylor University is what is has taught me about life, people, and God. I thought I would share some of those things with you.Â
1) the main method that they teach us here about acting is to try to affect the other person. They want us to steer away from self-indulgent performances and get us to do everything we do to be about the other person.Â
To be honest, sometimes I can be very self absorbed. I mean, who isn't from time to time? But sometimes I have the daily struggle of feeling like I don't love people enough or like God has commanded us. And, no joke, I was praying about this and wanting to grow and God brought me back to what we learn in acting. If while I am acting I am always focused on the other person and making them feel a certain way why can't I do that in real life? Now, while acting it can be a very manipulative tool. But I realized that when I leave a conversation with someone I want them to feel more loved and valued and encouraged than when we began. That's simple. And it's very humbling. The second you focus on yourself while acting it is 9 times out of 10 less interesting than when you keep your focus on the other person. You don't care how you look or play for the audience you just do whatever you need to to get what you want from the other. You actually have to be very humble to act.
2) not every role is right for me to play. This has been a harder lesson to learn- both in life and acting. It's hard to see the cast list and not see your name. But I was not made to fill every role. But I am made to fit some role.
Same thing in life. God has given each and every one of us different gifts. So I can't compare myself with others. If someone gets cast and I don't- it's not always about whose more talented. Sometimes it's as simple as I'm too short or not blonde or whatever. Same in the church. If someone is in a role and thriving and that's not where God has put me I can't say that their role is better than mine. Because what God has made me for is what he wants me to do. So I should be thankful and celebrate that.Â
3) I can't judge my character. Sometimes I play roles that are very different than me. I've played roles where I don't agree with the life my character lives. But if I judge them the audience will see and it won't be as believable. I have to find some way to relate to the character and believe my character is right.
I can't judge others. Now, I don't necessarily have to justify there actions or dig deep in myself to relate with them. But judging others is not my job. And I have learned many many times that when I do judge others... I usually find myself doing the same thing sooner or later. So i shouldn't judge when I don't know their heart. Because things are always more complicated than they seem. Acting has made me more compassionate because you step inside their head and see, sometimes, it's not all black and white.
4) life is messy. I feel like I've spent too much time trying to run from the ickiness of this world. As a Christian I have tried so hard to paint this picture that I am perfect and have it all together. But I'm not and I don't. At all. And I think that we need to not be so afraid to explore some areas of life that are hard. Not comprimising what the Bible says but just opening our eyes to the fact that life is messy. People are messy. We make mistakes. And that makes grace so beautiful. That makes hope so much more real. There are some things in theatre that I wouldn't feel comfortable doing for various reasons (like I will never be in 50 Shades of Grey: The Musical). But instead of shielding my eyes (which I watch a lot of theatre as a theatre major so I really can't) we should talk about these things, let the script and the actors teach us something, and then say that grace, hope, and Jesus are real. This is a very complicated part of the theatre that I don't think I could really flesh out on here, but a HUGE lesson I've learned in college.
Everyone has a story to tell. And I realized that a lot of sharing the gospel with them is also letting them share their life with me.Â
All this points me towards Jesus. It all drives me to my knees in awe, thankfulness, and desperation for my savior. And I love that.Â
It's funny how God breaks through to me. It's funny how one conversation with one friend changes my perspective on my semester.Â
This semester really hasn't been horrible. I LOVE my acting class and have learned so much in that class. I fall more in love with theatre everyday which confirms for me that this is where I'm supposed to be. Baylor football is dominating. Friends are abundant and life-giving. I got cast in my first show, etc. But you know how everyone always asks "how is your semester going?"? Â Well, I found it really hard to say "it's going good." I don't know why. I could only muster up "it's really hard." Because deep down inside I have struggled to be happy this semester. There are many reasons why- and I know most of them- but it has a lot to do with the fact that this semester has been a huge transition, one long search and journey, and lots of changes. I mean... That's life in general. But I've just struggled to feel purpose, belonging, and happiness anywhere. And when you have felt that in the past, the times you don't feel it are magnified. And I hate it. It sucks.Â
I was kinda worried about the end of the semester and going home. I didn't want it to end on a low note. I didn't want it to Â end as it has been going.Â I didn't want this to be my story when I recount my semester.
But then I was talking to a friend over dinner about life and God and all the things girls love to discuss when I kind of stumbled into this truth: happiness is cheap.Â
I love being happy. I love laughing. I love being the life of the party. I love those moments when you can't stop smiling and you just want that moment to last forever. And, honestly, I can point to moments this semester when I've had that. But those moments don't last. They aren't with us forever. One day I'm happy the next day I'm not. Happiness is fleeting. So I can't bank on it. I can't pursue it or chase after the things that I think will make me happy. They don't last. I've tried.
So, yes, this semester I've struggled to be happy. But, I'm okay with that, because that's not my goal for life. My goal in life is simple: to know Jesus and to make him known. And you know what isn't cheap? JOY. When I have a hold of the sure foundation of Jesus he promises joy in all circumstances. And joy isn't dependent on my circumstances. It just is. And that's so hopeful and so freeing!Â
All the details of what to do and where to go in life haunt me daily, but if I focus more on KNOWING and BEING with Jesus that will all come together. He'll guide me. He won't let me go. He won't let me wander too far off the path.Â
And that's my semester.Â
How far along? 34 weeks!
How big is baby Wilson? Normally babies at this stage are the size of a large cantaloupe (19-22 in, 5.5 lbs), but at my last doctor's visit she said he was measuring ahead... again. I'm guessing he's closer to 6 lbs. these days!
Maternity clothes? I don't wear anything that isn't stretchy these days. I'm at the point in my pregnancy where I really don't want to buy any more maternity clothes, so I'm just making do with what I've got.
Stretch marks? Nope.
Sleep: I can hardly keep my eyes open once 9 o'clock hits. Poor Jeremy has to recap all our shows for me because I sleep through the endings. Thanks, babe!
Best moment this week: Sewing the crib skirt with my Mom last weekend was definitely a highlight. Deacon's nursery is finally starting to look like it's ready! All it needs is a little guy to break it all in
Miss Anything? Being able to bend over/get up without grunting. I probably need to die to the dream of wearing boots and shoes with laces for the next couple weeks...
Movement: He's been a little less active than normal this week. I still get enough movement not to worry, but I think he's running out of space in there!
Food Cravings: Nada.
Anything making you queasy or sick: Not really. I keep trying to influence Deacon's palette by eating weird/spicy things. Despite my best efforts, the little booger still moves the most when I eat chicken!
Labor Signs: Nope.
Belly Button in or out? Starting to stick out a little bit, but mostly it's flat.
Wedding rings on or off? Off. I tried them on again the other night and could barely get them on In the last week I've gone from minimal swelling to noticeably swollen fingers, toes and ankles.
Happy or Moody most of the time: Happy! I'm starting to get more uncomfortable, but I am way more excited about Deacon coming than anything else.
Looking forward to: Babymooning this weekend with my favorite guy and our favorite pup I'm trying to soak up these last few weeks as a family of 2!
1. Know this, friends: I have no harsher critic than my own heart.
2. “But if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.”
3. So I’ve been part-time administrative assistant for my church for about two months now. It’s good work. My pastor keeps apologizing for giving me mundane things to do, but I love that kind of stuff. Hey, someone needs to.
4. One of the things I’m having trouble doing these days, though, is letting myself rest and take Sabbath. I have a hard time saying “no” to people, especially people I feel responsible for/to.
5. I think this is all indicative that I am far too concerned with what other people think of me, and I try to impress them with how hard-working/smart/serving/pious/generally awesome I am. This is a problem.
6. I think I need to let go of some things in my life. Also hard.
7. Friends! Are we not servants of the Most High God? Are we not sons and daughters of the Lord of hosts? Ought we not comport ourselves as members of His household?
8. (I have been considering a lot of medieval literature lately. Go figure.)
9. I’ve been doing some research about Korean culture, especially names, and it turns out my Korean name is considered old-fashioned or countrified by people now–it’s a grandma name, or something like that. So I had the equivalent of, like, Martha or Myrtle or something, which as a strange Westerner I kind of like.
10. My family–both the American and the Korean ones–have all been farm people or small-town people. I come of country folk. And then there is me, the incurable city girl. Go figure.
11. I am considering poetry for Advent through Lent, based on a group of psalms (113-118 and 120-134, the hallels and the songs of ascent). Should be interesting.
12. I thought about doing NaNoWriMo, but as the kids say, ain’t nobody got time for that.
13. On the other hand, I miss writing; I get some done for church with writing some of the liturgy twice a month, and I wrote a song(!) a while back, but not in the way that I’d like. You have to make time, though, and God knows how bad I am at that.
14. One of my small hopes for heaven: Getting to introduce my Korean and American families to one another.
15. The Doctor Who 50th anniversary is on the 23rd. Get excited. Here’s a trailer.
16. One more reason I love my church: The significant percentage of members who are Whovians. Oh yes.
17. The current themes of my life: I have so much to do; there are so many pregnant women at my church; my Half-Price coworkers are crazy and they are great; I am a train wreck; I belong to Jesus; God is continually faithful even when I am not. That works, I suppose.
18. So I just got the new Civil Wars album and good grief, it’s so good and it makes me want them to get back together so badly. John Paul White’s voice makes me swoon.
19. Speaking of swooning, I have developed a small crush on Tom Hiddleston. Not because of Thor (I haven’t seen it), but I watched him do some Shakespeare(!) and heard an interview, and gosh his voice is sexy.
20. I mean, if a tall, redheaded Brit ever showed up at something I was at and he loved Jesus and had a pretty stable life and a good sense of humor (humour?), I call dibs. Sorry, lady friends.
21. Trader Joe’s sells these ginger-flavored Altoid-like lozenges and they are WONDERFUL. They have the unintentional effect of making me want a ginger beer, though.
22. Advent is coming. I’m very excited about this. We do this great arrangement of “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” that’s one of my favorite things we do musically.
23. Oh, so we’re doing a great song at church called “Not In Me” that’s based on Luke 18 and imagines what it would sound like if the Pharisee also came to repentance. For recovering Pharisees like myself, it’s a pretty good theme song:
24. Oh, let me be content and let me be Yours completely…
25. Finally: I wrote some lyrics. I like writing lyrics. However, I am terrible at writing music. And these lyrics could use some music. Not that a lot of you do this, I’m guessing, but if you’re a songwriter and you don’t mind writing for other people, let me know in the comments, and I’ll send you the lyrics. When you’re done, send it to me or link to your YouTube video of it or put it on Bandcamp or Soundcloud or something; I’ll post them all here and put it to a vote. You’ll get a worthwhile prize of some sort, to be decided by me later. Deadline is December 1!
The author puts this mostly hidden divorce statistic up front:
About two-thirds of all divorces in the United States are, at least officially, initiated by women. One of the key factors [they cite] is the emotional quality of their relationships. In other words, if they feel that their marriages are high-quality relationships, they’re not likely to seek divorce. If they feel otherwise, however, women are much more likely to head for divorce. One of the implicit concerns of this study was to figure out in what kind of context women are most likely to be happy and then are, of course, indirectly, less likely to divorce.
I get from the article, though, that women file, it’s still the men’s fault.
The following paragraph is something I’ve written about here (the accusation that Christians shouldn’t discuss “whatever” because Christians are just as likely to get divorced as unbelievers) and you usually need to dig deep if you want to break down the numbers and get at the truth. (Emphasis is mine)
Based on my earlier research, evangelical women tend to be happier in their marriages than other women, particularly when both the wife and the husband attend church on a regular basis. This idea that Christians are just as likely to divorce as secular folks is not correct if we factor church attendance into our thinking. Churchgoing evangelical Protestants, churchgoing Catholics, and churchgoing mainline Protestants are all significantly less likely to divorce.
And gender roles play in:
Women who have more traditional gender attitudes are significantly happier in their marriages. They’re more likely to embrace the idea that men should take the primary lead in breadwinning and women should take the primary lead in nurturing the children and managing the domestic sphere, managing family life.
Spouses who share weekly [church] attendance had happier wives. Spouses who share a strong, normative commitment to marriage—that is, who are opposed to easy divorce, who believe the kids should be reared in married households—have wives who are markedly happier. This factor is as strong as who works outside the home or who earns the lion’s share of the income. It’s also extremely important that the wife considers the division of housework to be fair to her. A sense of equity is extremely important, but equity is not equality. Women want things to be fair in their homes, but they don’t equate fairness with equality.
And this bears saying again:
A sense of equity is extremely important, but equity is not equality. Women want things to be fair in their homes, but they don’t equate fairness with equality.
I consistently, as Complementarians do, make a distinction between equality of personhood vs. equality of authority.
Within a hierarchy of authority, there is still equality in humanity.
I know two people. One is an elder, who works at a public school, the other an administrator in a public school, who attends the elder’s church. In one context, he is the authority, in another, she is. There are two hierarchies, but total equality of humanity.
The dictionary says that “equity” is fairness and justice in treatment.
So, if a woman feels as if she is being treated fairly and justly, while being under the authority of her husband, she is more likely to be happy, and less likely to file for divorce.
Well, I'm through blogging at the Manchester Times site, but I'm probably through blogging here, too. The truth is I'm mentally weary, and I just don't feel like writing for public consumption any more.
If I ever do start blogging again, it will probably be here. But right now I just want to live a quiet life in Mud Creek and Fredonia with my family and church.
What does a writer do when he's too mentally tired to write? It's the work I love, but the past year has just worn me out. I'm hoping that through a few days of rest and prayer the Lord will renew my mind and spirit to move on to the next chapter in my life.
If you happen the be reading this entry and have a mind and heart to do so, please pray for me. Last time I made an appeal on this page, the results were striking. And now once again (as, really, always), I need the Lord's help. Thanks for caring enough about me to pray for me.
After a very rough couple of weeks, including a third brain surgery, Anne felt able to walk to the hospital chapel last night.
How far along? 32 weeks! I'm officially 8 months pregnant, y'all
How big is baby Wilson? The size of a honeydew (19 in, 4.5 lbs)
Maternity clothes? Most def. I'm starting to really push the limits with the few non-maternity items I've been wearing...
Stretch marks? So far, so good!
Sleep: I pretty much fall asleep as soon as I get still, but I've been waking up 1-2 times a night to go to the bathroom. I can't even imagine how many times I'll wake up once he drops!
Best moment this week: Feeling all his movement. I don't know what he's been up to lately, but he is constantly on the go!
Miss Anything? Caffeine. I still have it in moderation, but I've definitely been missing the freedom to grab a PSL or diet coke whenever the urge strikes.
Movement: Oh yes. Long gone are the flutters and little kicks from earlier in the pregnancy! He has been pressing into my ribs, walking along my stomach and shifting from one side to the other constantly.
Food Cravings: Not really, but I've been eating my fair share of chicken pot pie lately.
Anything making you queasy or sick: Nope! As long as I eat... all the time
Labor Signs: Nope.
Belly Button in or out? Neither. I think I might make it the long haul with my flat belly button.
Wedding rings on or off? Off. Still rocking the stand-in ring.
Happy or Moody most of the time: I think I've been leaning towards happy, but I've definitely had my cranky moments/afternoons these last two weeks.
Looking forward to: My baby shower tomorrow!
Something that I feel like God has kept speaking to me over and over again this past week is the simple phrase: "Move forward."
When I am not sure whether I should do this or do that or where to go next or if I am doing the right thing or if I am wrong, God has reminded me to keep moving forward. To take the next step. He'll stop me if I'm going the wrong way, he'll narrow my focus to exactly where he wants me, he'll keep me from straying off the path, and he'll bring me back if I do. I kinda think that I won't know where God is leading me until I get there. I don't know if that is a cliche or a truth or both... but it's what I feel.
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you" Matthew 6:33
As long as I am continually seeking God and moving forward... I trust he will lead me in the correct way. I don't have to have all my cards straight or my ducks in a row... I just have to keep moving forward in love, in joy, and in peace.