Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Christmas Trees and Memories

Our Christmas tree tells our story.  The ornaments are an eclectic collection gathered over 23 years of marriage.  For the last few years, we have been blessed to have Mom with us and her story ornaments are also placed on the tree.

When we first married, we were unsure what directions our tree should take, so we opted to play it safe and stick to ornaments which had a decidedly biblical theme (music, angels, nativity, etc).  When I stretched plausibility with a cuckoo clock to commemorate our honeymoon in Germany ("to everything there is a time and a purpose under heaven..."), we had to acknowledge our tree theme had significantly broadened.

Each year, as we take out our carefully wrapped ornaments, we are reminded of moments in time,special trips,pets, friends, and loved ones long passed.  I smile through tears as I hang the ornaments Dad patiently helped his "three girls" (Mom, my sister and me) make.  These simple pine cones mean so very much to me.

There is an ornament on the tree from my childhood and a green bell from Mom's.  Many ornaments were given as gifts by students, friends, and loved ones and they always bring warmth to us when we placed them on the evergreen.  I have a few that remind me of the precious children I teach in Sunday School.

Our Christmas tree helps me remember.  I think I understand a Christmas standard better now than I did in my younger days.  At Christmas, I find myself going home, but it is to the home of yesteryear.  I relieve treasured memories and revisit scenes from a time long ago:

I'm dreaming tonight of a place I love
Even more than I usually do.
And although I know it's a long road back,
I promise you
I'll be home for Christmas.
You can count on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents by the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams.
I'll be home for Christmas,
If only in my dreams.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

What's Doctrine Got To Do With Me? Some Thoughts for Women Married to Christian Leaders, Teachers or Pastors

Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine . . .Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.  Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.  Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

For any endeavor undertaken by two or more people to be successful, there will need to be a division of labor.  Each person works within their strengths - the salesman sells, the accountant manages the books, and the organizer structures.  However, while your husband may be the theologian of the family, this does not mean theology  is something at which only he needs to work.

In his second book to Pastor Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."  I am fairly certain we have all heard many Sunday School lessons or sermons where that verse was used to motivate all Christians to be diligent in Bible Study - and rightly so.  While the epistle was originally written to Timothy, its message is applicable to us all, in a secondary way, even if we are not pastors.

Tom Wright has some interesting comments on this verse as it relates to pastors and teachers:
In particular, [Paul] wants preachers and teachers to 'carve out a straight path for the word of truth.' Some translations say things like 'rightly dividing the word,' and it's possible Paul means something like that (in other words, 'being able to show how the sentences work, what each part means, and how they all relate to each other').  But it's more likely that the picture he has in mind is of a pioneer hacking out a path through the jungle so that people can walk safely through it.  Part of the job of the teacher is to do what Paul himself is doing in this passage: to see where there are brambles, creepers, and dead trees blocking the path which the word should be following to people's hearts and minds, and to shift them out of the way."  ~ Paul for Everyone: Pastoral Epistles
If we take a quick walk through the Psalms and Proverbs, we will see the theme of a straight path comes up over and over again and the admonition to keep to it is not directed at pastors and teachers alone:

The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.  Proverbs 11:5

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  Psalm 119:105

In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.  Proverbs 12:28

So you may walk in the way of goodness, and keep to the paths of righteousness.  Proverbs 2:20

Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it.  Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness.  Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way.  Psalm 119:35-37

Concerning the works of men, by the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer.  Uphold my steps in Your paths, that my footsteps may not slip.  Proverbs 17:4,5

So we have established as a Christian, we are responsible for being diligent in the Word and thereby staying on the straight or righteous path.  This path theme is of particular importance to you as the wife of a Christian leader.  If you are not traveling along the same path as your husband, your path could become rocky.

Notice in several of the verses above, the word "path" is in the plural, "paths."  On a personal level, we are all on our own Pilgrim's Progress journey, going down our individual Christian paths.  While people from different denominations are able to stand together and in agreement recite The Apostles' Creed, they do so while traveling different theological paths.  This became of particular importance to me when my future husband switched paths after we became engaged.

Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.  Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.  Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself  and those who hear you.

My husband and I met in my childhood Southern Baptist church. He also attended a Baptist church, but not of the Southern Baptist tradition with which I was familiar at the time.  He used words like "Reformed" and "Calvinism."  Back then, I had no idea what a difference these new words would make in my life!  During our engagement, my fiance presented me with a required reading list.  (Whenever I tell people this, he indignantly says, "Oh, I did not!" but the list was real.)  Here I am planning a wedding, my mind consumed with hearts and flowers, and my sweetheart is giving me Calvin's Institutes, Lorraine Boettner's Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, and other tomes.  Our engagement was full of theological discussions and debates.  I read the books and found myself drifting more and more over to his path.  This would happen again after we married when he found himself in closer alignment with the Presbyterian church.  In short order, this born, bred, and burped Baptist found herself leaving that denomination and becoming a congregant in the Presbyterian Church in America.  It is a good thing my hubby had taken heed to himself and to doctrine, because I confess when first presented with these changes, he did not encounter a quiet and gentle spirit.  I rebelled!  Fortunately, the more I read and the more we discussed doctrines, the more I found myself agreeing with his new direction.  Now I remind him if he can persuade me, he can persuade anyone.

Lest there be any confusion about it, let me state clearly my purpose in sharing this is not to convince you to explore Presbyterianism.  Pastors are to be students. It was because of his studies that my husband changed denominations.  Over the course of our marriage, I have seen him not necessarily change, but refine his theological views from time to time.  These matters are the topics of our conversations and as he shares what he is learning, I can see the way his mind is working and get a good feeling for where he is going.  I have learned it is important that I take heed to myself and to doctrine to be able to be the helper my husband needs and walk in unison down the same theological path.  The book of Amos sums it up nicely, "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?"  Billy Graham and his wife Ruth, who was a lifelong Presbyterian, may just be the exception that proves the rule.

Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

There are other reasons for staying sharp theologically. Church members and others will pose theological questions to you.  Again, church members and others will pose theological questions to you.  The biggies you can easily defer with a sweet smile and, "You'll have to talk to my hubby about that."  However, there will be situations, conversations at church get-togethers or casual parties, where in the midst of a general discussion a theological issue will be raised. This is true for all Christians, but remember your opinion will reflect upon your husband.  You represent him...always.  An off-the-cuff remark can cause him headaches. [Trust me - I have personal experience here.]  That is why it is so important that we are that workman who needs not be ashamed, the woman who is striving to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

Another reason to stay theologically sharp is the opportunities your spouse's vocation will present to you.  Whether it is standing in line at Wal-Mart or making chit-chat in a waiting room, when people find out I am married to a pastor, I am continually surprised by how often the conversation will take a decidedly personal turn.  A complete stranger will share an intimate situation with me and seek counsel as if I were the one wearing the clerical collar!  When faced with a hurting person, I silently pray that I will not be an ashamed workman and ask the Lord to bring to my remembrance His Word.

As husband and wife, we are to be one flesh and I think within that is an exhortation for a theological oneness.  We have a biblical example of this in the pages of Acts:
Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.  This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.  So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue.  When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Notice:  Scripture says, ". . .When Aquilla and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately."  Priscilla was being a helper to her husband in this circumstance as well.

You are not just married to a theologian, ladies; you are expected to be one.

[Ladies, if counseling opportunities keep finding you, here is a very good resource: Women Helping Women: A Biblical Guide to the Major Issues Women Face by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Carol Cornish, published by Christian Counseling & Education Foundation.  Kindle edition here.]

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Discussion of Zombies & the Movie, "Warm Bodies"

I could actually hear her skepticism coming out of my computer screen as I read her reply, "You're recommending a zombie movie?  Really?  Zombies?"

I understand my friend's surprise at my recommendation of Warm Bodies, the Romeo and Juliet meets Walking Dead film which prompted me to break my vow of no zombies EVER!  As I assured my friend Amy, this movie is about so much more than zombies.  It's about dead hearts being made alive, kindness building bridges, the isolation we often feel in crowds, and maybe even a little about what it means to be human.

And did I mention it's funny?  "R," the Zombie of our story, narrates much of the film.  In the opening scenes he says, "I don't wanna be this way.  I'm lonely.  I'm totally lost.  I mean, I'm literally lost.  I've never been in this part of the airport before..."

[Required caveat:  The film has zombie-esque violence and gore and the F-bomb is dropped a couple of times, which is very unfortunate as it is an otherwise charming movie.]

This review actually touches on a bigger question: Why have zombies become de rigueur of entertainment of late?  What does this fascination with the the walking dead say about our culture.  Screenwriter Brian Godawa (To End All Wars) has written a very interesting piece on this.  He makes a case for zombie movies:
"What? You may ask.  Is there anything BUT a shallow zombie movie?  Oh yes indeed.  If you don't know this, you are obviously not educated on the benefits of zombie movies for cultural enhancement and spiritual values.  And I am NOT being facetious. . .
Zombie movies are a powerful genre to explore some rather penetrating ideas about our humanity and out ethics as a society. . . What makes human exceptionalism?  How are we different from mere animals?  The ethic of survival versus self-sacrifice is played out in a tale of survival against those who have lost their humanity."

You can read the whole article here.

Ethan Cordray has also written a piece, "Zombies Are Us" on the blog First Things where he discusses why we've become fascinated with the brain-eating, slow-moving dead:
"What if this fascination is about more than just gross-out gore and action thrills?  What if it represents a subtle, subconscious understanding that something is wrong - spiritually wrong - with our culture. . . Zombies represent the appetite divorced from everything else.  They are incapable of judgment, self-awareness or self preservation.  Though they still move and act, they are not really alive.  They hunger and are never filled.  And they aren't just hungry for anything - they specifically want to eat the living, and even more specifically the brain, seat of rationality and self control. In Pauline terms, they are the sarx [flesh] in its purest form.  Without a soul to control it, the flesh is slave to its own desires."
You can read this article here.

So, yes.  I really am recommending a zombie movie.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Skunks and Sanctification

When I drive home at night, I usually go slower than I normally drive.  Living out in the country, I know at any time some critter can pop up out of the brush and onto the road in front of me.  So it wasn't too surprising the other night when I rounded a curve to see a skunk in the middle of the road right in front of me.

The little fur ball was in no hurry to get out of my way, so I honked my horn.  The skunk bared its teeth and sprayed!  Thankfully, I was out of range. He was still on the road, so I revved my engine.  He walked a little further, snarled and sprayed again,  We repeat this process twice more.

By now, I'm irritated!  "You little silly thing!  I'm trying to protect you!  You'll get hit if you stay on the road," I yell at the insolent skunk.

Then....it hit me.  The Lord had just presented me with an object lesson.  How many times have I growled and snarled when my plans were thwarted?  I'm sure the Lord looks at me and marvels, "You silly little thing.  I'm trying to protect you."

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  ~ Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Daydreams of Being Wealthy

We recently watched the remake of one of my favorite classic movies, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  Ben Stiller's version was thoughtful and fun, but I still prefer the whimsy and comedic touch of Danny Kaye as he played the mild-mannered man who daydreams himself into exciting situations and opportunities.

I relate to Walter. I often daydream about writing the great American novel or finally making an edible roast beef (don't ask!).  I guess my most frequent daydream is of being extraordinarily wealthy and the opportunities that would afford:  Unlimited travel, treating my friends to things, paying for a great kid's college, buying a boat...the list goes on and on.

I once read a quote by Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, about his multibillion dollar charitable contributions, "There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way."

I realized then and there that I was already extraordinarily wealthy.  I have the "pearl of great price" that all of Mr. Buffett's billions couldn't purchase.  I have a guarantee of heaven that was given to me because "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  (John 3:16)

"For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"  Matthew 16:26

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Week of Devotions: #1 "Can You Hear Me Now?"

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to contribute some devotions to a friend's discipleship ministry.  Over the next week or so, I'm sharing a few of them on my blog.  Here's the first:

I heard the woman's voice long before I reached the terminal gate.  The nasal, strident tone was distinctive above the din of the other conversations in this area of the airport.  At the designated Southwest gate, I felt a frown of consternation forming as I realized the only seat available in "B" section was by her.

She was obviously a businesswoman:  well-tailored suit, laptop, cell phone fused to her ear.  It was via the phone that this one-sided conversation was being held.  Ignoring was not an option due to her volume and distinctive voice.  She droned on for the 30 minutes prior to boarding - a continuous stream of coworker criticisms, boasts, and self promotions, continually denigration of others' accomplishments with praise always followed by a "but...".

I wondered how one person could be so unpleasant!  I wondered if she had a clue how much about her personality was being revealed to the strangers around her.  As my opinion of the woman diminished, a troubling thought drifted in:

How much do my words reveal about my heart?  Would strangers hear my conversations and marvel at how unpleasant I was?

Let no corrupt communication proceedeth out of your mouth except that which is good for the use of edifying that it might administer grace to the hearers. ~ Ephesians 4:29

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Black Genocide of Abortion

Martin Luther King's niece has called abortion the Black Genocide.  For the record, I made this point eight years ago here.

Dr. Alveda King is throwing a spotlight on the dirty little secret that racism and population control efforts were the genesis of today's abortion industry by promoting two films meant to educate the public on this, Mafia 21 and Blood Money.  I became aware of this through Dr. Benjamin Wiker's book, 10 Books That Screwed Up The World (and 5 Others That Didn't Help).  From my review:   
What is clear as you read Wiker's book is how [Darwin's Descent of Man] influenced future generations.   Margaret Sanger's The Pivot of Civalization took Darwin's eugenics and made it palatable, to a degree.  She wasn't as direct as Hitler would be a few decades later, but she had her own way of ridding the world of undesirables - not just genetics, but the vague "unfit" of society.  Sanger's mechanism was birth control, abortion, and forced sterilization.  She is the founder of Planned Parenthood and she thought the intelligentsia should be the ones doing the planning.  For her, a low IQ was original sin.
Abortion proponents like to hide behind the banners of "choice" and "freedom," but as Proverbs teachers us, "...the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Clipping Free Speech

LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling is an idiot.  I think most of us can agree on that.  The days of shock and dismay over biracial couples and friendships are remnants of another time.  There may be a few pockets of ignorance remaining, but that mindset is drawing its dying breath.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he would try to force Sterling to sell the Clippers.  The cry to "do something" about Sterling's ownership of the team troubles me.  The fact is in our nation, people have the right to be idiots.  They have the right to make idiotic statements. (Anyone old enough to remember Jesse Jackson's "Hymietown" remark?).  The NBA shouldn't do a thing about Sterling's ownership.  Let the African-American players on the Clippers team and other NBA franchises take action - be it a sick-out on game day, public shaming or other avenues of making their disgust known.  Let the marketplace make its feelings known by fans refusing to attend Clippers games, buy Clippers merchandise or demand refunds on season tickets.

There are ways in which pressure can be brought to bear on Sterling without interference with his right to do business.  The marketplace is perfectly capable of handling these issues without the involvement of the thought police or the infringement of a person's property rights (the Clippers) or freedom of speech - even if the speech reveals him to be a jackass.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Creation's Music

"In the darkness something was happening at last.  A voice had begun to sing.  It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming.  Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once.  Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them.  Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself.  There were no words.  There was hardly even a tune.  But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard.  It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it. . ."  
~From The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis

No other passage from fiction brings me to tears quite as quickly as the above.  There is something sublime in Lewis' description of creation.  Lewis had cause to associate the earth with voices.  In Luke's description of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we read:

     Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying:
     " 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!'
     Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
     And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples."
     But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."  [Luke 19:37-40 NKJV]

What is more wondrous than Lewis' description is the possibility that creation is still singing to us, still making music that speaks of its Creator.  Jarbas Agnelli has shown that is entirely possible.  The winner of The YouTube Play Guggenheim Biennial Festival describes his entry:

"Reading a newspaper, I saw a picture of birds on the electric wires.  I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes (no Photoshop edit).  I knew it wasn't the most original idea in the universe.  I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating...

Here I've posted a short video made with the photo, the music, and the score (composed by the birds)."

Next, I came across this video of a modified turntable reading tree rings as music.

Henry Van Dyke's "Joyful, Joyful" (especially when sung to the 4th movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony) expresses this beautifully:

All Thy works with joy surround Thee.
Earth and heav'n reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flow'ry meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Monday, January 06, 2014

This Year is NOW

My dear friend Rose often acts as a delightful muse who prompts me to write.  She's done it again.  This time it was the challenge of claiming one word for the year of 2014.  True to her spirit, Rose chose one phrase instead of one word.  I am sticking to the one-word framework and have selected "NOW" as my word for 2014.

How often I have said, "Someday I..."  It has finally occurred to me that, as I am in the midst of my 51st year, my somedays are fewer than they once were and I'd better get to doing!

This year, as much as I am able, I intend to make now my someday and to set in motion plans to achieve those nebulous goals, to act instead of making vague plans.  This has been percolating in the back of my mind for a while.  A friend wrote a blog post on her love/hate of Pinterest and it made me assess my pinning activities.  I realized I was spending more time pinning ideas, crafts, and recipes than I was acting upon those ideas or making those crafts and recipes.  That changes in 2014.

This year, when I think of an old friend or a family member I haven't seen or spoken to in a while, I will stop and write that note or send that email.

This year, I will set aside one supper a month (should be a week, but I'm realistic about my schedule) to make a new recipe.

This year, I will finish any project I start before starting another one. This is a big deal for this over-committed person.

This year, I will heed my Dad's wisdom that every ten years your priorities are up-ended.  I will clean out the cobwebs of unrealistic goals, useless plans, and false guilt.

This year, I will read 50 books - thanks to my Kindle and regular sessions on the treadmill!

When I ran this by my hubby, he suggested an ending that was perfect:

DV - Deo Volente - God willing.