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Sunday
Feb172019

Virtue

Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky,
The dew shall weep thy fall tonight;
For thou must die.

Sweet rose, whose hue angry and brave
Bids the rash grazer wipe his eye,
Thy root is ever in its grave,
And thou must die.

Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie,
My music shows ye have your closes,
And all must die.

Only a sweet and virtuous soul,
Like seasoned timber, never gives;
But wonder thou the whole world turn to coal,
Then chiefly lives.

George Herbert (1593-1633)

Tuesday
Feb122019

It's discouraging the ability to be longsuffering

While technology and social media have given us helpful things, we cannot deny that it has helped us foster bad habits. One of the things I have noticed in my own life is the tendency for me to become impatient. Something takes a long time to download; my computer updates take longer than I expect; Netflix is down; the tracking on my package says it was to come today, so where is it?

We feel sorry for ourselves when someone doesn't answer or text message right (guilty!) forgetting that at one time, people waited for letters or parents watched their kids move across the country and never saw them again.

I see this also manifested in the way Twitter, especially, encourages us to beat a dead horse. We feel strongly about something, and when people disagree, we may respond; more than once. Perhaps we talk about it repeatedly. We may even engage the trolls, even though we know it's never productive. We are not willing to simply let it go. Letting something go is very freeing. I am trying to learn the art of saying my peace and then letting it rest.

I know from personal experience how beating a dead horse with an individual is actually harmful. I did it to my kids when they were at home. I believed that all I needed to do was show them where they erred and they would magically fall into line. It is one of my biggest regrets. When we go on and on about something, eventually people stop listening. When will we learn that we cannot change how people think simply by telling them they must?

At some point in our lives, we will all face points where we can do absolutely nothing about a situation other than throw ourselves on the mercy and love of God. Being longsuffering is a fruit of the Spirit, and I need to ensure that my use of something like social media doesn't discourage that fruit.

Monday
Feb112019

I have a theory about women theologians and politics

I'm getting set to work full force on my term paper over the next couple of days (it's due Friday), but I had a thought this morning. I am also getting used to a new pair of bifocals (not my first rodeo, however) and typing has been an issue. There may be a return visit to my eye doctor. Anyway.

Last week, I wondered aloud on Twitter (that bastion of precious information) if there were mature, female theologians I could follow; specifically those who don't talk about American politics. I have tried in the past keeping track of a few, and inevitably, the talk is about US politics.

Now, the fact that they are American is part of the reason why. Understandable. And female theologians alone are hard to come by in Canada. As one of my Twitter friends said: "crickets." No takers.

I think one of the reasons why many female theolgians, whether they are mature, younger, professional, or ordinary theologians, insert politics into their conversations is because people are used to women commenting about politics. There are many female politicians. Here in Canada, I believe there is about 28% ratio of female to male Members of Parliament. Here in Ontario, there's about 30% female MPPs. 

Conservative Christians will not think twice about female physicians, female dentists, female lawyers, financial planners, and maybe even a female police officer. Female theologians? No way. There are many complementarian leaning men out there who may not even want a female doctor or lawyer. I have to smile a little when I recall the fawning and fussing over Sarah Palin a few years ago. We may want women running our country, but not our churches; at least not in conservative circles.

So, what's a female theologian to do if she wants to have a voice? She addresses theology through political themes. 

At least that's my (probably uninformed) opinion. I am a budding theologian. I have no wish to discuss US politics. I know little about it, and I'm not inclined to know more. I know enough about Canadian politics to keep me an informed voter. I just want to know God more.

So, as usual, I resort to buying books. My husband will be so pleased.

Sunday
Feb102019

Prayer

Prayer, the church's banquet, angel's age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heaven and earth;
Engine against the Almighty, sinner's tower,
Reversèd thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six days' world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well dressed,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood 

-- George Herbert (1593-1633)

Friday
Feb082019

Four years ago, I was a basket case

On my 50th birthday, my husband took me to a jewelry store and told me I could buy what I wanted. He said later that he was surprised when I walked by the diamond earrings. He knows I like diamonds. What I chose was the most boring, unnoticeable pair of gold hoop earriings I could imagine. But on that day, I was in the middle of a serious anxiety attack. The whole day was a blur. I spent much of the afternoon under a blanket in the family room, cold and shaking, and then I had to go out for dinner with my in-laws, a meal which I choked down.

My birthday is later this month, and on that day, my three children and their significant others will come for a meal. We're going to play games, and there will be laughter. I don't care if anyone brings me a gift. In fact, given their financial situations, I hope they don't spend anything on me. I just want them here. It is a difference from four years ago.

That winter and spring, I could barely leave the house, and when I did, I was always afraid someone would notice the cracks. When I taught Sunday school to my ladies class, I was often shaking in my legs. But I pressed on. I remember one particular morning I realized that I had lost more weight because my pants were baggy. Right at that moment, without any warning, my chest began hurting and my heart to race. It was only God who could have kept me calm in those next forty minutes. But even while I taught, I wondered if anyone would be able to see what was going on. I'm an easy person to read; would they notice?

That is one of the worst parts about anxiety: the anxiety that people will notice our anxiety. When one begins to have that feeling, she knows it is out of control. We shouldn't feel so worried in the church, but unfortunately, that is the place I felt the least safe. The place where I felt the safest was with my husband, and to this day, I am so thankful for that.

I had a brief exchange on Twitter a couple of days ago (as I was procrastinating from the term paper I should have been working on). The one tweeting commented that she noticed that there are so many young people struggling with anxiety. Someone suggested the answer was technology: our young people are more anxious because of technology. 

My first reaction was "Every generation has struggled with the stress of technology." Do we honestly think people weren't stressed about the telephone intruding into their lives? My second reaction was: "We're looking for an external cause." That is what we try to do most frequently with mental health issues. We want to attribute to something outside of ourselves, whether it is blaming it on sin, lack of faith, or technology.

We are never comfortable in the church saying that it is simply the way some people are wired.

I believe young people may seem like they're more anxious, but in reality, it has a lot to do with being given the freedom to express their anxiety, and a vocabulary to do so. Looking back, I see how my anxiety has been a problem all of my adult life, and going back to my teen years. I was just better at supressing it, and it had not spiralled out of control.

Why are we afraid as Christians to reveal the depth of what sin has done to us? Why do we think that our conversion turns us into perfect, happy, smiling, magazine-cover-worthy people? 

Last night, before bed, I began Simonetta Carr's book Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them. In the introduction, written by Michael Horton, he ponders the attitude in the church toward mental illness:

A big part of the problem, I think, is that we imbibe a modern dualism (one that's associated especially with the philosopher Descartes) between mind and body, and then confuse the mind with the soul. But the mind is not the soul. It is the brain, and the brain is an organ -- like the lungs and liver. Mental illness is a medical problem, a physical ailment, that requires professional treatment. Like all illnesses, it certainly involves the soul and requires the spiritual remedies of preaching, sacrament, praye, pastoral care, and fellowship of the saints. But we need to think of mental illness like cancer.

I have been researching the problem of evil for the past two weeks. I have read a lot. It has been helpful for a simple understanding of who God is and who we are. We are fallen creatures. Do we really think that sin means mere bad behaviour? It goes deeper.

I'm thankful that women like Simonetta Carr are talking about mental health. I hope more people will open up and share their experience.