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Sunday
Jul222018

Who Is on the Lord's Side?

Who is on the Lord's side? Who will serve the king?
Who will be his helpers, other lives to bring?
Who will leave the world's side? Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord's side? Who for him will go?
By thy call of mercy, by thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord's side, Saviour we are thine.

Not so for weight of glory, not for crown and palm,
Enter we the army, raise the warrior psalm;
But for love that claimeth lives for whom he died;
He whom Jesus nameth Must be on his side,
By thy love constraining, by thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord's side, Saviour, we are thine.

Jesus, thou hast bought us, not with gold or gem,
But with thine own life blood, for thy diadem.
With thy blessing filling each who comes to thee,
Thou hast made us willing, thou hast made ms free.
By thy grand redemption, by thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord's side, Saviour, we are thine.

Fierce may be the conflict, strong may be the foe,
But the King's own army none can overthrow.
'Round his standard ranging; vic'try is secure;
For his truth unchanging makes the triumph sure.
Joyfully enlisting, by thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord's side, Saviour, we are thine.

Chosen to be soldiers, in an alien land,
Chosen, called, and faithful, for our Captain’s band;
In the service royal, let us not grow cold,
Let us be right loyal, noble, true and bold.
Master, wilt Thou keep us, by Thy grace divine,
Always on the Lord’s side—Savior, always Thine!

Thursday
Jul192018

Learn from me

Fear is not a good motivator. I know from experience. Fear of rejection; fear of loss; fear of failure; fear of not being good enough; they don't lead anywhere good. I know it's a besetting sin, and I'm working on it; I likely will until I die.

I am a fairly determined person. I have strong opinions, and I like to ask questions. But fear caused me to suppress that part of myself for many years after I became a Christian. Especially as I joined the church where I have been for the past 22 years, I was so afraid of not fitting in, not being good enough, that I did whatever I could to prove that I deserved to be there. Even as you read that sentence, you should pick up on the theological error: it was not about me being good enough. None of us is "good enough." And we don't have to be. Christ was good enough for us. But that was a truth that I was a long time learning.

After I was converted at 20, the majority of the teaching I received was very behaviour oriented. Dress the right way. Read the right version of the Bible. Listen to the right music. And some of the doctrines that I was taught were crucial to my salvation -- like embracing a particular kind of eschatology -- turned out to be what I now see as secondary issues. But out of fear, I embraced them all without question. I didn't know any better.

I remember the moment when I began to question everything I had been taught since my conversion. I was sitting in communion one Sunday, and the pastor said over and over again: "This bread has no power to save; this bread is a symbol; this bread does not give grace; it is just a symbol." I remember feeling like he was robbing it of any meaning. But what did it mean? I realized I had never thought about it myself. After that, over fifteen years ago, I started making the effort to understand my faith. 

As I look back I wish I had been less inclined to find so much comfort in being like everyone else because it caused me to model a shallow view of faith in the eyes of my children. I passed on some of those preoccupations with fitting in. I worried too much about what others would say about our family. My husband reminds me regularly that looking back with regret gets us nowhere, and he's right. What I can do, though, is learn from my mistakes. 

Learn from me: think through your faith yourself. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). That verb "work out" is in the middle voice in Greek, which means the subject acts on himself. Take ownership. Don't let other Christians, as well meaning or as popular or as famous as they may be, work it out for you. Yes, do accept the voices of mature Christians, but think about their counsel. Pray about it. Search the Scriptures. Study. Of course we all make mistakes and we all grow, but if we can learn from others we should. Learn that lesson from me. I don't have a lot to offer, but I can offer that little suggestion.

Sunday
Jul152018

Holy God We Praise Thy Name

This is an old hymn, and there are versions with different combinations of verses. I like this version because it was the first one I ever heard. 

Holy God, we praise thy name;
Lord of all, we bow before thee;
All on earth thy scepter own,
All in heav'n above adore thee.
Infinite thy vast domain;
Everlasting is thy reign.

Spare thy people Lord we pray;
By a thousands snares surrounded,
Keep us from sin today,
And never let us be confounded.
All my trust I place in thee;
Never Lord abandon me!

Hark with loud and pealing hymn;
Thee the angels choirs are praising.
Cherubim and seraphim;
One unceasing chorus raising.
Ever sing with sweet accord:
Holy, holy, holy Lord;
Holy, holly, holy Lord!

Friday
Jul132018

But what if his judgment is bad?

Recently, it was announced that a literary award named for Laura Ingalls Wilder was going to be changed because of allegations of her being racist. I read Wilder's books as a child, but I didn't read them enough to remember if that is right or wrong. I was curious about Wilder, so I started reading Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I love to read about pioneering woman, and I had never really read much about her.

Both Wilder and her mother, Caroline Ingalls, as wives, dealt with crushing poverty. It continues to amaze me the vagaries and hardships these women endured in order to keep body and soul together. Wilder, despite the way she grew up (and the way her life continued after marriage for many years) found beauty in the plains, and wrote with love about her family, especially her father.

What I have found noteworthy is the fact that things were not as rosy as depicted in the television show, and the real Charles Ingalls was not always so virtuous as Michael Landon may have portrayed him. Ingalls, at one point, left Iowa in the middle of the night to escape unpaid debts. The family was often on the move, always looking for better pastures, better opportunities. And his wife simply had to go along for the ride. Ingalls's dream was to make a living on the land; that dream never came true, and the numerous attempts he made before finally giving up were the source of a lot of suffering for his family. Was his wife ever frustrated with her husband? Did she have a say in those decisions? When Laura married Almanzo Wilder, he made decisions made with regard to their farming efforts which could only be described as bad. He kept their precarious financial position a secret from his wife, yet when it came back to hit them hard, she had to bear the consequences of his bad decision. At one point, Wilder even comments that it was her husband's business, not hers. 

Frontier life was hard, and trying to make a go of it in the Dakotas was not an easy task. Most people actually left in the end. What I wonder is how did these women cope when their husbands demonstrated bad judgment? There was no question that a woman should submit to her husband, and at this time in history, any semblance of equality was simply a dream. They had no real rights of ownership. Even though they did just as much work on their homesteads, when it came to census time, the records did not include them as being equal to their husbands. So, how did they deal with this?

My husband is not a rash decision maker. He is not a risk taker. The only real "risk" I can remember being concerned about was a job decision he made when I was about to have our third child. I was not happy with it, but in the end he was right. I'm thankful that he's never made a decision that ultiimately left us in a financially precarious position. But what about Christian women whose husbands do just that? How does a pastor or counselor answer a woman who must face submitting to a really bad decision? Does the pastor counsel the husband to think twice? This is especially a concern when the woman has no income of her own. Perhaps those of us who stay at home, dependent upon our husband's for financial support are the real risk takers.

These are just questions rolling around in my head. It is a complicated issue, and certainly not one that can be answered sufficiently in a blog post; or a few blog posts, for that matter. I continue to be amazed at these strong women who withstood hardship and moved forward in their lives despite the challenges. It makes me feel guilty about the petty complaints I often have.

Thursday
Jul122018

Is Twitter the enemy?

My brother is not a fan of social media. He is by no means a Luddite, working himself in a industry dependent upon technology. However, he hates social media. And he especially hates Twitter and Facebook.

In the face of the phenomenon of "tweet threads," I sometimes understand where he is coming from. Rather than write blog posts, people tweet lengthy threads. Sometimes these can be easy to follow, but when they start running the length of twenty or so, they are less likely to be appealing for a reader who appreciates seeing an actual paragraph not bound by a particular number of characters.

When I see those threads, I want to yell: "Just get busy and blog the stuff!" 

But I have an idea why people use tweet threads: people are less likely to click away from Twitter to read a blog post. You've got their attention with your Tweet; why ask them to do the arduous task of clicking away to your post? In order to have people listen to you, you gotta do what you gotta do. That is certainly a boon for Twitter.

Language does change, and I'd love to have a glimpse into the world in the future to see how we communicate. Combine twitter threads with GIFs, and pretty soon we won't need words because we can just look for some celebrity making a funny face to express what we would normally do in words. Perhaps GIFs can become accompanied by music, to add a little more emotion. Then we can all carry around cellphones plastered to our heads like phylacteries, with the various emoticons, threads, and hashtags we need to eliminate the need for more than a couple of words. It's never been easier to become a communicator these days.

Writers like Dickens, Austen, and the Bröntes had to use a pen an ink. Their work was far more laborious than anything we produce today. They had to use words to communicate; I admire that. I admire someone who, using nothing but words, can paint pictures and take me out of my immediate world to look elsewhere; who can make me lose track of time. It's beautiful. Twitter is for information, but for understanding, we may have to click away.