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O Love Divine

O love divine, amazing love
That brought to earth from Heav'n above
The Son of God for us to die,
That we might swell on high


He died for you, He died for me,
And shed His blood to make us free.
Upon the cross of Calvary,
The Saviour died for me.

For us a crown of thorns He bore,
For us a robe of scorn He wore.
He conquered death and rent the grave
And lives again our souls to save.

O wand'rer come, on Him believe,
His grace by faith receive
Awake, arise, and hear His call,
The feast is spread for all.

Words: Fanny Crosby
Music: Traditional Irish Hymn arr. Ruth Coleman


If we aren't good readers, we may misunderstand the Bible

I have been reading Linguistics and Biblical Exegesis. So far, this is a very fascinating read. And I've already ordered one of the books which has been mentioned frequently in the footnotes. Ah, footnotes, how I do love thee.

In the introductory essay, the writer, Wendy Widder, comments:

Lingustic analysis focuses on trying to understand the language of a text. If we misunderstand a language we will also misunderstand a text. (emphasis mine)

This is true for biblical Greek, but how about English? As someone who teaches teens, this is often at the front of my thinking: how well do my students read English? The first time my husband and I taught teens was over 20 years ago. Literacy has changed among that group from what I have seen. And I'm not alone in that observation.

When my daughter was a teaching assistant while working on her Master's of English, after having been out of high school for only five years herself, she commented on how poorly many of the students read. She didn't think most students were very well-prepared for university. How well do our young people read? And I'm not talking about those with learning challenges; that is a separate issue.

As their leaders and teachers in the Church, do we encourage reading in general? Yes, we are there to teach, but part of being a good teacher is preparing someone to learn independently. We do have Bible versions that are easier, but one thing we have to remember is that the more dynamic translations often have to sacrifice nuance in order to attain readability; nuance that more difficult translations can reveal. A version like the NIV is great for someone who is 12 years old, but the average student on the brink of graduating from high school can manage the ESV or the NASB. They will, after all, confront more difficult reading if they go to college or university. We warn our kids about the perils of things online, but do we encourage them to put down their phones, video games, and streaming services to read?

Often, because we know young people are developing social connections, what we offer them in youth groups is a lot of social interaction. That is good, but I wonder if anyone has ever offered a youth group the opportunity to read a book together. Perhaps that is too nerdy. My daughter would have loved that. While the female youth events often revolved around maintaining purity and watching Pride and Prejudice, my daughter would have loved to read a good book and talk about it. She was born to be a lover of reading, but even those who don't love it as she does need to read well.

I was challenged as a teacher by the principle that misunderstanding language will mean we misunderstand the biblical text. When I am teaching teens, I'm doing more than telling them what the spiritual implications of the passage are; I am also contributing to their understanding of language. It is an opportunity to encourage good reading skills. It encourages me to stop the habit I've had of using the NIV to teach them, but return to using either the ESV or NASB.


Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness

Jseus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
'Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I life up my head.

Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

Lord, I believe Thy precious blood,
Which at the mercy seat of God
For ever doth for sinners plead,
For me, e'en for my soul was shed.

Lord, I believe were sinners more 
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou has for all a ransom paid,
For all full atonement made.


"Just for women"

I'm in the final pages of Rebecca Stark's book The Good Portion: God, The Doctrine of God for Every Woman. It was entirely what I anticipated: writing full of depth yet not inaccessible, and writing that could be read easily by a man and a woman. She is a careful teacher of truths, and uses illustrations well. And her illustrations are not the kind that are specifically tailored to women, which I like. Even though the subtitle of this book indicates it is for women, it is a book men can read. I plan to write more about this later at Out of the Ordinary.

I am torn between two positions on books that are "doctrine for women." On the one hand, I am disappointed at the notion that doctrine must be pared down for a woman, as if she can't understand a book of doctrine written for a general audience. I know that is not the intention with this series of books, however. This series of books is to encourage women that doctrine is for them, too. 

That brings me to the other side of the argument: as much as I find it disappointing that women must have their own source of doctrinal books, I am thankful that there are those who see that women need doctrine. I'm thankful that Christian Focus has two books in this series. I wrote about Keri Folmar's contribution here

I still struggle to understand where the notion came from that women don't need doctrine. It is clearly an idea we have come to embrace. I have met my share of women over the years who have said, "I just need the Bible; I don't need theology." Thinking theologically has been given as the task for pastors and men. I have not studied the history of women in the Church enough to come to a conclusion about that. And so far, I have not come across anyone who has explained it adequately to me. I think that question must be explored in a context larger than just women, and one that investigates an attitude of anti-intellectualism in general.

I do have days when I would like to take women by the shoulders, and give a (gentle!) shake and say: "Doctrine is what will equip you when the hard times come!" All of the "how to's" and encouragement about being a more productive this, or a more efficient that won't do it. Those are just distractions.

So, while I feel sad that women need to be told that doctrine is for them, I am glad for books that do just that. Hopefully, this series of books will encourage women to realize that they don't have to read books that are "just for women."


You can't put the internet toothpaste back in the tube

I tried to read the book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. I saw recommendations for it, but I got bored about one-third of the way through, and I was generally underwhelmed. In the past few weeks, I've read articles by people talking about how to use their phones less because of what it's doing to their concentration, relationships, etc. I totally get that. I have a husband who is a news junkie, and having news at his fingertips thanks to a smartphone is the answer to all of his news loving prayers. Yes, I get that.

I don't like reading on a teeny screen. Now that I have an iPad, when I want to use Pinterest away from my desk top, I use my iPad. I use my phone as a phone and for texting my kids and friends. Why would I want to read a book on a dinky little screen? I don't play video games, period, so something like playing games on my phone is not an issue. Yes, I could live without a smartphone, but I do like to know that I have the capabilities it offers when I really need it. I don't have any problem at all with leaving my phone in another room and forgetting where it is; until it rings, of course, and then I am running.

I can't say the same thing for using the Mac on my desk, though. One morning, during the school year, I was awake (courtesy of the Beagles who live here) by 5:30 and ready to work. I decided to check the student platform at school to see how I'd done on a Greek quiz. That meant getting online and signing in. Well, I was already online, so I figured I would check my email. And then, when I saw the emails in my "promotions" tab, which featured a new book, I was distracted to that site. I wasted thirty minutes. And where was my phone? Upstairs, charging.

Is the problem really the phone? Aren't the same distractions an issue with any device we use to go online? As long as we conduct much of our lives online, it's always going to be a struggle to stay off, whether we use a phone, watch, or reading device. I have to go online to check my progress at school. I have to go online to register for my classes. If I want to contribute to paperless billing with my hydro provider, I have to go online to find out what my monthly bill is. You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, so learning to use it without a mess is the goal.

I can't say that my husband's tendency to spend too much time reading the news began with the smartphone or even online news providers. It was there when we were married thirty-one years ago. And manifested itself in paper. Everywhere. Magazines. Newspapers. Well, I have to admit that I'm glad that is gone.

Don't blame your smartphone for being a distraction. If it wasn't that, it might be something else.