Training in Righteousness
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Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

It's about an hour and ten minutes for me get to school, and on those drives through the backroads, I love to listen to music. I recently bought Fernando Ortega's newest recording The Crucifixion of Jesus. It is a really great recording, alternating between songs and Scripture reading. I believe this song is one he has recorded previously.

I love Ortega's music. It is so calming and comforting while being full of truth.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See him dying on the tree
Tis' the Christ by man rejected,
yes my soul tis he, tis he
Tis the long Expected Prophet
David's Son yet David's Lord
By His Son, God now has spoken
Tis the True and Faithful Word

Tell me, you who hear him groaning
Was there ever grief like his?
Friends through fear
His cause disowning
Foes insulting his distress
Many hands were raised to wound him
None would interpose to save
But the deepest stroke that pierced him
Was the stroke that justice gave

Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly
Here its guilt may estimate
Mark the Sacrifice appointed
See who bears the awful load
Tis the Word, the Lord's Anointed
Son of Man and Son of God

Here we have a firm Foundation
Here the Refuge of the lost
Christ, the Rock of our salvation
Is the Name on which we boast
Lamb of for God for sinners wounded
Sacrificed to cancel guilt
None shall ever be confounded
Whom, in him their hope is built


What's your normal?

My husband and I have an inside joke. Well, we have a few. But this one is the term "generic red drink."

I grew up eating meals accompanied by drinking either milk or water. His mother always had some sort of fruity drink, the kind mixed with crystals and water. He grew up thinking that everyone had such drinks at mealtime, and I grew up thinking one didn't. I felt kind of cheated that my family didn't have such luxuries. And for us, it would have been a luxury. Such beverages are usually not cost effective.

This idea that the way we grew up is everyone's experiences can be carried over in a lot of different directions, and one that is becoming more significant in my thinking is the consequence of growing up in a combative home. I love my parents, and they loved me and my brothers. They took care of us and did the best they could, sacrificing their own pleasures and wishes more often than I probably know. But our home was combative. The home my other grew up in was combative, too. 

When you grow up in a home full of conflict, challenge, and arguing, you start to live like it's just a part of life. I found out very quickly after getting married that I was very wrong in that belief. That is probably one of the biggest differences between the way he grew up and the way I did. While his house tended to never confront a thing, ours confronted everything. And while his family didn't often say much, mine said everything without reserve.

When you grow up in a combative home, you frequently feel on the defensive, and that contributes to being thin-skinned. You have to learn that not everyone is confronting you. You have to learn not to take offense. I'm still learning that. 

I read a very good tweet from Lydia Brownback today: "Perpetually sniffing around for every doctrinal misstatement and tweeting about it bespeaks a joyless faith."

I appreciated that comment, because sometimes, I do find that social media can be full of people looking around every corner fo some theological bogeyman. I cannot help but wonder if there is a connection between people who grew up in a combative environment and the need to look for conflict. After all, if there is no conflict in our lives, no argument to pursue, or point to win, do we go looking for one? Do we get energized by being involved in a debate because that is our normal? I suspect that I have been guilty of looking for conflict. Or at the very least, being too sensitive about things which I perceive as being wrong. Perhaps my character was predisposed to that already, and being in a home full of argument simply nurtured that. 

I am not saying that theological truth is not important. I'm not saying we should always remain silent and never confront. I think just the opposite, actually. It is not healthy to never confront problems whether personal or theological. However, is my default setting to engage others in a dispute? If so, is that a good thing? Is there not a point at which it is better to simply allow someone to say something I believe to be wrong and let it go? What does always demanding the last word say about what is important to me?

I wish I'd asked myself such questions years ago, but as we know, wisdom is not always appreciated when we are younger.


The appeal of Augustine

Augustine said some pretty wonky things, but he said much that I can totally understand and agree with. One of those things is how he confronted his own sin. Even after his conversion, Augustine wrestled with temptations. One of them was the praise of men. As a trained rhetorician, he would have sought the approval of men. After his conversion, he talks about the remaining struggle:

. . . there is a third kind of temptation which, I fear, has not passed from me. Can it ever pass from me in all this life? It is the desire to be feared or loved by other men, simply for the pleasure that it gives me, though in such pleasure there is no true joy. It means only a life of misery and despicable vainglory . . .  This is why the enemy of our true happiness persists in his attacks upon me, for he knows that when men hold certain offices in human society, it is necessasry that they should be loved and feared by other men. He sets his traps about me, baiting them with tributes of applause, in the hope that in my eagerness to listen I may be caught off my guard. He wants me to divorce my joy from the truth and place it in man's duplicity. He wants me to enjoy being loved and feared by others, not for your sake, but in your place. 

But we, O Lord, are your little flock. Keep us as your own. Spread your wings and let us shelter beneath them. Let us glory in you alone. If we are loved or feared by others, let it be for your sake. No man who seeks the praise of other men can be defended by men when you call him to account. Men cannot save him when you condemn. (Confessions, X.36).

The praise of men is something we can all get caught up in without even realizing it. Yet how often do we admit such a temptation? How often do I consider the approval of others a trap? 

I love how Augustine ends this discussion: by throwing himself upon the truth he knows, that we are his flock.


Because he doesn't want me to grow

On my first day of seminary, I woke up and did not want to go. Despite wanting this for a long time, and despite the fact that I had support from my husband and closest friends, I cried, because I did not want to go. Even as I drove that morning, my stomach was in knots. My first seminary class occurred right in the middle of the worst part of my first really bad bout with anxiety.

I've always tended toward being anxious, but this was much worse than what I'd known before. There were many physical symptoms, and it was simply beyond me. I made it through that class and only through God was I able to get the work done. The class was on writing Bible study curriculum, and one of the studies I wrote had to do with what Scripture said about being anxious, so it was therapeutic. 

I don't know if I'm much wiser than I was two years ago, but I am on the other side of that time. I am not a fool, and I know that I cannot be complacent. I must recognize what triggers my anxiety and deal accordingly with it. Interestingly enough, in the past couple of weeks, I have felt the weight of burdens encroaching on my heart; the kinds of things that can trigger anxiety. And it's the beginning of another semester of school.

Two years ago, a very good friend who understands anxiety well, shared with me that she really believed that Satan does not want me in seminary. He does not want me to have a theological education or growing in the things of God. I thought about that recently when I was studying my Greek vocabulary and my mind began to wander to things I cannot change. I have to learn is how to shut the door on things that are simply going to drag me down.

I've always wanted to fix everything. It bothers me to leave things unresolved. I don't like arguments festering. I want resolution now! That isn't always possible. Sitting and waiting is difficult. We feel powerless; or, rather, we confront our powerlessness. Shutting the door on things goes against what I really want to do. That is probably a good thing. As I sat at my desk, allowing myself to be distracted, I had to mentally picture myself shutting a door to the burdens that I can't resolve. I don't pretend they're not there, and I do have to acknowledge them, but not every day, and definitely not when I have other things to do.

I think Satan wants me to open the door to that closet more often, because then I can start to feel hopeless and discouraged. Then I can start to blame others for things that have happened, or I can blame myself, and make it seem as if I'm the centre of everything. Yes, he wants me to do that because that distracts me from simply trusting God. Fortunately, learning Greek is very methodical and demands memorization. Translating sentences, even the small ones we're beginning with this week, is like solving a puzzle, and that re-focuses me. I will stay in seminary if only to keep my mind from wandering to places where it ought not go. If I'm still having trouble concentrating after Greek is done, I'll just take Hebrew.

God's ultimate goal for me is to be conformed to the image of his son. Burdens have a way of making that happen or they can be a way of ensuring that it doesn't. We don't often talk about Satan in the church these days. But he's real, and he likes it when we're weak. I feel like it's no co-incidence that these burdens are plaguing me now. I must remember the truth: greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world.


When too much parenting preaching is too much

My children are grown and on their own. My role as a parent, which has always been in a consistent state of growth, has changed. The issues of parenting are not pressing in the same way as when they were younger.  My children are on my mind, but on a day to day basis, my thoughts are not consumed with parenting as they once were.

I find it hard at times to listen to regular preaching about parenting. I seldom read parenting blogs, books, or articles anymore. And the reason why I don't it is that it provides a temptation to simply second guess everything I ever did. It seems to be part of the reality of parenthood (at least from my place as a mother; I won't generalize about fathers, since I've never been one) that we bear a lot of guilt for things we did. In many cases, our children share with us when they are older things they didn't like or ways we disappointed them, and we may feel a sense of failure. It's already there within our family dynamics as we remember when we made mistakes or didn't handle something the right way. To insert someone else's view of the way to parent just adds fuel to the fire.

I do understand that parents today feel just as much of a burden for their children as I did, and I appreciate their desire to parent for God's glory. Sometimes, I want to tell them that they are over thinking things, but I did exactly the same thing, and I would have felt discouraged if an older person had said that to me. And yet, I do wish that younger parents would also remember the importance of simply learning about Christ. And while pastors mean well when they do series on parenting, I also want to shout out, "Just teach us about Christ!" So much parenting advice is very individualistic. What worked for me may not work for you. And looking back, I know that most of the infinite number of mistakes I made were a result of my spiritual immaturity and pride. 

And the only remedy for that is learning about Christ, not getting advice from another parent.