Training in Righteousness
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Background noise

One of the things that I struggle with, and which simply reveals that I am a cranky person, is the noise in the church sanctuary before the service on Sunday mornings. Now, I understand that people are just having fellowship, and that it is good. I further realize that the sanctuary (or auditorium if that's what your church calls it) is just a room like any other, and it isn't any more holy than any other room where we meet with God.

It's what we're about to do inside that room that makes it important. Every Sunday morning, we are gathering as a people to worship the God of the universe. We are approaching the throne of grace. Hebrews 4:16 tells us we can come before it with boldness because of what Christ has done. Maybe I'm just old fashioned or even grumpier than I realized, but I want to prepare myself to do that. I'm not asking for complete silence, but honestly, can't the noise be contained in the foyer outside? These days, church foyers are made big for the purpose of fellowship. Our church was built in 1989, and it has an ample foyer in comparison to other churches. On Sunday morning, I like it when there is a bit of quiet before the service begins.

We went to a church years ago where there was quiet in the auditorium before the service. I think it was more customary back then. The sign that the service was going to start soon was the pianist sitting there, playing. People waited expectantly, quietly. These days, there is usually music overhead, coming from the sound system, and the sign that the service is about to start is when the worship team goes on the platform. It is this background noise that I think encourages a little noisier atmosphere.

Everywhere we go, there is noise. The grocery store; the waiting room at the doctor's office; an elevator; the workplace. All of those locales usually have music playing. Some places have televisions. When I broke my wrist a couple of years ago, as I sat in the waiting room for an hour, I was treated to an entire episode of "General Hospital." Fortunately, in the 30 years since I'd last watched it, I had not missed a thing.

Noise, noise, noise. It's everywhere, so we're used to having to speak over noise. And that goes for the pre-service time at church. When there is someone at the front, we know to be a little quieter. When there is music overhead, it's like we're at the grocery store or the place where we go for pancakes after church. 

I don't think we need to turn a room in a church into some sort of shrine where we have to be careful what we do inside. But what we are doing there on Sunday morning is not what we do every day of the week. It isn't just a bunch of people in a room. It's the Body of Christ, coming together to worship. And I would like a few quiet moments beforehand to prepare my heart for that. I don't expect complete silence, but sometimes, it's like a cocktail party and no one has brought his inside voice. I would be happy with a few minutes before the worship team gets up there. And surely, after the service is just as good a time for fellowship and all its joyful noise.


Joy and Peace in Believing

From the Olney Hymns
On the Spiritual Life
William Cowper
Joy and Peace in Believing 

Sometimes a light surprises
The christian while he sings;
It is the LORD who rises
With healing in his wings:
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining
To cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation,
We sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation,
And find it ever new:
Set free from present sorrow,
We cheerfully can say,
E’en let th’ unknown tomorrow,
Bring with it what it may.

It can bring with it nothing
But he will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing
Will clothe his people too:
Beneath the spreading heavens,
No creature but is fed;
And he who feeds the ravens,
Will give his children bread.

The vine, nor fig–tree neither,
Their wonted fruit should hear,
Though all the fields should wither,
Nor flocks, nor herds, be there:
Yet God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice;
For while in him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice. 


Give yourself 90 days

I began reading through the whole bible on August 17th. I will finish sometime at the end of this week. Not exactly 90 days, but given that I was away on a couple of trips during that time, it's not surprising.

My prof assigned the reading. Because he's my academic advisor as well, I knew it was coming, so I started early. I'm glad I did. After I'm finished the reading (which is 20% of the course mark), I can focus on studying for the final exam.

My prof warned us that we may not find this kind of volume of reading what we're used to when bible reading. I think he was surprised when one of the students shared that he thought it was the best part of the class. He was getting up an hour earlier every morning and loving it. I, too, found this one of the best parts of the course.

I think there is a misconception that reading at such a pace excludes any "devotional" aspect of the reading. When we think of devotional reading, we automatically think of sitting over a passage for a time, rolling it over in our heads, and perhaps praying over it. There is no reason when reading a faster pace we can't do that. Every day when I read, I selected a few verses to record in my journal and later reflect on. Often, I would do my reading in the afternoon, and then as I walked with the dog afterward, I would think about what I had read. A couple of times I listened to the bible in the car when my car trip was longer. On one trip, I was able to listen to the entire book of Daniel, and I thought about it for the rest of the day. No, fast reading doesn't mean we're not reading "devotionally." I've read slower and felt very little devotion. I think devotional reading starts with an open heart, not necessarily the perfect time frame for reading.

I thought of some of the longer books I've read, especially novels. One of the longest ones I read was The Stand, by Stephen King. It's over 1,000 pages. I read it in five days. Now, while King is a great story-teller, it's not complicated reading like parts of the bible, but I think sometimes, we automatically think the bible will be hard, so we balk at the thought of reading it from beginning to end. When my husband read Les Miserables, another tome, it was definitely more than five days. But other than the three month break from the book (Hugo really did ramble at points so he put it down for a while), he finished it in under a year. It is possible to finish the Bible in a year.

One thing this exercise did is reveal to me which biblical courses I want to tackle first. Once I get some required courses out of the way, the first course I want to take is on the Pentateuch, and after that the Poetical books. There were so many questions I had which we couldn't stop to answer because we had to plow on through.

It was an excellent exercise. It did eat into my reading of other books, but that was not a bad thing, either. Theology books, commentaries, and Christian living books are great, and I love them. But it was good for me to spend more time in the word alone. I am pretty sure that I too often simply give assent to someone else's conclusions before properly coming to my own.

It's definitely not something I'd do every year, but if you have a chance to do it, go for it. You'll really enjoy it.


The home stretch and a song

I'm in the home stretch of my seminary class. On December 5, I will write my final exam. It's been busy this past week as I finish reading through the bible, get assignments done, and prepare for Sunday school. In September 2016, I plan on taking two courses, Hebrew and Theological Foundations. I'm not sure how Sunday school will fit into this scenario.

Despite the busyness, I love it. I remember when we began homeschooling in 2000, I felt like I'd "come home" so to speak. It was made for me. I had a similar feeling at school a couple of weeks ago.

Yesterday, I took a break from work and enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather. While I walked, I listened to one of my all-time favourite singers, Stan Rogers. He was a consummate story teller with his lyrics. I really like his recording From Fresh Water, songs of the Great Lakes. Because I live within fifteen minutes of one of those lakes, I enjoy the songs.

I love this song, "White Squall," a sad tale of a young man thrown overboard.



The hidden life

From The Olney Hymns
On the Spiritual Life
The Hidden Life 

To tell the Savior all my wants,
How pleasing is the task?
Nor less to praise him when he grants
Beyond what I can ask.

My lab’ring spirit vainly seeks
To tell but half the joy;
With how much tenderness he speaks,
And helps me to reply.

Nor were it wise, nor should I choose
Such secrets to declare;
Like precious wines their taste they lose
Exposed to open air.

But this with boldness I proclaim,
Nor care if thousands hear;
Sweet is the ointment of his name,
Not life is half so dear.

And can you frown, my former friends,
Who knew what once I was;
And blame the song that thus commends
The man who bore the cross.

Trust me, I draw the likeness true,
And not as fancy paints,
Such honor may he give to you,
For such have all his saints.