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Tuesday
Apr162019

I am not a Great Dane

There is a man in my neighbourhood who has a beautiful Great Dane. He's almost white, very elegant, and placid. When I have had occasion to meet them while out walking, he stays calm and quiet. My Beagles, being what they are, raise a howl of recognition: "Hey, there's another dog" over there. Can we go over and smell it?" There is no placid walking by my side. It is either draggiing them along or admonishing them to stay back. And there is not a blessed thing I can do about it. After 23 years with Beagles, I know this. They are guided by their noses. If there is the smell of something somewhere in the yard, I will know about it. The neighbours probably hate me; especially when it happens at 5:30 in the morning.

Beagles are bred for doing exactly what my dogs do: smell. If I was someone who felt like hunting wabbits (I'm not), I would have two very adept partners. At present, in our very large, detatched garage, we have a rat, hiding in the rafters, who has been wreaking havoc. The dogs know he is there. All we have to do is say, "Get the rat!" and they will go screaming to the garage door, demanding entrance. They have yet to flush him out, but we're hopeful their constant, annoying presence will make him go away.

I often think about how these dogs cannot be other than what they have been born to be. I think about it in relation to my own set of predispositions and abilities. I was reminscing with my husband recently about how, at one time, along with all the other women in my church, I tried to model myself after one woman in particular. She had placid, obedient children. She was quiet, meek, and kind. She was a wonderful woman. But I was not her, and all my attempts landed in frustration. And in the unfortunate purchase of several cardigans to grace my flowery, printed dresses and denim jumpers.

Here I am in my mid-50's. Finally, after all that struggle and fuss, I realize that I cannot be other than how God designed me. Yes, I must temper my excesses, and yes, I must exercise spiritual fruit. But that does not include acting as if men know everything and I don't know a blessed thing. It does not mean I must funnel our financial resources into a Better Homes and Gardens-worthy showplace. It does not mean that I must hide my own intellectual pursuits. The "perfect" Christian woman is not a re-incarnation of the shrinking violet, Victorian woman type. 

Why does it take us so long to understand this? I don't want my own daughter to think she has to remake herself into the image of someone other than who God created her to be. I hope she learns this lesson sooner rather than later. God created us for worship and fellowship with him. Any kind of personality -- the shy, quiet type or the vocal, restless type -- can worship God. I don't know why women feel so threatened when they see other women who are not like them. I guess some of us just need to learn the hard way.

If i was a dog, I'd be a Beagle. I'm a drama queen, too sensitive, too curious, and easily intimidated. But I'm also persistent, and I can keep my nose to the ground when necessary. The Great Dane is beautiful, but he's just not me.

Sunday
Apr142019

Come, Creator Spirit

Creator Spirit, by whose aid
The world's foundations were first laid,
Come, visit every pious mind;
Come, pour thy joys on human kind;
From sin and sorrow set us free,
And make thy temples worthy Thee.

O, source of uncreated Light,
The Father's promised Paraclete!
Thrice Holy Found, thrice Holy fire,
Our hearts with heavenly love inspire;
Come, and thy sacred unction bring
To sanctify us, while we sing!

Plenteous of grace, descend from high,
Rich in thy seven-fold energy!
Thou strength of his almighty hand,
Whose power does heaven and earth command,
Proceeding Spirit, our defense,
Who dost the gift of tongues dispense,
And crowns thy gift with eloquence!

Refine and purge our earthly parts;
But, oh, inflame and fire our hearts!
Our frailties help, our vice control;
Submit the sense to the soul;
And when rebellious they are grown,
Then lay thy hand and hold them down.

Chase from our minds the Internal Foe;
And peace, the fruit of love, bestow;
And, lest our feet should step astray,
Protect and guide us in the way.
Make us eternal truths receive,
And practice all that we believe:
Give us thyself, that we may see
The Fathr and the Son, by thee.

Immortal honor, endless fame,
Ascend the Almighty Father's name:
The Saviour Son be glorified,
Who for lost man's redemption died;
And equal adoration be,
Eternal Paraclete, to thee. 

~ John Dryden (1631-1700)

Saturday
Apr132019

If we are Bible readers, we are interpreters

All of my assignments are completed and I have one remaining lecture on Tuesday. Had it not been for an ice storm, our Pentateuch class would be finished. Tuesday is a make-up class. I don't supposed I have to go, technically, but I don't want to miss this last lecture on Deuteronomy.

I have learned so much this year, and it swims around in my head, interruptng other things on a regular basis. I feel like I don't yet have it all processed. I find myself being torn between not wanting to pick up another theology book until September and wanting to read it all now! 

This semester we read Who Shall Ascend to the Mountain of the Lord? which is biblical theology on Leviticus. We were told by Dr. Vaillancourt that the book was one of the most influential books he had read and he anticipated we would feel the same. I did. This morning, as I was reading Hebrews, I heard echoes of what I read in Morales. I have studied Hebrews before. I have even taught it. And yet after reading Leviticus, I realize that there is so much more to learn. And there are still some mysteries.

This morning, I read Hebrews 7, the section on Melchizedek. In Greek, Hebrews is one of the most difficult books to read in the New Testament. I will have to work up to that. I did wonder how doing so may shed light on that passage. Melchizedek is a mystery. Most of the time, I kind of skip right past that section, because I honestly have a lot of questions about it. I was reminded that reading the Bible meaningfully means interpreting it. How do I interpret that passage?

Semester after semester in seminary, I am reminded that Bible study means interpretation. And responsibile application flows from proper interpretation. There are scads of "how to" Bible study books and if they are good books, they will have guidance regarding interpretation. But it's not something easily learned. It takes practice and it takes watching someone else do it; someone who knows what he/she is doing. Sometimes, I think we are too much in a rush to get to the "what does this mean for me?" that we skimp on the interpretation part. 

I hope I can arrive a satisfying interpration of the significance of Melchizedek some day. When I read Genesis this semester, I did read some suggested evaluations, and I wasn't entirely sure. Sometimes I can see elements of truth in every view I read. That is where I must continue to pray for discernment. It is a serious business, this interpretation of the Bible. But if we don't interpret, we'll never gain a full appreciation of its wonders.

Friday
Apr122019

How do we avoid unnecessary self-focus?

A few years ago, I made a comment on Twitter, speaking to my 30-something self. It was a rebuke. It seemed harmless enough. That is, until, I had someone accuse me of speaking to her directly. She was, herself, a 30-something, and she thought I may have been "sub-tweeting" to her. I assured her that was not the case. There have been times when, to my own shame, I have thought something similar. Fortunately, I have a husband who reminds me that people aren't thinking of me as often as I believe them to be.

The problem with using social media is that we can be drawn into a sense that people are looking at us. But just because I walk down my street wearing my pajamas, it doesn't mean everyone saw me. Perhaps no one did. Perhaps no one cared. It is work to remember that we are not the centre of the world. 

I have been thinking about how I can work on this area in my own life. There is a certain freedom in accepting that people are not watching me. I was having a chat with a couple of my professors yesterday, and I suggested that perhaps women have more aversion to what others think of them than men do. That is a generalization, but they agreed that it may be true. 

I have been reading Bavinck's second volume of Dogmatics, where he discusses God. I am only in the opening chapter, but I'm finding it challenging already. Currently, I'm reading about the knowability of God. There is a sense in which we cannot know God fully. We can know him by experience, but we cannot know him by nature. We can only know him as humans, so that means our knowledge is limited. We rely on his revelation of himself. And even then our finite minds, which are prone to want to suppress the truth, make us limited. Surely, this is a life long process. 

I'm thinking that the best way for me to stop focusing on myself is to focus beyond myself, beginning with who God is. That means continuing to probe the Scriptures; learning how to better understand them; fostering reliance on the Holy Spirit. It also means focusing on other people. I tend to talk more than I should, and there are times when, before visiting a friend, I will remind myself to ask about her life, not always bring it back to myself.

I have been a Christian for 34 years, but I'm still working on this tendency toward self-focus. I'm thankful that I am promised that some day, this will be gone, and I can look fully on the face of Christ, which I'm sure is better than any other view.

Thursday
Apr112019

Re-inventing blogging

One of the ironies of being in seminary is that regular classes, reading, and paper writing makes my mind work overtime. I have more ideas for blog posts in seminary than I do when I'm not in school. The trouble is, I don't have the time to write them. And in some cases, I doubt people would find them as interesting as I do. But now that school is almost done (next Tuesday is the last class!) I will have more time and I'd like to blog more. But the reality is the way I blog is largely a dying thing.

I'm not affiliated with a parachurch organization.

I don't like feeling like I have to "sell" myself.

I'm not a published writer with groupies.

In short, I'm just a regular person who likes to write; that kind of person who began blogging in the first place. It's only recently that this began to change. 

In the next number of week, I'm going to put my thinking cap on and try to understand this beast called blogging. Not for anyone's benefit other than my own, you ken (I'm reading the Outlander books right now and they use that phrase "you ken" a lot; I love it).

Blogging is communication and it's written communication (no GIFs, if you please), so how do those disciplines feed into blogging? It's a question I hope to dwell on now that this time next week, I shall be a free woman.