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Wednesday
Jun142017

Dang, I missed it!

Disclaimer: This is a post about Canada. For those who find Canada uninteresting, feel free to click away.

One of the things I wanted to do during this year of Canada's 150th birthday is write more Canadian content. Well, I suppose all of the content is Canadian since I am Canadian. However, there were some dates in the year I was supposed to be paying attention to. In early June, the 2nd, I missed one: the death of Stan Rogers.

Stan Rogers is one of my favourite singers; ever. My husband introduced him to me. I was a newlywed and heard the sounds of his voice, and I wondered who owned that booming voice. One of the first songs I remember hearing was the the song "The Witch of the Westmoreland."  Rogers had a huge voice, and it echoed beautifully throughout our tiny apartment. I was hooked.

Rogers wrote about real life and real people. Whether it was singing about an aging farmwife, the man who tends the locks, or the migration of workers to western Canada, he sang about ordinary lives. He sang with a tangible passion in his voice no matter the subject matter. No, he was not a popular music singing success, and no he did not take his talent to the U.S. in hopes of becoming more of a commercial success, but he had a great talent, and he wrote good songs. He had a talent for depicting the human condition with poignancy. And his voice still gives goosebumps. There was simply something about it I can't explain.

My favourite of his recordings is From Fresh Water, a recording centred around the Great Lakes. Its content reflects the area where I live and from where he came. His song "Tiny Fish For Japan" is about a town very near to me, and every time I go there, I hear his song in my head. My favourite from that recording, is the song "White Squall." The way the music accents the rising action of the song is great.

A number of years ago, Adrienne Clarkson did a documentary called "One Warm Line." There are clips available here. If you like folk music, you just might like Stan Rogers. 

Tuesday
Jun132017

Boys will be boys and girls will be girls

Sometimes, my husband acts like a big kid. When my boys are around, or perhaps when he's biking with his buddies, he will occasionally forget to assess the risk before doing something. These are not frequent occasions. Some day, his tendency to let his little child rear its head will mean he's a good grandpa. That said, there are times when despite being adults, we don't behave in a mature way.

The Struggle to Grow Up

The purpose of this post is not to recount the struggle for men to grow up. Delayed adolescence is something we're all aware of. And it's not just confined to men. In all honesty, I get frustrated when women imply that men never grow up but we do. We may roll our eyes at men for behaving like boys, but having two sons and a husband, I can assure you, men roll their eyes at the way women demonstrate their lack of maturity. 

Young girls are often petty, cliqueish, competitive, and catty. They hold grudges with one another. They get offended easily. They gossip. They envy. Of course, there are exceptions, but these are things I'm sure many of us remember as part of life as a teenage girl. Do these vices magically disappear from us when we hit 18? Are these habits completely absent in women over 30? Check out a Twitter or Facebook thread where complementarianism and egalitarianism are being debated and you will have your answer.

I say all that to say this: emotional maturity is something that will either hinder or help us in our pursuit of personal holiness. If we feel like we're not making any progress in our sanctification, instead of wondering if God is really working in our lives, perhaps our first line of inquity ought to be our own emotional maturity. 

Spiritual Maturity Needs Emotional Maturity

In J.I. Packer's book, Rediscovering Holiness, there is an an excellent chapter which deals with practical ways to pursue holiness. He ends the chapter with a section called "Avoiding the Peter Pan Syndrome." We struggle to mature in our present culture. Packer says:

It has been truly said that the greatest social problem of the modern world is extreme emotional immaturity masquerading as an adult lifestyle . . . Affluence allows childish self-indulgence to become a lifestyle from one's teens onward, and the results in later life are painful.

Of course, we as Christians are shaped by our culture. We may think we're not, but if we really look closely at ourselves, we can't really deny it. If we want to be spiritually mature, we have to be emotionally mature. Spiritual maturity requires willgness to put aside our own wishes. It means doing things we don't want to do. It means self-denial. It means loving others and living the fruit of the Spirit. And it means facing the ways in which we are still immature. Packer says:

Maxims and disciplines of devotion cannot help us if we are not prepared to be changed at this point. Am I willing to learn whether I need to grow up emotionally? Are you?

Christians Need to be Mature

One way we as Christians can live counter culturally is to be mature men and women. One does not want to be legalistic in this, but there are many obvious ways in which people display maturity: taking responsibility for one's actions; being teachable; owning our sin; making amends when we've wronged others; controlling our tongue; putting aside childish things. These are only a few things which are basic evidences of maturity that if absent, may make it difficult to grow spiritually.

There is nothing wrong with remaining young at heart, but at the same time, there is nothing wrong with acting our age and not going into older age kicking and screaming. Growing up is part of our design as humans. I'm not 25 years old any more, and that ought to be reflected in my conduct emotionally. I am no longer a baby Christian, and that ought to be apparent as well.

Sunday
Jun112017

Daily Readings - John 12:27-33

J.C. Ryle - Daily Readings 
John 12:27-33

Now my soul has become troubled (John 12:27a)

Nothing can ever explain our Lord's trouble of soul, both here in an in Gethsemane, except the old doctrine that he felt the burden of man's sin pressing him down. It was the mighty weight of a world's guilt imputed to him and meeting on his head which made him groan and agonize and cry, 'Now is my soul troubled.' Forever let us cling to that doctrine, not only as untying the knot of the passage before us, but as the only ground of solid comfort for the heart of a Christian. That our sins have been really laid on our divine Substitute and born by him, and that his righteousness is really imputed to us and account ours -- this is the real warrant for Christian peace. And if any man asks how we know that our sins were laid on Christ, we bid him read such passages as that which is before us and explain them on any other principle if he can. Christ has borne our sons, carried our sins, groaned under the burden of our sins, been 'troubled' in soul by the weight of our sins and really taken away our sins. This, we may rest assured, is sound doctrine; this is scriptural theology.

Saturday
Jun102017

Living without the back patting

In Rediscovering Holiness, in the chapter "Growing in Christlikeness: Healthy Christian Experience," J.I. Packer discusses some of the signs that show we are growing in Christ. One of the signs of growth is that we will take a "growing delight in praising God, with an increasing distaste for being praised oneself." (emphasis mine)

We may not be aware that we seek the praise of men simply because we don't actively seek the spotlight. However, there are many ways we reveal, at the very least, a tendency to generate attention for ourselves rather than God. Perhaps I teach a Sunday school lesson and no one says "good job!" Will that make me disgruntled? Perhaps I write a blog post and no one comments, or no one notices. That happens a lot these days, and that has been very good for me.

What is my motive for telling people what I'm doing? Is it for the attention? That is a hard one for me, because I do like to share my joy at things. And yet I don't want to come across as looking for validation. That is difficult these days because places like Facebook and Twitter are full of voices soliciting attention.

Many years ago, my husband and I were watching his cousin's little girl play out in the yard at my in-laws' house. She was a cute little thing and she was running about with a dog. When she came into the house she said to us in her 3 year old innocence, "How did you like me out there?" She was very aware that she was cute and she was very aware that we were watching. How often do we have that thought, even if it is lurking in the background?

Sincere praise for God is the goal, and in order to give sincere praise to God, we have to forsake it for ourselves. Packer's way of describing it is that we have to have a "distaste" for it. Don't we all like to have someone pat us on the back? Tell us how good we are at something?

I have been very convicted about the things I say on Twitter. When I see others come across as self-promoting or self-aggrandizing, I have to wonder how I come across. I'm beginning to understand more fully my husband's motto for living: words are over rated. While I can't see myself ever fully embracing that maxim, perhaps I'll take more seriously the principle of less is more.

Thursday
Jun082017

Does summer mean we have more time?

The other day, a friend of Twitter pointed out that summer reading schedules assume that people have more time in the summer to read than at other times of the year. Having been brought up in a family with ties to farming, I have also thought about this notion of "summer reading." Summer, for some people, is actually busier than winter. While churches tend to trim their schedules in the summer, it isn't because we're all farming. Why is there a sense that summer = slowing down?

Of course, when I was a child, there was more time to read in the summer because there was no school. When I became a grown up and had a job, that wasn't true. Especially when I had children, the opposite was true. Having kids home all day and being involved in summer sports meant life was much busier. We did not have the means to take off to the beach or the lake for two weeks. Our family vacations involved travelling across the country to see family. We spent a great deal of time on those vacations running around to ensure we got to see everyone we wanted to see. I am fortunate in that I don't get car sick when I read while travelling, but not everyone can plow through a book while she's on the road. When the kids were in school, even though we homeschooled, I looked forward to the routine of fall.

There does seem to be, however, the notion that summer is time for rest and relaxation. I doubt that was the way of it when we were a more agrarian society. The summer months are time of growth, actually. People planted their vegetable gardens and were busy tending their crops. Winter was the time for rest, when people were able to visit friends and relax. My aunt and uncle, who are only now retiring from farming, never took time off in the summer. In fact, they could not attend my wedding, which was in April, because they had cows calving. They were able to attend my brother's wedding, which was in September, when things slowed down.

Having more time to read in the summer is definitely a luxury. My daughter pointed out recently that people who are financially limited are often also lacking in time as well, so things like a summer off for reading is never going to be a reality. I have been out of school since the end of April, and I don't think I've read more than I normally would; and I don't have outside employment to keep me from doing it. I still have the same hours in the day, and summer means making time for household maintenance that can't be done in winter months. Even when I went on a vacation to see my parents in April, the only time I read for any sustained time was on the plane. 

That said, I do encourage all children who are out of school for the summer to read, and read as much as you can. I loved those lazy afternoons when I could read as long as I wanted. I made a path from my house to the library throughout the summer months. It was a luxury I am thankful I was given. Take the time now, because we don't get any more time in a day as we get older.