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Sunday
Mar262017

Daily Readings - John 6:66-71

J.C. Ryle, Daily Readings
John 6:66-71

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?" (John 6:68) 

The question with which Peter begins is just as remarkable as his confession. 'To whom shall we go?' said the noble-hearted apostle. 'Whom shall we follow? To what teacher shall we take ourselves? Where shall we find any guide to heaven to compare with thee? What shall we gain by forsaking thee?'

The question is one which every true Christian may boldly ask when urged and tempted to give up his religion and go back to the world. It is easy for those who hate religion to pick holes in our conduct, to make objections to our doctrines, to find fault with our practices. It may be hard sometimes to give them any answer. But after all, 'To whom shall we go,' if we give up our religion? Where shall we find such peace and hope and solid comfort as in serving Christ, however poorly we serve him? Can we better ourselves by turning our back on Christ and going back to our old ways? We cannot. Then let us hold on our way and persevere.

Friday
Mar242017

Challenged in holy living and productivity

Yesterday, at my school, our Ministry Leadership Day hosted Tim Challies. It was a well-attended gathering; there were quite a few people standing at the back of the chapel. For a young man attending, I think he would have seen two positive things: a good example of someone exegeting a passage of Scripture, and being challenged in the area of productivity. I had no idea I would get as much out of the productivity session as I did. I went to the day intending to purchase Visual Theology, and came home instead with Do More Better.

The first session had Tim sharing from I Thessalonians 4:1-12. It was a very good session. I have never heard him speak in the venue of preaching, and I was really challenged by it. The theme of the session was how to live holy lives, and he focused on the areas of being sexually pure, loving others, and living quietly. The last point, living quietly, was about embracing being unremarkable. He even mentioned that perhaps these days, with our love of celebrity, it is more radical to be unremarkable. I think that was a good message for everyone, but especially for the young men there with a future in the ministry.

Lately, I have felt that despite having the time, I seem to accomplish less than I would like. The second session, where Tim introduced principles for productivity, gave me some good pointers; ones I had not anticipated getting. In the past, I confess to being a little aloof toward productivity books and tools. I don't have a job outside my home, and my responsibilities are few compared to my husband, who juggles many. Why would I need productivity tools? I had my mind changed. I find it is good to have one's mind changed every now and then.

One of the aspects of the second session was doing an inventory of our responsibilties. That alone, is a good exercise. Tim mentioned a few things which I had never thought of before. He recommended using tools that are best suited to the task, i.e. don't use your email to remind yourself of something; use a scheduling tool. He recommended separating our tools to scheduling tools, information tools, and task management tools. I am hoping to make better use of my Google calendar in the future, and I am planning on starting to use Evernote. As I looked at it yesterday, I saw how convenient that will be in keeping track of information with regard to working on my term paper over the next month.

One thing that happens when your kids move out and you are presented with this life of reduced domestic details is that it is easy to simply stop worrying about them. As I walked through my living room yesterday evening, with the sunset streaming through the sheer curtains in my living room, I could see a layer of dust on the hardwood under my desk. I used to be better at housekeeping. I am sure using productivity tools for work or school research is a good idea, but why not for home organization? Maybe the reason I am not getting enough done is that I'm not as organized as I thought I was. 

Regrettably, I could not stay for the afternoon sessions, and I was particularly disappointed I missed the Q&A, because my prof was on the panel. But through the wonder of digital technology, I can catch it later. I left feeling challenged, and that is good. Being challenged will give us renewed purpose.

Thursday
Mar232017

Thankful Thursday

Today will be the last sunny day here for a while. The forecast for tomorrow is a temperate 14°C, but there will be rain. My puppy will be thrilled. He loves to dig and paint the garden doors with muddy paws. 

I am thankful for spring. I love the change in seasons, and as the birds have been returning, I am looking forward to tulips blooming and trees budding.

I am thankful for my middle child's birthday this weekend. Twenty-five. Hard to believe. I'm thankful we'll be meeting for a celebration with the whole family and their "significant others."

I'm thankful for the prospect of my son's wedding. A good friend is making my dress, which means it will fit well. I'm thankful for our future daughter-in-law. She's a gem.

I'm thankful for afternoon snoozes with two dogs who snuggle up with me.

I'm thankful for my theology prof. He has taught me so much this year.

I'm thankful for sudden realizations that God has taught me something significant. I love those moments when I realize that I have not been my usual hard-headed self, and that the Spirit of God has wrought change in my heart.

I'm thankful for today's Ministry Leadership Day at my school. Tim Challies is speaking to us, and I hope to pick up a copy of his Visual Theology.

I'm thankful for audioboooks for the ride to school, and watching the sun rise as I drive through the quiet morning as I drive.

Wednesday
Mar222017

A blogging crossroads, or what women blog about

Ultimately, whether or not I write on my blog is not really crucial. If something were to happen today which meant I could no longer keep up this blog, the world would not end for me or for anyone who has ever read it. Actually, it's true for every blog.

Yet, I love to write. When I see people stop writing altogether, I wonder how they can do it. I have been writing in some venue since I a kid. Whether it was in those old Hilroy notebooks or in a more pricey Moleskine notebook, I have written. Stories; thoughts; bad poetry. Writing isn't the question. But the venue does matter.

Blogging has helped me in that the weekly reflection papers I write for both of my theology classes are like blog posts. They don't go beyond a couple of double-spaced pages, and they must be focused on the question. I have loved the assignments because they give me a topic, rather than wondering what appeals to the reader. And that is where lately I find blogging frustrating.

A lot of people say "blog for yourself." And that is a good maxim. I am left wondering, though, that if someone who writes doesn't care if anyone reads it, why she would put it online line in the first place? There does come a point when if someone doesn't attract readers, it could be a sign to move on to something else. I ask myself that a lot. It may be true that blogging is dead. I tend to think of it more as having been consolidated. It's not an unusual phenomenon that something which began as a venue for the ordinary person becomes "professionalized" in a sense, muting those ordinary voices. It's sort of like what happened with midwifery at the turn of the 20tht century. Medical advancements in obstetrics could have helped childbirth in general, but what it actually did was phase out midwifery for a while, putting the doctors in the forefront. 

Recently, I have noted among women bloggers two extremes: borderline navel gazing or indignant discernment posts about the failings of the Church in general. I don't care for either. I would love to see more theological content that isn't couched in a controversial issue or in the text of a "beating a dead horse" post. I see posts about how women need to be equipped biblically. Where are the posts exegeting a passage of Scripture? I know why they aren't written: they don't attract readers like the extreme posts do.

I've thought about changing the title and content of my blog. There are lots of things I love to write about. Starting in September, I'm starting my Greek studies. I will have three semesters to look forward to. I could call it "It's All Greek to Me!" However, I'm just a beginner, so I can't see any content other than, "I don't know what I'm doing." I have also thought of blogging nothing but quoted passages from good books, especially the Puritans and dead theologians. I would call it "Don't Take My Word For It." But that takes time, and with school, I don't have it. I'm already bogged down with reading.

And then there is the option of not blogging at all. I'm seriously considering applying to do an MDiv Research degree which would definitely put demands on my time that could leave me with little time for blogging. That is something I'm still pondering. I would miss blogging, so I don't want to be hasty.

So, here I am left wondering "What do women want to read about?" Perhaps the better question is "What do the women who read my blog want to read about?" Believe it or not, there are a few readers. And they have been faithful readers and faithful friends. I have to remind myself over and over again that it's not about influence or audience.

I will press on then, with my few faithful, encouraging readers. It's good for my pride in the long run.

Monday
Mar202017

When your child sees a troll in the mall

Many years ago a good friend of mine told me a very funny story. Her son, four years old, was with her as she entered a mall. There were two sets of doors: one from the outside into a the foyer, and one between the foyer and the actual mall. There was a pay phone in the foyer. As she and her son approached the first set of doors, outer doors she spotted a woman on the phone. Knowing her child as she did, she tried to distract him. Children that age don't always have a lot of tact. However, she was not able to prevent his observant little eyes from seeing this woman, who was clearly a dwarf. Breaking the silence of the space between those two sets of doors, were the little boy's said excited cry, "Look, Mom, a troll!"

Well, you can imagine my friend's humiliation. Trying to usher him out quickly, she told him to be quiet. As they opened the door into the mall, he said in amazement, and still audibly: "Look, she even has a little purse!" That was a fairly humbling moment.

Humility. Parenting small children helps us in that regard. With small children, we see that despite all of our training, guidling, instructing, and leading, children refute our fond notions of how much control we have. Children will do and say what we don't expect. In fact they will do what we are raising them to do: act independently.

This does not change when our kids become young adults. Their independence proceeds. Suddenly, they make decisions which may puzzle us. Whose house did he grow up in? How did she come to that conclusion? Older children humble us less in the foolishness typical of childhood, but more in the regular reminders that though we have certainly influenced them, ultimately, they are God's creation, made in his image to reflect him. While they will reflect their upbringing, there is no guarantee they will mirror us exactly. Cloning is not the objective. While of course, we want them to love our God and embrace the faith heritage which they were raised in, that may look different from their parents' lives. My children already have different lives than I did at their age. My oldest is 27, single, and sharing an apartment with her brother. At 27, I had two children, a husband, and a mortgage. 

There is often a lot of competition among young mothers, and it doesn't always subside as kids grow. Instead of taking pride in our child's ability to read independently or tie his shoes, we take pride in whether or not the child is in professional ministry, how many children they have, or what their jobs are. It is a bad habit in both cases. While we raise our children, pouring ourselves into them year after year, it is still God who blesses. Taking pride in their success or complete responsibility for their failures only reveals that we think we have more control than we do. Frankly, I'd rather not think I control my child. I rather think the Spirit of God does.

Watching my adult children as they grow and mature is humbling, although not like my friend in the mall. I see that despite my many failings in teaching them, they do the right thing. Despite the occasions of my own bad example, they show compassion, kindness, and mercy. And despite the times I failed them, they continue to show love toward us, and include us in their lives. I don't get to see them as often as I would like, and I do have one child who isn't very good at keeping in touch, but  I'm thankful for how they have grown and how God has blessed them.