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Friday
Aug172018

Be a renaissance woman

When I was in 7th grade, there was a guy named Kim in my class. Because we have the same name, of course, I took note. He was an excellent student. People made fun of him because he dressed like he was out of the 1950's (glasses included) and because he was smart. He also played the violin beautifully. I was in the throes of my piano studies at the time, so I was in awe of his talent. It was the thing he did best. I wanted to be good at something like that; to excel at one grand passion. Imagine my disappointment when my horoscope told me I would not excel at one thing, but take an interest in many things.

Now, you will have to excuse me. I was not a Christian at the time, and I was a silly girl. But this bothered me. I wanted to be good at one thing, doggone it! I worked very hard at my piano because that was what I decided I would focus on. Sadly, that didn't pan out because my family moved when I was 14, and I was taken away from my excellent teacher and handed over to to a teacher who would never meet my expectations.

And then came writing. I would focus on that. In 9th grade, it was tennis. That lasted a little longer. I returned to my focus in writing later. When I was doing my undergraduate studies, I would take a course and really enjoy it, and think, "Yes, this is what I want to study!" There was the history of Western Canada, linguistics, Shakespeare. And in my seminary studies, it's been the same. Systematics? Yes! That is my focus. Church History? That's it! Greek? Of course!

I have decided that although horoscopes are not valid, and it's bad theology to even consider them, the prediction was right. There is just too much to do; too much to learn; too many fun things to do; too many creative outlets. Over the years, I've been able to sew, quilt, knit, crochet, cook, bake, learn, garden, teach my children, teach others, take pictures. I'd much rather a renaissance woman than a one-trick pony.

Perhaps some day, I will be a grandmother. And maybe all of this exploring will help me engage with them or teach them. And maybe they will be the grand passion that takes over.

Thursday
Aug162018

Three approaches to New Testament Greek

I really enjoy my Greek studies. In fact, it's my favourite part of seminary at the moment. Not everyone feels the same. In listening to the voices of other Greek students, books, and other resources which have helped me in my studies, I see three different attitudes.

"I have to take this class."

When some people find out that I am not in the MDiv program and don't need to take these classes (I'm using my electives to take them), they ask why. I was speaking with one woman last semester who had finished all of the biblical language requirements, and was glad to be done with them. She had to take them, and she was glad that was the end of it. I feel bad for those who really don't like the study. It can feel tedious if you don't actually like it, and when we actually like something, we learn better.

"I want to be able to interpret Scripture better."

This, of course, is the reason why studying Greek is beneficial for people who proclaim the Bible. Whether it's getting a sermon ready for Sunday morning, preparing a Sunday school lesson, or writing a blog post that deals with a biblical subject, Greek is another tool in our toolbox. Learning the vocabulary, the paradigms, and wresting through translations is work with a purpose. We're going to gain something at the end of all of that effort. And as we read and study more, so does our ability to understand.

"I want to understand language better."

This is a benefit that becomes apparent once you get into Greek studies. As we learn Greek, all of a sudden grammar rules become important. We may find out that we don't actually know what a transitive verb is or what a direct object is. English is our mother tongue, and we don't regularly analyze how we put sentences together unless we're taking an English or writing class; it's just intuitive. Greek means we start to look at such things. We can also explore principles of linguistics to aid our study. I have read one book already this summer on how linguistics applies to Greek studies, and I just started another. It's fascinating. For me, gaining a deeper understanding of how language works in general, in addition to how English and Greek work is helpful. 

I suppose in this day and age when we can use images, emoticons, and GIFs to communicate, it may seem like a make-work project to understand written language better. But language is the way we communicate, and it seems to me that there are benefits of spoken and written language that images can't provide. There is a reason, after all, why the Bible was eventually put down on piece of parchment, in words, in order to preserve it.

Sunday
Aug122018

How Sweet and Aweful is the Place

How sweet and aweful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cries, with thankful tongues,
"Lord, why was I a guest?"

"Why was I made to hear Thy voice
And enter while there's room
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?"

'Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O Lord our God;
Constrain the earth to come,
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice, and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

 

Thursday
Aug092018

Give me a small church any day

When my husband and I were newlyweds, we attended a church whose pastor was arrested for lewd acts in the men's bathroom of a local mall. We read about it in the newspaper. Actually, to be more specific, my brother (who is not a Christian) showed me the newspaper and said, "Isn't this your pastor?"

I was a fairly new Christian at the time, having been converted only four years earlier. There was a lot I didn't know or understand, and I was shocked beyond measure at this reality. My husband, having grown up in the church was less flabbergasted, but there we were, a young couple with a baby, without a church home, feeling a little disillusioned. 

In God's providence, shortly after those events, we moved across the country for my husband's job. We found ourselves in a very small local church which turned out to be the best church we have ever attended. There was only about thirty people when we first joined, and we met in a school. But it was a wonderful church. It was a praying church, and the pastor preached rich, expository sermons. I had a prayer partner with whom I met weekly. Our group would gather together regularly in homes for fellowship. One couple, whose daughter was 13 at the time, took us under their wing. They would arrive at our home on a Saturday night with their daughter, and say, "She's babysitting, and we're going out for coffee." Though it has been twenty-two years since I moved away from there, when I was back visiting in June, I had dinner with four of the women I went to church with there. When we get together, it is like we have never been apart.

Having a small church in a school means that the nursery did not have an elaborate scheme. It meant that sometimes, we paced the gynmasium floor with a crying child because there wasn't an arsenal of nursery workers, and I didn't always get to stay in the church service. It meant setting up the chairs, taking the hymnbooks home every week. But it also meant we could use the gym on Saturday nights for volleyball. It meant we worked together.

The church I attend today has more than 250 people. It is a well-run body of believers. There is a great organizational structure, and we have lots of amenities. I'm thankful that we have biblical preaching. But I don't know everyone. In fact, I would be willing to bet I don't know most of the people there. We have more than one morning service, so it's possible to actually never have a conversation with someone or even realize she's been attending there for three or four years.

For young famililes, I'm sure the many programs and activities are a great blessing. When my kids were younger, the church was smaller, but we still had activities for them. I'm thankful we always had a Sunday school class for them to attend and they were encouraged to sit in church after they were in Kindergarten. As for the other numerous programs over the years, I'm thankful for people who cared about my childre during those years. But I miss the kind of intimacy we had in our small church. I was only one of two young mothers in that other church. The age integration made fellowship much different than spending most of my time with other mothers. There was less pressure. It was a more relaxed, intimate environment, but it was a godly, thankful, worshipful one.

In recent days, I have followed the story of the debacle at Willow Creek, and contemplated what it is like to attend a church where there are "campuses," and the pastor is on a "stage."  That does not appeal to me. I am grateful that my church isn't any bigger than it is. I miss my little church in a school. I miss knowing the people well. I miss that intimacy. Some day, I hope I can attend one of those small churches again.

Wednesday
Aug082018

This is not a post for men

I really enjoyed an article I saw on Twitter over the weekend.It was called The Gift of Menopause. As a woman in that phase of life, I was, of course interested. I really enjoyed it, and identified with much of it. Especially the puppy part. I highly recommend a puppy in menopause. Just be careful when puppy is at your feet; it could result in a dislocated and broken ankle.

Concurrent with reading this article, I am reading a book about the history of childbirth in Canada. It is fascinating. The way surgery and the science of medicine changed childbirth practices and prenatal care is really interesting to me. It is also interesting that even in the early 1900's, there was very little understanding of how conception even happened. In one particlarly distrubing section, the author discussed how doctors speculated why some acts of intercourse resulted in pregnancy and others did not. It was proposed that if a woman was aroused, conception was more likely to take place. From this conclusion, it was decided that in situations when rape resulted in pregnancy, it was because the woman enjoyed the act. Make of that what you will.

The process of becoming fertile, followed by child bearing years, and culminating in menopause is indeed that: a process. And just as it takes many of us thirteen or more years to become fertile, it can take a while for our bodies to forget all of that stuff. It isn't always enjoyable. As I was looking at my Facebook memories, I saw yet again, a comment from 2011 that I had woken with a headache. I also see frequent complaints from that time about not sleeping well, and I can see that my moods were more changeable. Thank goodness for Facebook; I was able to preserve my whining and complaining.

Menopause can be a gift, but I have always wondered why they call menstruation the curse when it's actually the process of menopause that feels like a curse. When I was 40, I was very arrogant about how I was not going to let the process affect me. *Cue the uproarious sound of laughter.*

It did. And it does. Yes, I have gained weight. And no, I did't have a problem keeping it off before. Yes, I exercise regularly. And sometimes, if I lose a few pounds, it doesn't come from my waistline, but my face, so I look like I have an illness but no waist.

The headaches are mostly gone, for which I am thankful. But I still struggle on occasion with waking up several times a night. And it's not just the "vaguely aware of being awake kind" of waking. It's the "hello, it's morning!" kind of waking up. If I start to hear the same song over and over again in my head, I know I'll be awake for more than a few minutes. When my son was still at home, and preparing for his piano exams, I would often hear the songs he'd been practicing. One particularly bad night, I happened to have the song "Why Can't We Be Friends?" foisted upon my slumber. I won't mention whose book I read before turning off the light. 

My doctor speculates that menopause is largely the reason why my anxiety spiralled out of control. I have also known women whose depression got worse when they hit menopause. That estrogen: we need it. It's our lifeblood in many ways, even when we're not fertile. It helps us. And because it likes fat tissue once our ovaries have stopped working as they once did, a little belly fat may not be a bad thing. 

Menopause can be a gift, but it's not always pleasant, and it's a complete mystery how we will each experience it. And whether it's a gift or not depends on other factors in life such as whether or not we have marital troubles, aging parents, unruly children. But I continue to find it fascinating how God has designed our bodies. They really are a wonderful work. And part of the aging process is indeed finding what other people think of us less and less enticing. And that's a good thing; especially if you have to go bathing suit shopping.