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Getting sucked in

My husband is away at a conference and I've been on my own since Monday. I have been gainfully occupied while he was away, but there have been a few moments when I've had time to scan my social media feeds. I have been using social media since 2007, and nothing really changes.

People still cry ad hominem while doing it themselves. You keep using that word . . . 

Trolls are still everywhere.

Bullies behave on social media pretty much like they do in person.

People are more interested in attempting to be witty than they are wise.

I participated in a brief exchange last night on Twitter, and while it was very cordial (although I still have some points of disagreement) I went to bed feeling rather discouraged. What was the value of that wasted 30 minutes? By the time I went up to bed, I was getting sleepy and my eyes were getting heavy while reading the details of the Council of Elrond. Those thirty minutes could have been better spent. Did those 30 minutes online edify me in any real way?

The other day, I wrote about being an older woman and seeking wisdom, and it's almost like as soon as those words left my fingertips, I was challenged in the very things I espoused. It's a daily challenge. I know myself; feeling like I have to correct someone or make them see my point of view is a pride issue. The reality is that even though two people may look at the same issue, the same implications, and yes, the same biblical passages, they may still end up at different positions.

I want so much to grow in wisdom. I want to walk with the wise, to listen to the wise, and learn from the wise. Step one is to go where the wise are. The wise listen more than they talk, so they are probably the ones who didn't fall asleep during the Council of Elrond.


Older woman, don't be a trope

No, not a "dope," but a "trope."

My husband land I love watching British television. Well, he likes the mysteries the most, but I like all of it. I subscribe to Acorn TV, where I can watch my fill. One of the shows I recently began watching is The Indian Doctor. It is a show about a doctor from Delhi who moves with his wife to a small Welsh village in the early 1960's. It's kind of like Doc Martin, but the doctor in this show is actually pleasant (although I LOVE Doc Martin).

There is a character on The Indian Doctor who is an older woman. She runs the local shop where people gather to buy their groceries. She's grandmother age, very silly, critical, and a gossip. My husband commented to me while watching, "The silly older woman is a trope on these shows." And it is true. Another show my husband and I watched on PBS, Ballylkissangel, about a small Irish village, had a similar type of woman, who, co-incidentally ran the local shop. The irritating Mrs. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice is not the first woman of that kind: older, silly, with nothing better to do than interfere.

As I thought about that idea of the silly older woman, I thought about Titus 2:3; that verse people like to use as the sole mandate for women's conduct in the Church. I was thinking in particular of the word "reverent" in that verse. In Greek, the word is hieroprepeis (ἵεροπρεπεις). That word is used only twice in the New Testament: here in Titus and in Hebrews 11:7, where it describes Noah's attitude in building the ark. There, it is said to be "reverent fear." Here in Titus, it describes the attitude of older woman.

Some say that every woman is an older woman to someone. But I think we need to be careful in that conclusion. Bill Mounce, in his commentary on Titus, does not go into detail about the age of the older woman, but other Greek writers such as Philo used it to refer to woman over sixty years of age. While I do agree that to a 15 year old girl, a 30 year old woman seems old, there is a sense in which an older woman means just that: someone who is seen as older generally speaking.

The word for "reverent" can be translated as holy, befitting what is sacred, becoming holy, and worthy of honour. That principle of holiness is a good guide for our conduct. We are to take seriously that holiness which is expected of us. Holiness means separation; separation to God. But it also means there are times when we must separate ourselves in the sense that we can no longer act like we're younger women.

We don't like getting older in the current culture. There are multi-million dollar industries which help women to stave off the inevitable. Society, even the Church, places a lot of focus on the young and beautiful. And it is telling for what it reveals about what we value. My husband once asked me with regard to the women who have spoken at my church's women's conferences: "Why is the speaker always young and beautiful instead of old and plain?" Christian women should know the value of getting older and gaining life experience, and embrace the changes that come with it.

I can't provide guidelines for how I believe older women are to act. I can only address my own conscience. I do think, though, that the trope of the silly older woman who only invites ridicule is something we should work to avoid becoming. Rather, we should be diligent to keep working for Christ, to be actively looking for ways to exalt his name in word and deed. It may mean doing what isn't popular or that which doesn't attract attention. It may mean we have to alter our conduct. There is nothing wrong with asking myself, "Am I acting like a reverent woman?"

For myself, when I think of the women I know whom I consider reverent, I am drawn to their discretion, their refusal to do things simply to draw attention to themselves, their understanding of when to speak and when to be silent, and their self-control. Reverence doesn't have to be stodgy or boring, but even if it did necessiate that, if it was a choice between being "cool" and irreverent or "boring" and reverent, I'd take boring. And perhaps there are those who think I have already chosen it. So be it.


O Love Divine

O love divine, amazing love
That brought to earth from Heav'n above
The Son of God for us to die,
That we might swell on high


He died for you, He died for me,
And shed His blood to make us free.
Upon the cross of Calvary,
The Saviour died for me.

For us a crown of thorns He bore,
For us a robe of scorn He wore.
He conquered death and rent the grave
And lives again our souls to save.

O wand'rer come, on Him believe,
His grace by faith receive
Awake, arise, and hear His call,
The feast is spread for all.

Words: Fanny Crosby
Music: Traditional Irish Hymn arr. Ruth Coleman


If we aren't good readers, we may misunderstand the Bible

I have been reading Linguistics and Biblical Exegesis. So far, this is a very fascinating read. And I've already ordered one of the books which has been mentioned frequently in the footnotes. Ah, footnotes, how I do love thee.

In the introductory essay, the writer, Wendy Widder, comments:

Lingustic analysis focuses on trying to understand the language of a text. If we misunderstand a language we will also misunderstand a text. (emphasis mine)

This is true for biblical Greek, but how about English? As someone who teaches teens, this is often at the front of my thinking: how well do my students read English? The first time my husband and I taught teens was over 20 years ago. Literacy has changed among that group from what I have seen. And I'm not alone in that observation.

When my daughter was a teaching assistant while working on her Master's of English, after having been out of high school for only five years herself, she commented on how poorly many of the students read. She didn't think most students were very well-prepared for university. How well do our young people read? And I'm not talking about those with learning challenges; that is a separate issue.

As their leaders and teachers in the Church, do we encourage reading in general? Yes, we are there to teach, but part of being a good teacher is preparing someone to learn independently. We do have Bible versions that are easier, but one thing we have to remember is that the more dynamic translations often have to sacrifice nuance in order to attain readability; nuance that more difficult translations can reveal. A version like the NIV is great for someone who is 12 years old, but the average student on the brink of graduating from high school can manage the ESV or the NASB. They will, after all, confront more difficult reading if they go to college or university. We warn our kids about the perils of things online, but do we encourage them to put down their phones, video games, and streaming services to read?

Often, because we know young people are developing social connections, what we offer them in youth groups is a lot of social interaction. That is good, but I wonder if anyone has ever offered a youth group the opportunity to read a book together. Perhaps that is too nerdy. My daughter would have loved that. While the female youth events often revolved around maintaining purity and watching Pride and Prejudice, my daughter would have loved to read a good book and talk about it. She was born to be a lover of reading, but even those who don't love it as she does need to read well.

I was challenged as a teacher by the principle that misunderstanding language will mean we misunderstand the biblical text. When I am teaching teens, I'm doing more than telling them what the spiritual implications of the passage are; I am also contributing to their understanding of language. It is an opportunity to encourage good reading skills. It encourages me to stop the habit I've had of using the NIV to teach them, but return to using either the ESV or NASB.


Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness

Jseus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
'Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I life up my head.

Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

Lord, I believe Thy precious blood,
Which at the mercy seat of God
For ever doth for sinners plead,
For me, e'en for my soul was shed.

Lord, I believe were sinners more 
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou has for all a ransom paid,
For all full atonement made.

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