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Entries in All Random All the Time (60)

Tuesday
Nov222016

If there is a mercy in this . . .

. . . and there is always mercy, of course.

I have been on crutches for four weeks now, and I can't say it's one of the more enjoyable experiences I've had. I have pretty bad tendonitis in my forearms, and on Thursday, in order to avoid an exuberant puppy, I fell off a chair, which didn't help my sore forearms any. I couldn't help but think that God is merciful in that this didn't happen when I had small children. I was chatting with my mother last week, and I mentioned to her that in all likelihood, somewhere out there, a young mother has a broken ankle. I may have to keep a puppy under control while on crutches, but at least it's not a child to care for. That would be a whole 'nother situation.

When I began my seminary classes in combination with a new puppy, I knew it would be work. Puppies are always work. But dogs are a joy, and the work is worth it. Puppies calm down eventually. That said, I have had to confine work to times when he is asleep. When the weather was warm, I did a lot of work outside on the deck, and I was thankful for that. Now that I'm unable to do anything else but sit, I still can't do a lot of work when puppy is awake. A quiet puppy can mean trouble, and I've had to make feeble attempts to retrieve things that are better kept out of his mouth; like socks, kleenexes, and this morning, that little package of raccoon scat he felt he needed to bring in the house. Thankfully, my husband was here for that one.

Still, I'm plodding along, thankfully. I'm doing well, and I'm enjoying the work. But it reminds me again of how difficult this would have been with small children. I can put my puppy in a crate for an hour if I need to. One cannot do that with children. Children are infinitely more work than dogs. I could not have managed seminary and children. And I am thankful I was not tempted to try.

Perhaps it is the generation I am from, but I grew up accepting limitations (this is a topic I'm going to re-visit on Friday at Out of the Ordinary for anyone who wants to avoid Black Friday advertising aggression). I grew up understanding that one choice often meant leaving another behind. I did not grow up being told "You can do whatever you want." Today, children are told that. But I don't know as if I believe that. I dreamt of being a professional tennis player; the fact is I was limited in ability and in financial resources available to receive training.

When I had small children, I knew that making a choice to do something like school meant giving up something else. I did my undergraduate degree with small children, but I could only manage one course per semester, and during semesters when I had a baby, I didn't take anything at all. I did all of my work after they went to bed. It meant I didn't watch a lot of television. I've only ever seen two episodes of Seinfeld, and one I watched while I was in labour, to give myself something to do while I waited for the contractions to progress. My water broke in the middle of it, so that was that. In the end, I'm so thankful that things proceeded the way they did. I was here when my children needed me most. Perhaps some people are embarrassed by being "just a mom." At times, I did feel that stigma. And I shouldn't have. It was a gift to be here with them. And now, I'm getting to do something I wanted to do. All in God's timing.

I have no idea why I had to have a broken ankle at this time (other than the fact that I foolishly ran through the house), but along with time for study and time to learn new physical maneuvers (I am getting expert at lowering myself to the ground to sit with the puppy; my good leg is getting very strong), I also have time to think about God's mercy and about how he works things out for our good. 

Tuesday
Nov152016

Stop the world, I want to get off!

Have you felt like that? I think we all have. This past few weeks, I've felt it acutely. Fortunately, for those who belong to Christ, we will get out of this world, and a new one will be ushered in. In my Augustine class, on November 4, we talked about City of God, and the discussion about the Kingdom of God and what that entails was so encouraging.

And then the U.S. election happened; and all that entails. You know what I mean; the rancor, the condescension, the crowing of the victorious, and the despair of the defeated. I know the truth of the ultimate ruler of the universe. I know the eschatological hope. But my heart goes out to those who honestly fear what will happen. There has been a fair bit of jeering (and some if it is deserved) toward those who are very fearful of what is to come, but I wonder how many of those people are minorities. My kids live in a very multi-ethnic city, and they have friends from many different backgrounds, and the fear is real. I am reluctant to mock fear. 

It does feel like the world has gone crazy. When people I once respected reveal an ugly side, it bothers me. It also makes me re-evaluate myself. Have I come across like that? Lord, I hope not. I am torn between wanting to rant at the top of my lungs or retreat entirely.

We are so distracted by the world around us. Things are enticing. We end up wasting time, partaking of the mundane, the ultimately useless. "Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things" (Ps. 119:37). How much of our time is spent on things that are of no eternal value? And how many of those are dressed up as if they are "Christian?" Sometimes, I feel as if Christian commentary is more about pop culture or politics than Christ. Yes, I know we have to engage with those things, but honestly, I don't see a lot of good coming from either location. Some of it is not worth engaging.

We are studying the origins of humanity in my theology class. This has led to a discussion of being made in the image of God means. You see that phrase a lot these days, done up in Latin for good measure: Imago Dei. I thought that the few things I'd read on the subject were useful. Millard Erickson digs deep, and asks questions I have never thought of. This encourages me in a world where I want to get off. I encourages me to ponder who God is, and by extension, who I am. This is comfort to me. And quite serendipitously, much of the course material in Augustine is dovetailing with the theology class. I'm reading Augustine's book on the Trinity. Those ancient writers knew how to ponder God well.

I've also picked up The Valley of Vision for another read, and I'm following along with a daily reading schedule that I got from Joe Thorn's blog years ago. I want to ponder God more deeply. In the face of a crazy world, he is the one to whom we turn. Only he will suffice. He is our hope. Looking to people, things, and earthly kingdoms will only provide the most fleeting hope.

I do want to get off this world, whenever God ordains that to be. It often discourages me to think about what the future holds for my kids and their kids, but I guess I'm not the first woman to ponder such a quesion. All I can do is rejoice in the Lord, see his goodness, be grateful in the small things, and cling to the hope of the coming kingdom.

Monday
Nov072016

Is chivalry dead?

I had a very interesting couple of days at school last week. On Thursday, I went to my theology class, having been driven there by my husband. When one of my classmates arrived, she was quick to sit beside me and offer help. She handed in my assignment for me and periodically asked if I needed to put my foot up. My professor had told the class the week before what had happened, so there were a couple of people who were also willing to help. I had to write the quiz I missed the previous week, and when I was done, I stood up, and my prof came forward quickly, so I wouldn't have to get up. He's such a nice man. 

On Saturday, it was a different story. My Augustine class did not begin well. The doors of the academic building were locked, and even when the prof arrived at 8:50, they were still locked, and it took him a few minutes to find the key. I stood on my good foot (there were no benches at the entrance), leaning against a stone fence, but it was cool out. I could have gone back to the car, but in recent days, my elbows and forearms are beginning to ache a little, and it was easier to just stand. Thankfully, my husband was there to hold the door open once it was unlocked. There are no automatic door openers at the school.

Of course, I was the last student in. My husband dropped off my bag and left while I clattered my crutches and plopped down in my seat. It was announced at the beginning of the class that our marked assignments were available at the front of the room. I didn't even bother trying to get up, because I just got sat down, and everyone else was rushing forward. No one asked me if they could pick up my assignment for me. At the first break, a young lady (who also happens to be a friend of my son) asked me if she could get me anything. That was really sweet of her. For the rest of the day, however, I received no such offers. When lunch arrived, I didn't leave the classroom, which was how I planned it. Occasionally, one of the students came in and out, but not one word was spoken to me. This was weird. Earlier, when we were waiting for the academic building to be unlocked, my husband commented to me that my classmates weren't very friendly. It must be true, because he doesn't say things like that as a rule.

When break time and everyone was making quick trips to Tim Horton's for coffee, I was not asked if I would like something. For all intents and purposes, my injury was invisible. I don't mind being invisible most of the time, and I don't really need sympathy, but it was a strange feeling. I'm a big girl, and I was able to live without a mid-afternoon cup of tea. But I did wonder if chivalry is really dead. Here I was in a room where there were pastors and men who were going to be pastors, and not one offer of help, even at the end of the day when I had to carry my book bag and hobble down the hall to leave.

It occurred to me that those men were possibly apprehensive about offering help to a woman without being misunderstood. Or perhaps there is a reluctance to help someone with mobility issues for fear of insulting her. Or maybe they were just apathetic. I don't really know. But it is a curious thing. If I had a classmate on crutches and I was going to get refreshments, I would offer to get her some, too. What really struck me was the different experience between that class and Thursday's class.

It made me think a lot about how people with permanent mobility issues must have to deal with this stuff regularly. Having a good friend who uses a wheelchair, I've had more than one occasion to think of this. I do notice more now whether places are accessible. No, we don't want to patronize people with mobility issues and assume they cannot be independent. They certainly can be. But being mindful of someone who has limitations and being willing to help are not difficult things. I felt vulnerable knowing that I was in a building where there is mostly ceramic title and concrete paths (not to mention a lot of stairs, which I avoided), and having the potential to fall down. We take our working limbs for granted most of the time.

Thankfully, I have three weeks until my next Augustine class. I will still have my cast and crutches, but I'll be wiser and perhaps solicit my son who lives nearby to bring me a tea in the mid-afternoon. And I'll be a lot better at pushing open the bathroom door on my own than I was on Saturday morning.

Saturday
Jul302016

React, critique, build

This is a rather random post this morning. I'm enjoying the sound of the much-needed rain falling. 

I was thinking about change; specifically how I've changed in the past few years. Some might say I've changed for the worse. I'm attending seminary, which some think I shouldn't do. I am willing to read opposing views on issues, which some say I shouldn't do. I've had a few critiques of complementarianism, which some have come to see as an indication that I'm becoming "liberal." 

I was looking back over the past fifteen years, pondering the growth (or lack, I suppose) in my Christian life. Much of my growth has come as I have explored Reformed theology. Much of my growth has come as I've learned a lot about studying God's word and deriving theology from it. Much of it has come from simply watching others. Sometimes, my thought processes have been similar to a crusade. I can distinctly remember times in the past when every morning, I was still thinking and churning over an issue. I will (with embarrassment) admit to actively participating in dialogue before having a full understanding of the matter. And there are times when I've just had to be silent; although those silent times are probably not frequent enough.

I think my growth in Christ has followed a three part path: I react to something, I critique it and investigate it, and then I build. This is how I was when I discovered Reformed theology. I purchased a book called Grace Unknown (which is now called What is Reformed Theology?) by R.C. Sproul. I wanted to learn about grace, hence my purchase of the book. I had no idea that what I read would change everything. I did react to these new teachings. I was bothered by some. Sometimes, the newly converted are the most vocal, and I did a lot of critique. I was likely not charitable about things, and I'm sure I came across as beating a dead horse and banging the same drum far too often. I think that's what we do when we come across something that shakes us up.

And then we build. That's when we have to stop banging the drum and do the hard work of understanding. That may involve time apart from the sound of others' similar sounding drums. There is such benefit in sitting down and immersing ourselves in what we don't understand and unraveling things.

At times, I am tempted to sigh with frustration when I see others in that critique stage, where every word out of their mouths is an impassioned critique. I certainly don't have to read that person's writings. And I need to be gracious, because I think there are times when we have to go through that. I do find that as I get older, I want to critique less and less because being in the build phase is so much easier. It takes energy to critique, to be fired up about something. I am finding more pleasure in expending that energy on the build phase. I have also found (to my detriment) that seminary and involvement in the latest controversy don't mix well. The paper I wrote this past semestser on John's use of Isaiah would have benefitted greatly from avoiding social media during the recent Trinity debates.

There are times when we do need to dismantle things and evaluate. But we also have to spend the time building. When we point out discrepancies, we do need to have in the back of our minds at the very least, a way forward. It does no good to tell others "don't do this!" or "don't read that!" if we're not willing to give guidance to what they should do or should read. We need to build. The critique part is easy, but building takes work.

Thursday
Jul282016

Family t.v. shows teaches about the difference between Canada and the U.S.

A while ago, on Facebook, someone made a comment about how the U.S. culture and Canada was "almost identical." I excused that individual's ignorance of Canadian culture, coming from someone who was not born here, and has seen very little of Canada. While there are similarities, there remain some big differences. And no, it has nothing to do with coffee, poutine, or the use the word "eh" (please spare me from referring to that word as representive of Canada).

Over the past few weeks, I have seen a glaring difference.

Having watched just about every British crime drama that Netflix and PBS had to offer, I recently began looking for something edifying to watch. Note the word "edifying." There are many popular shows on Netflix, and perhaps I could practice my Christian liberty and watch some, but I'm afraid I'm not up for it. I want something that doesn't leave me feeling utterly grossed out before bed.

While scouring Netflic, I came across a show that has been on Canadian television for ten years now, Heartland. I knew of its existence, but since we watch next to no network television, I had never seen it. I decided to watch it, despite its description on Netflix as "teen drama." I also knew its timeslot on Sunday evening meant it likely didn't have a lot of skin. It doesn't. It's a very family-friendly drama.

Yes, the endings are too neat, and the main character, a spunky horse whisperer named Amy, is just about too perfect, but honestly, the scenery (southern Alberta) is too breathtaking to miss. I just enjoy watching what kind of light the camera used at various points. And yes, there are happy endings. Lots of them. And the characters are likeable. The grandfather character is fantastic; I wish I'd had a grandpa like him.

Something else is very noteworthy. In this drama surrounding a Canadian family of ranchers, there are the typical pieces to the setting: Chevy trucks, horses, cattle, the rodeo, big barns with neatly kept stalls, blue jeans, cowboy hats, and big family meals with meat and potatoes. The show even uses Canadian made country music as its soundtrack. What is missing? Any reference to God. These people are good, moral people, but there is no hint of religious life, not even the obligatory Christmas and Easter church attendance.

One episode revolves around the baby naming ceremony of a recent addition to the family. In this family, every member is given a stone in the big fireplace in the ranch house as he or she is named. There was a momentary reference to a christening, but that was it for religious allusions. It was an entirely secular ceremony. But that is to be expected here in Canada. There is no Christian nostalgia to our popular culture like there is in the U.S. I can't help but think that if this was made in the U.S., there would be at least a few references to attending church, praying befor a meal, or maybe even a character who was a minister who made occasional appearances. Even the British crime shows have the occasional Vicar.

Despite the "down home" feeling of this television program, there is no reference to religion at all. And that is not surprising. This is not a "Christian" country. We don't make any pretence of being one. That makes a huge difference between us and the U.S.

Of course Canada and the U.S. share similarities. Ultimately, we fought for freedom from the same country years ago even if our break from Britain was not bloody (a fact itself which results in a very different kind of culture here in Canada). But it's not "identical." The fact that Canada is very secular probably bothers some people a great deal. I figure we just arrived here sooner than our neighbours.