Thursday, June 28, 2007

An Interesting Question

Let me start with a series of questions, not wanting to assume anything.

  1. Is America presently the country prescribed in the Constitution?

  2. Is this good or bad?

  3. If it is bad, is there any hope? If good, is there any danger?

  4. If something can be done, what?

  5. How long do we have before it is too late? (When must something be done?)

  6. Is what might be done legal? Is it right?

  7. What opposition might be faced?

  8. Does God intend to do anything?

  9. Has God rescued nations in the past?

  10. Has God chosen not to rescue nations in the past?

  11. Are His decisions seemingly arbitrary, or do they go by rule?

Douglas MacKinnon asks an interesting question in his Townhall article, Can You Save the Dream that Was America?

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." - from The Declaration of Independence

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." - Second Amendment of the United States Contstitution, ratified December 15, 1791 (emphasis and link mine)

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


A weary mom leaned her head back against the couch, eyes resting while her child mercifully slept. It had been a long 24 hours. The bottle set aside for a moment, a hand alternately rubbed, then patted the back of the just-dozing infant. After the expected burp, he would be laid quietly to nap in his crib.

Why do mothers pat the backs of their babies to draw a burp? Experience would teach them that infants who have just guzzled milk need to burp to sleep comfortably. But what logic tells a mom that gently hitting her baby's back will cause this rather than simply waking him? If a woman had never heard of burping a baby, is that how she would do it? There is little science involved. Those who burp their young ones didn't read the study or the parenting-method that told them exactly what is happening beneath the skin of the child. No, they got the idea from every other woman they've ever observed feeding a baby.

"It takes a village," they say. I disagree. A village isn't required to raise a child. But it certainly helps if the mother was raised around other mothers, including her own. And when I say "raised around," I don't mean that I hope when she was a little girl she occasionally encountered perfect-looking mothers pushing strollers in the park. The young woman I picture got to hold new babies, and sit by while mothers fed their children. She had years of semi-apprenticeship behind her. Older mothers were willing to teach, and to pass on the wisdom they got from their mothers and aunts and their friends.

My idea of discipleship is doing life together. You might think of the padawans in Star Wars. Or, if you're less mystically-minded, you might just envision the way Jesus treated His followers, known as the 12 disciples. They lived with Him, walked with Him, ate with Him, accompanied Him in ministry, heard His teaching, and asked Him questions. He led by example, gave instruction, sent out, and provided refuge when they were resting between assignments.

The Walk, one of my favorite books, by Michael Card, is a lesson on discipleship from the book of Mark and the experiences of the author. A few years ago at church we were going to study discipleship in Sunday school, and I was so excited, because in almost every church I've seen, real, life-encompassing discipleship is so lacking. I was disappointed by the actual topic being the cost of discipleship, having to do with the Lordship of Christ more than the relationship in which we follow Him.

Even when churches do encourage real discipleship (between Christians, not just between us and Jesus), it tends to be a program-oriented mentor ministry in which the participants are paired off by some power-that-is, and assigned to meet weekly for prayer or Bible study. I never want that, so I don't sign up. Once a week things keep me surviving, but I thrive on relationship. My desire is to be a constant Christian, constant friend, and constant disciple.

Today, then, was lovely, because I spent it with a woman I respect, who is ahead of me on the journey of following God. I helped her pack for her move, and look after her kids. We did life together. While we were doing it I learned good tips about packing and organizing, truths about child-rearing, as well as some theological, spiritual, and general relationship things through our varied conversation. She isn't perfect, and neither am I, of course, but isn't it good to see the humanity of your mentor? And to be growing as she grows?

I laugh when I visit her, because she and her husband always tease me about not wanting to come back, or being intimidated from parenthood by their 9 month old and 2 year old. Quite the contrary. By being with them I see that there are hard days, but they're so worth it. The smiles and laughter and glorious opportunity to form lives are not to be missed for all the dirty diapers, temper tantrums, sickness, and hard work in the world.

On this blog I cast forth ideals a lot. What should the world be? What should church be? What should I be? I know I can sound like I complain. Tonight I just want to share that Titus 2 is being lived by some older women I know, and I'm grateful.

To God be all glory.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Chocolate Trifle

I mentioned this dessert on my last post, and decided to give you the simple, variable instructions on making it.

I use a pedestal dessert dish, and can make three layers most of the time. The first layer is brownies torn to pieces, covering the whole surface. Then add chocolate mousse (or thick pie filling or the no-bake chocolate desserts mixed). After this is whipped cream (or Cool Whip). Finally crumble a candy bar like a Skor Bar or Hershey's Cookies 'n Chocolate (may not be available anymore); make sure it is crumbly, not too hard, and has lots of chocolate! I use mini semi-sweet chocolate chips in a pinch.

Try to keep the layers as straight and separate as possible, and do three layers. I use about 16-20 oz. of Cool Whip, 3-4 cups of Chocolate Mousse, a couple regular-sized candy bars, and one batch of brownies (cooled completely).

My friends all love it, and I'm sorry to see it go so fast, because I would love more myself! This is the general idea.

Flashes of Genius (leave spots in your eyes)

You have probably noticed that when a camera flashes in order to get the least realistic lighting for the image of you which will afterwards be shown to everyone, your eyes smart with odd lights and spots (like seeing something in negative color) for moments afterward. Is it possible that genius, which for me only comes in flashes and not in sustained blazes at all, leaves the same effects? I thought it was a fun way to describe the semi-incoherence I am presently experiencing and the truth of Jack Sparrow's comment on "madness or brilliance": "It's remarkable how often those two traits coincide."

I just watched most of a movie called Proof (skip chapter 7 and don't watch if you're sensitive to language) starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins. The plot is about insane math geniuses (I know it's not all that original; then again, I believe many math geniuses were or became insane, providing the world with several interesting stories for inspiration). The movie is a mystery as you're not sure whether what you want to believe is really the delusions of a maniac. Characters are frustratingly quiet - intentionally so by the writers' parts.

The experience of an hour and a half is that I'm desperate to simply be a genius, and not to have to prove myself or make myself clear. I want a few people to be interested in my thoughts and not need or want explanations. However, I do not want to be a genius at math, and especially not at proofs, as those seem like a lot of work.

So in what field do I want to work, do I want to be a true proficient genius? At the end of the movie, overwhelmed by all the work the details of which were conveniently avoided in the script, I thought that I could invest hours and effort like that only into being a person. Which I know sounds strange because everyone is a person. What I mean is relationships, teaching, discipling, listening, being a friend, a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister. Some days, like the characters in the movie, I'm afraid to try. I don't try; I waste days.

I like writing, would really love it if I were a genius at expression, but I know I'm not. And sewing is fun; designing my own ways of putting a dress or apron together is exciting, but I am only really good enough to satisfy myself and to do simple things. Decorating is an exercise that always inspires me, yet there again I'm no creative wonder. On cooking and desserts I can improvise and experiment a little outside of the recipe's lines; many people can do that. In fact many people can be good at relationships.

Is it a rule that to be a genious you have to be exceptional? Did God possibly create men originally with the capacity to all be geniuses? What would a world be like if men were all brilliantly intelligent? What would our world be like if everyone was an expert at relationships?

In any case, I think that the expense of a life is worth the investment in others' lives. I believe it is God's calling for me.

Speaking of callings (and thank you for heeding my thoughts without explanation, as I'm in a burst of bullet-thoughts after the movie), Proof is set in Chicago. I love Chicago. There are a lot of scenes in winter, which I have not personally witnessed, but I hear it is the worst. Everyone wears coats and hats and walks carefully on the ice. In the early fall there are trees, and the lake, and big old houses. At night there are lights climbing into the sky testifying of the magnificent buildings that dazzle me every time I visit Chicago. Parks, stone, humidity, airports, buildings, trees, grass. The sights gather me up as if in their arms and hold me tight. God has taken me to Chicago several times.

If He ever brings me again, I'll be more excited even than last time I went. Last time was so precious, so much more like home than any place I've ever been, but God taught me then that if He won't give me something that I want so much (to stay in Chicago), He must have a really good reason, a calling here, where I am now. So I stay here, knowing this is where God wants me. I'd never go to Chicago even for a visit unless God brought me, because I don't want to go anywhere without Him. But when He brings me again, I'll know more than ever what a chance it is.

When I say things like "brought" I don't mean anything weird like being forced there or finding a ticket in my purse one day. God simply, in a way very like Him, works out details that fit with what I already know He wants me to do. And "without Him" still acknowledges that He is everywhere; I just mean against Him, I guess.

Miss Potter also deals with the theme of home, of living in a place where you belong, where your heart is at rest and you are inspired. Though I profess to love Chicago most of any place in the world, I haven't visited the Lake Country where Miss Beatrix Potter lived, and might change my mind if I ever get to visit. That is the movie I watched yesterday with some of my friends. We had quite the lace-bedecked party, eating something called Chocolate Trifle and my first try (successful!) at fresh-squeezed lemonade, and french toast and strawberries... In honor of the title character we each read aloud a passage of our favorite children's litererature. The afternoon was wonderful, and I went to bed thinking, "Praise, praise, praise to my Good God."

To God be all glory.

Shaping of Things to Come Part 3

From page 12 of The Shaping of Things to Come:

By apostolic we mean a mode of leadership that recognizes the fivefold model detailed by Paul in Ephesians 6 [sic].” I venture to guess from the context that they meant Ephesians 4. Also, ‘apostle’ means messenger, and would fit well with the ‘missional’ definition of church the authors, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, advocate.

It abandons the triangular hierarchies of the traditional church…” (which would be, I suppose, a ‘senior pastor’ overseeing elders or associate pastors who oversee the congregation – or some more complicated model based on this) “…and embraces a biblical, flat-leadership community…” Flat-leadership community is an awesome way of describing the associate elders depicted in the Bible. Several qualified men with different gifts weave their gifts together in a mutually discipling, teaching, learning, and accountability community to form an umbrella of unified leadership, oversight, and protection of the church. In this there is no ‘buck stops here,’ no ‘lonely at the top,’ no competition, and no one man shouldering the world of expectations a church has for its leader.

“…that unleashes the gifts of evangelism, apostleship, and prophecy as well as the currently popular pastoral and teaching gifts.” I want to say that the word ‘unleashes’ is exactly what I discovered while leading the spiritual gifts study last year. Proper implementation of church unleashes all of the gifts, many of which are suppressed in the bottom-heavy leadership and institutional structure of the traditional church.

I would argue on the Greek, however, that pastoral is coupled with teaching, as indicated in some translations “pastor-teacher” leaving Paul’s description as the four-fold model of leadership.

To God be all glory.

Crystal's New Baby

This blog is a forum for me to share things that make me think, make me change, or make me jump up and down. The last is the case here, and I'm dying to share with anyone how thrilled I am for Crystal over at the Biblical Womanhood Blog. She has been entrusted with two sweet little girls, and I praise God for His blessings to her. (If you click the link, you can see baby pictures!)

To God be all glory.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Importance of Saying Things

There are some creeds that help me make decisions in life. I have them listed, and in case I'm wavering, keep them in my purse and a copy in my journal. On the list, and frequently referenced, is to never assume more than a man clearly states. Josh Harris in his sermon, "Courtship Smourtship" adds "to you, in English!" A realization came a few years ago that this doesn't just mean we girls shouldn't go overboard in assuming a man likes us because we analyzed his every word and deed to death. (See quote at bottom of my webpage.) This policy also keeps me from assuming a man thinks I'm a nobody. No assumptions goes both ways.

Since I'm trying to be just and content and focused, it then becomes incumbent upon men to speak the truth, and to communicate clearly if they want me to know something. This conduct was part of being a gentleman back when being a gentleman was taught to young boys. So it seems safe to assume that most gentleladies are trying not to assume (or at least act on assumptions; our imaginations are sometimes more rapid than our wills can check), and most gentlemen are trying to communicate.

I've known several young men who had what I call the Aragorn syndrome. They never actually told me their motives, so I am, I suppose, breaking my rule by assuming they were not intentionally misleading girls about their affections. Let me describe. A good-looking young man with a good heart finds himself the object of forward fondness from a young woman (maybe more than one). He doesn't want to hurt her feelings, doesn't even realize how serious her hints are, so he tolerates it. He doesn't encourage or discourage. Or he does try to discourage her, but she doesn't get it because he doesn't say it. Aragorn had this problem with Eowyn. His fiance was back in Rivendell, but here was this girl who was pretty and fascinating and attracted to him. Yet he took until she begged to go with him from Dunharrow to tell her that he didn't like her in that way. When he finally does tell her, I'm cheering (because it's the right thing and because if she didn't give up on him, she would never find Faramir!).

Then there is Charlie Sloan (I think that is the character's name in Anne of Green Gables) who tells Anne through his sister that he likes her. I think he even proposes. Believe it or not, Anne wasn't interested. In fact, I think his was the first of many proposals she declined. While this is again an example from fiction, the lesson is real. I know people who have been told by a friend that another friend is interested in them. In my opinion, this either shows carelessness in exposing the friend to gossip, or cowardice for abusing the convenience of a friend as messenger.

Finally, back to my initial point, we can look at Mr. Elton in Emma. If he had behaved like a gentleman, Emma, Harriet, even Robert Martin could have been spared pain and embarrassment. When Mr. Elton was attached to Emma, he should have made his intentions known to her father. With her father's permission to proceed, he needed to tell Emma. With her permission, then he could make those bold implications which so confused Emma without such a confession. Of course if permission was denied, this did not mean he should go right ahead displaying his preference. The result of Mr. Elton's ungentlemanly conduct is that Emma interpreted his praises and comments as directed to her friend, Harriet. Note that not only was this misunderstanding inconvenient; it didn't work out for Mr. Elton either.

I don't believe ladies should initiate conversations on these matters, but that is one of man's roles. A lady's opportunity is to accept or decline. It is only fair, much more simple and honest, to give her that chance - to respect her enough to trust her with a decision. I do not advise spilling one's heart at the first moment. However, take no steps without communication. Protect girls' hearts in this way.

And girls, let your hearts be protected. Never assume more than a man clearly states. Do not impose on your friends expectations derived from your analyzations.

Treat everyone with brotherly love. Put others first. Walk circumspectly. This talk of accepting, declining, stating, and assuming doesn't only apply to relationships. This also means no assumptions about what my dad wants for dinner, or whether a TV program is ok, or what a man's theology is. Don't give or take the easy way out. Force interaction by refusing to guess.

To God be all glory.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

This is going to sound really weird. It is also a day late. Nevertheless, I have adopted Midsummer's Day as my pre-anniversary celebration. In memory of my husband-to-be-announced-when-I-find-out-who-he-is, I hope (for the future) and resolve (to be faithful) and remember (what my goals are) and pray (for him).

Proverbs 31:12, "She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life."

In honor of this occasion, I want to link to an article about beauty from Boundless. Thanks to for the introduction.

This paragraph was especially exciting:
Think about what that means. Jesus didn't come to earth looking for a beautiful bride, going back to heaven disappointed because no one lived up to His standards. No, He worked actively creating beauty through His death on the cross and the power of the gospel. He gave His life so that whoever repents of their sin and puts their faith in His finished work on the cross might become part of His dazzlingly beautiful bride! It's a promise He made and it's a promise He will keep.

I almost didn't want to read anymore, because I saw it. I've seen it before, but every time it is wonderful. Jesus made us beautiful for Himself, presenting us to Himself. He wants to share His glory. And that is what human marriage partly pictures. This is why submission doesn't seem bad to me. It's why it seemed like a good deal for women to Paul when he wrote Ephesians 5. "As Christ loved the church," he emphasized.

Be challenged. Be delighted. Remember God's incredible grace toward you.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Israel: A few points of history

I have learned a bit more about Israel's short history since my last post on the subject. Some of the main revelations to me were:

  • Palestine is the West Bank
  • Palestine belonged to Jordan for several decades after the creation of Israel
  • the Palestinian territory was offered to the Arabs by the UN (who didn't own it) after World War II and before the birth of Israel
  • the Arabs declined the offer because it included a coexisting state of Israel
  • the UN never liked Israel, and has consistently (with the help of the US and Russia) persuaded the Jewish homeland to surrender strategic land (even land taken from their enemies because the enemies were using it to deploy attacks and missiles) in exchange for nothing. The UN willingly installed its own forces on several occasions in "buffer zones," but these forces ultimately did nothing
  • since an agreement called the Oslo Accords, Israel has been slowly transferring first civil and then complete power over the Palestinian cities and territories to something called the Palestinian Authority. The first Palestinian Authority was led by Yasser Arafat, who prior to this agreement had been in exile for terrorism (exiled by the King of Jordan for causing trouble). While the Authority was supposed to be freely elected, Yasser Arafat made a rule that only men he approved could run for office. If anyone tried to run independently, they were violently intimidated from running. After Yasser Arafat was (surprise) elected, he put off elections indefinitely. The next elections were for his replacement after his death.
  • Egypt and Syria have frequently been the gateway for enemies of Israel to attack. They usually lost a bit of land in the process which they negotiated back in a few decades or less.
  • in all but name, Palestine is a country of its own, at the pleasure of Israel and the world. For a long time Israel controlled all the land surrounding Gaza and other populated areas of Palestine. Now more and more they are withdrawing.

For more very interesting information and maps about Israel, go to or and Wikipedia's articles on the recent elections in Palestine. (The last is because though the first two websites are extensive, they are not completely up-to-date. Even daily the situation is changing, as Hamas has declared martial law in Gaza and President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the government of Palestine due to a violent coup attempt by the Hamas.

This is all inexplicable to me. Coups and revolutions happen all over the world (alright, none have happened in certain places like the United States for a relatively long time). But how many nations do you know who regularly surrender land and power to those who surrender to them after the losers picked the fight in the first place? And why do we, the United States, continue to aid the Palestinian Authority and encourage Israel to give more land to the bullies, leaving their position less and less defensible?

Finally, what do all these things have to do with God's Word? Israel is certainly a central piece past and present.

To God be all glory.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The State of Israel

"The President Speaks," by Jerusalem Post assistant editor Caroline B. Glick, gives a description of Israel and her neighbors - from last week. Some developments not clearly explained by the liberal, anti-Israel news media have occured which I don't understand. I think the Palestinian leader kicked out more extreme terrorist supporters from the government of Palestine, and in response Hamas took over Gaza. Then the United States, not liking these tenants of Gaza, and appreciating the step in the "right" direction by Palestinian authorities, have pledged full support of Palestine. This just when I was thinking Israel was gearing up to need the United States' full support against the enemies preparing for war on every side.

I was curious, however, with all this talk in the news about democratic elections and nationalistic authorities in Palestine, when Palestine became its own country. Last I knew Israel was given land, that had been occupied by Britain, so that it could be a Jewish homeland. Caroline Glick's article addresses this to some extent, in large part crediting President George W. Bush with the 2-state existence in the area right now. I thought Israel owned the land and was letting non-Jewish people sort of colonize it beneath their authority. Maybe they gave up more land for peace which won't come. I'm so confused.

In case you're as confused as I, please read the article and lessen your confusion just a bit. I'm not sure I agree with her, since she thinks a 2-nation status is workable. If I ever do figure out geography and politics over there, I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, consult Joel Rosenberg's blog for updates on the humanitarian/Christian situations in Israel and Palestine. He understands the Middle East, just hasn't exactly explained it all.

To God be all glory.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Shaping of Things to Come Part 2

From page 11 and 12 of Shaping of Things to Come: "The missional church is a community where all members are involved in learning to become disciples of Jesus.” and "The church understands itself as different from the world because of its participation in the life, death, and resurrection of its Lord.” I like this definition (as opposed to membership of an institution or regularly attending church or ministering in a charity…) for how we stand out from the world. I’m delighted with the concept that everyone who is really saved is a part of this, and is involved and growing (this is the definition of Church to which everyone agrees, but how many good Baptists do you know who wouldn't in practice add regular attendance or 'coming forward' or membership?).

Without being more described, though, I fear that point the following would drown out the discipleship indicated above: “Worship is the central act by which the community celebrates with joy and thanksgiving both God’s presence and God’s promised future.” While the truths about worship indicated in the terminology are refreshing, I hesitate at the word ‘central,’ worrying that worship (singing, or from a Christendom perspective, ‘worship service') would be elevated in these emergent/missional congregations above teaching and prayer and fellowship, which are much more obviously taught as the activities of the New Testament Church.

To God be all glory.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why did they Flee?

1 Samuel 17:8-10, "And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together."

Thus was Goliath the giant Philistine champion's challenge to Israel for forty days before David heard him and took a stand. Note the terms: "If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants..." Each side boasted ready armies in battle array, but apparently men were scarce and they had other enemies to fight or ward off. So they agreed to a match of champions. I wonder, though, if any people group in the history of the world subjected themselves as slaves to another because their man lost to the other's champion. Would you really just throw down your swords and surrender because one man fell?

1 Samuel 17:51-53, "Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron. And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents."

That's not what the deal was! After David had indeed defeated the Philistine warrior, instead of becoming Israel's slaves as promised, the Philistine army fled, and died in the process, leaving their tents as spoil for the victorious Israelites. Yet they were a mighty army, ready for battle, the aggressors in the match. Why abandon the mission, why die without even fighting? Why did they flee? (verse 51) Look at Israel. David was but a youth (verse 42) with a sling (verse 40), and Israel's army had been quivering on their lines for forty days. The odds seem to be at least even.

Look back at 1 Samuel 5 & 6. The Philistines were on a long, scattered campaign to conquer Israel (or at least to harry them persistently). After one victory, they even came into possession of an artifact of some importance, the ark of the covenant. Israel had resorted to using it as a good luck charm, and so lost it. The Philistines, believing this reflected well on their god, Dagon, and badly on Israel's God, placed the ark as tribute in their temple. That's when things started to go terribly wrong. The idol of Dagon kept falling on its face before the ark. People began to get tumors and rats were invading. After passing the ark (and accompanying plagues) around between the Philistine cities, their kings admitted a sort of defeat and sent back the symbol of Israel's covenant with God. So we see the Philistines were a religious-minded people, and saw spiritual significance even in their wars.

1 Samuel 17:43, "And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods."

Though only a little phrase, and perhaps little meant by Goliath, the giant did curse David by his gods. David brought even more religious significance to the match when he answered Goliath:

1 Samuel 17:45-47, "Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands."

Before he ever faced Goliath, David recognized the Philistines were defying God, not just Saul's mighty men.

1 Samuel 17:26, "And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?"

David was prophecying that the Philistines would be given into the hands of Israel. The fall of Goliath would be the sign that what he said was true. Witnessing the fulfillment of the first part of the prophecy, the Philistines didn't wait around to endure the rest. If their god was unable to protect a single man, he was unable to fight for them. Israel's God had won the contest, and despite human odds, the Philistines were disheartened enough that they fled. Nevertheless, the carcasses of the host of the Philistines were given to the fowls and beasts.

Nations back then understood that God was in control of battles. They assumed the winning side's god was the real one, or the most powerful. Though this was not always true (God spent a lot of time explaining that he ordained for Assyria and Babylon to defeat His chosen people, but that He did it for a reason and would restore Israel and visit vengeance on her enemies.)

Today America is fighting a war in Iraq, where the foes hold the worldview of the Philistines: may the biggest god win. Though we do not admit it, our humanist religion has given America's leadership a similar perspective. Thus, though we are America, after meeting with difficulty and casualties, our leaders back home are shaken. The other champions seem to them to be doing well, and that is an evil portent to their godless eyes. So they would flee, declare the war lost, and the pagan god of Islam to be the stronger. (By the way, in rereading I realize the two prior sentences are contradictory. However, I believe both accurately describe the views of those in our country who claim defeat. Their views are inconsistent, and thus false.)

What if America turned to the true God? If we trusted as David did that God would save us "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit," what would be the difference?

To God be all glory.

PS: Thanks to Karen Hancock's Light of Eidon for inspiring me with the deeply religious undercurrents in the story of David and Goliath. I've always seen the story as the triumph of faith against giants, or removing reproach from Israel. God is always doing so much more than is apparent on the surface. I wonder what He's doing in the world now?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Shaping of Things to Come

Look forward to a series of short posts on a book called The Shaping of Things to Come. Recommended by a friend who is about to do a church plant with her husband, the book deals with what is popularly called the "emergent church." I'm skeptical of this movement in that it abandons a strict view of the gospel and caters to the emotional/experiential, pushing for tolerance and variety in worship. I believe God tells us how He wants to be worship, and in a corporate Church setting, it does not involve incense, video, or painting.

This isn't the central issue, though. What I hope you'll see in this series is that while the authors, Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, insightfully recognize a lot of true problems in the Church and realities about the Western cultures today, instead of going to the Bible for pure instruction, they take a pragmatic, experiential - even openly experimental - popular direction at fixing these problems.

So point 1, addressing page 9: A theme in The Shaping of Things to Come is the Christendom Era and establishment, representing Catholicism and the institutional church as we know it today. It began, they say, in Constantine's reign around A.D. 313. Buildings, they say, became "central to the notion, and experience, of church." Why do we need a building to ‘experience’ church? What does the fact of a building contribute to the ‘experience’? What was the experience before?

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I was wondering the other day about the history of envelopes. You know, those folded pieces of paper into which you insert your mail? So helped a bit:

The first envelopes were made of cloth, animal skins, or vegetable parts. The Babylonians wrapped their message in thin sheets of clay that were then baked.

There is also this tidbit from Made How?

The early history of the paper envelope is not known. Paper may have been used to wrap messages at a very early date in China. They did not appear in Europe until the seventeenth century, when they began to be used in Spain and France. Until that time, messages were simply folded and sealed. Even today, some stationery is designed to be folded and mailed without an envelope.

This last phenomenon is in fact what made me ask the question to begin with. I was writing a note on a piece of stationery that folded itself into an envelope for mailing. Similar to a postcard, this card came complete with a seal and a printed circle on which to adhere the gold sticker. Scrolls were sent rolled up and simply sealed with wax, sometimes several seals. That is certainly old fashioned.

According to the Smithsonian, Benjamin Franklin had a similar (or more practical, I'll admit) fascination with the postal system. As in he implemented it. The renowned Pony Express not only delivered enveloped letters (supposedly these paper coverings were to protect the letter inside), but also doubly protected them by putting them in oilsilk inside saddle bags. I don't know what it is like inside a saddlebag sandwiched between a postman and a running horse, but I imagine it is dangerous and maybe even moist. I'm sure the letters benefited from the extra precaution.

The national magazine continues, "By the early years of Queen Victoria's reign the Mulready envelope had appeared in England, 'the first prepaid postal wrapper...' " Even today I like to use the priority mail flat rate envelopes for my business shipping. And buying stamps - with those one- and two- cent additions is such a hassle!

Though not directly related to envelopes, one fact presented in the article made me jealous. In London, you can send a letter to a friend and receive an answer all in the same day; they even have a subway rail set up just for mail! Or at least this was the case in the 1960's.

During the Civil War, some people resorted to using wallpaper or the pages from books as envelopes, because paper was short in the Confederacy due to a blockade. The famed Rhett Butler of Gone with the Wind was a blockade runner, I believe. The fact that paper was scarce makes General Robert E. Lee's letters to his wife during that time all the more precious - and he did write letters!

The etymology of envelope is French, appearing in the English in 1705, meaning the same as envelopper, which would have been the standard adaptation for "to envelop" (see envelop). As directed, I did "see envelop," and got this information: the English form of this word dates 1386 and originally meant "be involved in," from Old French envoluper, which directly translated is "wrap up in." The portion meaning "wrap up," voloper, is of uncertain origin, perhaps Celtic. So the word probably began in the British Isles, slid over to France whence England got it back in the form of "envelop." But France kept it, and developed the verb into a noun, which England then also borrowed: "envelope."

Now you know.

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lines and Cats

I was thinking tonight (once more while brushing my teeth) about lines. In school they taught me most insistently that lines go on forever in both directions. Rays go on forever in one direction. And no one is sure whether half of infinity is shorter (or longer for that matter) than infinity itself. Here's my problem; I have never believed the universe to be infinite, so if the line goes on infinitely, it extends past the universe, which is nonsense. Recent physics theories have speculated that a Bible-based view of the universe would indicate a limited universe, so at least I'm not the only one thinking these things.

My dilema brings a question, then. Why do textbooks so insist that lines are infinite? What purpose does it serve to postulate that? Lines are unobservable in infinity. I just was wondering if any of my readers had an explanation for the importance of this "fact" in mathematics.

After thinking and after flossing, I came to our basement to find our family cat, Shadow, pressed against the metal gate of the pet carrier (a dog-sized one) in which we keep her at night. I heard a clink of the gate against the latch. The explanation for her panicked attempt at escape? We just installed what you call a littermaid, which automatically sifts her litter when it senses she is not present. Our beloved feline is terrified of even the sight of vacuums, so you can understand why she is afraid when this machine sharing her cage begins its noisy business. I hope she adjusts. Even after the machine had stopped, she just stared at it, as if standing guard.

My battery is about to die. That's what's happening at Longbourn for the evening.

To God be all glory.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Beautiful Feet

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

- Isaiah 52:7

Yes, I'm serious. This is a post about feet. The word "feet" (excluding variations) occurs 256 times in the King James Version of the Bible. It is used in all sorts of contexts. Quite often we hear of them being washed. They walk a lot. They wear shoes and bear hair.

"Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:" - Genesis 18:1

Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. - Luke 7:45

And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said, Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings. - 1 Kings 14:6

And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians. - 2 Chronicles 16:12

There are the more tender times, as when Jacob pulled his feet onto the bed and died. And there are violent moments when the necks of kings are crushed beneath feet. The land of Israel is defined as everywhere one man's foot touched on some journeys. Lame men are healed. Worshipers fall at the Lord's feet. His feet are pierced.

And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people. - Genesis 49:33

And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor. - Ruth 3:14

And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me. - 2 Kings 4:27

And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. - Luke 10:39

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: - Revelation 1:17

But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: - Luke 15:22

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. - Luke 24:39

And it came to pass, when they brought out those kings unto Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them. - Joshua 10:24

And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. - Exodus 3:5

And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. - Revelation 1:15

Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. - Revelation 3:9

Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words. - Deuteronomy 33:3

For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. - Psalm 22:16

Shoes represent readiness, and feet remind us we are on a journey. We are, as the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land, just passing through. The shoes of the Israelites did not wear out, nor did their feet swell as they wandered 40 years in the wilderness. When the Bible speaks of feet being led, or the way being widened, it is reminding us that God is intimately involved in our safety and direction. The Psalmist said his feet would not stray from the laws of God - to the right or to the left.

And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD'S passover. - Exodus 12:11

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; - Ephesians 6:15

Thou shalt sell me meat for money, that I may eat; and give me water for money, that I may drink: only I will pass through on my feet; - Deuteronomy 2:28

Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be. - Deuteronomy 11:24

He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. - 1 Samuel 2:9

Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. - Psalm 122:2

Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters: as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou. And all the people wept again over him. - 2 Samuel 3:34

He maketh my feet like hinds' feet: and setteth me upon my high places. - 2 Samuel 22:34

Thou hast enlarged my steps under me; so that my feet did not slip. - 2 Samuel 22:37

Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not. - Nehemiah 9:21

Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary. - Psalm 74:3

I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. - Psalm 119:59

Then there are those strange passages. How do feet speak?

He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers; - Proverbs 6:13

Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? - Proverbs 6:28

She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: - Proverbs 7:11

Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: - Isaiah 3:16

In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard. - Isaiah 7:20

For thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast clapped thine hands, and stamped with the feet, and rejoiced in heart with all thy despite against the land of Israel; - Ezekiel 25:6

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. - Matthew 10:14

And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: - Mark 9:45

So the lesson here is: feet are not to be forgotten!

And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. - 1 Corinthians 12:21

To God be all glory.

Changing Church Part XXIII

The week was much quieter. “Heads of households” called with questions, most easily answered using a concordance. The Strong’s sat beside the telephone, along with a spare Bible. Some of the single women also called, looking for assignments to a deacon. Will scheduled a meeting with as many of the deacons as possible for Saturday evening, to discuss what their responsibilities would be toward the women and their families. Wives were also invited, of those who were married, for when dealing with women, having a woman involved was, at least, a good show of above-board intentions.

Tuesday afternoon Anne skimmed through the women’s ministry directory, a volume much smaller than the church directory. That troubled her, but for the moment she was looking for a familiar name. Sarah was a recently married woman of about Anne’s age. She smiled a lot, and was often the center of attention. When she started laughing, she couldn’t stop. Anne called her.

“I need to do my weekly grocery shopping, and was wondering if you were available to provide company.” Anne’s was a strange request. Usually one invited a friend for dessert, or a movie, or an afternoon of comfortable chatting. Another thing that had come up in Will’s studies with her, though, was how often the early church was together. They seemed to do everything together. Grocery shopping as a community effort seemed to complement their church meeting style.
Sarah was reluctant. Anne pressed her. “We could talk, and you could come to my house for some coffee or tea afterward.” Ok, it sounded more like begging. Anne’s aunt and uncle nominally attended their church. So far they had not provided any feedback on the changes her new husband was making, though they had come back for the implementation week. They were the reason Anne had come to the church. Not many friends remained. Call it a phenomenon of her age; peers didn’t stay in one place very often.

Finally Sarah agreed, and asked what time Anne was thinking. “Tomorrow afternoon? Is that good with you?” she returned.

“Ok, after lunch?” the young woman’s voice increased in excitement. Maybe this could be fun. A new experience need not be feared, right?

So the following day Anne carefully prepared her list from her budget and menu. Then she toured the house to double check supplies of cleaners, tissues, and the like. Sarah arrived just after one. “I’m so bad at shopping; Dave usually goes with me,” she giggled nervously. “Is it alright if I brought my list, too?”

This was unexpected, but Anne was in a good mood, and wide awake. “Sure.”

Initially, Anne eyed Sarah’s cart and her list with concern. Should she say something? Instead, they chatted about life and husbands. Anne asked whether Sarah and Dave were hoping to have children. “Oh, some day. Right now we just want to enjoy life and each other. We want to travel a little. I’m involved in like three different charities. We stay busy.”

“Oh.” That didn’t help. The discomfort grew. Was there any common ground?

Sarah broached the subject of prices. “I look at my grocery bill and find myself speechless. So much for just two people! How do you do it on only a pastor’s salary?”

The two carts stopped in a corner of the bakery department. From her purse Anne drew her budget and her list and her printed-out spreadsheet of available coupons. “Work,” she began. “Cooking more often from scratch.” Her hand went to some boxed meals and packaged cookies in Sarah’s cart. “And settling for store brand, or none at all. My mom taught me that when we’re hungry, it’s important to make what we feed ourselves count towards nourishment, not just satisfying an appetite. So cookies, and these mixes, they’re mostly artificial flavoring and sugar… things like that. They even taste like the real thing. But unless you do fruits and vegetables and grains and meats, cut back on sodium that comes as a preservative in these things…” Anne wondered if she had gone too far. Sarah honestly looked like she might cry.

“Your mom taught you all that? How to shop? Can I see your spreadsheet?”

“Wow. You’re a pro, or something. I always thought I was a pro shopper. I know when the best clearance prices are at Dillard’s,” she smiled. “That’s what I learned when I was in high school.”

“I know. Since I was homeschooled, I got real home-ec. Apprentice-style.”

“My mom worked. She is a paralegal. We ate out of boxes and frozen dinners and Wendy’s all the time.”

“Maybe we should do apprentice-stuff with the women at church. I always get bored while I shop. Let me see your list.” Anne took her pen, with which she had been systematically marking items from her list, circling items on her coupon sheet. A scrap piece of paper made Sarah’s new list. Their two heads bent over Anne’s cart. She used a cereal box against which to write. A container of pre-cut fruit was changed to two apples, three oranges, and a bunch of bananas. Hamburger helper changed into whole-grain pasta, tomato paste, and two kinds of cheese. “You look at the ingredients to pick. Don’t look at the front of packages when you’re deciding. Look for sodium content and artificial flavors, fat and sugar percentages, stuff like that,” Anne instructed. “Here, I have a coupon for some of these things.”

“I don’t want to take your coupons,” Sarah objected.

“You’ll never learn if you don’t try,” Anne argued. “We’re going to start a club or something. Coupons, recipes, lists, substitutions, bargains, shopping parties. It’ll be fun.”

“This actually sounds fun. A lot of women don’t have time, though. They work, and schedules are so rigid.”

“Tell me about it! Work, classes, charities, ministries: I can’t get anyone to come over and play!”

To God be all glory.

See the index for first and additional chapters.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Noise Contibutes to Impatience

Solo Femininity has a post about noise that was very interesting. Apparently in Bolivia there is less of the irritating noise that accompanies our American prosperity. People use sound to communicate and edify.

"There was one sound we did not hear while traveling in Bolivia last month. We did not hear it for two weeks--not until we returned to the U.S. and got off the plane in Miami. It was the sound of a petulant child, whining and crying in anger."

"It seemed everyone had a guitar. Singing to each other was a way of building friendships and providing entertainment."

To God be all glory.

Cost of Car Ownership & Use

With gas prices high, summer vacations looming, and cars being a big topic in my family right now, I was interested in this post about the true cost of car ownership. Among the most helpful points was to calculate the cost of driving your car to your "favorite cheap taco place" five miles away.

We attended a couple graduation parties recently for friends who live about an hour away each. The cost of driving to the parties was definitely more than we spent on gifts. I believe presence is more important than gifts or cards, but let me say I'm going to appreciate more seeing those friends at a distance - and complain less about the cost of postage stamps.

Let me say that if you don't know the numbers for your car, you might want to consider paying more attention. People get paid to work, and a penny saved is a penny earned. Working to make cost-effective choices on transportation is, then, like a second job. I'm saying it's worth it!

That Millionaire Next Door book is looking more interesting. There are always a couple copies at the used book section of my favorite thrift store, so it wouldn't be hard (or expensive) to pick one up. I don't count on being a millionaire, but if all the information the authors Thomas Stanley and William Danko write is as interesting as the statistic that "used car people" have a higher net worth relative to their income; then I'm in. The book promises to be a practical economics text (and isn't it frustrating that economics courses are usually so philosophical, abstract, and general - the economics of a country rather than my economics, my checking account?). Who doesn't want to make smart financial decisions?

Also see Get Rich Slowly's common sense tips for saving money on gas.

To God be all glory.

Monday, June 04, 2007


A brilliant etymological discovery: the root word of question is 'quest.'

Ok, so that's rather tongue in cheek. In fact, I just noticed this today, and only when it was pointed out by someone else. I do feel that this discovery significantly contributes to its meaning and renders the word question less repulsive to me. I like questions, of course, but the word "question" always sounded so common and boring. Think of it as an aspect of a quest, a search for answers, a mission to accomplish - and my mind awakens with all sorts of imaginative implications.

I am laughing at myself for not realizing the root word earlier. While we're on the subjects (of questions and of laughing at myself), do you think it is acceptable to laugh at others when you laugh at yourself all the time? I laugh at my quirks, my mistakes, my ignorance, my clumsiness, my tendency to think of proud-sounding things to say (though I don't mean them, I can sound like quite the heretic!). So if that is my mode of reaction, and laughing is such a pleasant activity, is it still mean to laugh at other people's quirks or ignorance?

And who defines mean? Are hurt feelings conditioned to be hurt by certain things?

Jane Bennett tells Lizzie during one of their late night sisterly discussions, "Yes, Lizzie, but not everyone is the same." I, like Elizabeth, frequently forget that not everyone is like me. And even when I do remember, I sense a wall between me and significantly different people preventing me from understanding them and their reactions. Then I want to know if I am the way I am because God created me this way, or because of choices I made. I'm sure that in different cases the answer alternates. Basically I wonder whether there is a chance of each of us moving to middle ground in our communication and reaction, or if we should accept existing the way we are.

If we should be moving toward middle ground, then, I have another question. How? Can't anyone show me what to change, and how? I need a mediator. And a mentor. And isn't this what they should be teaching me at church? It is one thing to teach me that I ought to be kind; I know that, agree, and try to be so. But I don't know what is the universally agreed upon definition of kind, and I don't know how to be pro-actively kind (except by giving gifts, and my gift budget is currently bankrupt).

I don't think I'm very creative. I can see, for example, how to replicate something, and how to organize it. But I don't look at one thing and see something different than what "everyone" sees. (This, I believe, is why I was so bad at geometry; if I ever had to construct a line to prove something, I had no idea that I should do that, or what line to construct...) I don't have a goal and dream up ways to reach it. When faced with questions like the above, I can ask more questions, but I need help from either creative or experienced people in finding the answers.

If I know answers, or have advice, I'm always eager to offer them - perhaps too eager. But I ask all these questions and the reactions I get are silence or a weary look like you see on the faces of mothers of two year olds. Imagine: a toddler tugs at mommy incessantly asking why, and eventually, though her child is only eager for help, and trusting her to supply the sum of all wisdom, she gets tired and convinces him to stop asking. The questions don't go away when they are unasked. Nor do they go away when unanswered.

You my readers, if in reading this ramble about communication and application and questions, understand what I'm asking and can think of any answers to suggest, I'm inviting you to help out. I'm asking for help.

"What is the point in me being almost twenty-two if there is still so much for me to learn?"
- Emma Woodhouse

To God be all glory.

Postscript: Right after writing the above I went over to YLCF where Natalie shared a similar frustration over communication:
I learn more about life, faith, and our Father's love from Rick than any study, sermon, or trip taken. I learn not because our relationship is blissful (though many times it is) but because it is honest.The challenge of understanding emotions, thoughts, and desires is compounded by the task of communicating them to my man in love--my man who tries so hard to understand me even when I am afraid to understand myself. Sometimes I do not want to pull my true feelings into the light. They are not what they should be. (emphasis mine)

Scale of Feminism

You Are 17% Feminist

You are definitely not a feminist. In fact, you are every feminist's worst nightmare.
You believe that women belong in the kitchen.... barefoot and pregnant.
I saw this on Crystal's blog. She is only 10% feminist, but I assume she put either strongly agree or strongly disagree on every answer. Since I was little, I have looked for trick questions and nuances in surveys, so I can't say I totally agree with things. Also there is one question that I think can be taken the wrong way. Men and women should be held to the same moral standards - but I think both should be held to strict moral standards, the opposite of that indicated by the survey.
About the barefoot and pregnant thing... uh, that doesn't count when you're not married. But I don't like shoes. Who likes shoes, honestly?
To God be all glory.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Code for Blogger Templates... Hooray!

Many thanks to Dummies Guide to Google Blogger Beta which enabled me (finally, after trying several other sites' suggestions) to implement expandable posting on When the Pen Flows. You really have no idea how excited I am to have found code and instructions that work. I was worried for a while that my entire template would have to be restarted from scratch. Fortunately I can follow instructions sufficiently to save myself from that, and thus backed up an earlier form of my template. All in all, it has been an improvement day over there.

I also have a link for anyone to email me story or short poem submissions. And there is a primitive (but pretty) counter. It's exciting.

You know, I much prefer learning the slow way. I don't like studying and memorizing, but I like immersion. Like the Pledge of Allegiance. I never repeated phrases or wrote the pledge a hundred times, but rather heard it every school day when I was little, so that eventually I knew it. Songs on the radio get into my head slowly, by my hearing them frequently. I learned to make maccaroni and cheese (not the boxed kind; don't worry; I'm talking from scratch) by watching Mom do it over and over. And now I'm learning Blogger and HTML code little bits at a time.

This, I believe, is the essence of discipleship. You learn by example and proximity rather than by a good exposition. Church should be more about discipleship than preaching; it would be more effective. Michael Card wrote a wonderful book called The Walk on the subject of discipleship (blending the example of Jesus in Mark with real life observations of the relationship between Michael Card and his mentor). And one of my favorite songs is Michael Card's Bearers of the Light, which describes the different relationships experienced between Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy.

To God be all glory.

Changing Church Part XXII

“I have been studying a book on Ephesians for my devotions. I’m not very faithful at it; I’ve been going on this one book for months. But this week one thing that stood out was how God put together the body of Christ. I don’t know what it looked like when Adam was formed out of dust, but it must have been similarly complex and thoughtful. There is Christ, of course, the head. And then individuals redeemed, quickened, as though God were breathing into our nostrils again the breath of life. And then we are commanded to do good. This good, and our prayers for each other, and the gifts He has specially given each of us, bind this body of believers together as a whole. Together we maintain each other and serve the world. Most of this is from chapters two and four, I think. Yes, four.” He turned pages in his own Bible. “Oh, I don’t like my version today. Does anyone have a King James?”

A middle-aged man who usually sat on the end of the back row so he could be the first out offered his after checking the binding. “Could you read chapters two and four?” requested the first man. Of course the man with the Bible was a little uncomfortable. He had really been offering his Bible, not his services. Will gave him a big smile of encouragement. Though he stumbled through the ‘eth’s and ‘thou’s, he did a very good job. “I never read this thing. Who talks like that? Sorry,” he muttered, taking his seat. An elderly woman nearby patted his hand and whispered what a good job he’d done.

The clock ticked on, well past the usual time for a service. Anne’s muffins were almost gone. She had managed to get a good number of children nearby to smile at her, or at least at her baking. Her stomach growled.

“A song my wife asked if we could sing is Be Still My Soul. It’s an old hymn, but I know I’ve heard her humming it a lot this week. How does this work?”

“Could we get someone to play the piano?” Will asked. The pianist stood, carrying one of the hymnals from the backs of the chairs with her. Will found the hymn number and let everyone know. The pianist played a simple introduction and they sang. “All four verses,” the husband requested when they finished the first verse. Anne smiled at his wife, obviously holding four fingers under his nose as a hint.

“Ok,” Will stood after that. “I’m sure you’re all hungry, which reminds me. The early church ate together. It was a sign that their faith went beyond worship. It was life. I challenge you to make time in your schedules to invite another family from church to eat with you some time this week. Paul, could I get you to close in prayer?”

Paul prayed. Will sat. Others gathered their things and children and left. They talked a little. Everyone was smiling. Some were comparing schedules for meals. A deacon who tended to be quiet, and therefore hadn’t said anything during the service, came towards Will. “I think we need to tweak the singing. We want to sing more.”

“What do you want to sing?” Will asked.

“I don’t know.”

“When people know, we’ll sing.”

“And pray. Didn’t the early church pray a lot?”

“Any ideas?”

“Maybe we should open with prayer. More than just one person.”

“Good. You organize that next week. I’ll hand it over to you at the beginning, and that’s what we’ll do.” Will left no room for argument. Anne covered her grin with her hand. The deacon walked away with his brows furrowed, but not unhappily. “Hungry?” Will asked Anne.

“Did you hear my stomach?”


“Terrible. I didn’t get anything started cooking at home since I wasn’t sure how long we would be. But there are always sandwiches.”

“My wife is making fried chicken. You’re welcome to join us.” The man who last week was wearing a brown tweed suit was no longer grumpy. He had come up apparently for the purpose of inviting them to lunch.

Anne nodded happily and grabbed the hand of a little child who tried to take a second muffin. “You’ll spoil your lunch. Come on. Let’s find Mama.”

“She’s good with kids,” commented Mr. Edwards.

“She can’t wait to have ours.”

“I was going to ask when you plan to have some.”

“In about eight months.”

“Really? Congratulations.”

Will gathered his Bible and notebook and felt like he was leaving all sorts of things unfinished. “It will take about five minutes for me to get the car,” Will said.

“Don’t bother. Celia and I have three extra seats, and you’re only two.”

To God be all glory.

See the index for first and additional chapters.

The Walk of Exodus

I believe fairy tales resonate, and certain themes endlessly reappear in fiction because they have to do with THE STORY. J.R.R. Tolkien explained to C.S. Lewis that all man-made stories are stories about truth.

So when we hear of a prince sweeping a commoner off her feet and bringing her as his bride into his palace to live happily ever after after overcoming great obstacles (think Cinderella), then that resonates because God, King of Kings, has sought a bride for His Son, Prince of Peace, among the fallen common race of man. The Church is His chosen bride, betrothed, made beautiful, gifted, and promised a home.

A knight on a white horse racing to slay the dragon to rescue the princess is the story of Revelation. Jesus will come on a white horse, chain the dragon before slaying him, and establish a reign of peace with His people.

We rebel so against characters who marry for money, and cheer for the characters who would leave all their riches rather than give up their love. This too, we studied in Sunday school, is the story of Exodus.

This morning we went through 16 chapters of Exodus - and I know that's a lot; I promise it only took the Sunday school hour; sometimes a bird's eye view of a book is awesome. We started with a proposal made by Augustine long ago: list all the physical, emotional, and spiritual things you would want for an ideal life. Suppose as a good Christian you could have anything. Think big.

Now imagine God promising to give you every one of those things: financial freedom, see the world, good children, saved friends, peace, joy... on one condition. The condition is you will never see His face.

Then from Exodus 19-34, we examined God's offers. Israel could be a special people, a kingdom of priests, with direct access to God on an individual, personal level. All they had to do was keep the commandments, follow God's voice. They said they'd take it.

Then, in their very hearing, God enumerated some of His commandments. After the Ten Commandments, the people were afraid of God's presences (chapter 20). In other words, they weren't so much bothered by the requirements to them as they were frightened of the grace, of what God wanted to give them. They were afraid to be a kingdom of priests. God made allowance for their fear, gradually limiting more and more those who were allowed to go up on the mountain, and how high, until it was only Moses.

The Laws continued, going over all of life, not just religious duties. There were, of course, prescriptions for ceremony: feasts, sabbaths. And to top it off, God said an Angel would accompany them, and they would have to obey whatever He said. Again the people agreed to the deal, despite their hesitance over God's presence, and Moses sealed the covenant with blood. Note the Angel. This indicates a faith beyond the list of rules, following arguably God Himself in a Christophany, day by day.

Then Moses went for more. God described worship, how it would be to be separate from the nations by giving them extra-separate things: priests, a tabernacle, and the contents of the tabernacle. This would be how the people could meet with God since they were afraid of His very presence and voice. God wrote the instructions on 2 Tablets, front and back, with His own finger.

But here we reach the problem. Before they even heard the rest of the instructions, the covenant-sealed Israelites had already wearied of the first two of the ten commandments, setting Moses above God (in that they weren't doubting God; they ignored Him; they were doubting Moses), and making a golden calf.

Symbolizing the broken covenant (already), Moses smashed the 2 Tablets. And He went back to God, asking forgiveness, asking what to do next. Would God spare them? Would He give them another chance?

God poses a new "deal," very similar to the first offer of blessing if they would follow His commands. But there was a primary difference, something new in this offer: Exodus 33:3, "...for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way." He didn't want to risk consuming His people. They could have a partial covenant. He'd bless them, and they could have a religion centered on Him, but without His direct presence.

Moses caught on to this, and perhaps you experienced the same thing when you read Augustine's proposal above. What was the point of any risk if God wasn't right there? Wasn't it better to be consumed than to go without God? Wasn't it better to be stuck forever without the Promised Land and blessings than to lose God's fellowship? The leader of Israel knew that he couldn't stand this, and didn't want the people to settle. He declined. No, Moses refused this plan.

Exodus 33:16-17, " For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.
And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name."

So God also revealed Himself to Moses, showing him His glory, 'standing with him there.' Moses worshiped. And God continued leading the Israelites from their very midst. The early chapters of Joshua give account of how frequently the Angel appeared to them to give them direction.

Centuries later, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we [John & apostles] beheld His glory.

The question is, will we settle for a religion of following God's list of rules, accepting blessing and even salvation from Him, while relinquishing the greatest and most dangerous gift? He is a consuming fire. Knowing Him could cost you everything. But it would be a matter of will. Would you gain the whole world and lose Him? Will we take God's gifts or God Himself?

Jesus also loved in this way, emptying himself, leaving glory, to demonstrate His own love for us, purifying for Himself His own special people: Philippians 2:5-8, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

Like the classic tales, relationship is more important to God than any gifts He could bestow on us.

To God be all glory.

(Thanks to Diane, our Sunday school teacher, for pointing all these things out; it was awesome.)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Update from Longbourn

I haven't blogged much this week. The reason is that I have more to do than I have time for. Reading books, writing, doing a garage sale... In fact I was going to take pictures of our garage sale, but I got lazy. Though not many people visit this blog, more would have seen it online than stopped today. Garage sale season is officially open. It's a nice Saturday. We had signs - and good stuff. But no one came. Sales were slow yesterday, but we were confident with the weekend traffic would rise. We were dead wrong. Now we are left to do something else with our junk and to puzzle over an explanation.

My theory is that the world is changing. For example, there has been inflation since I was little, so that what I would have paid for a doll is about half what I would charge. Gas prices are also high, encouraging people to stay home. There is a good thrift store nearby that held a wonderful sale Monday. It didn't exist when I was younger. And people are busier. Sports have taken over the world.

Today we attended a graduation party (after our garage sale failure) for an old friend. Some of his friends were playing volleyball, and I watched. This is, you must understand, a necessity for safety, as they were not very good, and the ball had already tackled some torches and potted flowers. The youth pastor's very cute daughter was enjoying the trampoline, and some other young girls were laughing. For one moment I turned to enjoy their fun and somehow - I'm quite ignorant of the details, received a volleyball on the right side of my face. If I have a black eye tomorrow, I'm blaming the youth pastor, as his was the loudest voice assuring me, "I'm so sorry. It came off my face, too..." I'm reluctant to believe that a ricochet shot, which left him unharmed, was the cause of my face still vibrating strangely for twenty minutes.

I have the strangest reactions to being injured by a ball. Usually it involves tears and laughter. And I assure the guilty party I'm fine - immediately, before I actually know. Fortunately I am fine: no blurry vision and no flashes of light - and little signs of swelling or bruising.

Right now I have to go help with supper, so I'll blog again when I have something to share.

To God be all glory.