Friday, December 16, 2011

Bell Etymologies

This Christmas I’ve been thinking of bells.  Wearing jingle bells reminds me quickly of the season.  Hearing “sleigh bells” conjures nostalgic stories.  The Polar Express is memorable to me for the beautiful silver bell and its mystical note.  Most of our words for the sound a bell makes are imitative, but what other associations do common bell-words have? 

Bell” comes from the Old English, belle, a word not found in Germanic languages outside of the North Sea family of dialects.   Happily, the phonology traces from Proto-Indo-European base *bhel- "to sound, roar."

One of the most common words used to describe what we do with bells is “ring”, descended straight from the Old English hringan, supposed to come from Proto Germanic *khrenganan (similar words are found in Old Norse, Swedish, and Middle Dutch).  Etymologists believe the word was originally imitative, but isn’t it interesting then that we find it in the Germanic and Norse languages, but it isn’t a root attested in languages all over the world?  Didn’t other people have bells?  What sound did theirs make?

Perhaps their bells “jingled” – a word existing in English since the late 14th century at least: gingeln.  We’re familiar with the famous winter tune, “Jingle Bells.” 

Tinkle”, "to make a gentle ringing sound," may be more likely to bring to mind the bell-voice of the fairy in Peter Pan, but ever since the late 1300’s, we have used it to express what we hear from a bell. 

Chime” can be a word for the instrument (which better suits the history of the word’s meaning) or the event of its sounding.  Circa 1300 either Latin or Old French bestowed “chime” on our English tongues, and we most likely misinterpreted it as chymbe bellen "chime bells," a sense attested from the mid-15th century.

Bells also “peal” – a word generally considered a shortened form of appeal, with the notion of a bell that "summons" people to church. This, according to the scholars behind www.EtymOnline.com, is not entirely convincing, but no better theory has been put forth. Extended sense of "loud ringing of bells" is first recorded 1510s. The verb is 1630s, from the noun.

I’m rather intrigued that such a delightful thought as “trolling bells” is the same word as a legendary sort of ogre or monster.  The verb sense comes from the Old French, troller, which was a hunting term meaning “wander, to go in quest of game without purpose” and in this unusual case, the French received this word from the German peoples.  Old High German has trollen “to walk with short steps,” and the root goes back to Proto Germanic *truzlanan.  Ever since its arrival to English in the late 1300’s, troll has meant “to go about, stroll” or “roll from side to side, trundle.”  In modern usage, its association with bells comes through the sense of “singing in a full, rolling voice” first attested in the 1570’s.  

Toll” is even more common than troll.  Meaning “to sound with single strokes," it was probably a special use of tollen "to draw, lure," a Middle English variant of Old English  -tyllan in betyllan "to lure, decoy," and fortyllan "draw away, seduce," of obscure origin. The notion is perhaps of "luring" people to church with the sound of the bells, or of "drawing" on the bell rope.

Who knew that “clock” would show up here?  However, since the word has to do with time, and so does the Christmas season (think Advent), here goes.  Originally "clock with bells," probably from Middle Dutch, from Old North French cloque, from Middle Latin (7th century) clocca, probably from Celtic! In Welsh and Old Irish the word only meant “bell.”  It is thought that it was spread by Irish missionaries (unless the Celtic words are from Latin); ultimately of imitative origin. “Clock” replaced Old English’s dægmæl, from dæg "day" + mæl "measure, mark." The Latin word for timekeeping was horologium; the Greeks used a water-clock (klepsydra, literally "water thief"). 

Finally, what would be bells without a tower in which to ring?  “Belfry” was originally, circa1400, a "siege tower" but early (1200’s) in Anglo-Latin already had a sense "bell tower.”  In Old North French it meant "movable siege tower.”  Compare to Modern French beffroi, from Middle High Germanic bercfrit "protecting shelter.  Literally this oldest known ancestor meant "that which watches over peace," from bergen "to protect" (see bury?!) + frid "peace." The first sense, a wooden siege tower on wheels ("free" to move), came to be used for chime towers (mid-15th century), which at first often were detached from church buildings (as the Campanile on Plaza San Marco in Venice). Etymologists suspect the spelling to have been thence altered by dissimilation or by association with bell.

Thanks entirely to www.EtymOnline.com for the word histories. 

To God be all glory.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Irony Soup (Made with Celeriac)

I first heard of celeriac because Harriet Smith mentions it in Gwyneth Paltrow’s film version of Emma.  To be honest I only looked up the vegetable because the scene was running in my head like a parallel to my feelings.  You can’t really find it in grocery stores, and even the farmer’s market, sell grains in bulk, entire sections devoted to vitamins and organic produce stores didn’t have it.  But when I happened to be at Whole Foods with a friend this week, I checked and sure enough, there was the knobby root with the cropped remnant of celery stalks on the top.  “Knobby” is actually an understatement.  Celery root (celeriac) looks like dirty brains.  Anyway, I chose one – a smaller one that was still heavy; denser is better. 

After showing off my find to everyone in the house – my 81 year old grandmother has never even seen one – I sat down to find a recipe for what I’m impudently renaming “Irony Soup.”  Every recipe I could find had onions and leeks.  I don’t have either on hand.  Onions I usually leave out anyway.  Leeks I have never used and for that reason I was hesitant, besides knowing they’re in the onion family.  Ginger I had – for the first time I was going to try grating my own straight from the root, into some recipe or other.  So at the last minute, before heading to the grocery store to pick up leeks, I did a Google search for a soup with celeriac and ginger.  What I found, here: http://straightfromthefarm.net/2009/03/07/celeriac-and-ginger-soup/ is Irony Soup. 

No onions even to be crossed off of the recipe.  An entire head of garlic.  Carrots and cream and potato and herbs, some of my favorite soup ingredients (you know – for the two or three soups I’ve ever made or eaten). 

Chopping the vegetables and peeling the garlic took way longer than I expected, but this is just what one would expect from Irony Soup.  I chopped away.  I forgot the salt when I first started simmering the mixture, so maybe that’s why the vegetables took so long to soften.  I also improvised on measurements a bit and added celery just to enhance that edge of the flavor.  Making it up as you go following general guidelines is also apropos for Irony Soup. 

The celeriac and ginger smells wafted through the house while the soup simmered.  Because I started late and the softening process took longer than expected, I had to interrupt the soup and go to a party.  I resumed this afternoon. 

I paired my serving with buttered wheat toast, because you want to make sure you have something you like at your side when you’re trying something new.  The soup came out ideally creamy and thicker than most soups I’ve had. 

And just like irony whose poignancy lingers, the ginger is strong, with a bite still felt after you swallow.  It’s full of healthy things, low in calories, so it won’t boost your energy all that much, and low in fat so you won’t end up regretting the experience. 

In this house, where we like to share things, the batch will probably serve more than four. 

To God be all glory.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

All That Was Lost by Michael Card


Why are you crying?
Who are you looking for?
This is a graveyard.
Were you expecting more?

You feel abandoned,
Like every hope has died,
The death of all your dreams -
This is the price of life:

He will claim His lost possession,
Repossess you, pay the cost.
He will purchase you for freedom.
He will find all that was lost.

There stands the Stranger
There on the flowering slope.
The Servant waits for you
In a garden of hope.

Do you perceive now?
And have your eyes been cleared?
Have they been opened?
Have they been washed by tears?

He will claim His lost possession,
Repossess you, pay the cost.
He will purchase you for freedom.
He will find all that was lost.

So run and tell all
Those who have longed to hear:
The wait is over;
The risen Savior’s here.

Jesus asked the question a few times.  Who are you looking for?  Or “What do you want?”  Even though He already knew, He asked because He wanted us to know why we were seeking.  And isn’t that exciting, that God sent angels to people at the tomb who weren’t seeking YHWH for that which they wanted?  He doesn’t always wait for us to come to Him; praise His mercy! 

Who am I looking for?  I take a moment to remember what has awakened this longing in me that drives me to my tired knees, crying again, playing this song on repeat in my car’s stereo.  I don’t think we’d really cry unless we had hope.  Hope knows pain doesn’t have to be, doesn’t have to endure; but it is here anyway, and how do we reconcile the goodness of God with that pain?  I know it: I am looking for Jesus because there is no one else who has the words of life; no one else worthy of putting my hope in.  And I’m looking for Him because I have tasted of Him, but I am so aware that I just don’t understand what He’s up to.  I wish I knew Him better.

As I meditate on the lyrics, I change my mind about “this is the price of life.”  Does it mean there will be sadness in all of life so much as it means this tomb is the price of making us spiritually alive?  Jesus had to die.  We shouldn’t despair when God is accomplishing His purposes.  Our Hope had to die (and rise again) to give us life.  Like the grain of wheat that falls into the ground, it isn’t until it dies that it brings forth abundant and multiplying life.  Redemption wasn’t free. 

Jesus purchased me for freedom.  I’m swimming in what it means to be redeemed to be free, but still to be His even in my liberty.  In the very least, it feels good to be claimed, to be bought at a price.  It reminds me of Hosea, who bought his wife back from self-imposed slavery.  He set her free.  Andrew Peterson’s song, Hosea, describes the scene when Israel saw that her abandoned wilderness was turned into a valley, a garden of hope. 

He will find all that was lost.  Even though our old hopes have died, they were not in vain.  Whatever is sown will be reaped.  YHWH is Redeemer, who restores the years the locusts have eaten.  He keeps my every tear in a bottle – not one is unnoticed by Him.  In Him even lesser hopes are resurrected, but in His hands, His ways, His glory.

Having lived life in hope, having built expectations of our own about who God is and what He will do, the God after the death, after the resurrection, can be a Stranger to us.  I don’t understand Him.  I am surprised, maybe even hurt, by His ways.  But the grief, the letting go of my own hopes, has emptied me to meet this Stranger on His ground.  And His ground is flowering and good.

I am flattened that Jesus waits for me.  He is the Servant, delighting to serve and to give and to lay down His own life for my sake.  He wants me to know Him and experience His love.  In fact, this is the best love story ever. 

The tears over my lost agenda, my way, my understanding, have given way to humility.  My God draws near to the humble – really, really near.  My eyes are opened to see Him as He is, to receive from Him His own good gifts.  Hope is resurrected into something that is not about me at all.  It’s about Him. 

The chorus makes me rejoice for my Savior.  Titus 2:14 says that He has “redeemed us from every lawless deed and purified for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”  He is the widow who celebrates finding her lost coin.  The desire of His heart is realized when He redeems us for Himself. 

In the Gospels the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection hurried to tell others.  They’d been waiting for atonement and freedom their whole lives.  Israel had been waiting for Immanuel.  When Jesus was born, Anna hurried to tell those she knew who were looking for Messiah’s coming.  After the crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had been waiting the duration of the Sabbath, unable to work themselves, a picture of their complete dependence on God’s ability to cleanse them and make them alive. 

For someone who has hungered and hoped and longed and persevered, are there any more refreshing words than “The wait is over”? 

Over” doesn’t mean that life is over.  Consummation only begins the marriage.  Christians are the living Bride of the Living Christ.  Our life is hopeful.  It has to do with bearing fruit.  I am called to walk under the assurance of the Resurrection.  Faith and hope are limited only by the revelation of the all-good, all-mighty, death-conquering God. 

To God be all glory.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Moneyball Review

Moneyball is a movie about a man who almost single-handedly made baseball even more boring than it already was.  Yet I loved it.  I am not a baseball fan; the only way you can get me to watch a game is if I’m only giving it cursory glances in between laughing with my friends, enjoying the energetic atmosphere of a ball field.  The back of a baseball card, covered in stats, means nothing to me. 

But the back of the card is exactly what powered Billy Beane’s revolution of the baseball world.  Facing the daunting financial competition and the discouraging patterns of building stars only to have them bought away, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics (great name, huh?) decided to think outside the box.  Instead of replacing his best players who were transferring to other clubs, he set out to build a team. 

The team-based experiment drew me in, as did Brad Pitt’s excellent performance as Billy.  Moneyball centers on him and his life, his doubts and courage and confidence, all subtly motivated by his desire to improve the game he loved, especially for the little guy.  Funny moments balance with touching.  Family, friendship, rivals, and enemies populate the Oakland world of Billy Beane, circa 2002.  He set out to gather partners who didn’t think so traditionally about big money and big names – while still reaching out to the old school veterans that had built his ball club.  The social dynamics in an endeavor like that – contrasted with the window into the trades and deals worked by general managers in the fast-paced, high-stakes business of baseball across the country – made for a really interesting movie.

Restraint from showing too much of that slow-paced nuance of the actual game of baseball also helped the movie to expand its appeal beyond baseball fans while still capturing the “romance” of the sport.  Rated PG-13 only for language and minimal drinking/tobacco use, I didn’t find it hard – though I was surprised – to enjoy Moneyball.  Thanks to my friend, Nick, for persuading me to go with him and his wife to watch it.  

To God be all glory.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Grave to Craven

One would think that the root word of ‘gravity’ is related to that hole we dig in the ground and put coffins into, commonly called a grave.  Both bring the sense of “down.”  And how can one miss the weight of solemn sorrow that is associated with burying a human being in the dirt?  But it turns out that etymologists have two histories for the word grave, a sort of convergent evolution: one in the sense of gravity, going back to the Proto Indo-European *gru and another in the sense of that hole in the ground, sending us back to *ghrebh.  Nearly as fascinating is the study of ‘crave’ and ‘craven.’ 

Grave (*gru) – is an adjective, arriving in English through the French, who received it from the Latin for “weighty, serious, heavy, grievous, oppressive.”  The PIE base often contains the notion of strength or force along with weight.  This is the root that ‘gravity’ traces back to. 

Grave (*ghrebh) – is a noun, in the Old English and Old High German meaning much the same as it does today.  The Old Norse used its relative for ‘cave.’  Ultimately, the definition is derived from a sense of “to dig, to scratch, to scrape.” 

Etymonline.com adds some trivia: “From Middle Ages to 17c., [graves] were temporary, crudely marked repositories from which the bones were removed to ossuaries after some years and the grave used for a fresh burial.” 

Gravity – n. weight, dignity, seriousness; from Latin gravitas: “weight, heaviness, pressure.”  From the PIE *gru

Also from PIE *gru comes:

Grief – a word appearing in English since the 13th century, meaning “hardship, suffering, pain, bodily affliction” – especially one undeserved, as in the Old French grief “wrong, grievance, injustice, misfortune, calamity.” 

Grievance – from circa A.D. 1300 the Old French grievance “harm, injury, misfortune, trouble, suffering.”  This word has referred to the cause of such a condition since the late 15th century.  

Grievous – came with the family of words to English around A.D. 1300, once again from the Old French.  Grevos meaning “heavy, hard, toilsome.”  

Also from PIE *gerbh (to scrape), *ghrebh (to dig), and *ghreu (to rub):

-graphy – “process of writing or recording” or “a writing, recording, or description.”  From the Greek meaning first “to draw” and then “to express by written characters”: originally, “to scrape, scratch (on clay tablets with a stylus).”

Graphe – n. “a thing written”; translated ‘scripture’ from New Testament Greek manuscripts. 

Graven – adj. “deeply impressed; firmly fixed.  Carved; sculptured”  See Exodus 20:4: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,

Gravel – n. “sand.”  Related to the Modern French greve which refers to the seashore or sand.  Possibly from the Celtic *gravo, and perhaps ultimately from PIE *ghreu – “to rub, grind.”

Grind – a verb dating back to the Old English where it was a class III strong verb: past tense grand, past participle grunden.  See PIE *ghrendh also attested in Latin frendere “to gnash the teeth” and Greek khondros “corn, grain” or Lithuanian grendu “to scrape, scratch.”   

And now on to the “c” words, beginning with one mentioned in a definition above:

Carve – yet another Old English class III strong verb: past tense cearf, past participle corfen.  Meaning “to cut, slay, cut out, engrave.”  From the PIE base *gerbh

Craven – was used fascinatingly by JRR Tolkien in Lord of the Rings – consider all the nuance he was trying to communicate when he described a character’s words as “craven.”  This adjective comes from the French cravant, Old French crevante “defeated” from the Latin crepare “to crack, creak.”  It was most likely affected by ‘crave’ (though previously unrelated) to move from “defeated” to “cowardly” as long ago as A.D. 1400.  Some etymologists suggest that the word kept a hold on the earlier definition by justifying the shift to modern “cowardly” as a result of “confessing oneself defeated.” 

Crave – comes from the North Germanic *krabojan “ask, implore, and especially demand by right.  The current sense “to long for” is as old as A.D. 1400, probably developed through the intermediate usage of “to ask very earnestly” in the 1300’s.  Through the mutual base sense of “power”, ‘crave’ may be related to ‘craft.’ 

Craft – a noun meaning “power, physical strength, might” especially in the older occurrences (see Proto-Germanic *krab-/*kraf- bases) but expanded in Old English to include “skill, art, science, and talent.”  These latter led to the meaning “trade, handicraft, calling.”   

Craft – Interestingly, the verb form was obsolete for about 300 years, originally meaning “to exercise a craft, build” in the Old English, and revived in the United States especially, beginning in the 1950’s. 

Craft – used as a noun for “small boat” first in the 1670’s.  May have come to use via either the trade the small boats engaged in or the seamanship required to man the vessels. 

Thanks to:
Strong’s Concordance as found on www.BlueLetterBible.org
and mostly to www.EtymOnline.com


To God be all glory.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Alive, Human, Innocent

Ending the life of an innocent human being is wrong!
 
So.  Some analysis:
Pro-choice people cannot legitimately say that
the "product of conception"
is not alive
or that he is not innocent
or that he is not a human being.
All are quite obvious facts.
By definition they are ending whatever-he-is through an abortion or "termination". 
The only thing left is to doubt the assertion that the act is wrong.
But if ending the life of an innocent human being is not wrong,
then how am I safe
from having my life ended?
How are you safe?
Who decides?

To God be all glory.  

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Pigfest Exploration Summary

Media (books and movies) should not be censored.  Original authors may censor their own works, in a sense, by omitting immoral content.  Should this resolution be adopted, there would be no fast-forwarding unwanted scenes in movies.  Ideally there would be no need to fast forward, since creators of media would not put inappropriate things in their works.  But this highlights a clash of values, where the artist and consumer may not agree on what is appropriate.  Refusing censorship increases freedom.  As a consumer, you have the freedom to reject a whole work – but you should not take someone else’s work and chop it up to use for your own ends.  This applies market pressure on producers to only present works whose content is not morally objectionable.  Ratings could be helpful in deciding ahead of time whether to watch a movie or read a book.  Or ratings could be a form of censorship, especially as the government limits audiences based on ratings.  Governments having the right to censor gives them too much power over the education of the populace.  Movie ratings of R and NC-17 have legal restrictions associated with them.  The government also controls who is sold “mature” materials.  Does it control who views them?  Is there a legal penalty for, say, parents letting their children view NC-17 films?  Individuals are welcome to censor for themselves, or for children, so long as they censor in whole.  Why is censorship a bad thing?  Objectionable content and explicit material sometimes get an idea across in the way the creator thinks is best or most powerful.  Explicit material negatives may outweigh the positives of being exposed to a new idea, for some consumers.  Also media tends to be complex with multiple subpoints versus one whole idea – so you may only be censoring a subpoint by fast forwarding one scene.  How do we judge criteria for including (whether the idea is important enough to be presented via explicit material)?  If the consumer is to make his own judgment call, how can he before viewing the piece and seeing how the scene ties in with the entirety? 

Proverbs says*: the righteous foresee danger and take precautions. The fool goes on and suffers the harm, so we ought to prepare to live in third world conditions.  Third world conditions are defined as being without running water, electricity, plumbing, or transportation systems (for some examples).  The reason we should be ready is to survive and to help others survive.  We need to plan, to figure out what will be the most effective means of survival.  Stockpiling food is probably not a good long-term strategy.  Stock-piling guns so we can take food from other people or to hunt for more food was suggested, arguing that there is a concentration of food in the city that would not quickly run out.  But there is a difficulty of transporting food from where found and grown to where people are gathered in cities.  So maybe we should spread out, buy several acres and start a commune.  It would need to be protected well, grow food, raise goats and chickens.  And if the goal is survival, we might want to make sure that the members have skills needed to contribute to the commune (and exclude those who wouldn’t be assets).  Is this a realistic foreseen danger, that our country will suffer third world conditions?  Why should we believe that the prophets foreseeing this danger are righteous (or prudent as in the verse) and that we ought to follow their “wisdom”?  Reasons for suspecting upcoming danger are: specialization of skills, and the direction of our economy.  Is prevention possibly more important than preparation, and how should we balance these in priority with limited time?  Are we putting too much emphasis on one proverb or teaching?  Is not the proverb referring to an imminent danger seen just ahead – not a risk of possible danger?  How would we do this and store up treasure in heaven?  There are other benefits of preparing skills that could be useful even if the danger does not come to pass.  It would be unwise to not prepare at all.  What about “seeking first the kingdom of God” because our heavenly Father knows our needs?  The ability to produce necessities could help neighbors, whom we are commanded to love. 

*Proverbs 27:12 (NLT, closest I could find to what was quoted in the resolution) says: “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”

A healthy marriage is one that fights… WELL.  Fighting well is defined as with respect but no violence and without avoiding the conflict.  Never fighting is bad.  An assumption was made that there will be internalization of an offense, leading to growing bitterness, if it is not addressed between them.  The other extreme is that of violence, doing injury to one another.  A good marriage is in the middle, acknowledging and dealing with disagreement as a couple.  If the wife is obedient, isn’t there no fighting?  How does fighting well contribute to the purpose of marriage?  If conflict exists, married couples must deal with it well.  But is the existence of conflict a sign of a good marriage?  How frequently should conflict arise to prove a good marriage?  Is fighting the best way to deal with it?  Is conflict sinful?  The debaters speaking seemed frequently to assume that conflicts arose when one person sinned against another, but are there other reasons for conflict?  Is fighting sinful?  When you fight you have to work through a disagreement.  Repentance (of sin if there was sin causing the conflict) is more important than fighting. Why doesn’t the wife just submit as a way of dealing with it?  A wife should sharpen her husband (as opposed to always being silent and never expressing a dissenting opinion).  An example was given of a polygamous marriage in which one wife is sharpening her husband because that is the sort of relationship they have, but the other wives are to submit quietly and contribute to the household (think Jacob and his four wives, Rachel being the one he really wanted the emotional relationship with).  Assuming there is conflict, fighting badly and avoiding the conflict would not, either one, be productive responses.  A good marriage is one that communicates, that works as a team, and those virtues are hindered by the bad extremes of dealing with conflict.  A couple should decide in conference whether an issue is worth fighting about, and if not, let it go.  Allowing bitterness to grow (through avoiding conflict or not) is sinful.  It is a spouse’s spiritual duty as a Christian ‘brother’ to confront sin.  But it is less important to fight about non-sin. 

Entertainment is wrong.  Entertainment defined as anything you do simply for pleasure or fun.  If you have more purposes, it is not entertainment.  Entertainment has unintended benefits.  Why would it be wrong?  It distracts from beneficial behavior.  It causes people to ignore good works.  It selfishly seeks gratification.  Laziness is bad.  Could we just say that entertainment shouldn’t be placed above something more beneficial?  Should people always do the most beneficial thing?  Being conscious of your motives is essential.  Are there other restrictions on fun or pleasure besides motives – extravagance of spending, content, frequency?  There is such a thing as Christian pleasure.  We are not choosing between something fun and some good work, but good works that can also be fun – or at least bring us pleasure as we honor God with our lives.  Friendship is impoverished when people cannot connect on pleasures and interests.  Does this resolution lead to justifying entertainment by adding other motives?  Or do we add entertainment to other central motives so that we get enough fun in? 

In the following resolution, ‘Church’ is defined as the assembling of Christians as described in the New Testament.  Because Pigfests are so much like Church, we should let women be silent.  (This was my resolution, and as a female, I refused to say anything more after this for fifteen minutes.  A few women continued to contribute, but the debate was mostly carried by the men present.)  Pigfests are not enough like Church, in that they are not claiming to be church; only then could rules about Church apply.  Churches, definitionally, have leadership structures that Pigfests lack.  Is women’s silence useful for something in particular?  (after a pause in conversation) Things get decided faster!  The New Testament says that where two or more believers are gathered, that is Church.  So if Christians are driving in a car, the women shouldn’t talk?  If only two Christian women are present there would be no talking?  That would make for less gossip (though men gossip also).  Is a Pigfest more like church than those (in car, 2 women) gatherings?  New Testament Church was a gathering devoted to doctrine, teaching, and reading the Word of God.  New Testament church gathered for edification (one of the stated purposes for Pigfests).  New Testament Church is for worship.  Where is the verse about women being silent?  There is a scarcity of conversation when men who are used to women participating are faced with women being silent.  1 Corinthians 14:34 was read: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.” (NKJV)/“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.” (NIV)  The verses assume that women are present, listening.  A husband or father can benefit in at least two ways from the “asking at home” in verse 35: 1) He needs to pay extra attention to be able to answer, 2) The man has the responsibility to participate at Church, whereas the woman just observes and has a more objective perspective.  These two perspectives are joined at home through the personal interaction with the women who saved up questions and thoughts.  How do unmarried women get their questions answered?  (In jest, it was suggested that unmarried women did not belong at church and should be out finding husbands instead.)  Unmarried women can learn from fathers.  Most “churches” in the United States let women speak.  Does silence mean what we think?  Why ‘let’?  Corinthians also says a few chapters before that women praying and prophesying in Church should have their heads covered, allowing speaking in some circumstances.  Both passages deal with subjection and are perhaps driving at a deeper concept that would be applicable at Pigfests.

Churches should draft all attendees to serve in preschool nursery care during service.  (My summary is not based on notes for this one, but on memory of segments caught while I was preparing dinner in the adjacent room.)  Assumes churches have nurseries.  Give visitors a few weeks before requiring them to serve.  Should service be determined by gifting, desire, request of elders/deacons, or by mandatory rule?  What are the dangers of having someone who is not a Christian or who knows nothing about taking care of children serving in those ministries?  Why are parents often expected to serve when they’re the most burnt out?  Specifically mentioned was the class of empty-nesters and older people who could be a help to young parents.  Parents need a break from children.  Why this ministry above others?  Evangelizing children is so important because you are so much more likely to get a conversion from people before they reach adulthood.  And the kids are ready to be learning truths about God and stories from the Bible that will benefit them their whole lives.  But is that what Church is for?  The same people tend to serve in many ministries and get burnt out, but a draft would ensure that those accustomed to coming to church as only consumers would contribute.  (Again, I apologize for not having more detailed notes.)

Fasting is bribing God to do what you want Him to do.  Does it always work – that God gives us what we want when we fast?  The Bible does say, of fasting, that God rewards what is done in secret.  But that reward might not be granting what we ask.  Bribery is wrong when it perverts justice.  Fasting is different from prayer.  It puts us in the mindset or mood to accept God’s will.  But people in the Bible initiate fasting when they really want something (example of Esther).  Are there other motives than asking God for something?  Should we fast merely to be open to find what God’s will is?  The act of fasting, apart from God “answering” in some way, practices self-denial and being open.  The hunger is a reminder that we are hungering for other things.  It helps us remember to pray, to practice for or relate to famine and starvation in the world.  Jesus talked about praying in secret and fasting in secret, not seeking the praise of men.  Jesus’ disciples did not fast, Jesus said, because they had the bridegroom with them.  So fasting is an appropriate response when separated, a sort of mourning.  Is Jesus with us now?  Matthew 6 contains Jesus’ teaching on fasting.  Feasting is the opposite of fasting.  Jesus also said that some demons came out by prayer and fasting.  Why did Jesus fast for 40 days?  Does the Old Testament Law have instructions for fasting, especially why?  Was there some tradition of fasting when separated from a bridegroom?  Husbands and wives, in 1 Corinthians 7, are allowed to be separate from each other only for a time of fasting. 

Premarital sex is not wrong; you just have to marry the person.  Is marriage, then, to be seen as a penalty?  Paying the dowry was also required by the Old Testament law.  Fornication is often forbidden in the Bible.  The Hebrew and Greek words translated fornication are mostly associated with harlotry, or descriptions of sexual immorality or sin which would include the other sins listed in the Old Testament Law: incest, homosexuality, beastiality, rape, and adultery.  Is a male paying for dinner sufficient payment for relations to be considered prostitution?  If the woman cooks a man dinner, is she paying him?  What is the penalty in the Mosaic Law for visiting a prostitute?  Is almost barely permissible really “ok”?  What if the woman doesn’t want to marry the man?  Are they then sinning?  If the father refused, in the Old Testament, they didn’t have to marry.  It is not beneficial to prove that unwise things (as being debated: premarital sex) aren’t sinful.  Would the couple be sinning if they repeatedly had sex before they were married?  Is there a time limit before they must marry?  What is the impact of telling people they’re sinners if they aren’t sinning before God?  There are positive instructions in the Bible to keep our bodies pure, not prostituting them.  Women, at least, are also told to be chaste – and what is the definition for that?  The Old Testament allowed a man to annul his marriage if he discovered that the woman he married was not pure – not a virgin.  Is it a fair argument that because the Mosaic Law does not treat premarital sex with the same consequence (death) as other sexual sins, that it is not immoral or sinful?  The law about requiring a couple to marry is a protection for a woman, who gets one chance to choose whom she marries.  It is better, Paul said, to marry than to burn – not to give in to the burning and then get married.  What are we doing to teens who engage in this behavior but are not encouraged to marry? 

*A Pigfest is 15 minutes long, and I am glad that such a topic cannot be thoroughly explored in that time.  Pigfest topics often spur further conversation, study, and debate after the party has ended.  I am aware of many such discussions and investigations following this particular resolution.  In the interest of spurring people on to holiness, I am adding some notes that were not covered in the debate.  1) It is almost impossible for premarital sex to occur without sinning in some other way – especially in dishonoring parents.  2) If Jesus’ relationship with the Church is to be well-pictured by weddings and marriages of Christians, then there will be abstinence until marriage.  Abstinence also accords with the way God instituted marriage.  3) As our ceremony and vows are not described in biblical accounts of weddings, it is hard to determine what constitutes a marriage before God.  However, the act of intercourse, it is made clear by the law in question, is not sufficient to make one married.  4) The biblical understanding of harlotry comprised more than our modern understanding of prostitutes for hire; it very likely included all premarital sex.  5) Christian virtue calls for purity, self-control, fleeing youthful lusts.  6) Marriage that is supposed to be a life-long commitment, recognizing submission as ordained by God – not governed by force or passion – is not starting out on a good foot if it is begun in insubordination to parents, giving in to lusts, and letting self control rather than be controlled.  7) We ought to hold Christians to the high standard of God, and in the New Testament era, to exercise church discipline on those unrepentant about their sin – so long as we identify sin for what it is.  8) Christians should be clear on the source of their understanding of what constitutes sin. 

Betrothal should last at least one year consisting of spending a lot of supervised time with no physical intimacy.  Why so long?  Can you back out of a betrothal?  Parents would be more comfortable giving their child in marriage after such a year.  In that year a couple could learn about conflict resolution and be more mature about their relationship.  The goal would be less divorce, discovering compatibility.  Pre-arranged marriages (which had basically no interaction before the wedding) also have less divorce and are more mature, since they start with a commitment to work through the marriage.  Short engagements save you from temptation.  Should we be saved from temptations?  Long engagements enable you to save money for a wedding.  It is possible (preferable?) to know people well before you get engaged so that you wouldn’t need a year-long betrothal to get to know them.  Shouldn’t Christians just be able to have a good marriage with anyone else who is a Christian?  Why do we need all these conditions and preparations?  (For example, arranged marriages work in many cultures.)  Parents know their kids well.  Who better to decide whom they should marry?  God might know better.  It would be beneficial, in the proposed betrothal situation, to have that support and accountability that comes from the supervision.  But wouldn’t such support and accountability be just as useful if it were instituted at the beginning of a marriage?  Should community help (not supervision) end at the wedding?  Church discipline should be an option for divorce or marital problems, a further example of accountability after the wedding.  There is value in a vow.  Following people with church discipline (the only way to effectively do it in this age of church choice and denominations) can get you sued.  Do the right thing anyway; help couples to have a good relationship and hold them accountable for sin.  A show of hands revealed that there was almost unanimous support present for short engagements.  When people get married for love, then the ‘butterflies’ go away and they don’t feel like being married any more.  (Would the butterflies go away because of the year-long highly supervised, get to know each other very well betrothal?)  Some husbands ‘testified’ that the butterflies haven’t gone away.  Awwww….

Gluttony is one of the most prevalent and least talked about sins in America.  The silence is surprising given the number of health problems related to gluttony.  Gluttony is defined as desirous of food to the point where you put it above God.  How would it be put above God?  Testimony was reported of one whose “soul reached out to eating food,” that it was a focus of his life.  If gluttony was so prevalent, more people would be 400 pounds.  But there can be gluttony even in a culture with much higher risks of suffering starvation.  Gluttons desire to eat – and they aren’t picky about eating good food; in this way as in other ways, it is similar to drunkenness.  It is, however, harder to tell when a person is being gluttonous.  Obesity or lack thereof is not proof of gluttony – or of not being a glutton.  It is not gluttonous to occasionally, at feasts (think Thanksgiving), eat too much.  Why does our culture address it – when it does – as a health issue or a corporate issue instead of as sin?  The main verses addressing gluttony were found and read, particularly those in Deuteronomy and Proverbs.  Bulimia – partaking without consequences of nourishment – might be related to gluttony, though it is likely associated with other mental health (spiritual?) issues more.  If someone struggles with gluttony, it should be treated as sin – and deliverance should be sought by acknowledging it to be sin. 

To God be all glory. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Control and Contingencies Conclusion


So what God has been teaching me lately is to be responsive where I am, pressing forward from this point, not aiming to reach one ideal because I’m not the one who decides what “done” looks like.  And I need to ask myself whether I’m rejecting opportunities to do good things because they aren’t ideal.  I owe my life to my maker, a lump of clay submitted to the potter’s design, intention, and wisdom.  May I be faithful in each moment.

To God be all glory.

Control and Contingencies Part 8


As a sidewalk counselor, I encounter various arguments for abortion.  One of the arguments is that a woman has a right to self-determination.  She has the right, they say, not to be pregnant.  A person has the right to eliminate consequences of their own choices and actions. 

Of course the real world doesn’t allow us to erase causes – or effects.  When we deal with effects, we are making more choices leading to more causes of more effects.  The initial choice is never un-made.  Likewise abortion does not un-make a child; it kills him. 

When faced with an unwanted pregnancy, it is useful to counsel a woman about where to go from here rather than what would have been ideal.  She has a baby.  Now what?  Murder that child, give that child away, or keep that child and receive its love.  Each of those will have consequences, for the mom and the baby.  So we try to focus on those facts about the real world, when we’re out sidewalk counseling. 

To God be all glory. 

Control and Contingencies Part 7

Last week after a prayer meeting I usually attend, a few of us got to talking about the Declaration of Independence.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  One says he doesn’t believe in the right to life, but in the right to property.  Another agrees with the declaration.  I say, “Um, what does ‘rights’ mean?”  And it sounds like a silly question, but we struggle with it.  If God gives a right, is it irrevocable, even by Him, even if we do something to deserve ourselves out of it?  If our right to liberty is limited – by nature, by moral laws, or by civil laws – what does liberty even mean?  When you die, do you lose your rights?  If your rights aren’t enforced, are you stripped of them or are they merely violated?  Does having inalienable rights just mean that the rules are consistent throughout your lifetime? 

Some things, besides confusion, that I came away with, are: Liberty does not mean either the ability or the permission to make the world the way you want it – even regarding yourself.  God owns the rights to life.  God sometimes delegates His authority over the rights of others.  The Old Testament emphasizes property rights in a way that exalts land ownership higher than I am accustomed.  Israelites could sell their land, but they got it back at Jubilee.  And fathering an heir to the land, to carry on the family name and almost to own the land, was very important.  Basically, a right that furthered our dominion responsibility given by God, is much more important than some right of self-determination.

To God be all glory.

Control and Contingencies Part 6


A friend recently asked an interesting question on his Facebook status.  He said “Are spiritual gifts rewards?”  What followed was a discussion that went a certain way because of the things that his friends had been thinking about.  It wasn’t a simple, abstract, objective discussion.  I have been reading Andrew Murray on the Holy Spirit, and it is frustrating me.  He teaches that we are utterly dependent on God, and that we ought to wait on His power and guidance instead of being self-directed.  But he also says that the reason many Christians have not received a Pentecostal manifestation and ongoing filling of the Holy Spirit is because they do not want it, have not surrendered to it.  I don’t like this because it puts the gifts of God out of the realm of grace, leaving people feeling anxious that though there is a gift they want and which God wants to give, they must do more to persuade God to give it to them.  They must be doing something wrong.  But are they under conviction about any sin?  Does God not hear their pleas for deliverance from sin, for power to be God’s vessels in the Church and the world?  Does He judge them as insincere who cry out for this gift? 

But maybe God doesn’t always work in bursts like that.  Maybe He doesn’t want our goal to be the acquisition of some particular gift.  When I searched deeply for what really bothered me about Andrew Murray’s teaching, I found that I believe God wants daily faithfulness, that He sanctifies us as we follow Him.  And my Facebook friend pointed out that in this life the sanctification and maturing will not end.  We should not be content – Andrew Murray advocates discontent with our mediocre spiritual experiences.  But even if our experiences are not mediocre, we shouldn’t be content.  We shouldn’t ever feel that we’ve reached our own ideal of spiritual intimacy, so we need not desire or pursue any more. 

This brings to mind Philippians 3:12-14, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

To God be all glory.

Control and Contingencies Part 5


Submission has come up a lot lately in my life.  I very much value authority and submission. But I don’t understand parts of it. Can you correct someone in authority over you? How do different authorities share their roles – church has authority, husbands have authority, fathers and mothers have authority, government has authority.  Can an authority delegate his leadership to someone else? For example, if God told Moses to lead the children of Israel, could Moses sit back and assign others to lead them? What role does delegation play?  What if God intervenes and exercises His authority directly (He told Isaiah to break the Mosaic Law, and he didn’t go to the priests or the king or the assembly to get permission)?  If there is no one exercising authority over me, is it my job to find someone to whom to submit? 

Friends have challenged me on my interpretations of Church leadership.  Does God even give actual authority to elders, or is it more about responsibilities and respect?  Does an elder have a right to tell me when and where and how or how not to use my spiritual gifts? Can he tell me to go on a mission trip or to host a poor family in my home or to quit my job? Could a father or a husband? Do I have to get approval from my authority for every choice I make? If not, how do I know which ones to get his ok on?  Do those who were formerly under authority and are appointed to equal authority really exercise equal authority?  Who are elders accountable to?

I’m also wondering whether men, in general, ought to be followed by women, or only specific men: husbands, fathers, Church elders.  Paul says he does not permit a woman to have authority over a man (in church), and cites the order of creation, but does that mean women ought to never lead a man? Or is it bad to submit to a man who does not have a specific authority position over you (husband, father, elder)?  If a man has (any kind of) authority, does that mean he gets to tell you what to do (make me a sandwich; read this book; call your parents) or is the authority different somehow? Does it matter the sphere of authority?

One book I read as a study in discipline is a parenting book called Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp.  It raised more questions.  What happens when kids become adults – do parents have the same authority over them? If a parent’s authority is derived from their responsibility before God to train up their children, then is it ok for other people to help parents?  Are there limits to the amount of a parent’s job that a babysitter, teacher, friend, or relative can take – can they discipline? 

One point Mr. Tripp really tries to drive home is that parents don’t have authority because they are bigger, older, better, stronger, or smarter.  They have authority as God’s representatives to their children.  Therefore, they don’t get to decide what purposes – and in some cases, which means – they have in raising their children.  Training is not for the parent’s convenience or pleasure.  They must be good examples of submission (to God) for their children, who are likewise learning to submit (to parents and God).  The children are not theirs; they are God’s.  So God says parents are authorities, not buddies; trainers, not dictators; fellow humans, not gods. 

To God be all glory.   

Control and Contingencies Part 4


CS Lewis wrote a book, That Hideous Strength.  It is one of my favorite novels.  Early in the story we meet a newly married woman named Jane, who has discovered that marriage is not what she imagined.  In fact she imagined a lot about her life that just isn’t so.  And some things have come up that she never intended.  Her initial reaction is to reject uninvited realities, and to be miserable about her disappointments.  She thought her life could be made by her, her marriage, her identity.  Gradually she acknowledges that this was never an option in God’s plan.  Always she has been His, with a role to play that he wrote, that fits in best with others who are surrendered to the author’s intentions.  And what a disaster when you fight it. 

The whole earth is suffering from just such a rebellion.  Every man is trying to make himself God and the world in his own wisdom, trampling others, insanely overlooking facts of nature.  But the Church is meant to stand opposite the chaos, showing how every part does its share through the measure of gifting supplied from God, keeping our places as God has set each in the Body.  CS Lewis uses the house of Ransom to depict this unity in diversity, showing not only how much we need each other, but how we are most ourselves when seeking how to bless one another instead of trying to figure out who we are and what life we want.  Let others tell us, or by their needs reveal to us, what becomes us. 

To God be all glory. 

Control and Contingencies Part 3


“We sometimes hear the expression ‘the accident of sex,’ as though one’s being a man or a woman were a triviality.  It is very far from being a triviality.  It is our nature.  It is the modality under which we live all our lives; it is what you and I are called to be – called by God, this God who is in charge.”  Elisabeth Elliot deeply explores the subjects of calling and obedience in her book, Let Me Be a Woman. 

Being alive and finding myself a woman indicates to me that God has a purpose for me in being female.  It is not given to me to change which gender I am, or to ignore my gender and act however I feel. 

A couple chapters later, she writes: “All creatures, with two exceptions that we know of, have willingly taken the places appointed to them…  What sort of world might it have been if Eve had refused the Serpent’s offer and had said to him instead, ‘Let me not be like God.  Let me be what I was made to be – let me be a woman’?” 

The rest of the book explores what it means to be a woman, why God created females, and how we are to relate to the rest of the world, and particularly as wives to husbands.  Reading it recently was refreshing and encouraging as I struggle to learn submission. 


To God be all glory. 

Control and Contingencies Part 2


There is a movie called Leap Year, and I can’t recommend it because of a couple scenes that just aren’t beneficial for holding on to good morals.  But like some sort of hypocrite, I watch it occasionally.  It is thought-provoking, but then my brother says everything makes me think.  This in-control woman (whose control issues are a response to an out of control childhood) is tired of being disappointed and waiting on her boyfriend to propose.  They’re living together already, but she still dreams of commitment and forever-love.  So she decides to take advantage of an Irish tradition and propose to her boyfriend herself, on Leap Day, in Ireland where he is at a conference.  So she sets out to surprise him.

But there’s a detour of more than her travel plans.  Miss get-her-done responds to a series of difficult situations with great skill.  But when things keep going wrong, and she can’t do anything about it, she finds herself in need of being more reactionary but in a trusting way instead of a plan for every contingency sort of way.  This reveals some flaws in her relationship with her boyfriend, and also in her plan to deal with it.

Guiding her both geographically and psychologically is an Irish pub-owner with wounds and disappointments of his own, but with much more common sense.  He isn’t so good at trusting, either, but at least he knows it’s the way to go.  Sit down, pull out an apple, and wait.  There’s a castle near the bus stop.  Why not climb to the top?  You might have to put up with some rain, but the walk is worth it, right?

Being thrown together, forced to work together to accomplish their goals, the heroine and her guide start to fall for each other, despite her mission to propose.  (Yeah, it's another one of those movies.)  For one thing, the guide has confidence that if the boyfriend wanted to get married, he would have asked, and that rather than chasing him down and trapping an unwilling husband, the girl should reconsider entirely.  But they also start to reach out in totally selfless ways, taking interest in each others’ lives and motives.  There is realistic resistance, but a persistent direction towards understanding and friendship.

Near the end, the beautiful American doesn’t have to propose because her boyfriend asks her to marry him himself.  Mr. Irish Guide has his bit of disappointment, but he’s benefited from the experience, from the friendship, from being forced - through her - to think about his own choices in life.  In a way, he’d been holding out just as much as she had.  Things are not quite as happy for the heroine, who finds out that the proposal was brought on not by real desire to get married, but by social pressure from people selling them an apartment together.  She stands in the middle of her dream home and realizes that she has everything she wants and nothing she needs.  So she flees.  What makes a person leave everything they know and have dreamed of?

This time our heroine, who feels she has learned something but still hasn’t really learned, flies to Ireland pursuing another man.  In the middle of his pub, she confesses the way the time she spent with him changed her life, and invites him to “not make plans” with her, just to see where this “thing” goes.  But Irishman, common-sense, slightly cynical, guide-guy pub proprietor rejects her proposal.

It’s the kind of movie that could have ended unhappily and still been meaningful.  The filmmakers timed the scenes well so that I got to imagine such endings, the implications, and how I still feel satisfied, like there was a message that was useful anyway, experiences not wasted even if the end wasn’t happily ever after.

But she’s standing on a beautiful cliff on the coast of Ireland and he comes after her, and tells her he doesn’t want to not make plans; he wants to make plans.  And he gets down on one knee.  In the end it isn’t the having a dream that’s to be rejected – it’s an empty dream, a selfish and shallow life, that doesn’t deserve all that effort and pursuit.  Make plans to deal with contingencies together, with more to guide you than a destination. 

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Control and Contingencies Part 1


There’s a strategy game called Settlers of Catan that my friends and I like to play.  It’s kind of based on economics and the power of monopolies or embargoes or of trade and spending wisely, as well as taking risks.  I’m ok at it, but I don’t have enough experience or genius to keep the big picture in my head at all times.  My strategy usually revolves around starting well and going on my own from there, trying to be patient but usually ending up frustrated, because starting in an ideal position is rare.  Once my initial plan or hope is thwarted, I fall apart and then lose.  So I’m starting to learn to play intelligently based on contingencies.  No, I didn’t want that to happen or plan for that, but I’ll come up with a new brilliant plan (oh the humility!).  One advantage to this is that I pay more attention to the strategies and choices others are making.  And more than learning about economics, playing a game is about interacting with friends.  

To God be all glory.

Worthiness


God, the One
who created
everything,
and who is mightier
than everyone,
and who knows
the end
from the beginning,
who is
all-righteous
and good -
is the God
who speaks,
who moved in my own little life
to save me,
who moves each day
to lead me,
who prepares the way
before me
and lights it
with His own presence,
who gives to me
tiny good gifts
and listens to my
trembling prayers.
And yet I doubt;
I fear:
one sentence
one moment
and I freeze,
imagining the worst,
forgetting my
pleadings have been heard
by He who is
worthy
of being trusted.
And even if
what I imagine
is true
this day,
God is not
bound for tomorrow
by what is today,
and His plans will
come to pass,
so that
those who know
their own plans
are no more
in control,
future-assured
than I am:
wondering,
worrying,
guessing.
I spend the
rest of the night
resisting and
trying to
trust
and know
and be still
and be quiet
and be good
and rejoice.

To God be all glory.