Monday, January 31, 2011


If you were my Facebook friend, you would know that I've been in a questioning, controversial mood lately.  I decided that instead of just letting these thoughts float through my head, I'd expose the Facebook world to the incessant barrage of deep or significant questions that most of us choose to ignore or forget.  So I post the questions, and friends comment.  I try not to participate much.  Truly, this thinks-all-the-time writer isn't a know-it-all for all the thinking.  And I have real questions.  Sometimes I think I have the answers, and I need the strongly-self-confident opposition to teeter-totter me back the other way, just a bit.

Back in November I took a weekend to read through old journals.  There were a lot more than I thought, so I didn't even read through all of them.  My object was to see what God's been up to.  Has He been changing me? What can I praise Him for?  I rather failed in the praising part.  Mostly I kept the things I discovered to myself, and what's more - in the back of my mind.  But one thing I know I realized was that I'm not nearly as confident as I used to be.  For my pitiable Facebook friends, it may be hard to believe, but I'm gentler.  I used to take a firm and lengthy explanatory position, with rather contempt for other ideas, about predestination - to myself of course, in my journals.  Except each time I wrote, the position was a little different, and it was like I hadn't realized my understanding was changing.  But I'm not like that now, not as much.  I don't always know the answer, and just because I think of an explanation doesn't mean it's true.

Last night I was watching the newer film version of Emma, the one starring Romola Garai.  For some reason I was paying attention, and realized that Emma doesn't just learn in the course of the story: she grows.  There is a difference in her reaction to correction, gradually growing in humility and grace as the movie progresses.  So not only is she learning not to manipulate, and to be kinder, and to pay attention to the world around her - she's also moving from defending against correction, to beating herself up when she's wrong, to contemplating the opinions of others, and finally, to almost anticipating their criticisms of her.  She's not flippant any more, but she's not stormy either.  The Emma who marries Mr. Knightley is still a bit silly, but she is - I want to say calmer, but every time I think it, I picture her tear-stained face protesting that she cannot marry because she cannot leave her father - more profound, maybe?  She is truly thinking of others, and that makes her own opinions less relevant.

So I hope that I am becoming such a woman.  I am praying for humility.  For kindness and gentleness.  I want to be honest, and to be known, and to be helped and encouraged.  So I won't be avoiding controversial topics.  Anyway, they seem to chase me down.  Just when I was letting the doctrines of ecclesiology simmer in a peaceful slumber, a friend brought them up again, awakened me to more questions - and most pressing, how to apply what I believe.  Next Facebook status: "Do you need a pastor?"

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


For a couple hours we played, this little 11-month-old girl and I.  She pushed her alligator-pond wooden walker (the quaintest I’ve ever seen), and then we read a book of old animal rhymes.  I crawled around after her, heedless of the frizz overcoming my fresh-washed curls.  We spun on the wood floor of the kitchen, and sang songs and danced around the island there.  When we were tired, I made her a bottle and she lay in my arms playing with my fingernails while she ate.  Then she went off to bed and I found a cozy spot to read my book, a biography of Keith Green.

At my weekly Bible study and prayer meeting (which has been off for weeks due to the holidays), we’ve been trying to delve into preterism, an eschatological interpretation that says that almost all of the Bible’s prophecies were fulfilled by the year AD 70.  But we’ve been struggling to really address it, dealing with an email a full-preterist friend sent or a sermon on Daniel by a partial-preterist pastor we know but not really tackling anything.  So I decided to just jump in and get one of the books about preterism and read it so we could have something to go on.  Deciding which book was pretty hard, since my library has none of the possibles.  The internet has websites for preterism and against preterism, and preterism forums, and partial preterists against full preterists.  I’m overwhelmed.  One link I clicked downloaded a book to my computer – over 400 pages!  RC Sproul, the renowned reformed theologian, has a book from the partial preterist perspective that has large samples online.  Nothing is clear.  And I’m rather skeptical reading just one side of any argument without doing a full Bible study on each claim. 

This morning a woman with whom I used to serve at my old church dropped her son off to be babysat by one of my sisters.  Though I was giving up my chance to stop for a doughnut on the way to work, I listened to the little snippet she told of her life right now.  It’s been a long time since the two of us caught up at a corner table of Coldstone.  I miss her.

All night Sunday I waited and waited for one of my best friends to send me an email, trying to resist sending her more epistles of my own composing.  Finally she called, and I took over the cushioned corner recently vacated by my visiting Marine brother, elbow over my head against a pillow and feet kicking while we chatted about hearing from God and building friendships by being vulnerable and hoping when there seems to be no evidence. 

I showed up randomly at a house full of friends last week.  They let me stay all afternoon and evening.  God told me to go, and I didn’t know why until the end.  Anyway, I colored with the daughters and snuggled with the infant son and caught up with the roommate and interviewed the grandma about her ministry, and talked long with the mom and dad, dear friends.  Why isn’t life ever simple and easy?  Why do hard things get stacked on top of each other?  Does even heaven promise to relieve difficulty?  Then we did dishes. 

Friends I made in some way I’m not clear on stopped by while they were in Colorado for Christmas.  We stirred sugar over the stove and talked about disciplining children and carrying babes close in slings.  We pulled taffy and discussed community and humility and risking hurt.  We tasted our sweets while we pondered the bitterness of injustice and the uncertainties of how the New Earth will be different than the present.  Do Christians now have power and authority over the Curse?  I googled this idea and the name Abraham Kuyper came up.  It keeps resurfacing.  People either love him or hate him, I guess, except me: I don’t know what to think.

All Sunday afternoon I worked on accounting for my business.  The government wants me to submit sales tax forms, and it took me three tries to figure out what they were asking for and get the amounts right.  Then I mailed off about four dollars’ worth of tax using a dollar’s worth of postage.  Sometimes I think I’ll give up on my business, but that’s so final – like selling my recently-replaced first car.  The pretty gold Saturn that saw me all over my part of the world for years is still sitting in the garage, while my new boxy Nissan tries to make me scrape the frost off her windows each morning before I drive her away.  Today I refused, and used my windshield wipers and defrost instead.

Some friends are starting a new ministry in Colorado.  They’re trying to raise awareness about abortion by holding large signs at intersections.  I believe it’s effective.  I don’t believe it’s wrong.  Well, it might be wrong if it’s illegal – even though I think my friends would still do it.  But I don’t know if I should commit to that ministry – even though people are assuming I will and counting on me.  It is in-your-face, a line in the sand for my more moderate friends.  And when your moderate friends start to shun you, you get more radical.  I’m not ready to be that radical.  What ministries does God want me to be a part of? 

For Christmas my grandma made a “quiet book” for our family.  The fabric pages each hold an activity: zipping, buttoning, counting, matching – for young children.  My parents will keep the book for their grandkids to play with.  They don’t have any grandchildren.  Six kids, four out of their teens, and no weddings and no grandkids.  I’m the oldest.  I’d like to make them parents-in-law, and grandparents.  For that matter, I’m even planning what kind of grandparent I want to be.  You might as well start now. 

The widows in 1 Timothy didn’t lose their husbands, after all, and suddenly decided to become qualified to be “taken into the number.”  Their whole lives they’d been practicing the good things Paul describes.  Older women don’t all at once learn the skills they need to teach younger women, like submitting to their own husbands.  What does that mean, anyway, submitting to your OWN husband?  Are women supposed to submit to men, because Adam was formed first?  What happens when women call men men, expect them to be men, and patiently let them live up to that name? 

After Christmas I mailed away “New Year’s gifts” to my friends on either coast of the US.  They’re all newly married, and it is still quite hard for me to imagine.  What does married mean, and what does it look like, and are they thriving, and is it hard?  Do my recipe books help?  What about The Prodigal God?  The friend I sent it to called me up asking what the book said about him, and how should he respond?  How do you really be a friend from thousands of miles away? 

I didn’t mail any gifts to my three friends in Africa.  Even mailing an empty box would have cost a fortune.  I was going to mail them an empty box, so that they could, in the spirit of Calvin’s transmogrifier, turn it into a teletransporter.  Then they could come home sooner than the three months they’re planning on.  They’re at an orphanage falling in love with kids and trying to be bold for Jesus.  I don’t begrudge them; I do miss them.

To get out of the house after Christmas I went to the thrift store – two days in a row!  And I bought a bunch of new clothes for 2011 that I love.  The next day, I went back.  Mom was going, so I figured I would just go along, and not spend any money, but you know I did.  I found a collapsible silicon over-sink strainer that is quite beautiful.  And there was this wire basket thing that you cook pasta or vegetables in, which I’d just seen on TV and wanted to try.  (When vegetables are easier to cook, it’s a lot more likely I’ll eat them.)  I found some Keith Green albums with booklets, and I’m too young to have heard any of his music; besides, my mom thinks he’s weird.  And there was a book for grown ups by AA Milne, and the first chapter of the first short story was so good that I read it out loud on the floor of my kitchen on New Year’s Eve, but it’s rather confusing out loud, like a play without directions.  I also purchased an organizer-bag for all my scrapbooking gizmos and accessories. 

There’s a coupon for a two-dollar dessert at an Italian place called Maggiano’s burning a hole in my purse.  Going alone would just be so silly, so I haven’t yet.  When I’m down there I have to return some items to JC Penney’s that I didn’t need for Christmas.   I also need a buddy to go see Tangled, a movie I haven’t seen and am rather conflicted about.  Everyone says it’s cute.  Some people say it is wholesome.  Others say it’s the same old song from Disney about girl-power and following your heart.  Personally, it’s the ninja-hair that has me worried.  I’ve polled my friends on Facebook who saw and liked the film, whether they saw it in 3D or not.  So far I haven’t even seen a 3D movie, a record I’m rather proud of. 

I’m stopping in at all the grocery stores in the area looking for a new source for large containers of chai latte mix.  Mom looked it up online and found a recipe for making our own.  I did find a cinnamon grinder (grinders are one of my new favorite things for the kitchen) the other day that I’m eager to try.  I use the chai for flavor, warmth, and energy, so it goes quickly.  I’ve needed warmth lately, layering into skirts made from blankets and flannel lined jeans and different sweaters and overcoats (wool, down-filled, leather) to stand outside sidewalk counseling.  Even inside I’ve needed my slippers and microwave-heated rice bags to stay cozy.  The snow stopped five days ago, but everywhere we go we still crunch through it. 

A blogger I read reviewed a book about ethics that he read in seminary, Begotten or Made?  Buying this book would cost a fortune, even used, so I found it in a theological library nearby.  Tonight my brother and I are going on an adventure, trying to read the 100-page book in one evening after work.  Around the corner from the library is an all-night Mediterranean joint that we went to once before, so we’ll hit that afterwards for some pitas and gyros, but not hummus. 

To God be all glory.