Friday, April 29, 2011

The Vows

I woke John up an hour early this morning, imploring him to turn on the TV. William and Cate were already at the altar, and everyone was singing a hymn before they took their vows. As they did, I remembered my own wedding.

Tomorrow afternoon, John's nephew will stand at another altar, exchanging vows with the woman that he loves. The vows, I suspect, will be similar to those that the prince and princess took today, and those that John and I made almost nine years ago. Again, I'm sure I'll think back to our own wedding, as I did early this morning.

But I won't be thinking of my white dress, or the fight John had with the veil when the pastor said, "You may now kiss the bride." My pastor from California gave me away, and later spoke some words encouraging and exhorting us (injecting his characteristic humor), but he won't be on my mind either. Not even the look of joy on John's face, as precious as that sight was.

The vows gripped me that day, as I sensed my accountability to the Lord. He was taking them seriously, reminding me that one day I'll answer to Him for how I've lived them out. Amid the flowers and music and chatty flower girl who regarded the event as "her" wedding, the seriousness of my vows--our vows--caused me to giggle nervously under their weight.

That healthy fear of God came back today, as Cate made the promises to William that I made to my own prince nine years ago. I expect I'll feel it tomorrow also, as our nephew's bride makes them. And I'll be thankful for this reminder:

 is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly 
or lightly; 
but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, 
and in the fear of God.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring, Interrupted By My Doctor

Spring has come, after a winter that (in all honesty) still refuses to let go completely. Yesterday John and I visited Boston, and John kept his camera busy snapping photos of the trees and flowers as they begin to display their splendor. Sadly, instead of editing and copyrighting several photos to share here, I spent almost two hours at my doctor's office, mostly in her waiting room. Nothing serious; just a check-up.

As a result of my day being so rudely interrupted, I've only prepared one photo today. It's of the suspension bridge in the Public Garden. I liked it from this angle, draped by newly green willow trees.

Romantic, huh? Actually, so was our date. But our decidedly unromantic day today keeps me from telling you about it. Well, weather permitting, we'll have more romantic dates in Boston before spring matures into summer, and I'll tell you all (almost all, anyway) about them.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Keep Out Of The Hatbox

My Easter dress is in the laundry, and my hat is back in its flowered box on the shelf of the hall closet. I spent most of today designing a card for the conductor on the Commuter Rail, who will be on a different line beginning next Monday. John and I successfully interviewed (and hired) a temporary Personal Care Attendant to cover Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings until my regular lady recovers from her broken arm. So the holiday is over, and life goes on.

Sort of.

Easter is meant to be more than another holiday that leaves ham sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs in its wake. That first Easter radically turned the entire universe on its ear! Christ, both 100% Man and 100% God had risen from the dead, abolishing the power of sin and restoring the possibility of everlasting life! How can I express the impact of it all without sounding trite? And yet, this good news of His Resurrection shouldn't be tucked away with the pastel tablecloths and Easter bonnets, to be carefully kept in reserve until April 8, 2012. No! It is the event that makes all the difference between life and death, and I will keep it out of my hat box, relishing the life that Christ has given me.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Beyond Doubt

Christ's Resurrection is not an allegory. It's not a myth, nor is it false comfort. He appeared to over 500 men, most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15, and could therefore verify His claim. His tomb was too heavily guarded to have been robbed, and the Roman soldiers would never have dared to fall asleep while guarding it.

I've staked my life on this central event of history!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Oh Reverend...Nothing Could Matter More!

My eyes are a bit bleary, and my thoughts are more than all over the landscape. I've been reading all sorts of articles and posts about Christ's Resurrection, as well as listening to John MacArthur's study of it on his daily radio broadcast, and I've learned (on a deeper level than ever) how pivotal it is! Yet, can I put into words, without typing for the next 35 years, what I've learned in the last six days? And, if I actually did manage to record everything I've learned this week, would I do it justice?

Probably not.

But each time I think about the Resurrection (at any time of the year), my mind goes back to that horrid Easter Sunday in 1974 that I blog about every year. I'd returned to my childhood church, after three years of being born again, hoping I could fit in to it again. The conclusion of the sermon caused me to leave hurriedly, shaking the dust off my feet, never again to enter the building.

The pastor said, "It doesn't matter whether Christ's Resurrection was literal or figurative."

Oh Reverend, it matters more than anything! I wish I could look you in the eye and tell you how greatly it really does matter that He rose in a physical body! Back in 1974, I was just out of my teens, and wrongly intimidated by your seminary degree and your neo-orthodox rhetoric. I didn't yet know how to explain the Scripture well enough to show you that a figurative resurrection would have been a powerless resurrection that nullified the atoning work of the Cross. A figurative resurrection would reduce Jesus to having been a mere social martyr. It would have proven what the Pharisees said all along: that He was not God incarnate, and that He had no authority to atone for sin.

Paul addressed this point in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19:

12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
All these years later, having grown both as a woman and as a Christian, I'm finally starting to connect the dots in 1 Corinthians 15 as to the full implications of His physical resurrection, but I've always known it to be foundational to the gospel. This year the Lord has taught me that His physical resurrection holds the promise that He will raise me up in a glorious, eternal physical body when He returns, so that I'll be able to worship Him forever, and without the pollutions that cling to my earthly body.

The study of Christ's Resurrection fills me with joy, but also with grief that my childhood pastor missed the truth. When I'm finally standing before Jesus, I'll forget that false teaching and that sad Easter Sunday. I'll see only Him, in His resurrected body, and I'll know that His Resurrection made all the difference!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

This Weekend Coming

Good Friday approaches, reminding us of Jesus, our Passover Lamb, bearing the unbearable and unimaginable weight of all humanity's rebellion and arrogance against a holy and righteous God as He hung by nails in His hands and feet to shed the Blood that paid for all we've done against Him. Our hearts should break that we put Him on that cross, while simultaneously rejoicing that He took our punishment!

Easter waits on the other side of Saturday, reminding us of Christ, the Risen Lord, triumphing over death in a glorified body to assure us that His Father has erased our debt so completely that He allows His Holy Spirit to live in believers now, as we look toward our own resurrected bodies when He returns. Our hearts should tremble in awe that He conquered our sin, while simultaneously rejoicing that He lets us share His life!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Beauty Of The Cross

He's come up with a winner, which really doesn't surprise me. He usually does. Who? Christian recording artist Jonny Diaz, distinctive for blending Contemporary Christian music and Country music. Just in time for Holy Week, he's released a CD which includes "The Beauty Of The Cross."'

I praise the Lord for taking the punishment for sin that rightfully should have fallen on me. Sometimes I forget how deserving I am of God's wrath, and take the Cross for granted. I know all the theology, but I get flippant about it. I suspect all Christians do, at least occasionally. Today, through Jonny Diaz, the Holy Spirit reminded me that Jesus paid my insurmountable debt, setting me free! Of course His Cross is beautiful!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Election Demands Evangelism

Throughout my years of being Armenian-leaning in my theology, I embraced the popular view that the Calvinist doctrine of election discouraged evangelism. I joined my friends in reasoning that, if God "predestined" people to salvation, He wouldn't have commissioned His disciples to share the Gospel. Looking back, however, I see how badly I misunderstood Calvinism, and how much I trusted in the power of evangelism instead of God's sovereignty.

Recently John and I have been reading Matthew's Gospel, and the Parable of the Sower in Chapter 13 has helped me understand how my responsibility to tell people about Jesus fits in with the doctrine of election. Please click this link to Matthew 13 and read the chapter before continuing with this post (I'll wait for ya).

Are ya back? Okay. Now I can point out the obvious: The sower's only responsibility is to sow the seed. He does nothing to prepare the soil! Evidently, he doesn't even know the condition of the soil. In terms of this specific parable (although I'm sure the situation is different in actual farming), the sower was charged exclusively with sowing, resting in assurance that someone else had prepared the soil.

Do you see the application? The Lord knows whom He has elected to salvation. It's none of my business, and I don't even need to hover over each seed in an effort to make it grow. All the Lord asks is that I tell people about Him, trusting Him to have prepared the hearts He chooses to receive Him. As a result, I'm more excited about evangelism than I ever have been!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Of Paul Revere, Jeanette MacDonald and April 18

Massachusetts observes Patriots Day today, remembering the April 19, 1775 battles of Lexington and Concord that officially began the Revolutionary War.

On the night before, Paul Revere went by boat from Boston to Charlestown to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the Regulars (everyone considered themselves British at that point) were coming to arrest them as they marched from Boston to Lexington, and then on to seize weapons that the patriots had stored in Concord. En route, joined by William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, Revere delivered the message to designated men (who were ready to fight for liberty from oppressive taxes imposed by England) that the Regulars were out.

The Regulars caught Revere at their roadblock in Lincoln, detaining him for hours at gunpoint as they rode toward Lexington. Early in the morning, they heard the gunshots on Lexington Green, and the alarmed Regulars took off with Revere's horse, leaving him to walk to the battlefield..

Last night, I called my mom in California, and the conversation turned to Patriots Day. Naturally, she had never heard of the holiday, but reminded me that San Francisco is commemorating the anniversary of their 1906 earthquake. Of the three survivors still living, one (who had been three months old when the quake hit) planned to attend the ceremony.

My Personal Care Attendant, having been born and raised in the Greater Boston Area, had never heard of the '06 Earthquake. In talking with her, I was prompted to dig up this clip from San Fransisco, the 1936 movie about the earthquake starring Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald: 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

But I've Gotta Say SOMETHING!

Oh, many unconnected thoughts keep swirling through my head today, and some could probably develop into quite interesting blog posts if I let them. But it's already after 4:30, and I've just now finished reading my email and the other blogs I follow. And typing a typical blog entry generally takes me two and a half hours. Today, I'm not willing to invest that amount of time in blogging.

Yet, I do want to post. I'm not sure what I want to say, but I know I am bursting to say it! Does that make sense?

The struggle, I think, is partly that I want attention, while I know very well that self-promotion is a sin. Even in sharing my artwork (which I create to be seen), my goal should be to honor Christ rather than to place the spotlight on myself. I pray daily over this blog, asking the Lord to use it for His glory. Yet so often, I slip back into wanting my readers to admire my creativity.

And I have so much to say about the Lord, to the point that I wonder if I'm being too preachy. Well, what if I am? Will I lose "followers?" What if I do? Jesus certainly lost followers by saying what the Father gave Him to say! If He is on my mind (as well He should be!), He belongs in these posts! Whatever creative abilities I may have come from Him, and I think He may even use my disability as a backdrop for my creations to better display His glory.. So I need to keep creating. I need to keep directing people to the true Creator.

Friday, April 15, 2011

More Than Everything Is Nothing

Reading through blog posts yesterday, I found the following quotation in Poleblog:

"For in [Christ] 'all treasures of knowledge and wisdom are hid' (Col. 2:3) with such great abundance and richness that either to hope for or to seek any new addition to these treasures is truly to arouse God's wrath and provoke him against us. It is for us to hunger for, seek, look to, learn, and study Christ alone, until that great day dawns when the Lord will fully manifest the glory of his Kingdom (cf. I Cor. 15:24) and will show himself for us to see him as he is (I John 3:2). And for this reason this age of ours is designated in the Scriptures as 'the last hour' (I John 2:18), the 'last days' (Heb. 1:2), the 'last times' (I Peter 1:20), that no one should delude himself with a vain expectation of some new doctrine or revelation. 'For at many times and in many ways the Heavenly Father formerly spoke through the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken in his beloved Son' (Heb. 1:1-2), who alone can reveal the Father (Luke 10:22); and he has indeed manifested the Father fully, as far as we require, while we now see him in a mirror (I Cor. 13:12)" 

-John Calvin in the Institutes of the Christian Religion 

Calvin, long disdained by many evangelicals (at least the ones I've always known), may as well have been addressing 21st Century Christians. How often we augment the Word of God with mystical experiences, psychology or pragmatism, when we can find Jesus in the pages of Scripture!

I can recall times of feeling unsatisfied with the Bible. Typically, I wanted concrete, immediate answers that soothed my emotions or (better yet) fulfilled whatever demands I happened to be making on the Lord at the time. Almost invariably, the answer I sought came speedily as I looked through the Bible, and I'd recognize it. But it wasn't the answer I wanted!  I rejected the obvious, instead hungering for something more esoteric that would display my "advanced" spirituality and, in turn, dazzle my friends.

As a result, my walk with the Lord bore little fruit. Jesus wasn't in the "still, small voice" of "listening prayer," nor was He in the manipulated images of "inner healing." By His grace and mercy, none of the charismatic experiences I so willingly tried ever gave me anything but the applause and admiration of my peers. And, as far as I could tell, neither them nor I grew very much in Christian maturity. I certainly didn't grow! For all my spiritual posturing in public, my struggles with various types of sin remained the same, pretty much voiding my relationship with Christ.

Praise God, He has finally turned my eyes  toward Him, changing me as I study the core doctrines of the Bible and apply those doctrines to my daily life. Finding Him in the Bible changes me in ways that extra-biblical theories and techniques never could have! Calvin was right! The Lord has spoken through Scripture, revealing all I need to know this side of His return. The focus is on Him, not me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Easter In Black And White

For the past few weeks, the challenges in the Paint Shop Pro forum that I've joined haven't really ignited my imagination. It's hard to participate when the theme doesn't capture my interest. I mean, hobbies are supposed to challenge, yes, but they should still be fun. If I feel like I'm back in school, where assignments are compulsory, I lose all motivation and move on to something I really want to do.

Yesterday, I logged into the forum, and looked for this week's Theme Challenge. They're always very broad, allowing for a wide range of interpretation. Sometimes, the latitude confuses me, probably because my Catholic college education was so disciplined that I'm afraid of making mistakes. In my typical self-contradictory way, I want freedom, but I also want structure.

Putting my digression of self-analysis aside, let me continue by saying that this week's theme was "Black and White." Again, I wrinkled my nose in disdain, totally uninspired and fostering the now familiar hope that next weeks challenge would be more enthralling. Frankly, I prefer working with color! So I logged off, and spent most of yesterday reading blogs, posting on Facebook, and asking myself if Twitter is right for me. I ate supper, went to bed, and watched "The Biggest Loser," happy that (for a change) they made the correct decision on whom to vote off of the show. As far as I was concerned, I'd decided not to play with this week's theme challenge.

Decisions don't always last. I kept wondering what I could do in black and white, thinking of all my drawings that played with skin color. Black and white can make a statement about racial equality, and this challenge opened a lovely door to take the theme to a deeper level. Using two variations of my Easter Baby, I put a picture together and posted it on the forum, Facebook and Twitter. Here's my picture:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Happy Ending, And Looking Forward To Sunday

We just spoke with the supervisor at The RIDE, who was very cooperative and understanding. Sunday, he will have the Safety Manager meet the van here, and again after church at the church, to make sure my chair is correctly secured. The Security Manager will also photograph the tie-down points on my chair, and have illustrated instructions on my file, which will come up on a driver's computer whenever I'm picked up. This way, my chair will be protected, even when I travel alone (like to next year's Women's retreat).

Thanks for all your prayers and messages of encouragement! I look forward to Sunday School and church!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Last Night's Decision

Today's post is from an email I just sent to our church's Email Prayer Chain.

This past Thursday, John and I encountered a RIDE driver who refused to board John before securing my wheelchair. My chair, in the past, has broken twice from being tied down incorrectly, and my speech defect makes it necessary that I have someone on board to make sure my chair is tied at the right points. When John showed the driver the proper points, I could see that he wasn't paying attention. In short, I felt unsafe, and didn't allow him to board me.

Yesterday morning, I awoke from a nightmare about a RIDE driver forcing me onto the van and tying my chair down wrongly. Obviously, my trust in The RIDE has been seriously eroded. (This issue has kept me from countless Women's Retreats and activities, incidentally.).

Friday, John spent all day trying to contact a RIDE supervisor, only to learn that she no longer has authority to deal with this matter.. We won't get to speak to the correct supervisor till Tuesday. When The RIDE called last night with our times for church today, I pretty much freaked out. I felt the same emotions that caused me to quit my beloved ministry position in Memphis two days after being emotionally abused in the nursing home where I lived. After consulting Pastor Larry, we decided not to use The RIDE until we talk with the supervisor.

So, as much as I wanted to be in church today, we decided to protect my chair. In the future, we'll ask some of you to wait with us after church to help make sure that they treat my chair properly. We missed you, and look forward to seeing you next Sunday.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

No, But You Did

Reputation, according to the popular saying, is who people think you are. Character is who you are when you think no one is looking. Sometimes, character doesn't match up to least not in my life. There are always secret thoughts that would, if revealed, shock people. I can only confess them, and ask the Lord to bring my mind back to Him. Only He, through His shed blood that cleanses me from sin and His Holy Spirit who empowers me to obey, can align my character with my reputation.

This matter comes to mind as a result of reading Genesis 18:9-16 this morning. Earlier in the chapter, the Lord has appeared to Abraham in the form of three men. Apparently, Abraham recognized them as the Lord, for he addressed them in the singular form. (I love glimpses of the Trinity in the Old Testament!) Abraham served them a lavish meal, and then the scene in question occurred.

Establishing the fact that Sarah was in the tent, where she could easily have heard the conversation, the Lord told Abraham that in nine months Sarah would deliver the son He had been promising for years. Evidently, Abraham had never gotten around to telling his wife God's plan. Startled, she laughed to herself in silent ridicule, thinking it was preposterous... 90-year-old women with a history of infertility just don't have babies, she mentally reasoned.

Without hesitation, the Lord asked Abraham why Sarah laughed, reminding him that nothing is impossible to God. Then He firmly repeated His promise. Sarah, at that point, knew she had offended God, so (probably fearful of His anger) she denied having laughed.

Her denial, rather than God's promise, was ridiculous. And God showed her so by countering, "No, but you did laugh!" He had seen her inner thoughts. He knew her character flaws. And He demanded that she confess them to Him in honesty. After all, He knew them anyway, making it absurd for her to deny them.

But I had better submit to allowing the Holy Spirit to examine my heart's inner recesses before I presume to pass judgement on Sarah, knowing that my character doesn't always measure up to the reputation I've established for myself. God knows me as intimately as He knew Sarah, and loves me enough to expose and challenge my hidden thoughts and attitudes that offend Him. My character needs to elevate itself to my reputation, and I need to keep in mind that I can't hide anything from the Lord anyway. In His faithfulness, He will expose my sin, making sure nothing I do, or even think, escapes His notice. How blessed I am that He is that intent on giving me a private character that, in turn, gives me a reputation that honors Him!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Disturbing The Universe

My mom paid big bucks to send me to college so I could learn writing skills. Skills that should, if nothing else, show up in these blog posts. And my professors worked hard teaching me to use verbs rather than adjectives, to write in active voice, and (in transitional sentences introducing new paragraphs) to always explain what the words "this" or "that" refer back to. (Yes, I just dangled a participle, which causes me to visualize Sister Nicholas and her arched eyebrows scowling in disapproval.)

Sometimes, I wonder if I need to live up to my expensive education, however. As I consider writing a blog post that lacks "a beginning, a middle and an end," I think of one of my favorite lines in T.S. Eliot's poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: "Do I dare eat a peach?" Like poor, self-doubting Prufrock, I fancy that my actions have power to disturb the universe. He feared causing such a disturbance by falling in love (eating a peach being the metaphor for such an audacious act). I fear doing so by writing meandering thoughts that serve no purpose and reach no conclusion.

Indeed, I find I must obey my education by giving my words direction. No, grammatical rebellion won't disturb the universe. I rather wish it would, actually, when I see people (mostly teens, but now a growing number of adults) disregard punctuation, spelling and other rules of English grammar in their Facebook posts. If such violations would disturb the universe, perhaps they would write with more respect for the language. But I can only be responsible for my own treatment of language, and my education binds me to honor its rules.

So, writing correctly (even if I do dangle an occasional participle) is imperative for me, I'm afraid. Mom invested the big bucks into my education, and I took her investment seriously enough to want to write well. I dare only eat a peach in season.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sticks And Stones: The Blessing of Hurtful Words

Reproach, or being insulted, taunted and chided, for faith in Jesus Christ can arguably be a much more painful form of persecution than physical torment. Jamieson, Fausett and Brown comment on 1 Peter 4:14 by stating, "Reproach affects noble minds more than loss of goods, or even bodily sufferings."

Their comment made me think. Reproach, in my experience, makes me question whether or not I'm behaving in a loving manner, and can tempt me to compromise God's Word in an effort to win people. It can make me doubt the Spirit's presence in me. Reproach is a subtle form of persecution, and can be frighteningly effective in quenching my willingness to stand up for God's truth. I don't enjoy being accused of intolerance, bigotry or hatred because I embrace the teachings of Scripture.

Usually, such opposition causes me to question my very relationship with God. People have actually confronted me with the words, "If you really followed Jesus..." And those words have often shaken me, causing me to think I've failed to represent the Lord well. I worry that I come off as a sanctimonious Pharisee, harming the cause of Christ. Shouldn't I instead do all I can to minimize the unpleasant aspects of Christianity to make it more attractive?

I have, at times, accused myself of actually keeping people from Christ by my politically incorrect insistence that Jesus is the only Way of salvation (John 14:6). Maybe I should introduce that idea with the (false) slant that, though He's ultimately the only Savior, He is gentle with those who believe differently, and is far too loving to actually condemn people simply for rejecting Him. That approach, although it would require me to either disguise my belief that the Bible is God's Word or repudiate it, surely would be more comfortable for everyone. But it would, in reality, be hypocrisy.

Reproach on account of Christ may tempt us to water down the Gospel in an effort to make it more appealing. But I believe that sort of compromise is the wrong way to view reproach. In context with Peter's epistle, it both demonstrates our alienation from the world and tempts us to reconcile ourselves to worldly standards. If you'll look closely at the verse, however, you'll see that alienation from the world is a good thing!

If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
(1Pe 4:14)

Jesus calls us to be different from the world. While this difference certainly includes the ability to love unselfishly and to reject materialism in favor of spiritual values, ultimately it means rejecting sin and pursuing holiness. Our difference may be admired by some, but most people will see us as narrow-minded bigots who hate sin more than we love them (not understanding that we love them best by hating their sin).

Jesus was hated, and crucified, because He challenged the Pharisees to renounce the sin beneath their self-righteousness. He's hated today because He challenges people to turn from their own ideas of how to live in favor of accepting His authority. When Christians truly follow Him, we offend people by reminding them of Him. So they reproach us. And isn't it cool that, by their reproaches, we see that they identify us with Him?


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