Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Few Unconnected Grumblings And Observations

Weak applause for the FBI's capture of Boston mobster Whitey Bulger last week, after he had been on their "Ten Most Wanted" list since 1995. For at least 15 years, Bulger and his girlfriend had hidden in the same Santa Monica California apartment (wasn't the landlord at all suspicious over their practice of paying their rent in cash every month?), mere blocks away from the FBI office.

Aside from occasionally visiting Boston ("heavily armed'), he  made several trips to Mexico to get medications. How did he get arms to Boston? How did he cross the border in and out of Mexico? Who else is getting into our country with fake IDs while TSA is investigating the adult diapers of elderly women? Yeah, I feel safe with TSA and the FBI protecting America! (Not!)

Now the first car of every rush hour Commuter Rail train in and out of Boston is designated a "Quiet Car." No cell phones. Sound turned off on laptops (yet the trains have free Wifi). No conversations above a whisper. Of course, John and I have train buddies on the first car of our train home, and our conversations with them are often the highlight of going to Boston. Or at least a major part of the experience. Admittedly, one buddy will be gone most of the summer for surgery, but still....

So brilliant woman that I am, I came up with the idea of all four of us moving back to the second car. In my genius, I completely overlooked the possibility, or perhaps the probability, that we would displace an established set of train buddies on that car! 90% of riders love the "Quiet Car" idea. I'm in the minority. On the other hand, maybe only 10% of us have train buddies, so maybe our foursome won't displace anyone!

And what was I thinking last April when I scheduled a Wednesday appointment two days after the 4th of July? No way am I going to Boston Monday! In addition to crowds of holiday tourists, there won't be bus service to the Commuter Rail station in our town, and coming home on the Red Line isn't easy on us once we're tired. Furthermore, Saturday's the church picnic, so John  will need to rest Friday in preparation. He'll be tired Thursday, since using The RIDE pretty much routinely turns a simple 15-minute appointment into an all-day affair.

Sounds fun, huh? Everyone knows I love sitting in waiting rooms for appointments that I'd really rather not make in the first place, when I'd so much rather wheel around Boston Common. But there it is, and the whole week shot (unless we decide we can make it Tuesday without tiring too much).

But the Lord knows about all these minor irritations, doesn't He? While grumbling may, in a perverted way, provide entertainment (I always feel a bit like Andy Rooney when I do it), it ignores His sovereignty. The bunglings of the FBI and TSA may lead to reform in law enforcement. Maybe John and I will make new train buddies on the second car. And maybe I can spend next week finding interesting things to do online. Instead of grumbling, may I look for His purposes and providence.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Snippets, Fragments And Other Disembodied Thoughts

Yes, I've had time to post. I just haven't formulated my wildly spinning thoughts (on everything from accepting Scripture in its totality to wondering why Whitey Bulger flitted in out out of the country so many times without Customs Agents ever detecting his fake passports) enough to write anything remotely cohesive. Summer's here, and my mind wants freedom to wander about my head without discipline.

Maybe it's good to have so many ideas in embryonic form. I can let each gestate, knowing some will be ready to present next week, later this summer, or when the snow returns and I'm trapped indoors for weeks on end. Maybe this private parade of thoughts is for my own development, to be savored only by me. I could probably offer these observations, questions and musings in drive-by blog posts, leaving the responsibility to order them into logical conclusions to my poor readers, while I tip my wheelchair back to gather even more fragments.

My Granny used to stay with us for prolonged visits, especially after Daddy died. She loved sewing, and made many of our clothes. So she had a dresser drawer filled with remnants, left-over buttons, and scraps of lace and ric-rack. I loved playing in that drawer, though I never pieced anything together from its contents. It was satisfying just to examine the shapes, colors and textures.

My mind could be like Granny's remnant drawer. Yeah. That's how I'll choose to look at this situation. Ahh, now I feel less apologetic! Let me pore over my odd snippets, not forcing them to adapt to any specific form, but simply relishing their various patterns and textures. If suddenly they decide to shape themselves into cogent prose, I'll let you know. But for now, don't disturb my playing!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Watching Abraham's Servant

Lately I've been reading Genesis 24, which is the account of Abraham's servant procuring a bride for Isaac. Open your Bibles and read it for yourselves. It's a wonderful account (I have difficulty using the word "story" because I don't like implying that Scripture can be regarded as fiction) of God's faithfulness to give Isaac the woman He had chosen for him. And usually, I focus on the point of His sovereignty when I read this chapter.

This time around, however, I've been fascinated with Abraham's servant. Not only is this man thoroughly devoted to his earthly master, but his faith in the Lord is nothing short of incredible. For instance, when he arrives in the town of Abraham's family, he prays instead of asking the townspeople where Nahor's family is.

10 Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, for all his master’s goods were in his hand. And he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. 11 And he made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water. 12 Then he said, “O LORD God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.” 

I don't believe this man was merely requesting a sign. Again, he could have very easily asked people in the area about the family, and they would have led him to them. But this man wanted to see the character of the girl. Would she be worthy of Isaac?

In discovering that the maiden who offered to water his camels indeed was descended from Abraham's brother Nahor, the servant worshiped the Lord. Obviously, he had studied Abraham's relationship with the Lord over many years, and knew how to both pray and acknowledge God's responses to prayer. He trusted God to interact with him as personally as He interacted with Abraham, assured that God did so precisely because of His covenant with Abraham. So as he saw God's will play out in amazing detail, he carefully made certain to glorify God.

I'm nowhere near as zealous and fastidious in my obedience to the Lord as Abraham's servant was in serving both his earthly master and seeking the Lord's direction, so Abraham's servant is a challenging example to me. As I work through the narrative, the Holy Spirit convicts me of my unfaithfulness, as well as my lack of concern for His will. So maybe I should pattern my life on this humble, unnamed man who sought God's will, judged people on the basis of character, and responded to answered prayer with worship.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ten Chocolate Chip Years

On June 22, 2001 (my third time visiting John), we sat near the site of the Boston Tea Party. As expected, I was thrilled to be in the midst of history, imagining that amazing night of protest that finally convinced the other twelve Colonies to stand with Massachusetts against England's tyranny. John offered me a cookie from a seemingly sealed bag of Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies, and fed it to me.

When he offered a second cookie, I politely declined, not wanting to dribble chocolate on my clothes. I thought John might propose later that afternoon, and I wanted to look my prettiest when he did.

"Okay," he responded with an air of dejection, "then I guess you don't want this..." And reaching into the bag, he produced a ring. He asked me to make him the happiest man in the world by becoming his wife.

With Missions Committee meeting tonight, and possible rain tomorrow, yesterday seemed like the most practical day to celebrate our tenth anniversary of getting engaged. I wanted to go through the Common and the Public Garden because it was such a beautiful last day of Spring. (Not that we actually had much Spring this year, but yesterday was Springlike enough for me to want to be in the Common and the Public Garden.) Crossing  the suspension bridge, we saw some State Park Rangers, and asked one of them to take our picture:

From there,  we wheeled up Boylston Street, as John wanted lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. It took about an hour (next time we'll get the Green Line at Arlington Station and take it to the Prudential Center Station), but it was interesting. All around, shops (and churches) had signs congratulating the Bruins, and I think I may have seen confetti left from Saturday's parade.

At last we got to the Cheesecake Factory. and told the waiter about the Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies at the site of the Boston Tea Party ten years ago. Although my doctor has me on a diet which forbids chocolate (and I obey her orders more than most of her patients probably would), we knew the occasion demanded ordering the Chocolate Chip Cheesecake after lunch. It took much longer than expected for him to bring the cake to us, but we found out why:


We caught a Commuter Rail train from Back Bay Station to South Station, allowing us just enough time before our train home to look out at Boston Harbor. John asked me to make him the happiest man in the world by continuing to be his wife. How could I not say yes?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I Can Celebrate Father's Day

Daddy worked as an accountant and manager of The Concordia Argonaut, a Jewish gentleman's club in San Francisco. His schedule necessitated sometimes working nights and weekends, reducing his ability to spend time with us. Having said that, I never doubted his love for me. For example, he'd heat my stainless steel braces on the radiant heat floor so they wouldn't be quite so cold when he put them on me each morning. Mom told me that I was the apple of his eye. And I believed her.

Daddy smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, when I figure he probably started the habit, no one knew of the health risks, so I don't fault him. But on September 26, 1963, at age 55, he had a fatal heart attack. The funeral took place on my tenth birthday.

Father's Day after Daddy died was never particularly sad for me. It was just empty. Sometimes I  miss him. The day I missed him most profoundly was my wedding day, although I deeply appreciate my pastor from San Rafael for walking me down the aisle. I remember being at the back of the church as my flower girl started her walk, thinking of Daddy. That moment was more painful and sad than all the 38 Father's Days between his death and my wedding.

But I celebrate Father's Day, and have celebrated it for the last 40 years. Daddy's gone, but Jesus has given me His  Father! I delight in my Heavenly Father's love, which can  never be taken from me!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Pride of Boston

Since moving to Massachusetts, I've gotten excited about baseball. Well, not baseball in general, but I do love the Red Sox, and especially Kevin Youkilis. I'll watch Red Sox games, and actually understand at least half of what the players are doing. (Maybe having played Wheelchair T-Ball in high school helps...?)

Hockey never held much attraction for me, and it probably never will. But Wednesday night John and I watched the last nine minutes of the Stanley Cup Championship, totally thrilled to see the Boston Bruins take the Cup that Vancouver expected to possess. Did I mention they accomplished their mission with a score of 4-0?  In Game 7? Mind you, I'm not gloating! Well, yeah...I am, even though I'm not a Bruins fan who, after 39 years of faithfully supporting the team, had reason to bask in the long-awaited victory. I am, however, now a Bostonion, in love with my adopted city and very, very proud that the Stanley Cup now resides in the city!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Trial And The Triumph Of TypingAid

Over a year ago, a friend from  church asked me if I'd be interested in a program that would help me type faster. I'm no dummy--of course I would be interested! As I age (it's really disturbing me, by the way, that I'm a mere two years and three months from turning 60), typing gets more and more difficult, causing me to think that short-cuts in typing just might be desirable.

A few days later, my friend emailed me a link to TypingAid. In the course of events, I learned that he had actually helped develop the program. With great anticipation, I downloaded the program, entertaining grandiose visions of posting super blog entries that would absolutely captivate my readers. Eagerly, I opened the "readme" file...and felt totally confused. The document read:

TypingAid program version 2.09 from Artwinauto.com
   
    1. To run the typing aid program, first you need to prepare a list of words, saved as
    "wordlist.txt" under the same folder as the program file. The "wordlist.txt" included in
    the zip package is an example. It is advisable to save the words and phrases that you
    frequently type or lengthy technical terms that you need to work with.

    2. The phrases contained in each line of "wordlist.txt" will be used for auto-completion.
    When the user types 3 characters that match the beginning of a word or phrase in
    "wordlist.txt", the program offers it as a suggestion tooltip. Many phrases could be
    matched up at the same time. Pressing the corresponding number beside a phrase or
    selecting the phrase with Up/Down keys and pressing Tab will auto-complete it.

    3. To add a new word or phrase for autocompletion, you may open and edit
    "wordlist.txt", save it then re-open the program. Alternatively you may use a shortcut
    key. First highlight the phrase, press Ctrl + Shift + C, the program will memorize it for
    autocompletion and add it to "wordlist.txt" on close.
   
    4. The tooltip will appear at the last-mouse-click position if it cannot see where the user
    is typing, so if you find the tooltip blocks the typing, just click somewhere else and type
    again so that the tooltip will be reallocated below the click position. Alternatively press
    Ctrl + Shift + H to open a helper window, tooltip will apear at its position.
   
Unicode version: TypingAid_U.exe

    1. The Unicode version of TypingAid supports languages with Unicode characters not
    found in ANSI character set such as Cyrillic languages. It is used with "wordlist.txt" in
    Unicode encoding. Also see Other tips #1. You should use the ordinary version if you can.


Huh? I felt overwhelmed with computer jargon, and completely ill-equipped to put it into practice. So I put it aside, leaving the icon on my desktop, half-heartedly assuring myself that I'd get around to figuring it out one day. Meanwhile, my friend thought about finding ways to help me run it more easily, but he didn't really know (I now realize) what caused my difficulty.

I successfully avoided him each Sunday, zooming past him on the half-true pretense that I need to get my seat in the sanctuary without running my wheelchair over any of the zillion toddlers racing through the  narrow hallway between the Prayer Room and the foyer. I was, to be truthful, embarrassed that I hadn't utilized the software that he had so generously made available to me. I felt as if  he considered me ungrateful.

At Saturday's graduation party, he and I ended up alone at a table, where he apologized for not helping me. I told him how incompetent I felt, which surprised him in light of all I do with my blog. (Does he seriously think I write the HTML?) However unmerited his confidence in me is, the conversation motivated me to try running TypingAid again. As soon as John and I home from the party, I opened the "readme" file again. I realized that much of my intimidation came from the font, which created an ambiance of (what's the word I want?) mathematics. I took a deep breath, ignored the font, and concentrated totally on the instructions. After a few mistakes, I actually got it to run!

I'm still typing more slowly than I'd like today, but that's mostly because I'm not using many words and phrases from my word list (which I'm still compiling). But I have noticed some difference, and I expect to add to the list over time. Meanwhile, thanks David!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Aimlessly Busy

The weather forecasters predict rain every day but Thursday, which allows me more time for creative pursuits. Suddenly (though perhaps predictably), all those projects I'd been so eager to get to have flown out of my mind, leaving me feeling blank and aimless. There are a few things I ought to do, actually, but they really don't interest me. How's that for a rebellious attitude?

A while back, I started a digital portrait of my mom. I haven't worked on it in quite some time, though I'm not sure why not. Well, okay...I am doing other things with Paint Shop Pro that have to meet a deadline and require less commitment than Mom's portrait, so those projects distract me. Gee, maybe I'll work on some of those today.

Of course, I've also been wanting to connect more with people using email, Facebook and Twitter. My disability keeps me from face-to-face interactions much of the time. Consequently, I use those tools to maintain relationships. Perhaps writing to people would be an efficient use of my time.

Thursday might be warm and sunny--a good day to wheel around Boston Common, Quincy Market or the Rose Kennedy Greenway (of course, enjoying a cannoli in the process). I need to take advantage of my time today, then. If only I could decide what to do...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pre-trib, Mid-trib, Post-trib?

Until recently, I tended to believe the Rapture would take place either during or after the Tribulation. Although Scripture can support either a pre-trib or mid-trib Rapture, however, I based my position on the fact that Christians in Islamic and Eastern European countries are suffering persecution now, reasoning that Western Christians had no right to expect to escape the terrible sufferings that their brothers and sisters  experienced. That logic sounds good, certainly, but do you notice what's missing? Like...Scriptural  substantiation?

At this point in my life, I'm less committed to my mid-trib and post-trib leanings, believing that the Bible actually does indicate that the Lord will gather His Church to Himself prior to the Tribulation. Rather than reinvent the wheel, so  to speak, allow me to link you to What's The Difference Between The Rapture And The Second Coming at GotQuestions,org. I found this article, as well as the related articles extremely helpful in understanding that Jesus would use the Rapture to shield His Church from the full weight of God's wrath.

Am I dogmatic on this point of doctrine? No. Scripture doesn't allow a dogmatic stance on any of the three positions, and I am honestly not well studied in eschatology. But I'm studying more than I used to study, and I'm being persuaded toward a pre-trib Rapture. I'm equally persuaded that my brothers and sisters who hold to mid- and post-trib theology are also diligent in studying God's Word, and respect those who (unlike I once did) base their conclusions on Scripture.

We all rejoice that, regardless of His timing, the Lord will come and take us to Himself, where we will see Him face-to-Face and truly worship Him in all His glory. If enduring the Tribulation is necessary, I trust Him for the grace to go through part or all of that terrible time. But if, in His amazing mercy, He raptures the Church before judging the earth, I will gratefully praise Him!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Stylish Bloggers

Recipients: right click image, "save as'' a .jpg file and post on your blog
I've had the weekend to consider who I wanted to pass the Stylish Blogger Award to, and four bloggers particularly stood out to me. As you can see on my sidebar, I actually follow 40 blogs, all of which I value for different reasons, but these four seem most appropriate for this award. I hope you'll visit them, as well as the other blogs I've listed. You won't regret doing so!

Frankie is a blogger I found through Twitter. She is a wonderful visual artist, and the design of her blog reflects her talent, even when she writes on topics other than art. You can read her blog at I Dream A Lot (her full title is much longer, but my abbreviation in this link will get you there).

The second recipient is actually a set of twin sisters, Lauren and Mikaela, who co-author One Bright Corner. A little over a year ago, Blogger listed them in their "Blogs Of Note" page, and the title intrigued me. Something in it made me suspect that this might be a Christian blog. Well!--Not only is it Christian, but these college age girls have a spiritual maturity that surpasses my forty years with the Lord! If you want to be blessed, encouraged and challenged (all the while with excellent writing), don't miss their posts.

Mrs. Jennifer commented on a blog I often read, and I clicked her name to find her delightful blog, Happiness Is Brilliant. What a hoot this lady is! Yet she's grounded in Christ, and allows His Holy Spirit to minister both encouragement and correction to her. Again, this young mother could easily be my daughter age-wise, but she and I are definite kindred spirits. Also, she helps me inject more humor in my writing, for which I thank her.

Oh, Kristy, my sporadic blogger friend! I debated long and hard with myself about passing this award to her, but in the end I reasoned that her infrequency in blogging lies in the fact that she's a wife, a step-mom (to a teenager--yikes!) and a full-time nursing student, as well as being active in her church. But when she can write in her blog, it's such a treat that I couldn't ignore her. If You Ever Wanted To Know  is written with transparency, Christian conviction and often with the humor that Kristy and I shared during my years in San Rafael. (I miss you, Kristy!)

These recipients may or may not pass The Stylish Blogger Award on to other bloggers, but on accepting this Award, they must write a few thing about themselves, as I did Friday. May they be aware that we're watching!

Friday, June 10, 2011

My first Blog Award

The author of Island Musings bestowed this award on me yesterday. I'd never received an award for blogging until now,  and I'm both pleased and surprised. Vilisi, the woman who passed it to me, is new to blogging, but writes eloquently about her life as a teacher, mother and (most importantly) Christian.

Apparently, upon receiving this award, one is expected to say a few things about oneself. So..

  • When I can't have cannolis, cheesecake works just fine.
  • As a Brownie in 1962, I sold the most Girl Scout calendars in  Terra Linda.
  • Bookworm is my favorite computer game.
Sunday, I'll post my recipients of the Stylish Blogger Award.

To The Graduate

Tomorrow, a dear friend  will celebrate  her high school graduation with a party at the church. She's a beautiful young lady, with a clear testimony for Christ. I've known her for nine years, during which she's grown into a graceful young lady with a desire to serve the Lord. For the past two years, she's spearheaded and successfully organized retreats for the other teen girls in our church, gone on a week-long mission trip to serve inner city children in Camden New Jersey and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity (all while making grades high enough for membership in National Honor Society). It was my privilege to draw the above illustration for her graduation card.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Scary Christians

The other day, a friend wondered aloud why people expect her to tolerate their crass language, but wouldn't permit her to talk about the Lord. Seems that free speech is reserved for anyone except Christians. As many have noted, the very people making the loudest demands for "tolerance" are actually the least tolerant of opposing points of view. And, also commonly noted, such people confuse tolerance with agreement, even though true tolerance means putting up with something while disagreeing with  it.

That said, I wonder why Christianity threatens people so much. Okay, yeah...I know ultimately why. People don't want God imposing His standards on them. I guess that's really not rocket science. But from their perspective (especially those who label themselves as "athiests") what makes Christians seem so formidable?

If God doesn't exist, or if He's merely a kindly Grandfather who indulges us without making moral demands, what harm could there be in letting Christians express our outdated beliefs? Will expressing our beliefs keep non-Christians from winning the "culture war?" Personally, I doubt it, based on Scripture that says evil will continually increase until Christ returns. We can preach against sin all we want, but God is allowing it to increase for His own purposes, letting those who reject Him have their party now. What harm is there in letting us speak?

Unless we're telling the truth.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Respect The Platform

A week or so ago, a man drove his power wheelchair off the platform at the subway station at Broadway. The first report said he fell asleep with his hand on the joystick and (obviously) the power on. How anyone could possibly sleep in a subway station is a head-scratcher, but if someone chooses to take a nap, they should turn their chair off first.

My old chair sometimes would start driving itself in circles to the left without me touching the joystick, teaching me to 1) keep it turned off when I wasn't driving and 2) to be very alert when I'm using it. Maybe that's why I'm nervous when young children have power chairs. The mobility helps them play with other kids, certainly, but I can't help wondering if an eight year old has sufficient maturity to shoulder the responsibility required for operating a motorized vehicle.

I was given a power wheelchair just before turning 16...about the time my friends got drivers' licenses and (what were their parents thinking?) cars. I guess I might have been careful on a subway platform, but I remember driving it up a very steep hill (and down again) to visit a girl I knew from church. I was so proud when I told my mother of my accomplishment, and so heartbroken when she scolded me for such a foolish stunt. Forty years later, I'm on Mom's side. I hope she grounded me.

Operating a power wheelchair calls for more maturity than I exhibited that day. When John and I use subways and trains, we keep a good distance from the platform's edge, face our chairs parallel to the tracks, and keep our power off. We're confident using the system, but we definitely respect the platform.

Back to the man at the subway station. It turns out that he'd done the same thing one other time. Sounds like suicide attempts, doesn't it? Whatever his problems, the Lord has used his irresponsible behavior to remind me to handle my wheelchair cautiously. Hope he'll learn the same lesson.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Quick Jottings In A Busy Day

How does a 12 minute doctor''s appointment eat up the better part of a day? Since there are no bus routes remotely  near my neurologist's office, we have to take The RIDE, which got us there an hour early. That was okay--we brought sandwiches, dried fruit and water, which we ate under a tree outside the building. We checked in, filled out the same form that we fill out every visit, and saw the doctor. Same exam that I have twice a year. Then to the lab to have blood taken by a sweet young thing with little experience.

Then, an hour and thirty-five minute wait for The RIDE to take us home. Thankfully, it was beautiful weather, so we sat and talked. We prayed. We pondered next week's meeting at our apartment complex about the smoking restrictions. We called The RIDE to see if they could finagle an earlier return, but they weren't too encouraging. We watched people come and go. But it wasn't bad. Being with each other and still in love helped.

The RIDE came on schedule, so I got home, did some Bible Study, read email and played on Twitter. Since we may go to Boston tomorrow, I thought I'd blog this evening. Whew!  I'm tired. Goodnight.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Gentle Jesus, Meek And...Confrontational?

Oh, to be like Jesus! To have His traits of humility, compassion and love! Of course Christians desire those attributes, and we rightfully grieve over our inevitable failures to consistently exhibit them. I see, for instance, my repeated lack of mercy toward people who offend me, and I'm horrified by my self-centered attitude and behavior. I forget about the Lord's tremendous mercy toward me, much like the unmerciful servant in Jesus' parable (click Matthew 18:21-35 to read, even if you're familiar with this parable).

So yes, desiring the Holy Spirit to make us more loving, caring, tender-hearted and gentle is a good, healthy desire, and praying for Him to produce such fruit in us is essential. Such a transformation goes against our innate character, for each of us is, by nature, self-centered and hostile toward whatever threatens our self-will. Imitating Jesus goes against our nature. We'll do kind deeds, but at the very least, we're motivated by the delicious prospect of congratulating ourselves on our apparent altruism.

May God have mercy! I pray His Spirit will overcome my selfishness, letting His goodness express itself through me. As I apply His Word, I believe such a transformation is, slowly and haltingly, happening in me, and I praise Him for such a miracle!

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. ~~2 Corinthians 3:18

Being like Jesus, however, has a dimension beyond the attractive qualities He exhibits. In Sunday School this morning, a passage in John 8 shocked me! In one of His many arguments with the Pharisees, He spoke a harsh truth:

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. ~~John 8:44

As my husband (who taught today's class) read this verse, I found myself thinking what a nasty remark Jesus made. When I pray to be more like Jesus, I definitely don't think of calling religious hypocrites the spawn of Satan! Where's the  humility?

At present, I'm too busy dislodging logs from my own eye to pick at flecks of sawdust in other people's eyes (see Matthew 7:1-5). But as Jesus cleanses me, I'll gain His authority to say the hard things that people will interpret as judgmental. You see, part of being like Jesus necessitates both being holy and proclaiming God's standard for holiness. It calls us to confront sin, regardless of whether or not that confrontation offends someone. Actually, our message will be offensive to those who cherish sin, just as Jesus' words offended the Pharisees so much that they had Him crucified.

Don't infer that we should go around insulting people in order to be Christ-like. The context of John  8:44 is that the Pharisees, in challenging Jesus, claimed God as their Father. Jesus calmly and firmly corrected them, pointing to their behavior as evidence that the family resemblance refuted such a claim, indicating who had really fathered them. I doubt His demeanor was hostile, but He did not soften His words to make the truth palatable. There simply is no "nice" way to confront sin!

Do you want to be like Jesus? Such a lifestyle requires self-sacrifice, even to the point of things getting really messy. But there's no one I'd rather be like!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Part Of The Equation

Over a span of a few years, the topic has come up naturally, without effort. She appears to understand that Jesus is really the Messiah her people claim to await. Surprisingly, she once even admitted to thinking that He probably did rise from the dead. At times, she seems so close to accepting Him.

So I've wondered why she hasn't.

During our last conversation, the answer became clear: she simply doesn't believe she's going to hell. So obviously, she has no need (in her mind) for a Savior. Others I've shared the Gospel with feel the same way, some even denying that hell exists. Years ago, one said to me, "What do I need to be saved from? Hell? I don't believe in heaven or hell. When you die, you cease to exist."

Usually, my response is to say that Jesus, being God, must have known what He was talking about when He preached on hell. But the answer they give is that He lived in a superstitious culture, and therefore adapted His teachings to accommodate their primitive beliefs. That logic leaves me scratching my head, since these very people often admire Him for standing up to the religious establishment. In the end, however, they reject His warnings. Hell has no place in their belief system.

It necessarily follows therefore that Christ's atonement is a superfluous doctrine, and that His death amounts to little more than social martyrdom. I'm not sure what, if anything, meaning His resurrection has if hell doesn't claim the souls of sinners. The vindication of a good Man, perhaps? But surely not victory over sin, if hell (the ultimate consequence of sin) is just an antiquated notion that Jesus included in His preaching to humor the people.

With the reality of hell removed from the equation, faith in Jesus reduces to a matter of personal preference. Little more can be said. At that point, the Holy Spirit must convince hearts, because all the Scriptures and reasoning I present  has no effect apart from Him.

Not that I enjoy believing hell exists. I've tried ignoring it, even as a Christian, preferring the more current trends of seeing Jesus as a problem-solver in this life. But if He's merely the great Physician (though He assuredly is that), the idea of atonement and salvation is either ludicrous or pathetic. Maybe both.

 But Jesus died and rose again, conquering a very real and horrible hell. To those who follow Him, He offers escape from its torments.. I pray that my friends will understand that they need, more than anything to cling to Him for  rescue from it's jaws, knowing how willingly and generously He extends His mercy.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Eyebrows Of A Nun

Sister Nicholas, my favorite English professor in college, taught that good writing required a beginning, a middle and an end. 34 years and countless keystrokes later, her dictum continues to guide me, as many of her dictums (spoken with her eyebrows arched so sharply that their points crept under the bottom edge of her wimple) guide me. Stream-of-consciousness writing had no place in her world of discipline and order. That discipline, having dominated three years of my life, usually ensures that I will write in accordance with her instruction.

Today, however, I can't settle on a topic. I simply want to string words together, letting them take me where they will. So much for my expensive Catholic college education, huh? Maybe the wildness of the wind, which must be left-over from yesterday's tornados in central Massachusetts (yes, seriously...six of them!) makes me want to shed restrictions.

More likely, it's just that I want to write more than Twitter and Facebook updates, but subject matter eludes me today. I considered writing about something in a commentary I read on 1 Peter 5:1 this morning,   But the comment (as fascinating as it was) seemed to read more into the phrase it exposited than I believe Peter intended. Perhaps I'm wrongly presuming to speak for Peter. But perhaps it was the commentator who made the presumptions. At any rate, I felt very uncomfortable writing about it, at least in the context of that particular verse. Too much extrapolation!

It's not as if I lack thoughts and ideas today; please understand that point. There's a controversy over new smoking restrictions in our apartment complex, and my mind is grappling with all the nuances and implications involved with that issue. As a non-smoker with breathing limitations and the wife of a man who uses ventilators much of the time, I'm delighted by the ability to open our windows without smelling burning tobacco leaves in the back yard. On the other hand, if "they" can take away the rights of smokers, which of my rights might "they" take away two years from now. Still, shouldn't I have the right to open my window without inhaling second-hand smoke? And the debate inside my head continues.

So, I have no topic today, but I still wanted to spend time here. Have I said a lot? Or have I, like Seinfeld, ultimately said nothing? I'm not sure, but I think Sister Nicholas would arch her eyebrows in decisive disapproval.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Boston In Cycles

As we wheeled down the Greenway yesterday, we happened to spot a Pedicab (bicycle taxi) parked by the fountains at the entrance to the North End. As a joke, we asked for a ride. For a moment, the driver didn't get the humor, and when he finally did, his laugh was a bit half-hearted.

But once that bit of awkwardness was conveniently out of the way, John started asking questions. The driver said that he likes the job because he gets to talk to so many people. The service, he told us, is generally a tips only business, though if he does an actual tour, he'll usually get about $60. I must have misheard him, since all the bus tours (including the Duck Boats) charge an average of between $32 and $37. But if you don't want anything more than transportation, you just tip whatever you think the ride is worth.

It looks fun, really. Too bad he couldn't have given us a ride.

 

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