Monday, December 31, 2012

Now Or Forever

Both a retrospective on 2012 and a list of projection about 2013 seem like trite subject matter. I guess no one actually expects me to blog about either; it's an expectation I've placed on myself for reasons that make absolutely no sense to me.

If I were a prophet, I'd predict a very hard year for Americans. Well, I don't really believe I possess prophetic gifts, especially as I believe such gifts ceased when the Bible was complete, but it's a reasonable assessment based on the current shenanigans in Washington DC and the impending implementation of The "Affordable" Health Care Act (which will hurt the economy terribly). But I don't really want to blog about the dismal American economy.

Perhaps the best point to make, as we stumble into the New Year, is that Christians (including me, or perhaps especially me) need to readjust our focus from earthly concerns to eternal ones. Are we training ourselves in righteousness, anticipating an eternity of living in holiness? Are we telling others to repent, lest they experience God's wrath? Is He our blessed hope, and do we long for the wonderful day when we will see the glorious face of Jesus?

James White of Alpha And Omega Ministries shared the following song by Geoff Moore and The Distance from his Twitter account yesterday, and it brought those questions to me. So, instead of focusing on 2013, let's all pursue the things that really matter.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Picture To Avoid 1,000 Words

Thank you notes demanded my time and attention this weekend. Learning to format them in Word 10 took patience and perseverance, to be sure, but I enjoyed figuring everything out. The satisfaction of successfully bending the program to my will, and then actually writing all nine notes, fills me with a gratifying sense of accomplishment.

It also leaves me too tired to blog, so I'll simply share a photo John took from our third floor apartment window this morning:

Friday, December 28, 2012

Disagreeing With Whom?

A woman speaking at a retreat I attended years ago shocked me by stating: "I don't agree with Paul concerning the roles of women." Now, it's one thing to dislike the gender roles delineated in Paul's epistles, and I admit to struggling with the prohibition against teaching in terms of this blog. (I don't know how many men read it, so I find myself walking a thin line when I deal with matters of Christian doctrine.) But in disagreeing with Paul, this speaker was actually disagreeing with Scripture. Her comment disturbed me then, and it has continued to disturb me throughout the years.

When we elevate our opinions over Scripture, daring to disagree with certain parts, we betray our arrogance. If we don't believe the Bible to be God's Word, then we subjectively determine our own moral and ethical standards, thereby making ourselves God. And if we claim to believe the Bible is God's Word, then any disagreement with its human writers is actually disagreement with God. Either position makes me shudder!

The man who leads Bible Study in  our home often says, "It's not about what we think; it's about what God says." His maxim doesn't mean (as some have misinterpreted) that Christians ought to disengage our intellect. On the contrary, studying Scripture and accurately applying its teachings in practical ways (such as a woman blogging about the things of the Lord) requires discernment, and discernment is an intellectual exercise. My friend's point is that our opinions don't matter as much as what God clearly says.

Yes, God says many things that I, in my flesh, really don't like. It would feel good to support gay marriage, indulge in sex outside of marriage, brag about my "accomplishments," spend money exclusively on myself, and be a woman pastor, but all those pursuits disregard Biblical instruction. How I feel about those matters must bow to the Lord's wisdom. He is, after all, both Creator and King, having full authority to determine how things should function. How can a Christian possibly disagree?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Grace Of Absolute Truth

The continued exodus from Biblical Christianity doesn't shock me as much as it used to, but it saddens me. Friends whom I once greatly respected as sterling examples of Christians, both for their doctrinal fidelity and their moral purity, have been embracing liberal theology and/or moving into blatantly sinful behavior patterns. A few, but only a very few, are honest enough to acknowledge that they aren't following the Lord, and some even sincerely believe that He has led them to make these tragic choices.

"There, but for the grace of God, go I."

There have been far too many times I've looked down my sanctimonious nose at erring friends, not so secretly congratulating myself that I would never go into sin like they did. Really? In my eagerness to judge them, I'd conveniently forget the times I've tried to rationalize certain beliefs, attitudes and behaviors with the Bible, knowing full well that I violated God's standards. At other times, I admitted my deviation from the truth, and seriously considered turning my back on Jesus in favor of following my selfish desires. Sometimes I still feel that way. No room for self-righteousness here!

I can't leave Jesus, even when I'd very much prefer going my own way, nor can I reassemble my understanding of Him to accommodate my rebellion. Despite the prevailing philosophy that all truth is relative, I am sure that Jesus is the Truth. His Word, the Bible, is absolute, and therefore not subject to personal interpretation. Simply stated, Jesus has a hold on me.

As I watch dear friends pervert Scripture and distort their lives, I must credit the Lord for keeping me anchored in Him. Why He hasn't given me over to deception puzzles me. I can't take credit for my steadfastness, though I'd like to believe I'm that much of a spiritual giant. Jesus keeps me following Him, however imperfectly, by convincing me that Truth is exclusively in Him.

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” ~~John 6:66-69 (ESV)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Star Wars: The Best Part

Okay, yes...I'm bragging. Yesterday, I gave John all six episodes of Star Wars for Christmas. Do I merit a Wife Of The Year award?

Probably not, but he was certainly one happy man when he opened those  two little packages yesterday morning. Predictably, we spent a good chunk of the day watching Episode 4: A New Hope, which was the first movie Lucas made in the series. Naturally, we also watched one of the two audio commentaries, as I noticed that Harrison Ford looked really, really young!

Watching it brought back the memory of packing in my friend's VW van with several other people from church on a warm summer evening in 1977, wondering why we needed to go all the way to San Francisco to see a movie. Their explanation about Dolby Surround Sound meant little to me. But it was the first time (other than weddings) that I'd been included in a social outing with people my age from church, so I accompanied them eagerly.

At the time, action movies pretty easily lost my attention, so I confess that I didn't follow the story line. Harrison Ford, being practically a decade older than I, failed to interest me, and I wanted something more to happen between Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. (Give me a break--no one back then knew  they were twins separated at birth.) The Dolby thing, of course, was mesmerizing! But the best part was being with Christian friends.

Yesterday, I followed the story much better, though I still found the battle scenes boring. The infatuation Luke felt for Leia disturbed me, but only because I knew something they didn't. But the best part was seeing my beloved husband's joy!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Wonder: Beyond The Cliches

To some, the Christmas story is so familiar that it hardly makes an impact. Indeed, its central point of God becoming Man gets pushed to the background as people see Him as the Son of God (which He is), but not necessarily God the Son Incarnate. Such people know, on an intellectual level, that Christmas is a time of wonder, but they ascribe that wonder to angels appearing to shepherds and a virgin giving birth.They get close to the meaning of Christmas, but there's a slight disconnect.

Others smile vaguely at the Christmas story, emphasizing the phrase, "peace on earth, goodwill to men." They don't quite get what a Baby in a manger has to do with peace, but they figure it's a good time to put forth good thoughts, positive vibes and other warm fuzzies. They wonder at abstract concepts like the purity of childhood and the spirit of giving.

A still more secular group virtually ignores the Biblical story (although images of Jesus lying in hay amid wooly little lambs and childlike angels can occasionally evoke sentimental emotions), finding wonder in stories of Santa, colored lights, holiday music and family gatherings. A successful holiday consists of presents that please, no tension at the dinner table and avoiding the dreaded fruitcake. A light snowfall, the laughter of children and a beautiful tree make the season magical for them.

Through the years, Christmas has transfixed me with a special wonder as I've seriously pondered the Incarnation. God the Son, who is the Second Person of the Trinity and who has  existed from all eternity, spent nine months gestating in a young woman's womb, and was born in such obscurity that His first bed was a dirty feeding trough for animals. The Word by which all creation was spoken into existence came as a helpless Infant who would need His mother and step-father to teach Him how  to speak. And 33 years later, this Almighty God who holds all things together would fulfill the purpose of His coming by dying to atone for the sins I so eagerly commit, rising physically three days later as proof that God the Father accepted His sacrifice.

The ramifications of Christ's birth defy the limitations of human language...indeed, of  human thought! Sometimes, I'll lie in bed thinking of His infantile dependence on Mary, remembering that He had knit her together in her mother's womb. He was her Savior and Creator, yet as a Child He entrusted her to sustain His life. Just as He was fully God, Jesus was also fully Man, developing and growing as all children develop and grow. My human mind can't begin to comprehend how He could be a Baby and yet be God. But His Incarnation, so loaded with inexplicable implications, fills me with wonder throughout the year!

The Adoration of the Magi by Corrado Giaquinto

Friday, December 21, 2012

I'm His Responsibility

January 20,1971 has always been the day I claimed that I came to know Jesus. But in the past few months, I've questioned whether or not I had actually trusted Him to be my Savior. I believed, certainly, that He had died for my sins, yet  I felt an insecurity about the fact that I continued falling into sin patterns. Would I one day cross a line, forfeiting (or losing) my salvation?

During and after John's lengthy hospitalization this past year, my battle intensified, and my behavior shocked people. By then, I'd been won over to the "once saved, always saved" theology, and consequently I wondered if I'd ever actually been saved.

Now, I believe that period of self-doubt, despite being painful, was God's mercy toward me. Scripture commands self-examination to make sure we're really Christians (2 Corinthians 13:5), an injunction that few 21st Century professing Christians heed. I saw little of the Holy Spirit's fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) in my life, but an over-abundance of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). To make matters worse, I wasn't completely sure I really wanted to repent.

But, as I wrestled, the Lord helped me realize that, as much as I insisted that salvation comes by faith rather than works, I still had given myself the responsibility of maintaining my salvation. In so doing, I failed to totally trust Jesus. Though I saw Him as Savior when I first turned to Him, I very subtly added myself back into the equation, as if I had to "earn my keep."

But since salvation can't be earned in the first place, isn't it preposterous to take back the reins once we "accept" Jesus? Paul said as much:

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?  ~~Galatians 3:2-6 (ESV)

My trust, God showed me, had reverted back to my own efforts instead of wholly leaning on Jesus to make me righteous before God. And that tiny scrap of self-righteousness might have sent me to an eternity in hell. I can't make that judgement for sure, of course, but I can say that my trust was drifting away from Jesus toward myself. Thus, I robbed Him of some of His glory.

Jesus alone saves anyone, and He alone brings salvation to its conclusion. Hebrews 12:2 calls Him the Author and Finisher of our faith, hinting that even our faithfulness and obedience derives their impetus from Him. Whatever good works or qualities He may manifest in my life refer back to Him!

Whether I was saved back in 1971 or sometime in the latter part of 2012 ultimately doesn't matter. Jesus shed His blood for me, paying the entire price for all my sin, asking only that I trust exclusively in Him. Yes, I'm saved beyond a shadow of a doubt! I'm saved because Jesus, for reasons I'll never understand, took the punishment I deserve. And I'm profoundly grateful.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Distaste For God's Law

Part of me wants to blog about Tuesday's trip to the Museum of Fine Arts. Another part of me doesn't want to blog at all. And a really big part of me wants to comment on Tom Chantry's blog post: In Which I Will Offend Almost Everyone. (I know, I'm trying to play with the Big Boys again.)

Chantry's post is lengthy, but very worth the read. Its essential point is that preaching grace requires that we also preach law. Oh, please read it for  yourselves, as I'm certain my distillation of what he's written really wouldn't do it justice.

As someone who has been accused of emphasizing law over grace, I appreciate Chantry's points. Good behavior cannot effect salvation, I acknowledge. And I praise God that He's saved me on the merits of Jesus Christ, because I'm completely convinced that I'm thoroughly incapable of ever making myself acceptable to a holy and righteous God. Yet, I believe Chantry offers several powerful arguments for insisting that America return to a high cultural standard. Here are but two paragraphs of his post:

What do we expect in a society in which God’s law is never preached?  One in which mothers are celebrated for murdering their infants, men are celebrated for marrying other men, celebrities are, yes, celebrated for producing violent and pornographic entertainments, and Presidents are re-elected for playing the lead role in all of this abominable celebration?  Do you think Adam Lanza is an aberration?  I say he is an inevitability.  He is what America has become, and worse than that: he is what the preachers long ago determined that America must become.

Of course, many Christians will read this and be horrified.  “You can’t be saying that we ought to preach law-keeping!  That would undermine the gospel!”  They think that any preaching which fails to produce converts has failed to accomplish any good.  They are wrong on many counts.  For one thing, the same law that accomplishes the Cultural Use also accomplishes the Pedagogical.  God might only use the preached law to terrify the Adam Lanzas of the world into submission, but then, He might also use it to the conversion of some.   Yet even if He does not, the Cultural Use of the Law is itself a good and worthy aim.

Having been born in 1953, I can remember a more innocent America, and I definitely see how Cultural Christianity, while not always producing real salvations in individuals, at least provided society with a moral compass. Today, any moral compass we have is dreadfully skewed by liberal theology, liberal politics and a general disdain for the Bible. Not that people actually know, even in passing, what the Bible says. They just know that's it's antiquated, restrictive, and beneath the "dignity" of any "thinking" person.  So, it's categorically dismissed in the misapplied name of "separation of church and state." And in our politically correct environment where God is either restructured into our ideas of who He should be or ignored altogether, we are surprised by 9/11 and school shootings.

We needn't be surprised. We have cultivated a lawless society, and we are eating its bitter fruit.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Played Cards Today

I had limited computer time today. Did I use it doing things I was supposed to do? Not entirely! I needed to write a letter, but just plain didn't (and don't) feel like it, so instead I worked on formatting our  Christmas card for our Personal Care Attendants. The new Microsoft Office doesn't have Publisher, which I'd used for greeting card templates these past ten years. So, I'm having to try various templates and tutorials, none of which works nearly as well as Publisher did. But I'm making progress! At least I've updated last years picture:
Just look at what I've done with it:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hook As Our Mirror

It's Christmas time, and I don't particularly feel like thinking about murdered six-year-olds in Connecticut, thank you very much! I'd much rather gloat about the San Francisco 49ers win over the New England Patriots last night (quite satisfying, I must say), or post a Christmas picture I designed Saturday. But I'm taking tomorrow off from blogging to go to the Museum of Fine Arts, so I feel responsible to blog today. And, after listening to James White's Sunday School lesson on Responding to Evil and Wickedness, I believe I need to say more, not only about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but about the underlying spiritual issue that caused it.

I've actually blogged about the issue for years, between Boston Adventures and showing off my digital art, and I'm pretty sure I'll continue blogging about it. The issue is human depravity.

I know...none of us really wants to believe that humans are inherently sinful. That any of us is just as capable of opening fire on a classroom of innocent children as Adam Lanza was. In fact, we're scrambling like mad to emphasize Lanza's Asperger Syndrome, thereby removing some of the responsibility from him...and to assure ourselves that we could never do anything so abhorrent.

But we could.

I could.

It's by God's inexplicable grace that most of us, even if we aren't Christians, adhere to a sense of right and wrong. Romans 1:19-20 teaches that He puts His law in the hearts of believers and non-believers alike, and the following verses go on to illustrate the various ways that each of us rebels against his law. As John wrote in his blog yesterday, each of us does what we determine to be right, rather than obeying God's absolutes as given in His Word. So, as absurd as it may sound, Adam Lanza did what he believed was right, having based his paradigm of right and wrong on subjective criteria. Criteria, I submit to you, that disallowed the Lord's authority.

We dare not presume that our own rejection of God's law is any less  horrific. It's usually less visible, and less difficult to rationalize, but each of us is just as evil in God's sight, whether we're willing to admit it or not. Unless we allow the blood of Jesus to atone for our sin, we are every bit as deserving of God's wrath.

Thankfully, Jesus did come to take the penalty for our sin on Himself, though He is  God, and therefore didn't deserve such punishment.  He saw our helplessness to choose good over evil. He saw that sin infects each human heart thoroughly, leaving us always inclining toward various shades of evil. We may perform wickedness more subtly than Adam Lanza did Friday morning, but we need His atonement just as desperately! And, because His love and grace know no limit other than our rejection of Him, He came to Bethlehem. Let us adore Him for setting us free from ourselves!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Emmanuel, Even In Newtown

Christmas celebrates Emmanuel...God with us. I'd imagine that, as we ache over Friday's massacre in Newtown, CT, we wonder if He is really with those grieving families. They must question His presence.

In response, allow me to share a song that has offered me comfort through John's illness, and offers comfort as I pray for the hurting families now. The assurance that Jesus, God in the flesh, is with us even in our darkest times is such an integral part of the Christmas message! And it's a truth that can offer hope to the people of Newtown.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Lesson From Newtown, If We Want It

There are many layers to yesterday's Sandy Hook School shooting. The secular media, both liberal and conservative, has been examining most of the aspects, with liberals very predictably insisting that gun control is the definitive answer to all the violence. And I admit to being somewhat in agreement that private citizens probably don't need to own assault weapons (though I wouldn't like seeing the Second Amendment repealed). As I pray, cry and think about the tragedy, however, I'm convinced that the underlying issue is our nation's abandonment of God.

Please don't misunderstand: I'm not callous to the pain that the families in Newtown CT feel as they look at Hanukkah and Christmas gifts that their little ones will never unwrap. Nor am I unsympathetic to the school's surviving children, who may never totally feel safe in their classrooms again. And I'm sad for the gunman's brother, who lost a mother and a sibling through this horrible event. But though I join my country in mourning, I'm really not very surprised by the shooting. In fact, I believe it demonstrates the accuracy of Scripture's many prophecies of estrangement from the Lord and the lawlessness that will result from that estrangement.

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. ~~~2 Thessalonians 2:3-11 (ESV)

I read an article today that claimed only 20% of Americans attend church of any type. If not all church-goers actually live in submission to Jesus Christ, doesn't it follow that Americans as a whole no longer have the religious or moral restraints that used to minimize vice and violence in society? We no longer accept Scripture as our rule of faith and practice, but instead consider morality as a matter of private interpretation. Like Israel in the times of the judges, everyone does what's right in his own eyes.

What was "right" in the gunman's eyes yesterday was definitely wrong in the Lord's eyes. The Bible clearly prohibits murder. The Bible tells us, very clearly, how the Lord wants us to individuals and as a society. Furthermore, God's extraordinary grace in coming to earth as a Man (the very miracle Christmas celebrates) guides us in living appropriately.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, ~~Titus 2:11-13 (ESV)

Yesterday's heartbreaking tragedy could have been avoided if the gunman had believed in Christ and submitted to His authority. Gun control laws merely make it slightly more difficult to commit atrocities, but they won't stop lawlessness. Unless our nation turns back to Christ, I believe we'll see increasing lawlessness. Thankfully, Jesus offers us an alternative

Friday, December 14, 2012

Looking Beyond Pine Needles And Presents

Our Christmas tree is now up, with its marvelous smell of pine needles. Isn't it pretty? It has an almost perfect shape, and my Personal Care Attendant decorated it very tastefully! Then I supervised as she wrapped presents for my family in California (she then took them to the Post Office on her way home. So I feel less like Scrooge, and more like enjoying Christmas.
I've been training my thoughts more on Jesus, pondering the true meaning of His birth. The tree  may be a more secular symbol of Christmas (and some people will, I'm sure, hasten to point out its pagan origins...sigh!), but just having it inspires me to reflect on Jesus coming in human flesh for the purpose of shedding His blood on another kind of Tree (also designed by pagans) to atone for my sin and yours. His death, vindicated three days later by His resurrection, demonstrates God's magnificent grace.

For His condescending grace, how can I not adore Him? He has come, humbly and willingly humiliated, to save His people for Himself. Though as God, He stands outside of all created universes, He spent nine months in a virgin's womb. Can you think about His Incarnation without being enveloped in wonder and compelled to praise Him in adoration? I certainly can't!

So, although we can enjoy the luxurious fragrance of pine, the luminous lights, and the satisfaction of giving our loved ones gifts we know they'll like, let's move into the true meaning of this holy season by kneeling our hearts before the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Operating In The Spirit Of Humbug

As my husband (who is much more godly than I) fills his blog, Biblically Speaking Who's The Boss, with devotions about the Lord's birth and videos of Christmas carols, I have been frustrated and irritable.

Why, you ask, am I operating in the spirit of humbug? It's several irritants: won't let me add the correct billing address. PaintShop Pro won't interface with our printer. Avery's templates for making greeting cards don't make sense. None of our back-up attendants can fill in Saturday morning for the PCA who was hit by a car. And, even though I started early, I'm woefully behind on Christmas projects.

So, instead of joyfully celebrating the Lord's First coming, I'm caught up in all the pressures of the season, made worse as I'm adjusting to a new computer and new version of PaintShop Pro. Everything takes longer because  I've lost so much that was on my old version of Paint Shop Pro, so I need to create so much from scratch. In short, I feel overwhelmed.

John is focused on the wonder of God coming to earth as a baby. I want that to be my focus, but I'm like Martha, caught up in the insignificant details while her sister Mary (like my husband John) has chosen the "better part" by sitting at Jesus' feet. Have I forgotten, in all my busyness, Whom Christmas is all  about? It seems so, and I feel ashamed! May He, in His abundant grace, lead me to repentance and enable me to follow my husband's wonderful example.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Thought During Hanukkah

 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”~~John 8:12 (ESV)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

South Station's Winter Wonderland

Despite light rain yesterday, temperatures in the high 50s coaxed John to cancel our return trip with The RIDE after his doctor appointment. He was determined to see the Holiday Train Show (featured in the blog, Boston To A T) at South Station. And I was harboring a secret hope that Anthony (who gives wonderful massages) would be there.

As soon as we entered the rotunda, we saw the train display, loosely modeled on Boston in the 1950s. I'd expected the display we'd seen a few years ago, but this one was much more creative and interesting. See for yourself:

Of course, still photos really can't do a model train display justice, so John also took some video clips:

We ate a quick lunch that none of our doctors would approve (MacDonalds...but that's our dirty little secret) and then John noticed the player piano that he  had earlier zoomed past in his excitement to see the trains:
At that point, we saw Anthony, who assured us that we had time for a short massage before we'd have to board our real-life train home.

So John and I both got what we wanted yesterday (well, I wasn't so keen on MacDonalds, but that's really a trifling point). It rained a little as we wheeled from the bus stop to our apartment, but not much. We came home satisfied!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Trains And Marriage

Depending on the weather, we may cancel The RIDE home after seeing John's oncologist in Boston tomorrow and wheel through the city to South Station to see the Holiday Train Show.

Last Tuesday, actually, we canceled The RIDE after his appointment with his primary care physician, having believed weather forecasts of temperatures in the high 50s and spotty showers, with John eagerly anticipating the Holiday Train. Since his appointment ran late, he had to make the cancellation from the exam  room (The RIDE requires an hour's notice for cancellations), so we assumed the weather was clearing and warming. (How I wish doctors' exam rooms had windows!)

When we got outside, it was raw and drizzly...and too late to rescind the cancellation. The drizzle was more-or-less constant, completely covering the entire downtown area. When we got to Macy's, a savvy salesman guided John past the knit hats to the admittedly more stylish and certainly more expensive men's hats, probably making a nice little commission out of our desperation.

Upon arriving at South Station, we found workers in the beginning stages of setting up the model train display. Cheerfully, they told us, "It'll be ready tomorrow or Thursday!" Smile--Have A Nice Day!

Let's not go into why we missed the first subway train, the late bus when we got to Ashmont and how cold we were when we finally entered our apartment. Suffice it to say, the excursion had more negative moments than positive, and we felt very disappointed about the Holiday Train.

But then we remembered why John has so many doctors' appointments in the first place. We remembered how close I came to being widowed this year, and that losing him would have also meant losing the ability to gallivant about Boston. Yes, Tuesday was disappointing, but the Lord protected us from actual rain, got us home safely...and most of all, let us go through the frustrations together.

I do pray for the nice weather that's predicted for tomorrow to materialize, knowing how much John wants to see the Holiday Train. We've scheduled The RIDE, however, late enough that we'll be able to assess the weather before deciding whether or not to cancel the trip home. No matter what happens, we'll be together, supporting each other and thanking the Lord that John's still with me. Holiday Trains are nice, but not as precious as having each other.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

When Atheits Know The Truth

Last night I watched a segment on The O'Reilly Factor in which Bill O'Reilly argued unsuccessfully with an atheist over banning Christmas celebrations. Not that I advocate banning Christmas, mind you. But O'Reilly argued from the premise that Christianity is a philosophy, as opposed to being a religion.

Yes, I'm aware of the Evangelical slogan: "It's not a religion, it's a relationship," and (for the most part) I subscribe to that line of thinking. But, folks, that's a separate conversation. In the context of the debate over public celebration of Christmas, it's probably more effective to bring up John Adams' pronouncement: "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people."

The real objection modern atheists have to public expressions of Christianity (you'll notice that they seldom protest Judaism, Islam or Buddhism) lies, I'm convinced, in the fact that Christianity confronts them with the truth that humankind needs a Savior. They are so hostile to the thought of God having to deal with their sin that even highly secularized symbols like Christmas trees offend them. In a strange way, they're more sensitive to the true meaning of Christmas than many professing Christians are!

We celebrate the Incarnation of God the Son, certainly. But in that celebration, true Christians remember that Jesus came with a purpose beyond teaching us God's laws. He came to satisfy God's wrath against a humanity that  constantly and consistently rejects His authority. As a Man, Jesus took the death sentence that you and I deserve, shedding His innocent blood to pay the penalty. Three days later, His resurrection proved that His Father accepted His sacrifice. Atheists know this gospel is the meaning of Christmas.

Friday, December 7, 2012

FDR's Speech

As Infamy Is Forgotten

My mother calls World War II "The War," as if all other wars have less importance. She was young then, and had a great deal of contact, through both her job and volunteering with the USO, with soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought in both Europe and the Pacific. She remembers rationing and black-outs and an America united to support the War Effort.

She also remembers exactly what she was doing on December 7, 1941, when she heard that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. She didn't need FDR to tell her it would be "a date that would live in infamy." Already, the date was embedded in her heart, just as deeply as November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001 are embedded in mine. December 7, 1941 changed her world, becoming a reference point for everything in her life.

She bore me a scant 12 years later, and during my childhood the scars of "The War" still remained sensitive, kept fresh by TV shows like Hogan's Heroes and McHale's Navy. Kids didn't know all of Hitler's atrocities, nor did they know of Emperor Hirohito's plans for Japanese expansion; we just knew both were very bad men. And we knew our country had been right to oppose both men. We followed our parents in believing that American involvement in World War II was not only necessary, but noble.

My mother's generation is almost gone now, and my generation has started retiring. Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm,  Iraq and the current war in Afghanistan all drown out memories of Pearl Harbor, and I wonder whether or not the average college student even knows what happened that day. But then, 61 years from now, their grandchildren may not understand the significance of 9/11.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Headstick And The Dragon

For years, people have suggested that I try Dragon voice recognition software. Frankly, I was perfectly content to type with my headstick, comparing its comfort and ease of use to the mouthstick I'd used between the ages  of 9 and (if I recall correctly) 38. Additionally, I recalled how wearying it had been to dictate my mid-terms and final exams in college. I'd been so grateful, Senior Year, when Sister Nicholas permitted me to bring my spiffy little portable typewriter to school for my Comprehensive Exam (a six-hour test that would determine my eligibility to graduate with a B.A. in English Literature). Would using Dragon be as tiring as dictating college exams?

Because I have a speech defect that worsens with fatigue, I also had doubts about my ability to use Dragon. As a day progressed, would the software be intuitive enough to adapt to the deterioration in my speech? I had my doubts!

My doctor, a couple years ago, suggested Dragon as we discussed continued use of my headstick in the context of neck pain. My resistance softened, if only slightly. Then, just a few months ago, I found it necessary to dictate a blog post to John, and I marveled that I knocked it out in ten minutes  rather than the hour it would have taken to type it with my trusty headstick. That incident made Dragon look immensely attractive!

Two weeks ago, we saw a televison commercial advertizing (that day only) Dragon for half-price. Imagining quantum leaps in my blog posts, I urged John to order it. What liberation it would bring! No more racing the clock to finish blogging in time for supper! And, since blogging would  take less time per paragraph, I'd be able to compose longer, and therefore more substantive, posts. Ah, the clarity I'd achieve in presenting my thoughts!

So, today we installed it. It had me read John F. Kennedy's 1961 Inauguration Speech (which could almost persuade me to vote Democrat) so it could learn my speech pattern. My lungs hurt from such steady talking, but I persevered. And then, I opened the first tutorial, feeling confident as...well, a newly elected president on Inauguration Day.

And, it didn't work.

I suspect my speech, influenced by my breathing limitations, has too many irregularities. John thinks something's wrong with the microphone. We'll try to figure it out, but I pretty much think it just can't handle the severity of my speech defect. Certainly, I'm very disappointed. But I love my headstick, and will enjoy typing with it until something better comes  my way. And, right now, I'm late for supper.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Investing And Spending Ideas

There's always more to fill my blog than there is time or energy to compose posts, and once again I sit at my desk, wondering which idea I want to explore. I've just spent over 90 minutes reading blogs, hoping something would offer me a little direction. (Well, also, I've fallen behind in reading blogs.) Nothing jumped out at me, though I learned a lot. Perhaps I learned too much, for now I even have more material...and, correspondingly, less time. But, despite my reading hampering my productivity this afternoon, my blog reading certainly wasn't a waste of time.

As a high school and college student studying writing, I received counsel to read. Reading teaches writing skills. Logically, then, reading other blogs offers me instruction on the relatively new art of blogging, not merely in suggesting subject matter (though subject matter is, of course, essential), but also in demonstrating various styles and tones. Although I've been blogging for seven years (I had a blog on MSN before this one), I see myself as a beginner needing tutelage. Other bloggers serve as my unwitting mentors, and their blogs are my textbooks.

So forgive me when, in reading other bloggers, I appear to neglect my own blog. Rest assured that I'm actually investing in this blog, determined to develop skills that will improve my offerings. Still, there comes a time that I must use my investments by actually connecting with my keyboard and producing blog posts...without duplicating the blogs I read. Mentors, you see, have no effect until the pupil puts the teaching into practice.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I Can't Disagree With God

This blog has staying power! I'm sorry if Saturday's post gave the impression that I'm closing up shop. I'm merely surrendering the aspiration I had  of turning it into something on par with Pyromaniacs, Chantrynotes or Gay Christian Movement Watch. I am not a Bible teacher, nor would it be Scriptural for me to assume such a position, even informally. Since I claim that Bible is, being the very Word of God, my final authority in determining what I believe and how I conduct my life, it necessarily follows that  I must not turn this blog into a covert pulpit through which I seek to authoritatively instruct people of both genders. Such would be hypocrisy.

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. ~~1 Timothy 2:11-14 (ESV)

If I honestly believe God speaks through Scripture, am I not responsible to submit myself even to the verses I don't like?

Once, I heard a friend of mine state (as she addressed a women's retreat) that she disagreed with Paul's teachings on women. Her comment shocked me by implying that certain portions of Paul's epistles need not be considered God's authoritative Word. Sorry, girlfriend, but you're setting yourself up as a judge over Scripture, accepting and rejecting portions based on your desires and preferences rather than bowing to the Holy Spirit's authority. Paul's writings (the ones that were preserved in the Canon of Scripture) were given through God the Holy Spirit, and consequently must be treated as God's Word. We can dislike His Word on specific points, but I don't believe we have the option (if we are Christians) to disagree with them.

That being the case, I can't elevate my blog to be anything above an expression of my relationship with the Lord. I may, on occasions, express my deep concern over the liberal trends and aberrant teachings that grow like cancers in the professing Church, but I mustn't presume to teach in the way that Discernment blogs do. If God has gifted me to teach, He will open up opportunities for me to minister exclusively to women.   

So where does that leave my blog? At present, John and I plan for me  to continue addressing various errors in Christian circles, but in a way that I link to blogs and websites offering the actual teaching on the matters I discuss. Why reinvent those wheels anyway? The issue has never been a question of whether or not I continue this blog. Rather, it's a question of how I blog, honoring the role God has assigned to me as a woman. After all, my ambition must surrender to His glory.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Playing With The Big Boys

Look at my blogroll on the right-hand column of this blog. What do you see? That's emphasis on Discernment Ministry blogs like Apprising Ministries, Stand To Reason, The Thirsty Theologian, Sola Sisters and The Seventh Sola. And, my favorite, Pyromaniacs. With the obvious exception of Sola Sisters, each of these blogs is authored by men. I never particularly gave that detail much attention. Like these bloggers, I'm concerned with the weak, if not liberal, theology that has been slowly crawling into evangelical churches and drawing professing Christians away from the tenant of Sola Scriptura (the Bible as the only way God speaks to us).

And, self-aggrandizing as it was, I admit having aspirations of my own blog reaching the level of these blogs. I wanted to "play with the big boys."

The other day, however, Dan Philips of Pyromaniacs put out this blog post asking what role women can legitimately have in teaching seminary or writing commentary. As of this afternoon, he had 129 comments, which really must be read along with his posts.

In response to Dan's post and attending comments, let me first make it clear that I firmly believe in male leadership in both the church and the home. Finding a church in Massachusetts that we could trust not to call a woman to pulpit ministry took enormous effort, requiring us to worship in another town rather than the church just a quarter mile from our apartment. So, I'm definitely not advocating that women serve as pastors or elders. If they teach, they should limit their audience to other women and small children. And yes, I'm dogmatic on that point!

But Dan's post makes me ask myself very hard questions about my blog. In blogging about what I learn as I study the Bible, or about the unbiblical trends multiplying (like rabbits) within evangelical churches, could I be violating God's Word...the very Word I seek to uphold? John and I are discussing this matter, hoping to determine how I should proceed with this blog from this point forward. Yes, I feel drawn to share Scripture and comment on it. But I'm even more interested in laying aside my ambitions (which I'm starting to see as self-serving) in favor of obeying God. John and I haven't yet reached solid conclusions regarding how much I can blog about the Lord without crossing the line, but I suspect the big boys will play without me.


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