Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Intended To Blog About Martin Luther, But...

Forget about that "holiday" (about which there's nothing holy) celebrating witches and ghosts. Today is Reformation Day! On October 31, 1517, an Augustinian monk in Germany nailed his 95 Theses of Contention to the door of the Whittenberg Church in a gesture that ultimately brought about the Protestant Reformation. As a result, Christians have direct access to the Bible rather than being forced to trust the clergy to interpret it. Even better, we enjoy the Biblical truth that salvation comes, not through our efforts to please God, but through faith in His atoning sacrifice on the Cross as He accepted the punishment for sin that you and I deserve.

When I woke up this morning, I told John I planned to blog about Martin Luther and the Reformation today. In the past several years, I've found my home in Reformed Theology, though I always had seeds of it in me. I now understand that the tension I felt throughout my 30 years in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches came out of seeing discrepancies between what these churches taught and what I read in Scripture. Listening to John MacArthur's radio broadcasts, however, returned me to my Biblical roots, and I now consider myself a Calvinist. As such, I more deeply appreciate the Reformers, and regard October 31st as a day of joyous celebration!

But once I turned on my computer this morning, I started working on a digital drawing I'd begun back in August. My Personal Care Attendant's daughter had turned 14 a week earlier, and when I sorted through my drawings in order to make a birthday card for her, I discovered that the African-American girl I'd drawn in the style I use for greeting cards had completely vanished from my hard drive! I threw a card together using another drawing I'd done of a black friend of mine, but I decided I'd get something ready for the young lady's birthday next year.

Today, I put the finishing touches on the drawing, looking forward to sharing it in today's blog post. Oh...but what about Luther and Reformation Day? Needless to say, I felt conflicted until my wonderful husband counseled, "Well, you've gotta post the picture!" That emphatic tone in his voice gave me all the permission I needed.

Martin Luther learned, from reading Paul's letter to the Romans, that his justification before God didn't depend on his works of piety, but on Christ's single work on the Cross. Similarly, the Lord doesn't love me more when I blog about Him and less when I blog about my artwork, my Boston Adventures, or childhood memories. Somehow, it fits for me to free myself from spiritual expectations and just post from my heart. The Lord still receives all the glory, and Luther would like that fact.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

When Thoughts Seem Like Hurricanes

Contrary to my expectations, Hurricane Sandy left the air warm and humid. Strange, huh? It's October 30, and we have the air conditioner running! Last night, unable to open windows or turn the A/C on, I lay awake only slightly relieved by an uncharacteristically impotent tower fan. A praise song that particularly annoys me by its lack of theological content kept filling in the gaps between obsessive thoughts about a new friend who very much needs to know Jesus as the heat prevented me from sleeping. Splintered from thoughts of my new friend were less noble thoughts that I asked the Lord to help me reject (which He did). In the midst of this chaos, I reminded myself to "take every thought captive."

Two decades ago, a woman in my church tried to steer me away from fantasizing by exhorting me to take every thought captive. Specifically, she wanted me to avoid those romantic fantasies that (I must admit) all too frequently resulted in varying levels of attractions to men who invariably felt no attraction towards me. To an extent, this woman rightly insisted that I discipline my thought-life, though I disagree with her premise that all use of imagination is categorically sinful. Yet, lying in bed last night, I noticed my thoughts driving me further and further from the sleep I needed, so I decided to add the verse about taking every thought captive to my Scripture memory verses.

So this morning I added 2 Corinthians 10:5 to my e-Sword Scripture Memory list.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (ESV)

Immediately, it hit me that 2 Corinthians 10:5 encompasses so much more than the mere taming of our own private passions. Christians are, an always have been, engaged in a spiritual battle against ideologies and philosophies that resist the clear teaching of Scripture. Often, the rebellion is subtle, seeming to harmonize with the very Gospel that it ultimately contradicts. In such cases, Christians are all the more responsible to cultivate a keen understanding of the Word of God so that we can first discern, and then confront, the multitude of ideas, theories, philosophies and practices embedded in the over-all culture so predominately that they even seep into the Church.

Taking control of my personal thought-life is only Step One of implementing 2 Corinthians 10:5. The world actively opposes Christ, and its opposition has increased in its aggression. Arguments favoring abortion, co-habitation, Eastern philosophy (such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, etc) and homosexuality bombard us daily, relentlessly demanding that we either reject Scripture outrightly or that we distort it until it bows to worldly opinion.

Yet, Christians need not fall victim to worldly thinking. 2 Corinthians 10:4 tells us that "the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds." (ESV) God has given us powerful resources through His Holy Spirit and the Scripture to refute all contradictions to Christianity, and we have only to avail ourselves to those resources! Although the thoughts of the world seem more vicious and widespread as Hurricane Sandy, they must surrender to Jesus.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Modern Hymn About Ancient Words

Those who read my blog with any degree of regularity can't avoid the fact that I hold the Bible in very high esteem, absolutely certain that it is nothing less than the written Word of God. So I loved the closing hymn we sang in church today. Sadly, I can't find a video containing all the verses, but this one has beautiful graphics:

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Jesus Defines Marriage

In his presentation, 'The Gay Debate: Homosexuality and The Bible, " Matthew Vines covers the creation of Eve in Genesis 2 by arguing that, while women are suitable helpers for the vast majority of men, they cannot be suitable for gay men. Gay men, he contends, require other gay men as partners, and lesbians are suited to other lesbians. As I tried to demonstrate in the post I wrote Tuesday, however, Vines superimposed his desire for a same sex marriage partner onto the text when he should have interpreted it by examining its context.

Another problem with Vines' appraisal of the Genesis 2:18 text is that he conveniently ignores the way Jesus dealt with it in His teaching.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.'
10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.” ~~Matthew 19:3-12

Yes, this passage primarily concerns itself with the topic of divorce. (At some point, I may use it again to address the massive and troubling problem of the divorce rate among professing Christians.) Yet within this passage, God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, very clearly defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman. He made no allowances for the polygamy that infected so many otherwise godly men in the Old Testament, and He did not allow for the same sex marriages that the Roman emperors sometimes enjoyed. He upheld opposite sex unions as His original intent for marriage.

 Furthermore, He added that some people would be incapable of marriage. For many years, in fact, I feared that my physical disability rendered me a "eunuch from birth." Despite Matthew Vines' heart-rending cry that limiting marriage to the heterosexual model violates God's declaration in Genesis 2:18 that "it is not good for man to be alone," Jesus made it painfully clear that those who (for whatever reason) are incapable of heterosexual marriage indeed would live solitary lives.

As deeply as I empathize with the fear of never marrying, I believe that, because Jesus is the God who created all things (John 1:1-3 and Colossians 1:15-17), His definition of marriage is the only one Christians can accept. Although I do have very deep concerns about legalizing same sex marriage, I understand how non-Christians have concluded that it is laudable. But Christians claim to worship Jesus, therefore implying an acceptance of His teachings. If Matthew Vines, or any other proponent of pro-gay theology wants to examine Genesis 2:18, they need to also look at Matthew 19:3-12. Like it or not, Jesus has the final say on what constitutes marriage.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Loving Commitment

Blogging is a commitment. I've committed to it willingly, deriving great joy from the entire process, so please don't misinterpret my statement as a complaint. Yes, today I'm not really in the mood to blog, preferring the short, snappy comments I can put out on Facebook and Twitter. Yesterday, however, I was too tired physically to write a decent blog post, and tomorrow we plan to go into Boston. Saturday, we host Bible Study, which limits my computer time, and a hurricane threatens to produce power outages during the early part of next week. So, I conclude that I need to concoct at least a minimal post today, just to keep momentum going.

I'd like, in ideal circumstances, to blog seven days a week, and when cold weather keeps us housebound this winter, I'll probably get that wish. That is, if I'm positioned comfortably in my wheelchair, eat foods that give me proper energy (as opposed to the candy that resulted in yesterday's sugar-crash) and don't get distracted by too many Twitter feeds, Facebook conversations and -- my downfall -- reading too many other blogs. Seven posts a week could cover lots of topics! Realistically, however, I'll continue averaging between four and six posts weekly. And that's still not bad.

The commitment of blogging motivates me, especially on days like today when I'd rather do other things. (And I'll do other things, because this post will be short.) Commitment supersedes the capriciousness of emotions, bringing an attitude of discipline that encourages me toward responsibility. I'm not a slave to my blog. But I'm like a loving mother, responsible to nurture and care for my offspring. Thus, my commitment comes from love, regardless of whether or not I feel that love. In the long-run, my love of blogging will be beyond dispute.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

But Daddy, I WANT That One!

You see toddlers in the supermarket, from time to time, throwing humungous temper tantrums because their parent won't purchase a desired item. You've heard the phrase, "But I want it!" increasing in both volume and passion. But perhaps the object of desire happens to be mouse poison. Certainly, those pellets might (to a three-year-old) appear to be a savory snack, but the kid's father knows that ingesting even a handful of the substance could have fatal results. Mouse poison is not a suitable snack for a child.

I chose the word, "suitable" in order to deal with the first Biblical passage that gay Christians routinely distort in their quest to make committed same sex relationships a viable option. Genesis 2:18, in introducing the creation of Eve, shows God saying:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.(ESV)
 In other translations, the word here translated as "fit" is rendered "suitable." Pro-gay theologians use that English word as the springboard for their argument that, although a woman is obviously a suitable mate for a heterosexual man, she cannot be suitable for a man with homosexual inclinations. Therefore, since the verse in question also says "it is not good that the man should be alone," pro-gay theologians reason that a gay man indeed makes a suitable--if not essential--partner for another gay man.

In his well-known YouTube video, "The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality," 22-year-old Matthew Vines made this emotional statement on Genesis 2:18:

In the first two chapters of Genesis, God creates the heavens and the earth, plants, animals, man, and everything in the earth. And He declares everything in creation to be either good or very good – except for one thing. In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” And yes, the suitable helper or partner that God makes for Adam is Eve, a woman. And a woman is a suitable partner for the vast majority of men – for straight men. But for gay men, that isn’t the case. For them, a woman is not a suitable partner. And in all of the ways that a woman is a suitable partner for straight men—for gay men, it’s another gay man who is a suitable partner. And the same is true for lesbian women. For them, it is another lesbian woman who is a suitable partner. But the necessary consequence of the traditional teaching on homosexuality is that, even though gay people have suitable partners, they must reject them, and they must live alone for their whole lives, without a spouse or a family of their own. We are now declaring good the very first thing in Scripture that God declared not good: for the man to be forced to be alone. And the fruit that this teaching has borne has been deeply wounding and destructive.
Notice his main appeal is not to examining the verse in either its immediate context or in the broader context of Scripture. Quite to the contrary, he depends on emotion. How could the God who declared singleness to be "not good" limit marriage to heterosexual formations? Aren't such parameters imposing enormous suffering on lesbians and gays.

As someone who believed physical disability would more than likely prohibit marriage, I must empathize with Mr. Vines on this point. Yet Scripture doesn't conform to our emotional expectations. As much as this man desires a male spouse (I'm not sure how "a family of his own" could be accomplished), imposing this longing on the text betrays his irresponsible scholarship. Mr. Vines, imitating the pro-gay theologians he has studied, takes Genesis 2:18 out of context, and then  reads into it a provision for same sex marriage that doesn't exist.

If we continue reading this passage, we can't miss the implication that God had created the animals as male and female
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. ~~Genesis 2:18-25 (ESV)
 As the Lord brought the animals before him, Adam saw that each had a corresponding mate. God thus made Adam aware that he was without a corresponding mate. His species needed a female, and human marriage would follow the male/female model. This passage no where suggests that a suitable helper could, for someone with same sex attractions, be anything but a opposite-sex partner. Wanting something outside God's design, however passionate that longing may be, doesn't alter God's pattern for sexuality.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Bible, As We'd Like It To Be

Currently, I'm blogging about the Gay Christians Movement and its distortions of clear teaching of Scripture on human sexuality as a whole and homosexuality in particular. As I approach this sensitive and difficult topic, however, allow me to step back to comment on a bigger, more important picture. The Gay Christians Movement, in my opinion, represents merely one manifestation of professed Christians trying to bend the Word of God to suit their own inclinations.

I don't ascribe malice to anyone who manipulates Scripture. In my past, I admit with great shame, I frequently used Bible verses dishonestly to support my positions, convinced that the validity of those positions justified cutting a few corners to fit a given Scripture into whatever puzzle I was constructing at the moment. So I'd conveniently ignore context in favor of my pretext, aware that I was misrepresenting a few verses but comforting myself that I did so for the sake of ministering in "the spirit, not the letter."

So, given my own past on mishandling Scripture to suit my purposes, I dare not accuse others of having sinister motives. People who struggle with homosexuality, especially if they've been raised in Christian homes, hurt deeply. They view their same sex attractions as being essential to who they are, and as a result they feel compelled to reconcile those attractions with their desire to be Christians. I've experienced a similar tension (though to a much lesser degree) in trying to cast my temper tantrums as "righteous indignation." I'd venture to guess that some people reading this post have also tweaked verses here or there to accommodate their various needs.

The Bible, you see, isn't always very comfortable. It says things that we simply don't like! And, being the rebellious, obstinate creatures that we are, we find ways to soften its blows to our egos or rearrange its demands that we conform to God's standards of holiness. To avoid repentance, we fashion it into something palatable.

In so doing, however, we subtly transfer authority from our Creator to ourselves. And that, my dear readers, is the problem. The Gay Christians Movement is merely one example of how we elevate our own agendas over His truth. So as I work through the various ways that pro-gay theologians attempt to tame the passages of Scripture that condemn homosexuality, join me in allowing the Holy Spirit to convict us on ways we also seek to reduce God's Word to our own terms.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Something Fun

I'm not sure why this photo amuses me. Is the squirrel teaching the pigeons some profound spiritual principle? Well, no, but it certainly looks as if he is!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

If The Scripture Fits

One segment of the Gay Christians Movement likes to emphasize God's grace. According to their reasoning (if I understand them correctly), the grace of God embraces those who experience same sex attractions, making room for them at "the table" without reproach. Committed relationships (in states where same sex marriage is yet legal) receive recognition as legitimate parallels to heterosexual relationships, under the belief that God created them gay and therefore would not deny them the loving relationships that other Christians enjoy with His blessing.

In other words, homosexuality is sinful only when it finds expression outside the boundaries of committed unions or, when possible, same sex marriages. This approach, as I see it, needs no grace, since the grace of God extends to self-identified sinners who consider themselves in need of mercy and forgiveness as a result of having transgressed God's law. Those who believe repentance from homosexuality is unnecessary cause me some bewilderment. If they aren't sinning by claiming gay identities, why do they require grace in connection with homosexual tendencies?

Such self-contradiction would be funny if it wasn't so deadly. Like the Pharisees in Jesus' day, however, gay Christians distort the clear teaching of Scripture on homosexuality, as well as on the Biblical design for marriage, to accommodate desires that they should bring to the Lord in humble confession. I thought of this point during my Quiet Time today as I read a familiar passage from Luke:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” ~~Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)

Although both men were equally sinful, the Pharisee skillfully rearranged Scripture to rationalize his sin, and then diverted attention away from the sin they deny having towards their religious accomplishments. Rather than seeking grace, he pretty much demands divine validation.


I would argue, then, that gay Christians want unquestioning acceptance instead of the grace God extends to penitent sinners. They don't humbly plead for mercy with the conviction that they deserve judgment; they flaunt their sin and insist on God's approval. May God, in His grace, lead them to repentance.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Unglamorous Truth

Lately, no interesting topics come to mind. Well, okay...there's the Gay Christians Movement topic, which I've been wanting to tackle for over a year, but that one requires tremendous effort and thought. This week, I'm simply too lazy for such a formidable undertaking. I just want to play aimlessly online, not really accomplishing anything for the Lord.

Terrible attitude, I admit, and not one I can in any way defend. Believe me, if I could come up with a compelling "reason" for neglecting this blog, I most assuredly would, and with cleverly arranged prose casting me in just the right light to draw sympathetic assurances of understanding from my readers. But the plain, unglamorous truth insists that I simply say: I don't feel like blogging.

Thankfully, feelings change, so I'll undoubtedly blog again very soon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An Image of Autumn In Boston

John took 34 photograph in Boston yesterday, mostly in Boston Common and the Public Garden. This time of year, of course, is iconic for New England, even though it reminds me of the harsh months that threaten to come all too soon. So, although we're locals, we went to Boston with the express purpose of "leaf peeping."

But another feature of autumn this time of year is the increased activity of squirrels as they make preparations for winter. They made quite an appearance yesterday, some of them even rushing over to us in uncharacteristic boldness because they assumed we had food for them. Despite their disappointment in our failure to supply them with any treats, they posed for John's camera in a rare show of cooperation. One photo particularly pleases me, so I thought I'd share it.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Christ's Amazing Love

We sang Graham Kendrick's song, Amazing Love, in church today. It's a song I've known for nearly 20 years, but always a fresh reminder of what the Lord has done for me!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Making Sin Acceptable

Homosexuality among Christians is a huge, complex subject, not to be addressed flippantly in two or three blog posts. In fact, I prayed and studied for nearly a year before mentioning  it in this blog, and I find that I've only scratched the surface! The Gay Christians Movement has worked diligently to develop theologies that convincingly seem to explain away the Scriptures that condemn homosexual practice (which includes thoughts, attitudes and behaviors), and answering their various claims requires time and patience...not to mention a good grasp of what the Bible says on this matter as well as the matter of human sexuality as a whole.

My concern about homosexuality began in 1978, when a man in my church confided in me that he struggled with homosexual tendencies. His disclosure shook me to the core, though I had other friends with the same struggle. You see, I'd fallen very much in love with this man. As he said in our final conversation, the barrier to a marriage between us had nothing to do with my Cerebral Palsy, but everything to do with his homosexuality.

Through a series of events too numerous to record in today's post, I became involved with Love In Action (now renamed Restoration Path), a ministry that helps people manage their homosexual feelings so that they can live holy Christian lives. My story, Answering God's Call (originally written for Love In Action's May 1992 newsletter), is still online at http://associate.com/testimonies/debbie_s.html.

My years in ex-gay ministry (or post-gay, if you prefer the more updated term) taught me that no one chooses to have homosexual feelings. Rather, the choice is whether or not  a person will embrace homosexuality as their identity. Scripture tells us that, just as anyone else can separate from their sinful identities, so people with homosexual tendencies can find cleansing through Jesus Christ.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~~1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)

Please notice that I'm not claiming that everyone who went through Love In Action became heterosexuals. A few did go on to heterosexual marriage, most with great success, while others learned to live celibate lifestyles just as other unmarried Christians are expected to do. Many, sadly, expected the Lord to remove their homosexual feelings (gee, wouldn't I love for Him to remove all my sinful feelings?), and when He didn't, their disappointment led them to surrender to those feelings and conclude either that God was powerless to change them or that He created them to be gay. And, as I battle against my own besetting sins, particularly my sin of anger, it's very easy to understand their discouragement.

Yet Scripture must never be interpreted through the grid of human experience. Just as I must reject my sin of anger, standing in agreement with all the passages in the Bible that condemn anger, so Christians with homosexual struggles have the responsibility to reject homosexuality. Adjusting the Word of God to accommodate any compulsion toward sinful inclinations is intellectually dishonest, and betrays a determination to force God into human terms. I opt for all of us, gay or straight, to conform to the Lord's commands.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When Sin Rejects Humility

As I've demonstrated in my October 4, 2012 blog post, falling into sin happens even to Christians who very much love the Lord and desire to live in obedience to Him. Therefore, Christians who struggle against homosexual temptations, and even those who fall into those temptations, need the same mercy and encouragement that the rest of us need when we sin. Yes, they may require correction. Certainly, they must repent, acknowledging that they've violated God's commands and, as a result, have grieved His Holy Spirit. But those of us who don't experience same sex attractions need the humility to recognize our own vulnerability to the wide variety of sinful thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that constantly entrap us.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.~~Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

But the growing number of self-identifed "Gay Christians" (even those who live in celibacy) do not typically exhibit the same attitude of repentance. As more states legalize same sex marriage, gay Christians have the option of monogamy, creating the belief that they may at last express their homosexuality in ways that agree with Scriptural parameters. Several "theologians," who are either themselves gay or are sympathetic to gay causes, have found ways to bend the Bible towards their desires, thus making it appear unnecessary to think of repentance as the appropriate response to homosexuality.

In future posts, I plan to examine some of the arguments that the Gay Christians Movement uses to rationalize homosexuality, knowing that I won't do so as well as more educated Christian scholars, but directing you to resources that do successfully promote Biblical scholarship on this topic. When anybody deliberately distorts the Word of God (on any topic) for the purpose of justifying sin instead of confessing it and asking the Holy Spirit for the grace to turn from that sin, there's really a problem. God shows great mercy, not to those who proudly contend that He accept and even bless their sin, but to the contrite who see their sin as an offense to Him.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Two Legs To A Birthday

When we boarded the subway train on September 27, all we knew was that we'd be celebrating my birthday somewhere in downtown Boston. We stopped at Boston Common and spotted a black woman dressed in 18th Century garb. Her Freedom Trail Walking Tour would be in two parts: that familiar walk between Boston Common and Fanuiel Hall that John and I have taken so many times before (we could almost lead that tour ourselves, I think) and a tour mainly in the North End. So John bought two tickets for the first leg, interested to hear a different perspective.

Our guide portrayed Jean Gordon, a remarkable woman who, after buying her own freedom, taught herself to read and write. Working as a tavern wench in the North End, Mrs. Gordon frequently overheard 'lubricated" (if I may be so delicate) British soldiers talk about their missions to control the rebellious Colonists. She would secretly take notes on their conversations, and then pass those notes to her neighbor, Paul Revere.

Sadly, I can't find anything on the Internet to corroborate her story. But I'll tell you why I believe it. Her organization, The Freedom Trail Foundation, claims a commitment to historical accuracy. While I have one minor quibble with this claim (a quibble more appropriately addressed in a future blog post, perhaps), I trust the Foundation's integrity. Further, all their other actors portray actual people. Why, that being the case, would her character be an exception? And finally, the mention of a black tavern wench serving as Paul Revere's informant is probably in more scholarly places than the Internet.

In many respects, including the perspective of a black woman in 18th Century Boston, this guide's tour offered information and insights that I'd never heard. At the Old Granary Burial Ground, for instance, she pointed out the headstone of one of John Hancock's "servants." 18th Century New Englanders, please understand, were squeamish about the term "slave," and Hancock had been the first to sign (in big, flourishing script) a certain document which asserted, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."


At Samuel Adams' gravesite, our guide told us that, when Adams' wife inherited a slave, he promptly freed her. That tid-bit increased my regard for Adams.

She emphasized, at several points, that Boston's main industries revolved around sea-faring occupations. Farmers lived in outlying areas, coming to sell their wares from pushcarts. In 1742, Peter Fanuiel (Boston's wealthiest merchant) built Fanuiel Hall as a centralized location for selling meat, fish and produce, enraging the farmers who regarded it as competition.

John and I were completely impressed, both with the view of history our guide presented and with how often she spoke through her character. She utilized her acting skills convincingly and with great power. Regretfully, however, she was scheduled to begin the second half of the tour at 2:30, and we wanted to take our usual 3:43 train home.

Between John's need to recover from his trip to the Emergency room two nights later and several days of wet weather, the earliest we could return to Boston was October 5. We'd hoped "Jean Gordon" would have the 1:30 continuation tour that day, but an actor portraying Josiah Quincy II greeted us.

His tour included elements of post-Revolutionary War Boston history, which I found both interesting and distracting. But, as regular readers of this blog know, I pretty much like staying in the 18th Century. So, though the story of Mayor Kevin White moving the James Brown concert to a larger venue in response to the race riots in other cities after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. was interesting, it seemed a bit out of place.

The tavern area was interesting because of all the espionage that went on between Loyalists and Patriots in the pubs. But the floor above the Union Oyster House captivated me. On that floor, printer Isaiah Thomas started the Massachusetts Spy, the first American newspaper aimed at the middle class. Writing scathing attacks on the Tories, three months into operation Thomas had to move his operation to Worcester.

I've been working on this blog post for over six hours, so I hope you'll forgive me for ending abruptly. Although I've barely scratched the surface of all we learned, I have tried to offer enough history to whet your appetite. Oh my, what a privilege to live near Boston!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Plans And The Precious Mundane

To celebrate my birthday, John and I went on a two-part Freedom Trail Walking Tour. Thursday, September 27, we did the leg we always do (Boston Common to Fanuiel Hall), but with a guide we'd never been with before. Upon reaching Fanuiel Hall, she said we could continue with her to the North End, or we could pick the tour up another day (an hour earlier. So yesterday we did the North End leg with a different guide, finishing in just enough time (I'm talking 4 minutes to spare!) to catch our train home.

All the photos from Thursday and yesterday, however, are still waiting to be uploaded from the camera to my computer, which I thought we'd do today, after a quick trip to Walgreen's to get our flu and Shingles vaccines. The pharmacy, as usual, was busy, complicated by an irate man who demanded that the pharmacist override insurance and state/federal regulations to give him more pills than his prescription allowed. After about 25 minutes, the store manager succeeded in luring him to another part of the store, at which time John and I received our paperwork. We finally got our shots, over an hour after entering the store.

From there, we did some food shopping at Shaw's. I found avocados for 79 cents--wow! (Had it for lunch, and it was absolutely splendid!) Shopping took a while, I guess, but we so seldom have opportunity to shop for ourselves that we took advantage. Thus, even though we'd left the apartment at 9:45, we didn't get home till nearly 1:00, and it was after 2:00 when we finished lunch.

By then, John needed to rest. Yesterday had been long, tomorrow's church, and even before his cancer and heart attack, he couldn't do two back-to-back excursions without getting tired. So of course I understood when he said he wasn't up to putting the Freedom Trail Walking Tour photos on my computer this afternoon.

One can plan a blog post carefully, but her careful plans must, at times, yield to real life, however mundane that real life may seem. Only, for us, today's chores were every bit as wonderful as our Boston Adventures. We did things any other married couple does, despite decades of fearing that our disabilities would deny us the possibility of marriage. And, after so many brushes John had with death this past year, those ordinary errands are especially precious because we can do them together.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Confessions Of A Saved Sinner

This blog, in the past two weeks, has proven a point that I've made all along. I am a sinner. Despite all my grasp on sound doctrine, I still succumb to sin. I can't justify one bit of my behavior, nor can I, in good conscience, delete the posts that incriminate me--though deleting them really sounds tempting right about now. The world has seen a glimpse of my sin, and some undoubtedly use what they see to sniff self-righteously and declare, "I knew all along that Christians are hypocrites."

Well, actually, Scripture agrees that even the most devout Christians fall into sin. Certainly the great apostle Paul, whom the Holy Spirit used to write most of the New Testament, battled with the sin that he (even though he knew both God's commands and the power of the Holy Spirit) constantly fell back into.

15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans 7;15-25 (ESV)

Neither Paul nor I, in admitting our moral failures, use our confession to excuse those thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that dishonor the Lord. Rather, we grieve over them, knowing that we've broken the heart of the Holy Spirit. If we're sorry we got caught, it's not so much that we've damaged our own reputations, but that we've disobeyed Him, putting Him to public ridicule.


I can only say that Christ's blood atones for my sin. A non-Christian has ridiculed my dependence on the Lord's atonement, basically insinuating that I'm using it to avoid personal responsibility for my actions. Well, no. But I certainly understand how someone might draw that conclusion.

The difference between me and that non-Christian is that I acknowledge my moral bankruptcy. It would have been more advantageous to my reputation if I had never used my blog to vent my anger, but perhaps God, in His sovereignty, allowed me to sin so publicly to show how totally dependent I am on Him. Now everyone knows that I'm not giving lipservice to my need for a Savior, but that I, like everyone else, can claim righteousness only by clinging to the cross. 

If I'm a hypocrite because I fail to practice what I preach, I'm ashamed of my hypocrisy  But, dear readers, are you also hypocrites? Can you say that you've always lived in consistency,either with God's standards or (if you're not a Christian) standards you've set for yourself? I sinned publicly, and got deservedly corrected by both Christians and non-Christians. I pray that I'm finally receiving that correction with humility. But please, in correcting me further (as I anticipate some of you will), consider the possibility that one day your own hypocrisies might be exposed. If that should happen, rest assured that Jesus will be there, offering His blood to cleanse you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Resolution I Can Live With

When we saw the Fanuiel Hall Marketplace address on the envelope in yesterday's mail, we were certain it was a letter of apology from the Security Guard who had troubled me. Okay,  I told myself, I'll read it and respond with a letter expressing forgiveness; the Lord has convicted me to forgive her, since He has forgiven me of far greater sins. So, as John opened the letter, I silently prayed for the humble attitude God wants me to have.

To my surprise, however, the letter was from Fanuiel Hall's General Manager.

Please accept my apologies for the incident that took place at Fanuiel Hall Marketplace on Thursday, September 20, 2012. I know that you have spoken with my Director of Security and are aware of all the actions that were taken with the security guard in question. Additionally, all security staff will attend a sensitivity training course in October.

It is our goal that all visitors to Fanuiel Hall Marketplace feel comfortable and welcome. We hope that you will return to Fanuiel Hall Marketplace and enjoy the food vouchers enclosed.

A variety of responses come to mind as I reflect on this letter, and I'm still processing them. Though I believe the General Manager herself was not at fault, and consequently has no reason to apologize, she reminds me of Jesus as she takes responsibility for someone else's behavior. I do appreciate that gesture, and believe I should learn from her example.

Should the Security Guard herself have written a letter of apology? Yes, and such a letter may be forthcoming. But I'm not expecting one. Not everyone is adept at putting their thoughts into writing, and she may not feel secure in formulating a written apology. Emotional situations (such as this one) intimidate all parties concerned, particularly regarding the mine field of saying "just the right thing," so I really couldn't blame her if she chooses not to write. I forgive her either way.

Forgiving her, however, won't diminish feelings of discomfort at the possibility of seeing her if I eat at the Quincy Market Colonnade. Last Thursday, for instance, after completing a Freedom Trail Walking Tour in celebration of my birthday, I asked to have lunch at the Anthem Kitchen & Bar at the South Building in order to avoid Security Guards. John offered to get me a cannoli, but the idea of entering the Colonnade felt too threatening to me.

Yet the sensitivity training for the entire Security Staff very much encourages me, and I see it as the best solution so far. Of course it won't totally prevent future instances of treating disabled patrons disrespectfully, despite the Director of Security's assurances that "this will never happen again," but it will go a long, long way in minimizing them!

In my book, then, the episode is pretty much over. In time, I'll again feel comfortable at Quincy Market, and hopefully the sensitivity training will benefit other people with disabilities who just want to be treated like everybody else. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Another Paint Shop Pro Experiment

Not sure where my sudden resurgence of interest in Paint Shop Pro comes from, but I'm certainly having fun exploring new ideas. Today I continued playing with a gradient I made last week of autumn colors, and I came up with this name tag for my computer's wallpaper:


Monday, October 1, 2012

Autumn Avatars

Seasonally, PSPFamily (the Paint Shop Pro group I joined a few years ago) asks its members to create avatars for its portal. This Fall, I decided to do one, opting to put my User Name (Bride48) on it.

I put an avatar together a bit hurriedly last week. It looked okay, so I submitted it:

But yesterday I played a little with Paint Shop Pro, just experimenting with a few ideas, and I achieved some interesting effects that were more creative than my original offering. Today, inspired by my discoveries, I played with the software a little more, coming up with an avatar I like much better:

Hopefully, they'll use the newer one.


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