Archive | November, 2012

Really? Really?

30 Nov

Starting a new series of quotes I hear coming out of our mouths, as believers in Jesus, and what they sound like they really mean, I am going to lead out with a recent quote I heard about the book of Hebrews.

A friend expressed the idea that he was always glad to get past the “doctrinal” portion of a New Testament book, including Hebrews in the present case, and to move on to the “practical applications.”  “Just tell me what I gotta do!”

This friend would never, ever say that we are saved by works; he would not say that we are kept saved by works.  He would not say that our sanctification is by works.  He would say, like I do, that works are the fruit of our love for Jesus “because He first loved us.”

But does that quote give a different impression?

I think it does.  I think it implies skipping over the rich doctrinal part of Hebrews that describes in detail what Christ has done for us and rushing headlong to the part that tells us what we can do to start “paying Him back.”

Hint:  we can’t pay Him back.  Approaching Him as though we have a spreadsheet ledger system keeping track of what we do in one column and what He did in another is really quite diminishing of the faith we profess in Christ’s finished work!

We all say things like this at some point.  But let’s think how they sound to pagans.  They make Christianity sound like just another religion of works!

On the Road Again: Swimming in a Blizzard in Reykjavik

30 Nov

Wintertime reminds me not just of Kristkindlmarkts (Christ Child Markets) throughout German-speaking Europe, but also of places where hot springs or geysers allow outdoor swimming in winter.

One such place is Reykjavik, Iceland. In fact, most of Iceland is heated by geothermal sources underground.

One winter weekend while my squadron was spending the months September to March of 1983-84 in Iceland, a group of friends and I decided to get off base and stay in a nice hotel in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital. We had a nice meal in the hotel restaurant the first night (except for the raw shark appetizer we tried, yuck!).

The next day, while touring the city, we decided to go to the outdoor swimming pool (Olympic-sized) operated year-round in the center of town.

Oh, my goodness, that was fun and strange. We were swimming outside in a snowstorm!

It was freezing running from the dressing rooms to the pool outside, but once in the pool, it was warm for quite a while.

When we started to chill, there were three gradations of hot tub nearby to sit in to warm up!

‘Course our heads were out of the water and my hair did freeze in the snowstorm but . . .

We made memories that can never be taken away of swimming outdoors in winter in geyser-heated pools!!!

Our Next Step

29 Nov

A quick note about the coming transition in our lives…

Our Next Step

On the Road Again: The Stuttgart Kristkindlmarkt (Christmas Market)

29 Nov

Christmas ornament from the Stuttgart Kristkindlmarkt

http://www.stripes.com/travel/german-towns-host-christmas-markets-brimming-with-medieval-merriment-1.198007

This article shows why I love German Kristkindlmarkts (Christmas markets, or literally Christ Child Markets).  The above ornament is my newest addition from Germany, brought back by a co-worker who was just over in Stuttgart on his yearly military duty.

We lived in Stuttgart from 1988 to 1991 (well, Noel joined me when we married in mid-1989).

I think I loved the Stuttgart Christmas market because it became so familiar and ordinary to me.  Just 30 or 40 booths set up in the city square outside the Rathaus (City Hall), selling beautiful ornaments and other handicrafts from late November until the New Year (twelve days of Christmas, you know).

The Vienna Christkindlmarkt was beloved because we only saw it once and it was so exotic.  But Stuttgart was home!

Vignettes, Life, and the Lord

28 Nov

Some of my travel vignettes, as well as the stories of life in London when I was there from 1985-1987, may raise eyebrows and beg an explanation as to why they are part of the theme of Iconobaptist.

I believe that, at this point, I have presented my Christian faith thoroughly enough that most of you are aware I am a Christian.  I also think most of you won’t find it a stretch to say that my Christian faith informs every part of my life.

Most of all, however, I believe that God’s grace surrounds me in more of a real way than the air I breathe.

It gives me life like the air I breathe, too.

So everything in life relates to God and His grace.

Ironically, when I was a college student, I went through a phase with a friend of mine in which we thought we couldn’t be good Christians unless we used the name “Jesus” in every sentence we said.

I don’t believe that now.  Jesus is part of every sentence I say, so much so that He doesn’t need to be artificially inserted in there.  He comes up often, and naturally, enough.

I love Him!

On the Road Again: Walking across London, Part III

28 Nov

The last two days about London have consisted of vignettes about trying to find a way home from Knightsbridge (think Harrod’s) on Christmas Eve and from Trafalgar Square on New Year’s Eve.

Today I will just say that London is a most walkable city.

I haven’t been there for over 20 years now, but when I lived there, it was pretty dangerous to walk in most downtown areas of the U.S.  London was a city of about six million people, but it lived life at a slower, gentler pace.  Since England is an island and firearms were pretty strictly controlled, there were not too many attacks going on in the streets of London.  And those areas that were high risk were pretty well-known and easily avoided.

London also is full of royal parks.  As I mentioned two days ago, it was possible to walk from my church to my home via Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, and Primrose Hill, with only a couple of streets in between.  Hyde Park connects to St. James Park, Green Park, and Kensington Gardens as well.  So much green!

We used to run our Navy physical fitness test in Hyde Park.  It is also the site of the famous Peter Pan statue.

Kensington Gardens borders Kensington Palace where Prince Charles and Princess Diana used to live back then.

And Regent’s Park contains the well-known London zoo.  As I entered the park to walk or run many days while living in London,  I could see the giraffes, hanging their necks over from their enclosure.  And the giraffes are my favorite animal!

So, while some might think it was fearless of me to walk or run in London as much as I did, I know myself and my timidity about questionable areas.  I never felt that timidity in most parts of London.

And I have never walked so much in my life!

Controversial Tuesday: Doug Wilson about Female Bishops in the Church of England

27 Nov

http://www.dougwils.com/N.T.-Wrights-and-Wrongs/fresh-butter-at-ephesus.html

I always love how Doug Wilson puts things.  He is funny even when he is serious, you know!!??

Why it matters:  in 1994, England ordained its first group of women priests in the Church of England.  A compromise was arranged between conservatives, who believe God only calls men to pastor, and liberals, who believe God calls women, too.  The compromise involved ordaining women priests who could not then progress onward to become bishops, like men could.

Last month, the issue finally came to the point that the entire Church of England voting body met over the issue of ordaining women as bishops.  The measure was defeated, not by the ordained people but by the laity.

Doug Wilson believes, as I do, that God calls men to pastor.  That does not mean women are inferior, only that we have a different calling (this doctrine is called “complementarianism”).  But Doug Wilson makes the point that becoming a bishop has always been the next logical step after becoming a priest, so if you make a woman the first one, she will want to become the second one, just like a man does.

It would be comparable to having women become teachers in the U.S. but telling them that only men can go on to become principals.  Not a very tenable position.  Ever.

If this is not your cup of tea, skip this controversy.  I find it interesting because I was a member of a C of E church while living in England 25 years ago.

On the Road Again: Walking Across London, Part II

27 Nov

Yesterday I wrote about being in London slightly more than a month and needing to find my way home from a midnight service on Christmas Eve after the transport stopped running.

Fast forward a week and I was doing the same thing all over again on New Year’s Eve.  Except this time transport was running, even all night long, which was unheard of at the time in London.  Except on New Year’s Eve.

I was with two friends and about 10,000 new friends (ha!) smashed into Trafalgar Square for their traditional countdown to the new year.  And, no, a ball doesn’t drop in Trafalgar Square.  But people go there anyway.

Everything was fenced off (fountains, monuments, etc.) but that didn’t keep people from climbing the fencing and lounging all over the square on whatever surface was available.  Most of us, however, stood.

After the countdown, which was pretty anticlimactic to an American, I must say, people just began kissing random strangers. Yup, a couple of guys got to me, too.  I guess it’s the British way.  At least on New Year’s Eve, as they are pretty reserved the rest of the year.

Then we started out for the transport.

We could tell by the number of bodies spilling out of the top of the tube station that the Underground was not going to work for us.  So we started to walk for a bus.

We passed several bus stops where the lines were hundreds of people long.

We figured if we got away from Central London, we might find a stop where we had a chance of fitting on to a bus coming by and going towards my flat.  The idea was to catch a bus to my flat, then have the other two go home from there.

Good idea, but not workable.  We kept walking as full buses kept coming by full bus stops.

In the end, we walked every inch of the way to my flat, arriving after two in the morning.

The other two were so exhausted they just slept there (I had three beds in my bedroom, as the owners of the flat left furniture in it and I had my own, too).

So . . .  it was pancakes for all three of us in the morning.  And Happy New Year as my first full year in London began!!!

 

 

 

 

Strawman Monday: Shouting each other down

26 Nov

II Timothy 2:24, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all [men], apt to teach, patient,”

Today’s strawman Monday will be brief and to the point, reflecting on this year’s just-concluded election cycle.

Wasn’t shouting each other down raised to a whole new level this year?

Wasn’t listening to each other relegated to the back burner, as an obvious “sign of weakness” in those who do it?

Is there any place in this morass for the servant of the Lord to live with integrity?

Yes, there is.  And it is in remaining steadfast and continuing to listen to others, regardless of how that is regarded.

To us, it is a very small thing if someone disparages us for the cause of Christ.  Disparagement is not eternal;  Christ’s cause is.

We must listen, and accurately represent the views of those with whom we differ.  In fact, there is no other way to hold a discussion–they give it their best shot, we give it our best shot, then we look at the two best shots and see which one is the closest to God’s truth, as expressed in His Word.

Constructing a strawman out of someone’s views so that we can laugh at their views is not ethical.

Our fellow humans are also made in the image of God.  As His image-bearers, they deserve to be heard, even when we disagree with them.  And if we engage them in discussion of our differences, they deserve to get that discussion in a normal speaking tone, without their views being twisted and misrepresented.

So let’s bring back civility to our culture.  Unsaved people may not understand, nor go along with us, but let’s bring it back anyway!  “As far as lies within us . . .”

Mea Culpa (I messed up!)

26 Nov

James 5:16, “Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” 

I messed up big time on the day before Thanksgiving Day.  I tried to repost something on Rob Bell and his disbelief in hell, but I made two mistakes.

The first time, what I thought was a link got totally overwritten.

But when a friend called that to my attention and I went back and reinstalled the link, it did not work.  The blogger I posted does not allow his posts to be reblogged that way.  So I could only post the URL and hope some of you would cut and paste it to see the article.

But, meanwhile, I had 80 hits on my page that day, most of them to see that article.

I feel terrible that I was so amateurish.  You all place faith in me to know what I am doing and I did not.

Please forgive me.

I don’t take readers lightly and it really bothers me when I let you down.

I will do my best to not do that again.  Love you!

 

On the Road Again: Walking across London, Part I

26 Nov

I moved into my flat off of Primrose Hill in London in late November of 1985.  I was starting to learn the London Underground system, but had not yet ventured out aboveground on the buses.  You see, there are color-coordinated charts everywhere to show how one Underground (“tube”) line interacts with another, but the learning curve for catching buses and transferring between them is much steeper!

My church, Holy Trinity Brompton (Church of England) was down the street from the famous Harrods store in Knightsbridge.  Knightsbridge sits on the southern edge of Hyde Park.

My office was on the northern edge of Hyde Park.  I have been known to walk to church from my office in the early evening, right across Hyde Park.  But I didn’t do that within my first month in London.  And I couldn’t do it after 9 PM, as the London parks were gated, and were locked after that.

Furthermore, up the street from my office was the building where Noel owned a flat back then.  So I could walk to his flat from my office, too.  But I hadn’t met him at this point.  I didn’t meet him for six more months.

And then,  in addition to the above information, the  most direct distance between my flat and Noel’s flat lay across Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park (adjoined).  So I could literally walk from my flat to his and almost never leave the park.  Again, before the park was locked at night.

All that to say, even in those days before GPS, there was a very logical way I could have walked every step of the way home from my church and done it within about two hours.  And been safe doing it, if it wasn’t late at night.

But I didn’t yet know that after living in London for just one month.

And the issue came up when I decided to go to the midnight service on Christmas Eve at my church.  Because the Underground and the buses stop running on Christmas Eve and don’t start again till the 26th, Boxing Day.  Not all of them even run then.

And there are fewer taxis on Christmas Eve.  And they are very expensive.

Yet my singles’ group at church wanted me to come to the midnight service, eating Mexican with them beforehand at one of the few Mexican restaurants in London.

So, in the style of 20-something singles everywhere, I said . . . “yes!”

And went along, not knowing how I was getting home.  My car had not even arrived in country yet, so that wasn’t an option.

I was a bit worried, but tried to just enjoy the meal out and the soaring carols of the service.

Worst case, I would have to pay the equivalent of about a hundred bucks for a taxi ride home.

Well, during the time of  “the peace” in the service, one of the singles introduced me to a young family of four who lived in my neighborhood and had driven to church that night.

A ride home!  They seemed like angels to me.

Oddly, I never saw them again at church.  It was a big church, but that was strange.  I could find them on Christmas Eve but never again!

Merry Christmas, Mary!  God took care of my need for a way home!

 

 

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Goal!

25 Nov

Goal!

I reached my Weight Watchers goal three weeks ago. Some of my young friends said it didn’t count till I had new clothes. As those of you who have read my burqha post know, I believe Baptists should be fitly- and well-arranged (the definition of modesty). So the search was on for a dress that is fitly- and well-arranged, without being too low on top, too high on the bottom, or too tight all around.

Here is my “Goal!” picture, taken by my friend Melissa Wells this morning.

At Weight Watchers, the question when someone makes a milestone is always, “So what is working for ya?” I will answer that for me.

I have tracked everything that has gone in my mouth since January 1. And I will continue to do so the rest of my life. There is no other way of knowing what is causing weight gain when it happens.

Don’t get me wrong–I have put estimates and even mistakes into my tracker. I know that because the points system is constantly being updated. I put the wrong number of points for my Panera bagel almost this entire year, resulting in two extra points a week which I did not display.

But see the trend? Purposefulness is the key. Even when I was wrong (invisible to me), I kept tracking. And it all evened out.

As I joke with some friends about the law vs. grace, Weight Watchers is one place where the law rules!!!

Thanks for your support, everyone!

Passage on Eternal Security

25 Nov

I Timothy 1:18-20, “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;  Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:  Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

I rediscovered the above gem this morning in my devotions.  I was not looking for any particular proof texts from the Bible, just letting it speak to me.

I was drawn to think about Hymenaeus and Alexander.  It seems like they had pretty completely fallen away from their church.  They were described by the Holy Scriptures as having “made shipwreck” of their faith.

Some would go on to say that these men were saved and had lost their salvation.  And that Paul had delivered them unto Satan as a result.

But wait!

Why did he deliver them to Satan?  That they might learn not to blaspheme.  If they were lost and headed to hell, why would he do that?  Probably everyone in hell blasphemes.

Why would he take the time and effort to teach them not to blaspheme  if they are only going to learn to do it all over again when they depart this earth?

There is more, isn’t there?  There always is, with God.

These men are not lost at all.  They are saved people whom Paul is attempting to draw back to Christ.

He is using an extreme measure for an extreme situation.  (If you doubt that God can use Satan in His chastening process with us, search out and read my old post “Fresh, Floppy Fish).

Yes, just as God will wait for the prodigal for long periods of time, just as God will pursue some prodigals as “The Hound of Heaven” (google the Francis Thompson poem), here Paul is showing his heart is for restoration of  the sinner.

And that is very good news.  God is always for us.  God is the God of second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances . . .

He will never give up on us until that last breath is taken.  And, if we are truly in Him, we are eternally secure.

Amen and amen!

On the Road Again: Feasting in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada

24 Nov

I was privileged to grow up in a border state, Michigan.  In fact, as I found out when I moved across state to attend college in a Detroit suburb, part of Canada is south of Detroit, as the province of Ontario curves around and comes up underneath the Motor City.  So when we crossed the Detroit River into Canada via the Ambassador Bridge or the corresponding tunnel, we actually went south!

I visited Canada four times, all during my college years.  I stayed in the province of Ontario all four times.

Two of those visits were via the Blue Water Bridge that crosses from Port Huron, Michigan into Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

Both times, we went to visit the Catholic church where a friend of ours from our Christian fellowship had grown up.  His father was the choir director there.

The first time, he invited us to the church’s Madrigal Feast.  As a nineteen-year-old, I was blown away by this Christmastime ritual.

First of all, there was so much food!  Something like twenty courses and they were not small.

In between the courses, the church’s choir paraded around the church hall, singing traditional madrigal songs and Christmas carols.

But the part that amazed me the most was at the beginning.  I was so young and had never heard of the tradition of parading the boar’s head around at a feast, while singing a carol about it.

Funny . . . and pretty weird.

But, altogether a night for a nineteen-year-old to feel adult and sophisticated.  It was one of my first formal affairs on my own without my parents!  And I was growing up!

Pushing Back, Part VIII (a New Series for Thanksgiving Week)

24 Nov

Colossians 4:5, 6, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.  Let your speech [be] alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

When it is our child:  We have had a long dwelltime in this series, beginning with three case studies, then progressing to discussions of how deception enters the church, both via people who are not diagnosed with anything unusual and then via people who are certifiably mentally ill.  Sometimes it enters via people who are just disgruntled for a season.

What about when the person who is being deceived (or deceiving others) is our own child?

Or what if our own child is causing some other sort of difficulties in our local body of believers?

It is never easy to deal with inappropriate behavior in our own child.  There are two things to remember.

First, if the child is still at home, we are still responsible for shepherding his heart.  That is the part on which God lays the most emphasis, so we must do the same.  If we merely change behavior, without our child experiencing heart change, we have won the battle and lost the war.

Secondly, if our child’s behavior is causing conflict in the church, something needs to be done to stop the conflict while we are working on engaging our child’s heart.

If our child is lying to others, we need to be truthtellers, never covering for him.

This is especially important as a person with mental illness can become very adept at telling a good story that portrays himself as a hero who is being persecuted by everyone around him.

That kind of story can split a church.

Face it, even normal people like to portray every circumstance as an occasion where someone else is wrong and they are right.

But that is not godly.  We want God to be right, even if all men are found to be liars.  Right?

As the mother of a now adult child with Aspergers syndrome, I have not faced lying, but I have faced his tendency to go through life unmotivated, excusing himself by saying he is disabled.

(Ahhhhh, what?  You are smart enough to tell me that you are hamstrung by your own intellect.  Really?  How does that work?)

Thankfully, I have seen other young adults with AS and have learned from their mistakes, and the mistakes of their parents.  They can be unmotivated.  They can tend to excuse themselves by citing their disability.  So I have learned to not let Joey get away with this.

Disabled people are just like the rest of us.  If we give them an inch, they will take a mile.  So I don’t let him have that first inch.

Joey can also be extremely picky about things:  things he eats, clothes he wears.  Textures can drive him mad.

Yet he has learned coping mechanisms in all of these areas.  Initially, I believed I needed to make separate meals for him.    He probably really needed that, back then.  I don’t do that anymore, as he has progressed.  In fact, he will be attending a special needs college next year and, when we took him for his college visit, they made no accommodations for his diet at all.  And he found adequate food to eat at every meal they served.  He even tried some new things he had previously thought he would dislike.

No one gets to call all of the shots.  Yes, accommodations do need to be made sometimes for people with disabilities.  But they have to live in the real world at some point, too.

It is a delicate balance and I pray for wisdom every day.

I also pray for wisdom for parents of other children, disabled and otherwise.

They can be enormously divisive in the Body of Christ when they start spreading stories, whether they are intentionally lying or are themselves deceived.

But we need to shed the light of God’s Word on all that occurs.

Even those events involving our children.

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