Archive by Author

Thinking about Music . . .

4 Oct

I will start by stating that I am not a professional musician and for that reason when writing on a topic such as this one, I will stick to what I know, which has far more to do with theology and proper themes in writing than it does with music composition. I know there are others to competently fill the gaps I cannot. 😊
Last week we had a series of evangelistic meetings involving a lot of music, with wonderful worship. It got me thinking (again) of what the various types of worship music are. I can pick out three, but I am sure there are more.
I have heard a differentiation between praise music, which would glorify God for Who He is, and thanksgiving music, which would glorify God for what He does (mainly for us!). Praise music emphasizes the attributes of God which have always been, before there was man and before any of His attributes were exercised in relation to us.
I would further divide thanksgiving music into music that glorifies God for what He does for us corporately as His church and music that glorifies God for what He does for us individually. Examples of the difference between the two would be that “The Church’s One Foundation” would be a corporate piece of music and “In the Garden” would be an individual piece of music.
At this point, I would state that there is probably not any Biblical reason to prefer one of those three types of music to the other two, but we probably all have a preference. I prefer straight praise music because it is usually huge in its themes (like God is huge!). “Holy, Holy, Holy” is an example of that type of music. So is “O, God our Help in Ages Past” although some of the lines, like the title, lap over into thanksgiving music (basically, it tells how God has *always, since eternity, been a strong Defender, so we who came along much later in history can rely on Him, too!).
My challenge is for us to think of these three types of music–paying attention to what we sing/hear and to how it would be categorized. It is probably good to sample from all three types of music regularly.
If all we ever listen to is thanksgiving music, it might be possible for us to forget that God has always been great, even before there were angels or men to worship Him. He is the self-existent One who chose to create us, but who does not just exist in relation to us and our needs.
If all we ever listen to is music about our individual relationship to God, it might be possible to forget that He has designed us for fellowship, chiefly for being woven into His church, expressed by membership in a local community of believers.
I am glad there is such a rich tradition of worship music in Christianity, which is unique to us and to the Jewish faith, as we learned last week. Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus don’t get together to sing. Yet we who are redeemed by Christ Jesus have so very, very much for which to sing!!!
Acts 20:28 (KJV)
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

Would You Choose Jesus for a Friend?

1 Aug

I wrote this for our church blog today.

Tabernacle for Today

 

I have recently been reading a series of historical fiction books about the life of Christ. People have different ideas about fiction, but my thought is that anything that we understand to be fiction but which releases our sanctified imagination about how it might have been when our Saviour was on earth is a very good thing.

In this case, the researcher, Brock Thoene, is at the top of his field, and the writer, his wife Bodie, is also at the top of hers.

Each book takes a character in the gospels and fleshes him or her out as that person might have been.

All of the characters have one thing in common.  They pursue Jesus.  Initially, most do it from what could be called a selfish motive—needing healing or a friend or something to believe in other than the diabolical pagan gods.

But eventually each character…

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15 May

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/let-joy-and-sadness-mingle-this-mothers-day?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tgcblog#When:2017-05-13T05:02:00+00:00

I saw the above article reprinted under the title “The Dark Side of Mother’s Day” yesterday and I thought, “What?”

Let me explain . . .

Every holiday has some people who cannot join in the joyful merrymaking, either because they are of the wrong religion, or because they don’t fall into the category of person/family that is being celebrated that particular day (in the present case, families with two dads, for example, but they get to double dip on Father’s Day), or because they have suffered loss and are too sad to join in.

Compassionate people understand that and mourn with those who mourn, as the Bible says.

However, only Mother’s Day leads to a widescale guilting of mothers (like almost everything else in life conspires to do). Every year there is a wide slate of articles and Facebook posts reminding us to reach out to those who cannot celebrate while we are enjoying our day. As though we would not do that without being reminded . . . (mothers nurture–it is what we do! And please do *not* read that to say *only* mothers nurture because that is certainly untrue!).

We don’t try to make fathers feel bad for enjoying Father’s Day, do we? Or Christians for enjoying Christmas? Or Jews for enjoying Chanukah?

So why do we single out one holiday and try to put a damper on it?

I propose we go one of two ways. Either stop singling out Mother’s Day as a day to say “Enjoy yourself but not too much in light of those who are suffering” or else we start caveating *every* holiday with that phrase. What say you?

March Madness and Shame . . .

4 Apr

From my church’s blog yesterday–some thoughts on March Madness and on shame.

Tabernacle for Today

Philippians 3:19, “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”

As I write this blog post in advance of April, March Madness is still ongoing, down to the last two teams.  By the time you read it, you will know whether North Carolina or Gonzaga prevailed in the final!

I was recently pondering the nature of shame, particularly as I was reading Ed Welch’s “Shame Interrupted.” (I will put the usual statement here that his book does not agree with everything I—and my church—hold to theologically, but it is pretty awesome in its discussion of shame, which I was trying to understand.)  Using some thoughts in the book as a starting point, let me ask a couple of questions.

Would you say that all fifteen of the Sweet Sixteen teams who did *not win the championship should be…

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If You Read Just One Post on This Topic . . .

26 Feb

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-the-transgender-debate-is-about-redefining-reality?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tgcblog#When:2017-02-25T06:10:00+00:00

The Lord He is God

2 Dec

Mine.

Tabernacle for Today

untitled

Psalm 100:  A Psalm of praise.  Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness:  come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the LORD he is God:  it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:  be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

 

I recently wrote of a period of holy darkness that the LORD allowed into my life.  I did not understand why some heartbreaking things happened and perhaps I never will.

At the time those things happened, a couple of God’s dearest servants reassured me of God’s control of the situation and of me.  They were so very…

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Slander

22 Oct

thegospelcoalition.org/article/3-ways-to-respond-when-slandered?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tgcblog#When:2016-10-21T05:00:00+00:00

This is probably the best post I have ever read about how to counter slander. I have personally tested the principles in it. They work, and most of all they are godly.

Holy, Holy, Holy

26 Sep

My contribution to our church’s blog this morning.

Tabernacle for Today

untitled

Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God:  I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Has God ever called you into a period of “holy darkness” in which you clearly knew that He was in control of a situation in which you, personally, had no answers?

He did that recently with me.  The stillness, the darkness, the lack of clarity, the absence of answers–these did not stir me up, but rather calmed me down.  Due to my Saviour’s guiding hand alone (because my heart can be very naturally stirred up by events around me), I was able to rest, knowing with all my heart that He knew the answers I wished to know and that if/when He wanted me to know, I would be told these answers.  If not, He is my answer, all life long.

The older I get, the…

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22 Sep

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2016/06/second_wave_feminism_gets_a_bum_rap.html

Although pro-life, I was a second wave feminist, regarded as too radical by Generation X and not radical enough by Generation Y.

It is important to set the markers out to make this distinction as second wave feminists fought for, and received, Title IX funding for women’s sports on a level that approached parity with men’s sports. I don’t believe, in that fight, we ever foresaw a time when the transgender movement would move under Title IX auspices.

That is problematical in the sense that we fought for funding for sports for women in bodies that were not the same as men’s bodies. Now that male and female are perceived as social constructs in many circles, there is nothing to stop those in male bodies who perceive themselves as females from taking on, and breaking, every women’s sports record ever made.

Some definitions will need to be forthcoming on this. If women and men are to maintain separate teams, there will need to be a way to ensure that those in the less strong bodies (typically called women’s bodies during the second wave of feminism) are not cut out of the pattern by those in stronger bodies (which we used to call men’s bodies).

Even if we do away with separate teams, this will still need to be addressed. We fought long and hard for those traditional women’s bodies to get a chance to play sports, excel, and break records. They still need to be able to do that today.

Just Sheer Joy!

22 Sep

While I am posting our son’s graduation video from June, I must not omit the Baccalaureate service that occurred the Wednesday before graduation. It was pure, unbridled joy!

You see, when you have a special needs child, you wonder for years whether you will ever see this day arrive.

So glad we did!

Link

God’s Faithfulness

22 Sep

This is my son’s graduation day in June. Such joy!

Tabernacle for Today

 

https://vimeo.com/172042139

The above video shows one of the most joyful days of my life.  Our son, our only child, has autism.  Raising him has been quite an adventure with times I was not sure there would be any of me left when the adventure was done!

Times of blackness, times of joy, times of sheer panic for what would become of this child we love more than life itself. 

If you are only able to watch the first ten minutes of the video, at least see the flag ceremony and the processional of this graduation.  They are full of more joy than any graduation I have ever attended!  Let me explain how we got to this day.

Three years ago we left our son in Wisconsin to embark on an adventure away from us—Shepherds College for people with intellectual disabilities.  Every August we drove him to Union Grove; every…

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Downton Abbey Redux

5 Sep

Rewatching the Downton Abbey series as a marathon this weekend (meaning I have had it on while awake and have used it as the background while I washed clothes, ironed, washed the floor, cleaned up my online accounts, read the paper, etc.), I have developed a whole new appreciation for this work of 21st century art.
I think one could watch the series five or six times and see something new every time. Like art throughout the ages, it has many levels and facets.
For example, one could watch the series just to concentrate on the history of the early 20th century. Or on the love stories/marriages of the characters.
One could watch it as a series of character studies of deeply drawn, complex characters. One could watch it as a study of good vs. evil, and how the fault line between the two runs through every one of us.
One could watch Downton Abbey once just to see the clothes and fashions, the ways of doing hair and wearing jewels.
One could watch it once just to concentrate on the furniture and once just to see the architecture.
I think one could watch Downton Abbey one complete time just to concentrate on the wit and wisdom of the quotable Dowager Countess.
This time through I am impressed with the richness of the way the plots and characters are drawn. They are like a warm, lovely, and complex tapestry, composed of many threads below the surface that hold the finished product together.
Some who are addicted to shows that supposedly expose the evil below the surface of every happy family complain that Downton Abbey is simplistic because most of the plots resolve happily at the end of each season; all of them resolve happily at the end of the series. To that, I would say “to each his own.” If someone needs to have misery or unresolved tension at the end of each work of art in order to regard it as art, I would claim that person has a narrow definition of art. Darkness has not always been a prerequisite for art. In our era it sometimes seems to be so, but that does not make darkness and uncertainty the only factors that define whether or not something is a work of art.
I noted this time that of about thirty marriages portrayed in the series, approximately 27 of them are happy marriages, with the couple showing mutual respect and having deep dialogue in their private moments together. That is a template to which I can relate! Those who want to claim that every marriage is secretly miserable behind the scenes simply have to turn revisionist about history and either claim that Downton Abbey misportrayed the marriages of its era or that marriage has gone severely downhill since then.
I also noted this time through how the dialogue at the Downton Abbey dinner table has much substance and richness, so much more than the dialogue at many communal meals I have attended within the last ten years. In this case, I do see a shift in social mores. We as a society have become both crude and obsessed with popularity to the point that we will prattle on in the crudest terms possible if we believe it will earn us a big enough audience of our peers. It is like we play a real life version of Facebook and its system of “likes.” We talk in shocking terms because we get more attention that way than by merely discussing deep ideas or remarking on the beauty around us.
Thankfully I know enough people who will engage in real and deep conversation that my heart and brain are not starving but I am not at all impressed with our societal shift to the banal and shocking.
In conclusion, Downton Abbey is one of my favorite pieces of 21st century art because it is a canvas on which we can reflect on modern life, with a palette to help us see both what may be better than those years a century ago and what may be worse.
Downton Abbey makes us think and feel and for that I am truly grateful to Julian Fellowes and his team.

Autism Challenges

17 Jul

My Son Has the Kind of Autism No One Talks About- Term life

Our son has high-functioning autism and is about to get a job and an apartment.

His life thus far has been an adventure for all of us–I am not trying to discount the hard work that he, my husband, and I have done to get him where he is. And God’s grace in making it all possible.

Nonetheless, for reasons known only to God, there are scores of kids with low-functioning autism who will not know the future our son has a chance to embrace.

For them, I run this post. We need to see what their parents and families see. And even what these precious children themselves see . . .

Can a Pro-Life Person Kill a Terrorist’s Kid?

4 Jun

A friend challenged me along these lines this week. What does it mean when the Republican party calls itself pro-life, yea, even has a pro-life plank in its platform, while running a candidate who says that, as commander in chief, he would consider giving troops a direct order to kill the families of terrorists?

Here is where a challenge can be issued specifically to Christians. Those who are not Christian believers, read if you like, but be aware this is not directed to you.

My friend’s first cut on this was that a terrorist’s kid stands more of a chance than your usual run-of-the-mill kid of growing up to be another terrorist. So . . . if you have to choose between, say, abortion of a random baby or targeted killing of a terrorist’s child, she thought maybe you should go for the terrorist’s child.

Only . . . God forbade that, even in the latter part of the Old Testament. He said the sins of the fathers would no longer be visited on the children. That each man or woman would bear responsibility only for his/her own personal sin. So . . . there is that. We can’t justify doing what God has forbidden us to do.

There is also a theological flaw running straight through this entire issue–we are missing the idea of total depravity being inborn to us all. Is a child in utero a sinner? Yes, for God said through King David “in sin did my mother conceive me.” That doesn’t mean that marital sex is sin. It means we are all born with the stain of original sin. We have it from conception onward because we are humans.

Babies are adorable and we long to protect them. That is good and right. But it does not mean that they are not born as sinners. They are. We are self-centered from the moment we emerge from the womb. We may even be that way in utero.

If we make the pro-life argument out of a belief that a child is born sinless until he commits an actual sinful act . . . we miss a huge part of our theology related to why we, as a human race, needed a redeemer.

Don’t you think that miscarried babies will sing of God’s grace in heaven someday, if they are not already doing so? Why is that? Because they, too, will be forgiven for the original sin they bore as humans, even humans who were never born.

Yes, His grace is amazing. Let’s not diminish it by a mistaken belief that children in utero or newborns are innocent and lack a sin nature.

So, in summary, we cannot preemptively kill a terrorist’s child in the belief that he might someday be a terrorist. God can gloriously save him. And we cannot kill a child in utero without having blood on our hands either. Both are equally bad. Both are murder.

Can You Be Sued for Using the Wrong Pronouns?

21 May

http://www.fox5ny.com/news/142860949-story

Turns out you probably can be . . . in New York City. But only if you are deemed to have done so with “malicious intent.” Which means . . . well, what does it mean? Since we can’t see inside a person’s heart to determine whether or not malice lurks there, it is a subjective judgment, isn’t it? Perhaps based on considerations such as whether that person believes and practices Genesis 1:27 as foundational to his or her faith.

Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

It is now becoming a crime, specifically a hate crime, to believe in binary genders. Or that God created binary genders.

This ruling, however, will undoubtedly lead to some unintended consequences when even the various progressive beliefs about gender collide. For example, there are progressives that believe each of the following mutually exclusive things about gender:
1) It is set at birth, is unchangeable, and is located in the brain. If the brain and the body don’t match, the body may be surgically or chemically altered to match the brain.
2) It is fluid and can change many times during a person’s lifetime.
3) Gender is only a concept that some believe in; it does not actually exist.

There are, it seems, many progressives who may recognize that those and other theories about gender are mutually exclusive but they don’t worry about the fact that all three can’t possibly be true because “each person’s reality is his or her reality; they get to define what they believe, we don’t.” The problem with believing three mutually exclusive things will surface when the lawsuits start. Because remembering the separate realities of seven billion people on earth is untenable–at some point someone will get mixed up and offend someone with an incorrect pronoun. And since there are people in every group who are just plain greedy for money, the race will be on to prove “malice” and to sue.

I have seen some Christians, some of them progressives, who don’t think this is a big deal at all. “Just call the person what they want–you know Genesis 1:27 is true but you don’t need to shove it down anyone’s throat.” So this does what? Reduces our faith to such a private dimension that we are not even allowed to attest publicly that we believe God’s Word is true? Doesn’t that sort of put our faith on the level of a mental illness–a belief we might have that is not rooted in reality and had better be kept inside our own mind?

Interestingly, seven billion people on this planet are all being given the power to express their own reality about gender *unless they are in agreement with Genesis 1:27 and gender being binary, established at conception and always aligned with the body (except for intersex births, which are rare genetic mutations, not a legitimate third gender).

It is symptomatic of a world that has given up the concept of God that we have all become, in effect, our own god. At least in the area of gender. Anyone asserting that they have a right to pronounce themselves rich or royalty or a great athlete or a brilliant mathematician would be told that they are delusional. Those things are regarded as objectively determined, by amount of money possessed, birth into a royal family, athletic skill and training, or inherent mathematical gifting and study. But on the topic of gender, we can be our own god and remake our own universe in our own image. At least until we interact with other people with their own personal realities on gender. With them, we can force them to speak our language when they are around us or we can sue them for vast amounts of money.

The most astounding thing about all of the above paragraph is that this entire transition is happening without the backing of one shred of scientific evidence. These realities are all internal in the mind. I call the non-binary gender theories as delusional as the theory that I am the Queen of England and should live in Buckingham Palace. But, in fact, I can’t prove nor disprove these theories since they are all constructed by individuals to explain the realities they believe they encounter. I can’t prove nor disprove them, nor can they.

So, for those whose reality is defined by standing on the Word of God, by believing in a good Creator who made us all for His own good pleasure (and ours), where do we go from here?

In the intertestamental period, when believers in Yahweh were still ardent practitioners of the Jewish law, including the dietary laws, the Greek rulers offered Maccabee believers in Yahweh a deal. “Just eat a bit of pork and we will let you practice your faith in peace.” The Maccabees instead chose to die a martyr’s death.

In the early days of the church, the Roman rulers offered Christians a deal. “Just offer a pinch of incense to the emperor to signify that he is a god and we will let you practice your faith in peace.” The early Christians instead chose to die a martyr’s death.

So far, the deal in New York City is *only that a Christian will not be able to both believe in binary genders (an essential foundation of his or her faith) and own a company or a rental home without eventually running afoul of the law, but that is just an opening salvo. What will we do as 21st century Christians when told “Just speak the pronoun, even if you don’t really mean it, and we will let you practice your faith in peace”???

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