Monthly Archives: February 2011

One of Those Days

Am I the only one who can’t get that one gray hair?  You know, that one poking up on the top of my head – toward the back.  I tried to pull it out, but I kept pulling out the brown ones instead.  Even more aggravating, I found THREE more gray hairs while I was still trying to get the first one.

After pulling out about four of the perfectly good still-brown ones, I figured I wasn’t helping the ratio and gave up.

In other news today, it came up today that we have been members of University Parkway Baptist Church for nineteen years.  My mother expressed surprise.  Surely, it hasn’t been that long?  Why, yes it has.  We returned to UPBC when I was sixteen, and I am now thirty-five.

And I have the gray hairs to prove it.

 

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Hola, New Jersey

The blog has now been up for two weeks, and I would like to thank those of you who are stopping by.  We’re almost up to 200 hits and, according to my site stats, I have three whole subscribers and my mother isn’t even one of them!

One interesting function of the blog is that I can keep track of subscribers, though they are identified by e-mail address only.  Each time one is added, WordPress shoots me a congratulatory e-mail that tells me where the subscriber “appears” to be from.  So far, all my subscribers are from New Jersey.  I know this may surprise the three of you who are on my list, since you all know me personally, and I have never been to New Jersey.  To my knowledge, I don’t know anyone from New Jersey.  And yet here we all are.  Such is the marvel of modern technology.

I would be tempted to e-mail WordPress and caution them that something may be awry with their GPS, since Johnson City is nowhere near New Jersey, but I find this quirk in the system oddly reassuring.  After all, how many times have we been warned that the Internet is destroying our privacy, and I suppose in some ways it is, but I suppose we may also find ourselves with the virtual anonymity of the proverbial needle in a haystack.  That is to say, that there will so many of us, the system will not be able to notice any of us.  I know that is hardly a substitute for the close-knit community of people living near each other that we still strive to hang onto in our local churches.  I, though, am relieved at the prospect that even if the worst case scenario happens, it may yet be alleviated by human error. Even if they can locate me at home in my pajamas, or a Chinese spy ring hacks my WiFi and uncovers – What? A recipe for banana pudding? – I will still have the consolation of knowing that I am still just so-and-so from New Jersey.

Hola, Garden State! Are you out there?

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Grace-Filled Service

Hello, my friends. I’m sorry it took me a little longer to post than I expected.  My Wed. night sisters are waiting for some study questions for the week, so I’ll give them below.  First, though, I would like to say that I encountered something last night that echoed our last discussion in an interesting way.

I was re-watching a video I have on the life of St. Patrick.  Those of you who know me well, know that I love St. Patrick’s Day.  After all, how many holidays do we have to celebrate the impact of world missions?  And that is the significance of Patrick, who was the first person in Europe to successfully carry the gospel to people outside the Roman Empire.  The Irish were considered to be barbarians and beneath the notice of Roman Christians. Patrick, however, a Roman Briton by birth (they weren’t English then), had been kidnapped and enslaved in western Ireland. When he finally escaped and returned home, he could not  forget the Irish people.  He could escape slavery, but he could not escape the call of God to love his one-time oppressors.  So Patrick returned to Ireland and began one of the most successful ministries in the history of the Church.

Then he faced a crisis that came like a nightmare out of his own past.  Some of his new Irish converts were captured by Briton Christians, and taken as slaves.  Patrick, no doubt still scarred by his own similar experience, angrily wrote to the Briton king, Coroticus, to demand that he release his fellow Christians and send them home.  Coroticus laughed off the demand, and the Briton priests refused to take any action at all.  Patrick then wrote an angry letter denouncing not only Coroticus, but any leader in the church who sided with him against the Irish Christians.  The priests on the receiving end of his attack promptly set about to destroy Patrick’s ministry.  A hearing was convened to judge Patrick’s fitness as a bishop to lead the Church in Ireland.  The worst moment came when Patrick (still in Ireland) learned that an old friend had revealed a dark secret from Patrick’s past – a sin that Patrick had committed before his conversion that he had confessed in secret to a trusted Christian brother.  In response to this public embarrassment, Patrick wrote a document called The Confession of St. Patrick, which told the story of his life and the purpose of his ministry.

What jumped out to me about the story this time around was a statement by one of the experts interviewed.  She said something to the effect that Patrick’s fellow clergymen didn’t understand that Patrick’s ministry came out of his own faith experience, but that they ought to have understood as men of faith.  In other words, Christians ought to be able to recognize when someone’s service to God comes out of the pain or sin or hardship that person has experienced in the past.  When a fellow believer’s miserable past becomes a blessed and thriving ministry, we should immediately recognize the redeeming work of Christ in that  life and celebrate it.  Instead, like Simon the Pharisee, we sometimes look in disapproval on the repentant person weeping at Jesus’ feet.  Is the over-the-top enthusiasm a turn off?  Does the expensive perfume poured on Jesus’ feet seem tacky or gaudy?  I’m thinking of a precious saint I knew, now in heaven, who had been a Hell’s Angel before his conversion.  The first thing he did after his conversion was to get himself thrown out of the Johnson City Mall because he was standing at the escalator telling every single person who passed what Jesus had done in his life.  Like the immoral woman, he had been forgiven much, and he loved much in return.

With that in mind, here are the questions for next Wed. night:

1.  Read 1 John 1:5-10.  According to verse 5, who sets the standard for holiness?  How do we compare when measured against His purity?  What do verses 8 & 10 tell us about those who look down on the sinfulness of others?

2.  Read 1 John 2:8-11.  What is the new commandment that John is writing about?  What do light and darkness represent in these verses?

3.  Read 1 John 3:7-12.  How has God’s love been revealed to us?  How can we demonstrate our love for a God that we can’t see?  Verse 8 suggests that there is one “family trait” that all Christians have in common.  What is it?

4.  Read 1 John 5:1-5.  This passage ties obedience to overcoming the world (and sin).  Is there something that God has given you the power to overcome?  How might God be asking you to use this victory for His service?

5.  Read I John 5:13-15.  It would be impossible to think of serving God, without the promise of these verses.  What is the condition for having our prayers answered?  What do you think is the connection between having the love of God in our hearts and asking according to His will?

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A Prayer

For those readers from my Wed. night class, the post I promised you last week is right below this one.  You can still comment and read comments.  The discussion is still open.  In the meantime, this is something I wrote last October.

A Prayer

(After Reading Hamacher’s “95 Theses of Philology”)

What mystery and beauty appear when You speak,

Divine Utterance, holy mystery,

Out of language You constructed the cosmos,

Material from the immaterial,

The insubstantial from the substantial,

And made of us, You and I, one sentence

Expressing the character of God.

I, a noun, subject and object,

You, the verb (I=AM),

In Whom things live and move and have their being.

Stars and comets, planets and nebulae –

So many adjectives, adverbs and prepositions.

Every water drop and winged insect an articulation

Of the divine imagination sparking

Within the eyes and minds of we who behold.

And in our longing for the reality of You,

We speak and love and know and dream,

And find our words broken, fragments only

Of a shattered mirror,

Seeking to make them whole in the all of You,

Stumbling to the knowledge that Truth is God.

(10/8/10)

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The Wait List

Greetings, Friends!

It’s time to get a discussion going.  And, so you know, I’m throwing this topic out for comments from anyone who happens upon the blog.  I have my Wednesday night sisters in mind, but we wouldn’t mind hearing from some others.

This past Wednesday evening, our class had a discussion on what it means to pray with persistence based on the parable of the Unjust Judge (or Persistent Widow) from Luke 18.  In the parable, a widow pleads for justice from a corrupt judge who has no interest in helping the downtrodden.  Eventually, the judge becomes tired of her endless pleading and grants her petition just  so she will leave him alone.  Jesus then explains that if even a dishonest judge can be made to grant justice through persistent petitions, then we can be sure that a righteous God will answer in good time when His people call out to Him.

This led to a discussion of “waiting on the Lord” as a spiritual discipline that every Christian has to learn at some time (and probably many times).  We focused on five reasons why God might make us wait for an answer to prayer:

1. Mercy – Sometimes God can only right a wrong by punishing the wicked.  In those cases, God may delay that judgment because He is giving time for repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  In those cases, we should remember that we too have received mercy from God.  We may and must speak and act on behalf of the oppressed, but we should be thankful that God is not hasty in His vengeance.

2.  Training – Sometimes God uses waiting as an exercise to build faith (James 1:2-4).  Will we continue to trust even when the answer is not immediate?

3.  Relationship – God is all about relationships.  When we are praying over and over again about a matter, then we are spending  time in His presence that we might not give to prayer if we were not made to feel our need of Him.  Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for Him to act. (Ps. 37:7, NLT)

4.  Understanding – God wants us to know for certain the Source of our deliverance and to understand Him better (Ps. 62:1-2).  Sometimes, we dismiss miracles when they come too easily.

5.  Glory – God glorifies Himself in our weaknesses by making us sufficient to the work He has called us to do (2 Cor. 12:7-9).  Our weaknesses exist so that others will see God and not us in what is accomplished.

SO WHAT IS GOD DOING FOR YOU RIGHT NOW?  Is there something that you’ve been praying for, and the answer is a long time coming?  Take a few minutes to reflect on what might be behind the delay.  Is God building your faith?  Are you learning new things about Him as you wait?  Are you praying more than you used to?  Or are you just hoping that there is some glory at the end of this?  Post a comment and encourage your sisters.

 

 

 

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Thoughts

I came upon this statement while researching the Donne chapter for my dissertation.  It’s from a sermon he preached at the Hague in 1619, then later revised.  This suggests that Donne spent some years reflecting on the truth expressed in the quote below.

 

“Christ needed not mans sufficiency, he took insufficient
men.  Christ excuses no mans insufficiency, he made them sufficient.
His purpose then was that the worke should be ascribed to the
workman, not to the instrument — to himself, not to them.”

(John Donne, 1630)

 

Donne himself was a onetime libertine, who had been called into the ministry after his conversion.  It was a calling that he was reluctant to accept, and if his poetry is any indication, the shame of past sins seems to have contributed to that reluctance.  Yet Donne became a noted preacher in his day, not merely because of his elegant style of speaking (he was a poet, after all), but also because of the substance of his sermons.  It is clear that he thought deeply about what it means to follow Christ, and what it means that Christ calls fallible, broken people to serve His church.

What has Christ called you to do at present that seems beyond your abilities (sufficiency)?  How has He called you to trust Him to supply that sufficiency?

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Four Dimensional Love

Another Valentine’s Day has passed, and I suppose I could have blogged about it.  But when you’re unattached, the day seems a little less important.  I say that without bitterness.  It’s just a reflection on where I am at the moment.

It is always a good time to think about love, something so essential to our faith that we don’t let children out of the nursery until they have some Scripture about it.  For those of us raised in Christian families, can we even remember not knowing John 3:16?  But today, I am meditating on Eph. 3:18-19,

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

I did a bulletin board for this verse a few years and discovered that the verse presents a quandary.  I wanted to do some word art to illustrate that God’s love is wide, long, high, and deep.  My problem was the word “long”.  You can stretch it out to make it long, but then how is it different from wide? You can stretch it UP to make it long, but then it is indistinguishable from high.  I know that sounds silly, but trust me, it was a source of aggravation.  There is only so much you can do with two dimensional bulletin board.

In fact, we don’t do any better at grasping that love of God in three dimensions either. We can understand 3D size — width, height, depth — but what is the length of God’s love?

According to Albert Einstein, space exists in the third dimension.  The fourth dimension is time.  What if God wants us to understand that His love fills all four of the dimensions that touch us, even through something as transient and ephemeral as time?  What if the length of God’s love is its capacity to stretch from one side of eternity to the next?

It takes some empowering for our thoughts to reach that high.  Paul says we need “power to understand,” but also states that all saints should seek that empowering and that understanding.  Maturity (completion) doesn’t come through knowing about the love of God.  We teach that to toddlers.  Maturity comes from experiencing the love of God, and understanding it better and better each time we encounter it.

It comes from knowing that when God stretches out His arms to say, “I love you THIS much,” the whole 3D universe isn’t big enough to hold Him.

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Fractured Perspectives

As I was setting up this site, I found myself reflecting once again on the poignant ruins of Coventry Cathedral.  Firebombed by the Nazi’s during World War II, Coventry’s once beautiful Gothic church is now a fractured shell.  It’s stained glass windows were blown out and the interior was gutted.  They built a new cathedral, of course, but the remains of the old one were left as a memorial.

This broken church has become, to me, a picture of what it means to seek God as a broken person in a war-torn world.  We all see spiritual things, as Paul told us, “through a glass darkly” (I Cor. 13:12).  God is perfect and whole and infinite.  We are finite and find ourselves grasping the truth of Him one fractured piece at a time.  We sort and arrange those truths and put them together into pictures we can understand.  Then life happens.  Pain comes – or sorrow or loss or temptation – and our images of God are too fragile to withstand the explosion.  Our stained glass windows on the truth blow apart, and we find ourselves picking up the pieces and putting them back together again into new pictures, better and more complete than the ones we looked through before.

Isn’t God in the making and remaking of our Fractured Perspectives?  Knowing the limits of our understanding, He helps us take the puzzle apart and put it back together over and over again, confident of the day when we shall see Him as He really is (I John 3:2) and know as we are known (I Cor. 13:12).  We are hybrid creations – in the world but not of the world – and He knows we need the pictures.  He also wants us to grow in our understanding because our own role as divine image-bearers depends on it.

Welcome to Stained Glass Reflections!  Not all the posts will be as serious as this one, but I do hope this will become a place where we can meet together to discuss the pictures that God is giving us of Himself.  May Christ be glorified and His church blessed in all ages.

Anne

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