Monday, August 15, 2016

What I'm Up To

School is about to start which means that Chris (Wild Man) is about to go off to college (although I expect he'll be home a lot of weekends) and Patrick (PWM) will be back to teaching. And, I'll be home with the cats during the day. What's someone with chronic migraine to do?

What will I do with myself? I thought about taking a seminary class on Genesis or New Testament Survey. The problem is that my headaches tend to show up at inconvenient times - like when papers are due or when online discussion groups are scheduled. I might try it another time, but I've got a few other things to keep me busy until then.

It turns out that I have a bunch of books that I've purchased or that have been given to me that I haven't read (or started and haven't finished) yet. This fall seems like the perfect opportunity.

  • The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight (almost done)
  • Hearing God by Dallas Willard
  • A Fine-Tuned Universe by Alister McGrath
  • C.S. Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath
  • Confessions by St. Augustine (Lydia and I are reading this together and getting together for discussions every month or so.)
  • The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight
  • Serious Dangerous Religion by Iain Provan
  • Darwinism and the Divine by Alister McGrath
  • Ancient-Future Time by Robert E. Webber
  • black and white bible: black and blue wife by Ruth Tucker
  • The Heaven Promise by Scot McKnight
  • The Epistles of St. John by F.F. Bruce
Now that I look at the list, it seems a little daunting. It might take more than the fall, especially since I plan to continue to reading some fiction from the library on the side. As always, friend me on Goodreads (Catherine Martin) to see what I'm reading and what I've thought of my recent reads.

Of course, I'm going to knit. I've got a few projects planned for the next year or two.
  • Christmas presents - No, I won't tell you what they are. Some of the recipients read this blog.
  • A Fair Isle sweater from a kit from Knit Picks. I actually made this sweater several years ago in XL. Unfortunately, when I was washing and blocking it, I thought I could get away with spinning it in the dryer for a couple of minutes to get a bit of the water out of it. No. It felted. I ordered a couple more balls of yarn and I'm working on another sweater. I've got the sleeves almost done. I'm much more confident on this sweater now that I know how to knit and cut steeks.
  • I love modular knitting. I found a cool pattern in a book that I have and I actually have enough yarn to make it!! It's a short sleeved sweater, so I'll probably try to make it for spring.
  • I'm working on a double-knit scarf. I wanted to enter it in the County Fair this year, but I've only got six inches done so far and the Fair is next week. I'm on row 70 out of 500. Yeah. I'll enter it in the Fair next year. But, I'll work on it this year.
  • For when my head aches and I don't want to think, I'm making a blanket that's mostly garter stitch.
  • When I get another itch to organize something I'll organize all my works-in-progress (WIPs).
Other things I want to do between headaches
  • Coloring! I've got my coloring books and pencils that are great for a rainy day.
  • Pokemon Go! I am having a great time with this game. I've changed my walking routine so that I can stop by a couple of PokeStops for PokeBalls a couple of times.
  • Internet Monk (www.internetmonk.com) is doing a study on the book of James that I'm following along with.
  • Clean out the basement. We have stuff that needs to be given away and stuff to be thrown away.
  • Clean the upstairs closet. This will take all of 30 minutes once I set my mind to it. I hope.
  • Re-organize my room. When we made Lydia's room into a room for our exchange student, we emptied her desk's contents into a box and left the box in our room. I need to deal with that box along with other stuff in our room.
Right now, though, the Olympics are on, so I am going to watch the Olympics and knit.

What are your plans for the Fall? Anything interesting?

CCM

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Stray Thoughts About the Olympics

Once every four years, I, like much of America, become interested in sports that I otherwise care little about. Like diving and swimming. For two weeks, I'm glued to the TV. Eight years ago, both kids were being homeschooled, so we did a fun unit study on Beijing and sports. This year, it's just me. (PWM is at a conference for educational stuff and Wild Man is working a lot.)

Here are some random observations from the first week.


  • Rugby is like football with fewer rules. But, if you already know about rugby, then you already know that. Or there are rules, but I don't know them.
  • The Fiji rugby team is very religious. A quick look at Wikipedia shows that 99% of people in Fiji are Christian, most of those Methodist, due to 19th century missionary work. The commentators said that the rugby players not only pray before and after matches, but before and after workouts. Individual players can be seen praying when they are on the sidelines during matches. As a Christian, I think this is cool.
  • And, how about Katie Ledecki?! She is killing it this week!!!
  • Michael Phelps is cool, too!
  • I'm very glad that the commentators are finally talking more about Katinka Hosszu and her swimming than her husband. Yes, it's interesting that her husband is her coach and that she's improved since he became her coach and that he is a maniac at cheering her on, but SHE'S the one doing the swimming! Let's focus on the swimmer - like with all the other swimmers!
  • What the heck is with the diving pools turning green? There are some interesting theories!
  • It was actually cool enough the other night that the beach volleyball players wore clothes! More than bikinis!
  • And, yes, the most amazing gymnast in the world was homeschooled! 
  • Field hockey is an actual sport! I thought it was just something to keep us busy in middle school PE class.
  • Olympic table tennis is serious, people! I watched some of it yesterday and those athletes were working. No more jokes about ping pong!
  • Those "cupping" bruises look painful, but they're supposed to help.
  • The kinesio-tape industry must be making a fortune off the Olympics!
That's all for the moment. There's more than a week left for more observations. What have you noticed?

CCM

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Affirming

Since PWM is out of town for a conference, I figure I'll get myself into trouble. What's the topic du jour? Homosexuality. The Christian church seems to be unable to handle "the gay issue" without becoming downright hysterical. 

Until recently, the Christian church has taught, across the board, that being gay, or, at least, acting on homosexual urges, is sinful. At the same time, the broader society has become much more comfortable with gays being out of the closet. Gay marriage is now legal. Many states have non-discrimination laws that include protections for those who are gay. 

Churches have reacting differently to this "crisis". The Westboro "Baptist" congregations and their ilk are only interested in making sure that gays and lesbians know that these "christians" are sure that homosexuals are going to hell. I'm sure they're making lots of converts. Then, there are the churches that affirm gays and lesbians and welcome them into their congregations. Evangelicals right now are pretty clear that they don't believe that homosexuality is an OK thing and that any homosexual urges should be resisted as sinful.

But, what about what I think and believe? The last several years have challenged me to sort out my own beliefs. It's not just academic for me. One of my "daughters" (she was an unofficial foster child for six months when she was five years old and has been close to me since) is gay and has been out of the closet for several years. And, she's getting married next year.  I love Jesi and her fiance, even if I decide they are on the wrong side of the moral line. But, are they?

Two hundred years ago, my ancestors owned other people. And, they had scripture to back up the practice. Not just one or two verses, either. Paul's letters contain many references to slavery. Nowadays, though, we look at the Gospels and the life of Jesus and don't have any problem with consigning those references to slavery to the dustbin of history as an aberration of the times. Owning people is not a Jesus-shaped way to live (and I'm sorry anyone I'm related to every participated in it).

How do we handle the issue of being gay? I'll make just a few points with some references since I don't want to write a book. The church has become hyper-focused on sexuality, but Jesus says very little about it. The Evangelical church of the last thirty years has made an idol of the nuclear family. Even Paul's letters spend far more ink on how to follow Jesus than they do on how to have the perfect family. Being like Jesus is the goal of the Christian life, not finding the perfect spouse or having the right kind of family.

Leviticus bans homosexual behavior, but it does so in the same context as banning shellfish and having women marry their rapists. The Mosaic law was given as boundaries for the Israelite people to show that they were different from the other people living around them. Much of that law does not apply today - thankfully. (I love my silk/bamboo shawl. Why in the world did God forbid mixed fibers?)

Paul's letters mention homosexuality in Romans and then in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. The interpretation of these passages is difficult, but many agree that they don't forbid all homosexual activity, just exploitative or cultic sexual activity. I would encourage you to read God and the Gay Christian by Mathew Vines. He does a much better job of explaining these scriptures and the pros and cons of various interpretations.  (The Gay Christian Network also has some good references if you're interested.)

Another reason that I think the church should affirm gay relationships is that I believe it is what Jesus would do. As we read the Bible, God is gradually revealing himself to humans. In the early part of the Old Testament, God shows himself through the Old Covenant that requires sacrifice and adherence to the Mosaic law. As we get into the Exile and Second Temple period, God starts telling the people through the prophets that he wants their hearts more than he wants sacrifice.

In the New Testament, Jesus comes as the ultimate sacrifice to pay for our sin and to show us what sacrificial love looks like. After Jesus ascends to Heaven, Peter is shown that the Gospel is for both Jew and Gentile through a dream. Paul reminds us that we are all the same in Christ, Jew and Gentile, male and female. Almost 2000 years later, most of the Christian world has agreed that slavery is not a Christian ideal. As we continue on this trajectory of Christian history, I believe it is time for us to understand people who are homosexual can be integral parts of our Christian community.

Gay people are the poor and the marginalized of our society. They are the ones the Jesus came for. But, you know what's crazy? According to Matthew Vines, 48% of gay people are Christian, many of them actively participating in some kind of church. There are lots of gay people who want to know and serve Jesus.

The Bible is still clear that there are boundaries for sexual activity. The passages I noted above in Romans 1:24-32 includes a number of sexual activities that are forbidden because they are selfish and exploitative. Sex is still something special that should not be taken lightly and should be saved for marriage.

I believe that gay people are loved by Jesus and can (and often are) important parts of our Christian churches. I can say this while still affirming the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed. I still love and follow Jesus. Not only do I love Jesi and Steph, but I support their relationship. And I believe Jesus does too.

CCM

P.S. If you have more questions on this topic, check out www.gaychristian.net

P.P.S. While I agree that I may be wrong about this, I would rather err on the side of being too loving than being too legalistic.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Telling People About Jesus

Have you ever seen a street preacher yelling about how you need to confess your sins to go to Heaven? Or you've probably seen the Westboro Baptist (using that term loosely) folks protesting at funerals or public events. They are usually telling people that they are going to Hell and less often encouraging people to convert. But, it's the same idea.

I grew up in Southern Baptist churches where we were admonished regularly about "witnessing" or "sharing our faith". It's a scriptural idea - Matthew 28:19-20, 1 Peter 3:15. At the time, "evangelism" was usually done on visitation nights when the adults would visit people who had visited the church. When I became a teenager, we would do beach outreach and try to talk to strangers in parks near the beach. Awkward!

There are a couple of different approaches to evangelism. First is the "scare 'em in to Heaven". I have heard more sermons based on this than I'd care to recall. This kind of evangelism is used particularly by the "end of the world" people. Read Left Behind, the first book of the Left Behind series by LaHaye and Jenkins. In this eschatological scenario (which I don't buy into), Christians are bodily removed from the earth, after which a seven year period of "tribulation" ensues before Jesus comes back to earth. In the book, the people "left behind" are frightened by the rapture and by the terror that is about come that they become believers in Jesus.

Even those who don't believe in Premillenial Dispensationalism (rapture theology) may use the "scare 'em into Heaven" approach. These people use the threat of eternal conscious torment for non-believers as a good reason to repent and put their faith in Jesus. Of course, the fact that the theology of eternal conscious torment is disputed (i.e. limited conscious torment, annhilationism, and purgatory) isn't really brought up.

Being a child of modernism, I was taught the apologetics or intellectual technique of evangelism. Specifically, I was taught Evangelism Explosion. This is a guide for leading a person through the logical reasons for placing their faith in Jesus that was developed by Coral Ridge Church. Actually, the logical part of my mind really likes it, and for many people it has been successful. While I was in college, I also was in some other classes that taught some of the other approaches using apologetics. Being rather intellectual, I just ate it up.

There is a real downside to the intellectual argument for faith. I can start with the two questions for Evangelism Explosion - If you were to die tonight, do you know for certain that you would go to Heaven? If you were to stand before God and he were to say, "Why should I let you into my Heaven?" what would you say? - but in today's culture I'm rather likely to hear, "What's Heaven and why would I want to go there?" There are some people for whom this approach works well, but they are already curious about the Christian faith and generally need some help getting past some of the intellectual hurdles.

Another approach is much more difficult, but is the way that Jesus did things. Jesus lived with his disciples. They didn't understand his message immediately. Peter was still fighting the way of love, even up to the night of the crucifixion. Matthew 28:20 also tells us that we are not to convert people, but to make disciples of all nations. It's our job to help people meet Jesus but also to walk with Jesus. And this requires more commitment than just street preaching or going through and Evangelism Explosion. To be fair, many churches using those programs follow them up with robust discipleship programs.

How do we help people find Jesus? We do whatever it takes. I've found that love and prayer and patience works. Fear isn't helpful. Sometimes, intellectual answers are important, so it's good to have them available. 

This is sometimes called "friendship evangelism". But, really, we don't want to make friends just for evangelism purposes. God doesn't want us to use people. Rather, we are to love the friends we have and to share our faith when it's appropriate.

We must not be Westboro Baptist or the street preachers at Free Speech Alley at LSU. Jesus did not come to condemn anyone (see John 3). He came to give himself for us. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and leads us to repentance. God is love, not hate. So, too, should our discussions about our faith be filled with love and grace.

The world is in rotten shape and people need to hear about Jesus. How we do it is important. The church must not be afraid to be in the public square and take care of the poor, the widows and the orphans in Jesus' name as instructed in the Bible. I came across a great saying by John Wesley (which is probably misattributed, but it's still a good saying) - Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as you ever can." I would add that we should do it all in the name of Jesus.

Be Jesus to someone today. Love them and be prepared to tell them about your walk with Jesus. Good stuff is important. But, Jesus is more important.

Your thoughts?


CCM


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What I've Been Up To

So, here's your basic update on life since I've been neglecting my blog.

1. Family Camp. It was super fun, as always! I had two bad migraine days and one moderate migraine day. The weather was gorgeous except for one storm - see above re: migraine. The speaker this year is from the Milwaukee area and spoke about love. His whole week's worth of talks is summed up in this: Love. One. Another. 

2. Kids' Family Camp Stuff. We took Wild Man's girlfriend, J, to camp with us again this year. For the all-camp fun day, they did a bunch of station games with a talent show in the evening. Wild Man sang "America" while J did her flag routine. They were a rousing success! 

Wild Man, Rosie Girl, and J did a rap that I can't begin to successfully explain. Wild Man did the beat-boxing. Rosie Girl and J were Peter and Paul having the argument in Galatians 2:11-21. It was beyond amazing. And frighteningly theological.

Wild Man did music stuff (of course), playing bass one day and drums one day. And, he won the carpetball tournament!! They didn't have the archery tournament because of rain - if he had placed in that tournament (which he has for the last few years), I would have tried to get some of his ice cream!

3. Migraines. Yes. I still have them. No, I don't enjoy them.

4. Books. I have discovered the author Terry Brooks. I am loving his Word and Void series and am getting started on one of his Shannara novels. Friend me on Goodreads to see what all I'm reading these days. (I think it's mostly up to date!)

5. Knitting. The Waupaca County Fair is coming up! I've got two items completed and two yet to go. The hardest thing is remembering my form - due this week.

6. Pokemon Go. Are you playing? Rosie Girl thought Christmas had come early when she heard that I signed up. I love collecting the critters and evolving them. But, I'm a lover, not a fighter, so I haven't gotten into a gym. We'll see how that goes. We live right by a Pokestop, so I collect a couple of Pokeballs from my living room every few hours. And I got a Meowth while sitting in my rocking chair last night!!!!

7. Sophie. We took Sophie, Rosie Girl's cat, to live with her in Stevens Point last week. Sophie is undisputed queen of the roost, right where she belongs. On that same day, Rosie Girl, PWM, Wild Man, J, and I went down to the park in Stevens Point right on the river to hunt Pokemon. Some people had practically set up camp. Of course, I was kind of tempted to join them when I realized how many magicarp there were! 

8. Rhapsody. This is my new kitten. I got an adorable 8 week tabby from J's family. Rhapsody and Rory are still separated. Rory isn't too thrilled with having a kitten around. As soon as I clip Rhapsody's claws and put her claw covers on (hoping to prevent declawing), she should be ready to hang out with Rory. Rhapsody is totally adorable in all her kitteness! She plays until she's completely tuckered out and then goes back upstairs to the closet where she's been sleeping and lies down.

9. Rosie Girl. Started a full-time job!! And it's a job that will offer benefits after a certain period of time! And it pays tolerably well!! And she likes it! Yes, we're all pretty excited. Rosie Girl is feeling like her choice to not return to school was a good one. 

10. PWM. He's starting to feel the impending start of school. But, first, he does two weeks of training at Milwaukee School of Engineering. Yay! NOT! The training is important for the new class that he's teaching, but I'm not thrilled about him being gone for two weeks. In any case, he's getting lots of walking in with Pokemon Go.

11. Wild Man. He's working at a grocery store and can work some shifts at the same chain when he starts school at UWSP. Hopefully, he can handle a few work shifts along with school. We also have to finish up his school shopping. And, I told him he gets to make his own doctor and dentist appointments before school starts - his schedule is too complicated for me to sort out. Besides, as he likes to point out, he's an adult.

That's what's up in our little corner of the world. I've got lots of stuff in my brain that wants to come out. I'll try to let it out in bits and pieces that make sense. Fat chance!! Stay tuned for the crazy!

CCM

Friday, July 01, 2016

Spiritual Growth

Let's start off with the fact that I'm not an expert in spiritual growth, OK. I'm trying to walk with Jesus the best that I can, but I'm pretty sure that there are times that he's dragging me along and shaking his head. But, a couple of things about spiritual growth came up that I want to explore. So, here we go.

Al Mohler is quoted as saying, "Our spiritual maturity will never exceed our knowledge of the Bible" by Tim Challies (which I saw on Twitter). On the face of it, this seems like a reasonable statement. After all, the Bible is how we know about Jesus for the most part, so it seems like it's needed for spiritual growth.

On closer inspection, though, the argument breaks down. From a logical and historical point of view, there are problems. It follows from this statement that seminary professors and other well-educated people would necessarily be spiritually wiser than those less able to avail themselves of such knowledge. Yet, I dare say that we all know that this is just not the case.

It also doesn't work biblically. According to scripture, the way to grow spiritually is through trials. James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (See also Romans 5. And Job. And Lamentations.) Our walk with Jesus becomes closer and deeper with the more life that we live, particularly the hardships of life.

This brings me to the other quote I came across this week. "It is spiritually formative to be dissatisfied and unable to resolve it." Dallas Willard. Stop and read that again. He doesn't say that we learn something through resolving it. Rather, his point is that the very state of being stuck and not being able to fix it is the place where God wants us to be. That is the point where Jesus meets us. 

Yes, the Bible is the foundation of our faith. Yes, we study and learn as much as we can about Jesus. But, our spiritual maturity comes not from books and computers; it comes from experience and time with Jesus. When we are dissatisfied and can't do anything about it, it's time to get real with Jesus.

This is why that statement by Mohler was so elitist. It assumes that every Christian has unlimited access to scripture. Many believers have limited access to Bibles and even less to commentaries, etc. Yet, they are not lacking in faith. They are living their faith and walking with Jesus with the scripture they know. I have a feeling that God's OK with that.



CCM

Monday, June 20, 2016

Theistic Evolution and the Authority of Scripture

Does theistic evolution undermine the authority of scripture? First of all, why do I even ask the question? It came up during a conversation on Facebook. Where all good questions come from!

The answer to the question is NO. 

Why doesn't theistic evolution (or evolutionary creationism) undermine the authority of scripture? Because the Bible is not a science book. Genesis one was never intended to tell us about how the universe was created. 

The Bible is a reliable source of information about God and his plan for humanity. The first chapter of Genesis is a creation hymn of the ancient Israelites that was intended to differentiate them from the rest of the Ancient Near Eastern World. It was to show that one God created the world instead of the pantheon of gods that other civilizations claimed.

Even though I firmly believe in evolutionary creationism, I take the Bible very seriously. The Bible was inspired by God. It is not to be taken lightly. But, neither is it to be always read literally. Every portion of the Bible was written in a certain time and place and to a certain people. It is our responsibility as readers of the Bible to learn all we can about the context of the text so that we can make a reasonable interpretation.

So, when we read the first chapter in Genesis, we see that it is a poetic hymn written by a pre-scientific people. (Note: Calling ancient Israelites "pre-scientific" is not intended to be disparaging. These people were intelligent, but their culture had not yet developed the scientific method so their understanding of the universe was different from ours.) Reading the Bible this way is not frivolous or "loose". It is trying to understand the text for what it is.

For more reading on this topic, I would highly recommend anything on the BioLogs website or anything by Denis Lamoreux, a theologian and biologist. 

Your thoughts??

CCM