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 ( 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?


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?


Sunday, August 07, 2016


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.


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

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?