Saturday, December 31, 2016

ShaLOm in 2017

Well, here it is the end of 2016 and I am posting my (planned... ya never know how that will go, ask Robbie Burns' mousie) one-word focus for 2017.

I am going with shalom. I like the way Cornelius Plantinga Jr presents that word in  Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin. At one point he writes:  

In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight--a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.
I want to focus on things becoming the way they are supposed to be, with wholeness and healing and all the deliciously dripping sweet fruits of the Spirit. 

And because I do not ever really get the whole one-word thing, I am mentally writing the word this way: shaLOm. I am using the L to remind me to Listen, a skill where I am very weak, and the O is not really the letter /O/ but a kind of sphere to remind me to Mind My Own Sphere of Dominion (and not everyone else's).

What about you? Have you got a one-word focus for the new year?  


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

To Whom Shall We Go?

Last night Devastatingly Handsome took us to see Doctor Strange. It was a film that promised to suit everyone in the family, from those of us who enjoy superheroes to those who are content to see Benedict Cumberbatch. Not saying which category I may fall into. :)

This film has a crazy mix of world religions and mysticism, and there was a lot I wanted to argue with. But I was struck throughout the movie about how much of the script was either so close to Scripture or reminiscent of it and could have been reworded with direct quotes from memory work:

* The theme about Strange's arrogance and it not being all about him... we could substitute chunks of Proverbs and get there. 

* Something about his bold, insistent "I've come to bargain" reminds me of our need for a mediator.

* The Ancient One's final talk about death "Death is what gives life meaning. To know your days are numbered and your time is short" sounds straight out of Psalm 90 ~ "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom."

I was struck most strongly by two scenes fairly early in the show, the first, I can't find the exact words but Pangborn warned Strange that there would be a cost and that it was not money. This sounded very like the admonition in Luke 14:28 to consider the cost. Just a few minutes later, when The Ancient One threw Strange out of Kamar-Taj, he sat on the stoop, knocking and begging for entrance. I was thinking of Christ's warnings about being excluded from the kingdom of heaven until Strange begged, "Please don't shut me out! I don't have anywhere else to go.." It sounded to me like he was confessing along with Peter in John 6:68 "Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

Friday, November 11, 2016

Troll in a Shoe Store, Sort Of

Distance never really seems to keep me from catching up with Miss Language and people she's met.  

This morning I woke from a long talk with a man in his shoe store. (FWIW, the man looked a lot like Donald Trump but I don't think that is really here or there, just speaks to my unconscious mind.) He talked a lot and I don't remember everything he said, but he was quite impressed by Miss Language, who had stopped in to do some shopping. 

It seemed to me to be a fairly normal shoe store but he told me quite definitely that it was 500 yards long which made it 5 square miles and thus very likely the biggest shoe store in the galaxy, probably even bigger than Amazon. I don't know but I did wonder.

Anyhow, back to Miss L. As I say, she had impressed him, though I don't remember everything he had to say.  He did let me know that she is coming out with three new books (I hadn't heard!): one on linguistics, no surprise there; one on French poetry, more than a bit surprising to me; and one a fiction title, again, not too surprising. Can't wait to read them all! It seems he has already read them and thought they were fantastic.

He also commented on her hair and on some of her admirers among other things. 

Then I woke up from this pleasant chat about my sweet daughter and found this in my messages, her newest 'do.

No wonder he was impressed. 

~ ~ ~

For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. ~ Philemon 1:7 


Friday, July 15, 2016

Half Mast

Last night Miss Language and I were discussing the tragedy in Nice. I said. "I feel like a flag is at half mast in my heart" and she replied, "I feel like the whole world has just been stuck at half mast."


So this morning I was still thinking about evil and its pain and googled about how "half mast" came to be. It turns out, of course, that there are a number of theories about how it started, but the practice was apparently well-established by the early 1600s. A 1934 book puts forth this explanation: "The half-masting of colors is in reality a survival of the days when a slovenly appearance (untidy, careless) characterized mourning. Even in the British Merchant Service today there are recent cases of trailing rope ends, 'slacking off' of rigging, and scandalizing yards as a sign of mourning." This reminds me of the custom in some Biblical references of tearing clothes and rubbing on ashes to show mourning. The more popular theory is that sailors lowered the flat to "half mast" - not really half but just one flag's width - to allow room for an "invisible flag of death" to fly above it. I like this image partly because I love nautical things, but also because I am drawn to momento mori, reminders of death.

Even as believers, we DO sail under a "flag of death" until the day Christ makes all things new. However the heavens are far above that invisible flag and belong to the Victor. I want to live my life with eyes fixed on the King's banner, which is above all and shall never be lowered.

(Miss Language also continued to think and write about out brief chat.)  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Never Sure What to Expect

Probably this is a normal part of the human experience, but as I only get to experience life with my own peculiar brain, let me lead off  saying that living with my brain is a bit like having an unlabelled chemistry set. My brain is constantly mixing together all the stuff that comes its way and I have no idea what to expect the result to be. It generally looks nothing like what went in. 

So here's what is in the latest reaction. I am working on memorizing my way through Hebrews this summer and was working on chapter 9. For some reason (maybe watching too many BBC Miss Marple episodes with Miss Dog Lover - hmmm, a catalyst?) the part about wills struck me (verses 15-17):
Therefore He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.
I got to pondering what an odd idea it is in law that we should have any say whatsoever what goes on after our own demise, how that might hint of a universal belief in some sort of eternality of life. Anyhow.

Next reagents:  someone used the expression "over my dead body" in my hearing and I started thinking about how that  expression relates literally to warfare, how the person in this case is willing to lay down life to prevent a certain outcome. I did a bit of googling and there does not seem to be any definitive word on what the expression came from.

Then we added in a few milliliters of a discussion in a thread about a recipe (Capitol Rolls in Indiana, PA, for the curious) that had reportedly "gone to the grave" with the baker. 

And then, what seemed at first to cancel the reaction, I saw a link to a story about a sweet woman whose family wanted to share her generosity after her death and did so by inscribing the recipe for her best-loved cookies on the back of her gravestone so all could enjoy.  Only before reading the article I saw the photo and jumped to the conclusion that this woman had spent her life saying she would share the recipe only "over (her) dead body" and that her family had made good on her promise. 
So there you have a lab report on the materials going into this thought experiment. I am not too sure where it is going to go once the reaction has run its course. But I am very uncertain whether "over my dead body" means something will NEVER happen or will SURELY come to pass.

I'll leave you with this query: does a will gives the writer authority to say This Will Happen When I Die? That could make dying one of the most important things we do.

Friday, June 17, 2016

On Children and Alligators and Gorillas and Polar Bears

I spent a restless night tossing and turning, thinking about the little boy killed by the alligator at Disney this week. I think it is exactly the fact that his dad fought with the alligator that gets my attention. 

I remember some years back when my young son with reactive attachment disorder was in intensive family therapy I read about an Alaskan mom whose child was attacked by a polar bear. She fought it off so savagely it left the child alone. I told my son this story because I felt I would gladly be that mom if it would help him to understand that I loved him.

But there has been no real healing in my son's life. And I feel that I have fought that alligator fiercely, and have seen my child deliberately hurl himself into the pit with the gorilla, over and over, his whole life. So I identify with these parents. 

There are some alligators you cannot stop. There are some children who cannot be stopped from throwing themselves into danger. I am glad to know the One who does rescue from the dragon and bring up from the pit. I pray He will be merciful to these families, to my son, and to other children like him.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Confessional Priorities

I have been thinking about the old discussion about being vs doing, and am starting to see a connection with catechisms I've been taught over the years. I'm grateful for how these lessons have influenced both what I do and who I am.

First on what seems like the doing end: when I first joined a church at age 12, the United Presbyterian, back in *ahem* the early seventies, we were instructed for a year and memorized a series of questions and answers starting with: 
Q:  What is the most important thing in life?
A: The most important thing in life is to know God and to glorify Him forever.
I liked the neat and tidy answers to the big questions of life.

A few years later, I was involved as a charter member in starting a PCA congregation, and have since belonged to OPC and now RP. They all use the Westminster Catechisms and as I was being taught this in high school, I could see that what we had learned before was basically a modern version of the same thing, following the same ideas in the same sequence but worded differently. This one starts with:
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. (Or, John Piper likes to change the last phrase to "by enjoying Him forever.")

And I still like this answer to the question of what man's purpose is, what we are here for. 

But. On to the being end:  we have bumped into the Heidelberg Catechism here and there; when we used to subscribe to the CRC's magazine, in reading books about Dutch art history, sometimes in biographies. And I have to say that where my mind likes the WSC's series of questions and answers, my heart soars with the Heidelberg's. Here is the first from this catechism, which speaks more personally to the heart:
Q: What is thy only comfort in life and death?
A: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him. 

What are the thoughts that help you understand who you are here to be and what you are here to do?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


The idea of play is interesting to me. Recently I had a discussion with an acquaintance who is going to be able to work directly with some ancient materials and he said, "I can't wait till I get to play with them" then corrected himself to say, "I mean, work with." But I think what he really did mean was play. I think the best work happens when it is play.

Mr Music give me examples of this in several areas. We were recently in Williamsburg and he got his hands on the harpsichord and was playing it, you can tell it is playing and not any sort of formal making music. Sheer enjoyment and his head is obviously somewhere in the playing.  (thanks to Miss Language for the video) He is also the best at his sports when he PLAYS them and as his mom I can tell the difference between him trying to score in whatever game or just playing... and he does so much better when he can get his head in that place of enjoyment. 

One of Miss Dog Lover's doctors has introduced us to the idea of flow theory. One researcher gives these conditions for flow, which I think is like play, to exist: 

  1. Knowing what to do
  2. Knowing how to do it
  3. Knowing how well you are doing
  4. Knowing where to go (if navigation is involved)
  5. High perceived challenges
  6. High perceived skills
  7. Freedom from distractions
Think about it these conditions and play the next time you watch sports, or an academic at his labor of love, or a musician, or a toddler doing a shape sorter - or the same toddler once he has mastered the shape sorter and no longer has any interest in it. I am glad God has made us with abilities and interests and the ability to enjoy using our abilities. What are some areas you hit a flow state in?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


The problem with blogs is that sometimes words just don't do it.

We are dealing with some crazy stuff. 'Nuff said.

And I am somewhere between Dreyfus's twitching eyelid:

and Mrs Bennett's (relatively) calm responses.

I don't think words touch either of these.  

I am glad there is One Who intercedes for us. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. ~ Romans 8:26