Thursday, December 31, 2015

DELIGHTING IN GOD

DELIGHTING IN GOD

By A. W. Tozer

I first stumbled on A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) a few years ago when I was engulfed in a dark night of the soul, a several-year period when I felt completely disconnected from God and P-12desperately searched for some means to get back to a time of sweet communion and freedom. Something about the title of his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, convinced me to read it and I was hooked. It was exactly what I needed and brought light into that dark place. I read it twice, just to absorb it all. It brought my heart to its figurative knees whether I was reading in a waiting room or on my sofa.

Now I am in another not-quite-so-dark place and Delighting in God was billed as a follow-up to The Knowledge of the Holy. Delighting in God’s chapters are short enough to be read devotionally and each begins with a prayer of preparation and ends with a hymn, most from the 18th and 19th centuries. The 18 short chapters may be pondered and stretched into a 3-week devotional. But the book’s own purpose is clearly stated in Chapter 5: “to be faithful to point out” the problems with the evangelical church. And there went any hope I had for an uplifting sequel to The Knowledge of the Holy. However, as I continued to read I found myself both comforted and convicted.

The primary theme of the book is passion for God which we regain by contemplating God in all his aspects, beginning with the basics of how we know Him and why we may have an inadequate perception of Him, followed by expositions His attributes. Tozer also explores our limitations and the problems that occur when we hold a wrong or inadequate perception of God. He explains what it means to our lives to have a proper view God’s transcendence, His perfection, grace, mercy, and goodness.

I have been a Christian for more than 40 years. A new Christian has no problem with passion for God, but as time passes and life becomes difficult we all may come to a place of common humanity where our minds and hearts become skewed, crooked, warped and unable to receive from God. It is at such times that books like The Knowledge of the Holy and Delighting in God come along and untwist our hearts and minds so they are positioned once again to properly appreciate and delight in God.

This book was compiled and edited by James L. Snyder from audio recordings left by Tozer. It certainly does have the feel of an authentic Tozer for that I commend him. I was furnished a copy of Delighting in God free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Word Meanings

Much of the following is from the preface to Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.  Any sentence quoted came from that book. I have been on a Lewis kick, reading and rereading all that he wrote. 

Like Lewis, I want words to have an exact meaning; not just mean what anything thinks they mean. I don’t want them diluted or expanded.   let’s just call a spade a 256px-CSLewisPlaquespade and let a word mean what it was supposed to mean.  Lewis points out in his preface that the world “Gentleman” once meant man who was a landowner.  It had only that one definition.  But people started deciding that “Gentleman” had characteristics other than landownership and they formulated what those characteristics ought to be.  For example, to them, Gentleman meant kind.  So an unkind person was not a Gentleman.  Then Gentleman meant nice, and when it finally resolved, Gentleman meant only a person that the speaker liked.  There already were terms for nice and kind people.  Nice.  Kind.  It was not necessary to dilute the term Gentleman so it meant nothing anymore. 

In the same manner, Christian has been diluted.  “The name Christians was first given at Antioch (Acts 11:26) to ‘the disciples’, to those who accepted the teaching of the apostles.  If we refine or spiritualize “Christian” then the word is no good to anyone.  If we spiritualize it we can say that Christians have no right to determine who is or who is not close to God.  If we refine it, non-believers will call anyone who is good (or bad or bigoted or . . . ) a Christian.   But it is no refinement because we already have words for good, bad, and bigoted.   So the word Christian is ruined because it means nothing or we can go back to the original meaning and say that a Christian is one who accepts the teaching of the Apostles, that is the New Testament.

That leaves it wide open denominationally and all we can really say is that someone is a good Christian, if they live lives worthy of the Apostles’ teaching or a bad Christian if they accept the Apostles’ teaching, but live unworthy lives.

Let’s keep the word Christian to its original meaning.  A clear meaning.  An undiluted meaning.  A good word.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

New Earth or Why I want the Windows Open

 

The TV weather forecaster has been predicting 90 degree days for the past week.  As a result, we have had the windows closed and the air conditioning on.tree for blogger bkgd (768x1024) 

When windows and doors are closed, it’s ethereally quiet.  I don’t hear the crickets, frogs, birds, squirrels, or the wind in the trees.  I don’t hear the automobiles with squealing breaks or trucks’ rumbling engines.  I don’t hear neighbors’ cars starting and pulling away or their children’s voices protesting.  Silence reigns with intermittent thunders of airplanes and helicopters, and the quiet hums from my computer and the refrigerator.  It seems lonely and sad—like death--a body surrounded by glass and timber—coffined--where outside, somewhere, a hostile but desperately desired world awaits.  

This morning, standing at the kitchen sink, which no longer even drips, drips, drips because the faucet is new, I realized that I was being given a foretaste of the new heaven and earth where the Holy One himself will be our light, a light without heat, a temperature fit—as we seem currently unfit to survive hot humid days and cold winter nights--for our perfect enjoyment.  Then the windows will be flung open for us and the sound of birds, crickets, all the animals and insects will meet our ears, far clearer and sweeter than we perceive them now.  The shouts and cries of our neighbors will be music.  Though now we see through dim eyes and clouded glass, then we will see face to face, truly see colors beyond compare, a green bower greener than green, a bluer than blue sky.  Although we cannot perceive it now, save in glimpses from a kitchen sink, our real home, our true abode awaits.  Even so, Come Lord Jesus!

Monday, August 31, 2015

GOING BACK

Abraham_Lincoln_Letter_to_Mr._Brayman_September_23,_1854_-_NARA_-_192847

 

I am a technology freak.  I have an excess of electronic paraphernalia.  I thought these things consumed too much of my life until we took in a young adult roomer.  Between the iPhone and the iPad and Netflix, we barely saw her.  She would come home, disappear in her room and barely emerge to eat or drink.  And then it happened.  Our roomer ran out of money and failed to pay her cell phone bill.  Her service was cut off.  No phone calls, no text, no normal communication with her friends and family.  She fell into a funk.

And now I digress.  I have been reading the voluminous correspondence of C. S. Lewis, some of it mundane, much of it personal, theological, interesting.  At the same time, the former owner of my vacation rental Wren Eagle Retreat sent me a letter about tree falling on a neighbor’s vehicles and his own health problems.  I had emailed him once with a question about the property but he never responded.  Now we are carrying on correspondence as our letters pass back and forth once a week or so.  Other people have received letter from me now that C. S. Lewis has shown me what a letter may be: an insight into daily life (when he wrote to his brother away at war), or a sharing of knowledge and thought.  Although at times I feel like an intruder to his privacy, nonetheless I have made myself his recipient and taken his advice about novels to read and considered ideas he, himself, was pondering.

Now my technological gadgets seem more a distraction than a delight.  I’ll continue reading on my Kindle, but there’s something about the hand pressing into a pen and moving that pen across blank paper to form symbols with meaning.  I can underline, press harder, and write larger all with more ease than doing it on a computer.  And if I misspell, so what?  My recipient will understand. 

And our roomer who no longer has access to phone and text?  She may just have to learn to write letters, address envelopes, and stick on stamps.  Would that be so bad?  Would it be so bad for her to write with thought rather than dashing off a text message?  Would it hurt her to have to live with the tension of waiting for a response for days or a week or not at all?  I have begun turning off my cell phone when I go to bed and not answering it when I am driving or involved in something that takes my entire concentration.   What do you think?  Might it be time to jettison the short text messages, tweets, and Facebook posts.  To restrict ones own phone time—remembering that once there was no phone access to your life when you were not at home or in your office or at a public phone booth.  What have we lost?  What should be regained?

 

 

 

 

Attribution for picture of letter:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abraham_Lincoln_Letter_to_Mr._Brayman_September_23,_1854_-_NARA_-_192847.jpg

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sense and Sensibility: Redefining Marriage

What is repugnant to you?  Killing animals?  Whipping children or En_brud_på_norr._Fritz_von_Dardel,_1830-40-tal_-_Nordiska_Museet_-_NMA.0037706animals?  Torture?  For me, reading or seeing anything having to do with defection makes me sick.  As a result, I do not include that act or anything relating to it (synonyms, descriptions, etc.) in even my fictional writing. 

And yet, people complain when a business will not serve a potential client or customer who wants the business to create something (pastries, party favors, invitations, photographs and videography,  a musical mix, etc.) for an activity which the business owner knows will lead to something that violates their beliefs.  The opening of a sex shop, a gambling facility, or something similar might violate the tenents held by a business owner—such an enterprise would damage their own soul should they use their creative energies to further it.

When does a person’s conscience and soul take precedence over the rights of others?  No one’s art is truly unique.  I can find any number of bakeries, printers, photographers and videographers who are not bound by conscience. 

When I was practicing photography, I was asked to photograph my ex-fiancĂ©'s wedding.  Stupidly, I agreed.  I have no idea what quality of photographs resulted because I pulled the film out of the camera, flung it at him after the wedding, and told him I was done.  I know he would have gotten better results if he had hired someone else.

When someone walks into a store and asks for invitations, pastries, photographic services and the like, they must know that if their project would violate the conscience and sensibilities of the business owner then the outcome would be less than favorable.  You may not force someone to violate their conscience for something that is any less than life threating. 

And yet, homosexual couples are trying to legally force small business owners to provide creative services for celebrations which those owners cannot in good conscience provide good service.  Are they doing this thoughtlessly, selfishly, or to prove a point.  I really think it is the latter. 

Let’s talk about the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.  Some people falsely believe that it requires everyone to be treated equally—that everyone is equal.  However, our founders were not blind.  They could see that individuals were not equal in life.  Some were strong, some weak, some poor, some rich, some sickly, some healthy.  What the Equal Protection Clause says is that the laws of the land must be equally enforced.  You don’ t have one law for the rich (e.g. they can pay their way out of mandatory military service) and one for the poor (they must serve and be killed).  You don’t have one law for people of European descent (they can live as free people) and another law for people of African descent (they can be treated like property).  Equal protection under the law does not mean that everyone gets served.  Remember “No shoes, no shirt, no service?” 

Now, lets address one of my pet peeves—redefinitions.  I have already used one word in this essay that has been redefined as a misspelling of tenant—a renter.  I’m sure you can find that word.  There’s a song from the musical, Oklahoma, with the line “I am as bright and as gay as a daisy in May.”  The redefinition is obvious to anyone who has enjoyed that musical.  And then there’s the redefinition of “baby.”  Or maybe I should call it the shifting definition.  When is a baby a baby?  Only when it’s born.  What expectant mother does not exclaim, “I am having a baby!”  It’s a baby to her when she knows she’s pregnant.  “We’re having a baby,” she says.  It’s a fetus to those who don’t want it to be a baby.  And now marriage is taking on a definition change, not a shift.  Marriage has always been the state of a relationship between a man and a woman that separated it from all other relationships.  Everyone everywhere at all times recognized that definition.  Now some want the definition to change so that marriage can be between any two persons of legal age.  But once it’s changed, it no longer holds its original meaning.  It means nothing.  Just like “gay” once meant frivolously happy.  That meaning is completely gone.  “Gay” now means homosexual.  The meaning has completely changed. 

I don’t think it’s a good thing to mess with meaning.  And certainly not if the word has existed with a strong meaning for hundreds of years (marry was first coined in the 1300’s but synonyms have been used almost since the beginning of time).  Don’t let people change the meaning.  Marriage is not a word invented or a law promulgated by the government.  Yes, the government can protect the people getting married by keeping close relatives from marrying, and requiring tests for diseases that would adversely affect the couple if they married.  But government may not redefine words to mean something that they never meant.  Not now, not ever. 

The word tenent disappeared, it has been changed to tenet—a strongly held belief or principal.  Gay can disappear.  I liked it, but it was not a terribly important word.  Marriage must not be made to disappear.  It is a very important word with an inherent meaning that may not be displaced or redefined. 

A pizza restaurant in Indiana is losing business because they said they would not cater a homosexual “wedding.”  They would serve anyone who comes into their restaurant.  But they drew the line at catering an event that strove to redefine marriage. 

Can marriage be redefined?  Yes, we have redefined other things.  But the question remains, just because we can, should we? 

We must never redefine words that function to sustain societies.  And that’s what marriage does. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Dream


It was a worm, slimy and gray, unmoving. Curling around nothing, slugslithering across the smooth surface.  Suddenly from above dropped a small, segmented, smooth caterpillar with black spots symmetrically situated along its length.
red wormThe worm surrounded that caterpillar and sucked it in, glowing red along its length shining into the void around it.
“Get it off me!  Get it off!” 
I looked up to see that red worm laying on his bald head. 
The next moment that worm was in the sink basin, in a small amount of water contained Kitchen_sink_drainin the sink stopper.  I watched it wiggle and squirm, not at all dismayed and certainly not destroyed by finding itself in water.  It did not die, but it must die.  It must be destroyed.
I grabbed a piece of bread, dumped the contents of the stopper into it, folded it and ate it.
This dream, what does it mean?
Slices_of_bread

Note: I have not been thinking about worms or slugs or anything slimy.  My night time reading has to do with Japanese/Chinese relations prior to the 2nd World War on the Island of Penang in Malaysia.



Sink Stopper photo by Stilfehler (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bread slices By Daniel Sone (Photographer) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, March 27, 2015

When Is 20% Not Enough or Shower Shelf Alternatives?

 

 

I’m not talking about the emails for enlarging part of your body or solving a problem you didn’t know you had.  No, these are legitimate offers Shower-Towelfrom brick and mortar stores.  For years I had been using one of these offers to solve a problem:  no shelves in the shower.  Yes, it’s a big problem, no place to put the soap or shampoo or conditioner bottle which we always purchase in the largest size.  So they end up on the floor.

We started with the 20% off coupon from the store and bought something that need to be assembled and stretched from the ceiling to the floor of the shower.  It was steel coated with something to resemble oil rubbed bronze.  It lasted for a few years and then began to crumble, leaving bits of rusted metal at our feet. 

When it finally collapsed, I again used the 20% off coupon and purchased one that wouldn’t rust—aluminum.  The problem was that even though it didn’t rust, it wasn’t sturdy enough.  When the last shelf broke off, I took my 20% off coupon in hand preparing to do it again at the brick and mortar store.

However, life got in the way, my trip was put off, and we stumbled over the bottles on the shower floor as I wondered whether it was even worth buying another shower pole.  Time passed.  Soap disappeared more quickly from laying in water on the shower floor.  I needed to buy more soap and by now I was sure that any pole would work. 

I picked up soap at a local store and then went to their limited aisle of bath and shower accessories.  There is saw it!  A suction cup shelf sporting four suction cups and certainly large enough for shampoo, conditioner, and soap.  At under $10, it was certainly worth a try.  No more $50 shower poles at 20% off! 

And yet, the brick and mortar store keeps sending me 20% off coupons.  Sometimes waiting awhile for inspiration to strike is worth more than 20%.  My impulse to make a 20% off purchase, would have cost more, taken up more space, and eventually rusted or fallen apart. The simpler solution took more time, more thought, but result in a better outcome.

What might you save if you took a little more time?  If you hit Delete?  If you considered alternatives, searched for alternatives?  Might you hit upon a better solution, one you’d never before conceived?  I did. 

 

Photo:  By dbfrom1kb1 (Amy) (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, February 20, 2015

Best Whole Wheat Bread

 

This is a little (just a little?) off topic.  I have spent time modifying my20150220_073652 favorite bread recipe so that it is entirely whole grain.  It makes 2 regular sized loaves.  Here’s how you make it.

 

Start with:

  • 4 cups of Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 packages or (1 T + 1.5 t yeast)
  • 3 T vital wheat gluten

Mix these together until well-blended.

Run your tap water and measure until it is 120 degrees (if it is not that hot, microwave the water until it is.

In large measuring cup or bowl, mix together:

  • 3.25 c. hot water
  • 1/2 c. honey (wild honey tastes the best)
  • 1 T vegetable oil

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just blended.  I use a Kitchen Aid mixer with dough hook, but you can mix by hand.  Put one more cup of flour on top to keep it warm, but do not mix in.  Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or more.   After the 10 minutes have elapsed, mix in the dry flour and gradually add 2-3 more cups of flour.  You want the dough moist and not forming into a ball. 

When it is moist but stiff enough to form, form it into a ball and then knead it a few times.  Form it into a ball again.  Spray a large bowl with cooking oil and roll the ball in the oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in a warm place to raise.  You do not want the volume to double.  If you are using the quick yeast it will take about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes at the proofing temperature of my Bosch oven.  It will take longer at cooler temperatures.

When it has risen, it will be almost twice as big as it was before and be filled with air.  Punch it down, divide it in half.  Take each half and form it into a cylinder and put in pre-oiled 9 x 5 loaf pan.  (If your pans are smaller you will use a smaller amount, but the dough should come up about 3/4 of the way on the pan.)  In the pan, punch it down again until it is filling all parts of the pan.

Put the pans in a warm place, cover with oiled plastic, and let rise until the bread is about 1 inch above the top of the pan.  Then raise the oven temperature to 375.  Brush or spray the top of the bread with water to make a nice crust,  and bake for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 120 degrees. (I recommend an instant read thermometer like the Thermo Pop or Thermo Pen). 

Remove from oven and let cool in pans 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on a rack.

Spread with butter and enjoy!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Goals, Goals, Goals and A Snippet

 

This year I finally found the impetus to begin writing again due to a beautifully Bethlehem 1800written memoir of an author’s year in Rome  (Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr).  Unlike that memoir, my historical fiction psychological thriller series (Eli’s Scrolls) takes place in the ancient Near East, in today's nations of Jordan, Israel, and Syria.  So, here's a snippet, in fact two paragraphs, to celebrate the 2nd month of the year, plus 5 sentences for the 5th day of the month.  The beginning of the first chapter of Eli's Scrolls: Book 1:  The Search. 

The night was darker than the coals of a long dead fire.  He had never seen a night like this one.  In the past, there had been times when the moon and stars had been cloud-blotted, but there were always sounds:  cricket chirps, a fire’s crackle, sheep’s baa’s.  In the deepest quiet of the night the wind would whisper and tickle his ears.  But this night was different.  There were no sounds, no stirrings, nothing at all.  Without any memory of arriving there, he thought he must be deep in some ancient cave.  He knelt and groped for the feel of anything, pebbles, dirt, a puddle, a twig, but wherever he reached he grasped only air. He shivered, hugged himself, and tried not to panic.  He struggled to breathe normally as he pushed against the ground, a surface like smooth rock, flat and slick like nothing he had ever felt. He stood, tremulous, and slid his feet forward ten paces without feeling a single ridge or undulation.  He reached for anything, hands grasping, reaching to the front, now to the side—but felt nothing.   Another ten, paces and he reached again.  How long could he go on like this: finding nothing, feeling nothing?

He strained to feel, to see, to hear, even the whiff of a breeze, the spark of a star, the gentle sounds of sleeping sheep.  He had no sense of direction or purpose, but on and on he strode, grasping, reaching from one side to the other, hoping only for the brush of a feather, a point of light, a sound in this night beyond all nights.  On and on he went.  But for Eli there was no illumination, no rumble of thunder, no stars above.  Into the silence he cried out the ancient words, “Baruch atah Adonai Elohenu Melech H’Olam.  Hineni. hineni”  Over and over he entreated the One whom he longed to know.  “Blessed are You Our Lord, King of the World.  I am here.  I am here.”  His feet faltered as he dragged himself onward.  He listened to his own breath whistling and wheezing, and he  flung it toward the heavens until his voice became hoarse.  He sank to his knees, his face bowed.  “Baruch atah Adonai Elohenu.  Hineni, hineni” he whimpered, flattening himself, and retreating into his own darkness until he was no longer conscious of the surface beneath him.  The darkness concealed him.  In it, he ceased to exist.

Suddenly, he felt his shoulder shaking under a weight and in that instant thoughts of Yahweh flittered through him and as quickly disappeared.  He grabbed the weight, finding it warm and soft,—an arm,  rolled onto his back, and dragging the weight with him clutched it close to his chest in the split second before a large body plummeted onto his torso and threatened to suffocate him.

“Watch it, Eli!” Ben yelled.

Ben. Eli struggled and pushed away hearing his reed mat crackle beneath him, and rolled onto the ground.

 

WIPpet Friday is a weekly blog hop where authors post snippets from their current Works in Progress. The Christian Fiction Edition is hosted by Alana Terry and Hallie Bridgeman.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Darkness and Light

 

I was recently enlightened to write again by a memoir I read.  MeropeSomething about darkness in a scene the author described lit a spark.  I realized that light and darkness (especially in our dark days of winter) are significant to everything we do and everything I write.  If nothing is hidden, there is nothing to be discovered; If everything is disclosed mystery vanishes.

I have an almost excessively bright reading light I inherited from my mother.  I think she purchased it because the stand looked cool.  She had a real eye for design.  She never used it for reading or any other task lighting so the original bulb is still in it.  And that bulb is a little scary.  CAUTION! it warns.  .  . RISK OF EXPOSURE TO ULTRAVIOLET RADIATION.  I dread having to replace that bulb or leaving it alone with children.  Nevertheless, it shows me every jot and every tittle on every page, the fingerprints on my Kindle, and the dust and cat hair everywhere.

But, what if we lived in a land of darkness where Jesus provided the light.  And what if that light was both risky and revealing.  And what if that light was both partial and full.  What if it was a light full of paradox and promise?

The memoir I read earlier this year prompted me to remember what happens when the light comes on.  All of a sudden our attention is redirected from the indistinct shapes of gloom to a point of clarity. 

And now that we’ve seen the light and know where to look, what about the darkness?  Why only a point of light?  Why not a light that casts it beam everywhere on everything.  Why not display the evil in the world so that it can be destroyed.  Why not burn through the walls of drug houses, sex houses, murder houses, theft houses so everyone can see the evil?  Why not expose everything?

Exposing evil generally leads to a better outcome.  That’s what the Fourth Estate--the news organizations—are supposed to do in our day.   The missing women in Chillicothe, OH have been highlighted, but we don’t know what happened before they disappeared or died.  Why do we see in part but not in whole?

What would it take to wipe out the evil around us? God promises to do that in the end, but what about today?  What about slavery and the evil people who enslave others on drugs?

And now a digression.  I recently read an article (really a commentary on a book) in Psychology Today that posits that fewer children are diagnosed with and taking drugs for ADHD in France than in the USA.  The theory is that French people raise their children in families with a frame and structure that makes the kids feel secure.  They know that have 4 definite meal times and they are not allowed food in between.  They know that the have set hours and duties.   Christians have that also:  we have the frame and structure of God’s way of living.  Other frames and structures are sweet but inadequate.

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

--The Solid Rock 

So, we need the light, but the darkness is comfort and protection, mystery and paradox.  My prayer for the year is that all would turn toward the light that is Jesus and that evil deeds done in darkness would be exposed, everything lost would be found, and that all might be able to live freely in Jesus’ frame.

 

Star picture "Merope" by Henryk Kowalewski - http://www.ccd.neostrada.pl/HTM/Merope.htm. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Merope.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Merope.jpg