November 03, 2006

Solomon & why he hated life

Many Christians could probably give you a one-sentence idea of what the book of Ecclesiastes talks about. But it is worth a second look. Recently I have started to study Ecclesiastes. Briefly, here are a few things I'm noticing--and it is exciting to learn these things!
- The term 'under the sun' or similar terms are key to this book. I think this is a signal that this book is written about life on earth...from quite an earthly perspective, often.
- The Preacher (Solomon) spoke as a very depressed man. He hated life. He said life was grievous, futile, and despaired of living. Sounds like a man who might commit suicide. I had never seen his depression as something so profound.
- Solomon's depression is just a 'reverberation' of the effects of the curse upon man in Gen. 3:17-19. For example, see how Solomon's distress in Ecc. 2 is due to frustrating work and inevitable death (both results of sin). Man's God-given job is to take care of the earth, but sin has made it very hard. Not only has work become hard, but a man works only to leave all his earnings to another who will come after him. Work is hard, death is worse.
- Solomon did not kill himself because he knew that there really was meaning to this life, as the end of chapter 2. But to the one who doesn't know the Purposer of life, there is no joy or meaning to life. Do suicides surprise you? Some people out there realize what Solomon did--"work is hard, death is worse"--but they don't believe in the Creator...so what is left to do but to stop living?
Charlie Clough says that our N.A. culture is profoundly intellectually depressed. Ecclesiastes is the wisest man (excepting the God-man) in the world, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, laying out for us why the pagan finds life so depressing...and they're the same reasons now as they were then.

November 01, 2006

Reality

Do you see the agricultural machinery on your right? Keep going straight and turn when you see the church. The church with the new sign, you’ll know it when you see it.

Wooden stacking chairs, typical for a church basement, carefully brought up the steps to the sanctuary for latecomers. Competing for the brightest red: curtains and carpet. Reminds me of a Sunday morning. Stacks of open faced sandwiches on round trays sealed with Saran wrap. Brownies probably purchased by some kind-hearted, buxom church-going woman. This could be any Sunday luncheon. On the wooden pews, grey heads are nodding and occasionally a hearty “Amen!” can be heard from seven rows ahead. Farmers in their cowboy boots and waxed moustaches sit alongside ladies in green pants and purple sweat-tops. A large man at the front speaks of hope and a place where sore knees will be no more. What looks like a Sunday morning is really the end of an earthly life, at least for the wife of this small-town mechanic.

During my four hours in this small town in Alberta the city seems far away. Here in a church basement stands a brand-new widower, a narrow man with little life today. His face is lined and creased like a used napkin. Last month he had a 30th wedding anniversary. This month he pulled out his suit for an occasion of a different sort. The son is a younger version of his mechanic father, minus the wrinkled face. His new cowboy boots and string tie catch my eye below and above the expanse of grey suit. The suit he was wearing in the family picture next to mom’s ashes. The daughters, 21 and 22, seem so calm considering that they will now be stretching into womanhood and marriage without a mother. Jokes fly about how the younger never knew that her mom used to ride a motorcycle. Flower arrangements are carried to the cars. No one wants to deliberate much in the parking lot because the October wind feels like January. Hugs. Dashes to cars. How quick we could be to forget the solemnity of this surreal event as we step back to our realities.

I need some wiper fluid, so we’ll stop at the gas station. Wow, gas is so cheap here.

How am I going to remind myself that for this family, the mother's death has marked the beginning of a new reality? When the lasagnas stop coming to the door and the seasons walk by, who will remember the lady whose photos sat on the table below the pulpit? The quiet man with the crinkled face? The three children?

October 23, 2006

Doctrine's Outworking: Imminency of Christ's Return teaches Purity

Continuing somewhat on the theme of my last post, the our understanding of "doctrine" (Bible teaching) shows itself in our lifestyles, there is a "practical outworking" of those things that grind between the gears in our heads.At the church that I attend the people really believe that Jesus could come back at any time and take us, children of God, to be with God in Heaven. Thus, when they make the announcements for church activities they often say "We plan our meetings in the will of the Lord. If Jesus doesn't come back this week, these are the meetings we plan to have...". I have been taught the imminency of Christ's return, but it hasn't really sunken in. If I really set my mind on that truth, I would live more purely, knowing that I might see Christ tonight, tomorrow, or the next day. If I believe it, I will seek be pure...in a world cloaked in filth.
As the apostle John, inspired by the Spirit, put it in 1 Jn 3:2-3, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears,we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."
Lord, I want the truth of your anytime-return to be more than information in a filing cabinet in my head. I want it to shine out of my eyes, I want it to pour through my lips, I want it to touch others through my hands. I want it to be real to me, so that I live it.

October 02, 2006

slips of summer

slips of summer
skitter
no, slip,
no, now scrape
across the rough pavement
sad, s l o w
saying silent send-offs
reluctant,
restless,
wrenching,
roaming into the land of the
dry and dying
dregs of dreams.

oh the brisk
blustering breeze
whispers words,
wants, wishes
what if…?
why not…?
waltz with the wind
I will give you wings

unsure, un-won
uncommitted
but suddenly gone
fluttering, forced
finding flight

now where were wisped-edges,
an angular
shadow-shape stands,
sighing,
sorrowing,
bowed boughs,
frowning frame
terrifying yet tearful
taken:
his tiny tresses.

Sept 30

September 14, 2006

Fall is here

Last night the mid-September wind ripped its way around my edges as I stood waiting for my bus and watching the storm clouds billow far above the mall roof. Man thinks he is so powerful with his high vaulted rooves, storm-proof walls: look at the dominion he has created for himself! But could he ever stack the clouds, turn them a shade of grey-green and then bring claps of thunder and torrents of rain? The cloud-towers remind me of the Lord who made and commands them. Man is proud. Let man's heart be softened, Lord.
I wore my flannel pijamas last night and this morning I wanted to wear my mittens but I didn't have time to find them. The gutters slosh with water and oil glistens on the black streets. Tinted bus windows display a grey sky. Fall has announced its arrival with a rainstorm.


August 09, 2006

In recent days in the wonderful land of Canada, serial pedophile Peter Whitmore waltzed off with two young boys from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Whitmore was found near Kipling, SK and is charged with abduction and sexual assault causing bodily harm to both children and forcible confinement of the 10-year-old.

I didn't know any of this happened until I came back from camp and the law already had Whitmore in custody. But I was disgusted to read the list of Whitmore's past offences. He has been jailed at least three times for being a sexual predator of minors, but each time, after he gets out of jail, he goes and does it again. Once he served a 56-month jail term...only to go out and practice his sins again. Each time, he comes out and destroys another little child's life.

Months ago someone pointed out to me that in the Bible God did not teach people to have a prison for people who did misdeeds. In prison criminals can chat it up. They pool their evil ideas. They can come out, like Whitmore, not repentant at all. Still bent on sexual perversion. The person who was talking to be about what God instructed in the Bible said that in Scripture we see either death to the offender or restitution being made, but never a jail term. I have not studied that topic in the Bible, so for now I am taking his word for it.

The Calgary Sun from Aug 4 said that Whitmore's lawyer was asking that Whitmore not be declared a dangerous offender. Are the courts blind? Are the judges' ears stopped? Whitmore is a dangerous offender. He will attack another child if he is freed again. Today his lawyer is requesting that Whitmore be treated for this sickness called pedophilia by being put in a psych ward.

Here's another idea for Brodsky, the lawyer. Capital punishment would be an effective deterrent. If these men knew they were going to be killed if they ever got caught abusing children, maybe they'd think a little more before they sinned. And they wouldn't get to teach others their sickening tricks, or get to hurt any more children.

Where is one's hope in this life, if they do not know that there really is One just Judge, who will one day rule in righteousness?

August 06, 2006

The State of the Sexes

Ever since I got into a Bible study on gender this past year I have been alert to articles, specifically secular ones, that address that area. They abound.

Today I read an article in a homemaker magazine that explained men (finally!). The evolutionary psychologists, etc. that the writer quoted helped her to discover that men's tendancies stem from thousands of years ago, from before or from since "got down from the trees". For example, men are attracted to curvaceous women because thousands of years ago they realized that those were the women that were more likely to be fruitful and multiply. Men have a hard time sticking to one partner (I am quoting the article) because years ago they were trying to preserve their family lines. Menget thishave a harder time distinguishing between colours because really they just used to run around hunting animals. Women, who worked with various types of berries, etc. developed better colour recognition over many, many years.

How sad that a nice little homemakers' magazine publishes this article as fact when it is speculation. They didn't even say "Those who believe in an evolutionary viewpoint will agree that...". It is stated as if that is the only paradigm through which the world can be viewed. As the Scripture says, we want to think that things always continue as they have been...no flood, no future judgement...no Divine intervention.

The Bible has a lot to say on gender issues, but it doesn't say that we got where we are through millions of years of evolving. So much could be said on this issue, but suffice it at the moment to say that the state of the sexes does involve trees, but not in the way that the writer of that article mentioned. We (in Adam) got down something we shouldn't have from a tree. Then One (the second Adam) got up on a tree to reverse the wrong so that we can eat again from the tree that God wanted us to eat from—that tree of life. If we would only admit that we were created by a personal God, that we sinned and need saving, that would be a gigantic step to understanding ourselves. Does it seem insulting to admit that you are sinner? Well, is it not insulting to say you came from a zoo animal?

No, I know, it runs far deeper than merely being insulting.

June 28, 2006

They cannot even save themselves...


"Your personal guide to the future" Seems like ever since Adam and Eve, people's tendancy is to want to know what is withheld from them. To be like God...or really to be better than God, like Lucifer wanted. Here's what God told Isaiah to say...

"You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, 'No one sees me.' Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, 'I am, and there is none besides me.' Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away...."Keep on, then, with your magic spells and with your many sorceries...Perhaps you will succeed, perhaps you will cause terror. All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame."
Isaiah 47:10-14 (NIV)

Who are you trusting?

May 27, 2006

My phone rang at 9 am, reminding me that I had an appointment at noon, at Scotia, with Kayla.* The bank had not to worry, I was not forgetting that I had a meeting to talk about my request for my first credit card. I entered Scotiabank, the bank with the slogan You are richer than you think, thinking that it should be quite simple to apply for plastic. Well, the blonde lady was kind, but my request was not so easy. It might be that her boss will allow me to get a card anyway, but as it stands my income is not quite high enough for the regular working-person’s credit card. I may be richer than I think, but I am not rich enough to receive a Scotia VISA on first request.

From the bank I went to the coffee shop for my almost five-hour shift. Early in the afternoon, I saw a bearded peddler coming to our door. His arms were piled high with boxes of pots and pans. Before he stepped through our doorway I had already decided that I wasn’t going to pretend to be interested in his wares. He spoke to me. I didn’t need a frying pan? Did my boss need one? I picked up some dimes from the floor and acted very uninterested. No matter, did I need a windup LED flashlight? A hunting knife? He realized that I was not going to buy anything. “You just don’t need nothing, do ya?” “Not really,” I said. He went on his way.

As he took his load to someone else’s shop, his words parked in my head. In the quiet of the shop, I realized that he spoke more truthfully than he realized. A friend’s e-mail this week reminded me of the verse in Ephesians 1:3 that says that we have been “blessed…with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Inspired by the same Spirit, Peter wrote that God’s “…divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3). It’s a pity that I don’t remember it more often, but I really am richer than I think. I don’t need nothing, to quote the peddler.

I don’t have enough, monetarily, to get a credit card on my first try. But what the blonde lady couldn’t know by looking at the numerals of my income, and what the peddler didn’t know from my closed wallet, is that I really do have everything I need. I don’t have a credit card or a pan set, an LED flashlight or a hunting knife. But I have everything I need. Every spiritual blessing.

May 20, 2006

The town yawns. The grass is lazy in the prairie wind and the cloudless sky stretches on endlessly. Quiet. Gravel crunches under the van tires and the brown-green ditches show the first signs of spring. It is late April 2006. Glimmering in the sunlight, the bike racks in front of the town’s only school speak of the children within the building’s double doors. The town ladies meet weekly for coffee and quilting. One year they gave a homemade quilt to every bachelor in the town. This is the town where everyone seems to know everyone else’s business.

Memories meet me when I visit the town of C. They link arms with me on the bush-lined school playground. They traipse with me by the church and toward Grandpa’s now-sold blue-and-white house. We saunter through the two-hill park and into the backyard of either of the cream stucco rental houses that once housed my family. I recall C-life.
I lived in C for two-and-a-half years of my life. The years I spent in C were not really years I treasured. C was my holding place until I could go back home; the year of greetings, coldness and travel between warm frolics south of the equator. Could I ever live in C again?
Main street holds a new store called the Whatnot Shop. Nearly every nook of the former dentist’s office is filled with second-hand goods. Volunteer-operated, the Whatnot Shop earned $20,000 in ten months. Community spirit evidences itself as the town members help each other by giving away their older items and purchasing what they need so that funds can go to the local Sportsplex.
A mechanic, motorcyclist and emergency medical responder, Kevin is also pastor of one of the local churches. In his simple, down-to-earth manner, Kevin shares God’s Word from the top of his stool. He begins the Bible study I attend by framing the Bible story--I am a little rusty on the book of Ezra, and thankful that he takes the time to explain the context of passage. Free of city-like time constraints, the pastor teaches for over an hour. My heart is warmed by the Word of God. Do I have to come to small-town Saskatchewan to hear the Bible taught with such clarity?
Grandpa’s apartment is furnished with those things that were left after he moved out of his house and had a garage sale. Some days must be pretty lonely, as the three dining room clocks tick and there are few visitors to occupy Grandpa’s time. Like the sun that wanes outside his window, Grandpa’s short-term memory is fading, but from his lips comes the tune Brighten the Corner Where You Are. He doesn’t forget the old hymns.
No, I sigh, I don’t want to live in C. But on the city streets swarming with cell phone-carrying individuals, I won’t be likely to find the same community spirit I see in C. I’m likely going to have to search through the massive church index to find that simple Bible teaching like I heard in the small town. To the corner where I am, I want to carry something I learned in C: helping others matters. One person makes a difference. Brighten the corner where God puts you.