I’m dealing with exhaustion and blurred vision due to my eyes being dilated today for an opthalmology consult so I’m just going to give you the poem that I’m reading for my devotion next week at Ladies’ Night Out. It’s a 19th century work by Sidney Lanier, a former Confederate soldier and fellow at Johns Hopkins University specializing in English lit.
I chose this one because I sang a setting of it during Lent 14 years ago. I found the arrangement but no audio file. Sorry!
Into the woods my Master went,
Clean forspent, forspent.
Into the woods my Master came,
Forspent with love and shame.
But the olives they were not blind to Him,
The little gray leaves were kind to Him:
The thorn-tree had a mind to Him
When into the woods He came.
Out of the woods my Master went,
And He was well content.
Out of the woods my Master came,
Content with death and shame.
When Death and Shame would woo Him last,
From under the trees they drew Him last:
‘Twas on a tree they slew Him — last
When out of the woods He came.
I’ve known the tune of the hymn “Let All Things Now Living” longer than I’ve known the actual hymn. The tune comes from a Welsh folk song called “The Ash Grove” and my mother used to love to play it on the piano when I was growing up. I learned of the hymn somewhere along the line but did not start loving it until I acquired Michael Card’s CD “Starkindler” in 2002 or 2003. When my grandfather was in the hospital in December 2005, a music therapist came in and offered to play the song. I sang the hymn while he accompanied me on guitar. I sang it again three months later during the week I spent in Washington with my mom before I had to say my final good-byes. (He died three weeks later.) My aunt and I sang the hymn at my grandfather’s interment of ashes while Jon and my evil twin brother Sean played the guitar. Almost a year and a half later, I was standing in Church #3 in Montana singing it while my mom and her siblings were placing the headstone on my grandfather’s grave.
Despite my history with the hymn, I love it and it’s a beautiful one for spring though we’re still in Lent at the moment. I love how it describes how all of nature answers to the authority of the Lord and how all things are to praise Him. There’s also the sheer beauty of the tune. (The Welsh rock in terms of hymn and folk tunes.)
Here are the lyrics:
Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving
To God the creator triumphantly raise.
Who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
Who still guides us on to the end of our days.
God’s banners are o’er us, His light goes before us,
A pillar of fire shining forth in the night.
Till shadows have vanished and darkness is banished
As forward we travel from light into light.
His law he enforces, the stars in their courses
And sun in its orbit obediently shine;
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
The deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.
We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing;
With glad adoration a Song let us raise
Till all things now living unite in thanksgiving:
“To God in the highest, Hosanna and praise!”
Here’s the Michael Card arrangement with Darwin Hobb’s rich African-American bass singing part of it as well.
Daniel’s IEP went well on Monday. I’m incredibly thankful that we’ve got a great staff at the local school (where they have all the preschool classes) and that they have an ABA preschool class where Daniel will go. I’ve heard horror stories about the school district in the town to the north and how hard it is to get services for your kids there. Daniel will start preschool on April 11th (his 3rd birthday is on Holy Saturday) and he’ll be in school Monday to Friday for 5 hours every day. The IEP team will meet again on May 11th and firm up goals and plans for things like physical and occupational therapy.
— 2 —
With Daniel starting preschool, I now have a new quandry: school lunches. I need to provide enough food for two snacks and Daniel isn’t feeding himself with a spoon yet. The complicating factor in this is that he also doesn’t know how to take bites out of something so it would need to be finger food. Got any suggestions? I’d welcome any and all input including how to teach him to take bites out of his food.
— 3 —
March seems to be going out like a lion here. After a wet week two weeks ago, we’ve had nice weather, rain on the weekend, and then rain the last couple days. It was pleasant enough to walk to my WIC appointment with Daniel this morning but it’s cloudy again and I think we’ll be getting more rain tonight. We do need the moisture but I sort of wish I could pick the days it would come.
— 4 —
Daniel has been using his “more” sign more and more. Considering that it took almost two years to get him to do it on his own, I’m pretty happy. He signed it to my mom last weekend when she was giving him lunch and he has done it at all his therapy sessions that happened this week. (Physical therapy got rescheduled to next week because it was a park date but was pouring by the time we got to Elk Grove.) I’m hoping to be able to teach him some more signs and have that be a help with communication. He already makes his needs known in non-verbal ways but he has to learn to communicate verbally somehow and signing can do that.
— 5 —
Daniel turns 3 in a little over a week. His birthday falls on Holy Saturday this year and it’s also the day of our church’s Easter Egg Hunt. I can’t believe that it’s been almost three years now since he was born. I don’t know if we have any Easter plans as of yet so I’m not sure how we’ll celebrate. All I do know is that next week’s Quick Takes will probably be solely Daniel-focused. We’ve already gotten some books for his birthday from my in-laws and my mom has done some clothes shopping for him.
— 6 —
“The Big Bang Theory” returns tonight. I’ve definitely missed it the past two weeks. Granted, we have Netflix and I can watch “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” or actually find out what all the “Downton Abbey” hype is all about, but my life is just not complete without seeing Sheldon being his asocial self.
This afternoon, I saw a link to the above article on the Twitter feed of Jennifer Fulweiler of ConversionDiary.Com. My first thought was “oh great… another Catholic vs. Protestant catfight”, especially after reading that the author doesn’t know if some of the people who attend his church are even Christians and seeing the Evangelical vs. Fundamentalist jokes at the beginning.
Then I saw the words baptismal regeneration and thought “well crap… it’s some uber-Reformed person shooting their mouth off” so I decided to go to the “who we are” page and read up on them. It turns out that it’s some people whose theological education is from Dallas Theological Seminary (actually a good seminary) who apparently failed to pay attention in their Church History classes because they seem to be ignorant (willfully or not) of the traditions of historical Christianity.
-They do not add books to the Bible — Luther subtracted. (The extras, the Apocrypha, essentially cover the time between the testaments and were taken out of the canon as they had nothing to do with Jesus.)
-They would argue that it does say in James that “faith without works is dead”. Most who are literate in their faith understand that their faith in Christ saves them and that the works are the fruit of their faith.
I’m not going to argue their views on Mary and the saints as it does not pertain to this subject and those are arguments for another time, should I choose to have them. The important thing here is to establish that Catholics and Orthodox and Protestants are all Christians, we all pray to the same God, and we all love Jesus. Asking the question of whether one group is saved over another is in bad taste and serves to drive people away from faith in God more than it brings them to it.
I’m wracking my brain to think of where I heard this song first but all I know is that I ordered the CD immediately upon hearing it. It’s on a CD called “New Irish Hymns” and at last count, there were 4. (I have 3 of them on my iTunes.) I’ve sung it once or twice in worship and I think the most amazing time was when I went into the medium security prison near where we lived in Montana and helped with worship. (I’ll write about my prison experiences another time.)
Another reason I like it is that it is theologically correct. I sometimes have a problem with contemporary praise songs because the words convey some seriously bad theology or it’s “Jesus is my boyfriend” stuff (translation: you could sing the song to your significant other and they wouldn’t be able to tell that it wasn’t a love song). This one, however, conveys the faith as laid out in the creeds.
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
And of course, we have the music. This recording is off of “New Irish Hymns” and has Margaret Becker, Joanne Hogg, and Maire Brennan singing.
I used to read Blag Hag because I believe in reading a variety of viewpoints. I had to stop, however, because any time I commented and expressed my shock at the bad behavior of conservative Christians, I had people essentially say, “Thanks for speaking up and by the way, you’re a twit for believing what you do.” Yeah. Thanks. It’s not like I had to struggle with my beliefs and it’s not like I’ve held the atheist viewpoint at any point in my life, right? (I have. I’m a convert to Christianity. Ask me about it some time.)
Having said all that, I heard about the Reason Rally and because I subscribe to Adam Savage’s Twitter feed, I saw several links to his speech there. As I’m a fan of the show, I decided to take a listen. I was not disappointed. (Warning: some questionable language)
Why is this speech not threatening to me as a Christian? Well, he’s not aiming to be offensive for one thing. Unlike P.Z. Myers, he’d like to understand viewpoints that differ from his. He wants to get along. This is refreshing.
Another reason this speech is not threatening: he sees the incredible in the advances we’ve made in the sciences and how awesome they are even if he doesn’t credit the divine for them. He sees the good in people. Granted, this is in opposition to us being sinful and broken people but it’s better than being called a bigot and closed-minded because I happen to acknowledge that I believe in sin.
I also happen to be OK with the dichotomy of Genesis and the theory of evolution. I’m not a young earth Creationist. I never have been and I probably never will be. Evolution was the part of Biology I liked the best and the unit test on which I scored the highest. It doesn’t mean that I don’t see God’s fingerprints in Creation nor does it mean that I completely negate Genesis. The Big Bang theory makes sense and is not in direct opposition to Genesis 1:1.
Most of all, I’m OK with the speech because I believe in listening to other people if they’re willing to at least entertain the idea that I’m entitled to my own beliefs.
Sometimes I feel like Paul at the Areopagus (sometimes translated as Mars Hill) because I see people putting science on a pedestal and sometimes in talking to people, I see something in them that wants to believe in something bigger than themselves but they feel like they’ll be ridiculed for doing so. Part of my struggle with Christianity in the years before I converted was how to reconcile the empirical data I find in science with the fact that the Bible states that the Lord created everything. It’s not my thorn but it’s something with which I wrestled — my tentatio. The way I ended up reconciling it is to accept the things we can empirically prove but to also accept that there will be things we cannot explain and that it is perhaps not my place to know the origin of everything. One annoying thing that western Christianity does is parse out every mystery of God — Orthodox theology is more content to let some things remain a mystery and I find that it is easier to work with that particular paradigm rather than the one in which everything is parsed.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
–Isaiah 55:8-11 (NIV)
And I seriously agree with the guy who comes on at the end of the video: it would have been cool if Adam had blown something up. It is not, however, prudent to do so on the Washington Mall at this point in time.
I’m blocked in terms of what to write so I went and googled “C.S. Lewis quotes” to find something for inspiration:
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” (HT: Brainy Quote)
This is not a total surprise because we as Christians are so consumed with the world in which we inhabit. We’ve created sanitized versions of secular books, music, and culture to enable us to live in this world that I think we forget at times that we’re not of this world and as such, we should be directing our thoughts toward where we are going and the things that will get us there. Social justice seems to be absent from many (though not all) large evangelical churches and usually found in the mainline or liberal Christian traditions. Considering how derisively these traditions are spoken of by conservative Christians, isn’t it ironic that they’re doing the work that Jesus commanded us to do? I know that there are a lot of conservative evangelical churches doing amazing things with outreach but they’re not the ones I hear about hosting food pantries, running soup kitchens, collecting clothes for the homeless, rounding up school supplies for disadvantaged children, and actually getting into things enough to get their hands dirty. What does that say about their focus and what they are teaching their members?