What's It About?

It’ll be about me, and you, and the ways that we are holding fast to the One Who is Good in big stuff and little stuff. I’ve been through stuff. You have too. Sometimes it’s been a rush, sometimes a jarring ride, and at times we ended up in the drink. I don’t know about you, but with the help of some friends, I’m in training to weather the ride by ”holding fast to that which is good”. The ride isn’t over, and I invite you along on the journey. I think too much, that’s all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thoughts on Friends and Friendship

Someone recently asked the following question on a page on Facebook which I visit often:

"What is your definition of friendship"?

Here is my answer. I thought it was an apt portrayal of the thoughts that whirl around in my head about the subject.

I have a handful of people I consider "friends". The list consists of mostly close family, with one or possibly two exceptions. One of those exceptions is a friend I made in high school who has stuck with me all these years (do NOT ask how long ago that was. Neither of us can afford to answer). She came to be with me when my husband was killed. A few years later she called one day when I was really down, and offered to make that call every week--and we've kept the tradition for probably 10 years now. It has literally kept me sane--and her, too. She needs it as much as I do. That's a friend, in my definition. Another of those exceptions is a person I've never met in real life. Someday we hope to meet. We don't talk often, and when we do it is through electronic means. But this is definitely a friendship by my definition.

Some people's definition of "friend" is pretty wide. It is so wide that it could be defined by saying "all people whom I don't care to shoot on sight are my friends". There are people around town who call me "friend", but we haven't had anything to say to one another in years.

But then, there's the language thing. What do you call someone with whom you used to be friends and hold some common interests, but for whom that is no longer the case? You didn't get mad at one another and part ways--life just changed for both of you. Does that mean you're not friends anymore? If you want to tell someone that you know someone who does, say, interior design, and it's that person that you used to be good friends with but haven't spoken to them in years, do you say "I have a friend in the business" or do you say "I have an acquaintance"? "Acquaintance" sounds a little cold, and like you may not know them well enough to recommend their work. But friend is a bit more than they really are. And what if you said "acquaintance" and the person you are talking to did business with them and said you called them an "acquaintance". Would their feelings be hurt? Would that end the relationship? Or was the relationship over long ago?

There's not, like, a WORD for something between a friend and an acquaintance. So you've got to make a value judgment every time you think about that person.

On the other hand, I don't consider you a "friend" unless the relationship is rather high on the "mutual and reciprocal" meter. I got really tired of those friendships (several of them with family members) that were the kind where I would call them, I would invite them, I would initiate chats and dinners out with them, but they would never reciprocate. So I pretty much just emotionally jettisoned them. 

There's no evidence that they noticed. 

As a result I have very, very few people I put in my "friend" box now. I may call you a friend when speaking of you to someone else because you're more than an acquaintance, but you're not in the "friend" box in my mind. And I'm getting pretty lonely in here...

I know, I'm busy. I don't have the time and flexibility I used to have when I was a SAHHSM (Stay At Home Home Schooling Mom). Maybe it's that you can't seem to connect with me. Still, I've got stuff to do, and don't really have time to be constantly maintaining relationships with people who don't seem to care whether I am around or not. Have you even tried to contact me? It feels like begging, or paying for favors, when I am the one who constantly asks, calls, cooks, gives, and invites. Sure, you act like you're having a good time when you're with me, but if I never call you afterwards, you wouldn't call me to check on me or anything. I think you probably wouldn't even notice.

Of course, I'm no great catch as a friend, myself. I'm opinionated, busy, task-driven, quirky, and sadly lacking in the compassion department. For various very good reasons, I don't do girlfriend shopping, ladies' bible studies, Pampered Chef/Mary Kay/Scentsy parties; I never know what to do for people when they are having a crisis, though I long to say and do the things that would be comforting and helpful--though if we are friends and you ASK me to do something for you, I will move heaven and earth and get it DONE. 'Cause that's how I roll.

Oh, and I'm a diva. I want it to be about ME sometimes. I know that can put some pressure on a relationship.

So...*shrugs*. I choose loneliness over begging and paying for favors. I'm friendly when approached, and if a true, reciprocal friendship grows out of that, that's nice. And I have two definitions for the word "friend". One I can use in public, in conversation with everyone, and one that defines who gets into my 'inner sanctum'.

I invest in those people who are already in that inner sanctum. They are few and far between, but they "get" me, and I "get" them. We can and do serve God together, edify one another, and encourage one another in the faith. You know who you are, and you are people I am pleased and honored to call "friends". You are precious gifts to me, and I thank God for you.

Feel free to post your thoughts about friends and friendship or about my post in the comments. I'd be interested in your point of view.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Comet Hunting Success

A short report just to record that I caught my first comet with Stargirl tonight. Comet 168P Hergenrother officially goes down in history as my first comet bagged! It being a work night, I didn't have much time, and I'd been waiting several days for the clouds to clear. But tonight, the sky was gorgeous, so I grabbed Stargirl and my sketching supplies and went hunting.

From the information I had gathered, I thought perhaps I might find the comet on my own, without using the GoTo software on the hand controller. After about an hour of quartering the area in Pegasus where Heavens Above had it pinpointed, I saw a very, very tiny fuzzy spot. I had already been fooled by a couple of double stars, so I wasn't too hopeful when I changed from the 25mm EP to the 10mm, but for sure it was the comet, as fuzzy as you please next to the star points.

Although I had the sketching materials with me, I chose not to try to sketch the comet; partly because I was too excited and just didn't want to take my eye away from the eyepiece long enough, but also because I had not aligned the scope, therefore could not engage tracking, which of course meant, with such a high power EP that I had to manually track the comet constantly just to keep it in the EP.

And you know what? I'm comfortable with that. Because this is a hobby, and I can do it any way I choose. Perhaps another night this week I will go looking after aligning and attempt a sketch just for posterity. But if I don't, it will still be ok.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Stargazing 9.22.12

It has been really difficult to get out and observe since starting the new job. But cooler nights have brought the stars out into their best viewing. So even though my son and granddaughter are here (daughter-in-love is at a women's conference), I decided to try to get out and do some gazing. I set my alarm for 3.

I was viewing 10 or 15 minutes later. My usual method is to stand outside for a minute just looking up. Sometimes it is the time I finally persuade myself that yes, it is going to be worth losing sleep over. I find the constellations I know: I'm getting to know so many, yet there are so many I don't know! Of course, Orion dominates the sky at this time of night this time of year. Sirius was barely visible when I went out, but he was well up by the time I came in. I rarely have the opportunity to see much of Eridanus and Cetus. Tonight I didn't know what constellation was in that area, so I noted some asterisms, and I find those two constellations are what I was seeing. I know Eridanus runs from Orion's foot...why can't I remember it?

After looking at the sky for a bit I maneuvered the scope out to my viewing site and grabbed my rolling tote, which is supposed to have all my sketching and viewing supplies in it. I decided to do some manual looking around first, and went straight for Jupiter, saving the Orion nebula as a treat for later on.

Because the viewing conditions were so good, I was able to get a fabulous view of Jupiter. The air was quite still and I was able to see 3 bands. I decided to take the challenge of sketching it, and I had decided some time ago to try a different approach to sketching: I want to try sketching in draft, then, with the help of the draft and notes taken, do the actual sketch during daylight. Jupiter was the perfect opportunity to try out this method.

It was during this time that I discovered that if I want to track something, Stargirl has to be aligned. [insert pulling hair icon here!]. So, align her I did, then got the Jovian planet back in the EP and turned to get my supplies out for sketching. Turned out that my clipboard had gone missing, or was never replaced from some time before. But I was able to make a draft anyway.

Here is the finished sketch of Jupiter. I am quite pleased with it, though I would have preferred to render the colors more accurately: the white was definitely an off-white, and the bands were definitely a light tan color. If I'm going to sketch planets and things that might have small color gradations, I might need to find some proper supplies for same. Also, one thing I don't like is that I got the angle of the bands just a little too acute--I'll try harder next time. Also need to look into hints and tips for scanning so I can get better digital results.

After that I decided to treat myself to my first view of the Orion Nebula of the year. It was magnificent under the awesome seeing conditions, and I spent quite a bit of time studying it. I didn't try to sketch it: it and all the other beautiful sketches I've seen of it always intimidate me. But I studied it anyway, thinking that any careful observing I do now can only help in the future should I decide to try my hand at it. The seeing was so good I was able to see some rather subtle grayscale gradations and shapes that I'd never noticed before. I mostly used the 10mm.

I can't remember if I was looking at the nebula or had moved on at that point, but around 4:20 some coyotes started to sing--it was quite hauntingly beautiful, and always makes me smile. Silly dogs.

Subsequently I spent some time looking at open clusters in Auriga. A couple of those would be fun to sketch sometime. Not far from M38, I spotted a very small fuzzy. On closer inspection, it seemed to be a rather small or perhaps very distant open cluster.

There's no name for this little grouping of stars that I can see, but it was neat to find it. I will look for further information when possible.

By this time it was getting pretty chilly out, and I was losing interest, so I packed up.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Legalism by any other name would stink as bad"

In my new position as a public school employee, I was required a week or so ago to accompany 300+ sixth graders to an assembly program that had been approved by our predominantly Christian administration. Before I continue, I need to say the following: I highly respect our administrators and appreciate their strong Christian stance and presence in our school system. I understand what they are hoping to do, and I honor that commitment, especially since it is somewhat of a risk.

As we entered the auditorium, team members from the organization presenting the assembly were lined up on the way to the door, wearing matching t-shirts and big smiles, and giving high fives to each and every child. Although I didn't recognize all of them, I did notice that several local churches were represented in the line-up of team members. Before we even reached the doors, the pounding popular music could be heard. Excitement built. The students were definitely being stimulated. Metabolisms were racing.

Inside, the bass was so intense that my internal organs were vibrating to the beat. Some students were chosen to dance at the front of the auditorium, further inciting the other students to participate.

It didn't take me too long to figure out what was about to happen. I had heard about these types of assemblies, but as a long term home schooling mom, I had never actually encountered one. These assemblies are designed to inspire students to better behavior, and as a bonus they get an invitation to an event in the evening that supposedly presents the gospel clearly--which is not allowed during the actual assembly during school hours on school property. ( Because we have freedom from religion in this country, dontcha know...but that's a post for another time.)

As I recall, candy-coated with lots of loud popular music and games and silliness, there was a segment on how important it is to listen to the right voices in your life. This was, perhaps, the most truthful and helpful part of the entire assembly--it was also the shortest.

There was a segment on hate speech and bullying. Central to this segment was a video in which mouths of numerous people were seen and heard speaking denigrating words. A dynamic and engaging fellow in his early thirties (but dressed like and acting like he was in his late teens) gave a sermonette on how he used to be annoying and hateful, but now he sees how bad that was and he isn't that way any more because he learned that being nice is better. A young woman who was born with severe deformities and handicaps was paraded out and talked about how bad it felt to be treated hatefully because she was different, and how every one should be nice to people like her.

Then there was a segment on saying no to drugs and alcohol. The young man bounced out into the audience again to tell how he once decided to go to a party where there would be drugs and alcohol, and how he was strong enough to resist and demand to be taken home instead of staying and participating.

Lastly, there was a moment when a few students were called down front and given certificates saying "we believe in you" as an encouragement to the students to "dream big dreams".

The frustrating thing about the entire experience of attending the assembly was seeing so much effort, so many good intentions, so much money, planning and hope invested in a totally useless, yea, even harmful message being perpetrated on students. All I could think of during the entire presentation was the fact that here was one of the worst examples of oppressive legalism I had ever witnessed. And it was perpetrated by Christians...not really surprising, since Christians have been the perpetrators of legalism for centuries. But in this case, each of the Christians involved would be horrified and offended if they were confronted with their crime.

Perhaps you may be wondering what in the world I'm talking about. After all, students need to behave, need to act lovingly, need to avoid drugs and alcohol, need to have dreams and need someone to believe they can accomplish their dreams, right? And candy-coating that message with a lot of fun and games might motivate them more, right?

While this is all true, the fact that it was legalism is also true. Legalism and a hefty dose of moralism.

The message of the entire program was this: BE NICE. Just BE NICE. Quit being MEAN. Don't do this. Don't do that. Using these words, doing these actions is shameful. SHAME ON YOU. BE NICE. Here are the rules about what is NICE. Rule, rule, rule, rule. Don't taste, don't handle, don't touch…

Sound familiar?

20       If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21       “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22       (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23       These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Col 2:20–23). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

This event was spawned, orchestrated, and carried out because of a faulty understanding of the gospel.

Allow me to remind you that my understanding of the gospel is based in a Reformed perspective of the bible, the gospel, and the doctrines of grace. In particular as related to this post, I firmly believe that God saved me before time began. I did nothing to deserve it. I did nothing to achieve it. I can do nothing to lose it. Before God resurrected my spirit, it was as dead as a cemetery full of dead bodies. I couldn't do anything right, I didn't have any idea that there was anything wrong with me, and even if I had, I would have been as helpless to do anything about it as my husband was the day we held his funeral. I can tell you that the experience of bending over him in his coffin to place a kiss on his forehead convinced me how final death is: it didn't even feel like the same forehead--it was hard, cold, and unresponsive. He could not choose anything.

My inclination to anything good was just that dead the day before God resurrected my spirit.

That's how we all are. That's how a large majority of those 300+ sixth graders were the day of that assembly.

Allow me also to remind you of one of Jesus' main themes during his life on earth. He HATED legalism.  He HATED those who perpetrated legalism on others. Here are some scriptures highlighting this theme in scripture:

2       “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3       so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4       They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Mt 23:2–4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Why am I saying that this program is equal to the legalism and heavy burdens of the Pharisees? Because just like the Pharisees, this program presented all the rules--rules upon rules upon rules about how to JUST BE NICE PEOPLE--without presenting the heart of the gospel. The students were given no reference point. How are they to JUST BE NICE when they are spiritually dead? Why should they be nice? Isn't just being a kid being nice? How are they to care about being nice people when their current nature is in enslaved rebellion toward the only One Who can give them the power to be nice?

BE NICE BECAUSE I SAID SO doesn't cut it. BE NICE BECAUSE IT WILL MAKE A BETTER WORLD is ineffective because every student believes that getting what they want makes a better world. BE NICE BECAUSE IT'S NOT NICE TO BE MEAN makes no impression, because being mean is all they know.

I fear that there's an idea out there that if Christians can get people to act right, then it won't be so hard to convince them to become Christians.

I fear that Christians have an idea that if they just get everybody to behave better, they'll like it so much they will stop resisting salvation.

At the very least, I fear that there is an idea among Christians that if people will just stop acting sinfully, the world will be such a much nicer place and that everyone will see that acting nice is a good idea.

I fear that the organization that presented the assembly as well as the administration of our school system are all infected with the ideas I fear listed above.

This was a sad day, in my opinion, for those students who were subjected to that presentation. Although they didn't realize it, and although they had fun, they failed to hear the real answer to the problems. They were simply told to grab themselves by the bootstraps, pull themselves up, and make themselves into nice people because nice people are nice.

(Oh, but you'll say, don't forget that the organization presented the gospel at the evening event. That makes everything ok. But it doesn't. It doesn't make it ok because 99% of the students will not show up for the evening event. It doesn't make it ok, because if your idea of the gospel is that you pray a prayer and then you follow a bunch of rules to make God happy because He died for you, that's not the saving gospel. It doesn't make it ok because drawing students in with a bunch of worldly music and fun is the wrong perspective to put on the gospel. It doesn't make it ok for a dozen other reasons.)

Rank, hopeless legalism.

I left the assembly aching. My ears ached. My liver ached. And my heart ached for all those students upon whom had been placed an even heavier burden.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stargazing 7.13.12 and 7.14.12

I'm embarrassed and laughing to report that I had forgotten that I meant to keep up my astronomy journal on this blog… =0D , and now I have so much to write to catch up!

At the beginning of summer I discovered that many people sketch what they see when stargazing. I didn't like the plan of sketching black on white, which is the usual practice--I didn't think I could make the transition to a negative image. But then I found that there is a technique called the Mellish technique, which uses black paper and white pastels, pencil, and ink to record what is seen. That made sense to me, and I invested in the materials to begin adding that as part of my hobby.

Those are some of my first sketches.

Moving on to last night and tonight…

Catching a good sky has been difficult this summer. Fortunately we have been getting a little rain. That's good, but makes for nights full of sleep since there's nothing to see but clouds. Finally, though, I checked the clear sky chart yesterday afternoon, and sure enough there was going to be some nice, clear dark skies. So I set my alarm for 2:50, as that seemed to be the best time to catch the targets I was hankering to look at. The moon would not have risen yet, and both M31 Andromeda Galaxy and the Ring Nebula would be in the sky.

My big mistake last night (7/13) was failing to realize how humid it was outside. As a result, it took quite some time for all lenses to warm up and defog, and I still had to limit my viewing because when I would remain at the eyepiece too long they started fogging up. The binoculars never did unfog properly. In spite of that, I got some good views. Found Andromeda, then found it with my naked eyes, then with the binoculars, clouded over as they were. That's one advantage of GoTo...you CAN learn the sky with it, it's just a reverse process, and you have to be willing to do the work.

As an aside, I'm happy to report that I can now spot several constellations that I had not learned before. These include Cygnus, Aquila, Delphinus,  Hercules, Andromeda, Lyra, Libra, Bootes and Corona Borealis.

I did no sketching that night, but here is what I posted on Facebook as a report of what I saw…

"Exciting stargazing morning! Set my alarm for 2:50...but forgot to turn it on. Nevermind...God got me up at 2:55. Before long I had the Andromeda Galaxy in my lens--tried with the binoculars, but they kept fogging up (note to self: there's a reason dew control is a big issue on all the astronomy forums). The scope wasn't so bad, though the lenses tended to fog at first until I started keeping them in my pocket. I didn't see any of the companion galaxies but I saw Andromeda. Then I bagged the Ring Nebula! I'd never seen that one before. It took quite some time to find it, because the handset quit talking to the batteries right around then, and then to decide which lens was best (the 10mm, in case anybody is wondering).

Then I turned around and discovered that while I had been exulting over the Ring Nebula, Venus and Jupiter had risen in the East. I saw Venus in crescent phase! That's how I knew it was Venus, because it was obviously in phase. Jupiter was great...all four Galilean moons were visible. Then I looked up and there was my old friend The Seven Sisters. With this stellar (ahem ;P ) list of objects viewed for the night, I decided to pack it in while I was ahead.

"The Heavens declare the glory of God!" Indeed."

I also took a good look at the moon in last quarter--one doesn't often see it that way. I can't describe the delight I experienced in seeing Venus and Jupiter. And the Ring Nebula, though it was tainted a bit because I couldn't seem to see it as clearly as sketches that I've seen. Tonight--uh, this morning, I mean-- it was a bit better--probably due to less humidity and the fact that I was careful to put the equipment in the garage before I went to bed so that it would have plenty of time to warm up.

Oh...and by the way, I've discovered one of the best ways to ensure that I actually get OUT of bed and out of the house on these nights is to go to bed fully dressed except for shoes! Lol.

My alarm rang at 1:00, and I hit the snooze once, giving me nine more minutes of sleep. When it went off again I argued with myself just a little, but finally sat up and got some socks, grabbed shoes, and started outside. I took my sketching materials this time because I wanted to get M31 and The Ring on paper.

I'm learning that this is a hobby for me to enjoy. That means I can relax and do whatever I want to: there's no rush to get to the scope and conquer the sky! So I sat in the chair and just scanned that beautiful sky with my eyes and binoculars for a bit. It helps to orient me, too, and I take the time to spot all my new constellations. This morning I saw several meteors, and several last night, too. They make me smile! Just think...that bit of interstellar detritus has been traveling for at least thousands of years--the general wisdom says possibly billions of years, of course--and it is about to make it's last, brilliant fiery journey...and then it does, and I am the one to see it, and maybe the only one!

Since Lyra was at zenith I decided to go for Andromeda first--Stargirl is a Dob; a Dobsonian telescope, mounted on a fork-arm. This logistically prevents her from looking straight up! In the end I decided to use the view through the 10 mm lens, as it had more detail. I did catch one of it's companion galaxies in the viewfinder, too! 

Lyra was still pretty high, so for fun I let the GoTo show me some named objects. I chose the Cat's Eye Nebula--I never have nabbed that one, and didn't tonight either. Boo. Then the Eagle Nebula--didn't see that one, either. This frustrated me. One of the next objects on the list was the Little Dumbbell Nebula. I recently purchased Turn Left At Orion: Hundreds of NightSky Objects to See in a Home Telescope--and How to Find Them Fourth Edition. In scanning it after it arrived, I had noted that the Little Dumbbell really should be quite visible in my scope. So when the GoTo stopped slewing and I saw nothing in the lens, I did not give up. I very carefully quartered the area, and after a moment of just looking, I spotted a teeninsy little fuzzy. Using offset viewing, I could see it a little better. I popped the 10mm in, and that brought it into view slightly better. Just once as I looked off-center, I caught the actual shape of the dumbbell--who knows, maybe it was a lot of imagination and not much else! 

After patting myself heartily on the back for nabbing that elusive target and spending some time sketching it to celebrate the event, I moved on to my final target for the session.

Since the humidity was less of a problem this morning, the Ring Nebula was a slightly more rewarding target this time. It still won't resolve completely, but the hole in the middle was less blurred.

After completing my goal of sketching M31 and the Ring as well as Little Dumbbell, I drove Stargirl over to the moon, which had just risen. I have a desire to be able to sketch the moon, too, but my attempts so far have been very disccouraging--they look like kindergarten drawings. So I just enjoyed the view for a few moments, then relaxed in my chair with the binoculars. I visited my old friends the Double cluster and the Coathanger cluster, checked that I could spot Pegasus and Andromeda again and spot the fuzzy bit that is the galaxy. Saw another couple of meteors. Spotted a fuzzy bit in Cygnus that I'd like to research. Found Ursa minor--a somewhat difficult target in my sky. Decided to poke the light bucket at that intriguing bit in Cygnus, but as I attempted to aim it, clouds started moving in, and I decided to give it up for the night. I think this might have been my longest viewing session yet! 

In the house, I grabbed my laptop and started recording this entry at around 4 a.m. I finished up at 5: 30 ish and realized that the CME from Friday was supposed to hit about now. Many years ago--9? 10?--I was privileged to actually view an aurora from my bedroom window (yes, even at this low latitude!), I decided to open the blinds and the windows, and lay down on my bed where I could keep an eye on the North horizon. I didn't see anything, but it was a lovely way to fall asleep after a beautiful night of stargazing.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Long Time, No Assisi?

Ok, that's my bad attempt a punny joke. It has been almost a year since I posted here...life gets in the way, and I wanted to make sure I was redeeming the time God has given me. If few people are reading what I write, it seems counterproductive to publish it unless it is really important.

Suffice it to say, then, that I thought this post was important enough, and a good redemption of the time God has given me. You may agree or disagree when you have read it, and that's ok.

A friend posted what is best known as "The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi" as a Facebook status today. Having learned that almost nothing that sounds spiritual can be taken at face value unless it is straight from scripture, I began to ponder on the following well-known and oft quoted lines:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.

I decided to look more closely at these lines to discover if they meet the standard of a scriptural prayer.

First of all, the rules of hermeneutics demand that all text be examined in context, so I went looking for the context of this prayer. Curiously, though it is attributed to St. Francis because it was once inscribed upon the back of a statue of this man, it is not probable at all that he himself prayed it, said it, or wrote it. See this website for more information: http://www.franciscan-archive.org/franciscana/peace.html.

Then the first question to be answered was what sort of peace was meant in the prayer, and whether that matched up with a biblical definition of the word for peace.

English translations use one word where original manuscripts use several that have different meanings. For the purposes of this post, the one that seemed most likely to fit the use of the word in the prayer is one that means
 "harmonious relationships between men" or perhaps "harmonious relationships between God and man as a result of the gospel"

It is not likely that the author of the prayer would have intended the other meaning of "peace" used in scripture: that meaning being "hold one's peace". (I would admit, however, that keeping my mouth shut would indeed, in most instances, cause me to be an instrument of peace rather than otherwise!)

Once this definition had been established, it was important to discover whether one can be an instrument of God's peace according to scripture. Matthew 5:9 states "blessed are the peacemakers". Being an "instrument" of harmonious relationships between men and between God and men as a result of the gospel is certainly, then, a scriptural directive, and therefore a proper scriptural prayer. We are commanded to preach the gospel, and also to live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18).

The next phrase says "where there is hatred let me sow love". We are commanded in scripture to love our enemies, to love as God loves. Therefore if we have hatred in our own hearts we should certainly be doing what we can to change that, and asking God to will and to do His good pleasure in us to cause us to love more like He loves is a valid prayer. Can we "sow love" on/to others who are hating? We have a mandate from scripture to do good to our enemies, so we can sow love to our enemies by doing good to them. What about to others who are hating each other? We perhaps can, if we begin with the peacemaking that is encouraging "harmonious relationships between God and man as a result of the gospel"..in other words, preaching the gospel.

Continuing on, the next phrase says "where there is injury pardon". We are instructed in scripture to forgive those who hurt us, so personally, we can pray this prayer and also carry it out. Can we, should we bestow pardon on those who have injured others? There is no responsibility in scripture given to us to forgive the sins of others against others. We have responsibilities toward them, but these responsibilities do not encompass forgiveness or pardon.

The next phrase suggests "where there is doubt, faith". Again...we are given direction in scripture concerning how to handle doubt within ourselves. Faith is a gift, however, and we cannot bestow it on others. The gift of faith comes from the hearing of the Word of God, though, so if we are preaching the gospel, God can make use of that, which would be an answer to the prayer of "making me an instrument of your peace."

"Where there is despair, hope". Not only where there is despair, but in season and out of season we are to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within us. Now, that doesn't bestow hope automatically, but it certainly has the potential to do so...it offers the same reason for our hope to the other person.

"Where there is darkness, light". Jesus said that we, the regenerate, ARE the light of the world. So, where we are, there is light. We can "sow" light by just being there for people, and asking God to guide us to act like Him.

"Where there is sadness, joy". We as Christians are supposed to be very joyful! We cannot always change someone else's sadness to joy, but again, we can preach the gospel, which God can use to give the gift of faith, which in turn responds in repentance, and the result of that will be joy.

Is the prayer known as The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi a legitimate, scriptural prayer? In accordance with the Word of God, it is. As we pray it, we should be ready to preach the gospel, because that is the way to be an instrument of God's peace.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Status Whoa! 3.9.11

This week's offerings were somewhat sparse, both for Go and Woe posts. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not: are we, as Christians, as aware as we ought to be of the potential of the platform available to us on FB? I didn't have a lot to choose from on my newsfeed, and no one submitted anything from their own newsfeed...so that makes me wonder if good, conscious use is being made of FB statuses that belong to Christians.

Or perhaps it is that all my friends found out that their status could very well end up on a Woe post, and decided not to post at all for fear of that? But why not? No one is going to make fun. We just want to think carefully about our posts and see if we can increase the quality as well as the quantity of Christ-exalting, gospel-preaching posts.

Just a reminder: you can't submit your own status, but you can submit a friend's. Just email statuswhoa.holdfast@gmail.com. If you think the status is a GO!, then submit the name along with the text of the post. If you think it's a Woe, then don't submit the friend's name, just the text.

This week's Status GO! Post showed up on my newsfeed on 3.6.11, and was posted by my friend Michelle Lee:

"The danger of self-esteem is that it tries to persuade us that we are good enough, capable, and worthy. We need the gospel precisely because we are not good enough, capable, or worthy. Salvation does not give us a righteousness of our own that we can esteem. Salvation gives us Christ’s righteousness that we might worship Him with reverent, grateful awe." Brad Hambrick

Congratulations, Michelle, and keep up the good work!

Status WOE for this week was a quote from a sermon by a person named Allen Hood:

 "Jesus hates religion because it keeps people at a distance in their pretend righteousness."

I checked scripture, making as thorough a search as I know how (since I don't know Greek or Aramaic, it's possible I missed something). Jesus never said anything about religion, one way or the other. So isn't it a bit presumptuous in the first place to say He hates it when He didn't state that? I don't know, maybe it's just me.

I did notice, however, that scripture defines pure religion which is undefiled before God. Would Jesus hate something that is undefiled before God? It also defines worthless religion. If, perhaps, "religion" was defined as that which is worthless in the above quote, we might be able to make a case for Jesus hating it.

What about the reason given that Jesus supposedly hates religion? Does religion (all religion, mind you) keep people at a distance? At a distance from what? From each other? From Him?

About the only part of this statement I can appreciate is the "pretend righteousness". Now, Jesus DID hate that, and spoke about it often. But that isn't religion...or at least it isn't ALL religion.

Seems there's "religion", and then there's "religion", dontcha know.

I don't know Allen Hood from beans, but I sure would like to offer him a better idea about what Jesus hates, and what religion is, and whether there's good religion, and what's so awful about pretend righteousness. Can I get some help here?

find the good...and HOLD FAST!