Theories Can Crash and Burn

What Is Truth?

The two neatly dressed young men stood on my doorstep, ready to discuss various problems of society and offer their solution. They were well versed on issues of eternal consequence as well. Had I been open to instruction they’d have no doubt produced their Book of Mormon, ready to enlighten me.

Over the years I’ve observed a few things about human nature and beliefs, right and wrong. We talked a bit and I told them, “I believe if we really love the Truth above all — if we love it so much we’re willing to let truth delete all our pet theories and reasoning — God will show us what is true and we’ll make it to Heaven someday.”

One of my young listeners spoke up and quite sincerely agreed with me.

So there we stood, the Mennonite and the Mormons, totally disagreed on doctrine yet agreed on something vital. The power of God. The ability and willingness of God to enlighten seeking humans. Our ability to grasp it — if we let go of our own formulations.

Having just come through Easter season, we’ve been reminded of Jesus standing in Pilate’s Judgement Hall. Again we hear Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”

He didn’t ask this because he really wanted to know. If you read the account you realize that Pilate knew full well what the facts were in this case. His question was really a sigh of frustration. a wish that truth would be more convenient for the situation he was facing.

This question has replayed through all ages, all issues, all human minds. Where in all this muddle of logic, feelings, rhetoric, and examples, do I find the truth?

Logic, Passion, Rhetoric, Reality

I’ve been pondering a variety of issues in the past few days, choosing certain avenues and exploring the adjoining side streets. What started this process was seeing a recently-published book on the Prohibition years in North America. In fact I bought it and am eager to read this writer’s take on the great experiment. A theory that should have worked — but instead crashed and burned.

Twenty-odd years back I did a study of the Women’s Movement both here and in Britain, mainly because of a friend who was really enthused about the subject. What we call the Women’s Movement today built up momentum in the late 1800s with a demand that the right to vote be extended to women. One arm of this movement, the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement (WCTM), threw their weight behind this demand and gave the movement a lot of its rhetoric. They did not give the movement its ultimate direction.

Once women gained the right to vote, the WCTM focussed on pushing through Prohibition laws. As my friend explained, “Their hearts were in the right place.” They saw how many women and children were victims of poverty and abuse because the father, the family breadwinner, was at the mercy of his “thirst.” The WCTU wanted to rescue destitute families and relieve suffering caused by alcoholism. Yes, their hearts were in the right place. And they used some powerful, logical rhetoric.

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”
Etc.
From “The Ambulance Down in the Valley”
by Joseph Malins (1895)

Pondering the obvious failure of Prohibition started me thinking about the difference between Theory, Rhetoric, and Fact. Why so some things work so well in theory and not in fact? Skillful use of rhetoric fires people up, seemingly everyone gets on board, this is going to work — then what goes wrong?

To be continued.

Wishing You A Blessed Easter

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Who Is This?

by William Walsham How
1823 – 1897

Who is this so weak and helpless,
child of lowly Hebrew maid,
rudely in a stable sheltered,
coldly in a manger laid?
This the Lord of all creation,
who this wondrous path hath trod;
He is God from everlasting
and to everlasting God.

Who is this, a Man of Sorrows,
walking sadly life’s hard way,
homeless, weary, sighing, weeping,
over sin and Satan’s sway?
This our God, our glorious Saviour,
who above the starry sky
now for us a place prepareth,
where no tear can dim the eye.

Who is this? Behold him shedding
drops of blood upon the ground!
Who is this, despised, rejected,
mocked, insulted, beaten, bound?
‘Tis our God, who gifts and graces
on his Church now poureth down;
who shall smite in righteous judgement
all his foes beneath his throne.

Who is this that hangeth dying
while the rude world scoffs and scorns,
numbered with the malefactors,
torn with nails and crowned with thorns?
‘Tis our God, who ever liveth
‘mid the shining ones on high,
in the glorious golden city,
reigning everlastingly.

Set to music by John Ambrose Lloyd the elder.

Our Father the ATM?

One morning as I knelt down to pray, my mind was occupied with all my shortcomings. The cup was definitely half empty; I felt so needy, so deficient in the virtues a Christian wife and mother should possess.

“Dear Heavenly Father,” I began, “please grant me more patience and more wisdom in dealing with situations that come up. Help me to understand Your will, Lord, and grant me the grace to do what I know is right. Bless me with that ‘meek and quiet spirit’ a Christian should possess, as I relate to my family. Help me to be more cheerful and encouraging.”

And the Lord answered me too clearly. He said, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.”

That shocked me out of my ‘poor and needy’ mood. I realized that, yes, that’s exactly what I was saying. I was calling God my Father, but instead of talking to Him sensibly, affectionately, as a child would talk with a parent, I was treating Him like a spiritual-virtues ATM.

How would I feel if my child would come to me and say, “Mom, give me my dinner… and buy me some new clothes… and do my laundry… and clean up my room, and…”

These are all very legitimate needs, but wouldn’t I long for some more meaningful conversations with her? Don’t I enjoy hearing about her day and listening to her ideas, hopes, plans? Wouldn’t I also appreciate hearing a “Thanks, Mom, for everything you do” now and then?

Is my Heavenly Father any different?

Since then I’ve tried to keep in mind as I pray that He is my Father, not my ATM.

Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalm 100: 2-4

As We Grow Older

Not knowing who wrote the poem I posted yesterday, I meant to put “Author Unknown” at the bottom. This morning I’ve corrected that little omission, also searched for the first line to see if Mr Google could help me out again.

I discovered another version — I’m thinking this is probably the original. And a sobering thought for a Sunday morning.

As We Grow Older

A little more tired at the close of the day;
a little less anxious to have our own way;
a little less ready to scold and blame;
a little more care of a brother’s name;
and so we are nearing the journey’s end,
where time and eternity meet and blend.
And so we are faring a-down the way
that leads to the gates of a better way
A little more laughter, a few more tears,
and we shall have told our increasing years.
The book is closed and the prayers are said,
and we are part of the countless dead.
and so we are going where all must go,
to the place the living may never know.
Thrice happy if then some soul can say,
I’m better because he passed my way.

Rollin J Wells

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ROLLIN J. WELLS, of the Wells & Blackman law firm,
Sioux Falls, SD, was born 1848 in IL; died 1923 in Sioux Falls.

One Little Patch

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” I Corinthians 12:26

The Apostle Paul is telling us that when one member of the body suffers, the whole body will feel it. I learned this first-hand one day when my tympani, or eardrum, received a tiny patch. A few hours after the deed was done my whole head was suffering with that little spot.

When I was in my thirties I had tubes put in my ear drums so I wouldn’t have to live with tympani-rupturing infections. The tubes remained for years until one by one they fell out, leaving little holes. My ear specialist deemed it wise to patch these holes, one at a time.

Into the operating room I went. He snipped a bit of skin from the back of my ear and tacked it over the hole, then he packed something into the outer ear canal to hold the patch in place.

This procedure called for a general anesthetic, which meant my whole body had to bear with the little member. I couldn’t eat or drink before surgery; my stomach grumbled about that. Coming out of the anesthetic after surgery my stomach felt queasy and my head felt fuzzy and unbalanced. My feet had extra work to keep my woozy body upright when the nurse insisted I take a short walk around the room. Later in the evening I suffered with a cross between a headache and an earache. All because of one microscopic piece of skin.

Thankfully the operation was successful, the site’s healed nicely and I no longer have a hole in that eardrum.

The Apostle Paul was speaking of the Church, referred to as the earthly body of Jesus Christ. As we become members of that holy body of believers, “knit together in love,” when one suffers everyone feels it. Every member has a place to fill, a work to do in the body, and if one is weak or AWOL others have to make corrections for him or her. I appreciate how much my fellow Christians bear with my faults.

We all have some weaknesses and irritating habits others need to bear with. Some Christians are recovering from past emotional damage. They may be fearful and suspicious. We’ve all been scarred by the consequences of temptations we’ve yielded to. And we’re not surrounded by people who always speak kind, edifying words. Gossip and harsh words from family, neighbours and co-workers may wound us. Plus, the Bible warns us that our enemy hurls “fiery darts” our way and some of them hit tender spots.

Unlike medical men, God makes repairs without knocking the his children out. If we are willing and obedient to follow directions, He brings us into situations that strengthen our weak areas and gives us courage in spite of our shortcomings. We can be serving Him to the best of our ability, still He constantly performs those small surgeries necessary to cure our hurts, fears, frustrations. Over time He skillfully removes our “baggage” without crippling after-effects.

This healing, straightening process is called sanctification. Like “Be patient; God isn’t finished with me yet.”

I’m glad the doctor is finished with my ears. I’d be absolutely delighted to never need any more repairs, big or small. But I trust the Lord will keep on operating on me, so I can be an effective member of His Church.

“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Romans 12:5

A Morning Prayer

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Heavenly Father, am I too satisfied with what I’ve already
learned of You? Am I too content to rest in the knowledge
I’ve already gained? Bless me with a thirst to know more
of Your will, to gain yet more understanding of your ways.
There’s so much more for me to learn
of the depths of your grace.

“Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven…The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.”
Job 11:7-9

I was Supposed to Be a Star

WHAT WENT WRONG?
I Was Supposed to Be a Star!

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.”
See Jeremiah 29:11-14

God’s Word says He thinks good thoughts toward us; if we look to Him for help He will bring our lives to happy conclusions both now and in eternity.

So what happened to poor Joseph?

Why was he sitting in an Egyptian prison for two years when he was supposed to be ruling the sun, moon, and stars? God had given him a spectacular dream where the sun, moon, and eleven stars (representing his brothers) bowed down to him. He took it as a divine promise, but his brothers captured him when he was alone, tossed him into a pit, then sold him into slavery.

To add insult to injury, his master’s wive took an impure liking to him and wanted to cuddle when the master was out for the day. When he refused and actually ran from her, in a fury she accused him of trying to molest her. Joseph was imprisoned for his crime. (Or in this case, failure to incriminate himself.) So here he sat in prison — far from being the object of anyone’s adoration.

Didn’t he have enough faith?  Wasn’t he praying enough? Did he stay upbeat in the dungeon? Did he cheerfully “bloom where you’re planted” and wait for the fulfillment of his dream, or did he sometimes feel like he must have missed the boat somehow?

He interpreted his fellow prisoners’ dreams and asked Pharoah’s wine-bearer to remember him and speak a word to Pharoah on his behalf. But when the servant got back to the palace he forgot all about justice for Joseph.

When Joseph was forgotten by the king’s wine-bearer for two long years, did he wonder if God had forgotten him, too?

It’s easy for us, looking back through history, to see how it all worked out, that God had the big picture planned and Joseph’s prison episode was one small scene. But Joseph had to live through it day by day, year by year, hanging onto a dream he believed was from God.

When I’m feasting in the Royal Palace or living on Easy Street, it’s not hard to see God has my good in mind. When joy and inspiration surround me I can feel I have a purpose to fulfill in life. But what about when everything has gone wrong, I’m nailed for doing what I believed was right, and now I’m sitting in some prison or exiled to a far country?

When everything’s a mess and tsunamis of depression hover on my horizon, ready to toss flopping fish in my face and wash me out to sea, can I still hang on, trusting that God means this circumstance for my good? Do I believe that I can learn something from any situation.

“It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.” Lamentations 3:26

Lord, deliver me from martyr pins, self-pity, self-scourging and righteous indignation.  Show me the truth about myself so I can accept what I need to accept and change the things I need to change. Grant that I may hold onto this quiet confidence that You are working things out for my soul’s salvation — my expected end in the mansion You have prepared. Come what may.

Reblogged from Christine’s Reflections, Aug 19, 2012