Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lyrics- Will Your Anchor Hold in the Storms of Life

Some Sundays the lyrics from a great piece of Christian music will be featured. It's not that I want worship to revert to using all hymns, it's just that many modern Christian songs don't SAY anything. I really miss some deeper meaning. So I'm going to remind us of some great words.

Will Your Anchor Hold in the Storms of Life
Pris­cil­la J. Ow­ens (lyrics 1882) and Will­iam J. Kirk­pat­rick- 1890
The images and fears of sea travel were all too real for the centuries before we so easily jumped on an airplane to travel abroad.

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the savior's love.

It is safely moored, 'twill the storm withstand
For 'tis well secure by the savior's hand
And the cables, passed from his heart to mine
Can defy that blast, through strength divine.


It will surely hold in the floods of death
When the waters cold chill your latest breath?
On the rising tide you can never fail
While our hope abide within the veil.


When our eyes behold through the gath’ring night
The city of gold, our harbor bright,
We shall anchor fast by the heav’nly shore,
With the storms all past forevermore.


For some reason this song just intruded into my thinking this week. I couldn't stop singing the parts I remembered, and finally got out the hymnbook to fill in the gaps. The symbolism of faith and the Word of God being an anchor is certainly as old as boats and ships. However, it's an image that is true. Truth never goes out of style.

I can't say that I feel as positive about the videos that have been made of this hymn. My favorite was actually The Scottish Boys Brigade singing it, but that video was more about the Brigade than the song. I loved the expression in this version by J. Ashley Milne, but there was only one image... it's called VIDeo because it's supposed to be VISual, eh? So, what you get is a Reggae version sung by Gloria Bailey, who made recordings in the 19060s and 70s.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Waiting on God

Andrew Murray
Andrew Murray
Have you read any books by Andrew Murray? If you want something to sink your teeth into, hunt up one or more of his works. He lived from 1828-1917, a Scot whose life work was in South Africa. I just learned that he wrote over 240 books. Well, I haven't even made a dimple in that pile!

However, I've read a few, and they never fail to make me stop and think. You do have to work your way through the 150-year-old language patterns, but it's worth it. I recommend With Christ in the School of Prayer. I'm currently reading Waiting on God.

It's a small book, divided into 31 devotionals. Each one focuses on some aspect of slowing down and waiting to hear from God before we rush headlong into our own plans. There's a timeless message, maybe even more appropriate today than when it was written.

And, even though I sometimes think I am pretty good at waiting for God, of course, the joke is on me. I find that just reading each three or four page lesson where Murray talks about waiting, makes me impatient. I want the words to flow better; I want him to stop saying the same things again just in different ways. Basically, I want God's message to hurry up. I'm the classic "Lord, give me patience, and I want it now!"

Today, I read about the Israelites. They made the same kinds of errors we do. Just after God supplied them with water they didn't wait for him to supply food but began complaining. When Joshua was given Jericho he did not wait to ask God what to do about Ai, but launched an ill-fated campaign against Ai because it seemed an easy victory.

Just because I managed to trust God for something great, recently or long ago, doesn't mean that I can stop doing that and forge ahead under my own power.

The verse for the day was Psalm 106:13- "They soon forgot his works. They waited not for his counsel."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Selfishness and Sacrifice

Mary washing Jesus' feet
This blog is turning out to be difficult to maintain since posts here take a lot more time and thought than my other blogs. Nevertheless, I'll add a post whenever I can. Thanks for your patience.

This post was prompted by a book I read. This is not going to be a book review, but the book was Final Payments, by Mary Gordon. I have no idea if she is actually a Christian or was simply writing out of a knowledge of a Roman Catholic upbringing in the 1960s. She does force one to think hard about the meaning of love, and what sacrifice is all about, as contrasted with selfishness.

In Final Payments, the main character, Isabel, swings from care of an invalid father, whom she dearly loves, to wild, self-pleasuring living after his death. When this leads to spiritual and moral ruin, she determines to sacrifice her life in the care of a horrible, ungrateful woman, as a service to God. Her own strength of character is insufficient to sustain such an impossible task, and she emerges at last with a new-found understanding of life and love.

Anyone who thinks that decisions about these topics are easy hasn't been faced with miserable choices. It seems so pure an act of sacrifice to give up one's own life in service to another, especially to one for whom you feel no affection; it feels so spiritual. Isabel says, "Charity. That is what I thought I would do for Margaret. The greatest love is to love without wanting anything in return, even an acknowledgement of loving. And this is how I would love." But if that is not what God has asked you to do, it is simply an act of selfishness- an attempt to make yourself feel holy.

Also, to have no investment in care of your own self is not as sacrificial as it may look on the surface. In the book, Isabel has let herself gain a great deal of weight. She has been through a huge range of emotional struggles, but has told herself that her own body had no value at all as compared to her spiritual values. A priest, who is also her good friend, tells her that she is breaking the fifth commandment. Isabel is shocked and asks what "thou shalt not kill" has to do with it. The priest replies, "It also means slow death."

When Mary washed Jesus' feet with her hair she was rebuked by Judas for wasting the expensive ointment which could have been used to care for the poor. But Jesus said to let her do it, because "the poor you will always have with you." This answer seems to fly in the face of everything we have been taught about using resources prudently, taking care of others, or sublimating our own desires. The book uses this story as an example- when Isabel comes to the realization that "we must not try to second-guess death by refusing to love the ones we loved in favor of the anonymous poor.

On the other hand, no one would ever say that to live a hedonistic life is in keeping with God's will. Somewhere between the two extremes is the ideal balance of self-love and sacrifice that pleases God. The golden rule says to "love your neighbor as you love yourself." Jesus does not rebuke us for loving ourselves- he uses it as a reference point for our outward actions. Isabel's period of seeking sexual pleasure quickly brings her to a realization of the emptiness of that choice.

This essay is turning out to be very superficial. That's probably inevitable, since I have all the details of the story of Final Payments in my mind, but can't make you experience them here, in a few words.

In short, it's simply impossible to put cheap labels on actions and call them sacrifice, love, service, selfishness, without knowing God's will. We need to examine our own motives and actions. (And, a corollary, to leave other people's motives to God to judge.)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lyrics- Life is Like a Mountain Railway

Some Sundays the lyrics from a great piece of Christian music will be featured. It's not that I want worship to revert to using all hymns, it's just that many modern Christian songs don't SAY anything. I really miss some deeper meaning. So I'm going to remind us of some great words.

Life Is like A Mountain Railroad
M. E. Abbey & Charles Davis Tillman- 1890
the lyrics may have originally been written by a woman, Eliza R.Snow

Life is like a mountain railroad, with an engineer that's brave;
We must make the run successful, from the cradle to the grave;
Watch the curves, the fills, the tunnels; never falter, never quail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle, and your eye upon the rail.

Blessed Savior, Thou wilt guide us,
Till we reach that blissful shore;
Where the angels wait to join us
In Thy praise forevermore.

You will roll up grades of trial; you will cross the bridge of strife;
See that Christ is your Conductor on this lightning train of life;
Always mindful of obstruction, do your duty, never fail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle, and your eye upon the rail.


You will often find obstructions; look for storms of wind and rain;
On a fill, or curve, or trestle, they will almost ditch your train;
Put your trust alone in Jesus; never falter, never fail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle, and your eye upon the rail.


As you roll across the trestle, spanning Jordan's swelling tide,
You behold the Union Depot into which your train will glide;
There you'll meet the Superintendent, God the Father, God the Son,
With the hearty, joyous, plaudit, "Weary pilgrim, welcome home!"


This song is considered corny by those who don't like bluegrass and or trains, and a classic by those who do. I'm in the second group, although I'll be the first to say that there have been a lot of terrible recordings. The music in this video is one of the most popular ever, sung by Patsy Cline. I wanted a video with moving trains, to better illustrate the story. People may think that trains just drive themselves and stay on the rails. Not so, and when trains were the primary mode of long-distance transportation, it was just logical that someone would see the parallel between driving a train and the Christian life.

Friday, July 22, 2011

General Charles Lee's Legacy

General Charles Lee
Major General Charles Lee
Quick, how much do you remember about the Revolutionary War General, Charles Lee? I'm guessing, not very much. Yet, until he managed to get himself captured by the British, he was second in command to Washington. And thereby hangs a tale, and a moral to boot.

Lee very much wanted to be first in command, thought that he should be, and some other people thought so as well.

I recently read the book The Glorious Cause by Jeff Shaara, author of the better known Gods and Generals. Being something of a Revolutionary War buff, I really enjoyed it. But this is not a book report.

I'll repeat the original question: Do you remember anything about Charles Lee? He was a very important person in the late 18th century. He had much more European military experience than Washington. He was probably the only American general who did. He thought Washington was a poor leader, and wasn't afraid to say so. The early retreats of the Continental army from New York, Brandywine, and across New Jersey to the banks of the Delaware River, across from Trenton, had left Washington looking as if he couldn't win a battle.

Lee sent many letters to the Continental Congress denigrating Washington. He was continually blaming him for the ragged condition of the troops, when this was actually the fault of Congress itself, which body would not send funds for food and uniforms and boots.

General George Washington
General George Washington
Lee wrote things like "Washington is not fit enough to command a Sergeant's Guard." Washington continually heard of letters like this from Lee (and some other American officers as well). He usually accepted them with little rancor, and patiently agreed that the early successes of his army were few.

At the Battle of Monmouth, later, after Lee was released by the British, Washington trusted Lee to lead one of the assaults. Instead, Lee disobeyed direct orders and retreated, leading to the collapse of that entire front. He was later court-martailed. There was some thought that he might have acted treasonously; perhaps he had been turned while a prisoner.

Even after the war, when Washington had proved himself more than able, Lee skulked around trying to get the court-martial overturned, and making disparaging remarks about the hero Commander-In-Chief.

By now, you may be wondering what my point is on a blog about spiritual topics. Let's assume that Lee was actually more qualified militarily than Washington. Now we have the classic modern situation where someone who seemingly deserves a role/position is passed over in favor of someone else. The person not selected can now choose how he or she will respond. Lee spent the rest of his life in bitter and angry strife, trying to tear down the man who had been chosen instead of himself.

And here we are 230+ years later. Do we remember Charles Lee, military strategist and qualified leader? Nope, we remember George Washington, the man who was not only General, but served with integrity, sacrifice, patience, loyalty, and always with humility. It is no accident that we say of him "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen."

Although there is some debate as to whether Washington was a Christian, or only a Deist, he certainly lived his life by Christian principles. Lee did not. Which one is your hero? Which one is mine?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Was Jesus an Iconoclast?

revolution uprising

Huh? OK, it may have been a while since you had a basic philosophy course, so just as a reminder, an iconoclast is someone who delights in breaking down (clast) traditional symbols (icon). This usually refers to political or religious symbols. It began as a literal reference to destroying the monuments or idols of a country that was conquered. A recent example is the pulling down of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.

Jesus certainly did some iconoclastic things. He told the Jewish leaders that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man, and proceeded to heal people on that sacred day.

He overturned the tables of the money changers, and claimed that he would destroy the temple. We now interpret this as a reference to his crucifixion, but those who first heard him thought he meant it literally. He called the ruling spiritual class whitewashed graves, and warned them that they needed to clean up the mess on the inside instead.

The term iconoclast has evolved to mean anyone who throws out traditional norms and imagery, basically someone who thinks way outside the box. In modern thought, sometimes an iconoclast really has no good idea of what might replace the old ideas or icons, but simply wants change in whatever form it may take.

Jesus was certainly not seeking change for its sake alone. He had a plan, a plan that had been set in motion by God the Father long before Jesus came to Earth.

Did he want to tear down the old idols? He clearly wanted to rid the Jewish religion of the “forms of righteousness” and replace them with the real thing. He challenged the orthodoxy of the day.

On the other hand, Jesus said that he did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. That doesn’t sound like someone who wants to throw out all old standards or imagery. Instead, he often quizzed people about what the law really meant, and boiled it down to its two key elements, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Was Jesus an iconoclast? I guess it depends on how you want to define the term. He brought sweeping reform, from an authoritative source, but not simply for the sake of undirected change. His “reforms” of the old ways of thinking, and of approaching God, changed the world forever.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

As Weak as a Sunday School

1926 Sunday School Paper

I have been re-reading the Christian classic In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon (1897). It was certainly one of the most influential books read in my high school years, and resulted in my choosing I Peter 2:21 as my life verse: "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."

In the book, one man who takes the challenge to always ask "What would Jesus do?" is a newspaper owner, who begins to transform his powerful paper into a Christian one. Of course he loses prestige, and money. As he recounts changes made after a few months he says, "Some say I will have a weak, namby-pamby Sunday School sheet. If I get out something as good as a Sunday-school it will be pretty good." He goes on to make a generalization that the Sunday school movement accomplished a lot of good, and wasn't weak at all.

I got to thinking about this, because many Christian endeavors are often characterized as weak, because they are genuinely meek instead. But I'm going to stick to the topic here of Sunday School. What has this movement really accomplished?

Its founding is credited to Robert Raikes and Thomas Stock in Gloucester, UK in 1780. It was established to educate and help children of the working poor, and was met with considerable criticism from those who didn't think the masses should be educated.

• Early on, it provided both spiritual and academic instruction, helping poor children prepare themselves for some life other than that of crime or hard labor.
• There is some evidence for Sunday Schools in America as early as the late 1600s.
• In 1824 the American Sunday School Union was formed and many schools were established. A notable example was the work of Stephen Paxon who founded 1314 schools in rural areas many of which grew into churches as the children matured.

• Children WERE educated. Remember that before 1870 children were not required to attend school in the United States.
• By 1889 American Sunday schools were performing the role of public education for 10 million children, sponsored and paid for by Christians
• some Marxist historians have credited 19th-century Sunday schools with empowering the working classes.
• Certainly SS classes have created generations of Christians with knowledge of the Bible. Consider that 500 years ago most people had never read a Bible passage for themselves.
• Sunday school provided a bright spot in the week when life, even for children, was usually dull and filled with work. Small toys, prizes, and interesting reading materials were coveted.
• Sunday School libraries often brought greater literacy to entire towns.

Sunday schools have fallen on hard times for a number of reasons, which are not the focus of this article.

The point is, if anything we can accomplish is as weak as Sunday School, we should be immensely satisfied, and certain that God has been glorified.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Today is an Empty Box

empty box with the word today on it

Talk about a message falling from the sky! You might think that I posed this picture, or doctored it, but I didn't. It literally fell from the sky.

A couple of days ago the winds were howling across our county- gusts up to 45 mph. The dog and I took a short walk anyway. Quite a lot of trash was sailing around our property, empty topsoil bags from somewhere, and other assorted scraps. One of them was this box.

This message is pretty trite, but the delivery was so unique that I was forced to pay attention.

Yes, today IS an empty box. Each of us is given a brand new chance, every morning, to fill our box with... good things, positive things, helpful things... or negativity, degrading images, laziness, hurtful things. We DO get to choose what we will put in that box.

If we fill it with garbage, the box will hide it for a while, until the odors seep into the cardboard and the whole box begins to stink, our "secret" will be out. If we fill it with fresh flowers, the beautiful scent will accompany us on our daily rounds.

If we put things in the box that don't belong there- perhaps some slimy mud, before long the box will begin to sag and lose its structure... its health. If we fill it with the kinds of things a box was designed to hold, it will serve us for many days.

If we think that we can ignore the box and put nothing in it, we have even made a choice. Before long, spiders and cockroaches and moths will come and begin to degrade the box until it's no longer useful.

What will I put in my box today? How about you?

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Proverbs 23:7
for as [a person] thinks within himself, so he is

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lyrics- Hiding Place

Every Sunday the lyrics from some great piece of Christian music will be featured. It's not that I want worship to revert to using all hymns, it's just that many modern Christian songs don't SAY anything. I really miss some deeper meaning. So I'm going to remind us of some great words.

Hiding Place
Jerry Dean Salley, Jr, Steven Curtis Chapman

In the distance I can see the storm clouds coming my way
And I need to find a shelter before it starts to rain
So I turn and run to You Lord, You're the only place to go
Where unfailing love surrounds me when I need it most.

You're my hiding place, safe in Your embrace
I'm protected from the storm that rages
When the waters rise, and I run to hide
Lord, in You I find my hiding place.

I'm not asking you to take away my troubles, Lord
'Cause it's through the stormy weather I learn to trust You more
And I thank You for Your promise I have come to know
Your unfailing love surrounds me when I need it most.

So let your people seek You
While You may be found
'Cause You're our only refuge
When the rain comes pouring down

This is attributed to Jerry Dean Salley, Jr and Steven Curtis Chapman with a date of 1997, but I learned the chorus in about 1988, so I don't know if the verses were added later. There is a very popular song with similar lyrics "You Are My Hiding Place" which seems to be the only one that videos were made for. I found exactly one video with this song, and it has no visuals except for the album cover. Just close your eyes and listen. This song became one of those that helped to hold us together through a very difficult time.