Tuesday, November 30

Pierre Berton: Canadian Icon

One of the things Canada does well is produce interesting icons. Today one of the great ones died. The Crusty Curmudgeon has a tribute post.

Pierre Berton was born and raised here in the Yukon, and his first important book was on the Klondike Gold Rush.

Canons of the Council of Orange, Part 3

Canaons 8-14. There are things I might quibble with here. What about you?

CANON 8. If anyone maintains that some are able to come to the grace of baptism by mercy but others through free will, which has manifestly been corrupted in all those who have been born after the transgression of the first man, it is proof that he has no place in the true faith. For he denies that the free will of all men has been weakened through the sin of the first man, or at least holds that it has been affected in such a way that they have still the ability to seek the mystery of eternal salvation by themselves without the revelation of God. The Lord himself shows how contradictory this is by declaring that no one is able to come to him "unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44), as he also says to Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17), and as the Apostle says, "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).

CANON 9. Concerning the succor of God. It is a mark of divine favor when we are of a right purpose and keep our feet from hypocrisy and unrighteousness; for as often as we do good, God is at work in us and with us, in order that we may do so.

CANON 10. Concerning the succor of God. The succor of God is to be ever sought by the regenerate and converted also, so that they may be able to come to a successful end or persevere in good works.

CANON 11. Concerning the duty to pray. None would make any true prayer to the Lord had he not received from him the object of his prayer, as it is written, "Of thy own have we given thee" (1 Chron. 29:14).

CANON 12. Of what sort we are whom God loves. God loves us for what we shall be by his gift, and not by our own deserving.

CANON 13. Concerning the restoration of free will. The freedom of will that was destroyed in the first man can be restored only by the grace of baptism, for what is lost can be returned only by the one who was able to give it. Hence the Truth itself declares: "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).

CANON 14. No mean wretch is freed from his sorrowful state, however great it may be, save the one who is anticipated by the mercy of God, as the Psalmist says, "Let thy compassion come speedily to meet us" (Ps. 79:8), and again, "My God in his steadfast love will meet me" (Ps. 59:10).

Christian Carnival Info for this Week

This week's Christian Carnival is at A Physicist's Perspective.
To enter is simple. First, you post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Secondly please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival. Then, do the following:

email A Physicist's Perspective at

dmobley @ gmail.com

Please put Christian Carnival in the Subject

Provide the following:

Title of your Blog
URL of your Blog
Title of your post
URL linking to that post
Description of the post

Cut off date is 9 p.m. PST Tuesday (That is midnight tonight for all on EST)

There you go. There's not a lot of time left, so get busy with those entries.

Monday, November 29

Mailing Jam and Unrelated Gibberish

I went to a post office today to mail some strawberry-rhubarb jam to a relative in the states. Guess what I found out? Since August, mailing any food to the states has not been allowed, with the exception of home made goodies. My jam could go, because I'd made it myself, but if I'd wanted to send Kinder Surprise Eggs, or a box of Smarties, or any of the many good treats we have here that the people in the states must do without, I wouldn't have been able to.

It's all part of the new security measures put in place--an anti-terrorist measure. I'm not sure exactly how this works as part of the protective plan. Apparently the assumption is that terrorist never bake. Or something. I thought it was bad enough when they confiscated the dog's food at the border last time we visited. Now, I suppose, they'll want my food, too.

I'm not one of those early Christmas decorators. I love Christmas decorations...for about two weeks. Then I begin to hate the clutter and the needles and all the shiny stuff, and I get an irresisible urge to throw it all out and power vacuum. I wait to decorated, then, so that when Christmas comes, I'm not yet at my wit's end, but still enjoying the baubles. You can call me a big party pooper, if you want.

I usually post the instructions for entering the Christian Carnival on Monday, but I've not received the email yet, so I'm in the still in the dark as to the details for entering this week. If you know, will you post something in the comments to let me know, too?

And just to make this post even more confusing, tell me, how do you spell this word: judgement or judgment? Which is right? Does it matter?

The Father Turned His Face Away?

One of my favorite songs says it's so, but that particular line has always bothered me a little. Did the Father really turn his face away from the Son?

I know that Christ cries out from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Have you noticed, though, that in the same messianic psalm that Christ is quoting, it says this:
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him. (Psalm 22:24 ESV)
So, what do you think? Face turned away or not? Does it matter?

[Updated to add this question I touched on originally in the comments: When we say that God turned his face away are we thinking about the Father and the Son as more separate than these two persons of the Trinity really are?]

The Canons of the Council of Orange, Part 2

Here are canons 5-7. Any comments on these 3?

CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism -- if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, "For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, "Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5).

Sunday, November 28

For the First Sunday of Advent

What else, but this great hymn from Charles Wesley?
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
Listen to the music by Rowland Pritchard.

Along with that hymn from Charles Wesley, it seems appropriate that our featured sermon be one from George Whitefield, another of the forces of the Great Awakening. This sermon has as its subject true way of keeping Christmas. From the introduction to the sermon:
The celebration of the birth of Christ hath been esteemed a duty by most who profess Christianity. When we consider the condescension and love of the Lord Jesus Christ, in submitting to be born of a virgin, a poor sinful creature; and especially as he knew how he was to be treated in this world; that he was to be despised, scoffed at, and at last to die a painful, shameful, and ignominious death; that he should be treated as though he was the off-scouring of all mankind; used, not like the son of man, and, therefore, not at all like the Son of God; the consideration of these things should make us to admire the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was so willing to offer himself as a ransom for the sins of the people, that when the fullness of time was come, Christ came, made of a woman, made under the law: he came according to the eternal counsel of the Father; he came, not in glory or in splendor, not like him who brought all salvation with him: no, he was born in a stable, and laid in a manger; oxen were his companions. O amazing condescension of the Lord Jesus Christ, to stoop to such low and poor things for our sake. What love is this, what great and wonderful love was here, that the Son of God should come into our world in so mean a condition, to deliver us from the sin and misery in which we were involved by our fall in our first parents! And as all that proceeded from the springs must be muddy, because the fountain was so, the Lord Jesus Christ came to take our natures upon him, to die a shameful, a painful, and an accursed death for our sakes; he died for our sins, and to bring us to God: he cleansed us by his blood from the guilt of sin, he satisfied for our imperfections; and now, my brethren, we have access unto him with boldness; he is a mediator between us and his offended Father.

Therefore, if we do but consider into what state, and at how great a distance from God we are fallen; how vile our natures were; what a depravity, and how incapable to restore that image of God to our souls, which we lost in our first parents: when I consider these things, my brethren, and that the Lord Jesus Christ came to restore us to that favor with God which we had lost, and that Christ not only came down with an intent to do it, but actually accomplished all that was in his heart towards us; that he raised and brought us into favor with God, that we might find kindness and mercy in his sight; surely this calls for some return of thanks on our part to our dear Redeemer, for this love and kindness to our souls. How just would it have been of him, to have left us in that deplorable state wherein we, by our guilt, had involved ourselves? For God could not, nor can receive any additional good by our salvation; but it was love, mere love; it was free love that brought the Lord Jesus Christ into our world about 1700 years ago. What, shall we not remember the birth of our Jesus? Shall we yearly celebrate the birth of our temporal king, and shall that of the King of kings be quite forgotten? Shall that only, which ought to be had chiefly in remembrance, be quite forgotten? God forbid! No, my dear brethren, let us celebrate and keep this festival of our church, with joy in our hearts: let the birth of a Redeemer, which redeemed us from sin, from wrath, from death, from hell, be always remembered; may this Savior's love never be forgotten! But may we sing forth all his love and glory as long as life shall last here, and through an endless eternity in the world above! May we chant forth the wonders of redeeming love, and the riches of free grace, amidst angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, without intermission, for ever and ever! And as, my brethren, the time for keeping this festival is approaching, let us consider our duty in the true observation thereof, of the right way for the glory of God, and the good of immortal souls, to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; an event which ought to be had in eternal remembrance.
Read the rest, where we are reminded to celebrate the good things, but to do it in moderation, and to remember the poor.

Saturday, November 27

Pup in Boots

I've lived with her long enough to know exactly what she's thinking, "How humiliating! It's bad enough that I have to wear these things around the neighbourhood, but now she's gonna blog about it!"

In case you're wondering why my dog is wearing booties, I'll explain. When there's snow and it gets cold, her feet don't do very well on the longer walks. After a kilometer or so, she begins to spend most of the time picking the snow out from between the pads of her feet. Goldens have trouble with that. I suppose their webbed feet make things worse for them.

She's ambivalent about them. She knows they mean she gets to go walking or skijoring--and that's all good--but she also hates the feel of them on her feet. For a couple of minutes after I put them on, she high steps around, as if she's trying to keep her feet off the floor as much as possible.

Once she's outside, however, she forgets all about them, leaping and flying through the snow as if it's the most thrilling stuff ever created. The joy of snow makes her think that everyone she sees is a long lost friend, and she bounds toward them and then jumps around them in excitement. This could be frightening, I suppose, to those who don't already know her; but thankfully, people seem to assume that a dog wearing booties can mean no real harm, so she gets by with it without making enemies.

The moral to the story, I guess, is that sometimes it helps to look goofy.

Take Flight


Friday, November 26

Good News on the Comment Front

I've upgraded my account at Haloscan. This means that you don't have to look at those annoying advertisements, and you have a 3000 character limit instead of only 1000. This way, William should be able to tell a whole blonde joke in one comment.

And those of you who like to write theological tomes, feel free.

The Canons of the Council of Orange

In 529 AD, out of the controversy between Augustine and Pelagius, came this document. It's long, so I'll post it in parts. What think ye of canons 1-4?

CANON 1. If anyone denies that it is the whole man, that is, both body and soul, that was "changed for the worse" through the offense of Adam's sin, but believes that the freedom of the soul remains unimpaired and that only the body is subject to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and contradicts the scripture which says, "The soul that sins shall die" (Ezek. 18:20); and, "Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey?" (Rom. 6:16); and, "For whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved" (2 Pet. 2:19).

CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam's sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12).

CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me" (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).

CANON 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, "The will is prepared by the Lord" (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).

Thursday, November 25

From the End of My Driveway, 4:09 PM

Sunset: 4:04 PM
Temperature: -8º C, 18ºF

For Holiday Reading

No intro. Just trust me on this one.

Confirming the Stereotype

I just couldn't pass this by without comment:
Blonde jokes are set to be banned in Hungary after blonde women staged an angry protest outside parliament.

The protestors handed in a petition claiming they were being discriminated against in every walk of life by bad taste blonde jokes....

The petition was handed to the equal opportunities minister Kinga Goncz asking her to investigate whether jokes about blondes fall into the same category as religious discrimination.
Maybe I'm just too ditzy to know better, but I enjoy the jokes as long they're not pure gutter material. Sometimes I tell them myself.

I've always thought people who are really intelligent go for the simplest solutions to life's difficult problems. Like dying one's hair brown and wearing librarian spectacles. That's a whole lot easier than getting parliament to pass a law, isn't it?

But hey! I'm really not sure it's much of a problem in the first place. Having people assume you're stupid has one big advantage--you can always catch them off-guard.

[Link from Hal.]

[Update: William Meisheid has added a couple of blonde jokes in the comments. Read them and feel free to add your own. They may be banned in Hungary, but they're welcomed here. (I'm sure that this caution note isn't necessary, but I'll add it anyway: No naughty ones!)]

Wednesday, November 24

Christian Carnival No. 45

(I don't do Roman numerals, in case you're wondering....)

It's up and waiting for you at CowPi Journal. Go take a gander.

[Recommended reading:
  • Philosophical Poetry examines the real point of the book of Job:
    The book of Job is not primarily a book about suffering then; instead, it is a book that brings a powerful message about the supremacy of God in all things and circumstances. This is ultimately the comfort of Job, and this is the only comfort that a believer can gain from this most excellent book: that God is in control of the circumstances of their lives, and that he will work all things to the good of those who love him, in this world or the next.]

Poets and Reporters

I've been blessed with both in the blog roll. There are two bloggers who occasionally post bits of their own poetry:

Mister Standfast gives us a sample this week with the tightly woven Certain Small Birds in November.

Siris gives us drafts of two of his poems in this post.

(The perceptive among us will notice that the two poets on the blog roll share the same template. Merely coincidence?)

Then there's Tulipgirl, who keeps us up to date on all the exciting things happening with the Ukrainian election and its aftermath from her vantage point in Kyiv, and from the information she gets from her husband, who is right there with the protesters.

Think what an education their boys are getting in all of this!

The orange colour of Tulipgirl's template is a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people. My little picture of an orange ribbon will have to do for this blog. Please remember to pray for the situation there.

[Update: CBC give a timeline of Ukraine's political crisis.

Answers to questions about the crisis from BBC.]

[And an off-topic update: As long you're praying for the Ukrainian situation, why don't you pray for Cindi, too. You can read her story here at Fallible.com.]

Tuesday, November 23

Cranberry Apple Pie

For Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any holiday, why make a plain old apple pie when you can add taste and colour with cranberries? I use the wild ones I've picked and frozen, but cranberries from the produce department (fresh or frozen) work well, too.

  • 1 cup sugar (1 1/3 cup sugar if you are not using the sweeter wild cranberries)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 5 cups peeled and sliced tart apples
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Pastry for two-crust pie

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Roll out the bottom pastry crust and place in a 9-inch pie pan. Mix sugar and flour in a large bowl. Add apples and cranberries, and stir gently until the fruit is coated. Turn fruit mixture into the pastry lined pie pan and dot with butter. Use the rest of the pie crust to make a lattice top for the pie, then seal and flute. Bake for 40 minutes or until juice is bubbly. Remove from oven and place on a pie rack to cool. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Monday, November 22

Isaiah 10 and Reconciling Friends

There seems to be quite a bit of discussion round the sphere about free will and God's sovereignty--what they are and if and how they can (or do) coexist. I was trying to resist commenting, but by now you probably know that these are the sorts of discussions that I just can't stay away from. So I've decided to have a little look at Isaiah 10 and see what it can teach us about the coexistence of God's sovereignty and human responsibility. (I'll post links to some of the free will, human responsibility, God's sovereignty conversation at the end of this piece. If you know of more recent posts on this subject, let me know in the comments and I'll link to them.)

Here's the passage from Isaiah 10 that I want to look at:
Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger;
the staff in their hands is my fury!
Against a godless nation I send him,
and against the people of my wrath I command him,
to take spoil and seize plunder,
and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.

But he does not so intend,
and his heart does not so think;
but it is in his heart to destroy,
and to cut off nations not a few;
for he says:

"Are not my commanders all kings?
Is not Calno like Carchemish?
Is not Hamath like Arpad?
Is not Samaria like Damascus?
As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,
whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols
as I have done to Samaria and her images?"

When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. For he says:

"By the strength of my hand I have done it,
and by my wisdom, for I have understanding;
I remove the boundaries of peoples,
and plunder their treasures;
like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.
My hand has found like a nest
the wealth of the peoples;
and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken,
so I have gathered all the earth;
and there was none that moved a wing
or opened the mouth or chirped."

Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,
or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?
As if a rod should wield him who lifts it,
or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!
Therefore the Lord God of hosts
will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors,
and under his glory a burning will be kindled,
like the burning of fire. (5-16, ESV)
This is a prophetic passage, telling Isaiah's hearers what is going to happen. God is going to send Assyria up against Israel in judgment of Israel for her godlessness. Assyria is going to be an instrument in God's hands--the "rod of my anger". And when God is finished using them for his judgmental purposes, he is going to punish the king and the kingdom of Assyria for what they have done. The NET puts is this way:
But when the sovereign master finishes judging Mount Zion and Jerusalem, then I will punish the king of Assyria for what he has proudly planned and for the arrogant attitude he displays (verse 12).
God is going to be sovereign in all that is done, for the king of Assyria will be doing what God is planning for him to do; and yet, the king and kingdom of Assyria will be held responsible for their acts. In this passage, the coexistence of God's absolute sovereignty and human responsibility is clearly displayed for us. We may have a hard time understanding how they can coexist, but here they are, side by side in the same passage of scripture, and side by side in regards to one single event. As Spurgeon put it in his famous quote, the two are "friends".

If scripture tells us that they are both true in regards to a single event, then we must come at the problem of how they might fit together with the assumption that they are compatible. We must assume that even if we cannot develop a theory that fits them neatly together, they still mesh perfectly. I don't think it's necessarily wrong to seek ways to bring the two together in our system of thinking, but what we can't do is take away from the full strength of either side in order to get rid of the tension between them.

We can't reconcile them by saying that God isn't really going to direct the activities of the Assyrian nation of the Assyrian king. The text uses the words "send" and "command" and the metaphors of a rod being wielded, an axe being used to hew, a saw being used to cut, and a staff being used to lift. The picture we get of God's involvement in what will take place is that his role will be a large and powerful one; in fact, that he will be the one who controls all of what will occur. To be sure, much of the language is metaphorical, but the particular images chosen are chosen because they express truth about the situation to us. If the images make it seem that God will be the one doing the job, and Assyria and the Assyrian king are merely tools he will use to accomplish his work, this is probably the right way to think about this act. We can't back away from the strength of this statement in order to fit the sovereignty of God and true human responsibility together in our minds.

Secondly, we can't square things by saying that Assyria can't be rightly be held responsible since God will be the one directing what happens. If God will punish the King of Assyria, there will be right and just grounds upon which to do so, because we can be assured that God always acts justly. This may seem obvious, but I've known people who have argued that God can do as he pleases--which is true enough--so it doesn't really matter whether there are specific grounds on which a particular punishment rests. God can simply punish because he feels like punishing. God, however, is a just God, and he only desires to punish where punishment is rightfully warranted. Even if we don't understand fully what the grounds for punishment are, we can know that since God is going to punish the king and his country, those just grounds will certainly be there alongside God's control of the events.

We do get some clues from the text as to what the grounds for the punishment of Assyria will be. It seems that even though God will be in complete control of what is happening, the king of Assyria will act from the true attitude of his own heart and from his own sinful motives. He is boastful and arrogant, and his intent is to be as destructive as possible in order to prove how powerful he is. He is desiring to show that he is more powerful than the gods of the nations he conquers, so in going up against Jerusalem he is planning to establish himself as more powerful than Israel's God. Although God will be using him to perform the righteous judgment of God, the king will not be intending to do what God wants. He will not be obedient to God; but rather, he will be thumbing his nose in God's face. And when it's all over, he's going to boast that he accomplished it all by his own strength and smarts, when in reality, his ability to carry out his plans will come only because he is being used by God to accomplish God's own purpose. So the king's destructive act will be punished justly, even though it is part of God's intentional plan.

What the passage doesn't tells us is the exact means by which God accomplishes his sending of Assyria. Whatever means he uses, they can correctly be called sending and commanding, and yet at the same time they must allow for the king's sinful attitudes and motives to remain intact, so that the king is a free agent acting out his own plans. It may be (and here I am wandering over into the realm of speculation, so take this with a grain of salt) that God brings this about by unrestraining previously restrained evil. Perhaps the Assyrian king had been plotting to destroy Jerusalem, but circumstances (controlled by God) had prevented him until God's appointed timing. I can't really know for sure how God works this out, but I can be sure that he does.

Friends they are--human responsibility and God's sovereignty. We don't have to know exactly how they get along; we just have to understand that they do. Of course, those of us who like pondering these things can't help but try to find ways to put them together, but when we do, we need to be careful that we don't diminish either one of the two friends in order to fit them together in a way that suits us. It's important to continue to hold onto both points, accepting their compatibility even if we can't reconcile them in our minds.

Does this passage tell us anything about free will and whether human beings have it or not? I think it does. I believe it tells us that we either have it or not depending on how you define it. If by free will you mean that human beings have the ability to choose and act free of external influence, then we don't have free will. Our choices and actions are influenced by circumstances and forces beyond us. If by free will you mean that we have the ability to make choices and act based upon our own motives and in hopes of accomplishing our own goals, then we have free will.

[For more on the free will/human responsibility/God's sovereignty discussion see these other pieces:
Are there others? Let me know.]

Down My Street

This was the view down my street yesterday morning. You might think I'd get used to it--the first big snow fall--so that by now it would've become old hat. But it hasn't. Every year I'm surprised by the pure beauty of it.

Of course it meant that youngest son and I spent a couple of hours yesterday afternoon dealing with all that snow. We would've knocked half an hour off that time if we could've found the big snow shovel right away. We both looked, separately, in and around every out building we've got and came up empty. The problem was that the shovel was not stored right side up, but upside down, so while we were looking down at the floor for the big black plastic blade, we should've been looking up. Who'd have thought?

Now that I've made us both look entirely inept, I think I'll close.

It is beautiful, though, isn't it?

Christian Carnival Info

For this week's carnival:
This week's Christian Carnival (number 45) will be hosted at CowPi Journal.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Second, please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival. Then, do the following:

EMAIL Mark at silvagard att yahoo.com

PLEASE put "Christian Carnival" in the Subject (or the spam filter might mistake your entry.)

PROVIDE the following information:

Title of your Blog
URL of your Blog
Title of your post
URL linking to that post
Description of the post

Cut off date is this Tuesday at 11:00 pm CST

There you go. You are officially invited to contribute.

Sunday, November 21

Sunday's Hymn

Lots and lots of shovelling to do this afternoon, so it'll be just a hymn this Sunday.
Lead Me To Calvary

King of my life, I crown Thee now,
Thine shall the glory be;
Lest I forget Thy thorn crowned brow,
Lead me to Calvary.

Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.

Show me the tomb where Thou wast laid,
Tenderly mourned and wept;
Angels in robes of light arrayed
Guarded Thee whilst Thou slept.

Let me like Mary, through the gloom,
Come with a gift to Thee;
Show to me now the empty tomb,
Lead me to Calvary.

May I be willing, Lord, to bear
Daily my cross for Thee;
Even Thy cup of grief to share,
Thou hast borne all for me.

---Jennie E. Hussey. (Listen.)

Saturday, November 20

Interesting Comments from Herman Ridderbos

Ridderbos points that Paul's argument for the universality of the new covenant includes an appeal to Israel's own distinctive confession that God is one God--a confession that the Jews considered to be their own, and something that kept them separate from the gentiles. (By universality, Ridderbos means that the covenant is without distinction--both Jews and gentiles are included.)

On Romans 3:29,30
Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised....and the uncircumcised....(ESV)
and 1 Timothy 2:4,5,6
who desires all people to be saved..... For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man  Christ Jesus,  who gave himself as a ransom for all...(ESV)
Ridderbos says:
From the fact that God is one and that there is no other God than he who has revealed himself to his people Israel, it is therefore concluded that the God known and worshipped by Israel must also be the God of the gentiles. Precisely that which was the ground for their particularism - apart from Israel's God there is no God - here become the ground for the universalism: all men have to do with one God in judgment and in grace. It is that God who judges without respect of persons and will render to every man according to his works (Rom. 2: 6, 11), but who will validate the faith of the circumcised and uncircumcised equally (Rom. 3:30). As the one God he has to do, not with Jews only, but with all men (Rom. 2:9, 16; 3:28) Because God is one the knowledge of his grace is also a knowledge that concerns all men. As apart from him there is no Judge, so apart from him there is no Deliverer and Saviour, and his salvation has to do with all men (1 Tim. 4:10; Tit. 2:11). For this reason there is one Mediator who is the Mediator between God and all men, and the Mediator is so very emphatically called the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself for all (all men without social or national distinction, without distinction of any kind).

--From Paul: An Outline of His Theology, p. 339.

It seems obvious to me now, but I'd never noticed before the exact argument Paul is making: since God is one God, he must be the Saviour of all people.

I Should Live in Montana or Alaska

....according to this. Of course, that only considers places in the states. I'm sure anything important to me that I'd have in Montana or Alaska I have right here.

There's this happy news, too: I am my dog.

[Both links from Proverbial Wife.]

Did I mention once that I was going to quit taking quizzes?

Friday, November 19

Definition of Chalcedon

Since you were interested in the creeds I've already posted, here's the Definition of Chalcedon that Darren mentioned:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord
teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood,
truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body;

of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead,
and at the same time of one substance with us
as regards his manhood;
like us in all respects, apart from sin;

as regards his Godhead,
begotten of the Father before the ages,
but yet as regards his manhood begotten,
for us men and for our salvation,
of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer;

one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten,
recognized in two natures,
without confusion, without change,
without division, without separation;
the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union,
but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved
and coming together to form one person and subsistence,
not as parted or separated into two persons,
but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word,
the Lord Jesus Christ;

even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him,
and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us,
and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.

Comments? Questions? Say it, don't hold back!

Friday's Cat Photo: Hear Me Roar!

Or maybe it's "See me yawn!" I forget.

Thursday, November 18

I Love Rex Murphy

Yes, he's a bit odd. But he's got that perfect turn of phrase and the lovely accent that make him a joy to listen to even when I disagree with him. And I seem to be disagreeing with him less and less as the years roll by.

Here's Rex on the Carolyn Parrish fiasco:
Miss Parrish occasionally makes the claim that she's extending the debate, that she's standing up to the Americans and all sorts of noble stuff about the right to free speech. I don't know. "Idiots, damn Americans, I hate those bastards," that "22 Minutes" jig, these are words and actions that belong to the classroom show-off, the needy clown, attention getting by means of insult and crude display. They're nothing but "Look at me insulting George Bush and sticking it to the Yanks." It's juvenile, it's smug, and it's vulgar. It will amuse only very limited minds, and it will offend a great number of Americans, even those who do not support George Bush but who don't like to see their head of state derided by second rate comments and third rate stunts by one of our members of Parliament.

I don't want to see her muscled. Far from it. Let her continue to air her angry heart's content. The deeper embarrassment here is to herself, however long the realization is in coming.

Unfortunately, people like Miss Parrish never seem to clue in to how embarrassingly foolish they look.

(Today's newspaper tells me she's been turfed from caucus. At least now she can have her childish tantrums off center stage.)

[Update: The Crusty Curmudgeon adds more on C. P.'s lunacy.]

Here's more Rex, this time from the column of November 3, the day after the U.S. election:
I guess after last night, Canada will have to tighten up its cross-border security.

There are so many luminaries of Hollywood and other distinguished social climes, who were declaring before the election, that they would have to flee a Bush-darkened America, should the President win re-election, that I guess we're in for a windfall, so to speak, of the enlightened.

We may get Michael Moore, which would surely add a bright bulb to our cultural firmament.
What can I say? I love Rex Murphy.

Say What?????

Apparently some of you actually read the creeds I've been posting, and then have the audacity to question them, to boot. The good thing about this is that I get to look things up and find answers to questions, which, in case you haven't noticed, is one of my favorite activities.

So, here we go. About the Apostles Creed posted yesterday, the audacious Doug asks:
I'm a bit sketchy on that "descended into Hell" part. I haven't been able to locate that in the Bible. Can you provide any references on that line?

To answer the question about a scriptural reference for Jesus descending into Hell, there's Peter's sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2), which quotes from Psalm 16:
For David says concerning him,

"'I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.'

"Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (verses 25-32).

You'll notice the part that says Christ was "not abandoned to Hades". (It's in both the quote from Psalms and in Peter's own remarks.) The King James Version, along with many older versions, translates Hades as hell here. The NET Bible translational notes suggest that it just means "place of the dead", and that Hades is often used as the equivalent of the Hebrew term Sheol.

There are theories as to what exactly it means that Jesus "was not abandoned to Hades". Some do teach that Jesus suffered in the place of punishment for the wicked for three days, and others teach that Jesus descended to the place where the faithful Old Testament saints were kept and brought them into the presence of God.

The point of using it in the Apostles' Creed is to affirm that Jesus really died. He had a real body that really died, and he died in every sense of the word: his body was in the grave, and his spirit went to wherever it was that spirits went at that time.

The Apostles' creed was drawn up with the particular heresies that existed at that time in mind, and was meant to reaffirm the truth in opposition to the false teachings being bandied about--like Gnosticism, for instance. So the creed emphasises Jesus's full humanity, and this particular phrase is meant to affirm that Jesus had a real body and that he really died.

If you want to know more about this creed, with a section by section look at what particular heresies were being opposed in it's statements, you'll find that here.

(While researching this, I also found a page with Calvin's remarks on Christ's descent into hell, in case you might find that of interest.)

Wednesday, November 17

The Apostles' Creed

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
he descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting. Amen


....comes to even the most courageous of us.

This Week's Christian Carnival

.....is up at ChristWeb:

Christian Carnival XLIV: The Big One.

He ain't kidding. Forty-seven entries! I'll need the whole week to read them.

[I'm slowly making my way through all those entries. Here's one of note: Jesus the Son. This seems to be one piece in a whole series on the divinity of Jesus by Mark D. Roberts, and I'm going to have to make sure I get over there and read more.]

Tuesday, November 16

Only in the Yukon: Log Skyscraper

Forgive me, for I have fudged. We do have skyscrapers.

Top Ten Reasons to Live in the Yukon

  1. It never gets muggy.
  2. You only need one license plate on your car.
  3. Even your own relatives don't know exactly where you live, and think you're "somewhere up there in Alaska."
  4. The Donald. The Yukon. Merely coincidence?
  5. There are big black birds that are more intelligent than your dog.
  6. The phone book has helpful instructions for calling a radio phone.
  7. You can experience ice fog.
  8. You can laugh at the tourist in an R. V. with a satellite dish.
  9. There are no skyscrapers to block your view.
  10. Thirty thousand people can't be wrong.

(Inspired by this page linked by Bene.)

Monday, November 15

Christ Who Sits

This post is a brief look at a bit of scripture from today's portion of the Mc'Cheyne Bible Reading Plan. I'm hoping it will be the first of occasional posts highlighting pieces of the scripture from this daily reading plan.

Hebrews 10:11-14 (ESV):
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,  waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

When we think about the description of Christ sitting at the right hand of God, we think first and foremost of the exaltation of Christ that this position communicates. While his exalted position is very important, expressing to us that he is Lord of All and that every creature is obligated to bow to him and confess him as Lord, it is not the focus of this post. Here, I'm not focusing on Christ's placement as coequal with the Father, but rather on the description Christ's posture and what that tells us.

An old covenant priest stood daily in his priestly work. He was always in a standing position in God's presence because his ministry was never done. Over and over again, every day, he offered the same sacrifices--sacrifices that that had to be repeated because they were ineffectual, for they didn't actually take away sins. They were, in essence, a stop-gap measure rather than a real solution. The old covenant priest's sacrifices never cleansed completely, and the outward cleansing they provided was only temporary.

There's a pathetic quality to this picture, isn't there? I like to complain that "a woman's work is never done", but I've got nothing on those old order priests. Day in and day out they had to do exactly the same work, and that it was necessary for them to keep repeating only served as a reminder of how unsatisfactory the work they did really was.

The text gives us a very different picture of Christ's work as Priest, however. Christ offered one sacrifice of himself, and then he sat down on the right hand of God. His work was over because his work was effectual. It was not a stop-gap measure, but a real solution that took care of the whole problem. It "perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." Never again does his work have to be repeated, for this Priest did a complete job: his work cleanses completely and cleanses forever. It is finished.

So he sits and waits for his enemies to become his footstool. He can rest because the work is over and the job is done. Even though his enemies are not yet lying beneath his feet, the work that will bring his certain victory over them has already been accomplished.

Because he sits, we can rest. If we believe, we share in the benefits of his work, and we can rest because he is resting. We have forgiveness, and where there is forgiveness, "there is no longer any offering for sin". The work is done--his work--and we can find respite in the forgiveness he has accomplished for us.

Because he sits, we can come. That his priestly sacrifice was completely effective means that
we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (vs 19-22).
Our full assurance and our bold approach are grounded in his completed work. There is a dedicated access road for us. That our Priest is a sitting Priest confirms to us that our hearts have been sprinkled clean, our bodies have been washed, we are fully and finally forgiven, and the way is opened for us. Let us draw near!

He came, he died, he rose, and now he sits. Therefore, we can enter.

Enter This Weeks Christian Carnival!

Here's how:
To enter is simple. First, you post should be of a Christian nature,
but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in
nature from a Christian point of view. Secondly please send only one
post dated since the last Christian Carnival. Then, do the following:

email ChristWeb at

christweb (at) gmail.com

Please put Christian Carnival in the Subject

Provide the following:

Title of your Blog
URL of your Blog
Title of your post
URL linking to that post
Description of the post

Cut off date is Tuesday at midnight EST


Sunday, November 14

A Sunday to Consider Christian Persecution

November is Christian Persecution Month, and today is the day set aside to pray for persecuted Christians around the world, so both the hymn and the sermon featured here on this Sunday share a theme of persecution. The hymn is a recent set of words--a prayer--to the tune of Faith of Our Fathers.
Faith of Our Brothers

Faith of our brothers, suffering sore,
Enduring prison, famine, and sword,
O Holy Spirit, give comfort, we pray,
May they this day find strength in thy Word.
Faith of our brothers, holy faith,
May they be true to thee till death!

Tortured and killed for thy dear name,
Lord, give them grace to count all but loss,
May they hold steadfast to the end,
Sharing the sufferings of the cross.
Faith of our brothers, holy faith,
May they be true to thee till death!

Our brothers, chained in prisons dark,
Are still in heart and conscience free,
O may they know thy deep, sweet peace,
Fill them with joy for all to see.
Faith of our brothers, holy faith,
May they be true to thee till death!

Faith of our brothers! May they love
Both friend and foe in all their strife,
And preach thee too, as love knows how,
By kindly words and virtuous life.
Faith of our brothers, holy faith,
May they be true to thee till death!

And Lord, may we be ready too,
To give our lives, if needed, for thee,
May we be strong in thy great strength,
And live each day, committed to thee.
Faith of all brothers, holy faith,
May we be true to thee till death!

--Susan H. Peterson.

The sermon is another one from David Legge of the Iron Hall Assembly of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and it has as it's text the 12th verse of Philippians 1:
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel...
In Suffering: The Catalyst Of The Gospel, David Legge reminds us that in God's purposeful hands, Christian persecution is productive--it advances the gospel.
Admittedly God's ways and God's plans at times can feel impossible toward us, we can't understand it, it seems absolutely foolish. It seems foolish to me that Paul, the great apostle, is locked up in prison. He is the greatest evangelising force in the Mediterranean word, yes in the church Jesus Christ of his age, yet God lets him get locked up. Now that doesn't make sense to my human rationale and reasoning, I don't understand it, especially when we think of the church that's pitifully small, and this is a death blow to them that their great apostle is locked up! But that's because we can't see the workings and mechanisms of God. Paul says the opposite to what we would think, verse 12, that through his being locked up in prison the Gospel is being advanced - that's what it literally means, advanced. One paraphrase says: 'Everything that has happened to me has been a great boost in getting out the good news concerning Christ'.....

Roy Lauren, the Christian author, said this: 'What seemed to sight to be a retardation, was to faith in fact an acceleration'. What seemed to hinder really served to help, what seemed to prevent in actual fact promoted, and what appeared to be misfortune provided a blessing! It wasn't just because of Paul's commitment to the Gospel, or Paul's commitment to Christ, but because in prison Paul was being an effective channel of the Gospel. Can I just say to you: we all pray for many many things, but we all know full well that we don't always get the answers to our prayers that we're looking for, or even the answer that we expect. It was exactly the same with the great apostle Paul. In Acts chapter 19 he expresses his wish to go to Jerusalem, and then 'After I have been there', he says, 'I must also see Rome'. God later on, in chapter 23 of Acts, says Paul: 'For as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also in Rome'. But He didn't tell him how he was going to bear witness, did He? He didn't tell him he was going to be a prisoner, that he wasn't going to be able to go out in the highways and byways and compel them to come in.

If you've read down this far, you might want to finish up by reading Hal's prayer for persecuted Christians at The Great Separation.

Saturday, November 13

A Collection of Links

Several things conspired together to rob me of serious blogging time this week, but I hope to return to something more substantial next week. I did find time to read some good things done by other bloggers.

First let me point you to my own other blog--the one really written by the missionary David Brainerd. Yesterday's entry on David Brainerd's blog is a letter he wrote to his younger brother Israel. It seems that Israel was left an orphan when he was still quite young. David writes to him:
You have no earthly parents to be the means of forming your youth to piety and virtue, by their pious examples, and seasonable counsels; let this then excite you with greater diligence and fervency to look up to the Father of mercies for grace and assistance against all the vanities of the world. And if you would glorify God, or answer his just expectations from you, and make your own soul happy in this and the coming world, observe these few directions; though not from a father, yet from a brother who is touched with a tender concern for your present and future happiness.
Read the rest.

Next, Jared of Mysterium Tremendum has some thoughts on "doing theology" in a piece called Theological Obsfucation. He asks these questions:
Shouldn't theology be somewhat coherent? It doesn't have to be short or basic or shallow. But isn't the goal of theology to explain the Word, to make sense of the logos of theos? If opposing parties can both use your work for support, if your work is so easily misunderstood by even the theological elite, perhaps there is a breakdown in communication involved.

Shouldn't theology illuminate the words of God? A theology that is so dense and complex and so easily misunderstood in itself would seem to me to be a distraction from that which it discusses.

Is the purpose of theology to be innovative or unique? I suppose there's nothing wrong per se with theology that is innovative or unique. Is it possible, though, that it has become dangerously easy to shift (perhaps unknowingly) from preaching the Word in new ways to just saying new things?
Read the whole piece and see what you think.

And last, Jollyblogger is doing an intro to the five points of Calvinism. The first installment is here, and the second here. From the second post, which deals with the use of lables to explain our theological position:
To engage in such debates we need words to engage the debate.There is a real sense in which terms like "Calvinist," and "Arminian" and "Reformed" can fall under the condemnation of I Corinthians 3 as a form of "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos." But there is another sense in which terms like "Calvinist," "Arminian" and other words become technical terms that function as a kind of theological shorthand for discussion.

For example, let's say I'm having a discussion with someone about the role of God's sovereignty in salvation. I could launch into a three hour point by point explanation of what I believe about all of the questions and nuances surrounding the discussion. Or, I could say that I am Calvinistic in my understanding of these matters. If I speak to someone who is familiar with theology and history my identification of myself as a Calvinist in this regard is actually a courtesy to him. This one word helps him pigeonhole me and know where I am coming from. It can actually help narrow the discussion to particular points of interest. In that case I'm not identifying myself as a Calvinist in order to be a follower of man the way I would be a follower of my favorite football team. I am identifying a theological perspective which I hold.
I look forward to reading the installments that follow.

Friday, November 12

I Am Eschewing Quizzes....

....after this one.

I could never resist Muppets.

rowlf jpeg
You are Rowlf.
You are a loner, and love classical music, You can
play the piano without opposable thumbs. Then
again, you are just a Muppet.

Ol' Brown Ears
Piano playing, punning, fetching.

"My bark is worse than my bite, and my piano
playing beats 'em both."

"The Dogfather"


"I've Never Harmed An Onion, So Why Should
They Make Me Cry?"

What Muppet are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Link via Quiet LIfe.

Thursday, November 11

They Shall Not Grow Old

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

---Laurence Binyon

World War I:
  • 628,736 Canadians served.
  • 66,573 died and 138,166 were wounded.
  • 2,818 were taken prisoner of war.
  • 175 merchant seamen died by enemy action.

World War II:
  • 1,031,902 Canadian men and 49,963 Canadian women served.
  • 44,927 died and 43,145 were wounded.
  • 8,271 were taken prisoner of war.
  • 1,146 merchant seamen died by enemy action.

  • 26,791 Canadians served.
  • 516 died and 1,558 were wounded.
  • 33 were taken prisoner of war.

The Gulf War:
  • 3,837 Canadian men and 237 Canadian women served.
  • There were no Canadian casualties or prisoners of war during the Gulf War.

[Statistics from here.]

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month,

And we remember.


Wednesday, November 10

Christian Carnival XLIII


Only in the Yukon: Internet Cafe

Behind the bike rack is the "Wired Kennel"--a place to leave your dogs while you surf the net.

Tuesday, November 9


When I was growing up in the northwoods of Minnesota, it seemed that almost every house had a reproduction of this photograph somewhere on the wall of the kitchen or dining room. I suppose that's not surprising, since the photograph was taken by a fellow northern Minnesotan.

A couple of summers ago I stopped to purchase a print of this photo in the very same studio in the little town of Bovey, MN where the original photograph was taken. I was on my way to Hibbing to pick up my son from his cousins' home, and the highway from Grand Rapids to Hibbing goes right through Bovey, so I thought I'd stop. The studio is in one of those old wooden turn-of-the-century store front buildings butted right up to a sidewalk that is butted right up to the street. It's still a working photography studio--the sort with all the large framed high school graduation and wedding photos lining the walls.

No one was in the lobby, so I had to ring the little bell on the counter. I waited a few minutes before the photographer came out to tend to me. He fetched my print, carefully rolled it, put rubberbands around it to keep it rolled, gave me a little pamphlet with the story of Grace in it and charged me $12.50.

In 1918, the studio was owned and operated by Eric Enstrom. The man in the photograph is Charles Wilden, who showed up at the studio peddling foot scrapers. From the pamphlet:
"There was something about the old gentleman's face that immediately impressed me. I saw that he had a kind face... there weren't any harsh lines in it," Enstrom said in recalling the 1918 visit of Charles Wilden to his studio.

It happened that Enstrom, at that time, was preparing a portfolio of pictures to take with him to a convention of the Minnesota Photographer's Association. "I wanted to take a picture that would show people that even though they had to do without many things because of the war they still had much to be thankful for," Enstrom said.

On a small table, Enstrom placed a family book, some spectacles, a bowl of gruel, a loaf of bread, and a knife. Then he had Wilden pose in a manner of prayer... praying with folded hands to his brow before partaking of a meager meal.

To bow his head in prayer seemed to be characteristic of the elderly visitor, Enstrom recalled, for he struck the pose very easily and naturally.
I remember wondering what was in that bowl! I think I can even remember childhood conversations about what was in it. I had always thought it was soup of some kind, but it's even more humble grub than home made soup--it's a simple bowl of oatmeal.

The photo wasn't noticed much at the photographer's convention in 1918, but it became popular as people driving through Bovey discovered the picture in the window of Enstrom's studio and stopped in to purchase it. As soon as one framed print was sold, he'd make another one to take its place in the studio window.

Enstrom always considered this photo to be his very best out of the thousands that he took over the 50 years he worked as a photographer. He thought he had captured something special, something he described like this:
This man doesn't have much of earthly goods, but he has more than most people because he has a thankful heart.
One morning back in 1918 an ordinary man was doing his very ordinary job, selling things door-to-door, when he met another ordinary man doing his ordinary job, and the results were extraordinary.

I've matted and framed my print, and it's leaning on the book shelves in the living room. It reminds me of my childhood; it reminds me that small things done well can have lasting results. It also reminds me to be thankful for all that I have--even my morning oatmeal.

Athanasian Creed

Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith.

Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.

Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.

For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.

But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.

What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit.

Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit.

The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite.

Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit:

And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal;

as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited.

Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit:

And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty.

Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God:

And yet there are not three gods, but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord:

And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord.

As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten;

the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father;

the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.

And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other;

but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons.

Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity;

It is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe that our Lord Jesus Christ became flesh.

For this is the true faith that we believe and confess: That our Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, is both God and man.

He is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father, and he is man, born in the world from the being of his mother --

existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body;

equal to the Father in divinity, subordinate to the Father in humanity.

Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ.

He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity.

He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures.

For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man.

He suffered death for our salvation.

He descended into hell and rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

At his coming all people shall rise bodily to give an account of their own deeds.

Those who have done good will enter eternal life,

those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith.

One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.

Monday, November 8

Upcoming Christian Carnival

Here's the scoop:
This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival, and will be
hosted at Digitus, Finger & Co. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read, and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week.


To enter is simple. First, you post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Secondly please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival. Then, do the following:

email Neil at


Provide the following:

Title of your Blog
URL of your Blog
Title of your post
URL linking to that post
Description of the post

Cut off date is Tuesday at Midnight EST
There you go. Find something. Enter it.

Volleyball Trip and Other Piddling Stuff

Youngest son didn't get back from his volleyball trip to Dawson City until 12:30 AM, so things were a bit disorganized around here this morning. He didn't bother unpacking anything last night--he was just too tired--so he had to quickly unpack his backpack to use for school this morning, and now all the stuff that was in there is strewn all over the entry way. He was so sore, especially in one shoulder, that he could barely make it out of bed.

One advantage of such a late bus trip back is that he got to see a spectular show of northern lights. All the way from Dawson City to Whitehorse, he says.

He remembered this morning that he accidently left one of his shirts behind, which means he has only two shirts to his name now instead of three. He's at the quick growing stage of boyhood into manhood when it's hard to keep them in clothes that fit, especially since this stage also seems to coincide with the I-hate-clothes-shopping stage. But now we'll have to go clothes shopping. At least, since he hates shopping, it'll be fast, and he'll be satisfied buying the first thing he sees that he would be caught dead in.

Here's a a map of the sort I was looking for when I did the post on maps, but I couldn't find one back then. We have one of these "northern point of view" maps in the basement. Even maps are about perspective.

I'm thinking of wandering into the area of Christology in my next theological posts. That means I'm going to have to do a lot of studying, since it's a subject I'm fairly unfamiliar with. What do you think? Is that an area you'd be interested in reading posts on? Do you have any recommendations for books on the subject?

How about good book recommendations on any subject? I'm planning to make my annual Chapters/Indigo order, so now's the time to tell me what you think I ought to read.

Enough piddle. It's time for the daily dog walk. I have to get the walk in before 4 pm now if I'm going to do it in daylight. It's only 6 or 7 weeks or so, you know, until the longest night of the year.

Winter River


Sunday, November 7

A Sunday To Contemplate God's Sovereign Providence

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of thy throne,
Still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting, thou art God,
To endless years the same.

A thousand ages, in thy sight,
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night,
Before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all who breathe away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come;
Be thou our guide while life shall last,
And our eternal home.
---Isaac Watts

The featured sermon is called A Time For God. I know very little about it except that it was preached at First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi, and is an exposition of Ecclesiastes 3, and uses "The Lord of the Rings" as an illustration. From the sermon:
Look at verse 11. He tells us here that God has ordered everything according to its proper time. He has made everything appropriate in His time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so, that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one's lifetime. Verse 14: I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.

In this passage he acknowledges that God has given every human being an innate sense of Him and that there is meaning and order in this life. And so, even those who claimed to believe there is no God and to believe there is no providence, and to believe there is no meaning, cannot live as if there is no meaning in this life. God will not allow them to ultimately live consistently with the idea that there is no meaning and there is no God and there is no purpose. And from time to time, even in the lives of those who are most opposed to God's truth and to God's existence, and to God's providential control, they will act as if there is meaning in life. Find a hard-core atheist when his mother has died or his child has died, or there is some calamity that is encroached upon him and laugh and mock at him; his feelings will be hurt. Well, that makes no sense unless there is some morality to what has happened. You have to have a moral universe to have justifiably hurt feelings. And so, he acts as if there is meaning and the reason that he acts as if there is meaning, is because there is meaning even though he denies it!

And so, the author, the Preacher is saying, "Look, when you look at this world, you have to live one of two ways: As if this world is meaningless and hopeless, the result of a random operation of chance in a naturalistic structure or as if it is the result of the personal direction of a sovereign, Almighty God." In fact, here in verses 9-14, he asserts that God is ordering everything according to its own design. God's permanent and effective and complete and secure providence orders those who know Him to enjoy life and moves them to be in awe of Him.
And more:
So when the problems of life come, how do you look at them? Wha's the index, the measure of your hope in your response to the problems of life? Do you remember the scene in the first volume of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings? It's in the chapter "The Shadow of the Past" when Gandalf is speaking to Frodo about the ring of power that has been discovered. If you saw the movie, it's been moved to the Mines of Moria, that's where it happens. And Frodo says, "I wish that this hadn't happened in my time." And you know, a lot of you feel like that today, about things that have entered in to your lives. You've seen a child's heart broken; you've lost a child; you've lost a spouse; you've had your career hopes dashed; you've been betrayed by a friend; and you have thought to yourself, "I wish it hadn't happened." And do you remember how Tolkien has Gandalf respond to Frodo? Here's how it goes from the movie script, roughly. "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the world of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the ring in which case, you were also meant to have it, and that is an encouraging thought."

You see, behind that literary fiction is a stable, moral universe with a God who is in control making sense of it all. And so, in the face of the most difficult problem; in the face of the slings and arrows of the most outrageous fortune, we can trust that everything is coming to us from the hand of heavenly Father who loves us. And so, through all the changing scenes of life--in trouble, and in joy--we can sing the praises of our God whose providence is ruling this world.

Saturday, November 6

Dragging out the Parka

It's that time of the year again. Up until today, I was still wearing my fall and light winter coats, but I awoke this morning to a voice on the radio announcing that it was -20C (That's -4 for the Farenheit version onlyists.). So I got up and started a fire, and now I'm going to get my parka out of the winter clothes closet, and maybe my warm boots, too, and run out and start the cars so it can warm up before I go grocery shopping.

It's so cold that the Weather Underground button on my sidebar seems to have frozen at 6:55 yesterday evening.

I like winter, you know, but I would be willing to wait until December for this sort of stuff.

[Changed my photo to a picture in my winter parka. It seemed more appropriate than that one taken on the deck in the summer.]

Friday, November 5

What to Do When Someone You Know Dies

Yesterday I had to buy a sympathy card. Someone I know has died. I didn't know him all that well, and I don't know his widow at all, but he gave of his time to us when we needed it, so I am sending a card. I've set aside some time this afternoon to compose a note to go with it.

Since I've been on the receiving end of sympathy cards and such gestures, I probably feel a little more confident doing this sort of thing than most people do. I know many people wonder what they should do, and even if they should do. They may think it really doesn't matter whether they do anything or not. So I'm helping you out here. I'm going to write a list of tips for what to do when someone you know dies. It's one of those off the top of my head things, so I welcome any additions you might have.
  1. Do something. Exactly what you do isn't nearly as important as that you acknowledge the death in some way. If you hear the news of the person's death and you have even the most fleeting thought wondering if you should do something, the answer is "yes." It doesn't matter that you didn't know the deceased well. If you have any connection at all, your effort--no matter how small--will be appreciated. Really appreciated. It's the little kindnesses shown, even by those they hardly know, that get the family through the difficult first days after a death. Until you've experienced it, you probably have no idea how much it helps.

  2. Send a card or note. Just a signed card is fine, but a card with a little personal note is better. If you didn't know the person well, you can always write something like one note we received that said something like this: "I didn't know him well, but when I saw him, he was always smiling and friendly." Chances are, the family will go through those cards again and again for a few weeks, and the visiting relatives will want to see them, too. People who have never been interested in cards--even their own birthday cards--will be interested in the sympathy cards and notes.

    Try to be sympathetic to the family's particular religious beliefs when you pick out a card. This doesn't mean you have to go against your own beliefs, just that you don't want to choose a card that might be offensive to them. And for goodness sake, don't choose one of the ones that says, "Our prayers go out to you." (Yes, I really, truly, saw a couple of those yesterday.)

  3. Send flowers. Yes, they may get too many, but if you want to do more than send a card, flowers are fine. We had a dining room table full, and we appreciated each bouquet. You might want to consider sending one carefully chosen flower, or a really small bouquet in a lovely vase instead of a huge bouquet. Don't over think it, though. Just do it.

  4. Give food. It doesn't have to be a whole meal, or even a main course. Bake some buns or make a loaf of bread. Take over a frozen pizza or two, or a bit of fruit. Make a pot of soup or chili. Put your food offering in a disposable freezer container and suggest that they freeze it if they need to.

  5. Give to a good cause in the deceased person's name, and let the family know of your gift. If they died of a particular disease, you can always give to a charitable organization that helps people with that disease. If they had a particular cause they cared about, give to that cause in their name. If they were Christian, you can always place Bibles in their name through the Gideons. Gideon Bible donations work particularly well if you can only give a small amount. You can just write on your card to the family that you donated 2 (or however many) Bibles in the deceased's name. You may think this all sounds pretty lame, but it won't be lame. I promise.

  6. If you are close enough to the family to want to help out with duties they might have, offer to do something specific. Offer to take all the children to the Dairy Queen. Offer to place death notices in the papers. Offer to walk the dog. Offer to do some grocery shopping. Think about what chores they need done and then offer to do one of them.

  7. Visit. Or at least call and see if you can make a brief visit. A short visit will let them know that you aren't scared to be around them, and that you won't be avoiding them because of their grief. And don't be scared to be around them. Most likely they won't break down during the short time you're with them; they'll just be really appreciative of your interest and your care. Don't worry about looking foolish in their eyes; they aren't thinking about how you look.

  8. Go to the funeral or memorial service. You don't have to stay around after the service (although it's nice if you do), and you don't have to go through the receiving line. Just attend and sign the guest book so they know you were there. This is another one of those times when you shouldn't worry that you were not close enough to the deceased or to the family. Just attend the service if you can, and know it will be appreciated. If you are worried that you won't know anyone there, you can ask a friend--even one who didn't know the deceased--to go with you for moral support.

  9. If you've waited to do something until you're afraid it's too late, be assured that it's not. A month later, half a year later, your gesture will still be appreciated. It might even be more appreciated, because by that time, the dust has settled and reality has set in. In fact, if you really want to be helpful, consider inviting the family or the spouse of the deceased over for coffee or out for a walk a couple of weeks after the funeral. It may still be hard for them to go out in public much, but they may be tired of being cooped up indoors.

Well, that's enough for now, although it does seem like I should have a #10. What more can you add? What things have you done?

[Update: Several more good suggestions have been given in the comments. I'll list them here, and add my comments, and keep adding as long as the suggestions keep coming.
  • Jmark suggests visiting on the anniversary of the death. I'll add that if the death made enough of an impression on you that you remember the date of the anniversary or even the general time of the anniversary, make some sort of gesture to the family at this time. Visiting during this time period is good, but you can also just send an email or a card, or make a phone call saying "I was thinking about you, and remembering that you are approaching the anniversary of X's passing. I am praying for you at this time." Don't worry that you are dredging up something they don't want to be reminded of. The date on the calendar itself will dredge things up, and it helps to know that others remember, too.

  • Violet suggests letting the person talk about the one whose died--listening without giving the impression they ought to be over it by now. Let me add that when they want to talk, show interest by asking questions. They will be happy that someone else is interested in their loved one, too. Talking about the loved one secures the memories and keeps them from fading.

  • Bob adds this:
    Remember. Put your memories into words. Tell a story about the the one who died. I loved hearing stories about my dad, very often stories I'd never known. I found that listening to people's fond memories had a very powerful healing influence somehow.

    Excellent! If you wonder what to write on your card, put a little story about the loved one. It doesn't have to be a big or important story. It might just be a remembrance of what they liked to put on their hot dogs, or how they used to walk to school in the winter without a hat or mittens. They will be hungry for details at this time, so whatever you've got, they'll want to hear it, even if they've heard it all before.

  • William agrees with Bob on the importance of memories and stories, and mentions videotaping people telling their stories. This would be a wonderful way to preserve memories. (William leaves a lovely original poem as well. Check it out in the comments.)

  • Linda suggests two books that helped her understand grief after her friend's son died: A Grace Disguised by Gerald Sittser and Roses in December by Marilyn Heavilin.

  • From Russell Sutherland:
    Consider sending something (preferably a personal letter) at the anniversary of the deceased persons birthday. As a grieving parent of a son who died several years ago, I know how helpful this can be.

  • Rodney Olsen says that sometimes just being there and talking about normal things is best:
    For me, I didn't want to chat about mum just then. Talking about normal stuff helped me come to terms with the fact that even though I was going through a tough time, the world was still turning and life would eventually go on.

If you've got more suggestions, or even questions, put them in the comments. I'll keep adding as you keep suggesting.]

Thursday, November 4

Oh, the Moon in June Is a Big Balloon....

I've put a new graphic of the current moon phases in the sidebar. If you click on the link, you'll go to a page where you can get your own moon phase module, or you can find other links with info on moon phases and tides, or moon phases and good fishing.

It'll make you smile, it'll make you swoon,
It's heaven, being on the moon...
La da da, Da da da, Di di di doo....


No Other Gods Before Me

I, the Lord, am your God,
who brought you from the land of Egypt,
from the house of bondage.

You shall have no other gods before me.

This is the first and greatest commandment. Of course, all of God's commands are important, but this is numero uno. I wonder if we consider enough how well we keep it.

Implicit in this command is the necessity of knowing our God. To the extent that our knowledge of God is incorrect, the idea we form of God will be off-base. If our idea of God is skewed, then it isn't quite the one true God we are holding in our minds when we worship and serve him. And if we get enough wrong in our thinking about God, we run the risk of worshipping another god altogether: we may be putting our own wrong idea of what God must be like before the true God who reveals himself to us in the created order and in his word. We are, to the extent that we are wrong in how we see God, exchanging the truth of God for a lie. The more true things we know about the Creator God that is, the closer we can get to keeping the first commandment perfectly.

There are a couple of things I learned from writing all those pieces on the attributes of God. The first one is that it's really important to understand God rightly. Not only does our keeping the first commandment depend on it, but if we fall short in our knowledge of who God is, we will never get close to the standards of behaviour demanded of us, for where our pattern is off, our copied image will be off. We cannot be good imitators of someone we don't really know.

The second thing I learned (Well, maybe I knew this already, but I certainly was reminded of it over and over!) is that I will not (not now, anyway) have a view of God that is exactly right. I know that I fell short in every one of those pieces I wrote. I desired to get it right, so I worked hard on each post. I felt like I'd been in a week long wrestling match by the time I posted each piece, but I was never quite satisfied, because I always knew it wasn't completely right.

That doesn't mean that writing those pieces wasn't rewarding! It was, because after every one, I felt that I knew more right things about God than I had before I started, and that my view of him was nearer to the correct one than it had been. There was less of the "other gods before me," and more of the "Lord... your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt" in my understanding of God.

And I hope to continue learning more, getting more of it right. Nothing works better for this than reading (and studying) the whole of scripture. Different sections, different stories, emphasize different aspects of God, and as we read the whole thing--all of it--we can begin to get a more integrated picture of the whole of who God is. Every couple of years I try to read Knowing God by J. I. Packer, too, and each time I make adjustments in my thoughts of God. Yep, I have no doubt that it'll be a whole lifetime of adjusting my thinking.

I am glad to be done with the weekly wrestling matches, though. Now maybe I can move on to something easier, like who exactly was Melchizedek, or what is the absolutely guaranteed perfectly correct eschatological viewpoint. Or something.

Anyway, here they are--the whole shebang: