Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Did I Mention That There is Nothing New Under the Sun?

Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for
authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of
exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their
parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their

--Socrates, Fifth Century, B.C.

Friday, January 27, 2006

I Passed!

As I had predicted, I didn't have a problem with my stress test today. They hooked me up to all kinds of wires, stuck me on a treadmill and worked me up to a run. My heart worked at 98% of its capacity and the whole time my blood pressure and everything else was fine. No chest pains, shortness of breath, etc. Now I only have to wait 6 months for my echocardiogram. Ah the joys of socialized medicine and wait lists! Good thing I don't have a serious problem.

Oh, and I have lost 11 lbs.

Yeah for me.

Thanks to the Lord for his mercy, and thank you for all who prayed for me!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Two Words

"Found Faithful"

(the answer to what I want as an epitaph)
National Election Day in Canada


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Choose Your Epitaph

ep·i·taph: An inscription on a tombstone in memory of the one buried there.

Ideally, this would be a brief summary that epitomizes your life. What do you want to appear there?

I am not being morbid. Rather I have been thinking about life goals, and in some respects an epitaph tells people if you made it to the goal, or chose the right goal to aim for.

I'll tell you what I would like to be on my grave marker in a few days.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Uncharitable Christianity

My post concerning fasting netted a comment from Chrysalis concerning the uncharitable nature of the brand of Christianity that I most closely identify with.

It has to be confessed that generally speaking, RP's don't have a very good reputation when it comes to charity. Too often what we think is faithful testifying of the truth comes across as clanging cymbals and beating gongs to the recipients.

Human pride is a subtle and dangerous thing, especially when we are confessing the sins of others. The sins we humans commit against one another, especially second table commandment sins, tend to be very obvious to us. If you steal something of mine, or try to lure my husband into an illicit relationship, my offense with you is pretty clear to me. However, if you commit idolatry in your heart, it may not be as obvious to me or you. First table breaches against God are somehow easier to commit in ignorance and blindness because God, in his lovingkindness and tender mercy doesn't strike us immediately we commit them.

And so, where we are able to see these sins in ourselves and others, they need to be repented of and confessed. But, and this is a big but, we had better be sure that we are heaping dust on our heads as we do so and that genuine grief is assailing our hearts over our offenses against the Lord and each other.

Yes, Chrysalis, too often I have been prideful and uncharitable against my brothers and sisters in the Church who are of different beliefs and practices, but truly still God's children. Hence the need to fast and humble myself before God and plead for His mercy and grace and more light to confess my own sins. I also need to learn to exhibit more charity. I have been guilty of thinking myself in the same class as a Martin Luther and thought that this gave me license trample upon bruised reeds and pour water on smoking flaxes. God forgive me. And may those who were the recipients of my misguided zeal forgive me as well.

At the same time, I sincerely pray that I am not seduced by a desire for your approval or the approval of others so that I commit a greater sin and not say what I perceive to be the truth. I am under no illusion that RP's have cornered the market on truth as I write this. All of us will have our theological kinks worked out of us when we finally meet the Master.

God help us.

Submitted with fear and trembling.
A Hymn

O God of earth and altar
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation
Of honor and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord.

Tie in a living tether
The prince, [elder], and thrall,
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation
Aflame with faith and free,
Lift up a living nation,
A single sword to thee.

by G.K. Chesterton with slight editing by yours truly

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving
In preparation for the fast that our societies will be involved in, I am reading material this week to prepare my heart and mind. In reading over this particular set of minutes, I was struck by how nothing is new under the sun...

June 1st, 1887, 10 o'clock, A.M.Presbytery met according to adjournment, and was opened with prayer by the Moderator. Members present: Messrs. J. F. Fulton and D. Steele, ministers; with Messrs. G. Alexander, D.A. Renfrew, and R. Alexander, ruling elders.[1]

Days of Fasting and Thanksgiving had been observed by all our people.

The Commissioner's report was satisfactory, and the Commission continued. The report of Messrs. G. Alexander and H.M. Hartzell on Miss Jane Young's donation was accepted and approved.

The Committee on the Signs of Times reported, accepted, and having been considered by paragraphs, adopted. It is as follows:

In taking a view of the different departments of society, we may say with the Psalmist, "All the foundations of the earth are out of course." The complaint of the prophet is still true, "There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land."

The evils which we have hitherto lamented have not been removed, but are greatly aggravated by their continuance and increase. We note the following in the Family, the Church, and the State:

1. Even professed Christians utterly disregard the law of God in entering into the marriage relation. Indeed there is scarcely anything that so arouses the enmity of the carnal heart to the Divine law as a faithful endeavor to expound its teaching in this matter. Like the "sons of God" before the flood, they take them wives of all which they choose. Neither their own eternal welfare, nor that of their offspring, nor the authority of their Redeemer avails to counteract their wilfulness in this matter, fraught with so much good or evil to themselves and the Church of Christ. Even the dictates of common sense are disregarded in marrying those of whose character and disposition they know nothing. The consequences of such folly are seen in desertions and divorces, embittering not only the lives of the parties themselves, but marring the peace of those connected with them.

As marriage is entered into by too many without any regard to prudence or duty, as far as the parties themselves are concerned, so there is less attention paid to the great end for which marriage was instituted, the training of children in the knowledge and practice of their duty to God. It is to be feared that the duty of gaining the knowledge necessary to instruct their offspring is seldom, if ever, thought of by those entering into that solemn relation. As a necessary result, their children grow up in ignorance of their duties as members of the Family, of the Church, and of the State.

No doctrine is more clearly taught in the Bible than that the man is the head of the woman. All the nations of the earth, with one consent, show the work of the law written on their hearts, by embodying this Scriptural principle in their laws, though fearfully corrupted by their lusts and tyranny.

The tendency of modern teaching and legislation is to render the family a headless monster, and to unfit it for the great ends of its institution. We believe this teaching to be one of the fruitful sources of alienation of affection between husband and wife, family contentions, and insubordination; thus making the Scriptural training of children impossible. This and all similar sentiments spring from the conception that it is disgraceful to be in subjection to anyone, and that our true dignity and happiness consist in being entirely free from control—a thought coming from the father of lies.

That authority which others have over us is a ray of the Divine majesty, and in obeying them we obey God himself. A great part of our duty to him consists in the performance of the several duties we owe to others in our different places and relations. He has said, "Them that honor me, I will honor; and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."

The want of preparation by parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is naturally followed by its neglect, unconsciously making one sin the justification of another. The evils of this omission of duty are many and flagrant. A generation has grown up that know not the God of their fathers, and that are ignorant of the wonders He has performed in delivering them from Pagan, Papal, and Prelatic tyranny, and of the great Scriptural doctrines those worthies sealed with their blood. "That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good."
Parents are the natural instructors of their children, and it is an irreparable loss to a child when his parents neglect this duty. No instructions take such deep root in his heart as those of his father and mother. Especially is this true of a mother's teaching. Her strong love for her offspring, and their reciprocal affection, are peculiarly calculated to make a deeper impression. How often has the collection of a mother's love and a mother's teaching and prayers brought tears to the eyes of the most hardened criminal!

History shows that many of those who were pre-eminent for good or evil, owed their pre-eminence to their mothers. What a vast amount of good came to Israel through the prayers of pious Hannah! When the mother of Augustine lamented to Ambrose the evil course her son was pursuing, he replied that "he never saw the son of so many prayers given up." Augustine still instructs the Church by his writings, which are quoted with respect by that prince of divines, John Owen.

It is to be lamented that so many mothers, instead of being "keepers at home," and "guiding their houses," neglect these duties to engage in questionable "Moral Reforms" of different kinds, thus leaving their families without that constant inspection which they need. If they would faithfully perform their duties, their children would rise up and call them blessed, and would be prepared to take their places either as private members or office-bearers in the Church.

Parental discipline is greatly neglected, and the use of the rod, the divinely appointed means of driving folly out of the heart of the child, is decried. As soon as the child is able he is permitted "to run the streets," to associate with the vicious, and to learn their language and ways, and thus in his tender years he is schooled in vice. As he advances in years, he more and more disregards parental authority, until finally he sets it at defiance. Being thus early left to his own lusts, it is not strange that he soon begins to frequent the saloon and other dens of iniquity, and is ruined in soul and body. Thus, whilst many are making a great outcry against the saloon, the same persons by the way they train their children are continually furnishing it with victims.

2. The want of Scriptural training in the family has produced its disastrous effects on the Church, in her doctrine, worship, government, and discipline. The members of the Church, having been brought up in ignorance of these things, are easily "carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in weight to deceive." The sentiment that a man must know himself to be regenerated before he can become a member of the Church, is clear evidence that the teaching of our fathers is forgotten. They warned us against "shifting the terms of communion from agreement in doctrine and practice to the supposed goodness of persons." The Lord Jesus Christ never made that a term of communion in the visible Church of which her officers are incompetent to judge. He claims it as His own prerogative to search the heart. "All the Churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts."

Funeral sermons are a great snare to the ministry, and in many ways hurtful to those who hear them. When a so-called minister of the Gospel encourages surviving relatives to hope that the dead who died a drunkard has gone to heaven, what but infidelity can result from such teaching? The Holy Spirit says, "No drunkard shall enter the kingdom of heaven;" yet one professing to be a minister of the Gospel encourages his hearers to hope that this is not true. How wretched the condition of the people who entrust themselves to such guides!

Although all do not run to the same excess, yet by their fulsome eulogies of the dead, ascribing qualities to them they never possessed, and by their asserting that those who during their life gave little evidence of the power of godliness are gone to heaven, they "sow pillows under all armholes," and encourage men to live under the form of godliness without its power.

These so-called funeral sermons are a relict of heathenism, which taught that the dead could not rest in their graves until certain religious ceremonies were performed in their behalf. It is manifest that funeral services are sought for by surviving friends under the thought that they are, in some way, necessary to the eternal happiness of the deceased. It should be enough for all lovers of truth to know that these ceremonies about the dead symbolize with popery, which is heathenism baptized with the Christian name.

The invention and introduction of the Sunday or Sabbath-school has greatly corrupted the Church. Of this evil many sober Christians of different denominations have become thoroughly convinced. A member of the regular Baptist order has said, "The Sunday-school is the theatre in disguise." A minister of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church has expressed the wish, "That all Sunday-school literature and libraries were committed to the flames." And we have no doubt that when Paul's doctrine returns to the Church, those books of curious arts, which cost more that fifty thousand pieces of silver, will be deemed suitable fuel for a greater conflagration than the bonfire at Ephesus.

We consider all existing voluntary associations, proposing remedies for acknowledged social disorders; such as temperance, national reform, etc., usually recommended by the word Christian, as being of the same tendency as the Sunday-school.

3. As is the character of the Family and of the Church, such will be that of the State.
The general demand by all parties for "Civil Service Reform," loudly proclaims the popular sense of awful demoralization in the State. The official representatives in the several departments of the National and State governments, exhibit the moral character of their constituency.
In the common newspaper may be read every morning accounts of breach of trust, bribery, embezzlement, robbery; and sometimes robbers are so bold as to attack trains in motion, and make a prey of both life and property.

Frequent conflicts arise between employees and employers, betray want of mutual confidence. The foregoing we consider as precursors of Socialism and Anarchy.

We view earthquakes, cyclones, fire and flood, destroying life and property, in city and country, in forest and prairie, as indications of the Divine displeasure against our social sins. We believe that the only effectual remedy for our individual, social, and moral maladies is provided in the moral law and covenant of grace. These clearly expounded and faithfully applied by a Gospel ministry, seconded by a Scriptural magistracy, with the blessing of God, will exalt the Mediator to be the head of the nations, and bring all ranks to dutiful subjection to his authority.

We have cause of thankfulness to God that while moral disorders lamentably prevail among our guilty race, all the children of Zion are invited to be joyful in their King, "who rules in the midst of His enemies, making the wrath of man to praise Him and restraining the remnant of His wrath."

We thank God for having made known to us that federal compact between the Father and the Son, with the concurrence of the Holy Ghost, whereby sinners of mankind may be delivered front the legal, penal, and moral consequences of our fall in Adam.

We bless our Heavenly Father for selecting and appointing His only begotten Son to be our Redeemer, our Goel, or near kinsman, that "we might be made the righteousness of God in Him," and might become members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones—"Complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power."

We praise our God for founding Zion, organizing a visible church on earth, incorporated under a covenant charter, furnished with all officers and ordinances requisite as means for the salvation of His people; and that we, though "a wasted remnant," are still in the possession and enjoyment of these inestimable privileges.

We desire to be thankful, moreover, that God still raises some witnesses to lift up their voices against the inventions of men, who through "good intent" deface His ordinances and desecrate His sanctuary.

National peace and material prosperity, furnishing abundant supplies for the sustenance of man and beast, call for grateful acknowledgment to our merciful Father and covenant God.
And, finally, we can never be sufficiently thankful to God for permitting and honoring us as a Presbytery, unitedly and publicly, with our hands lifted toward heaven, to pledge anew adherence to our Covenants, National and Solemn League at North Union, Butler Co., Pa., 1881; together with our equal adherence to the first faithful renovation of said Covenants "at Auchensaugh, near Douglas, Scotland, 1712:" knowing that "it is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry."

The last Thursday of November next was appointed as a day of Thanksgiving, and the last Thursday of February, 1888, as a day of Fasting, by all under our care.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I Wish I Had Known This A Month Ago

The Proper Way to Cough and Sneeze

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Halfway to 90

Many thanks to family and friends who sent me birthday cards, emails, and phone calls celebrating my natal day yesterday.

One of the greatest challenges of getting older, I think, is learning to do so gracefully. I have this horror of doing something or acting in a way that would make people look at me and say, "Mutton dressed like lamb."

A few months ago I went through the postpartum "bonk" of having my hair fall out by the handful. Much of what is growing in around the edges is coming back in silver. To color, or not to color: that is the question. For now, I have settled on not coloring. Part of this is laziness and a wish not to poison myself with chemicals absorbed through my scalp, and part of this is the desire to get comfortable with getting older.

At the same time I am learning to make peace with grey hair and new lines on my face, I am also trying not to fall into complacency and just letting myself go. Did I mention the shiny new elliptical machine in my basement? Now that my coughing is practically nonexistant and I can take a breath without hacking and turning blue, I think I'll be able to get on it and start walking off the extra poundage that I have acquired throught the years. This recent bout of illness has been helpful in that it helped me to get off the sugar, yeast and wheat -- all things that make me "fluffy."

I'm not sure how 45 is supposed to feel. In some ways I feel like I have been this age forever, and in other ways I still feel like a naive 18 year old who still has a lot to learn. I have accumulated a lot of regrets over the years -- duties left undone, things done that should have been left undone, and I woke with the desire to pray and ask God for forgiveness for all my failings and grace to help me through my remaining days. This Psalm came to mind:

Psalm 32

Blessed is he whose
transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom
the LORD does not impute iniquity
And in whose spirit there is no deceit.

When I kept silent, my bones
grew old
Through my groaning all the
day long.
For day and night Your hand
was heavy upon me:
My vitality was turned into
the drought of summer [Selah.]
I acknowledge my sin to You
And my iniquity I have
not hidden.
I said, "I will confess my
transgressions to the LORD."
And You forgave the iniquity of
my sin. [Selah]

For this cause everyone who is
godly shall pray to You
In a time when You may be
Surely in a flood of great
They shall not come near him.
You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from
You shall surround me with
songs of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach
you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye.
Do not be like the horse
or like the mule,
Which have no understanding,
Which must be harnessed with
bit and bridle.
Else they will not come near you.

Many sorrows shall be to the
But he who trusts in the LORD,
mercy shall surround him.
Be glad in the LORD and rejoice,
you righteous;
And shout for joy,
all you upright in heart!

Here's to another year, Lord willing. May I not be a horse or an ass in it.