Monday, July 29, 2013

Choosy Mothers Choose the Gospel

I know I have a history of giving the Roman Catholic religion some grief here and there. And it probably comes off as foolish, one woman picking a fight with one of the largest religions in the world. But this is not an academic or hypothetical debate. Not to me. This is personal.

I've stood on this cliff. I come from a long line of people who have stood on it. And you better believe I'm going to point out the cliff to my kids.
And while I'm no professionally trained theologian, these are errors so large that I can see them from my armchair.
Choosy mothers choose the gospel.

Observation #1: I was baptized into this tradition as an infant. But I utterly reject its validity. Not to my knowledge was there one believer in the entire place. It wasn't until I was three years old--when my parents both became believers--that I was finally a member of a covenant household. A covenant is an agreement, initiated by God, between Himself and another party. Baptism is a sign of the covenant. (I am not arguing in any way against paedobaptism; I fully support it.) But while omnipresent God was at this little shindig of mine, there was no other believing party, rendering my 'baptism' nothing more than a baby shower.

Observation #2: Growing up, one of my family members was plagued by guilt. And the reason? According to her, all the blame could be placed squarely at the feet of the nuns who taught her first eight years of school. Guilt? Whatever happened to grace? What about penance teaches grace? What about penance has anything to do with the finished work of Jesus? WHAT?!?!

At bedtime, we have a routine that fights this kind of nonsense. As we tuck our younger children in bed, after songs and prayers, it goes like this:
Are you my favorite 4/6/8/etc year old? (Yes.)
Do I love you when you're good? (Yes.)
Do I love you when you're bad? (Yes.)
Why do I love you? (Because I'm your boy/girl.)


Observation #3: I spent a month every summer with my Catholic grandparents, who went to Mass (and took me along) every Saturday evening. It was there that I noticed the irony. I know--I know--I was the only believer on my pew every summer. Yet I was the only one barred from the Lord's Supper. What kind of church bars the qualified and qualifies those who should be barred?

It's what you call ironic.

Observation #4: I was about twenty-four when a dear, elderly relative passed away. And I grieved over her eternity. She was an excellent Catholic; she demonstrated very little evidence that she was a Christian.

Observation #5: When I was about twenty-eight, something really wonderful, really miraculous happened. My grandfather got saved. It was a fluke, but one weekend, he skipped Mass and attended church. He heard the gospel--and all the angels in heaven were rejoicing. (Actually, it wasn't a fluke. My parents had been praying for over twenty-five years for him.)

A baptism that wasn't.
A woman needlessly plagued by guilt.
A Christian denied communion and non-Christians admitted to it.
A lifelong Catholic who was never saved.
A lifelong Catholic who lived his first eight decades before hearing and accepting the gospel.
What is wrong with this picture???

I'm not talking about the salvific nature of rites (despite scriptural teaching to the contrary).
I'm not talking about praying to dead people (or praying for dead people).
I'm not talking about dividing believers into saints and non-saints.
I'm not talking about dividing people into priests and non-priests or the suspicious specter of a 'vicar of Christ.' (Never mind that a mouthpiece for God is always subject to judgment by scripture. And while we have not seen a Leo X in many years, consider the present pontiff, Francis. The dear old soul wants to give moral atheists a way to heaven--a way around the Way, the Truth, and the Life--and he's willing to give time off in Purgatory if you tweet him. Does this really sound like the counsel of a true believer? )

I'm willing to call all of these the non-essentials. As really weird as they all strike me, I'm willing to agree to disagree on these things, despite the fact that I am fully convinced of their error.

I am, however, talking about the way the essentials of the  gospel get diluted by the Catholic religion.

Mary the mother of God? No. Mary the mother of our Lord. Words matter. And those words alter the nature of God and the nature of Mary, a mere human like the rest of us. This cult-like adoration of Mary gives me the willies. And it changes the gospel.
Immaculate conception? Wrong. Jesus was fully God and fully man. The Second Adam got his fully human DNA from his mama, who descended from the first Adam with all of Adam's sin nature intact.
Seven deadly sins? Uh, no. One deadly sin nature? Absolutely. The wages of sin is death.
Purgatory? Rosaries? Indulgences? Heck, no. It is finished.
Adding our own merit to Christ's? Nuh uh. It is by grace we are saved, and that not of ourselves.

False gospel?
Look to God's Word.
You tell me.

I'll say it again.
Choosy mothers choose the gospel.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--not that there is another one but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-8

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Theological and Aesthetic Ponderings on the Music of Road Tripping

A road trip to Nashville yesterday found the thirteen Adams' in one Blue Whale for fourteen hours with four revolving drivers. And I'd say it was a success.

I was the first driver up. The rule is that he who holds the keys controls the music. But our cd player is not working, so that left us with Pandora options. Brett ran through his list of options for me.
Guns and Roses? Pff. Yeah, right.
Journey? Yes!
Synthesizers, driving guitars, me bobbing my head to the music, Brett laughing.
Separate Ways.
Oh yeah. And we were off.

So, while the rest of the family lightly snoozed around the Blue Whale, I listened to Journey, Heart, Kansas, Bon Jovi, Toto, and lots of others.  And having the solitude of the wheel, it gave me time to ponder what I was hearing.

I've decided that .38 Special has written my anthem for parenting adults in Hold On Loosely:
Hold on loosely.
But don't let go.
If you cling too tightly,
You're gonna lose control.
You're baby needs Someone to believe in,
And a whole lotta space to breathe in.
So hold on loosely.
But don't let go. 

And REO Speedwagon has put the book of Hosea to rock in Keep On Lovin' You:
You should have seen by the look in my eyes, baby,
There was something missin'.
You should known by the tone of my voice, maybe,
But you didn't listen.
You played dead; but you never bled.
Instead you lay still in the grass all coiled up and hissin'.
And though I know all about those men,
Still I don't remember.
'Cause it was us, baby, way before them, 
And we're still together. 
And I meant every word I said,
When I said that I love you, I meant that I love you forever. 
And I'm gonna keep on lovin' you, cause it's the only thing I wanna do.

I was having fun.

Brett was up next, when we listened to his Mark Knopfler station. I dozed, and, thank you, Lord, his shift was over before he had a chance to get to his Delta Blues station, at which point, we would have all been subjected to Muddy Waters and Mississippi Whatshisname. Phew.

Alex managed to keep it righteous with Lecrae and tunes from Sovereign Grace, although they were liberally sprinkled with country tunes by Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, and Faith Hill. Zach, who admitted he can't take more than two country tunes at one time,  finally gave up and put on his headphones.

The last three hour leg was taken by Zach. And suddenly, Mr. Classical (because that's what he keeps his truck radio and his bedroom radio permanently tuned to) morphed into a metalhead. We started with AC DC's tribute to Rob in Hell's Bells. His occasional hard rock tune had me gaping incredulously at him. Who are you? Not to mention the tortuously bad Land Down Under by Men at Work. While I gagged, everyone else in the car, even the younger ones, were tapping their toes. But his bad choices were punctuated with good stuff by Genesis or Foreigner, and all of us were singing when Peter Gabriel's Sledge Hammer came on. Brett was even doing a little be-bop from the second bench.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeaaaaaaaah.

Zach's playlist included one blow-me-away country song by Eric Church called Sinners Like Me. I had never heard it before, but it made me smile:
I was fifteen when my daddy's old man
Caught me halfway through my first beer.
He laughed so hard when my face turned green,
He said, "You come from a long line of sinners like me."

Oh, if our own parenting could always be laced with Grace like that!!!

Every TULIP begins with T, and this little song more than ably addressed sin and the quilted layer of grace that God lays on top. What? Sinning? Yeah, you 'n' me both, kiddo.

And as we made our way up the old gravel road that led to my parents' property, the synthesizers and the driving guitars started. Why, lookee there. He's just like his mama.
Separate Ways.

We're here. We're safe. We're enjoying some Tennessee quiet.
And we'll have fourteen hours on the return trip to do some more musing on the music of Road Trips.

I love my family. I love the unity that fellowship in the Holy Spirit brings. But I'm also thankful for the individuality in one Blue Whale.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Choice Lessons from the Threshold of Hell

I woke up that morning humming "May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart, bless Your name, bless Your name, Jesus." Seems God was gently reminding me, before I put my foot in my mouth, to watch my tongue.

After all, we were getting ready to enter the threshold of Hell.

It wasn't quite Gandalf's warning to Merry: In fact, it would be best if you just said nothing at all. But I know lots of people were thinking it about me. Heck, they might even have been praying it.

When we got there, Liza grabbed Life Tape--red duct tape with "Life" written on it--and handed me a piece.  I just looked at her.
I am disinclined to acquiesce. Means 'no.'
No. If there's an opportunity to speak, I'm gonna speak. And that's that.
Liza looked a little worried.
I think Life Tape sends a very powerful message from a lot of pro-lifers to a lot of pro-aborts. But it's not for me. And it's not a rule. I stuck in on my shirt.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...
Liza and I boarded the metrorail for downtown, and as we took our seats, I saw the reserved seating that said, These seats must be vacated for seniors and the disabled.
And I was being transported back to my thirteen years of misery in South Florida, where we were invaded every winter by 'snow birds', a euphemism for loud, rude, penny-pinching, obnoxious old people from New York. I hated every minute of it. They have absolutely no concept of an indoor voice, and they make Oscar the Grouch look like Pollyanna. They don't even need us goyim to get going. They just have at it with each other. My mother-in-law, who shares a bit of their, uh, ethnicity, thought I was overreacting and was concerned by my prejudice.

Then we took her to the movies.
It took about fifteen minutes in line with 'them' for her to turn to me in shocked disbelief.
You thought I was making this up, nu? I smiled smugly.
You want to send me to Hell? Send me to Century Village. I'm not kidding.
My time in South Florida permanently obliterated the myth of the 'sweet old lady.'

I wish I knew then what I know now.
Rise in the presence of the aged.
I always thought implicit in all the honor commands was the assumption that the honored were honorable.
We don't honor anyone because they are honorable. We honor them because that's how we honor God.
So as I sat there on the metrorail and all these thoughts swirled in my head, it hit me.
We all have trouble honoring. Thirteen years of South Florida living means I must make a conscious choice to honor the aged, a demographic my experience tells me is often not honorable.

On the other hand, the pro-aborts don't honor pre-born humans. That's their demographic. And we pro-lifers tend to romanticize the babies we're trying to save. But let's be honest. Some of those babies will grow up to wear orange shirts and shake their fists at God. Some of those babies will become the twelve-year old neighbor who bullies your kid and teaches him some new vocabulary. Some of those babies will grow up to become Osamas and Adolfs and Rob Bells. Yet they all bear the image of their Creator. And that's why we honor the pre-born...
because honoring the pre-born is the way we honor God.
Lesson #1: I choose to honor God by honoring the aged and the pre-born.

We got off the train and headed for the  Capitol grounds. As we closed in, it was quite obvious that 100 or so of us pro-lifers were going to be seriously outnumbered by 2,000 orange pro-aborts. "Welcome to the threshold of Hell," I whispered to Eliza.

The first thing we did was attend a prayer meeting. And I was overcome with a need to pray for orange. "Lord, let those women in orange today have an encounter with the Living God. Even as their mouths say one thing, let their hearts be pierced by the truth of the Gospel." Where did that come from?

Then we assembled for a press conference in which women who had had abortions shared their experiences. And they were heartbreaking. But two stories stand out to me. "Toni" shared how her boyfriend pressured her to abort. When she attempted to leave the clinic, she was held down--HELD DOWN--by the nurse and injected with something. When she woke up, her baby was gone. That's not choice; that's China! I wonder who was there to defend Toni's choice.  "Maria" told her abortion story, and her words rang in my ears. "All they told me was that it was legal, but they didn't tell me what it was."

What do you mean? You didn't know what an abortion was??? Are you kidding me? And suddenly, I learned something. One of the biggest tools of pro-lifers is education. Show sonograms. Use diagrams. Explain the process in detail. But one of the biggest tools of the pro-aborts is ignorance. Restrict sonograms and take their money. One abortionist, according to "Julie's" story, shook his fistful of dollars at her and sneered, "I love stupid women!"

Oh my goodness. Ignorance had never occurred to me. All along, I've been thinking this was a level playing field, that they had the same information we did. But Maria said it herself. She only knew it was legal; she didn't know what it was. Not until the deed had been done.

There is a difference among the ranks of the Lost. And there is a difference in our response. There is a Psalm 15 commendation for the righteous man "in whose eyes a vile man is despised." But there is also a Jonah 4 compassion from the Lord for the sinful but ignorant: "And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city in which there are 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left...?"

Did God excuse Nineveh because of their ignorance? No, Holy God did not excuse their sin. Rather, he brought them to repentance. That sea of hateful, vicious orange out there? Some of them are vile...but some of them don't know their right from their left. I began to pray for God's elect in the orange crowd, those who are His but are not yet regenerate. Lord, draw them out, and set them free.
Lesson #2: I choose to believe that some pro-aborts are just ignorant.

We entered the Capitol Rotunda next, where the shouting was beginning. Three levels up were ringed by a mixture of orange and blue, mostly orange. Behold, the wide path. I found myself standing next to an orange shirt. I was praying; she was holding a peace sign. As we looked down into the Rotunda, I felt impressed to focus on the woman next to me. So I began to pray. I prayed that she would think about this later. I prayed she would meet the Lord. The orange shirts took up a new chant. Pro-choice is not pro-death; pro-choice is not pro-death. Huh? three of us blurted out. How can they say ? A blue shirt two people over said, "Moron." Thank you, Lord, that was not me. I should pass her my Life Tape. She needed it more than I.

Suddenly, the orange woman next to me turned and said,"Thank you. Thank you for coming and standing for what you believe. I know we're on opposite sides, but this is important."
Quick. Think of something sincere and truthful. I'm really not glad she's here to oppose a bill that will bring us closer to Life. Ummmm...
"The political process, you mean?" I asked.
She nodded.
"Mm hm. It's a good thing," I said. She smiled. And we returned to our silence.
Praying, praying, praying.
Finally, she stepped back and turned to her friend. "I gotta go." We both faced each other then.
"Well," she said, "thanks." I extended my hand and smiled. "It was nice to meet you."
She smiled back and shook mine. "It was nice to meet you, too. I'm Dixie."
"And I'm Noel."
We nodded to each other, and she was gone.
Maybe not much of a conversation. But a bridge was built that moment. While a battle raged in the heavenlies and in the Rotunda, we found a little bright spot across this ugly chasm. I came expecting to meet and make enemies. I left with a new burden for a new friend.
Lesson #3: I choose to go to the Throne for Dixie, the woman in orange.

A man was roaming the second floor looking for a debate. My eyes perked up. Liza put her hand on my arm.
What? He wants to.
Be nice.
Who, me?
He found someone to engage, and we slipped off to eavesdrop. It was a bunch of gobbledy gook, in which he confused spontaneous abortion with artificial abortion. I simply pointed that out. And a reporter was asking for my name and furiously taking notes. No lesson here; just a funny interaction.

The battle continues to rage tonight at the Capitol. The orange shirts have taken up "Hail Satan" as their chant, and they are literally circling the pro-lifers, two of whom are my amazing daughters.
I told you it was the Threshold of Hell.

But this morning, as I was mulling things over and getting choked up, I spent my whole prayer time on Dixie.  And this song came on that I thought was a good anthem for the duration of this evil battle. I'll need to choose everyday to love what God loves, to be most satisfied in Him, and to remember that the battle is the Lord's. And I'll be praying for Dixie.

Let me be in love with what You love. Let me be most satisfied in You.
Forsaking what this world has offered me, I choose to be in love with You.
I will choose to be in love with You.
Let me know the peace that's mine in You; let me know the joy my heart can sing.
For I have nothing, Lord, apart from You. I choose to call on Christ in me.
I will choose to call on Christ in me.
For in the fullness of who You are, I can rest in this place.
And giving over this, my journey, Lord, I see nothing but Your face.
Let me know that You have loved me first. Let me know the weight of my response.
For You have long pursued my wandering heart. I choose to glory in Your cross.
I will choose to glory in Your cross.
And I bow down; humbly, I bow down.
My beloved, here I am. I bow down to You.

Choose by Christy Nockels