Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Divine sovereignty, David Wood, and me

If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to watch David Wood's video about his conversion. This post will be a bit of a spoiler if you haven't already seen it, so I suggest you watch it first.

I don't know to what extent I speak for others who have been Christians since early childhood, but I often feel a special kind of self-deprecating awe when I hear a story like David's. Far from feeling superior on the grounds that "I've always been a Christian," I feel rather as though I have no story to tell. All those songs out there about "the day I met Jesus" and "my life was changed that day" and so forth--That's David's story, but I sing them like dramatic monologues in which I'm pretending to be someone else.

My life has been changed only very gradually, and the spiritual process has often been phenomenologically indistinguishable from the mundane process of becoming a more mature human being over a period of decades. I was saved when I was four years old, and I remember the event quite well. But I was often a bad little girl thereafter, I was a positively nasty teen at times, and I remain a highly difficult adult. To add to all my other faults, I was the world's worst prig throughout much of my childhood and teen years. I can still remember arguing heatedly with my mother about whether I should go and buy a book at Moody Book Store, which she thought was in too dangerous a neighborhood. (There was no Amazon at the time.) We had no car; I went everywhere on the bus unless a friend gave me a ride. I got quite hoity-toity about the fact that I was planning to use this book to witness to someone. I argued that my mother had often let me take buses to highly dubious Chicago neighborhoods when doing temp agency work for the worldly purpose of earning money and that therefore I certainly ought to be allowed to take a bus to a dangerous neighborhood to buy a book for the purpose of trying to bring someone to Christ. Harrumph. As I recall, in the end I won the argument and went and bought the book without incident. (It was by Francis Schaeffer, though I don't recall which of Schaeffer's books it was.)

I'd like to think that the Holy Spirit has been working in me since then and that I've gradually improved with age, but the point is that it is nothing like David's dramatic conversion story. There is nothing at all in my life that corresponds, or so it seems to me, to that darkness to light reversal.

But as I was reflecting on this fact I came upon a more fundamental similarity between my own life story and David Wood's. I'm adopted. It may be that somewhere, at some time, I will tell that story as I've learned it more in full, but for now there are details that I will leave obscure. Suffice it to say that what I have learned about my biological father, in particular, has made me grateful beyond words for having been placed for adoption as an infant. It is nearly certain (to my mind) that I would not be a Christian believer today had I not been placed for adoption. As it was, my adoptive parents, though fallible human beings, of course, raised me "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" at great cost to themselves. My father--that is to say, the only father I have ever known, my adopted father--was a good and gentle man who loved me and my brother. He could not have been more different from the man who biologically brought me into existence and who might have had influence over my life had I not been adopted.

All of that, the whole back-story of my whole life, happened when I was a tiny baby. It began even before I was born with my birth mother's difficult decision to get in touch with an adoption agency. My life, my whole life, is a gift from God.

The Bible says, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6) Also,

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:... But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)
The point is that I, like David, was sovereignly cared for by God and brought to a place where I could come to know Him, and that God did this for both of us when we could do nothing for ourselves. David was trapped in his own twisted mind as a psychopath. I was a helpless infant and knew nothing about the decisions that were being made around me that would profoundly affect my future. To both of us, in very different ways, God came. Both of us, though for very different reasons, can say, "My whole life is a gift."

It is not in the phenomenology of my life since I have been old enough to be self-conscious that I should look for dramatic evidence of God's personal working. God does not deal in made-to-order dramatic, personal evidence. His gifts are far more personalized than that.

Nothing that I have said here actually means that I am a Calvinist, I hasten to add. In the end, I had to make a choice. Indeed, I'm afraid it's still true on a daily basis that I am making crucial choices all the time that influence who I am and what I am becoming. But God has poured out the riches of His grace upon me in innumerable ways, even farther back at the very beginning in making me alive and conscious at all.

In the end, when we get to heaven, Calvinist and Arminian alike, lifelong Christian and adult convert alike, will be able to agree and join in saying, "My whole life is a gift. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To whom be glory for ever, world without end, Amen."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The light shineth in darkness

The Bible is not afraid of simple metaphors and images. In fact, the Bible is all about simple metaphors and images: The Father, the Son, the mother and child. The light and the darkness. The man and the woman.

It is for that very reason that those who hate reality hate the Bible. Sometimes their hatred takes a direct form, and sometimes it takes the form of twisting Scripture to their own ends.

This Christmas, I have very little to say in the blogosphere, except these ancient, simple truths, which are not mine but were given to all of us. We could not have created these truths ourselves, and we cannot make them come true, but God can, God did, and God will:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. The Child Christ was weak and helpless, but he was the king of all the world. One day he will come in his majesty and rule with truth and grace, and in his kingdom, there will be no more falsehood. God is light, and Jesus said that we are the light of the world. A very small light shines a long way on a dark night.

Merry Christmas to my readers.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The inestimable privilege of singing to Mrs. K.

Every year since 2001 my family has organized a Christmas caroling potluck at our house. Mostly attended by home schooling families (some quite large families), joined by Christian college students and various other friends, the caroling parties can get quite large. I believe our record is eighty, counting unborn children. I did not count this year so would only be guessing, but my guess would put the total this year somewhere around forty.

We eat first then go out into the neighborhood. This year we stopped at ten houses, most of whom were expecting us, but four of those families were not home, so we sang at only six. On a Saturday evening in December, many families are simply not at home. It's amazing how much energy it takes to sing at just six houses, but despite that, I would like to raise the number of houses we go to. I prefer to go where we have been previously announced and expected rather than knocking at random doors. Perhaps in future years I will put my caroling letter into the mailboxes of more neighbors. My voice was about shot by the end of this year's caroling, but then, my voice had been entirely gone just two days before the party, so I was grateful to be able to sing at all.

For all of those thirteen years and fourteen caroling parties we have sung to the elderly Mrs. K. She lives nearby in her own home, cared for by the frequent visits of her adult children, whose assiduous help has allowed her to continue to live on her own with her small dog. With each year she has grown more frail, and now she is, quite literally, bent double due to spinal problems. She is very much all there. She told me a story this last summer of going to the doctor and being asked what medications she was on. She said she listed all twenty-six from memory, with their doses.

This year she was careful to call me on the evening of the caroling party to remind me that we should come to the side door of the house to sing. Why this is easier for her is a mystery to me, since it requires her to come down a short flight of stairs to open the door, while the front door is level with the main floor. But I know there is a good logistical reason, whatever it may be, and I duly assured her that we would come to the side door, which is equipped with its own doorbell.

Having had several disappointments ringing bells where people were not home, our merry band was a little nervous when Mrs. K. took a while getting to the door. They wondered if this would be another house where no one answered. I wasn't worried; I knew she was home. When she appeared and slowly opened the door, looking down at the ground and unable to lift herself up, much like the woman in the Bible whom Jesus healed (Luke 13), everyone felt, I think, just as I did: Who are we that she should go to all this trouble to come to the door and listen to us sing?

We gave her our best. I can't remember which song we started out with. Perhaps it was "Hark the Herald." Then, as I always do with the people for whom we sing, I asked her if she had a favorite carol she would like us to sing. She said "O Holy Night."

It just so happens that I've never added "O Holy Night" to our repertoire. If I'd thought of it, I probably would have said it was too hard for us. But Eldest Daughter immediately struck up the tune (in an excellently accessible key, I might add), and off we went. Fortunately, we were all gathered rather close together by the side door. A first rule of caroling outside in front of houses is, "Thou shalt bunch close together so as to be able to hear one another." My beloved band tends to straggle, however often I ask them to come closer. I think they are afraid of making the goodman or good lady of the house feel crowded with a bunch of people around the front door. But this time, we could hear each other, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good we sounded.

When we tried it again, just for fun, at the house across the street, it was definitely a thinner sound. We had already given our all to Mrs. K., in honor of her gallantry and in honor of Our Lord.

It was a very great privilege. I hope we will have the privilege for many more years.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

There are so many reasons to home school

From time to time I get drawn into a looong discussion of education with someone or other who just cannot fathom why I'm so against sending your kids to public school. One such was here. Another was here.

What will usually happen is that these discussions will start with some one thing--indoctrination into the insane transsexual agenda, sex education, an anti-Christian agenda, or some other issue. Interlocutors pretty much uniformly just do not understand how the education of the young works. Whether it is a Christian urging that we must send our kids into the schools to be "salt and light" or a non-Christian who thinks that there are a whole bunch of subjects in the normal school day into which worldview issues do not enter at all, there is a complete failure to comprehend the holism of education, especially education that takes place over a series of days, weeks, and months. Sure, there are a few subjects the content of which could in theory be taught in isolation from many other things, but so what? That's not what sending your kids to school is about.

But more: These people also don't understand that the reasons against sending your children to public school (and, I fear, increasingly not to many Christian schools) are so many and varied that whatever kicked off the discussion doesn't begin to represent the total strength of the case.

Often, even in those areas where a school might actually be able (if they wanted to) to leave out the worldview issues (math, say), the schools are messed up in some fundamental way related to teaching the subject. New fads come down the pike every other year, it seems, and now kids don't know their times tables, can't read, and are being taught basic operations like multiplication in such bizarre and counterintuitive ways that they come out mathematically illiterate.

Here is a link that gives us another of the umpteen gajillion reasons to home school: The insanity of the assessment culture, starting in early childhood. If interested, just read this carefully written, intelligently argued letter from two teachers (who are putting their names and presumably their jobs on the line) who are crying, "Enough!" It'll make you vow never to send your child to any school, public or private, that has jumped on the assessment bandwagon. I say "public or private" because it seems to me all too likely that even many of the bigger, more mainstream Christian schools have done so for reasons of keeping up with the Joneses educationally. After all, there's nothing inherently un-Christian about testing and assessing small children for hours on end until they go insane, is there? It's not a worldview issue, right?

That's right, it's not. It's just educational malpractice.

These teachers may, for all I know, be enthusiastic liberals. Maybe they are happy to be indoctrinating children into various left-wing ideas. Maybe they even believe in other wrong-headed educational methods, like look-say reading instruction. But they recognize this particular bit of blatant educational malpractice when they see it. Nor are they the only ones. (This one is about kindergarteners being tested to death.)

When you are considering how to educate your children, don't just look at one thing. There are so many things, and they all point in the same direction.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Catching up

My latest blog posts have been put up at What's Wrong With the World instead of here. I did start one here at Extra Thoughts on the subject of secondary separation from Catholics and co-belligerence between Catholics and Protestants, but I changed it fairly drastically and published it instead at W4. Cross-posting would be more time-consuming than linking it, so here is the link.

Far more important than that post is the second recent post at W4, which includes the video of David Wood's testimony. David has a ministry to Muslims and has featured in a lot of my posts four years ago or so concerning the attempts to squelch Christian missions in Dearborn, Michigan. This conversion testimony has nothing to do with Islam and is just...incredible. The important thing is that you watch the video, so I'm going to embed it here, though with a warning: It has some disturbing description of violence and of...weirdness, so you should not watch it with small children present. My relatively unimportant comments on it are available below the fold at W4 here.

Here is David Wood's story of his conversion:

Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died
At Calvary.

Mercy there was great and grace was free.
Pardon there was multiplied to me.
There my burdened soul found liberty,
At Calvary.

By God's grace at last my sin I learned.
Then I trembled at the law I'd spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned
To Calvary.

Mercy there was great and grace was free.
Pardon there was multiplied to me.
There my burdened soul found liberty.
At Calvary.