Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sick cell

Cell phones are nice. They're not great, but they're nice. And I'm starting to think it may be time for me to buy a new one. Not that I really want to, mind you. My phone is in great shape! It's just that the battery only keeps a charge for about 1/2 hour now.The last time I replaced my cell phone, I really didn't want to either. But I had to, if I wanted a cell phone at all.

You see, I had a perfectly good old cell phone. Worked great, except the battery would no longer hold a charge. Solution? Go to the store and buy a new battery, right?! Not so easy. I tried to explain to the guy that my phone was in great shape. Sure it was three times bigger than any other cell phones I had seen lately, but who cares about that?! It still worked great. So I asked if he could please show me where the batteries were for this type of phone. Well, he was quiet for a moment and then said, "Ummm ma'am, your phone is considerably out of date and we haven't carried batteries for that type of phone for quite some time..."...and something else about analog versus something else...oh, I don't know... Anyway, so I had to buy a new phone.

I had decided to try a different phone plan at that time, too. It wasn't a hard choice for me to make. I knew I didn't need one of those big unlimited plans because I rarely use my cell phone. Not much of a talker, you know. But it is nice to have one in case of an emergency, and it has proven convenient at times. So, I chose the absolute cheapest plan — $15.98 a month — and it's been fine...really!...I guess. The only thing is, they've been rolling over all my unused minutes ever since and my total keeps growing and growing. In fact, today when I used my phone, that little voice that comes on every time I make a call reminded me that I only had 22 hours and 21 minutes to complete my call. What am I supposed to do with all that time?!!

Anyway, so now it seems I need to buy another phone because my "new" phone's battery is only holding a charge for about 1/2 hour. (You don't suppose they're still making batteries for my "new" phone, do you?) And just like last time, my "new" phone is still in great shape! Okay, maybe the plastic antennae that I have to pull out is a little bent over at the top. But I really don't mind that. Actually...I think it looks rather endearing...and...really...no one has a phone just like mine anymore...and...I am still ekeing a good 1/2 hour out of it...

Hmmm...Maybe I can hold onto it for just a bit longer.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I have enough

Recently, a friend from choir introduced me to the music of Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson, mezzo soprano. And after listening to the first of her CD's I ordered — Bach Cantatas BWV 82 and 199 — I just want to say thanks so much Lois, and wow, what a voice!

The first piece on this CD, BWV 82 - Ich habe genug, is probably my favorite. Not only is it beautifully sung, it is brilliantly composed. But then of course with Bach as the composer, how could it be otherwise, right?

Ich habe genug expresses contempt for this worldly life and a yearning for death and heaven. It also has a very intriguing paradox — the words do not even mention the pains of living in this world; rather, they are full of radiance and hope. Bach’s music, however, is full of pain and dissonance. I think this conflicting combination well expresses the Christian life itself. The haunting "music" of this cursed world and its resulting pain fills the air around us and reverberates within us. We cannot escape it. But do we "sing" about the trials we're enduring? No (or at least we shouldn't). We "sing" about the glory to come!

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom 8:18).

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil 1:21).

The history behind Ich habe genug (meaning, "I have enough") is really rather interesting. Bach intended this cantata for the Feast of the Purification of Mary (also known as "Candlemas"), and it was first sung on that day on February 2, 1727. This feast commemorates Mary's journey to Jerusalem for the duel purpose of ritual purification forty days after giving birth and to present her child to God. It is based on Luke 2:22-32, which actually says little about the purification of Mary; rather it focuses on Simeon, to whom it had been revealed by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Simeon's beautiful prayer follows: Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel. In Bach's day, the Feast of the Purification of Mary was a time for Christians to think about their own deaths and to expand the idea of Simeon's words to mean, "now that the Savior has appeared, I can die with good cheer, for death has lost its terror."

Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson usually wore a flimsy hospital gown and thick woolen socks when performing Ich Habe Genug. And with her face contorted with pain and yearning, she portrayed a terminally ill patient who wants to go to heaven and be comforted by her Savior.

Ironically, Lorraine herself died of cancer on July 3, 2006 at the age of 52. It seems she was not a believer, however, for she has been quoted as saying this about herself regarding Bach's cantatas: "It was a revelation, even for a non-believer, to experience these works in context, as it were, and thus to discover how they really worked! For they are sermons, sermons in verse and music, beautiful and intense supplements to the sermons preached by the pastor in his pulpit." How very sad to sing such words of hope and never experience the truth of them.

Cantata BWV 82, Ich Habe Genug as sung by Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson

English translation:

It is enough.
I have held the Savior, the hope of all peoples,
In the warm embrace of my arms.
It is enough.

I have seen him,
My faith has impressed Jesus on my heart;
Now I wish this very day
To depart from here with joy.

It is enough.
My one consolation is this:
That I am Jesus’ beloved and he is mine.
In faith, I hold him.
For in Simeon, I already see
The joy of life to come.
Let us go forth with Simeon!
Ah! if only the Lord
Would free me from my body’s enslavement;
Ah! if indeed my liberation were soon,
With joy I would say to you, O World,
It is enough.

Slumber, my weary eyes,
Fall softly and close in contentment.

O World, I will linger here no more.
For indeed, I find nothing in you
Pleasing to my soul.

Here I am resigned to misery,
But there, there I shall feel
Sweet peace and quiet rest.

My God! When will I hear that precious word: “Now!”
Then I will depart in peace,
And rest both here in the humus of the cool earth
And there within your bosom.
My departure is at hand,
O World, good night!

With gladness, I look forward to my death,
(Ah! if only it had already come.)

Then shall I escape all despair
That still enslaves me now on earth.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"All of our theology must eventually become biography.
The constant challenge in this life we call Christian is the translation of all we believe to be true into our day-to-day life-style."

You Gotta Keep Dancin’
(In the midst of life’s hurts, you can choose joy!)
by Tim Hansel

Saturday, October 10, 2009

We love Him because He first loved us - 1 Jn 4:19

Have you ever noticed that Paul never speaks of his love for Christ? Rather he keeps on talking about Christ's wonderful love for him. Neither does he insist that we love Christ. Instead he keeps telling us how Christ loved, and loves, us.

It's interesting to note that the law commanded, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matt 22:37). But then this is the very nature of the law. And we should love God. However, the law cannot produce love, so God comes to us in grace and says, “I love you.” Therefore, what the law could not accomplish, grace did and does, because love produces love. When we come to know the love of Christ, we respond to Him in love. That’s why Paul's epistles are so filled with the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:39).

Peter, like Paul, had once been a strict observer of the law, and he too had come to know the love of Christ. As a result, Peter had developed a deep love for Christ and the overflowing joy that accompanies such love. That’s why we read these heartfelt words in 1 Peter 1:8: Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.

Knowing and loving Christ brings inexpressible joy (1 Pet 1:8), but we can't love Him, or others, by trying. Instead, we must accept His love for us in faith so that our hearts may naturally respond.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stolen Goose

John: Pastor, I have stolen a fat goose from a poultry yard.

Pastor Davis: That is very wrong, John.

John: Would you like it, Pastor?

Pastor Davis: Certainly not! Return it to the man you stole it from.

John: But I have offered it to him and he won't have it.

Pastor Davis: In that case, you may keep it for yourself.

John: Thank you, Pastor.

Pastor Davis arrives home that evening to find that one of his geese has been stolen...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Is ignorance bliss?

Are most people content to be ignorant? Does ignorance create bliss? According to an article written by Himanshu Mishra (University of Utah), Baba Shiv (Stanford University), and Dhananjay Nayakankuppam (University of Iowa), people who are about to make decisions do not like to be ignorant — they want as many details as possible. However, after they've made a decision, people want to be happy with it and thereafter only want vague information. "It does appear that vagueness can actually make one more optimistic about one's own life choices and subjective well-being by allowing one to see what one wants to see—a case of ignorance truly being bliss!" the authors write.

This article got me to wondering if this so-called "Blissful Ignorance Effect" has followed many of us over into our spiritual lives. Sometimes it seems we're afraid to study Scripture for fear we might discover we've made a poor decision to follow Christ. Or, maybe we've been brought up to believe certain things and we're afraid they won't stand up to the scrutiny of Scripture. If the latter is the case, what's so terribly bad about that? Are we secretly afraid our faith will completely fall a part if we discover some of the things we were taught in Sunday School weren't exactly right? The fact is, faith is not something we have to strive to hold onto because it too is a gift God has given us.

But God does want us to grow to spiritual maturity, and He has made abundant provision for every one of us to do so. In Corinthians Paul rebukes the believers for not having grown. The trouble with the Corinthians was that they did not have much appetite for the Word; they did not have a passion to know and obey the truth. And we know that "the babe in Christ who craves pure spiritual milk will grow up in their salvation, now that they have tasted that the Lord is good" (1 Pet 2:2-3). This was the trouble with the Hebrew believers, too. When the author of the book would have gone further into the great subject of Christ as "high priest in the order of Melchizedek," he was forced to write:

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn (Heb 5:11).

Scriptural ignorance is not bliss, for it is there that we learn who we are in Christ and how we are to live!

During World War II there were many stories about parents having prearranged a code with their sons so that "Johnny" could let them know to which theater of war he had been sent. These parents would pour over and study these letters in detail in an effort to make out what "Johnny" was trying to make them understand.

Such interest and concern over a letter from "Johnny"! And appropriately so, but do we show such interest in God's Word to us? Let's not be guilty of being content with "vague information," with knowing only a few passages which "warm our hearts."