Saturday, April 29, 2006

To My Sister On Her Birthday

Sister, I know you as
a bubbling brook sparkling
with the sun reaching its golden fingers
to its depths as if to pluck
its glinting stones, small smooth brightly coloured
gifts to the world
that make your song so beautiful

I remember you laughing, your dark head
bent, your exotic eyes sparkling
I remember your gap-toothed smile, so ready
and so charming
Your name means “pretty” and you always were
I remember your cute little ringlets as a toddler
And how you communicated by gestures and sounds
rather than words
Later you made up for it and could keep up a steady stream of chatter
I remember your ever-present hair-bands
when you were growing your bangs out
They were bright, fat, and cloth-coloured
and held back your bubbled hair
slightly bleached by the sun
I remember how you would seize upon an idea and not let go
You understood the parable of the persistent widow
better than any one I know
I remember how you found friends everywhere
And cared deeply about them all
I remember when we were room-mates sharing a bunk bed
You were a collector, but organized
I lazed in bed in the mornings but you always
leapt out of bed to greet the day
I remember when we were devotional partners
praying and laughing together, excited by our spiritual potential

Does the stream flow on and the dance
of light continue? Does your song go on?
I hope the spring thaw will swell your banks
For to you I may be a sister of blood only
But you will always be a sister of my heart

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Yes, it's true I have an addiction (other than my obvious addiction to chocolate)

I have a confession to make. While from my postings you might surmise I am a deep person with profound thoughts on religious subjects, in fact I am an entertainment news addict. While I have never actually bought a celebrity news tabloid, when I am listening to the radio I am more likely to tune into and actually retain the lastest celebrity gossip about Madonna than I am to pay attention to and understand the significance of Stephen Harper's latest political appointment. When I open the Hamilton Spectator I feel an irresistible pull to the tabloid-like page of celebrity news and gossip. A few weeks go I made a deal with my sister Rachel that we would no longer read this page upon penalty of two hard slaps, one on each cheek (of our face). I have been slapped about three times, but that only constitutes a fraction of my actual offenses. I still read it almost every day, only surreptitiously. I know it is a waste of time and I shouldn't really care about what Paris Hilton said about Nicole Richie's alleged eating disorder, but I just can't break the habit. I could be reading about something that actually matters like world events or politics and learning something of value. Instead I contemplate the latest celebrity romances, marriages, births, and divorces. Will Jude Law and Sienna Miller get together again for the fourth time? Is Lindsay Lohan dating Leonardo Dicaprio? Will Eminem's marriage end for the second time?
I first realized the seriousness of my problem when I felt inordinately worried and upset about Katie Holmes' relationship to Tom Cruise. I mean here was a Catholic girl, who had professed her intent to remain a virgin until marriage, who gets involved with a much older actor and is introduced to Scientology and eventually becomes pregnant. Scientology is a very strange, twisted religion that does something called auditing to cleanse you of your past painful memories, and takes in alot of money doing it. I followed each painful stage of their relationship from the couch jumping antics of Tom Cruise to their engagement to the announcement of Katie's Holmes pregnancy to the birth of Suri, their daughter who supposedly had a silent birth as per Scientology teaching. Why was I so fascinated by the story? I don't know, but I felt the same sick fascination with any story about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Should I care that Brad Pitt made the top 100 unsexiest list due to rumoured poor hygiene? No, but I do, otherwise why would I retain this trivial, useless information?
Clearly drastic action is required to break me of this disgusting habit. Is an intervention called for? Perhaps a deliverance session? I am hoping a public admission of my problem will encourage accountability and force change. I wonder if there is an entertainment addicts anoynomous I could join?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Poem that didn't make it by snail mail

This is a poem that I wrote for a writing contest with the theme finding the courage to answer God's call. I mailed it in on Sunday night, but unfortunately I did not put enough postage on it so it never arrived at its intended destination. I expect it will arrive back at my house soon. I am rather disappointed in myself as the deadline for the entries was this past Thursday.

The Pearl

Words echo through a cavernous
void, “Receive the healing of God
Be healed in heart
Be healed in your emotions
Be healed in your mind AND

My dream, I have a dream?
My dream, if I have one, lies
cold and hard like a stone
at the bottom of a deep, dark well
My dream sits in a dusty attic
buried among things long abandoned
in some crumbling cardboard box
I can’t- won’t search for it
won’t gaze upon it
or examine its contours

For it is a treasure I most fear to find
Unearthing it might demand of me
my carefully hoarded treasures to be sold
in order to claim it. It would require throwing away
these images of stone and carven wood
Upon discovery I would not buy
the field in which I found it, I would bury it deeper
let the dark earth cover it

I stop up my ears because I don’t
want to hear God call me by name
Because finding my dream, hearing God’s voice,
would require finding the courage to
take a step towards the dream’s fulfillment
And then another and another
on the long, perilous journey

I need the courage to surrender myself
to unstop my ears LISTEN
open my heart OBEY
unclench my hands FORGIVE
For if I would turn he would heal me
I must open my coal-seared
lips and speak into the void,
“Here I am.
Send me.”

Saturday, April 08, 2006

How many books do you own?
I own 189 (yes I counted them). I used to have more, but I got rid of some. Some are duplicates and some are comic books (19). Many of them are novels from my English classes. I have seven Bibles.

What book is your latest purchase?
My most recent purchase of a book is Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. I started reading a copy from my highschool's library years ago, but I didn't finish it because I was too offended by the implied lesbianism, which though not as overt as in "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker (another book I started in highschool but didn't finish until university), is much more overt than it is in the movie. I got a gift card from my friend for Christmas and this was my selection. I had just read "A Redbird Christmas" by the same author, a light-hearted book I enjoyed immensely.

What book have you most recently read?
I reread "The Orthodox Way" by Bishop Kallistos Ware and finished it yesterday on my lunch break. It is a general account of the doctrine, worship and life of Orthodox Christians and, even the second time around, it was very thought-provoking and challenging.

Name five great books with impact on you.
1)War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
2)Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
3)Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
4)The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
5)Who do you say that I am? Christians Encounter Other Religions by Calvin E. Shenk

Who do you challenge to answer these same questions?

Well, since most people I know who read my blog and are bloggers themselves are already tagged, I tag Andrea Hensen and that's it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Reflections on Baptism

This reflection was originally posted last week, but I deleted the posting after realizing that my blog is almost entirely reflections on my faith. I do want to write about other things, but ideas aren't forthcoming. Can I have blogger's block at this early stage in my blog development? Anyways my sister emailed me and mentioned she appreciated this posting, not that she had noticed its absence, so here it is again resurrected from my Word Perfect files. Hopefully my next posting will take this blog into new, exciting territory.

A few weeks ago I witnessed a baptism, actually--more than twenty baptisms, including that of my close friend, at a charismatic church not far from my house. Most of the people being baptized were young teenagers or young adults and some cracked a few jokes at their own expense or the expense of their church culture's. There were many people doing the baptizing and most of them were not pastors, but cell group leaders and mentors of the young people. The baptism was by immersion and every one gave their testimony before they were baptized in the name of "the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit-in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." My friend had already been baptized--at least once. I am not sure if she was baptized as infant, but she was baptized as a young teenager. When she told me she was going to be baptized again, I told her of my conviction that one baptism is enough. She told me that when she was baptized as a young teenager her reason was that she feared the baptism experience and wanted to get it over with. So when our mutual friend who went to the same church as her told her she was going to be baptized, my friend decided to be baptized as well. She said she didn't really know Christ then as her personal Saviour. She always told herself, whenever she felt the prompting to be baptized as a believer, that maybe she had gotten things a little backward, but she was baptized after all. But recently she had felt led to humble herself and take a step of faith and trust by being baptized even though she had been an active, faithful member of her church for several years.

I grew up in the CRC and was baptized as an infant. When my family left the CRC in my late teens we went to a charismatic Word-Faith church. My parents and three of my siblings were baptized again as believers in various swimming pools. I remember one occasion when a number of people from our church, including my younger sister, were being baptized in our swimming pool. The pastor pressured me to be baptized as well. I told him firmly that I had already been baptized. To me the point in baptism was what God was doing, so whether I was an unknowing infant being sealed with covenant promises or whether I was a believer who was determined to follow Christ, it didn't matter. Infant baptism was legitimate and could be followed up with a public profession of faith when the age of maturity was reached. To me it seemed just another way to arrive at the same place. In university I heard of one lady who was baptized six or seven times, whenever she came back to the faith following a period when she had backslid into a life of sin. For my church history course, I did a twelve page paper on the Church Fathers' view of baptism and the Eucharist and it confirmed me in my view that baptism should not be repeated. I also learned about the rich symbolism involved in the sacrament as one is buried with Christ when immersed in water and then raised to newness of life when brought back up. You died to sin and then were made a new creature in Christ. The point was what God was doing in forgiving your sins, adopting you as his child and heir, and sealing your eternal life, whether you was sprinkled or submerged in water and whether you were an infant or adult. I did admit it would be nice to remember your baptism as a turning point in your life, but it was also good to know you had been baptized as an infant and God had placed his seal of ownership on you and made you covenant promises you could later accept and affirm. It showed his grace in your life before you even could accept it. You were a covenant child, a child of God even though you were to young to understand the meaning of it.

But as I listened to my friend give her testimony and watched her get baptized, I felt proud of her and certain that she was taking a step in obedience and submission to God. Yes, she had already been baptized, at least once. But being dogmatic about these points might be to hinder how God is working in some-one's life. I realized I felt envious too, as I think it would be such a rich, meaningful experience to be baptized as a believer and to be so identified with Christ's death and resurrection that you die to sin and are raised to new life. It would be a sign-post, a turning point, a life-altering event. Yes a public profession of faith can function in much the same way, but it is not as symbolically powerful. And being baptized after deliberately deciding to follow Christ means what God is doing in the sacrament can be immediately applied to your life of faith in a powerful way, rather than, as in infant baptism, be potential covenantal promises to be appreciated later at the age of understanding and later accepted or denied. I still believe my baptism as an infant is valid and does not need to be repeated, but if I ever had the opportunity to be baptized as a believer I would not hesitate. Because I am a member of the CRC, such an opportunity in any official sense is not likely to occur. My Mom pointed out I could be baptized in my own pool if I wanted. I'm not sure if I would do that. Would I have my own children baptized as infants? If I was a member in the CRC, I probably would do so and I would appreciate the promises of God and the seal of the covenant, but deep in my heart I would wish my child to be baptized as a believer when he or she makes a concious choice for Christ. Either way God's grace will be at work in the lives of my children and he is able to redeem them by his love. He is bigger than any doctrine or dogma and he is at work in my life,in the life of my courageous friend, and in the lives of all his children.