Many moods of silence

October 24, 2014

This morning I was reading Psalm 62, and I was struck by the word “silence” in the first line.

For God alone my soul waits in silence;

Then again in verse 5,

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence

Yet in verse 8, I read this

Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him

So what does it mean to pour out my heart before God while at the same time waiting in silence?

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Time and eternity

September 1, 2014

A few months ago, I read an article about “How to Tell Time in Heaven.” Wait a minute, I thought. Time in heaven? I thought heaven existed outside of time.

Not that I had really ever thought about it much, that I can remember. I had a philosophy professor in college (a Baptist liberal arts college where the Christian faith was a part of every field of study) who challenged some notions people commonly have about heaven, even among Bible-believing churches.

For instance, it is a common idea in our society that dead people become angels. I grew up reading The Littlest Angel (still one of my favorite Christmas-themed stories), and while I knew it was fiction, I guess I more or less accepted its premise of a human boy becoming an angel.

Then in high school, our youth group at the Baptist church did a study on angelology, a branch of theology I hadn’t even known existed. (Not that I knew much about theology in high school, but I was an avid reader of Christian books, both fiction and non-fiction.) Scripture gives little information about angels, but it certainly never suggest that any of them were once human beings.

But most churchgoers don’t study angelogy, much less people who have no use for organized religion (though they may still believe in angels). So the idea of people becoming angels persists, helped along, no doubt, by various movies (two I can think of offhand are It’s a Wonderful Life and The Heavenly Kid, and I’m sure there are several I haven’t even seen).

Another common idea my professor challenged is thinking of heaven as some ethereal region for disembodied spirits, while the Bible talks about resurrected bodies on a new Earth. He also challenged the belief common among Christians that our souls are eternal by their nature, explaining to us that we will remain created beings, and the eternity of our lives will still be, on and on throughout eternity, a gift of God. What I don’t remember is any discussion of time versus timelessness in that regard.

What I do remember, from attending churches throughout my life, is singing hymns such as “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” that state that “time will be no more.” Discussions of whether a believer goes to heaven immediately upon death (as opposed to “soul sleep”) also assume the idea of timelessness in heaven.

Michael Patton discusses this concept in his Parchment & Pen blog, in a post from 2009 that I apparently missed. As he explains, and as I read elsewhere when I started thinking about this, the verse in Revelation that says “time will be no more” would be more accurately translated “there will be no more delay” before certain end-times events take place.

Some of the articles and blog posts I found on this subject state that there must be time in heaven because the nature of life – even eternal life – requires it. Thinking, talking, and acting all involve a succession of thoughts, words, and actions, and for one thing to come after another there must be passage of time. One of these discussions points out that time is an essential element of music, which is generally agreed to have a prominent role in heaven.

Now, it doesn’t bother me to be told that heaven is different from how people, including many Christians, commonly think of it. The Bible gives very little in the way of direct description of heaven. Much that Scripture does say about heaven is in the form of visions, and it is hardly surprising that such visions would make heavy use of symbolic language to try to convey experiences and ideas that go beyond the limits of earthly human understanding.

In some ways, speculation about the details of heaven is pointless. We neither can know nor need to know now the particulars of our future existence. For the most part I see the entire topic as something God will take care of and I’ll find out when I need to.

It’s fun to imagine huge libraries in heaven where I can read as much as I want to, but even if books don’t exist in heaven (which I find highly doubtful considering that God used Scripture to reveal Himself to us), I am sure I will not be bored. I don’t think we’ll sit around all day playing harps, but I would be happy to be able to play the harp.

Would I just instantly find myself able to play, however, or would I have to learn? Learning implies change and change implies time. God made us humans naturally curious and eager to learn new things, and it seems strange to think that trait would be gone in heaven. I love the idea of learning for eternity.

What about other kinds of personal development? For years I attended churches where it was assumed that whatever level of spiritual maturity one had reached upon death, that was the level one would be at for eternity.

I suppose this teaching (not generally stated explicitly but I think it was occasionally) was based on the idea of timelessness in heaven, and it was used as a means of motivating people to pursue spiritual growth so they wouldn’t be stuck at some low level of spirituality forever. After all, if you could be certain not only of being saved but of gaining the highest level of spirituality immediately upon death, why would one work hard at spiritual growth in this life?

If there is time of some kind in heaven, however, then there would seem to be the opportunity not only to learn more about God’s creation and to create (books, songs, works of art), but also to continue to grow in one’s relationship with God.

What there won’t be is the sense of time as a burden, either having too much to do before a looming deadline, or having too much time and too little that is meaningful to fill the empty hours. My husband, in a recent sermon on the eternal nature of God, talked about a kind of “timeless time” that we spend worshiping God – not just someday in heaven but here and now.

Time can be meaningless, he said, when we are in the presence of God. It’s hardly that time ceases to exist, merely that it does not constrain us. And that is the kind of time that I suppose we will experience in heaven – or on the new Earth, to be precise, but “in heaven” in that we will be in the eternal presence of God.


Movies: God’s Not Dead

August 31, 2014

I had not planned on watching God’s Not Dead with the church youth group. I was taking our younger son, and since we don’t live nearby, I was going to spend the time in another room reading a novel rather than make the trip to church twice in one evening.

But the meeting got moved from the church to someone’s home, and when I was invited in to join them, it was naturally assumed I would be joining them all to watch the movie. I decided it was probably just as well, as this way I would know what my son had seen and be better able to answer any questions he might ask.

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Books: Murder Must Advertise

August 2, 2014

I first remember hearing of Dorothy Sayers in college, as an example of a Christian writer of the best sort, one who wrote from a Christian perspective but not necessarily about Christian themes. I always meant to read something by her, but somehow never got around to it. Back when I was in college, I had no interest in detective novels.

Having finally read encountered Miss Marple in two of Agatha Christie’s books in recent months, I had thought I probably ought to check out something by Sayers and meet Lord Peter Wimsey. But when I’m in the library on Monday evenings after Toastmasters, somehow I don’t think of that. Until two weeks ago, when I happened across Murder Must Advertise in the library’s collection of books on CD.

Early in the novel, I found it difficult to keep track of all the many characters. It doesn’t help that, since I was listening to this rather than reading it, I had trouble keeping track of who was speaking. Some narrators make it fairly easy to distinguish different characters by their voices, but either this narrator does not do this as well as others or there were just too many of them. And Sayers apparently lets conversations go on quite some time without reminders who is speaking. Read the rest of this entry »


Books: If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis

July 8, 2014

Last summer I read a biography of C. S. Lewis as part of the Tyndale Summer Reading program. When I saw that this summer’s list includes another book by Alister McGrath, If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C. S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life, I was immediately intrigued and added it to my list of books to read.

The biography had certainly been interesting, but long and sometimes overly detailed. McGrath says in the preface to this new book that a lot of people want to learn from C. S. Lewis, more than to learn about him. That was definitely how I felt after slogging through the biography, and since McGrath had indicated in that book that he was planning to also write a book about the ideas of C. S. Lewis, I looked forward to reading it. I don’t know if this book is what he was talking about, but the idea of imagined lunches with Lewis seemed very attractive.

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Books: Captive in Iran

July 4, 2014

I vaguely remember having heard about Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh when they were in the news so much a few years ago. When I first saw a headline (on the internet) about two single women arrested for distributing Bibles in Iran, I first assumed they were missionaries from another country, perhaps from the U.S.

Then I learned that they were Iranian themselves, and that the charges against them were also about apostasy. It is not illegal in Iran to be a Christian, but it is a capital offense to convert from Islam to Christianity. I suppose I may have wondered how they came to faith in Christ. But I really don’t think I paid a lot of attention to their story at that time.

When I recently reviewed Tyndale Summer Reading Program book list for this year, I decided that Captive in Iran: A Remarkable True Story of Hope and Triumph amid the Horror of Tehran’s Brutal Evin Prison would be one of the first books I would read. I spend much of last week reading it, and I am still trying to sort out my reactions to it.

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Books: Sparrow Migrations

June 19, 2014

The premise of Sparrow Migrations intrigued me – “a 12-year-old boy with autism, witnesses the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ from a sightseeing ferry and becomes obsessed with the birds that caused the plane crash.” Other characters are on the ferry or the plane that landed in the Hudson, and while they seem to have nothing else in common with each other, their lives intersect over the course of the novel.

In an author Q&A, Cari Noga explains that she wanted to write about “ordinary people transformed by an extraordinary event –and by each other.” Furthermore, she wanted to make it a “braided narrative” – “multiple story lines that intertwine.” So once she had an initial idea for the novel, she had to find some other characters and conflicts to form the other strands of the braid.

I was not at all surprised to learn that the idea for the story started with Robby, the boy with autism. He is the most fully-developed character. The parts of the story dealing with him and his parents, and their struggles in parenting someone with autism, draw the reader into the characters’ minds and emotions in all their complexity as they deal with a variety of situations. Since the author and her husband have a boy with autism, it is hardly surprising that she can portray their experiences so well.

The other characters, in contrast, were add-ons created for the sake of the “braided narrative,” and their conflicts are those that the author thought would be interesting to deal with. Noga presumably does not have the same personal experiences to draw on with a couple dealing with infertility or a pastor’s wife dealing with homosexuality, and these characters do not come across with the same depth. Read the rest of this entry »


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