The first draft of my paper is done. Thank you for your prayers. I need to proof it and add the notations, but the bulk of it is written.
The end is in sight. The final push is on. After a week’s “break” for Easter (which in realty wasn’t too much of a break, but I didn’t have any class readings), classes are back to their present realty. There are only a few weeks left in the semester, and that gravity is setting in on me. In a little over a week, my final paper for Spiritual Transformation is due. It’s supposed to be 10-15 pages. I’m going to try and crank it out this Saturday, but that’s a lot of writing for me to do in one day. I messed up this week, and should’ve started this past Saturday to give me two weeks to write. Alas, it is what it is. I’ve been a part time student now, for what, I think this is year four. I’ve not been late on anything yet, and haven’t asked for an extension from any professor, and I’m not going to start now (I don’t think).
My Bible reading this morning was in Nehemiah. As I was reading about enemies, wall building, swords and armor, I couldn’t help but think a little of the movies the family has been watching recently–The Lord of the Rings. It feels like much of the landscapes and costumes and what not could be lifted right out of the movie and placed (in my mind) in the time of Nehemiah. And then I thought “Hey, this might make a good movie! It’s got enemies, intrigue, planned battles where the secret leaks out and the battle is foiled, swords, a valiant hero, and all that stuff.” Hollywood, are you listening?
This week is supposed to be Easter week break for school. There are no assigned readings for either of my classes. That’s good. Blogging might be a touch slow, as no readings means nothing for me to reflect on.
Well, I can reflect on my Bible reading. I just finished 2nd Chronicles a few days ago, and started Ezra. One thing I’d like to come back to at some point is Hezekiah. There are two interesting things I caught in reading the account of his reign. One of them I had already picked up on in other times through the Bible, and one was new to me. In chapter 30 of 2nd Chronicles, Hezekiah celebrates the Passover. In so doing, he breaks a few of the prescribed statutes of holding the Passover. One, he does it on the “wrong” day. The Law does make an allowance for people who are unclean or traveling on the proper day of Passover to eat the meal a month later. Hezekiah celebrates the Passover on the later day. Perhaps he’s made a judgement that the entire nation is unclean, and therefore celebrating on the make-up day is permissible for everyone. 2nd Chronicles 30:18-20 describes ceremonially unclean Israelites eating the Passover, and Hezekiah intercedes for the to the Lord. So in this narrative there’s unclean people eating the Passover on the wrong (arguably) day.
Now look back a chapter. I had missed this one. In chapter 29, Hezekiah rededicates the temple from his father’s detestable worship practices. In 29:33 we see an instance where the Levites (who are dedicated to serving in the temple but who are not priests) are helping offer the sacrifices as there are too few ceremonially clean priests to get the work done. So those who are not supposed to be flaying the sacrifices to God are in fact doing just that.
I think it’s interesting that in back to back chapters of the Bible, one of the greatest kings of Israel’s history is documented as being a little fast and loose with God’s commandments. And yet the text seems to indicate God is pleased with the overall attitude of the worshipers. There’s an argument to be made that the Holy God has laid out statutes and ordinances of how He is to be worshiped. There is a reverence that needs to be in place. Yet here there seems to be some allowance, some mercy, on those who don’t get it quite right, yet their heart is in the right place. I think there’s more that can be fleshed out here. There’s some sermon work or Sunday School lesson study that I’d like to do on this passage some day.
For the past three days, 4:30am has come awfully early. I’ve not wanted to get out of bed. This semester I’ve been getting up extra early to get reading done. With two classes, both of which demand a lot of reading, I’ve found I really needed to “make extra time” in my day to get it all done. In the evening, I’m toast. I go to bed at 8pm. If I’m going to do any reading, it really needs to be in the morning.
Today I thought “Hey Bill, you graduate this semester! One more month and you can have some more sleep.” That sounds nice.
On the other hand, I like what school has done for my spiritual growth. The discipline of having to read and study has been good for me. I was thinking I might stay on with New England Bible College this fall, simply because it would force me to keep going, keep growing.
But I need some sleep.
Here’s some advice from Dietrich Bonhoeffer I need to remember. “Often we combat our evil thoughts most effectively if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be expressed in words.” I’d be a lot better person if I followed that advice.
I was listening to an “Ask NT Wright Anything” podcast yesterday, and he mentioned he used only one Bible. In an effort to become really familiar with “the text” he has chosen to use one Bible, and so in that one Bible are all his notes, and that’s the one Bible he uses all the time. A former pastor of mine also had one Bible that he always used. It was falling apart so badly his small group bought him a new Bible. They knew how much he loved his old Bible, so they bought him the exact same kind of Bible that he had–so it was the same Bible, only a new version of it. He didn’t use it; he continued to use the old falling apart Bible.
As a musician, I’ve always wanted to have a relationship with one instrument. I see it a lot with guitar players. Eric Clapton had Blackie, and Eric Johnson has Virginia, Stevie Ray Vaughan had Number 1. Stewart Copeland had his Pearl Jupiter snare that was used on all The Police recordings, and Ringo had his Jazz Festival. I’m not that way. I have a whole bunch of drums, and I use whatever drum fits the music and my mood. A drum I use to record a folk record won’t be the same drum I use to record a funk tune. I pick the drum that’s right for the job. It’s a tool.
I’m the same way with Bible translations. My “study” translation is the New American Standard. My current devotion Bible is the ESV. If I were called to read scripture out loud to a group, I’d probably grab the New Living Bible. It’s a tool, and I pick the right tool for the job.
Still though, I wish I was “a person of one book” (from my Ortberg reading this morning). I wish I was the kind of guy like Mr. Wright or Pastor Jason that had just one Bible. There’s a romance about it. I have one wife, can’t I have just one Bible? 😉
John Ortberg in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted writes “Psychiatrist David Burns notes that it is not another person’s compliment or approval that makes us feel good; rather it is our belief that there is validity to the compliment.”
As a drummer, I’m complimented somewhat regularly with “You’re a regular Gene Krupa” or “Nice job Buddy Rich” or something like that. John and Jane Q. Public know those two drummers, and so when they want to compliment a drummer, those names come up. Those compliments mean nothing to me. I don’t think my drumming is anything like Gene Krupa’s. He is not an influence in how I play. Buddy Rich? I’ve said before that I’m not a good enough drummer to carry his sweaty towels. He was a MONSTER player, but so far above me with his technique that there’s nothing in me that’s remotely sounding of Buddy.
One night I was playing a gig in Camden. It was a private party, a Christmas party I believe. BIG house. We played upstairs. At one point the host said to me “You sound like Shelly Manne.” Now THAT was a compliment. There was VALIDITY to that compliment. Shelly Manne I HAVE studied. Shelly’s name isn’t going to be dropped randomly like Gene or Buddy or Ringo. Obviously this guy knows a thing or two about Jazz and Jazz drumming , and has the ears to know that there is some Shelly Manne in my playing. There are things I do in my playing because of Shelly. He is an actual influence on my playing. And so, because of the credibility of that compliment, I remember it to this day. And it makes me feel good to know that at one point at least someone appreciated my drumming on a deeper level than say the way my Mom loves my drumming.
Not much spirituality in today’s post; it’s mostly about drumming. But hey, let’s praise Him with resounding cymbals. 🙂
Part of my reading for my spiritual transformation class this week is from Donald Whitney‘s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Chapter 3 is about Bible “intake” for the purpose of godliness. I also had to read about “learning” as a purpose toward godliness.
There are 15 pages about learning as a spiritual discipline. There are about 10 pages of why Bible memorization is important. Then there are 40 pages about the benefits and methods of meditating on God‘s word! He gives 17 different methods (!!!) for meditating on God‘s word.
I think Whitney thinks meditation is pretty important. #understatement
I did appreciate his reclaiming the word “meditation” for Christianity, and not just for some New Age yoga transcendental meditation craziness. He says about Biblical meditation
“The kind of meditation encouraged in the Bible differs from other kinds of meditation in several ways. While some advocate a kind of meditation in which you do your best to empty your mind, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and his truth. For some, meditation is an attempt to achieve complete mental passivity, but typical meditation requires constructive mental activity.”
With the COVID 19 virus out there, so many are taking precautions and quarantining. New England Bible College has closed the campus, and requested all professors to make alternate arrangements. My Spiritual Transformation instructor (for whom I’ve been making these recent posts) has advised me to keep up on my weekly readings, to make sure to complete my 10-15 page paper, and to increase the amount of journaling we do. The increased journaling will substitute for class participation. Susan R. and Pastor Q. read here with some regularity. Pastor Q. even sent me a request for fresh postings when I had been silent for four days. Perhaps those two will keep me accountable as well, and encourage me to get stuff up here.
On Sunday, Harmony Bible Church didn’t have our regular services. (See the COVID 19 junk above.) Pastor Q. produced an online video which was very good, and provided a suitable substitute for the morning worship service. But we didn’t have Sunday School, and that meant I had an extra hour and a half in my schedule. And did I use that for slowness and stillness and reflection? Of course not! I filled that hour right up with class reading. And in that reading I found this quote from Pastor Geoffrey Thomas. I emailed it to a friend. This friend has only been a Christian for a short while, maybe a year. We have seen remarkable growth in her, but she sometimes is frustrated about her knowledge. Most of the folks at Harmony have been Christians for years, and have been coming to Sunday School for a long time. They’ve spent a lot of time in the Word, and know a lot from years of reading and hearing. My friend wants to be at that level NOW, and feels odd that she doesn’t know all these Bible/Christian things that everyone else in the congregation just seems to know. I sent her this quote from the class reading from Sunday. I added some emphasis that I thought appropriate for her.
“Do not expect to master the Bible in a day, or a month, or a year. Rather expect often to be puzzled by its contents. It is not all equally clear. Great men of God often feel like absolute novices when they read the Word. The apostle Peter said that there were some things hard to be understood in the epistles of Paul [2 Peter 3.16). I am glad he wrote those words because I have felt that often. So do not expect always to get an emotional charge or a feeling of quiet peace when you read the Bible. By the grace of God you may expect that to be a frequent experience, but often you will get no emotional response at all.
Let the Word break over your heart and mind again and again as the years go by, and imperceptibly there will come great changes in your attitude and outlook and conduct. You will probably be the last to recognize these. Often you will feel very, very small, because increasingly the God of the Bible will become to you wonderfully great. So go on reading it until you can read no longer, and then you will not need the Bible any more, because when your eyes close for the last time in death, and never again read the Word of God in Scripture you will open them to the Word of God in the flesh, that same Jesus of the Bible whom you have known for so long, standing before you to take you for ever to His eternal home.”
I’ll admit scripture memorization hasn’t been my thing. In Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life he brings up how Jesus was able to stand the temptations of the devil by quoting Scripture. What he didn’t mention though was all the scripture Jesus quoted was from Deuteronomy. Think Deuteronomy is an old boring book of the Old Testament? Apparently there’s enough there to ward of the devil! Maybe you should reconsider reading it?