Category: the Bible


Hi!  It’s been a while since I’ve posted here.  There are some new things going on, though.

Probably the biggest is that I have a new part-time job!  I’m editing articles for an online physics journal.  Like my previous job reviewing English papers, it’s work I can do from home, but unlike it, I find it really interesting rather than stressful, so I have been able to get more work done.

I’m mostly doing copyediting for consistency in things like spelling, punctuation, and style of the reference list.  It definitely helps to have some familiarity with physics so that I can recognize the terminology, but thankfully I don’t need to understand everything the writers are talking about, because it’s really advanced stuff!

My coworkers/bosses have been really patient and helpful with all of the questions I have asked about specific grammar and style rules.  (I always have a lot of questions.)  So it’s not full-time employment yet, but I think it’s a step in the right direction, and I’m thankful for that!

I have also been continuing to try to develop my social skills; there is a local young adults Bible study that I’ve started going to.  It’s frustrating to me how little information I retain from talking to people, but I think I am beginning to remember a few names.

Other things that have kept me busy are watching our energetic dogs and following the crazy football season that’s been going on.

I have often thought about things I’d like to post about on this blog, but sadly most of those things fade from my memory when I don’t have time to write (or more often, the words to put them into).  I’d like to get to writing again, and I have at least one idea of something new to try for the video game posts, but we’ll see about that.  It seems that in order to write more, I need to think less, and the results are not always good if I do that.

Anyway, thanks for visiting, readers!

September 11

I’m afraid this post is about some terrible things, but they are true, and we need to remember them, or they will happen again.

On Tuesday morning, September 11, I was on a trip through Europe with my Biblical Archaeology class.  On our last day in Germany, we visited an awful place about ten miles from Munich.

Dachau was a concentration camp, where anyone the Nazis deemed “undesireable” was sent to be used for forced labor or to be put to death.  During the Holocaust, over 200,000 people were taken there as prisoners, and over 30,000 died at Dachau– shot or beaten by the guards, worked to death, killed by disease or starvation, or used in medical experiments.  We don’t actually know the full number of people who died there, and no one can calculate the amount of violence done to people’s lives.

A museum there recounts the ugly history of the place.  There was too much for me to take in at once; I’m afraid I don’t remember a lot of specific images from the black-and-white photos, but there was one showing the belongings of people lined up in a corner.  Where were the people?  They had just been killed.  I saw the propaganda of the time that sought to portray Jews as less than human; the drawings nightmarishly distorted their faces.  There were the gold stars of David that Jews were forced to wear, and the pink triangles forced on homosexuals.  Other documents talked about the mentally and physically handicapped in terms of monetary cost to society; it would be better for “everyone” just to get rid of them, they argued.

This was not something that could only have happened in Germany; I knew that America had a strong eugenics movement at the time, and we still hear some of the same arguments today about the “cost” of a disabled child or an elderly adult to society.  We still hear anti-Semitism and the hatred of people just because they are different.  One of the saddest things for me was to consider how many Christian churches in Germany didn’t see, or chose to ignore, what was happening.  It seems like only a few, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Corrie ten Boom in the Netherlands, put their lives and freedom on the line trying to do something about the evil that was taking place.

We saw the wooden barracks that the prisoners were crowded into, and the ovens used to dispose of the bodies.  I saw a memorial with a phrase in bold letters repeated in several languages.  The one at the top was Hebrew.  I scanned down until I found the English translation:  “NEVER AGAIN.”

As you can imagine, seeing Dachau was a sobering experience; we didn’t speak much on the bus ride back.  But it was important to see, especially when I consider that there are people who try to argue that the Holocaust never happened.  I saw where it happened.  Someday, there won’t be any survivors still on the Earth with direct memory of the concentration camps under the Nazis, but I will remember what I saw.

We spent a little time walking around Munich and getting lunch.  I feel bad that there is so much heaviness in this post, because Munich is a beautiful city, and I don’t want everything I say to be negative.  The whole class had lunch at a huge table in a restaurant, and we scared the waitress when someone initially asked for separate checks for each of us.  Her eyes got really big, and she said, “So, you want… eins, zwei, drei…” and her voice trailed off as she continued to count.  We could tell we had made a mistake, so we told her a combined check would be fine, and we would figure out how much each of us had to pay.

The class split up into smaller groups until mid-afternoon, when we began to gather at the Munich train station for our trip to Italy.

The scene when I got there was surreal.  People were standing everywhere, watching the news on large screens.  I could not understand what the German reporters were saying, but I could understand the proper names in the captions, and the billowing smoke in the video spoke for itself.  There had been an attack on New York City.

Some of my classmates who had been at the train station longer explained what they knew.  Terrorists had hijacked passenger airplanes, killed the pilots, and steered the planes to collide with the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  I continued to watch as the news showed one of the towers collapsing under its own weight and disintegrating in a huge cloud of smoke and dust.  Then I saw the same thing happen to the other tower.  I felt like asking someone if what I had just seen had really happened– the Twin Towers, which I had seen close up just a few months ago– were gone?  Until then, I had assumed that they were just hidden by smoke.

Another video showed people blocks away from the towers running as the smoke and dust billowed out towards them.  It looked for all the world like a scene from the movie Independence Day, a silly alien invasion movie.  The destruction in that movie was offered as entertainment.  Why had we thought it was entertaining to imagine?  This was real.  I don’t watch that part of Independence Day anymore.

The shock seemed to break down some of the social barriers.  People shared their reactions, feelings, and worries with anyone who spoke English, even total strangers.  Rumors spread– some partly true, some totally false.

— “A terrorist named Osama bin Laden was behind the attack; he was also responsible for the bombing in the 1990s.”
— “There might be a million people dead in New York.”
— “President Bush told Colin Powell, ‘Go get bin Laden now.’ Our troops are already on their way to Afghanistan.”
— “Another plane hit the Pentagon in Washington.  There might be more attacks on other cities.”
— “A plane went down in Pittsburgh.”

That last rumor shook me.  My grandparents lived in the Pittsburgh area.  Also, how many planes must the terrorists have if they were using one to attack Pittsburgh?  It can’t be that high up on the list of important targets in the United States.  It scared me to think there might be that many more attacks.

Of course, you probably know now that the source of that rumor was the account of Flight 93, which was hijacked and was likely intended to hit the Capitol or the White House in Washington, D.C.  The passengers were able to learn of the other attacks, and they sacrificed their lives by fighting the terrorists, causing the plane to crash in western Pennsylvania before it could reach its target.  I am amazed at their choice to fight back despite the danger and cost.  As deeply as the attacks hurt Americans, can you imagine what that day would have been like if the White House or the Capitol had also been destroyed?

As is typical of me, I didn’t talk much or even reach much outwardly; I just turned my thoughts over in my head.  What an experience this trip was turning out to be.  Was I going to be in Europe for the start of World War III?  The first two started there, after all.  All things considered, I was probably safer here than in America right now.  I said a prayer for my family; I wondered what they were doing.  My mom was probably worrying about me.  I prayed for the people in New York and elsewehere who had been hurt by the attacks, and for their families, and for the President.  God was in control, even in terrible times– I reminded myself that he was not unaware or caught off guard by anything.  I didn’t know how anything good could come out of this, but I believed that God can bring good out of even the worst situations.

I wanted to talk to my family.  My parents had given me a couple of calling cards in case I wanted or needed to call home, and I decided to give it a try, even though people were saying that all the phone lines to the U.S. were overwhelmed.  To my surprise, it worked!  I got through to my brother Jonas, who was watching over the house while my parents were on a road trip out West.  He asked how the trip was going, and I told him it was pretty amazing.  I asked him if he was watching all that was going on today.  He said that he had been working on something for class– what was going on?  I told him he might want to turn on the news and told him what little I knew about the attacks.

Jonas said that Mom and Dad hadn’t called yet, but he had heard from them over the past few days, and their trip was going fine.  I told Jonas just to tell them he had heard from me, and we were all fine.  I didn’t know what was going to happen to the rest of our class trip or when I was going to get home, but I was fine.  My mom later told me that she was really glad to hear that when she called Jonas to tell him she and dad were cutting their trip short and coming home.

The class eventually gathered in the same place.  Dr. B. explained what he knew of the situation, and he told us that as far as the rest of the trip went, we were going to follow our planned itinerary and go to Italy.  There wasn’t really anything else we could do anyway, as all flights in and out of the U.S. were grounded, and no one knew when it was going to be possible to fly again.  We would have to wait and see what things were like four days later when we were scheduled to fly back to Newark from Rome.

Some students had tried to get in touch with their parents but had had trouble getting through.  One of my classmates was very upset, because her father was an airline pilot, and even though she knew he probably wasn’t on one of the planes, what if he was?  Dr. B. had a relative who worked in the World Trade Center, and he hadn’t heard from him.  We all prayed together that God would keep us, our families, and our country safe.

Finally, it was time to board our train to Italy.  We sat down across from a young woman who recognized that we were from America and asked us where we were from specifically.  “Ohio,” we told her.  “Oh.  So not very near the disaster,” she said.  “No,” we said, but it still felt very close.  We rode on in exhausted silence.  A while later, I asked my classmates if I could read Psalm 2 to them.  Its words had been on my mind.

“Why do the nations rage?”

“Before you came along, we Bagginses were very well thought of.”
“Indeed?”
“Never had any adventures or did anything unexpected.”
“If you’re referring to the incident with the Dragon, I was barely involved. All I did was give your uncle a little nudge out of the door.”

— Frodo Baggins and Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings

Ten years ago today, I was a college junior on a plane heading across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe with a class of Cedarville students and our two Biblical Archaeology professors.  I was excited, nervous, and tired all at once.  I wasn’t the sort of person who went on trips like this, I thought.  I found it intimidating just trying to cross the street in tiny Cedarville, Ohio.  Whenever I could, I drove home to my parents’ house for the weekend.  So how did I end up setting off on a two-week tour of another continent?

It started with a course I took my sophomore year about the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  We studied the organization and major themes of these books as we also learned about their historical and cultural background– the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt.  What made the class special was our professor, Dr. B., who taught with great enthusiasm for the subject matter.  He summarized the prevailing opinions of scholars, along with his own theories on questions like which Pharaoh was the ruler of Egypt during Moses’ time.

It was a demanding course– struggling with the final essay had me in tears at one point– but there were two things about it that I really liked.  One was our weekend field trip to visit the museum at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Both museums had 4000-year-old artifacts from the civilizations we had been learning about.  One of the students would ask Dr. B. a question about one of the artifacts, and as he answered it, a small crowd would form.  Before long, we had a large group of people following us, but Dr. B. wasn’t fazed at all.

Being from the New Jersey area himself, Dr. B. seemed at home in a city environment where a little boldness is necessary in order to be noticed.  He made sure we saw all of the major New York landmarks, taking us on a ferry ride and eating at a little restaurant that specialized in New York-style cheesecake.  I decided to be “bold” myself and order a slice, even though I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it, since I didn’t like cheese.  It turned out to be one of the best desserts I’d ever had.

I also found that even though I didn’t know what to do with free time, most of my classmates did, and it was a lot of fun following them, listening to what they talked about, and laughing with them.

The second thing I really enjoyed about the Pentateuch class was working on a Powerpoint presentation for a group project.  I hated written assignments, but this was different.  I found myself pouring a lot of work into making a set of timelines showing the reigns of various rulers and the rise and fall of civilizations.  I could plan out every aspect of the graphic:  One pixel horizontally represented one year.  I used different color combinations for the different civilizations– sandy yellow for Egypt, clay red for Mesopotamia, blue for Israel that matched the color of their present-day flag.  It was more work than I needed to do for the assignment, but it didn’t feel like work.

So, anyway, I finished the Pentateuch course and went on with school as normal.  Then one day I saw an e-mail announcement about a spring course in Biblical Archaeology taught by Dr. B. along with a New Testament professor, Dr. H.  This course would focus on the historical and archaeological record for the entire Bible, and it would include a repeat of the New York trip from the Pentateuch class.  But the big deal was that it led into a trip to Europe at the end of the summer to visit museums in London, Paris, Berlin, and Rome!

My initial reaction was “That sounds neat, but I don’t think it’s for me.”  Two weeks was a long time to spend so far away from home.  What if I hated it?  The trip wasn’t cheap, and it would be a waste if I didn’t enjoy it.  I never did things like this, but for some reason, I printed out the e-mail and showed it to my mother.  She told me that it sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime, and if I had any interest at all in going, I should consider it.

The deadline for signing up for the trip came and went, and I was fine with that.  Other people went on this sort of trip, not me.  And that seemed like the end of the story until Dr. B. called me to his office.

“Nathan,” he said, “why didn’t you sign up for the Biblical Archaeology trip?”  I told him I just wasn’t sure I wanted to go.  He told me that he didn’t want affordability to be the reason I couldn’t go, because he had a job for me that would allow me to come along as a teacher’s assistant.  He told me that he was really impressed with the PowerPoint presentation I had done for the Pentateuch class, and he wanted me to help him put together the PowerPoint files for the new Biblical Archaeology course.  He also wanted someone to come along on the trip to take digital photos of the artifacts in the museums so that they could be incorporated into the course material.  I could do that instead of the paper the students would have to write on the trip, he said.

With an invitation like that, how could I say no?  Some people talk about God “opening a door” for them to make a decision– well, this seemed to qualify if anything did.  I decided to be bold again and give it a try.

So that’s how I ended up meeting the rest of my classmates (about forty in all) in a Cedarville parking lot in the very early morning on August 31, 2001.  We sleepily rode the bus to the Columbus airport, caught a connecting flight to Newark, New Jersey, and finally took off for Heathrow Airport in London.

At the time, all I could think about was how good it would feel to get home after it was all done.  And it was!  But I’m also glad I had the experience.

If this sounds interesting, be sure to check back here tomorrow; I’m planning to add a new post every day about my memories from each day of the trip!

Each day, I get an e-mail from Matthew Henry, a preacher who lived in England from 1662-1714.  Well, actually, the e-mails are based on a book Mr. Henry wrote, A Method for Prayer.

You can talk to God about anything that’s on your mind– and that’s probably the way I pray most often.  Sometimes I barely use words.  But I sometimes forget about the things God has said in the Bible about who he is and what he desires for those he loves.

That’s what Matthew Henry’s book is about– the “method” is really praying straight from the Bible.  In fact, most of the book is made up of passages from Scripture organized by topic and worded as prayers.  My Mom suggested that I sign up at the website that sends out the daily e-mails; it gives me something to think and pray about each morning, and over the course of a year, it covers the whole book.

To be honest, I don’t do a good job of keeping up with the prayers; some days I don’t stop to read the e-mails, and other days I just skim them.  But they have been helpful to me.

There was one I got a few days ago that really stuck in my mind:

Pray for Grace to Bring God’s Truth to your Memory

To help my memory, that the truths of God may be ready to me whenever I have occasion to use them.

Lord, let your Spirit teach me all things and bring to my remembrance all that you have said to me, (John 14:26) that the word of Christ may dwell richly in me in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. (Colossians 3:16)

Lord, grant that I may pay much closer attention to what I have heard, lest I drift away from it; (Hebrews 2:1) and may I hold fast to the word that has been preached to me, and not believe in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:2)

Lord, make me ready and competent in the Scriptures, (Acts 18:24) that I may be competent, equipped for every good work; (2 Timothy 3:17) and, being well trained for the kingdom of heaven, may I, like a good master of a house, bring out of my treasure what is new and what is old. (Matthew 13:52)

I need God’s grace to keep from forgetting things I have learned to be true!  It’s kind of scary to think that my own memories could become unreliable, but the fact is that I know it has happened.  I can grow through some experience, realize that I can trust God a little bit more, but with time, my memory will fade.  I might find some other way to explain what happened, a way that doesn’t involve trusting God.  I might feel like I am at a dead end, because I don’t remember that God has led me through what looked like dead ends before.

The great thing, though, is that God knows this about me, and he has promised not to give up on me even if I forget.  Praying God’s own words back to him from the Bible helps me to remember that this is something God cares about.  God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, is praying this on my behalf right now.  And when I set my mind on those things, I am copying Christ.

Each day, I get an e-mail from Matthew Henry, a preacher who lived in England

from 1662-1714.  Well, actually, the e-mails are based on a book Mr. Henry

wrote, A Method for Prayer.

You can talk to God about anything that’s on your mind– and that’s probably the

way I pray most often.  Sometimes I barely use words.  But I sometimes forget

about the things God has said in the Bible about who he is and what he desires

for those he loves.

That’s what Matthew Henry’s book is about– the “method” is really praying

straight from the Bible.  In fact, most of the book is made up of passages from

Scripture organized by topic and worded as prayers.  My Mom suggested that I

sign up at the website that sends out the daily e-mails; it gives me something

to think and pray about each morning, and over the course of a year, it covers

the whole book.

To be honest, I don’t do a good job of keeping up with the prayers; some days I

don’t stop to read the e-mails, and other days I just skim them.  But they have

been helpful to me.

There was one I got a few days ago that really stuck in my mind:

Pray for Grace to Bring God’s Truth to your Memory

To help my memory, that the truths of God may be ready to me whenever I have

occasion to use them.

Lord, let your Spirit teach me all things and bring to my remembrance all that

you have said to me, John 14:26(ESV) that the word of Christ may dwell richly in

me in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Colossians 3:16(ESV)

Lord, grant that I may pay much closer attention to what I have heard, lest

I drift away from it; Hebrews 2:1(ESV) and may I hold fast to the word that has

been preached to me, and not believe in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:2(ESV)

Lord, make me ready and competent in the Scriptures, Acts 18:24(ESV) that I

may be competent, equipped for every good work; 2 Timothy 3:17(ESV) and, being

well trained for the kingdom of heaven, may I, like a good master of a house,

bring out of my treasure what is new and what is old. Matthew 13:52(ESV)

I need God’s grace to keep from forgetting things I have learned to be true!

It’s kind of scary to think that my own memories could become unreliable, but

the fact is that I know it has happened.  I can grow through some experience, realize that I can trust God a little bit more, but with time, my memory will fade.  I might find some other way to explain what happened, a way that doesn’t involve trusting God.  I might feel like I am at a dead end, because I don’t remember that God has led me through what looked like dead ends before.

The great thing, though, is that God knows this about me, and he has promised not to give up on me even if I forget.  Praying God’s own words back to him from the Bible helps me to remember that this is something God cares about.  God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, is praying this on my behalf right now.  And when I set my mind on those things, I am copying Christ.

There’s something in me that wants to write, even though I hate writing.  I love the feeling of interaction with others that writing in the blog gives me, but there are long periods of time when I just can’t think of much to say.  Disconnected thoughts show up all the time, but usually I can’t think of a way to make a post out of them.

The time I wrote the most often was early in this site’s history, when I was exploring the definition and traits of Asperger’s syndrome.  That gave me a structure to build on, and I’m thankful I was able to write so much about it, but now, there’s not as much to say that’s of broad interest to others.

I was just thinking that this may be an area in which I need to exercise faith in God.  Every good gift comes from him, and that includes ideas.  Solomon, a powerful and (mostly) wise king wrote a psalm that began like this:

“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise up early and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

— Psalm 127:1-2

If that is true for important things like having a family or ruling a city, then it is also true for little things like writing a blog.  Sometimes I worry about finding something to write, and it makes me think so much about my own thoughts that I tire myself out.  True contentment comes from God; it doesn’t depend on how brilliant my writing is or how many people like it.

While I was on vacation, I read Prodigal God by Tim Keller.  It’s a short book that presents some teaching from Keller’s sermons about Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (or, perhaps more accurately, the story of the two brothers).

I had a lot of thoughts as I was reading, and I want to try to get some of them written down, though it’s hard for me to do as my thoughts are always changing.

A lot of the teaching in the book was familiar to me; I think that Keller does a good job of stressing the significance of both brothers in the parable and of explaining how their relationships with the father in the story mirror the relationships between humans and God:

“Jesus uses the younger and elder brothers to portray the two basic ways people try to find happiness and fulfillment: the way of moral conformity and the way of self-discovery.”

“Our Western society is so deeply divided between these two approaches that hardly anyone can conceive of any other way to live.  If you criticize or distance yourself from one, everyone assumes you have chosen to follow the other, because each of these approaches tends to divide the whole world into two basic groups.”

Keller does point out that people can move from one side to the other at different points of their lives.

Continue reading

We sang one of my favorite hymns in church yesterday, “How Firm a Foundation.”

This hymn has been a comfort to me whenever I have been struggling with doubt and need to be reminded of God’s promises.  The wonderful thing about it is that for most of the hymn, the “speaker” is not you– it is actually God!

Do you ever feel uncertain of your own faith in God, or unsure of whether you love him?  Even if you do, you can still sing this song at the top of your lungs, because it’s about God’s love for his people, not their love for him.  And that never changes and is never in doubt.

Apparently, it’s not known who wrote the words to this song, but they did a good job grounding it in what the Bible says (which is essential; it’s very dangerous to put words in God’s mouth otherwise!)

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus hath fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed!
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.”

This song helps me to stop thinking about myself and picture things from God’s point of view.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.”

Another thing I found interesting in Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was the character Christopher’s description of why he dislikes reading fiction.  When I posted about the theory of mind explanation of autism, I said that the description of children on the autistic spectrum as not engaging in imaginary play didn’t seem to apply to me.  I played make-believe a lot as a child, both alone and with my brothers– we would go outside and imagine that we were exploring another planet (with our pets being the aliens) or build Lego castles and mount attacks on the enemy, for instance.

But back when I was first learning about Asperger’s syndrome, I came across the idea that one of its traits is a lack of connection with fictional or imaginary things like stories.  For example, one (admittedly not rigorously scientific) online quiz for evaluating the likelihood of having Asperger’s includes the following items:

— When I’m reading a story, I can easily imagine what the characters might look like. (with the answer DISAGREE indicating that one is more likely to have Asperger’s)

— I find making up stories easy.  (expecting the answer DISAGREE from an Aspie)

— When I’m reading a story, I find it difficult to work out the characters’ intentions (expecting AGREE)

— When I was young, I used to enjoy playing games involving pretending with other children (expecting DISAGREE)

As I said, I don’t think I have much difficulty in these areas (except for “making up stories easily,” since that involves writing, and my few examples of fiction when I was assigned to write it in high school are hideous!  I hope any copies are buried somewhere deep!  🙂  )

But the character of Christopher, the narrator in the novel I read (who is, of course, himself fictional) had an interesting explanation for why he dislikes fiction in general, and it actually made me realize that I do have some hangups of my own about reading.  (I’ll get to them later.) Continue reading

I have always tended to be moody.  (Maybe my name should be “Dwight L.”)  Even though depression is something I have struggled with and sought help for, it’s never been with the expectation that my mood would remain constantly at one level– it seems to be human to have times of feeling happy and feeling sad, and strangely they often don’t coincide with the circumstances of life.

C.S. Lewis was very insightful about this human tendency.  There’s a section in The Screwtape Letters that puts it very well.  (In case you’re not familiar with The Screwtape Letters, each chapter is presented as a letter from a senior demon named Screwtape to his apprentice Wormwood.  Wormwood has been assigned as the tempter of a human that Screwtape calls only “the patient.”)

MY DEAR WORMWOOD,

So you “have great hopes that the patient’s religious phase is dying away”, have you? I always thought the Training College had gone to pieces since they put old Slubgob at the head of it, and now I am sure. Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?

Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy’s determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation—the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life—his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dulness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.

There’s a lot of cleverness in the way that C.S. Lewis quite literally takes on the role of the devil’s advocate to help the reader listen to what he has to say in a new way.  It can be a natural response for a Christian to assume that a time of depression or of feeling far from God must be because of sin.  But the Bible doesn’t teach that.  The Psalms seem to have as many examples of people crying out to God from the midst of trouble as they do of people giving God praise for their blessings.  God has a purpose in allowing us to go through both, and he is with us through both, regardless of how we feel.

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Psalm 42

In this post, I’m going to talk about some of the struggles I’ve had with worship songs.  Before I say anything else, I want to be clear that the specific worship song I’m going to talk about is a good song– if any of my readers really like it, that’s fine!  But it took me quite a while before I learned how to sing it.

As the Deer by Martin Nystrom

As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after thee.

You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship thee.

Chorus:

You alone are my strength, my shield; to you alone may my spirit yield.

You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship thee.

You’re my friend, and you are my brother, even though you are a King.

I love you more than any other, so much more than anything.

Repeat Chorus

I want you more than gold or silver; only you can satisfy.

You alone are the real joy giver and the apple of my eye.

Repeat Chorus

It used to cause me a lot of distress to sing some of the worship songs we sang at my school, and later, in college chapel at Cedarville University.  I liked to sing songs about God– that reminded me of his faithfulness and love.  But I had a lot of trouble with songs like this one that expressed the strength of the singer’s love for God.  I had heard messages that warned that I shouldn’t sing anything I didn’t mean.

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