Friday, January 13, 2006

Speaking of Translations part 3

Back to translations for a moment.

This is what I said when I first began talking about translations

“I’ve studied the Bible long enough that reading the more “modern” translations seems, I dunno, sort of “disrespectful” and “un-studying” to me. I do tell people, however, if you’re new to the Bible, read one of the more “flowing” translations, such as “The New Living Translation” or even “The Message.” I personally don’t like “The Message” but some Bible teachers that I greatly admire use it, so that tells me that it is ok, but I just don’t like it.”

I have since actually read from “The New Living Translation” - WOW! Am I ever impressed! I’d heard it was good, but man, it is very good! There are no feelings of “disrespect” or “un-studying” at all! Not only do the story lines flow, but even the most poetic of writings are beautiful.

We used verse 1 from the 23rd Psalm as an example before - this is how it reads in The New Living Translation, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.

Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”

I just couldn’t resist printing it all. And you know what? As I was reading that (even now) I noticed, maybe for the first time, that the Psalm changes from talking about the Lord in the third person (He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me…) to talking to the Lord, personally (Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. emphasis added.)

Now, see what “really reading, what we’re reading” can do?

Next time - back to another “idea” to try…

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Speaking of Translations - continued

As I said last time, “The main key isn’t which translation one uses, it’s getting into the Bible on a regular and consistent basis. I’m convinced that the major block to knowing what the Bible is saying is that we just don’t really read what we’re reading.”

This is especially true of those of us who’ve grown up in the Church. We’ve heard and read these stories so often that our minds automatically jump to the conclusion of the scripture without actually hearing what it is saying.

For instance, I don’t know how many “thousands” of times I’d heard and read the Creation story in Genesis but didn’t realize that man (and beasts) were to be “vegetarian” until after the flood! Wild, huh? (Genesis 1:29 and Genesis 9:3 - check it out!)

I came to this conclusion (that we're not really reading what we read) one day after reading passage after passage in a commentary and thinking, “I knew that. Why didn’t I realize it?”

When we sit down and really read what we’re reading, we can grasp so much more of what God is saying to us. Now, don’t get me wrong, commentaries are great things, and I use several different “brands.” But we truly need to let God Himself speak to us through the Scriptures, themselves as well.

This is what I do every time I begin to read the Bible (or try to do every time - sometimes I have to stop and remind myself…) I pray, “Lord, open these words to my understanding. May Your Spirit speak to my spirit, so that I might know Your Word.”

Now, this is not a “hocus-pocus” or an “abracadabra” of Biblical understanding. Just like praying “In Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer isn’t “the magic words” that makes it all happen. It’s an attitude of being open to hearing God and then praying as Jesus would have prayed - “in His name.”

Get it? In His name - in His stead, in His place, as He would have done… we have to “pay attention” to what we’re really saying and reading.

Perhaps that’s one advantage of reading a translation that is not entirely comfortable to us. Think about it. When we read from a translation that is different than we’re used to, we have to pay close attention to what it is saying, because it oftentimes doesn’t say what we’ve come to expect it to say. (I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve “stumbled” over a passage when I knew it in one translation, but was reading from another!)

For example - Everyone knows how the 23rd Psalm starts in the KJV, right? “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want”. Now, read how it sounds from, say, The Message “GOD, my shepherd! I don't need a thing.” Isn’t that really different?

For more ways to “really read what we’re reading” try these ideas:

· Read one verse and “digest” what it really says.

For instance (as my SS lesson book is open beside me) 1 Timothy 2:1 “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men…” Ask yourself, “What is Paul really saying here? Why did he say ‘entreaties’ and ‘prayers’ and ‘petitions’ and ‘thanksgivings’ - don’t all 4 of these words mean basically the same?” Think about how these words are different.

Then Paul said to pray this for “all men” or “everyone.” Did he really mean “everyone”? Could I pray these things for “everyone” - every single person, even my enemies…?

Now, you might say, “Man! I’d never get through the Bible like that!” Maybe not, but you’d really know what you’ve read, wouldn’t you? I have a personal “peeve” with the “reading the Bible through in a year” plans. Yeah, one might “read” it, but would you “know” it?

Next time - another “idea” to try…

Friday, December 30, 2005

Speaking of Translations

Speaking of Bible translations - As Shane does in Wesley Blog

This is how I feel...
I’ve been “old school” long before I was old enough to be “old school.” I grew up reading the King James Version until I was a teenager, (60’s) then I switched to The Living Bible and The Good News For Modern Man - for a short while.

It wasn’t long before I went back to the KJV. I tried the Revised Standard Version because that was what the UMC used in all its literature, but I still didn’t feel comfortable with it.

Then I found the New American Standard Bible (NSAB) and I love it. However, to find scriptures that I’ve memorized over the years, I often have to go back to the KJV to find them.

So, I love the KJV and the NSAB. I am comfortable enough with my “womanhood” that reading “man” doesn’t bother me. In fact I detest “inclusive” language. It is so often “over done” that it is ridiculous!

I mean, c’mon, “Because God loved God’s people, God sent God’s Only Son into the world…” how silly does that sound when you read it?

I especially dislike the way our hymns have been changed. When one sings (as I often do) without even looking at the hymnal because the songs are so ingrained in the heart, the “inclusive” language can really trip up the flow of the song.

But, enough of that. I just don’t read those translations.

I’ve studied the Bible long enough that reading the more “modern” translations seems, I dunno, sort of “disrespectful” and “un-studying” to me. I do tell people, however, if you’re new to the Bible, read one of the more “flowing” translations, such as “The New Living Translation” or even “The Message.” I personally don’t like “The Message” but some Bible teachers that I greatly admire use it, so that tells me that it is ok, but I just don’t like it.

I have downloaded e-Sword ( ) on my laptop for use in studying. It’s great! (And Free!) I have about a dozen translations at my fingertips as well as major commentaries, dictionaries, and concordances. I can spend hours “chasing rabbits”! (This is what I call it when I start out studying one thing and find myself going a totally different direction because of something else I found…)

The main key isn’t which translation one uses, it’s getting into the Bible on a regular and consistent basis. I’m convinced that the major block to knowing what the Bible is saying is that we just don’t really read what we’re reading.

I’ll talk more about that next time…


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What brought me to searching the internet - part 4

(First of all, let me apologize for the delay in this story/journey - my Dad has been in the hospital [see the Prayerlogue posts] and is now home under Hospice care. As an only child, I am staying at his house caring for him. My husband comes by after work to eat supper with me before going home - it’s almost like dating again! After 30+ years, not living together is the pits!)

Now, on with the story. Where would we turn now…?

Just as Joe and I were struggling with where to turn for “truth” and teaching, many (more) issues were also coming up in the Church (as a whole) that we were dealing with, and questioning.

Through my Prayerlogue blog, I had become aware of a whole “blogosphere” out there, and began following some of the issues, finding that, ‘Hey! We’re not alone in what we believe!”

We’re not the only ones with a disdain for the politics of the Church. We’re not the only ones who long for the Scriptural teachings of Wesley. We’re not the only conservatives left! (Oh, how many times I’ve felt like Elijah - like we were the only ones left…)

We have found many “friends” on the internet and that has helped us in our journey as well as giving us encouragement. I’ve always felt like I was “Between a (Theological) Rock and a Hard Place” because of what I believe. I frequently find myself at odds with the folks around me - “Theology-wise”. I’ve often said, “I’m too liberal for the conservatives, and too conservative for the liberals.” For our regular church members, I’m somewhat of a “fanatic”. They can’t seem to understand why I get so upset over our literature and disturbed with what is being preached from the pulpit (which far too often has been “nothing!”)

[I will say, though, that we have a young man now as our pastor who shows real potential! The “worship” part of his worship services are filling and uplifting. And, his sermons are growing. He is inexperienced, yes, but he shows a real hunger to serve God, and God will use that. Many folks have likened him to Marvin Howard, who is now our Conference Evangelist. Marvin came to our circuit in 1964 as a young, and very new, pastor. We’ve always jokingly said that “we trained him up right!” I joined the church in the fall of 1964 as a 10-year old, after taking confirmation class, and have always had a special place in my heart for Marvin.]

So, back to my reason for this blog.

As I stated in the first installment, I thought it would be apathy that closed our church, and while apathy is a very serious matter, our UMC is facing issues far more serious than apathy.

I have been saying since the late 80’s that I feared that our Church (as a whole) would soon split over the liberal agenda of homosexuality. There are many other issues which tear our church apart, but this one tops the list. Of course, our church members have looked at me in the past like I was crazy, but as time goes on, I think they can’t help but see what I’m talking about.

So, I wanted to be able to write about my “location” (between this rock and this hard place…) without “muddying” up my Prayerlogue. I truly want the Prayerlogue to be a place of prayers, meditations, and devotions that not only reach to the heart of spiritual need, but sings to the heights of heaven in Glory to God.

This blog will be purely my opinion, with prayerfully, direction from God…

Comments are always welcome.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

What brought me to searching the internet - part 3

What do you do when you’re starving all you are offered is a diet of “cotton candy?”

That is literally how I felt about the sermons we were getting - “cotton candy.” They looked good, they smelled good, and they “tickled the senses” but once in the mouth - nothing.

Never in my wildest imagination would I have dreamed how God would bring us to “real food” at this time in our lives.

In 2002, our older son (20 years old at the time) decided that he wanted to take up bull riding! (Yes, “bull riding”!) Of course, we were totally against it, but hey, what can you do when they are that age? He had a full time job, was (sorta) living outside our home, attended a church different from ours, and was a part of a youth ministry called “Yoke” ( ). He was a “good kid” just bull headed (no pun intended!)

Anyway, he did eventually get very seriously hurt - ultimately losing a kidney, but God used that accident to lead us to some real spiritual food!

The next day after his accident, the hospital was flooded with “Yoke Folk” - the other youth ministry members. Plus, Joe’s pastor came to see him. When I met Dana Mathewson, I felt like I had known him all my life. (I found out later, that that was the way everyone who knew him described him.)

We only talked for a very few minutes before the conversation turned to theology. In the midst of this horrible, life-threatening accident, God had brought me to someone with food! I met his wife Jennifer, and we became immediate friends. Over the course of the next 3 years I would go to them for food “in between times” either when I could sneak away from our church, or when I was so hungry I couldn’t take it anymore. I could write pages and pages of our love for them and their ministry, but suffice it to say that there are not enough words to convey how God used them to touch our lives.

In July 2005, Dana officiated at that same son’s wedding, and in September 2005, Dana Mathewson was killed in a tragic car accident. We, along with all of Knoxville (TN) were devastated. The man was loved everywhere he went. His sermons were the most deeply theological, yet easily understood sermons I’d ever heard, and his ministry touched everyone he met.

A couple of weeks or so after he died, my husband and I were lying in bed one night (he was trying to sleep and of course, I was reading…) when he suddenly turned over and said with a panic stricken voice, “We have no one to go to!” (Scared the hound out of me!)

I said, “What do you mean ‘no one to go to’?” He said, “with (our other pastor) out of the picture, and now Dana dead - we have no one that we can really trust, no one to teach God’s Word, to go to!”

And I realized, he was right. Who would we turn to now?

Next - The World Wide Web…

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What brought me to searching the internet - part 2

Continued from Tuesday…

As I said, I thought it would be apathy that closed the church. Like I’ve often said “I’ve lived a sheltered life!” I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I’d see what we’re seeing in the church today… but I was getting ahead of myself…

After I wrote that poem, I gave it to our pastor and challenged her to print it in the bulletin. She let me know right quick that the DS wouldn’t like it! It was very obvious, that she was afraid of her “boss.” She often said, “Oh, I personally agree with you, but that is not the “official” Church stance, so I can’t say that…”

(Oh, if only I could have seen this as a prophecy of the future!)

I decided that the only thing I could do was pray - and pray I did! I began a concerted, dedicated, daily prayer effort praying for God to send us a “man of God.” Now, let me hasten to say that I didn’t care if it was a man or a woman “gender-wise,” what I was praying for was a Biblical type of “man of God” who would stand, regardless of what the hierarchy said or did. (Paul comes to mind…)

In June of the next year (1993) God answered my prayer; well at least this man “looked” the part anyway. (Looked like an “Old Testament Prophet!”) I would soon find out if he “fit” the part, as well!

The pastor we received that year was “different.” He was about my age (early 40s - which meant he grew up in the 60’s - hmmm…) He was tall with long grey hair, a full beard, and an earring… (I knew he was a “cool guy” when the DS asked him about moving expenses and he said, “Don’t worry about it, I’ve got a pickup truck…)

Even though he was in his 40s he was a “student-pastor” as he was attending UT working on his Masters and later Doctorate in history. (I found out later that he was much more experienced as a pastor than I knew - having served in an independent Methodist church as not only a pastor, but a DS, as well!)

As an “old hippie” myself, I could easily relate to him, but what would the people say? Long story - short - they fell in love with him. Oh, some weren’t too happy about some things, but man, could this guy teach the Word of God! I didn’t realize how hungry I’d been for so long. We had “food” that I didn’t even know existed! And he remained our pastor for nearly 10 years. (Un-heard of in our Church!)

Our boys grew up knowing that one didn’t have to “look like a pastor” to be a very effective teacher/preacher. For that, and a hundred other things, I am eternally thankful.

But (you knew there was going to be a “but” didn’t you?) But, “preachers” are not perfect people and he made some bad choices. At the time they seemed like very good and noble choices. And, I’m not so sure that if he had it to do over again he’d choose differently - but that’s not my call to make. We (my husband and I) supported him then and we still support him today as he is our best friend (although, we’d really like to see him preaching somewhere today… hint, hint, hint…)

The bottom line is, he was forced to resign or face the “firing squad”, er I mean, the Board of Ordained Ministry. And he chose to resign. True, this “simplifies” the story dramatically, but ultimately, this is what happened. And I again, was hungry…

To be continued… next up “Food!”

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What brought me to searching the internet - part 1

What brought me to searching the internet

In my first “welcoming” post, I wrote of what brought me to this point in my life and Spiritual journey - now let me tell you what brought me to the “blogosphere”…

As I said, we’ve tried to leave the Methodist Church for a long time, but God keeps leading us back “into battle.” It was a couple of those seeming “defeats” that began this trek. But, it began long before that...

In the early 90’s I was at the end of my rope. We’d had everything in our pulpits from mediocrity to apathy, to outright apostasy. I was sick of it, and I wrote the following poem.

The Death of a Church

The old man sat on the steps and wept
his body shook with grief.
The Church behind him was in disarray
I thought there had been a thief.

“We’ll call the police,” I gently said
trying to calm his fears.
But the old man just shook his head
and began to talk through his tears.

“I have in my hand, a notice,” he said,
“that was nailed upon the door.”
“Closed due to lack of interest”, it says,
“closed forevermore.”

I started to speak, but he raised his hand,
and motioned for me to sit.
Then the tale he told, sent chills up my spine
and scared me, I’ll have to admit.

“It could have happened to any church,”
he said with a heart-felt sigh.
“We all knew that things were bad,
but we never thought it would die.”

“You see, lots of people used to come to this church
we could have a good crowd Sunday morn.
And just mention a meal, why folks would come until
Gabriel blows his horn!

And the Spiritual food, at times too, was good.
We’ve been nourished with the Word.
Then why you ask has the church been closed?
I know it sounds absurd.

But it takes much more to build a Church
than one hour once a week,
but it seems so few were willing to work,
so few were willing to speak.

So few were willing to take a stand,
so few were willing to lead.
So few were willing to do the job,
and fill the church’s need.

Then the few, got fewer and fewer until,
none at all remained.
And though they had a choice,
none raised a voice,
and the door at last was chained.”

“I know what you’re thinking.” the old man said.
“We’re small, but we’ll never die.”
“I pray that it’s true, it doesn’t happen to you,
but when it does,
only “the few”
have a right
to cry.

Betty Newman © 1992

You see, I thought it would be apathy that closed the church. As I’ve often said “I’ve lived a sheltered life!” I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I’d see what we’re seeing in the church today… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

More tomorrow…