Friday, August 19, 2011

Musical Update

Because of  our daughter's  huge wedding we recently staged, I have not had much time to play my oboe.  The wedding went well, with about 400 guests.  It was a stressful, but good time.  I told my daughter that the wedding was important, but it's the marriage that interests me more.  The kids should do well in their marriage, by the grace of God. They are in love, but they also really like each other and are good friends.  Anyway...

My musical involvement is taking a bit of a different turn at this time.  The worship leader in our church wants me to be involved in one of the two teams he has going.  We are a small church, but we have some pretty fantastic musicians.  Ben, our worship and youth pastor, is a classically trained pianist, and a fantastic jazz saxophonist.

So, this Sunday is my debut with the team.  Ben wants me to sing harmony on two of the songs, which is fun. I have to make up an alto part, but that's not hard to do on worship style music.  I am playing flute on 3 or  4 other songs, and also have to improvise my parts pretty much.  It's a bit different reading off of a lead sheet that consists in the words to the songs and the chords.  As long as I stay in the right key and play notes compatible with the chords, I'm Okay.  I was able to find the music to some of the songs, but in a way, it's easier to just "wing it."  I'm glad for the jazz lessons I took a few years back.  I'm not being very adventuresome at this point in time, keeping it pretty simple.

I have to say that it is a lot of fun to play on a worship team.  It is not what I am used to, but it is always good to branch out. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Hand Up Not a Handout

Below I included an excerpt from an excellent article.  These are ideas that are truly revolutionary and transformational. Our mission has been involved in this kind of ministry since our beginnings in Manila, PI.  It takes time and patience, but such approaches really do make a difference in the lives of individuals who are trapped in poverty and its accompanying despair.  :

Why Enterprise and Business Are Changing Our Approach to Poverty Alleviation


Poverty: the Church's Role

By Robby Butler
The Church has a strategic role in overcoming internal and external factors in poverty. This outline is representative rather than exhaustive:
  • Internal Influences must be defeated through relational biblical discipleship:
  • Fatalism: Poverty is our destiny.
  • Hopelessness: Effort will prove unfruitful.
  • Laziness: Change is too much work.
  • Lies: God hates me and wants me to suffer.
  • Identity: I am a victim, inferior to others.
  • Addiction: I must numb my pain.
  • Limited Good: If you or I benefit, the other must lose.
  • Individual Circumstances may need such practical assistance such as micro-enterprise mediated through accountable relationships:
  • Subsistence: Where water acquisition consumes a family's time and energy, improved access to clean water allows pursuit of better employment.
  • Bonded servitude: High interest on even a small debt enslaves many, and micro-finance loans can create freedom to seek other employment.
  • Lack of skills: Training can empower a more profitable contribution to the community.
  • Lack of capital: Micro-finance loans enable entrepreneurs to increase the supply of existing products or services (subject to local market saturation or global competition).
  • Societal Environment, best improved through local and international advocacy:
  • Corruption: The best long-term remedy is widespread Biblical discipleship.
  • Lack of Infrastructure: Advocacy can encourage governments, charities and businesses to collaborate in developing infrastructure to facilitate commercial enterprise.
  • Lack of Basic Goods, Services and Employment: The Church can encourage and assist the development of healthy, enterprises which provide employment and discipleship while serving the community.
God didn't simply address our poverty by giving us instructions and resources. Christ emptied Himself and dwelt among us. The most effective approaches to breaking the poverty cycle include incarnational ministry which develops collaborative relationships to hear, serve, learn from and influence the poor, through biblical discipleship, practical assistance, business development and advocacy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Six Metamorphoses after Ovid for Oboe Solo

 Another oboe piece that I am seeking to resurrect from my musical past is the Six Metamorphoses after Ovid.  This set of 6 songs for the oboe are delightful to listen to and to play.  I never performed the complete work, but I did play two of the 6 as audition pieces for a scholarship once. I got the scholarship. That was awhile ago.  They are not really technically all that difficult, but the devil is definitely in the details on this one.  There is no other instrument to help the poor oboist, either.  One is completely exposed, and every little imperfection is magnified. One nice thing, though, is that the player can take all the time they need to get a good breath between phrases because of the liberal use of both fermatas and breath marks.  Evidently Britten loved oboists.

These are a lot of fun to play.  This work fits into  the genre of programme music. That is, the composer attempts to tell a story through the music.

I had to take about a week break from the oboe because of a very unexpected emergency surgery.  Not fun, but not all that bad either.  I'm working on I. PAN for now.  Here is a performance of that piece by British oboist, Nicholas Daniel. Does it sound like the god, Pan, playing on his pipe, which was really his beloved Syinx?  Not sure, but it is a nice song well played by an excellent musician.

The background information for this post was taken from Wikkipedia.  It is the easiest and most concise reference online, though it has not established itself as a completely reliable source.  It is still very handy, especially since my intention is not to become an authority on the life and works of Benjamin Britten.

I sang parts of two seasons in the Bremerton Choral, and we did 2 of Brtten's pieces during that time.: A Ceremony of Carols and Rejoice in the Lamb. So, these three pieces are pretty much the extent of my direct musical  experience with Briten's works.

The Six Metamorphoses after Ovid for Oboe Solo was composed by Benjamin Britten. It is his Opus 49 and was written in 1951 for Joy Boughton.  She was the daughter of a friend and fellow composer, Rutland Broughton.

Britten was a 20th century British composer, conductor, and pianist.  He is best known as a composer of opera, but he also wrote some instrumental works.
This work for oboe was first performed at the Aldeburgh Festival on 14 June 1951.

The six pieces are titled.:

 Pan, who played upon the reed pipe which was Syrinx, his beloved
 Phaeton, who rode upon the chariot of the sun for one day and was hurled into the river Padus by a thunderbolt. 
 Niobe, who, lamenting the death of her fourteen children, was turned into a mountain. 
Bacchus, at whose feasts is heard the noise of gaggling women's tattling tongues and shouting out of boys. 
Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image and became a flower. 
Arethusa, who, flying from the love of Alpheus the river god, was turned into a fountain. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

Both Wikkipedia and You Tube enrich my life!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hindemith Sonata for Oboe and Piano

Way back when I was in high school, shortly after the earth cooled, my oboe teacher had me working on the Hindemith Sonata for oboe and piano.  He liked 20th Century music quite a bit, and always had his oboe students working on unusual pieces.  I never performed it.  My interests lay more in the music of composers like Mozart, Bach, and Cimarosa. I did perform some of their works.  It was a lot more fun to spend hours working on the Mozart Oboe Quartet than  atonal music.

That was many years ago, and after many moves from one place to another, one country to another, and back again I began to try to recover some of my musical past that got left or lost along the way.  The Hindemith Sonata is one of those pieces.

Hindemith lived 16 November 1895 – 28 December 1963 and was a German composer, conductor, violinist, violist, teacher, and music theorist.  He had a complicated relationship with the Nazis, sometimes in favor and other times not - as is true with all artists living under the despotic, socialistic systems of the 20th century.  He finally emigrated to Switzerland, and then the US in 1940. His wife was Jewish, so that  was definitely a good move.  In the mid-30s, he spent some time in  Turkey helping them to develop their music education program. 

In 1946 he became a US citizen, and then in 1953 moved back to Germany, living there until his death. All of the bio info is from Wikkipedia.  Click on the word "Wikkipedia" to see the article about Hindemith.

The Sonata for Oboe and Piano - or  Sonate Für Oboe Und Klavier - was written in 1938.  Hindemith wrote sonatas for many, if not all of the instruments of the orchestra. It is an atonal.   Here is the Wikkipedia definition of that kind of composition. 

"Atonality in its broadest sense describes music that lacks a tonal center, or key. Atonality in this sense usually describes compositions written from about 1908 to the present day where a hierarchy of pitches focusing on a single, central tone is not used, and the notes of the chromatic scale function independently of one another (Kennedy 1994)."
- Wikkipedia

I suppose that it is a kind of egalitarian approach to music theory and harmony. 

Here is a note from the Music Minus One, Oboe Classics - for the Intermediate Player compiled and edited by Elaine Douvas.  She includes I. Munter (Lively) in her book.  

"Hindemith's style is 'neo-classical' and 'contrapuntal.'  That means he wrote complimentary, architecturally constructed, independent lines similar to Bach.  Clarity and line are essential to bring out the counterpoint."

She suggests that many oboe students try to play this piece too heavy.  It is actually light, lyrical, sparkling, and dancing - her words.  I think that she is on the right track.  Many musicians make the same kinds of errors of interpretation with Bach and other Baroque composers, playing their pieces too heavy and serious.  

Personally, I do not think that Bach and Hindemith are in the same category of genius, but I suppose that he believed himself to be using ideas borrowed from Bach, but brought into the 20th century.   

The piece has 2 movements.  The second movement begins with a very slow passage.  The first two phrases are supposed to be played on one breath each.  I am focusing on these two phrases for now.  This is for personal reasons. For one thing, I think it is the prettiest part of the whole sonata.  Then, it is a challenge for me because of the breathing difficulties I have because of asthma.  It is good for me to make myself play these phrases as they should be done - no cheating.  

The first phrase consists in 28 beats at  ♪=54.  Kinda' slow, but I can do it.  It begins p and grows over the first 3 measures to mƒ, then decrescendo back to p.  I love my Fox 300 oboe which is an asthmatic's dream. :-)  Anyway, I'm having fun with this. 

The 2nd phrase is similar to the first, but enough different to not make it redundant. It begins pp, grows over 21 beats to f and then back to p in 11 beats.  So, 32 beats at 54.  I'm having a harder time making that one on one breath consistently, so we'll see.  

Then there are 4 beats rest followed by a 22 beat phrase.  The last 6 measures of the first part of movement II are made up of 4 short phrases broken up by rests.  Hindemith did have some mercy on this poor oboe player.  The marking of the movement is "Sehrlangsam"  which must mean something like "slow as sorghum molasses, making the oboist languish."  

Here is a recording of Movement II.  The guy cheated and breathed in the middle of the phrase!  ...or maybe my teacher was too demanding...just because Roger Cole could do it...I think that the oboist in this recording captures the light, lyrical, sparkling, dancing nature of the piece. I don't think that the brain fishing drawing complements the piece all that well, though.

I just checked this post out, and see that the brain fishing version of this sonata is no longer on You Tube.  Too bad. I liked it.  :-(  

This version by a frenchman is quite nice, I think.  Lovely, even.  He really does capture the light, lyrical nature of this piece, I think.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

On Immigration

I am in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.  It was too bad that our congress voted down the reform bill that came before them a few years back.  Here are some reasons.:
1.  We are a nation of immigrants, and that has been one of our greatest strengths.  We are not weakened by immigration itself.
2.  There are way too many illegal aliens in our country at this point in time.  Those who want to stay here to work in honest endeavors should be given a way to do that legally.
3.  We need more workers.  I am not convinced that illegals do the work that Americans are not willing to do because I see Americans of all kinds of jobs.  The problem is that there are not enough workers.
4.  If we are going to continue to not only have legalized abortion, but also a climate that favors abortion over live births, then we need to get people from somewhere.  Our present policies are not only immoral, but also insane from a human resources point of view.
5.  We have an aging population.   Most of us cannot expect to draw on the social security that we have been paying into, given the fact that our federal government has shown no interest in modifying the giant Ponsiesqe scheme that they call Social Security.   We need younger workers, and there are not enough young Americans at this point in time.  The Social Security system is on the verge of collapse.

Some of my reasons may sound kind of cold, but why not allow people into our country who  wish to study or work?  The immigrants that I have met lately - all of them here legally, BTW - are happy to be here, believing that this country is the best place in the world to be.  Why wouldn't we want more people like them living among us?   It is uplifting to meet upbeat, happy immigrants.

Yes, they miss their homelands, but are also happy for the opportunities to work and to get an education that they have here.

At the Wedding Store

Our daughter is getting married on Aug. 6.  Today was the fitting for her wedding dress.  The lady who will do the alterations is an immigrant from Croatia.  She was competent and sure of what she was doing.

We talked about bilingualism, being an immigrant, and how people react to her.  She thinks that this area is very welcoming of foreigners.  I do, too.

After all, we are a nation of immigrants.  I myself grew up in an ethnic neighborhood where there were many first and second generation Finns and Croatians, all hard working people who came here to escape the insanity that was Europe during the 20th Century.  They came so that they could have a better life for their children. 

I am happy to meet new immigrants to our country.  Welcome!

Friday, May 20, 2011

On the Kingston Ferry

Our traveling is over for a few months  now.  Yesterday was the last day of our cross country, Texas  A&M to Kingston, WA  road trip.  The very last part of our journey involved a ferry ride across the Puget Sound. It was a lovely afternoon, so many of the passengers were out on deck taking in the beautiful scenery and just generally enjoying the ride.

On the upper deck, we met a young man from India who was in the area for a conference, and visited with him briefly.  His name was Ganesh. He was surprised when I knew that Ganesh is the elephant god in Hinduism, and that it represents something like good luck.  He has quite a few Christian friends, though, he said. 

He lives with his family in the Portland area, but has to travel a lot for his job.  He told us that they had tried to live in Dallas, since that is more centrally located and would make his trips shorter.  However, they found that it was very hard to live in Dallas because of the extremes of climate there.  Portland is a beautiful city with a mild climate.  Good choice, actually.

Meeting people like Ganesh is part of what makes travel so interesting.  I would love to visit India someday.  We have many friends and colleagues there, all but one of them Indian nationals from several different parts of the country. 

I wonder if Ganesh will tell his wife that he met a woman on the Kingston ferry who knew that he was named after the elephant god.  Hmmm...

Friday, May 13, 2011

On the Airplane - 2

A few weeks back my husband and I were flying from Seattle to Rochester, NY.  We got to sit next to a man from Armenia who came to the US in the 70s. 

He had grown up during the time that his country was part of the Soviet Union.  We asked him how he learned English, since he spoke very well.  For one thing, he and his wife had lived for some 30 years in Alaska, where he worked.  His daughters were born in the US.  Besides that, he had studied English in school back in Armenia.  The Soviets had the schools divided into blocks.  Some of the areas studied Russian, others English, and others other languages.  He was in an area where the schools taught English as a second language, and he had worked hard to master it.

He said at one point that the Soviet rule was not all bad. Then he paused, correcting himself.  "No," he said. "It was all bad." 

I know what he meant.   We spent a number of years living in Pinochet´s Chile, and we regularly visit a country that, well,...I´d better not say any more.  I know what he meant.

In a sense, one learns to be stronger in oppressive situations, but there must be better ways to learn strength and endurance.

Democracy and Freedom

"Bush said U.S. foreign policy needs to continue to promote the ideas of democracy and freedom as a way to combat global terrorism.
"The long-term solution is to promote a better ideology, which is freedom. Freedom is universal," Bush said. "People who do not look like us want freedom just as much. The relatives of [former Secretary of State]Condoleezza Rice over 100 years ago wanted freedom. It is only when you do not have hope in a society that you join a suicide bomber team."

ABC News

Quotes from an article 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

On the Airplane

Sometimes on a flight, the person you are sitting next to doesn´t want to visit at all.  They may just sleep, or read, or watch movies.  Other times the neighbor is in a visiting mood.  Yesterday on a flight from Chicago to Houston, I got to sit next to that other kind of seat neighbor.

James is an immigrant from Taiwan who did his electrical engineering degree at Syracuse about 20 years ago.  He now works for a company out of California, and he gets to travel the world meeting with and talking to his company´s clients. 

We visited for maybe the last half hour of the 2 hr. 45 min. flight.  He told me about his grandfather in Taiwan who lived to the age of 99.  He had been a farmer, but later in life somehow he had the money to buy a Mercedes.  Grandfather never forgot his farm roots, and always kept a pet cow.  He built a 2 car garage where he kept both his car and his cow.  He loved the cow more than he loved the car.  The cow had copper bells on it, and James was the proud owner of two of his grandfather´s cow bells.

He also shared about his nephew who has been accepted to John´s Hopkins and his niece who also wanted to go there.  It costs only $70,000 a year!  Oh, my!

I shared with him how our daughter had just finished her first year of grad school at Texas A&M; and that I was going to help her move out of her apartment, put things in storage for the summer, and then we were going to drive back up to Washington together.  He was especially interested when I told him how different Texas is from Washington, and that her major is Spanish.  He told me to tell her that if he could arrive in a completely foreign country after having had only a rudimentary knowledge of English, and made it, then she would be able to do well.

James was an inspirational seat neighbor, which is not all that common on an airplane.  He also reminded me that we are a nation of immigrants, and that is a good thing.  My grandparents grew up on farms in Finland.  They never owned a Mercedes, but I am glad that I could learn English instead of the very complicated Finnish language!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lilith Redeemed

The other day I wrote a bit about what I have been reading -  the book Lilith by George MacDonald.  Some say that this is his greatest work.  Most say, "Who in the world was George MacDonald?"   Well, he was a 19th century author who had a great impact on the life and writing of C.S. Lewis, and also J.R.R. Tolkien. As I said in the earlier post, he is considered by them and others to be the first to write in the fantasy genre, - at least in modern times.

Okay, so what is MacDonald trying to communicate to his readers in the book Lilith

Well, I think that he is basically preaching the Gospel to us. He is using the story of Lilith's rebellion and eventual redemption as an example of how a soul is saved.  The original creation, degenerate because of sin,  is regenerated, and evil is undone.  Lilith, who was once enslaved by the shadows, is now overcome and set free by the light.

Pretty amazing, actually.  This Augustine quote is appropriate, I think.

"Thou hast prompted him, that he should delight to praise thee, for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee. "

- The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Book One, Chapter I

Below you will find what I think is a key quote from Lilith, p. 202.  We generatlly think of God changing a person, and He does, of course. However, isn't it more like God restores a person when they believe in Christ?  We become who we were meant to be all along.  We do the things that God prepared for us to do.
We do not need to fear putting our trust in Christ.  When we are found by Him, we  find our real selves, too.

Ephesians 2
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Lilith, p. 202
"Had he not made you," said Mara, gently and slowly, "you could not even hate him. But he did not make you such. You have made yourself what you are - Be of better cheer: he can remake you."

"I will not be remade!"

"He will not change you, he will only restore you to what you were."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weird Music

The 20th century was known for its musical experimentation in every one of its genres.  Music involving the oboe was no exception.

Way back when I was in high school, my oboe teacher gave me a piece of music that he thought I might like to play. It was a trio for flute, oboe, and viola - or clarinet - called Terzetto, and it was composed by Gustav Holst of The Planets fame.  If you click on the word "Terzetto" in this paragraph, you will be able to see the score of this unusual work.

One of the most obvious quirks you will notice is that each instrument is to play in a different key.   

When I was a freshman in HS, I played half of a nice little Handel sonata for oboe for our SW Washington regional solo and ensemble contest. It went very well. The judge loved it, and I got a I-.  Okay, so when I was a sophomore, I tried the solo route again, but with disasterous results.  It was a very bad experience.

I decided that I would never play a solo again, and would participate only in small ensembles and large groups. Of course, I played solos again, but never standing up in front of a group, depending on my memory to get me through! 

In my junior year of HS I got a couple of friends to go in with me to play the Terzetto for contest. It went very well. The judge loved it and gave us a I - the highest rating.  Luckily, we actually ended up together in that performance, and the fact that there were a lot of dissonant notes  written into the parts was definitely in our favor.

When we got done, we went home.  My friend the violist had a date that night, so she wanted to get home ASAP.  Our orchestra director told us how great we had done, but he forgot to tell us one important thing. We had been selected to play for the evening concernt where the best performers played for all the music teachers and other musicians.  Unfortunately we were long gone before we found out.  We just wanted to play and get out of there as fast as we could, and home was 2 hours away!

Our director felt kind of bad that he forgot to tell us to stick around, so he arranged for us to perform our number in several different venues around our town.  This included playing for the school's Spring concert.

Well, it was one thing to play in front of a friendly judge and a few students hanging around.  It was another thing to play for an auditorium full of parents and peers.  The violist panicked and started playing before the curtain was all the way up.  Besides that, she could hardly get any sound out of her viola. 

I don't think that we were ever together through the whole number, but when each one is in a different key, maybe that part doesn't matter so much.  My rude oboe entrances heard over a whispering viola and a sweet flute drew more attention.

Oh, my!  Never again... until the next time... :-)

  We played again for the local Pro Musica group.  They were a really nice, but rather small, group of mostly older ladies who loved music. Some of them were or had been music teachers.  It went much better.  We didn't end together, but we were together for most of the piece.  I think that contest was the only time we actually ended when the music did.  It was always hard to tell on that number, and we were just kids after all.

The Pro Musica people must have liked it because the next year, they gave me a pretty nice scholarship.

One famous musician was part of that group - the Cuban song writer and concert pianist, Nilo Menendez.  Weird all around.

Oh, and the flute players hair piece fell off before we got up to play. Thereafter, she always referred to our performance at Pro Musica as a hair raising experience.

The violist graduated that year, so the next year we did a flute and oboe duet at contest - C.P.E. Bach, if I remember right.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Me and My Oboe

It is very hard to put into words what playing the oboe means to me.  For one thing, I am not as involved with music as I was at one time.  My major at Western in Bellingham was music, so during those years I spent many hours every day both studying and playing music.  Since then, I have gone on to do many things, including teaching music at Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada.

During the PBI years, I met and married my husband - a fine clarinet player.  :-)  We spent many years in Chile, South America as missionaries.  Our only daughter was born there and thinks that she is a Chilena. 

Music was always an important part of our ministry, but we did not have time to devote ourselves to music per se.

After we returned to the US, I returned to teaching music for several years.  Our travel schedule at this time does not allow me to teach.  What I have been able to do is return to actually spending time playing my oboe.  About 3 years ago I was able to purchase a new oboe.   The one I had served me well, but it has a couple of cracks in the upper joint.  It is over 40 years old, now.  

I began to look at new oboes to buy, wanting one that at least had a plastic upper joint. I did not want to suffer the disappointment of a cracked oboe again.  I looked at Yamaha's instruments, which are very nice.  Then, since they come highly recommended at least here in the US, I decided to try out a Fox oboe.

I fell in love with the Fox.  It plays  freely, which I need.  I suffer from asthma, which makes blowing hard at times.  Growing up with smokers, and then the years of living in some pretty polluted air took its toll on my lungs.  The sound is beautiful.  I lose some of the projection of sound that my old oboe had, but at this time, the playing I do is in church with my husband and in a local orchestra which is pretty small.  I get lots of complements on how beautiful my playing sounds, so I guess that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. 

Also, I hope to take it with me in Nov. when my husband and I, along with a larger team, go into Cuba for conferences.  We would like to play some music.  I have been able to help some of the Cuban church musicians that we know with their supply needs.  Every time I go to Cuba on a mission trip, I take reeds for the sax and clarinet players, drum sticks for the drummers, and strings for the guitarists.  I have also been able to provide a trumpet mouthpiece for one guy, and other repair items for the woodwinds.

My oboe is a Fox 300.  The tropical climate may be a bit hard on it, but I know that the climate changes will not crack it. 

So, even though music is still more of a sideline in my life now, it is still an important part of my life and ministry.  God is good!

As far as reed making goes, I pretty much gave up altogether.  I am able to get decent reeds at a low price.  Even so, I have a bunch of reeds wrapped and ready to carve on, so maybe I'll go back to making my own reeds - and maybe not.

One fun thing that I got to do this year so far was send a back pack full of oboe supplies and music to a young player in Honduras.  I met him through Face Book.  It just so happened, in God's providence, that my husband and the new Latin America director of our mission were heading for Honduras to visit our workers there. They would go through the city where this young guy lives. 

Since I am not teaching anymore, and since I am not studying oboe anymore either, I had a lot of books and materials just sitting around the condo not being used.  I remember how it was being a young player and having a hard time finding music and materials. I had a good teacher, but everything had to be ordered from somewhere far away and was all pretty expensive.

 So, I was able to pass on my blessing of ample supplies and music to another oboist just starting out.  Isn't God good that way?  I am still amazed at how that worked out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Led by the Spirit

Galatians 5:18
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God is a Person, not a mere spiritual force.
The Spirit of God breathed out the OT Law just as surely as He breathed out the NT.
The law of God is in harmony with the principle of living under the leading of the Holy Spirit.  They are not in conflict nor are they contrary to one another.
The problem is us and our sinfulness.  We are not holy, but God is, and so is His law.
The solution to this dilemma of not being able to live under the law is provided for us.
Christ set us free from the condemnation that came from breaking God's law.
It is  the Holy Spirit who leads us into the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. (Ps. 23)
So much more could be said, but Paul is NOT saying that we are now free to sin. He is NOT saying that the Spirit will lead us in ways contrary to the Word of God.  Some have shipwrecked their faith by thinking that now they can just follow whatever impulse they wish, calling it being "led by the Spirit."

We are now free to follow God from the heart.  Earlier in this passage Paul said that it was for freedom that Christ set us free.  We are free from the law.  We are free from sin.  We are free to be led by the Spirit into all truth.  If we are set free from sin, we will not want to turn back to a sinful lifestyle.  If we are free from the law, we will not want to turn back to a slavish religion.  If we are free to be led by the Spirit, then we will desire the things of the Spirit.  Later Paul gives us the list of the fruit that being led by the Spirit produces in a person's life.
These are just random thoughts. If you think that I have misunderstood what Paul means here, then please look into it yourself.  There is a double danger.  One is that a person will throw out all law - which is antinomian, a form of moral anarchy.  The other danger is that of legalism, which Paul is refuting here in the book of Galatians.

If one is truly led by the Spirit, then he or she will be moving towards holiness and will be demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit in his or her life. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mercy and Grace

God's grace - when we get what we don't deserve.  God's mercy - when we don't get what we do deserve. It is all because of Christ. He took the punishment we deserve.  He takes our sins and clothes us with His righteousness.

I pray that God will show His grace and mercy to all of us.

1 Timothy 115

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

- The Apostle Paul

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

- John Newton

"And on these grounds I witness and declare, that I hope for no other  refuge of salvation than this alone – that since God is a Father of  mercy, he will show himself a Father to me, who confess myself a  miserable sinner."

- John Calvin
Thy love and grace alone avail
        To blot out my transgression;
        The best and holiest deeds must fail
        To break sin's dread oppression.
        Before Thee none can boasting stand,
        But all must fear Thy strict demand
        And live alone by mercy.
- Martin Luther

Monday, February 7, 2011

Light in the Darkness

These videos of the Taiwanese Lantern Festival are beautifully poignant. People write prayers on the outside of the lanterns and then send them out into the darkness. It reminds me of the words of the the writer of Ecclesiastes when he spoke,"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end."

All people everywhere know that there is something beyond this human existence. There is something out there in the darkness. Mankind reaches out into that abyss, hoping that someone or something will hear their prayers and grant them their heart's desire.

In it's own way, that is beautiful, since it is a clear testimony to the fact that eternity is real and our hearts reach out to what is eternal.

With the coming of the Son of God into the world, we see a different dynamic at work. We have the One who is there, the Creator of all things, reaching down into our darkness and showing us the Light of His glory. As the Apostle John said, ' the Light shines in the darkness." Jesus Christ is that light. He came down to us.

John 1
The Word Became Flesh
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."

Scripture also reveals that He is not the one in darkness. We are. He is hidden in the light. In our blindness, we cannot see Him until He opens our eyes. Ask Him to open your eyes so you can see Him as He is.

Matthew 20:34
Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.