Why Are Prominent Evangelicals Denouncing Christianity?- My View

Just in the last week, I have seen two different headlines of religious news that I have found shocking but, in many ways, not surprising. What am I talking about? Former Desiring God contributor Paul Maxwell leaves the Christian faith published in Christianity Today April 10, 2021 and A Pastor’s Son (John Piper’s son) Becomes a Critic of Religion on TikTok published in the April 12, 2021 edition of the New York Times. What these two people have in common is that they are connected to John Piper. Paul Maxwell wrote for his website and of course, Abraham is his son

So who is John Piper? According to his website, Desiring God, “John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Providence.”

Here is a more personal look at who John Piper is according to Roger Olson, on his blog Patheos,

I first became aware of the Young, Restless, Reformed Movement (YRRM) before anyone thought to give it that moniker. I was teaching theology at Baptist-related Bethel College and Seminary (now Bethel University) in Minnesota. John Piper had left the faculty to take the pulpit at nearby Bethlehem Baptist Church about a year before I arrived. He was still much discussed by students and faculty alike and seemed to have been a polarizing figure on campus. People tended either to love him or despise him. I had read his article about “Christian Hedonism” in HIS magazine (the now defunct publication of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) before then and had met Piper when I first visited Bethel a few years before joining its faculty…

Not long after taking my teaching position at Bethel I began to hear colleagues calling certain students (mostly males) “Piper Cubs.” It wasn’t long before I could identify them myself. They tended to quote Piper a lot and be passionate about Calvinism. One told me I wasn’t a Christian because I wasn’t a Calvinist!

Over the following years (approximately 1984 to 1999) I witnessed the beginnings of the YRRM. It was born and then grew and coalesced around Piper’s pastoral conferences at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

John Piper, in my opinion, has been one of the major factors in instigating and teaching a newer, more radical form of Calvinism that has swept the evangelical churches of America. Fifty years later, we are seeing the damage and the backlash of this movement in some people very close to this man.

Of course, it is not the man himself, but what he taught that can lead to total spiritual confusion if one really thinks about what he is saying. I would like to mention a few of his teachings that resulted in my husband and I personally stumbling from the faith we held into a land of questioning and doubt, struggling to regain a foundation for a faith that is workable.

I first came face to face with John Piper’s foundational teaching position through the use of his videos while participating in a Sunday School class at our church. One Sunday morning while watching a video, Mr. Piper, was talking about how everything is pre-determined in life and that we are just nails being used by the hammer of God. “Yes, I am a Calvinist,” He declared. What’s a Calvinist? I had never heard that term.

As soon as we got home from church, I proceeded to look up Calvinist. Whoa! I was shocked with what I found and more shocked to realize that something I had hoped to never encounter was in the midst of seemingly the most evangelical of churches. It is the belief that “every single thing that happens has been rendered certain (ordained) by God because there is nothing God does not either directly or indirectly cause (including sin).” More specifically, for those of you reading this who have no idea, from this belief springs several principles outlined in Calvinism by an acronym -TULIP. T stands for Total depravity which most Christians would agree with. We are totally sinful and cannot save ourselves. What would be in dispute would be the belief that goes along with this that we are also totally unable to believe the Gospel message (dead) without God making us believe (or regenerating us before giving us salvation). U stands for Unconditional Election or the belief that God arbitrarily chose, through no action or attribute of the creature (us), before the world was formed, who He would give the gift of salvation to (predestination) and who He would “pass over” or damn to hell. L stands for Limited Atonement or the belief that Christ died only for those who God pre-elected and not for the whole world. I stands for Irresistible Grace or the belief that if God has chosen you to be one of His “elect” that you cannot resist His saving you. P stands for Perseverance of the Saints. In other words, since it is already pre-determined who will be saved, one’s salvation (if so chosen) is guaranteed.

The most often voiced justification by evangelicals for Calvinism that I hear is that “God is God,” “God can do whatever he wants,” and “we all deserve hell so any one God choses to save is receiving his grace and mercy.” First, the overall problem with the Calvinistic viewpoint, as I see it, is that the premise from which the whole doctrine is built on is faulty. I do agree that “God is God” and “God can do whatever he wants.” I also agree that if God decides to save some and send others to hell that is his prerogative but who does that make God into? Why would a loving God make creatures with the whole purpose of throwing most in hell and selecting some for heaven? Is that a God of Love? The response of John Piper is that it is to show God’s glory. What….?? If one can’t know if they are one of the “chosen elect,” than what is the purpose of living a life of honor – you will go whichever way you are supposed to regardless? Also if this teaching is true, then what was the purpose of Jesus dying on the cross to save us? Everyone already has their pre-determined stamp on them, so Jesus dying for our salvation would make no difference. This whole teaching raises so many questions about the Christian faith and what does the Bible really say?

The response of so many people to these articles recently about prominent evangelicals who are renouncing Christianity is Cluck, Cluck “They weren’t really ever Christians in the first place.” I am not sure if that makes them feel better about their own salvation or what. I don’t have to wonder why Paul Maxwell, Abraham Piper, Joshua Harris, Marty Sampson and others are angry and confused. They have finally realized that the teachings they have been exposed to are false and unworkable for a life of faith that is meaningful.

If you are interested in a more detailed understanding of our faith story and how Calvinism affected us, you can buy my book, Once an Insider, Now Without A Church Home by Amanda Farmer on Amazon. It is available as an old fashioned book, a digital book, or an audio book.

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=once+an+insider%2C+now+without+a+church+home+by+amanda+farmer&ref=nb_sb_noss

Sedona, AZ Days Two and Three

                                         Wednesday, September 18, 2019

            This morning was my first day of the anesthesia conference. My night last night was not restful. I woke up several times with the feeling of sour food pushing against my throat. The shrimp scampi I ate for supper must not have set well. Finally, I take a Gaviscon and am able to drift off. But I wake up every hour or so and check the clock. And so the night drags on.

            I walk back to our room from the seminar about noon. Hubby has gone shopping for lunch staples, so we have tortillas and chips before heading out. We start out going north on Hwy 179 through Sedona. We make several stops at scenic views. The Chapel of the Cross on the top of a high red rock is the highlight. We drive as high up as we can and then decide the last option is to walk the rest of the way up.

            “Do you want a ride?” inquires a voice from a golf cart just as we are starting our climb. This is too good to be true.

            “Sure,” I respond as I make a dive for the back seat of his vehicle. I do notice the tip box prominently displayed upfront. Oh well, it was worth not having to walk up the steep hill.

Chapel of the Cross

In Sedona, we go around the umpteenth round-about and head south on 89A. I thought Minnesotans were in love with round-abouts but here, there are almost no traffic lights and a round-about every time one blinks their eyes. Nobody seems to care much about being polite either. They would just as soon run over you as not.

            One of my goals for this day is to find the Verde Valley Railroad while sightseeing which we have a reservation for at 1 p.m. tomorrow. Then I will know how early to leave the seminar. As we drive along viewing the countryside, I develop my plan of attack. I surmise that if we turn right at the upcoming Catholic church, we should be able to wind our way up to the Railroad Terminal in Clarksdale. What I have not accounted for is that the map I am following is a rough estimation and not to scale. I think the Catholic church is located at the light by Mingus Avenue. It is not. But there is a sign just before the church pointing to Old 89A and mentioning the towns that we are searching for. Oh well, we have missed that, so we turn right on Mingus Avenue at the light. This should still lead us to our destination. After a few minutes of tentatively driving onward and intuitively turning where is seems the map would direct us, we spot the road to the train depot. Now, we just have to come back out and turn right on 89A again and I conclude that it should bring us back around by the Catholic church. Imagine my surprise when we see a sign pointing to Jerome ahead. Jerome ahead?

            “We don’t want to go to Jerome,” I exclaim. “I don’t understand what just happened. Don’t we want to go south?”

            “No, we want to go north,” counters my hubby emphatically, “We need to turn around.”

            “Then just follow 89A south,” I instruct him, “and hopefully we will come back around.”

            The town we enter as we drive is totally unfamiliar. “We can’t be going the right way. I don’t remember any of this,” insists Hubby over and over.

            “You don’t remember it because we didn’t come this way,” I respond several times. Now I am becoming frustrated by his insistence that we are going the wrong way simply because he doesn’t recognize anything we are driving by. I am pretty sure this will work out though not absolutely certain. Soon I spot the road I was hoping to find.

            “There it is. Turn right there,” I direct.

            “I have no idea what you are doing. I am totally lost. You are going to have to drive back here yourself tomorrow as none of this makes any sense,” is his final declaration before lapsing into silence.

I eye the Garman GPS sitting on the dashboard that we stowed into our suitcase so tenderly. Maybe we really should plan ahead to use that little thing. But then, we are still old-fashioned enough to think that we can navigate by a map- even a map that is missing most of its landmarks and highways. The rest of our drive back to the hotel is uneventful. We decide to call it a night as Hubby is not feeling up to par physically.

Sedona

      Thursday, September 19, 2019

            Hubby got up at 5:30 a.m. this morning after his phone rang – must be 7:30 a.m. back home. I lay in bed another hour before time to get dressed for the conference.

We have a 1 p.m. reservation for the train ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad so I leave the conference a little early. By 11 a.m. we are on the same road again that we traveled yesterday. Today’s ride goes smoothly, and we know exactly where we are going. It is a sunny, pleasantly warm day as all the days here have been. The train depot is bustling with activity and people milling around.

“You look like you need tickets,” a gentleman greets us. “Head right over there.” He motions to the right.

As we exchange my receipt for actual tickets, I address the ticket agent. “Where do I get our lunch?” I have already paid for a lunch to go with our ride.

“You can either get your lunch at the restaurant or choose to eat outdoors. We are having a German-mashed-potatoes with sauerkraut lunch and brats special today.”

Hmmm! That sounds like a nice change of pace. I haven’t had mashed potatoes and sauerkraut since my mother used to make it for my birthday years ago. We enjoy our lunch in the semi-shade of a tree while we wait to board the train.

Verde Valley Train

We are assigned to the car dubbed “Tucson.” It is air-conditioned, clean, and well cared for. The seats are bench seats like a school bus but can be flopped over when the direction of the train is changed since they can’t turn around. Between each of two cars is a train car that is open and available for outdoor riding. Our car attendant is a man in his late fifties or early sixties who is extremely jovial. He welcomes us to our car and takes the tickets when it is time to board.

            I urge Hubby to join me on the outdoors car for the first hour of the trip. It is hot, probably in the upper 80s but it is breezy and there is a small shade canopy. The land we travel through is, to my eyes, a land of desolation but also of great beauty. We clickity clack along the rail laid along the side of the mountain on the left while a canyon falls away on the right. Deep in the canyon flows a small river or what we Midwesterners would call a creek. The river is lined with lush green trees. The walls of the canyon beyond the river rise magnificently to meet the sky. They are a beautiful red color. Scattered over the steep boulders are blooming cacti and small scrubby trees. We descend a twisting turning path of switchbacks over the next 38 miles to Prescott, now a ghost town. Then, the engines are brought around to the back of the train and reattached. And the climb back through Verde canyon begins.

            We spend part of our time in the air-conditioned coach car and enjoy the scenery out the window. I even fall asleep for a 10-minute nap. Ice cream sandwiches appear, and our host makes an offer, “I have ice cream sandwiches on special. $1 for one, $2 for two.” This is followed by laughter. Just the kind of afternoon to enjoy ice cream. Soon, we venture back outside to enjoy the last hour back to Clarksdale in the great outdoors.

            Since we are so close to Jerome, AZ, the town with the reputation of being the wildest town in the west, we decide to travel there before heading back to the hotel. The road winds with tight curves up the side of the mountain. As we climb higher, a fantastic view appears. The valley below falls away with an awe-inspiring view. The town of Jerome, itself, gives the impression of the houses clinging to the hillside. The streets are narrow and close to the side of the cliff as well. The back doors or maybe the front doors too of the houses overlook the cliff. It is a beautiful scene and provides some photographic opportunities.

Jerome, AZ

            Then it is time to head for the hotel. We decide to make our own supper when we get there. The route we planned to take back to Oak Center is closed because of an accident. “Take alternative route,” says the sign. Great! The only alternative route we know is a little further but probably just as fast. We settle in for an evening at the hotel.

An Adventure in Domestic Flying

We leave the hotel in Bar Harbor, Maine at 7:15 a.m. We soak in the beautiful fall colors during the peaceful drive to Bangor where we return the rental car without any difficulty. Our flight is not scheduled to leave until 1:10 p.m. so we nourish ourselves with food from a gas station with the plan to eat lunch when we arrive in Newark, NJ. We have plenty of time to kill and settle in for some people watching and internet surfing.

We overhear other people talking about having been put on this flight as United canceled the 6 a.m. flight that morning. No one knows why. I question the desk attendant around noon as our flight is not on the board. “It is delayed ½ hour,” she states but confirms that there is still a flight UA4299. It does appear on the board around 12:30 p.m. and indicates that it is “on time.” However, the boarding time passes and then another ½ hour and another ½ hour, and a third ½ hour. We are starting to get antsy along with all the other passengers. We only have a two-hour time frame in Newark and then we will miss our connecting flight to Chicago. No one has made any announcements or tried to update the waiting people. I finally wander over to the desk attendant again, “What is the holdup?”

“Traffic control issues in Newark,” she responds, “The wind is very gusty there and they have had to change runway directions.”

About this time, they announce that we will board in ten minutes. Finally, around 2:50 p.m., we begin boarding. I breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe there is hope yet. Boarding goes smoothly and soon we are taxing to the runway for takeoff. The captains voice comes on the loud speaker, “Sorry folks, I have bad news. We have just been delayed for another twenty to thirty minutes.” I groan. Will we ever get off the ground? Finally, twenty minutes later we lift off into the air.flying1

I do some quick calculations in my head. We should arrive in Newark around 4 p.m. Our Chicago flight starts boarding at 4:10 p.m. How can I expedite this process? Hmm! Those magazines in the back of the seat pocket always contain drawings of various airports. I tear out the one for Newark. We will be landing at the B terminal and need to cross the airport to get to the C terminal for our next flight. “What is the best way to get to the C terminal?” I question the stewardess.

“Take the stairs at B28,” she instructs, “and get on the bus to terminal C.”

I am ready. Now I have a plan. Dave is seated further back in the plane, so I cannot discuss anything with him. My instructions on boarding to him were, “I will find out where our next boarding gate is until you can catch up with me.”

C95 is the gate listed for UA 1180 and it is currently boarding. Great! Down the stairs we go along with a bunch of others. The bus is waiting. Within a few minutes, we arrive at terminal C. We keep moving and arrive with a few minutes to spare. They haven’t gotten to Group 3 and 4 yet. Made it.

flying2I soon realize after boarding that we are also going to have a problem in Chicago. This one is my fault. I didn’t look close enough at the times when buying the tickets. It seemed like we had an hour between flights but now I realize that the distance between landing and boarding is only 35 minutes. The time is quoted for takeoff, but one needs to be on the plane long before actual takeoff. Oh dear! I hope our departing gate is close to our incoming one. If it is, we might have a chance. We do leave Newark on time and the pilot initially indicates that we will arrive in Chicago fifteen minutes early. Hurrah!

My cheers and feelings of hope are soon dampened when the pilot announces, “We have been doing some S flying to delay our arrival in Chicago.” This results in a loss of fifteen minutes. It is very windy and cloudy in Chicago we are told, and this is affecting flight times coming in. My stomach is tight, and I breathe shallowly as I alternate between hope and gloom. I do not have the boarding gate number for Chicago making it impossible to do any pre-emptive planning as I did with the last flight.

The pilot is still hoping to arrive by 6:30 p. m. The clouds hug the aircraft as we descend. We cannot see the ground for the thick white that surrounds us. All of a sudden, our downward projection is reversed and the engines roar as we begin an ascent. Now what happened? The captain’s voice soon comes on the loudspeaker, “We have aborted our landing. An animal was hit on the runway and they have to clear the runway before we can land. We will be circling until they are able to make sure the runway is safe.”flying3

Noooo! What else can go wrong? We might as well give up any idea of making the next flight. We might as well plan on driving home. We fly, what seems to us aimlessly, in the thick soup around us for what seems like an eternity but in reality, is probably about fifteen minutes before we get the OK to land. The clock reads 6:50 p.m. I search frantically for an electronic board to see what gate our Rochester flight will depart from. We are in C terminal and the board indicates our departure is out of F27. You have got to be kidding me!!! The only thing that gives me hope is that it doesn’t say that they are boarding yet. The problem is this is in another terminal as far to the end as is possible. We decide to give it a try anyway.

Down the escalator we go, taking steps like a regular stair along the moving steps. Then I am trotting. I glance back at Dave to make sure he is keeping up with me. Through the tunnel and up the next escalator we speed. Next is the moving walkway and we hurry along it. Dave is puffing. I am getting hot and feel like I am burning up. My mouth turns dry and feels like it is full of cotton balls. Onward we race, as fast as two over sixty-year-olds can go. I am running out of breath and slow down to a more sustainable pace but there is no time for a bathroom stop. Where is F27 anyway? Of course, it is the last gate at the end of the terminal. We roll up just as the last two people are boarding. I need to get rid of some clothes before I melt.

“I bet you $100 our suitcase won’t make it,” I comment to Dave. But we have MADE IT!

flying4The flight to Rochester is uneventful and we soon stand back from the luggage conveyor and watch others collect their baggage. We do not expect ours to be there. Soon the bags have all disappeared and the conveyor stops. We stand there along with another young man.

“That’s it,” I say to no one in particular.

“You’re joking, right?” the young man responds.

“Nope.”

“But my clothes for the wedding tomorrow are in there,” is his anguished assertation.

Well, at least all ours contained was dirty clothes and a few personal items. Soon we are filling out forms documenting our lost luggage.

“It should be here by tomorrow at noon,” the airline agent assures us. “Where do you want it delivered?”

“My house??”

At 11:00 a.m. the following day, the med-city taxi glides to a stop outside our house. “Here is your suitcase.” I’m impressed. Now, that is service.

 

I Want Your Attention Please!

002 (2)Bella has been gone a couple of months. It is time to let her go and move on. Or so I think. What I have not considered is that the two cats, Snowflake and Clover, also had a very close relationship with Bella. They slept snuggled up every night; one on each end of the dog. But they have never particularly liked each other. Now, they start to seek contact from us, the humans. Snowflake crawls up on Hubby’s chest in the evening and snuggles in right next to his face. She scratches on our bedroom door several times during each night, disrupting our sleep. How annoying! 003 (2)Our skittish Clover who never before would allow us to touch her has decided that I am her friend. She comes every evening to my desk when I come home from work and sprawls out on top of my papers. Meow! Meow! Then she rolls around and everything slides off onto the floor.

As several weeks have passed, I think we are settling into a new routine. Father’s Day brings the obtaining of a new puppy, Willow, by our daughter for their home. Occasionally, she brings the puppy over and oh what fun it is to torment the cats. One day, after Willow has gone home, I walk past the garbage can. Whew! What is that terrible smell? The strong odor of cat urine just about barrels me over. As I investigate further, I realize it is coming from the dog kennel. We have left Bella’s kennel in its place in the entryway with the door slightly ajar. That terrible odor is coming from inside. Has the untrained puppy been using that for her place of business? I wonder. I remove the soft pad from the bottom, wash it, and close the door after replacing it. A day later, I notice Clover clawing at the door trying to get in. Then the light goes on for me. It is Clover that has been using it as a litter box. Not thinking too much more about it, I comfort myself with the thought that now that the door is closed, she will have to go back to the litter box.

If I only knew that I am so wrong. A few weeks later, our daughter informs me that the main floor bathroom now smells like cat pee. I don’t smell anything but then my smeller has been deficient for many years. As I sniff around the area and get closer to the hallway outside the downstairs bedrooms, the smell gets stronger and stronger. Great! Just great! After being blocked from using the kennel, she has moved on to using the carpet at the end of the hallway. About the same time, I get a whiff of this same smell when I step out of our bedroom door upstairs every morning. I try to convince myself that this isn’t true but after a couple of mornings, I realize that denial is no longer possible.

030This situation is royally frustrating. I remember going to visit my husband’s aunt when she was still alive and always being repulsed by the strong odor of cat pee in her house. I was never going to have a house that smelled like that. Now, I have a house that reeks of cat pee. I have no idea what to do about this. I search my brain for what might be the cause of this sudden change in habits. Is it the arrival of the new puppy that torments them occasionally? Is it the loss of Bella? Is it a territory war? Is it a bladder infection as some have suggested? I have noticed the two cats having more frequent squabbles so that is the approach I decide to pursue. I buy another Litter Robot for the main floor and place it at the end of the hallway where the cat has been urinating. I also order a black light in the hopes of finding and cleaning all the areas she has been frequenting.

Even though I think I have all the bases covered, every time I sit in my recliner in the living room, I get waves of cat urine ammonia hitting my nose. There has to be another spot I am missing. Even the black light is not clarifying my suspicions. One evening while our daughter is visiting, we go on a journey around the house. Her conclusion is that the smell is coming out of the heat vent. At first, I do not believe her but the more I sniff, the more I am convinced that she is right. Peeing down the heat vent just adds to the aroma as every time the furnace runs, it gets distributed nicely around the house. Uggh!! I’m embarrassed to even think of having visitors.

I wash out the heat vent the best that I can and schedule for a carpet cleaner to come. Maybe, the best solution would be to rip up all the carpeting and put in hardwood floors. There seems to be less fur flying so maybe having 2 litter boxes is the solution. Daughter says one is supposed to have the same number of litter boxes as there are cats plus one. The automatic ones I love so well “only” cost $500 a piece. So what’s a little money to buy a third one if it permanently solves the problem? Better yet, who wants two cats?

One Day as a Tax Aide

“Amanda, do you want to take this last one?” I pause and look at my watch. It is 11:45 a.m. on a morning of volunteering at the Salvation Army. Not too late, I think. My day has been going smoothly and I am feeling more confident in my ability. I can whip through this one in a hurry and be out the door by 12 noon or 12:30pm on this Saturday morning.010

I had decided this year to volunteer with AARP as a tax aide, helping low income and elderly people do their taxes for free. I love playing with numbers and the opportunity that I found printed in the local newspaper seemed like an interesting, exciting challenge.  After 40 hours of class and much on-the-job learning, I am finally enjoying this opportunity to give back to the community.NightCrossesJohnsonWedding 076

A short, elderly lady rises slowly from her chair and trundles after me. She lugs a large cloth tote bag with her. She settles into the chair beside my desk and plants the tote bag between her feet.

“Hello,” I begin, “First, let’s go over your pink sheet that you filled out and then I will need a copy of your social security card and a driver’s license or ID.”

She fishes through her wallet and hands me the social security card. Several more minutes pass as I patiently wait for the requested ID. The minutes are ticking away in my head as others are wrapping up and getting ready to leave. “I almost never need an ID so I don’t really know where it is,” she finally shares this information with me.

“Well, you keep looking while I start to put your basic information in the computer.”

“Do you want my paperwork?” she questions.

Sure, why not. “Yes, please.”

Out of the tote, she produces a very thick envelope-stuffed folder. I quickly flip through the contents. My heart sinks to my toes and a sense of panic threatens to overwhelm me. This is not what I was hoping for from my last client. There are return addresses on the envelopes from various financial companies, banks, etc and none of the envelopes have been opened. I take a deep breath and realize that there is nothing to do but begin at the beginning. I methodically open and sort through each envelope, placing the pertinent 2016 reports in one pile, the mixed-in 2015 ones in a second pile, and those that have no relevance to the current situation in a third pile. When did I become the mail sorter?

I can feel the frustration mounting and feel the clock ticking. I wonder how many questioning faces will be peering in at me before I get this done. I take a deep breath.

power line 3-13-14 250Finally, I am ready to begin entering the data. Even though I have not done many returns that contain IRA distributions, mutual funds income, and rental property, amazingly, my training kicks in and entering the data goes quite smoothly. Most of my questions to the client requesting additional information are met with, “I don’t know. My husband used to take care of all this” so I need to rely on my gut instincts and previous knowledge.

Searching the internet for property tax information for the house takes more time but I am ecstatic when I am successful. I think I am doing pretty well with this challenging undertaking. It never ceases to amaze me the information one can scare up on the internet with a few clicks.

“Are we going to have a return to submit today?” the question comes from a smiling face at the door. The pressure is on. The two remaining quality reviewers are getting antsy. The rest of the aides have gone home.

“I will be done in just a few minutes,” I assure the anxious face.

A few more minutes and I hit the final “ready for review” button. I did it. And it only took an hour and 15 minutes. Whew! I thought I was going to be attending Salvation Army church on Sunday.PetsFamilyJan2013 108

Destination – Whistle Stop

win_20160925_07_46_51_proWe leave the house on this sunny but cool September morning around 8 a.m. The trees are just starting to display the bright reds and yellows of autumn as we begin our 250-mile drive. We are headed for New York Mills, MN, a small town located in northwestern Minnesota. So what is the attraction about New York Mills and why do we wish to travel there, you might ask? Situated there is the Whistle Stop Bed and Breakfast. win_20160925_07_44_00_proIt is a unique bed and breakfast in that the owners have purchased and refurbished four old rail cars into sleeping quarters for guests. My hubby has always been in love with trains and as a special weekend to celebrate our 25th anniversary month, this seems like a cool adventure.

We decide to deviate from the printed Google directions which direct us towards all four-lane, high-speed freeways. Who wants to see the same old stuff while distracted by the mass of humanity that crowds the expressways? We begin our journey, instead, by winding our way north on Hwy 63 and then somewhat westward on the twisting Hwy 60 to Mazeppa. As we continue our journey westward on MN 19, we soon come to a detour. It seems that we drive ever further south instead of north and west. After going a fair number of miles out of the way, we are headed, at least, back in the right direction but on a different road than was our original plan. We can get where we want to go using this road too, we reason so we might as well go this way. We haven’t gone more than 10 miles or so and we come to another detour sign. You have got to be kidding. We repeat the going out of our way process all over again. By noon and after the appearance of the fourth detour in a little under 100 miles, I am starting to become paranoid every time I see an orange sign. Frustration is mounting and our progress towards our destination has been slow.win_20160925_07_44_27_pro

This whole driving experience reminds me of our 25 years of married life. As a young (relatively at 34 and 36 years old) couple, we set out on our life adventure with an image of our years together. And then there are detours – side trips that take us places we would rather not go. I think our first major detour was 3 years into our marriage when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Our dream of having more than one child was delegated to the file of “wishes only.” The “maybe we can adopt” six-year second detour ended up on the road to nurse anesthesia school instead. There is some beautiful country along this road. Our latest bumpy side trip has taken us on a spiritual detour that is confusing, lonely and seems like it has no road that returns to the one that leads to our destination. We can only cling to each other and faithfully attempt to search for the road signs of God’s leading hand. So our life is mirroring this road trip.

A little after noon, we get back on our original planned route and do make our way to the quaint town of New York Mills by 2:30 p.m. Just 100 feet behind the Imperial Car that welcomes us is a modern-day railroad tracks hidden behind the trees. win_20160925_07_39_36_proThis feature presents us with authentic shrill whistles and the clacking of speeding wheels approximately every ½ hour. This is a thrilling treat for hubby but creates a problem for restful sleep. I lay there in bed several hours into the night and wonder, “Why did I think that coming to a bed and breakfast would be relaxing and restful?” I guess it is all in how one looks at the experience just like married life. After all, an adventure is supposed to be exciting, terrifying, and exhilarating; it is not supposed to be a relaxing, restful journey.win_20160925_07_48_35_pro

Our Father Reflects a Picture of God

102June has long disappeared into July but today I was reminiscing about that month– a month that holds bittersweet memories. Both my mother and my father’s birthdays were in June. Father’s Day is in June. It is with sadness that I look back at this month. Am I sad because my parents are gone to their everlasting abode? No, but I am sad over the legacy that they left, the acceptance of responsibility never uttered, the reconciliation never achieved. In my heart I have forgiven them but there is always a certain part of unfinished business left dangling – a wondering if there is a regret in the place where they have gone.

As a result of all this, I have always struggled with the image of God that I obtained from my father – the image of a being with endless power who sternly looks down at me with condemnation and uses me arbitrarily to accomplish his desires. He does not particularly care about me and whatever “love” is shown me is offered me IF I fulfill his demands. Not a very appealing picture of our Father in heaven if that picture of my earthly father is transferred to Him. But over the years, through the genuine love and caring of my husband, I had been able to develop a picture of a God who loves us first of all, has our best interest in mind, and calls gently for us to follow Him as He wants to have a relationship with us.289

My husband and I, when we got married, chose a church that preached the simple message of the gospel – the gospel that I responded to as a child in the Mennonite church. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for the sins of the whole world on a cross so that mankind might have an everlasting relationship with Him should he so choose to accept God’s gift. As a child, I accepted God’s gift of salvation and became one of His children. I had become quite comfortable in my beliefs. Everything made sense. However, a few years ago, I began to notice more people coming into our church who would talk about their lives as if they were pre-determined by God. I found that rather odd and troubling as one of the other beliefs that had been engrained in me was that we, as image bearers of God, are able to make choices in our lives that affect the course of our life. If fact, this belief is the one that allowed me to step out into the unknown in faith while escaping my father’s oppressive control. I shudder to think where I would still be today if I had believed and accepted that all of life is pre-determined from before the world began.

Several years went by during which I did not understand that the sovereignty of God was being defined as divine determinism. One day while listening to a John Piper video in Sunday School, Mr. Piper was talking about this everything being pre-determined idea when he said, “Yes, I am a Calvinist.” What’s a Calvinist? I had no idea. I went home and began researching on the internet. Whow! I was shocked with what I found and more shocked to realize that something I had hoped to never encounter was in the midst of seemingly the most evangelical of churches. It was the belief that “God is the all-determining reality: that is every single thing that happens has been rendered certain (ordained) by God because there is nothing God does not either directly or indirectly cause (including sin).”

For those of you reading this who have no idea, from this belief springs several principles outlined in Calvinism by an acronym -TULIP.

T stands for Total depravity which most Christians would agree with. We are totally sinful and cannot save ourselves. What would be in dispute would be the belief that goes along with this that we are also totally unable to believe the Gospel message without God making us believe (or regenerating us before giving us salvation).

U stands for Unconditional Election or the belief that God arbitrarily chose, through no action or attribute of the creature, before the world was formed, who He would give the gift of salvation to (predestination) and who He would “pass over” or damn to hell.

L stands for Limited Atonement or the belief that Christ died only for those who God pre-elected and not for the whole world.

I stands for Irresistible Grace or the belief that if God has chosen you to be one of His “elect” that you cannot resist His saving you.

P stands for Perseverance of the Saints. In other words, since it is already pre-determined who will be saved, one’s salvation (if so chosen) is guaranteed.

After much reading and research, my mind and my faith were in a turmoil. Everything I have ever believed was called into question. How is it possible that people could interpret the Bible in this manner? All I could see in the Calvinistic god was my father. A god who did not really love me. A stern hard hearted being who used his created beings as puppets only for His “glory.” A god who was incomprehensible and schizophrenic. And a father who, apparently, was pre-destined to destroy his family with his pride and selfishness. I was left with so many questions and few answers. How can people interpret the Bible in so many ways? Who is right? Is there any way to escape from this pit of despair where I do not know what I believe and have no one that I can trust to make sense of all this? It is a very lonely place to be.
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I finally came upon a book called Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, and a Journey In and Out of Calvinism by Austin Fischer that paralleled the emotional and spiritual journey of myself and helped me to return to my former belief system. I can rest in the comfort that God does love me and reaches out for a relationship with me. I only need to accept his gift through faith.073

 

Progress at the Destination Medical Center

Wednesday morning – I haven’t been to work since the weekend. How much could possibly change in two days?NightCrossesJohnsonWedding 138

I stride down the hall from the parking ramp, lost in thought in another world. Suddenly, the hall turns right and trails down a corridor that I have never traveled before. Where am I? Oh yes, I remember seeing a sign last week posted to the main hallway sidewall that stated, “Hallway to be closed on May 24.” Precipitously a new hall has appeared. The only choice is to keep moving forward and see where this passageway comes out. I feel like I am completely in another world physically as well as mentally. I turn this way and that, not recognizing anything. My brain is confused. Did I park my car in the wrong ramp this morning for I am hiking down hallways that sport appointment desks, waiting rooms, bathrooms, and decorated sidewalls? Where did all this come from? Eventually, after an endless walk, I come back out to an intersection where my brain is able to finally say, “Ah, yes, I can go back to my non-alert state.” Apparently, behind all that plastic lining the other old hallway for the last year or so has been growing another clinic building.

I change into scrubs and head down to the operating rooms to begin breaks for my fellow nurse anesthetists as I always do. Somewhere during those first couple of hours, I arrive at the realization that what used to be the recovery room has also closed during my two days away and a new recovery room has opened. This new facility has small individual rooms for each patient while the old one was a large open room with clusters of bays for patient care. It is a modern work of art. I even have to scan out with my name badge to get back to the operating room suite. Strange. Are they afraid the patients are going to make an escape back to the OR?157

Here again, my brain struggles to figure out the new rules. Does everyone go to this new recovery room? Or do some patients go to what we call “the far east” which currently serves as the pre-operative area? And who decides? Within the first 30 minutes, my pager goes off telling me that “Patient John Doe is to go to the east pacu postoperatively.” That is an odd page. And why am I getting it, I wonder? I am not this patient’s anesthetist. And where does this page originate from? No one seems to have an answer to my questions.NightCrossesJohnsonWedding 162

As a final addition to all this change, a change has also been made as to how some of our drugs are packaged. They look different and they are harder to distinguish one from the other. I have worked here for 29 years but today, I think I unknowingly got off the wrong bus at the wrong hospital. I just don’t remember doing so. Maybe that is how Alzheimer’s works.