Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going HomeMennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When your husband of fifteen years leaves you for a man named Bob that he met on Gay.com and you have a horrific car accident the same week, it might be time for you to consider a sabbatical. If you do, you might want to go home to your family to lick your wounds, and if you do, you might find yourself reminiscing about how different your family is from the life you’ve chosen for yourself. Then, you might find yourself writing. This is what Rhoda Janzen has done in this book. Throughout the book, Janzen shares humorous stories from her family, reflects on the life she chose for herself and explores what went wrong in her marriage.

The book was funny. There were a lot of incidents that made me have a smile to my face. She very clearly loves her family and looks back on her upbringing with true nostalgia. she finds herself understanding things from her childhood that embarrassed her or stressed her out as a child. She finds herself openly discussing the issues she has with her faith. She finds herself admitting that her marriage wasn’t as idyllic as it was in her own head.

Despite the good things, there were several things that disappointed me.

First, she doesn’t really make an attempt to explain the mennonites or what makes them distinctive. I was actually looking for buggies and long skirts, so I was disappointed with the author’s descriptions of mennonite life. I never truly understood what made them so different from other Christian groups. That is a failure of the book.

Second, I didn’t like the potshots she took. She downs her sister-in-laws, her brothers and her ex-husband. There’s a lot of bitterness and unhappiness towards many people in the books. She needs to come to terms with her feelings with all of them so that bitterness does not grow.

Third, I didn’t like her contempt for religion. She acts as if religion is something that a participant can grow past if they are educated enough. This leaves me feeling like she’s looking down an patronizing in her descriptions of her family and their religion. It’s just not something that is appropriate if you’re just looking back with fondness at your family.

Still, it was an entertaining read, and one that I often found myself smiling and laughing at. Since I bought this at a discounted table at a library book sale, I would call it 33 cents well spent!

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Theology

I recently gave myself permission to do something that I have always wanted to do.  I gave myself permission to study a systematic theology. I’ve always looked at them, wanting to read and study them, but they looked so complicated and so beyond my skill level that I have always turned back away from buying one.

The idea of studying a systematic theology, however, is not an idea that would go away.  I finally decided this year to give a leap into it.  There were two reasons for this.  First, I am feeling more confident in my own beliefs, and less likely to be swayed from my beliefs from someone else. Second, a new systematic theology was released this year that I felt might be a little more user friendly.  This systematic theology, Biblical Doctrine, by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, felt a little more accessible to me.  It’s because of the authors.  I have always enjoyed and understood the arguments of both authors, and because of my familiarity with them, I felt that this systematic doctrine would be a good fit for me.

I grew a little more concerned about the book when I received it and realized that I didn’t even recognize the word for the title of the first chapter.  In case you’re curious, the chapter title was prolegomena, and that word means prologue or introduction.  It’s a fancy word I won’t be using to impress my friends because I don’t want people to look at me funny! 😀

The introduction begins with a heading entitled “What is Theology?” that I received some major insights from.  We all know that theology means the study of God. What I didn’t know was that theology existed before Christians. Pagans, centuries before Christians, used the word theology to pertain to their own studies of the gods and mythology.

However, Christian theology is centered on the divine revelation of the Bible. As such, we put God at the center of our theological studies. We source all of our studies back to God’s word. We aim for further godliness as we study.

There was a huge application for me in a David Wells quote that was in this section of the text.  The section of the quote that pertains to my application was:

in order that we might know him, learn to think our thoughts after him, live our lives in his world on his terms, and by thought and action project his truth into our own time and culture.

If that doesn’t sound like knowledge for virtue’s sake, I don’t know what does.  I can only pray that my own thirst to acquire more and more knowledge is guided and formed by my desire to become more like him and to focus on him more.

Factors of Sanctification

I’ve been reading a book recently by David Powlison called How Does Sanctification Work?  It’s a basic book in many ways, but I have found it incredibly helpful.

One of the things that is pictures in the book is a diagram on the factors of sanctification. The diagram is one of a house with all these forces pushing inwardly on it.  In the middle of it all, you are changing.  I found it so inspiring that I made my own version of the house, and I’m just leaving it here as it helped me to think of all the ways that God is working in my life to make me more like him.

Factors of Sanctification

Abide

I’ve been following along with Doorposts in their Busy Mama’s Bible Study over the past year.  I’ve actually been following along for longer, but only actually completing her Bible studies for about a year. (By the way, if you are a busy lady, not just a mom, I highly recommend her Bible studies.  She posts on instagram or on the Doorposts blog, depending on the study, every day, and it’s easy to follow along.  Also, she breaks her studies into such small pieces that you only need 10 or 15 minutes in your day to get into God’s word.)

At any rate, I’ve noticed that there’s been a repeating theme in the studies she’s done this year.  We did a study on Psalm 91, where verse one says, He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

We’ve done a study on John 15, where verse 4 tells us, Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

We’ve also studied Psalm 15, where the psalmist asks, Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

There’s also been a short study of both Psalm 1 and Proverbs 3 (along with a repeat of the parenting study) this year.  That’s a lot of chapters of the Bible to study in-depth, if you’re looking at chapter studies.  Along with that, I’ve memorized all three of the Psalms.  That amazes me.

The main thing that has amazes me is the connections between the chapters.  New testament and old testament has been a journey in dwelling and abiding for me.  I have learned that I can’t do anything on my own.  All that I do is Christ working in me and through me, and that if I want him to work in me, I’ll dwell in him.  I’ve also learned that there is a protection offered to those who dwell in the Lord’s tents.  I’ve learned the outward signs of what a person who dwells in the Lord’s tabernacle looks like.

What I haven’t done is to compare the differences between the Greek and Hebrew words that are used to mean abide in the book of Psalms and the book of John.  That’s my subject for today.

In John 15: 4, we see the word abide used.  We are told to abide in Christ and he will abide in us. The Greek word for abide used here is meno. The word meno means: to remain, to abide (duh!), to sojourn, to tarry, not to depart.

That “not to depart” in the definition stings a little bit.  It reminds me that when I’m not abiding in Christ it is because I am the one who has changed.  I am the one who has left or cut out in our relationship.

The result of abiding in John 15 is that you will bear fruit.  This is something that happens naturally and you can’t force.  (I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried to force fruit to my account!)

Psalm 15:1 has a slightly different shade of meaning than John 15:4.  Because abide and dwell are similar in meaning, I want to consider both of them from Psalm 15.

The Hebrew word used for abide here is guwr. This means to: sojourn, abide, dwell in/with, remain and inhabit.

This person isn’t just visiting the tabernacle.  This person is living there.

The Hebrew word used for dwell is shakan. This means to: settle down, abide, dwell, tabernacle, and reside.

So, my takeaway from that is this.  If you live in the Lord’s tabernacle, your life will show it because you will walk blamelessly, do what is right and speak the truth that is in your heart.  When you do this, you will bear fruit.  Not only will you bear fruit, but it will be the fruit that remains.  That’s a pretty awesome thing.

To a Heart

If we’re going to be able to touch lives and win them for Christ, we have to start by touching people’s hearts.  That won’t be done by some evangelism program or by some stepped method.  Not even a Romans road will argue a person into believing into Christ.

Instead, we need to touch hearts.  How is the best way to do that?

I received some advice recently from reading one of my ten year old’s favorite novels.  She’s been reading Meg Cabot’s Confessions of a Middle School Princess series.  I’ve read them too and they are great books.  If you have an upper elementary or middle school student who is looking for a light and fun read, these books are great stuff.

In the third book of the series, Royal Crush, the main character is trying to decide how to get her crush to like her.  She determines that:

The quickest way to anyone’s heart is by getting to know what is in their heart.

So, if you’re wanting to touch people’s hearts and lives, you need to start by caring about those people.  You need to be a part of their lives.  You don’t need to see them as a project.  You just need to enter into life with them with no ulterior motives, but pray for the opportunity to show them Jesus, both by your actions and by your words.

It’s not the quickest means of evangelism, but life is messy, and if you care about people’s souls, you need to care about their lives as well.

Balance

I have had difficulty striking the right balance in our home recently. Sometimes I am consumed with anxiety and worry, and I am tight and on edge because of the stress that I cannot seem to break free of.

I decided to work through a devotion that Illustrated Faith sells in their shop, and in this devotion, the author discussed how she was a “yes girl.” In other words, she was afraid to say no, so instead she would find herself feeling resentful and drowning in all the commitments she had made.

I am much the same.  I have always hated saying no to people.  I have always had the fear of missing out, so oftentimes I find myself wanting to go on every trip, do every activity and make every appointment until I am crushed under the weight of everything thing that I have said I would do.

I found myself in this situation recently, and between all my obligations and some other stressful situations in my life, I found myself completely stressed out and about to physically crash.  I could completely relate to these lines from the devotional:

When we agree to obligations without considering how it will impact us mentally, emotionally, & physically, we will reach a breaking point.

I admit that I am there.

I find myself so overwhelmed that I have a hard time figuring out what exactly I should be doing.  I appreciated this devotional because it reminded me that I should just lay everything before Jesus & ask Him what should remain.

I thought I had this under control a couple of years ago, but I stopped praying. I stopped considering my priorities. I stopped aligning the things that I do with our families goals and priorities.

It’s a constant struggle.

So, again I find myself in a state of pruning and re-centering our family for growth.  It’s not a huge shift on some fronts, but on other fronts it’s quite dramatic.  The good news, at least, is that we are doing some things right and some things close to right.

So, I made myself a reminder.  For this time and for the next time.  A reminder to lay everything before Jesus and allow him to choose the right and good path for me.

balance

Specifically

I love quiet times of study.  I love to dig into the scripture.  I love to find out more about word meaning, make connections and dig into cross-references and commentaries.  Sometimes, I think that’s all the Bible study I need.

However, I soon find that I am wrong.  I have stayed attached to a parachurch Bible study for eight years now because of the power of studying the Bible together. As I study through specific books of the Bible with my sisters in Christ, I find my understanding of the scripture becomes more enriched and more balanced towards a focus on the very words of scripture instead of my own personal biases.

That’s one of the beauties of the church.  Meeting regularly with other believers sharpens and encourages your own spiritual growth.

Because the Bible study that I attend has a homeschool component, my children are able to study right along with me in workbooks geared for their own level.  Only my youngest, the six year old, is not able to study along with me.

This year we’re studying Genesis, and we’re just really getting started.  It’s an exciting time at the beginning of the Bible study and the novelty of discussing each passage times four during the day to complete my own Bible studies and to discuss our studies individually with my children hasn’t worn off yet.

This week we were discussing Genesis chapter 1, and creation.  As I worked with my ten year old on one of the middle days of our studies we were discussing God’s words and how God had spoke the universe into creation.

My workbook shares several cross-references to look up on the power of God’s words at that time.  However, Emalee’s book was more open-ended, asking simply, “What does that tell you about how God created everything?”

specifically

Because of my cross-references, I had certain expectations for how this question was “supposed” to be answered, so I was blown away when my daughter answered, that to her, what it tells her was how specific God was in his creation.

After much thought, I had to concede what a powerful answer my daughter had come up with.  Everything that God created turned out exactly as he expected it to, and it all turned out good.  There wasn’t anything in God’s creation that he didn’t want to be there.

The other day, I was talking to the children about something, and I said, but I don’t know why God created it the way that he did.  His purpose was something that I couldn’t understand yet.

Still, I know that it has a purpose.  Everything God allows into my life has a purpose, and it is specifically designed for me.

I am thankful for that, and it reminds me to rest in God’s sovereignty.  This is a lesson that God has been teaching me for a while, and it looks like I’m still working on it.  I’m thankful that he has a specific plan in mind for me to as he works in my life.