Educated by Christian Courier

(Christian Courier column, Oct. 26, 2015)

IMG_0389It happened again last night at church. I was introduced as the Cathy Smith who writes for Christian Courier. Flattering, don’t get me wrong. But to set the record straight, I’m really Cathy Smith — you know, the one who learns from Christian Courier.

Does anyone have as many saved CC articles as I do? I did a cursory tally of the clippings in my file folders, not including entire Easter and Christmas issues I’ve hung onto for decades.

Here’s a sample enumeration of articles by topic. It’s woefully incomplete because my time for tabulating ran out as my column deadline approached. Two additional binders of devotional material never even made it out of the cupboard.

women in office: over 50 — from writers like Mirth Vos, Rem Kooistra, Al Wolters, Howard VanderWell, Laura Smit, Bert Witvoet

book reviews: 27 — from writers like Marian Van Til, Robert VanderVennen, T. Plantinga

movie reviews and media articles: 85 — from writers like Ron DeBoer, Henry Knoop, Bill Fledderus, Jacob Kuntz, Bert Witvoet and reviews of my two favourite movies, Babette’s Feast and Dead Poets Society by Marian Van Til

praise and worship: 12 — from writers like Andrew Kuyvenhoven and Wayne Brouwer

aesthetics and art: 15 — from writers like the inimitable Calvin Seerveld

grace: 10 — including a memorable piece by Roy Berkenbosch entitled “Jasmine fragrance near the dustbins of Bangladesh”

short stories and poems: — 100+. Seriously. I gave up counting.

Here’s why it’s an honour to be writing for CC. I’ve joined the ranks of my teachers. And, frankly, I needed schooling.

My parents were conscientious in “training me up in the way I should go” and sent me to a Christian elementary school. But I attended a public high school during the tumultuous 70s and a secular university after that. As I’ve shared here before, I drifted a long, long way from my roots.

When, providentially (surprise!), I found myself teaching at a Christian high school, I had a lot of catching up to do in terms of internalizing a comprehensive Christian world and life view. Sure, I was handed Christian Philosophy of Education by Beversluis and A Christian Critique of Art & Literature by Seerveld and I took some summer courses, but I was sorely lacking in the grounding I might have received had I attended a Christian university. CC was my tutor, a newspaper that included every imaginable sphere of Christian cultural engagement. I read, I learned. And that’s still happening today.

Another reason I gulped down all this CC output was because I was cavernously hollowed by the issue of women’s roles within the church. CC wasn’t my only source of information on that topic, but it was the most local. It dealt with concerns from my region, my tribe, my reality. In time, God granted me a calming confidence in a biblical feminism that inspired spiritual wholeness and peace. CC was part of that.

Lastly, I keep reading CC because of this jewel of a Bible verse: “… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12). In it I hear a resounding call to ponder, to sit like Mary at the feet of Jesus and seek the “one thing needful.” It foreshadows one of the liberating principles of the Reformation – no priest or mediator other than Jesus is required to leverage my faith with God. In fact, astoundingly, God is calling me to attend consciously to my own salvation. He’s calling me to my own rigorous sifting of opinions. He’s calling me to partner with him, to have a will of my own and act in deliberately productive ways in his kingdom for his purposes. It’s a clarion endorsement of who I am and who I may become, an indispensable royal stamp and seal for one as fallen and insecure as I, followed by this guarantee: “… he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil.1:6b).

Until the day of Jesus Christ, I claim the holy, ennobling task to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling.” And CC, with its community of fellow-readers and writers in the kingdom, helps me find my way, delights me with news of what God is doing and commends my spirit to renewal again and again.

For CC’s 70 years, thanks be to God.