Saturday, December 10, 2016

What To Do, What To Do?

If news media reports, television announcements, and social media trending topics could be weighed in a balance, I wonder what the daily tonnage would be? Surely it would be a weight too burdensome to be borne. Even the fraction of the stuff that the average American tends to gather for their sack of daily worries is too heavy for my taste, so I try to accumulate as small a load as possible. But I still end up on many days with a chunk of discouraging information about the state of things...and oh, what to do with it? Especially for mothers, every bit of baddish news adds a weight of care to our concern for our children. What do I do as a mother with another piece of news that reminds me what a dangerous, broken world I will have to send my child to face? I don't have to list the variety of depressing issues available for us to consider - anyone reading this probably knows them all too well. 

But to make the illustration concrete, here is a piece of something I happened to pick up yesterday from a Washington Post article on Trump attacking someone on Twitter - "Her phone began ringing with callers leaving threatening messages that were often sexual in nature." One thinks, Ah, poor lady! but a mother thinks, How awful that our nation is increasingly full of predators, and I have this sweet baby girl - oh God, help! Mamas know this thought sequence really well. But I paused in my sorrowful prayer and thought What DO I do? What do I want for my children? This world is just going to be nasty until Jesus comes back, and I can't always protect my children. What do I seek for them? What can I give them? and the words came to my mind - "Holding fast to the word of life (Php. 2:16)." Yes. Yes! This is what I want for them. This is what I will labor to give them and pray to see made real in them - the truth about God, the gospel of Jesus, the whole counsel of Scripture, the grand, sweet promises, the unshakable hope, the words that bring life to the soul, that sustain the believer through every trial and carry them onward to Heaven, that nothing on earth can take away from them. Truly, if the bad things on the news happened to my children - and yet, they held fast to the word of life - it would be enough.

Yes, the worst could happen - that a child does not hold to the word of life. But the battle cry of every mother's heart should be, Not if I can help it! Or for the more vigorous among us, Over my dead body! This is done, not simply by force-feeding the tots a pile of memory verses -though that doesn't much hurt! - but pressing into the solid comfort of the Word of God myself. I can't give what I don't have. But when it comes to what to do with 'the stuff out there', I can use those heavy lumps of bad news, and plunk them down on the lever of my determination to hold fast to the word of life before my children - to know and cherish the word of God for myself, and so doing to set it more faithfully before them. To use another metaphor - the colder the thermometer drops outside, the more wood you throw on the fire. Let me be found strengthening my soul with the Word of God, and when my children need strength, it will be the first thing I give them.

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Philippians 2:13-16 ESV)

Art ~ Munkácsy, Mihály, Woman Carrying Faggot, 1873

Consider the other side of the battle on The Impossible Goal.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Wonder of Ancient Things

Notes from my recent read-through of Geoffrey Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain: 

Ancient - truly ancient - history, has the potential of providing its students with a profound sense of smallness upon the stage of the universe as well as wonderfully tingly feelings of discovery - "Oh, I never knew that!" Knowledge is a great treasure. Knowledge of things far, far past has a unique value, because it is, as it were, dug from a very deep mine, and one feels privileged to glimpse such heavily unearthed treasure in the light of the reading chair lamp. Also, the more ancient the people and events, the more one feels in learning of them that here we are getting to the root of things and the beginning of the matter, and so everything begins to make more sense. Those are some of the impressions I received from reading Monmouth.

Some lessons:

First, the historical timeline - here I was blown away (all those tingly feelings): The poet Homer was an approximate contemporary to the prophet Samuel. And good old King Lear of Shakespearean fame, was a real king (so says Monmouth, and I rather believe him) - contemporary with the prophet Isaiah! As a newcomer to the study of really old history, I never realized that any history of our western tradition went so very far back into the days of the Old Testament. This did not make the Bible any more believable to me than it already is, but it made it feel closer, like the constant breeze of the sea suddenly blowing through a crack in the wall and giving you goosebumps. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Five of the Ninety-Five Theses

The circumstances that fueled Luther's writing of ninety-five theses were the prevalent selling of indulgences - forgiveness of sins to be bought for money - and that less in the interest of God's people than in the interest of church finances. Medieval church fund-raisers at their finest and worst. What better way to fill up the church building fund than by playing off the very real desire of people to be rid of guilt? That made Luther, this pious Catholic monk mad. So he wrote about it. Here are five of the ninety-five theses. You can read all of them here.

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.

37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters. 

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.

62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.



Read all of Luther's 95 theses here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"Appraisal"

A friend recently shared with me a radio website that still airs the old Gateway to Joy programs. Today I listened to the first one I'd heard probably since my mother played them on the radio during my childhood. It was sweet to be listening now as a mother, especially while holding the late speaker's tiny namesake, Esther Elisabeth, in my arms. The conversation was so rich, I will surely be going back for more - it was like finding a pearl in the first shell one opens, and the pearl was mostly a poem by Sara Teasdale that was read aloud. The poem spoke of how a husband lives in his wife's heart. I looked it up immediately to save in my lessons blog, but the vivid imagery is already etched into my mind. Is it changing the way I think, or did it only give fresh words to what I do think? Perhaps it was both - poetry is good like that.


"Appraisal" 
by Sara Teasdale.

Never think she loves him wholly,
Never believe her love is blind,
All his faults are locked securely
In a closet of her mind;
All his indecisions folded
Like old flags that time has faded,
Limp and streaked with rain,
And his cautiousness like garments
Frayed and thin, with many a stain -

Let them be, oh, let them be,
There is treasure to outweigh them,
His proud will that sharply stirred,
Climbs as surely as the tide,
Senses strained too taut to sleep,
Gentleness to beast and bird,
Humor flickering hushed and wide
As the moon on moving water,
And a tenderness too deep
To be gathered in a word.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Such is our God

I have been following this year the 2016 Reading Challenge from Challies blog, and enjoying it immensely. "A book about theology" is sixth on the list, so I browsed our shelves to see what we already have and decided on The Sovereignty of God by A. W. Pink.



Reading this book has helped me in this season of life, as a multitude of cares - from fretting babies to unprincipled politicians - continually threaten my peace of mind. These two paragraphs on God's sovereignty over mankind I found especially strengthening:

"We read the Scriptures in vain if we fail to discover that the actions of men, evil men as well as good, are governed by the Lord God. Nimrod and his fellows determined to erect the tower of Babel, but ere their task was accomplished God frustrated their plans. Jacob was the child to whom the inheritance was promised, and though Isaac sought to reverse Jehovah's decree and bestow the blessing upon Esau, his efforts came to naught. Esau swore vengeance upon Jacob, but when they next met they wept for joy instead of fighting in hate. The brethren of Joseph determined his destruction, but their evil counsels were overthrown.  Pharaoh refused to let Israel carry out the instructions of Jehovah, and perished in the Red Sea for his pains. Balak hired Balaam to curse the Israelites, but God compelled him to bless them. Haman erected a gallows for Mordecai but was hanged upon it himself. Jonah resisted the revealed will of God, but what became of his efforts?
Ah, the heathen may 'rage' and the people imagine a 'vain thing'; the kings of the earth may 'set themselves,' and the rulers take counsel against the Lord and against His Christ, saying 'Let us break Their bands asunder and cast away Their cords from us' (Ps 2:1-3). But is the great God perturbed or disturbed by the rebellion of His puny creatures? No, indeed: 'He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: The Lord shall have them in derision' (ver. 4). He is infinitely exalted above all, and the greatest confederacies of earth's pawns, and their most extensive and vigorous preparations to defeat his purpose are, in His sight, altogether puerile. He looks upon their puny efforts, not only without any alarm, but He 'laughs' at their folly; He treats their impotency with 'derision.' He knows that he can crush them like moths when he pleases, or consume them in a moment with the breath of His mouth. Ah, it is but 'a 'vain thing' for the potsherds of the earth to strive with the glorious Majesty of Heaven. Such is our God; worship ye Him."


Friday, August 12, 2016

A Prayer for Our Town

Every time I go to the local grocery store, or the library, or just about anywhere that isn't going back over the border into Virginia, I have to drive past a disturbing assortment of "gentleman's clubs" (oh so un-aptly named!) locally known as strip clubs, as well as the adult store, pubs and other questionable establishments. Giving thanks that my little ones in the backseat can't read signs yet, I also feel burdened to pray and to act toward our nearest town's great traffic in sin.

What can one tired, hands-full mama do? Praying is a lot. I asked the ladies at our small group to pray with me and listening to one of them pray, I realized that she was latching on to specific requests for different people involved, and that I needed to do the same. I started crafting a prayer, with a dream to print and post on every public bulletin board and church resource table in town. "Take one and pray with me wherever you are at 8pm" or something like that. But for now, it's starting right here with me.

A Prayer for Our Town

God, we confess that we are a people who follow our selfish desires more than love for our neighbor. We have thought, spoken and acted in ways that are unclean and dishonoring to you. We have not done what we should. We pray that you would cleanse us and change our hearts.

We pray that you would bring righteousness to this town, specifically that you would shut down the strip clubs in our town, where your glory and honor are despised. Turn the hearts of each club manager to do right, and to help our community instead of harming it.

We pray that you would provide club dancers and other troubled women in our town with good, better jobs, that you would cleanse them, restore them, and show them your mercy and love. Lord, deliver them!

We pray that you would turn the hearts of men to their wives and families, to love women instead of lusting for them, to build up what is broken in their lives and to seek you above all. Give us whole families who will love and serve you.


We pray that you would turn the hearts of every man, woman and child in this town to You.  

All this is a work that only You can do, so that is why we ask You to do it in the name of Jesus 

Amen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Baby's Daily Lesson - 1 minute Bible Overview

Babies, even before they can speak or understand many words, beg with their sweet faces to be spoken to. In addition to the usual, "Aren't-you-just-a-sweet-lil-muffin-darling-baby?", I thought it would be good to incorporate a distinct mini body of truth into the daily chatter. A straight Scripture passage like Psalm 23, Psalm 1 or other texts are wonderful, as well as hymns, but I wanted something that comprised key points of the Bible's story without being a whole catechism, mostly comprised of key verses that I know from memory. Probably a dozen more combinations could be made that are good, but this is the one that I have started using. and it brings such joy and encouragement to my own heart as I get my daily gospel history fly-over.



Who made you, Baby?
God made me!

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 

God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his; 
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned - every one - to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold the new has come!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more.

And He who was seated on the throne said, "Behold I am making all things new!"



Genesis 1;1
Genesis 1:27
Psalm 100:3
Isaiah 53:6
Romans 3:23
Acts 10:40
John 3:16
2 Cor. 5:17
Revelation 21:1, 5

All Scripture from the English Standard Version