Sunday, June 17, 2018

One Stranger

On our way home from church today, we picked up a stranger holding a cardboard sign by the road "No Gas, No Food, No Money".  It's a common sight when you live near a state line truck stop, but since we were all together heading home for Sunday dinner, I asked Caleb if we could take the man home with us, and he being more than willing to do that sort of thing, readily pulled over and picked the man up.

His story was sad - he was traveling to Maine for a new job when his wife, who was suffering from bipolar disorder and postpartum depression had left him in the hotel, taking their five sons and all his things and money.  She had run away before, but usually ended up with family. This time she couldn't be found anywhere. He had a job waiting in Maine, but just needed to get there. It sounded almost too much of a tearjerker to be true, but we figured we could give him dinner and some gas. When he said he hadn't really eaten in four days, I started cooking up a storm, breaking out the leftovers. The children were ravenous enough, but our guest only nibbled a piece of toast because his stomach had shrunk from fasting and he could hardly eat. Life in a broken world just hurts.

I noticed he had a northern sounding accent and asked where he was from. It turned out he was from Michigan, had family in Traverse City where I was born and his dad had lived in Ludington where my dad grew up - he even recognized the name of the road where my grandparent's farm used to be.  Not what I expected from someone picked up in Virginia. I love those small world moments, but the mood of the conversation was filled with sadness. Before we had picked him up, no one had given him any help and he had almost given up hope.

After he'd eaten a little he just sat at the table with tears streaming down because he said seeing our kids made him miss his kids even more. It being Father's Day just made it that much worse. He apologized for crying. Caleb passed him the tissues. I said "What else are you supposed to do? You're in distress. You're allowed to cry" He said that Psalm 6 had been the biggest comfort to him during these days as he pulled out his Gideon testament, and then put it back because he wouldn't be able to read it. 

We sent him off with snacks and a full Bible and Pilgrim's Progress. He'd said his name was Jeremy, and I asked if he knew what his name meant. He didn't. Since I'd been looking at boy baby names lately, I knew, and said "It means 'God will uplift'. He hoped for that. After dinner, Caleb took him to the station and filled up his car with gas, and now we have a Jeremy and a missing wife Lindsey to pray for. We only have one side of the story, but we know there is a brokenness there that only God can mend and that God *can* mend. 

There is a refreshment of soul that comes from ministering to strangers in need - especially when it is an opportunity rarely given. It feels like a gift somehow. It made our own little home stresses and troubles that had seemed so burdensome seem like a simply ideal life, before the real pain of a life deeply fractured. God's ways are mysterious, and I hope that in our zeal to do good, He granted us to actually do real good. I am so thankful that He can take our small lunch and multiply it in His grace for His purposes. Otherwise, what use would it be for any of us broken people to try to help other broken people?

O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled;
But You, O Lord—how long?

Return, O Lord, deliver me!
Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake!
For in death there is no remembrance of You;
In the grave who will give You thanks?

I am weary with my groaning;
All night I make my bed swim;
I drench my couch with my tears.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
It grows old because of all my enemies.

Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity;
For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my supplication;
The Lord will receive my prayer.
Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled;
Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Looking Forward

This past winter has been hard in all the ways that winters with little ones (and my own struggle with Lyme disease) are hard. My relief that it is over is so great that I want to hug every tulip and daffodil, drink the air from open windows like wine, and already sigh that the leaves are out because the end of the beginning marks a few days closer to the next winter. I shudder at the memory of the dull skies, illnesses and seeping cold and never want to see it again. The whole earth seems so right. The deadness of winter so wrong - must it ever come again? 

But in the midst of the long, dark winter, God sent us that which that makes the end of this summer a thing to anticipate with hope At first we were overwhelmed in the midst of our weariness, but the hope is growing, and, oh, God-willing, the end of October will bring us new, warm life - a baby. I'm growing hungrier for small fuzzy cheeks and velvet head and a new face with a new name - hungrier than I was for warm skies and violet-studded grass. This is a gift. We never know if a growing baby in the womb will live to see the light of day - all life is in God's hands. But my heart wanted something to anticipate and God granted me a growing belly and sleepless wee hours filled with crazy baby-name conjuring, and midnight snacks and outdoor time with children that leaves me weary to the bone, and the overwhelming reality that a life is in our charge to love and give ourselves to keep. 

In all of this, the Word of God has been near to sustain and teach me. I am learning that when I cannot see the good of life's hard things (and even pregnancy has been a hard thing), their hardness itself is the gift of Him who said "You have need of endurance" to one of his children who would have all things made light and easy. If I could have all things easy here, how would I be kept from the dangerous love of this world? To be weary in the way is to long for the end - final redemption in Jesus' consummated kingdom. Ease does not push me there. "The testing of your faith develops endurance". Whatever motherhood brings, life will not be easy if my God loves me well. He wants me to be as hungry for His kingdom as I have been for spring, as eager to see His face as I am to meet our baby (no, much, much more). He wants me to raise our children to hope in the triumph of King Jesus, and look for redemption outside themselves just as I must daily do. And He is helping me to do want He wants of me.

If none of this makes sense, blame it on my pregnancy brain, but praise the Lord with me, because He does all things well.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Airing Day

This deliciously spring-like February day with its fresh breezes and happy children watching the laundry waving on the line put all kinds of poetry in my head. A happy wind blew it right into me and here it is. 
[Confession: I did not put out to air all of the items listed in this poem!]

The Airing Day

Sweet wind from the southwest the rain mist is sweeping.
Bold blackbirds awaken the sky from its sleeping.
The chillied new year a fresh spring cloak is wearing –
It’s time for the house to turn out for an airing!

Bring out your doilies and tea towels and cosies,
Hang out your pillow shams, blankets and duvets,
Pull out the rugs from the bugs and the dust,
And beat them in league with the wind if you must!

Bring out your mattress, your couch and your foot puff,
Drag out your latch-hooked rugs, all of the floor stuff.
Clear out the nooks and the crannies and closets,
Eradicate all the dust bunny deposits!

Pin pillows to clotheslines, hang bath mats on porch rails,
While breezes turn all of the bedsheets to boat sails.
Old quilts from the closet come out like brave banners,
Exhibiting brisk, unconventional manners.

All of the linens, grown dusty from living
With winter, are waving a giddy thanksgiving!
Fresh air, flood the windows, thrown open to greet you
Spring day, the whole house is delighted to meet you.

- Alyssa Bohon, February 2018

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Multiple Layers of Protection

I've been slowly reading Jonathan Leeman's excellent book, The Church and The Surprising Offense of God's Love, and keep landing on statements that seem to deserve more than the 11-pt. font paragraphs in which I find them. This afternoon, I came upon a paragraph in which Leeman briefly outlined the protections the believer has in the New Covenant, and I copied it into my notebook, thinking how huge these are. Protections. New Covenant. That is, all the ways I am safe because of something that is sure outside of me and in Christ. As someone who catches myself worrying too often, having someone tell me that I am ensconced in five layers of safety is quite reassuring. I need to type these out big.

Leeman points out that in the old covenant, obedient covenant members were promised a safe and prosperous life - 'Keep the words of this covenant and do them, that you may prosper in all you do' (Deut. 29:9). Of course, this depended on their success in keeping the covenant, which dependence itself was a threat to their security, because they weren't very good at keeping the covenant, and therefore not very safe. A new covenant, ordered in all things and sure through Jesus Christ gives us so much more! And, it "affords multiple layers of protection":

First, it provides protection from the wrath of God because sin is forgiven.
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. - Romans 5:9-10
Second, it protects the soul against those who can harm only the body. All the protections promised in the Psalms essentially become the Christian's, albeit in a reconstituted form.
Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge no evil shall be allowed to befall you,no plague come near your tent. - Psalm 91:9-10
Third, it protects us from ourselves and our inability to fulfill the requirements of the old covenant.
I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. - Jeremiah 32:40
Fourth, it protects the Christian from the enslavement of sin, since sin no longer has mastery over him or her. 
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. - Romans 6:14
Fifth, it welcomes Christians into a domain where authority is exercised to create rather than to steal, to build rather than to tear down, which means that the Christian can know the protection of God's people (Matt. 20:25; 1 Pet. 5:3).
- from  The Church and the Surprising Offence of God's Love, chap 5, Scriptures my addition 

Safe from God's anger and eternal punishment, from the devil and all the enemies with him, from my very self, from sin and from ever being really alone.

"A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing."

Thursday, January 11, 2018

On Bringing Up Children - An Extensive Quotation

I dearly love George MacDonald's fiction (despite his sometimes faulty theology, which I have found to be unnoticeable in the best of his good and beautiful children's works) , and within the past several years I have traveled through a lesser-known trilogy of his - Annals of A Quiet Neighborhood, The Seaboard Parish, and The Vicar's Daughter. I was pleasantly surprised to find at the end of the last book, a whole chapter on the bringing up of children. It is written by the fictional vicar's daughter herself, but I am sure reflects G.M.'s own principles of child-rearing quite well. I heartily agreed with just about all of it, even though I had never encountered some of the specific ideas articulated, and wanted to put it somewhere where I could access and share it easily. So here is most of the chapter, hunted up and copied from
I think there can be no harm in mentioning a few general principles laid down by my father. They are such as to commend themselves most to the most practical. 
And first for a few negative ones.
1. Never give in to disobedience; and never threaten what you are not prepared to carry out.
2. Never lose your temper. I do not say never be angry. Anger is sometimes indispensable, especially where there has been any thing mean, dishonest, or cruel. But anger is very different from loss of temper. [Footnote: My Aunt Millicent is always saying, "I am grieeeved with you." But the announcement begets no sign of responsive grief on the face of the stolid child before her. She never whipped a child in her life. If she had, and it had but roused some positive anger in the child, instead of that undertone of complaint which is always oozing out of every one of them, I think It would have been a gain. But the poor lady is one of the whiny-piny people, and must be in preparation for a development of which I have no prevision. The only stroke of originality I thought I knew of her was this; to the register of her children's births, baptisms, and confirmations, entered on a grandly-ornamented fly-leaf of the family Bible, she has subjoined the record of every disease each has had, with the year, month, and day (and in one case the hour), when each distemper made its appearance. After most of the main entries, you may read, "Cut his (or her) first tooth"—at such a date. But, alas for the originality! she has just told me that her maternal grandmother did the same. How strange that she and my father should have had the same father I If they had had the same mother, too, I should have been utterly bewildered.]
3. Of all things, never sneer at them; and be careful, even, how you rally them.
4. Do not try to work on their feelings. Feelings are far too delicate things to be used for tools. It is like taking the mainspring out of your watch, and notching it for a saw. It may be a wonderful saw, but how fares your watch? Especially avoid doing so in connection with religious things, for so you will assuredly deaden them to all that is finest. Let your feelings, not your efforts on theirs, affect them with a sympathy the more powerful that it is not forced upon them; and, in order to do this, avoid being too English in the hiding of your feelings. A man's own family has a right to share in his good feelings.
5. Never show that you doubt, except you are able to convict. To doubt an honest child is to do what you can to make a liar of him; and to believe a liar, if he is not altogether shameless, is to shame him.
The common-minded masters in schools, who, unlike the ideal Arnold, are in the habit of disbelieving boys, have a large share in making the liars they so often are. Certainly the vileness of a lie is not the same in one who knows that whatever he says will be regarded with suspicion; and the master, who does not know an honest boy after he has been some time in his class, gives good reason for doubting whether he be himself an honest man, and incapable of the lying he is ready to attribute to all alike.
This last is my own remark, not my father's. I have an honest boy at school, and I know how he fares. I say honest; for though, as a mother, I can hardly expect to be believed, I have ground for believing that he would rather die than lie. I know I would rather he died than lied.
6. Instil no religious doctrine apart from its duty. If it have no duty as its necessary embodiment, the doctrine may well be regarded as doubtful.
7. Do not be hard on mere quarrelling, which, like a storm in nature, is often helpful in clearing the moral atmosphere. Stop it by a judgment between the parties. But be severe as to the kind of quarrelling, and the temper shown in it. Especially give no quarter to any unfairness arising from greed or spite. Use your strongest language with regard to that.
Now for a few of my father's positive rules:
1. Always let them come to you, and always hear what they have to say. If they bring a complaint, always examine into it, and dispense pure justice, and nothing but justice.
2. Cultivate a love of giving fair-play. Every one, of course, likes to receive fair-play; but no one ought to be left to imagine, therefore, that he loves fair-play.
3. Teach from the very first, from the infancy capable of sucking a sugar-plum, to share with neighbors. Never refuse the offering a child brings you, except you have a good reason,—and give it. And never pretend to partake: that involves hideous possibilities in its effects on the child.
The necessity of giving a reason for refusing a kindness has no relation to what is supposed by some to be the necessity of giving a reason with every command. There is no such necessity. Of course there ought to be a reason in every command. That it may be desirable, sometimes, to explain it, is all my father would allow.
4. Allow a great deal of noise,—as much as is fairly endurable; but, the moment they seem getting beyond their own control, stop the noise at once. Also put a stop at once to all fretting and grumbling.
5. Favor the development of each in the direction of his own bent. Help him to develop himself, but do not push development. To do so is most dangerous.
6. Mind the moral nature, and it will take care of the intellectual. In other words, the best thing for the intellect is the cultivation of the conscience, not in casuistry, but in conduct. It may take longer to arrive; but the end will be the highest possible health, vigor, and ratio of progress.
7. Discourage emulation, and insist on duty,—not often, but strongly.

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at 

Shepherdess with Child by Jacob G. Kuyp

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Gastronomic Commonplace

Floris van Dyck - Still-Life
I've been fascinated with references to food, medicine and health (especially off-hand ones) in classic literature, so I decided to keep a log of all the interesting bits I find. Since these are not the type of notes that invite deep contemplation or spiritual enrichment, I decided to skip the hand written commonplace book for these and simply compile them online, (such as convenient copy-pastes from

"I have so often heard Mr. Woodhouse recommend a baked apple. I believe it is the only way that Mr. Woodhouse thinks the fruit thoroughly wholesome....only we do not have them baked more than twice, and Mr. Woodhouse made us promise to have them done three times—but Miss Woodhouse will be so good as not to mention it." - Miss Bates, Austen, Emma 

" He loved to have the cloth laid, because it had been the fashion of his youth, but his conviction of suppers being very unwholesome made him rather sorry to see any thing put on it; and while his hospitality would have welcomed his visitors to every thing, his care for their health made him grieve that they would eat. Such another small basin of thin gruel as his own was all that he could, with thorough self-approbation, recommend" - Mr. Woodhouse, Austen, Emma

"A husky-voiced gentleman with a rough face, who had been eating out of a sandwich-box nearly all the way, except when he had been drinking out of a bottle, said I was like a boa constrictor who took enough at one meal to last him a long time; after which, he actually brought a rash out upon himself with boiled beef." - Dickens, David Copperfield

"Another day's tramp over a muddy trail, and a night camp on another roaring stream, Red Creek; our supplies quite exhausted, we boiled some onions and ate them with the last of our honey. I felt as if I were eating diphtheria medicine. Next morning we breakfasted on a turkey buzzard shot by Coonskin, and that afternoon my jaded caravan crossed the summit of the plateau, and descended into the beautiful Strawberry Valley in the glow of a gorgeous sunset." - Woodward, On the Hurricane Deck of a Donkey ...Gorgeous scenery is not always accompanied with fine fare!

"If Stubb even, who is but a peg higher than Flask, happens to have but a small appetite, and soon shows symptoms of concluding his repast, then Flask must bestir himself, he will not get more than three mouthfuls that day; for it is against holy usage for Stubb to precede Flask to the deck. Therefore it was that Flask once admitted in private, that ever since he had arisen to the dignity of an officer, from that moment he had never known what it was to be otherwise than hungry, more or less. For what he ate did not so much relieve his hunger, as keep it immortal in him. Peace and satisfaction, thought Flask, have for ever departed from my stomach. I am an officer; but, how I wish I could fish a bit of old-fashioned beef in the forecastle, as I used to when I was before the mast. There’s the fruits of promotion now; there’s the vanity of glory: there’s the insanity of life!" - Melville, Moby Dick 

“Clam or Cod?” she repeated.
“A clam for supper? a cold clam; is that what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?” says I, “but that’s a rather cold and clammy reception in the winter time, ain’t it, Mrs. Hussey?”
But being in a great hurry to resume scolding the man in the purple Shirt, who was waiting for it in the entry, and seeming to hear nothing but the word “clam,” Mrs. Hussey hurried towards an open door leading to the kitchen, and bawling out “clam for two,” disappeared.
“Queequeg,” said I, “do you think that we can make out a supper for us both on one clam?”
However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey’s clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment. Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word “cod” with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.
We resumed business; and while plying our spoons in the bowl, thinks I to myself, I wonder now if this here has any effect on the head? What’s that stultifying saying about chowder-headed people? “But look, Queequeg, ain’t that a live eel in your bowl? Where’s your harpoon?”
Fishiest of all fishy places was the Try Pots, which well deserved its name; for the pots there were always boiling chowders. Chowder for breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, till you began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes. The area before the house was paved with clam-shells. Mrs. Hussey wore a polished necklace of codfish vertebra; and Hosea Hussey had his account books bound in superior old shark-skin. There was a fishy flavor to the milk, too, which I could not at all account for, till one morning happening to take a stroll along the beach among some fishermen’s boats, I saw Hosea’s brindled cow feeding on fish remnants, and marching along the sand with each foot in a cod’s decapitated head, looking very slip-shod, I assure ye." - Ibid

A beautiful example of hospitality from Greek mythology:
When the two heavenly guests crossed the humble threshold, and bowed their heads to pass under the low door, the old man placed a seat, on which Baucis, bustling and attentive, spread a cloth, and begged them to sit down...Her husband collected some pot-herbs in the garden, and she shred them from the stalks, and prepared them for the pot. He reached down with a forked stick a flitch of bacon hanging in the chimney, cut a small piece, and put it in the pot to boil with the herbs, setting away the rest for another time. A beechen bowl was filled with warm water, that their guests might wash. While all was doing, they beguiled the time with conversation.
On the bench designed for the guests was laid a cushion stuffed with sea-weed; and a cloth, only produced on great occasions, but ancient and coarse enough, was spread over that. The old lady, with her apron on, with trembling hand set the table. One leg was shorter than the rest, but a piece of slate put under restored the level. When fixed, she rubbed the table down with some sweet- smelling herbs. Upon it she set some of chaste Minerva's olives, some cornel berries preserved in vinegar, and added radishes and cheese, with eggs lightly cooked in the ashes. All were served in earthen dishes, and an earthenware pitcher, with wooden cups, stood beside them. When all was ready, the stew, smoking hot, was set on the table. Some wine, not of the oldest, was added; and for dessert, apples and wild honey; and over and above all, friendly faces, and simple but hearty welcome. - Baucis and Philemon, Bulfinch's Age of Fable

To remain under edit indefinitely...

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Our son is in the "Why?" stage of life, between 3 and 4 years old. The questioning seems almost merciless at times, pushing the bounds of infinite regression, as he pries for just one more tidbit to feed his young appetite for knowledge. "Why did you drop that cup? Why does that happen sometimes? Why do you need to use the bathroom? Why don't you want me to put my hands in my mouth? Why is that not good? Why did you do that?...." The answers I have to give him for some of these wearisome wonderings seem quite valueless to me. But sometimes the "Why's" do turn up valuable bits of information. When I begin to talk to him about Scripture truths and he asks questions like, "Why did Jesus die? Why did they kill him? Why did He let them kill him? Why does he love us?" Oh, that one is a why indeed.

Today after reading about the garden of Eden, he asked, "Why did God make a tree like that?" and "Why did the snake lie to them?" As I pondered and articulated answers, I began to realize how, unlike many of the tedious details of my daily life, the story of God offers riches of knowledge ready to supply an infinite hunger to know and be fed in heart and mind.

If I would only offer Scripture the ravenous curiosity that my child offers me each day, how much might I discover? There is a point of stopping where "The secret things belong to the Lord our God" (Deut. 29:29), but I think that just as often as we are tempted to pry where we have no business, we are tempted to neglect stores of good things in which we ought to be having a great deal of business.

When I wake with a morning text in my head, maybe a question would bring more good to me from it than the customary thoughts. His mercies are new every morning. Why are His mercies new every morning? Because His faithfulness is great. Why is His faithfulness great? Because He does not change. Why does He not change? Because that is who He is.  At this point there are no more questions, but a great deal of solid assurance.

I think that at the back, or the bottom, or the peak of all our questioning, the ultimate answer will always be the person and nature of God. Because He is who He is, this is. Let's be taking our children's questions there too. For our children it will be a refuge.

Gathering Storm Near Ry by Vilhelm Kyhn