Not Ashamed

Our dear friend, Stephen Bump, puts words to music whenever he studies the Bible.  He doesn’t have a CD, nor does he promote the songs, but they have been sweet to the congregations who sing them. 

When I rerun Chris and Jessie’s wedding (oldest son), two songs come to mind.  My brother filling the upper space of the room with The Lord’s Prayer, the soaring notes of for Thine is the kingdom bringing tears to those around us.

In contrast, the other song was quiet, a song of benediction, written and sung by Steve, with his acoustic guitar. 

Now I commit you to God, to the Word of His grace,

which can build you up with the rest of the saints.

This morning we sang Not Ashamed in which the epistle to the Romans is condensed into seven verses.  Here is one section of the song. When my flesh is whining and demanding, I’m going to say, “Not obliged, pal.” 

In Christ no obligation to satisfy the flesh.

In Christ no condemnation as the slaves of righteousness.

We’re free to serve our Master, our new Father and our God,

Who has freely bestowed His salvation.

 

Just Wondering

Our Easter Sunday worship was really lovely.  The place was packed, the whole service was one of victorious thanksgiving.  The singing, the reading, the responses, the messages were all glorious.  It felt like a small slice of heaven.   Granted,  a few areas could have been improved in the details. It was glorious, but it wasn’t perfect.

Which got me wondering.  I came home to my sick husband and asked: do you think we’ll be perfect in heaven?  I know that we will be perfectly sinless, and I know that we will be perfect in the sense of complete and whole. 

If, however, we are perfect, is there a place for growth?  In my puny mind perfect = static.  Isn’t that a common fear about heaven, that it will be boring?  The wise man replied, “How are you now?  You will be like you are, but without sin.”  We won’t know everything – God is the one who is omniscient – so wouldn’t it make sense that our knowledge will grow?  What about our moral attributes: will our love grow, our patience grow?

Just wondering.

I’ve been having a stimulating conversation with my gracious online friend Deb about the movie Ostrov (The Island).  The 2007 movie chronicles the life of an eccentric Russian man, Father Anatoli, with a horrible secret in his past, who nonetheless has a solitary ministry to hurting, wounded people.  Curt and I watched it (for free!) on Netflix Instant Watch; I gave some feedback to Deb.  As an Orthodox Christian she sees some things differently than me.  In the back and forth of our exchange I asked can humility and joy co-exist?  I’ve been thinking about Philippians 2 and Hebrews 12 and the interaction of humility and joy.

Just wondering.

My husband, Curt, is still wiped out.  The medicine for pneumonia/sinus infection may be doing something but we have not seen improvement yet.  I am simultaneously praying in faith that he gets better and beginning to brace myself for a big disappointment.  I’m preparing for the trip and preparing to stay home.

This is the same issue (to a much smaller degree for us) that meets anyone who is diagnosed with a terminal disease.  There is praying in faith for healing, and acceptance in faith of impending death.  Does one preclude the other? 

Just wondering.
 

Nurturing Appetites


And should I die
before you wake,
there’s something I would want to say:

Love life with all your might
Love peace but be willing to fight
Love beauty and train your sight
Nurture your appetite for beauty, goodness and truth
Be strong and be brave, believe and be saved
For there is a God.

~ Wes King, words for his kids, written on a airplane sick bag
after violent turbulence on a flight

from There Is a God on the CD What Matters Most

We never tire of listening to this exceptional CD.  The phrase, nurture your appetite for beauty, goodness and truth, keeps turning over in my mind, gently clanging like the metal rivets and buttons from jeans tumbling in the dryer. 

What does it mean to nurture an appetite?  “Tastes are developed” writes Elisabeth Elliot. 

1. We must distinguish beauty from ugliness, goodness from mediocrity, truth from cleverly couched lies.  I tend to shy from evaluation – that’s my husband’s department – but nurturing an appetite involves evaluation all the day long.  It is good to ask


Why do we love this movie?

Why don’t you like this type of music?
What makes this wonderful?

Where is this weak?
How could this be improved?
What is the point?
What would complement this?
Is this good?

This is one of those inescapable truths.  Whenever we feed ourselves and our children – food, words, sounds, images – we are developing appetites.  If I raise my family on a routine of chicken nuggets, french fries and pop while I drive in the van, they will not learn to appreciate sitting down together to a crisp green salad, a crusty loaf of bread and Quiche Lorraine.  When I buy 20 39¢ hamburgers from McDonalds to scarf down together (which I’m humiliated to admit we did on Sundays coming home from church for, um, years) what kind of appetite am I nurturing?

A steady diet of sitcoms trains the mind to expect quick fixes, shallow character development and short attention spans.  This is my beef with Sesame Street type shows.  It develops a taste for quick takes, easy images, multiple camera shots, and overstimulation: all directly opposed to the patience required to sit, listen to a book, and form the pictures in your own imagination.

2.  We (as parents and as self-monitors) must monitor the inflow and make the decisions.  If a child is offered a choice between ice cream and oatmeal, that child will assuredly choose the ice cream.   If, whenever there is a lull, we pop a DVD in or turn to a computer game, we are nurturing an appetitie for easy entertainment.  Many folks have praised the television writer’s strike because it was the enforced restriction they needed to find better ways to spend their evenings.  Carrie’s comments (see below) illustrate how effective complete withdrawal can be. 

3.  Begin introducing tiny tastes of what is wonderful to your family.  Start small.  Put on Bach while you are getting ready for a meal.  Read a short poem after the meal.  Get on your belly on the grass (or the beach) with a toddler and a magnifying glass. Turn over on your back and look for faces (eagles, mountains) in the clouds.  Read through the psalms in the Authorized Version.  Pick flowers and put them on the table.  Teach your son how to make Dutch Babies. Buy postcards of fine art and study them together.  Look for the funny things of life and laugh.

These “nurturing appetite” threads are intertwined with the idea of furnishing our minds.  This Wendell Berry interview has also been tumbling in the dryer of my mind for over a year.

The country in front of us now falls off steeply toward Cane Run and
the horse barn. Berry says he hunted squirrels here as a boy. As we
begin to descend, I am thinking about boyhood and Berry’s poetry, and I
ask Berry if he agrees that school children should be reintroduced to
the lost institution of memorizing and reciting poems.

“Yes,” he replies, “you’ve got to furnish their minds.”

The idea of poetry as furniture expands within my imagination and for
weeks, I think about a poem committed to memory as an old chest of
drawers in the corner of a child’s room. At first the thing is simply a
place to put clothes. With time, the grown man, or grown woman learns
to see more of it: toolmarks left by the hand of a long-dead craftsman,
a cornice molding around its top in a shape found on ancient Greek
temples. And by gazing at its sturdiness for so many years, he or she
knows something about how to make things that last.

Yours,

A Cozy Talk About Pornography

Saturday morning the man I adore and I sat down for a cozy breakfast together.  We reviewed the past week, talked about our plans for the upcoming week; the conversation moseyed hither and yon. Of all places, we landed on pornography; another Christian we know is jumbled up in this morass.  

“God is so faithful,” my wise husband remarked. “He’s told us that if we persist, he will give us over to our sin.”

We sing Great is Thy Faithfulness with full hearts and think about the provision and mercies of God.  I don’t  normally think about God’s faithfulness relative to hardening hearts, keeping His word, and giving people over to their lusts.

But my people would not hearken to my voice;
and Israel would none of me.
So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust:
and they walked in their own counsels.
Psalm 81:11-12

The heart has devices for getting its desires. Porn is available and it seems “harmless” in the privacy of our home.  It’s far too easy.  I think fear is a good motivator here.  Not as good as love, but fear works. 

We need to talk openly about this sin with our kids.  We need to be approachable so they can tell us they need help. Do you know how to check the history on the computers in your home?  Do you? I like the idea Netflix has where you sign up as “Friends” with others and they have access to your viewing history.  It also works to see what your friends like.  If you are interested in being Netflix friends with our family, message me.

Women are not exempt from this problem.  Many novels are pornography of the emotions.  Benjamin Disraili said, “A woman guanoed her mind by reading French novels.” 

A church leader in our town resigned/was arrested because his pornography habit expanded to making secret videos of girls in the showers at the church camp.  His words to his congregation haunt me: “I thought I could handle this.” 

Lord, have mercy.

Bitterness Is Not Plastic Wrap

Do you know what it is like to lie supine and cry, how the hot tears trickle into your ears and make them all itchy?  Well, I was having one of those tears-in-the-ears moments recently, mentally recounting a wrong that had been done to me.  Clearly, I had been wronged.  Wait.  Change that to: clearly, I had been very, very, very wronged.  Each time I reviewed the situation I strung another very to my necklace of grievance. 

“Help me, babe,” I cried to my husband.  “I hate being this way.  Bitterness is clinging to my soul.” 

“Bitterness does not cling,” the wise man quietly replied. 

Those four words arrested me.  Bitterness Does Not Cling. 

Bitterness is the bowl.  A bowl is incapable of clinging; it cannot attach itself to you.  I was the cling-on.  I had got a firm grip on the bowl of bitterness and I was not letting go.  Wow.

“So how do I stop clinging to bitterness?”  I asked.

“Just Stop It.” 

“Just stop it – just like that?”

“Quit clinging to your bitterness, Carol. Let It Go.” 

Bitterness has no adhesive abilities.  It has no grip on me.  If I can remember this, it will change my life. 

Bitterness is not plastic wrap.

Forgive our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Hold fast that which is good.

Checklists


views from my kitchen window

What do you think of this checklist? 

I transcribed it from a time management cassette from the library but, alas, didn’t credit the speaker. 

Most days I really like these questions.
But on some days, a list like this Just Makes Me Tired.
Someone I could get feeling pretty ugly smug on the rare, spectacular day in which I could check several off.
Puffed up.  Yay me, ain’t I grand?
I don’t think checklists are the best thing for my spiritual health.   I get sucked into performance-based living.
Checklists are great for groceries, though.

How could you argue with these good things?  Perhaps it’s the aggregate that makes the list daunting. OR, perhaps I’m just a crank.  Hmmm.

Checklist for Day

1.  Did I tell someone I love them?

2.  Did I compliment someone on his work?

3.  Did I read a book?

4. Did I increase my skill?

5.  Did I do something for good health?

6.  Am I closer to my goal than when I woke up this a.m.?

7.  Did I do anything tough or challenging?

8.  Did I do something just for joy?

9.  Have I taken time to reflect?

10.  Have I planned the day tomorrow?

What question would you add, subtract, or substitute from this list? Really, what do you think?

We are preparing to party.  Huge wedding coming up.  I cry at weddings.  The older the bride or groom, the more I cry tears of joy at the kindness of God.  It really is too wonderful.  I have a checklist, don’t ya know, of specific friends who are waiting to make the walk up the aisle.  I pray in faith that God will put a check mark next to some of those names this coming year

Happy New Year, my friends.

One ought, every day at least,
to hear a little song,
read a good poem,
see a fine picture,
and if it were possible,
to speak a few reasonable words.

~ Goethe

Distillation

To distill means to separate the subtle from the coarse,
and the coarse from the subtle,
to render the fragile and breakable unbreakable,
to transform the material into the immaterial,
the physical into the spiritual
and to beautify what is in need of beautification.

Hieronimus Brunschwig of Strasbourg, 1512


Let my teaching drop as the rain,

My speech distill as the dew,
As the droplets on the fresh grass,
And as the showers upon the herb.

~  Deuteronomy 32:2

I was returning a book on lavender to my friend at church today.  In the car on the way, I skimmed through it and lit upon the Brunschwig quote.  Fascinated, I copied it down.  When class began, the first verse we looked at was the one above.   I love intersections of thought, don’t you?