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Archive for the ‘the Lord’s day’ Category

st. francis, our rabbit, enjoying a walk and a snuggle with angel, our new friend

It’s Sunday afternoon and I am five minutes away from a much anticipated nap.  Here’s our table full of Sunday afternoon friends who are now joining us for church and lunch and singing and fun.

(See previous post) I wish I had video camera mode turned on while the kids were singing Jamie Soles’ Psalm 8—maybe next week.  They were amazing and kept requesting to sing it again, but we limited it to twice.  The plan is that Katelyn, a Redeemer college student, and we, in our Great White Ark (van), will pick the kids up from their apartments to worship together at church weekly; cooperative kids are invited to our house afterwards for food, fellowship, and teaching through the Bible starting at Genesis.

 

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a   r e d e m p t i v e   g l i m p s e

f o r   a   1 5 -p a s s e n g e r  v a n

I wasn’t exactly thrilled at upgrading from mini-van to 15 passenger van.  I called it the Great White Ark.  Chris’s employees called it Moby Dick.  I cringed every time I passed someone coming the other direction the first few months, not out of embarrassment, though I might should have, but out of fear of side-swiping them. Whenever I had to drive it, I felt as insecure as a fifteen year old with a driver’s permit, only I was on my own now, with five kids in tow at the mercy of my driving skills and, more importantly, the goodness of God.  I parked in the farthest parking lots.  I literally stopped at a low tunnel bridge to ask assistance of a road construction worker:  “Sir, can you tell whether this thing will fit under there?”   He laughed, but he wasn’t so sure either…he told me to pull up slowly and helped me to decide.  It did.  Tunnel height signs had never meant anything to me before.

Despite my initial lack of confidence and skill in driving it, in the short months of owning the Ark, I have (amazingly) only caused incremental damage:  I backed into a bike leaning against our retaining wall; the handle bar broke a fragment of our brake light cover.  I went on my merry way down the road in the early-darkening night of winter to get groceries only to be pulled over by a cop.  I was flustered.  I docked the boat in the nearest shopping mall and upon finding out my crime—the important one regarding fragmented brake light covers—I commenced to look for my papers.  Next came my new-found discovery.  I had no interior lights, a luxury I had always formerly taken for granted.  I managed to feel for the car papers and give them to the policeman who, noting my nervous concern, tried to alleviate it by saying he’d just give me a warning and that frankly, the reason he pulled me over was because my van fit the description of another that had committed felony in the area—the five children and I on our way to get groceries just didn’t fit the suspects, I suppose.  Chris and I saw that same description of the suspect vehicle posted on a downtown restaurant a couple of days later and had a hearty laugh at our Great White Ark’s twin: broken light cover (yep), dent on the side (yep), tinted windows (yep)…  Yes, not flattering, but a very honest description of our own Great White Ark.  The other day,  Chris, who looked inconveniently shady himself, wearing a black toboggan on his cold, bare head, (not a sled, mind you, but a “toque”, for all you Canadians with translation problems here) waved at a passing pedestrian friend on the UT campus and offered him a ride.  Our friend, not recognizing him from across the street and in our “suspect” van, looked a little concerned for his safety as well. (:

It isn’t a thing of beauty, true, this van; and I sarcastically exhort others to tame their temptations to covet it.   But lest its ugliness be despised altogether, I must relate its redeeming values which endeared this former church bus and this former Mexican landscaping van and brought it into our family.  It’s paid for.  And its utilitarian tool value was high because not only can it haul more than twice our family size, it could haul all our family and everyone’s bike; or, in a pinch, it could pull Chris’ work trailer.  It has vinyl floors which can handle the wear and tear of its hauling vocation and be hosed down fairly easily—a car feature any one with children can appreciate to some degree.

But Sunday was a very redemptive day for our Great White Ark. It had borne my sarcasm and ridicule long enough, awaiting the glorification that only God can bring to those dented, dirtied, and large gaping spaces in our lives. Pastor Grimsley had noted earlier this week in the Wednesday Bible study how, as we see in the order of creation, God first creates spaces, then fills them appropriately, meaningfully fulfilling their purposes.  This van was one such space begging for His filling. And fill He did.  A college student with connections to a ministry with Section 8 housing in downtown Knoxville brought her two little friends two Sundays ago.  The next Sunday, six more little people eagerly awaited a ride to church.  We met them and invited them home for lunch, but they had plans already and so we rescheduled for the following Sunday. To our delight, plans were made to fill the corridors of our Great White Ark  with the next Sunday’s additional children who needed a ride to church and our house afterwards.

It was filling for us too.  We had been praying, Josiah joyfully reminded us all, that God would do just that—that he would open up doors for our family to share more of Christ’s love in our community.  I was  giddy with excitement.  I expressed it to Josiah.  He could understand, “That’s just how I feel about squirrels,” he admitted sincerely to me.  He’s been avidly defending our bird feeders against squirrels and raccoons, fulfilling some Y-chromosome based instincts that I don’t wholly connect with, despite the fact that I enjoyed shooting in my free time during my childhood, too.  The two nights before he had set a trap for a raccoon; this morning he had accidentally caught one of the neighbor’s cats who had been posted as missing for a month with a reward.  I understood his delight too, and laughed at our out-of-sync way of  connecting.

So Sunday came and the van filled.   Then it unfilled.  Then we filled two pews, then three, then two again. The filling and spilling were verily a little messy.  We filled, I hope, with God’s Word.  Then we spilled out of church, filled the van again, then filled up our home.  Fifteen children washed hands in turn.  Three or four girls, with sparkling exclamations about all the new smells and textures pulsating about them, passed Eden around and rolled and shaped the risen dough into four long baguettes with me in the kitchen.  They helped bring in logs for the fire.  One girl came in from the barn cradling a warm chicken egg on her cheek, explaining that she was going to keep it warm and hatch it.  Chris later tried to relate the comical barnyard introductions he had seen firsthand.  “That’s a real chicken?  I’ve never seen a real live chicken!  That an egg?  That [egg] came from the chicken?  You aren’t going to eat it are you?  Don’t eat it!  Yuck!” (:.

After the stray ends of lunch preparations came together, we filled the long harvest table, sang the doxology, ate till filled, then filled the house with more song.  Our cups overflowed, truly, since one dear little helper found such delight throughout the meal in being sure that everyone’s glass was filled with ice.  Dessert followed and I also made good on my outstanding debts to everyone—I had promised dark chocolate chips to all who memorized the first phrases of the Lord’s prayer on our trip home from church.  We spilled into house and yard again, filling it with abundant movement and noise, then back into the van, then back to apartments where we had met this morning, the place where this particular van seemed so specially suited.  I hope the filling and spilling don’t stop there.  There are so many spaces awaiting His redemptive purposes.

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i f   I  p e r i s h

“If I perish, I perish”.  These were the bravely spoken words of Esther, the Biblical beauty queen, committing herself to approach the king’s scepter to implore mercy for her people.  One of my new favorite books, an autobiography of Esther Ahn Kim, hearkens these words in its title, If I Perish. Its title and its story reflect a life lived with the same deliberate and reckless abandonment—a life yielded entirely to God’s purposes. In this book, the children and I were particularly intrigued with God’s intimate and particular attention to the prayers of His people, the amazing acts of His providence that orchestrate the details of history, and the corruption of cultures and governments that embrace idolatrous and godless worldviews.

During the Japanese occupation of Korea prior to and during WW II, the Japanese forced the Koreans to march to their gods’ shrines and pay homage—those resisting were imprisoned, brutally tortured, their families denied food rations. The narrative begins as Kim quietly, boldly marches to the shrine and, fearing God rather than man, does not prostrate herself to worship idols made by men. Her adventures, because of this, lead her to flee to Japan to inform Japanese leaders, some with Christian sympathies, of the untold extent of religious persecution happening in Korea.  This leads thereafter, into the story of her arrest and life in various Korean prisons where the Lord uses her gifts in language (she excelled in Japanese, the language of her captors) and writing.  Her devotion—constant prayer, fasting, courageous obedience, and mercy to the dirtiest and lowliest outcasts—throughout her imprisonment are very inspiring.

The ways in which God answers several of her prayers are simply historical. For instance, at the apex of the war, the Japanese are intent that all their subjects implore their gods for victory. As a result they plan that everyone will bow down at a signal and together pay homage to their gods. There is one cruel prison guard who despises all the good God has done through and to Esther Ahn and who is only all too eager to execute the impending justice towards Kim the moment Kim defies the command to worship idols. The expected time of worship arrives and passes…it never happens.   The plane, carrying the governor who was to signal the commencement of these worship exercises, has been shot down.  The last chapters record the defeat of the Japanese, an empire so humiliated by the impotency their gods, that they burn their shrines with kerosene. The Russian communists replace them in political power and with their godless, atheistic worldview they usher in a government and a society only more barbaric and more cruel. In the last chapters, Esther Ahn Kim flees persecution with other Christians to South Korea—south of the 38th parallel.

Here are a few choice dainties from the book:

 

[g\

“I am already dead.”

 

[g\

In reply to a Japanese Christian’s admission that he bows to the gods and doesn’t consider it a sin, Esther Ahn Kim writes, “I was stunned at his words.  What is the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, I thought, if a believer does the same things as an unbeliever? Why would he even become a Christian unless he allowed God to change his life?

 

[g\

“As the faithful servant of the great imperial Japanese emperor and the commandant of the Pyongyang prison, I order you to serve the nation by doing your work every day.”

“As a servant of God who created the heavens and the earth and overrules the whole world, I cannot obey rules that ignore the rules of God.”  Kim replies, insisting that she will honor the Sabbath Day by not working, despite the fact that she welcomes the job because it makes the time pass more quickly.  She writes, “After the confrontation with the commandant, I did not work on Sundays but spent my time with the Lord.  If we did not rest, how miserable we would be, with no difference between ourselves and the beasts.  Because of His fatherly love, God consecrated the Sabbath day to make us rest.  I was grateful for it.”

 

[g\

“An express train loaded with young Japanese soldiers had just arrived from Japan and was going on to the battlefield.  Everyone was at the station:  the leading officials, policemen, students, and ordinary citizens.  Japanese flags were waving while the people shouted, “Banzai,”  and the students in uniform were singing a patriotic number, accompanied by the band.  I was not listening to the din around me.  My gaze was fixed on the solemn, expressionless faces of the  young servicemen.  They looked like so many corpses headed for unmarked graves on the battlefields of China, living sacrifices to the gods of imperialism and military might.  Numbly I walked alongside the train, fighting for each breath.  The soldiers all had that strange look of death, as though they were being sent to hell for the sake of the state. Didn’t the Bible say that the wages of idolatry were wars, famines, and pestilences?  Because of it, youth would die in wars, wives would become widows, parents would lose their sons, children would become orphans, and peace would vanish.  Idolatry would cause all the world to be visited with calamities.  Leaders of the state were responsible, for they were committing sins and sowing the seeds of the curse.”

 

[g\

“In an effort to control the inner turmoil, the Japanese planned to increase the power of the Shinto spirits by persecuting the Christians.”

 

[g\

“They that trust in Jehovah are as mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abideth for ever.”  Psalm 125:1

 

[g\

“Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.  He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble:  I will deliver him, and honor him.”

Psalm 91:14-15

 

You can purchase this book at Amazon:

If I Perish

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c h i l d r e n,   w o r s h i p,   &   w a r f a r e

I know it looks like they are singing a first words book, but this is a pic of the guys in 2006-ish worshipping by singing hearty psalms by heart to the Lord!

The Bible commands parents to nurture their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  We believe that as we make our feeble efforts to do what we’ve been commanded to do, that we learn to do it better in the process—God is sanctifying us in the process.  If you are second-guessing your ability to do this job, find comfort in the fact that God sovereignly entrusted your child to you.  This little one belongs to God and you are a steward of His little lamb.  You begin home schooling His child in utero as he hears your prayers, your praise, your laughter and tears—and, of course, you even more actively begin teaching him upon his birthday arrival.  Your language, your speech, your tone, your praise, your disapproval are absolutely teaching and shaping this little one in every way.  In fact, if you have been waiting until baby is learning to talk before you intentionally teach him, you’ll probably have a bit of against-the-current catching up to do.  Modern culture calls it “the terrible two’s” when the parents hit that realization stage–but that’s a contrived developmental stage that would more appropriately be applied to the two parents (two-years-into-it-without-teaching-my-child-any-self-control-now-what?).

I recall my husband speaking on the phone with a former pastor.  “How’s Josiah doing?” he asked,  “Is he serving the Lord?”  Josiah was a mere 11 months old.  And although we had begun to understand the beauty of God’s covenant, we hadn’t quite grasped that bit about “from my mother’s breast” discipleship.  When this pastor inquired about Josiah then, Chris dubiously replied, “Well, he’s only 11 months old!” and described how Josiah was crawling all over him at the moment rather annoyingly.  I don’t know precisely what counsel the pastor gave to Chris, but essentially, we both walked away that day with the monumental epiphany:  “You’re the parents, why don’t you train him to sit still? ”  It was obvious advice and lovingly given, but the effect was still a bit like a smart slap on the face for us both, a much-needed wake-up call.  Teaching him to obey his parents and submit his will would be teaching him to worship, to serve the Lord. Oh duh! (thump self on the head) so that’s why Paul writes to the saints in Ephesus and gives the youngest ones there particular counsel to obey parents.

When we would read the Bible up to this point, for instance, we simply let him do whatever he wanted on the floor or sit on our lap and do baby gymnastics all over us.  We had no expectations for him.  And he met them exactly!  So we started practicing snuggling on our whim rather than Josiah’s.  And it was good.  We learned to sit still together, to listen together.  We listened to stories together and, of course, the Story of Stories together.  We were teaching about God’s authority structure (better than we had before) and we began teaching him one of the first lessons anyone must learn to learn be a worshipper of Jehovah–self-control:  Be still and know that I am God.

Though I know it is God’s sovereign plan, from our view sometimes it seems we just stumble and bumble quite accidently into some of His blessings.  One such blessing in our life was having our children in worship.  I was nursing Josiah in the nursery and overhearing the interactions between the teacher and her surly, disobedient charges, some of whom belonged to herself. Overhearing the interchanges I heard between teacher and student startled me and forced us ask, “Can we entrust our child  to this kind of training?” Aye yi yi.  That would be running counter to the instruction we were aiming to give our child now—Sin isn’t funny at all. Sin, disobedience, brings sadness, death,  and separation from God—not cookies!

Then to further stimulate this thought, one church we attended required everyone to participate in nursery as an obligation of their “covenantal vows”, an argument I would personally eagerly debate to be neither valid nor wise.  What about some guy who was a former child molestor?  hmmm…  We love and very much rely on God’s forgiveness and won’t begrudge that to any other repentant folks, but we’ll still choose to let our child sit on our own laps, thank you very much.  Again… that was where our thoughts began—mere parental protective instincts—but then as we started to understand God’s covenant better, we began to see that God’s blessings aren’t just for the mature, self-conscious adults, but very much for his youngest as well—that God’s paternal instincts and expectations far out-do ours in nurturing, sustaining, and protecting our children.  And further, that the blessings of God’s word, preaching, fellowship, communion of the saints, are for guarding all His people—all His congregation—and since He’s the boss, He gets to define that for us.  And in Joel 2:15-16 , for instance, He does:

Call a solemn assembly;
gather the people.
Consecrate the congregation;
assemble the elders;
gather the children,
even nursing infants.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride her chamber.

So we kept our kids in church to greet the bridegroom.  And the bridegroom does not disappoint.  In the process, they and we learned a lot.   It wasn’t always easy, but we’ve found that most of the great finds in life haven’t been to the tune of immediate gratification. (:.  But the hard thing became easier and in the process, the hard thing itself truly became a blessing.  An amazing blessing.  Our kids learned to sit still and hear the Bible, so then it was a natural progression to learn to sit still and listen in church (or anywhere we went for that matter!).  And we were mutually blessed, as were others, as we saw that at a very young age (see my post on Sign Language and Early Learning Skills   http://kithandkingdom.com/2011/01/05/out-of-the-hands-of-nursing-babes/ ) they were not only comprehending, but eagerly participating in sincere worship of the Lord.  They learned to love the God who first loved them and to express this, however imperfectly—just like the rest of us.  They learned to respond to Him by worshipping Him:  by singing, by praying, by raising their hands, by kneeling, by speaking prayers and creeds along with the whole congregation.  And we learned that the preached Word was as wholly relevant to their small worlds as it was to ours.  The Word, good for us, was good for them too.

We saw our job was to teach and press upon them God’s expectations, not ours (which were pretty pathetic).  We now saw, that the God who had mercifully called us out of darkness and calls us to holiness, calls them to the same expectations of holy living.  We began to see that our personal notions of right and wrong for our children weren’t enough.  God’s Word should set the standards and our job was to merely to teach and train accordingly (merely–that’s an understatement, I realize!).  In other words, if something was a sin for us, then it’s a sin for them too (whining, unthankfulness…). If it’s a command for us (rejoice always, sing, love, give thanks) then it’s a command for them too.  And we were to live that before them, teaching them, training them, repenting alongside of each other, turning together to the Savior in whom we find rest and salvation.

Chris and I both came from backgrounds that saw salvation from an individualistic point of view.  We give thanks for the heritage we had in God’s Word, but we give even more thanks now for children God’s blessed us with who walk beside us and are the Lord’s heritage, the children who, with us, are learning that when we humbly worship Jehovah, He fights our daily battles with sin with the same strong hand that brought down walls of old.

God ordained children’s lisping praise to fight the enemy  (Psalm 8, Matthew 21:15).  He likens children elsewhere in the Scriptures as weapons—arrows in a quiver, speaking with enemies in the gates. When we, His people, worship, God engages in battle. Consider the first battle of  Israel taking possession of the promise land—the battle of Jericho.  Worship is a battle cry  (Chronicles 20:22).  And when our children stand at attention with us, they are God’s arrows in our hand, defying the enemy as they acknowledge with us the One who brings the walls down, the One in whom we together trust and to whom we cry out together “Hosanna, Lord, save us!”.

 

Singing Jamie Soles Psalms this past Thanksgiving about what we are most thankful for: deliverance from the bondage of our sin since the Fall and that He's restored us to be worshippers again through Christ!

I’ve gotta share this link:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/pure-words/id302491511

Love Jamie Soles music.  Pure Words is my favorite cd of his.  (The lyrics are straight from the Psalms so we’ve used it to memorized Psalms  1-11 so far, just singing these together!  Even little Eden is trying to sing along with us (her favorite and mine is Psalm 8–maybe you can get it on itunes?)  Also love his album  Ascending.  I also like all the children’s albums—Up From Here‘s my favorite, but I can hardly choose because they’ve all been so helpful for teaching the “grammar” of Bible to the kids. There are some video clips with him singing “The Patriarch Song” and others on You Tube as well that you might want to check out. Some of Jamie Soles’ songs are available as sheet music (free!) on this link:

http://christcovenant.ca/sheetmusic/

 

Oh yeah, tip of hat to Pastor Wes Baker for his instructive sermon on Worship and Warfare.  I don’t know the title of the sermon  but you can email him yourself  to inquire or support his ministry of the Word at Peru Mission:

http://www.perumission.org/

 

 

 

 

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r i g h t   n o w ?   p h o n i c s.

It had been a long phonics lesson.  Every word seemed to be just the segue for some diverting Matthias-tic explanation or definition and I had to some degree permitted it.  We were reviewing short “e” sounds and had meandered beyond the word “bread”, that Matthias excitedly noted was “just like we read the other day when Jesus fed the too-many people!”; and we had savored the word “steadfast” where he naturally broke out into the scripture song of Lamentations 3:22,23 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning, new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord!”  And while the word “dead” wasn’t on the list, something jolted in that head of his–I think it might have been my permissiveness with the former diversions—prompting an all out random diversion:  “Are we all going to die?”  “Yes, we’ll all die someday” was my extremely short answer, for my determination was not to get side-tracked yet again (though admittedly, one of the reasons I am here, right now, home schooling with him, is for seizing with intention the opportunities that many of these diversions provide).  With a grin, a wrinkled nose, a furrowed brow, and a shrug of the shoulders, he recognized and admitted his inadequacy, “I don’t know how.”  I encouraged him that God will make us ready on the way and reminded him that right now, his job is to do phonics.

You just told him to do phonics?  Yes. I did.  Unapologetically.  For even phonics can be a lesson in dying, can’t it? Perhaps I didn’t seize the opportunity to explain the theological nuts and bolts of Christian death and resurrection, but I was still teaching it:  I was teaching a little one to die:  to embrace the seemingly hard way, to die to the urge to do and say and think about whatever I want. And I was teaching him to be resurrected, to live, to force his action, his lisping syllables, and tend-to-stray thoughts to stay cheerfully focused on the command God carved out clearly and especially for His youngest image-bearers:  Honor your father and your mother, the first commandment with a promise, that you may live… (Ephesians 6).  And if mom is calling you to do phonics, then right now, phonics is the way of life. (:

Teaching little ones to die requires a lot of teacher prep in dying and resurrecting which I’m learning, largely by field experience. I need to hear God’s directing Word and heed it, look hard and long in the guiding eyes of my own Father, at His Word and His Word Made Flesh; when I don’t hear and heed, life smarts with His discipline for my sin, often through my children, my emulating students.  Sin brings an emptiness—

I prioritize other gods (usually self) before Him and don’t work and live in a sense of coram Deo—and I taste the emptiness of my vain worthless pursuits and see my children following suit right behind.  I have not rightly served, or worshipped, God as God, but rather serve these false priorities or serve God in my own way while belittling the humble ways and means He has directed me to worship Him in His Word—and I taste the emptiness and share its bitter fruit with my children.  I use His name in vain because I bear His name and image,“child of God”, but I slander it by living a life grossly misshapened and distorted by sin—and my children and I, with the watching world, who are looking on for an answer to their own void, feel empty.  I don’t work diligently at my given calling when He says to (six days)—I feel fruitless, empty while I scold rather than teach my children for lazily neglecting their work.  And I don’t remember and rest when He says to–because, I say, justifyingly, “I will remember all the time”–so I don’t take any time, and in particular I neglect this one time lovingly, divinely set apart at creation and redemption, to look back and rest and celebrate deliverance from bondage and invite everyone in my spheres to do the same—I rather choose bondage and its emptiness and use this time in bondage, serving, worshipping other gods carrying God’s children, a stolen sacrifice to pagan altars. I have cursed and mocked God-given authority and taught my children to disregard God’s authority by allowing them to disobey, ignore, and disrespect their parents—I think I am being benevolent and I justify it and may even call it grace–but I am the one being disobedient to my Father, I am the one guilty of the disrespect; the dishonor that comes upon His name in the eyes of my children is rightly mine.  I kill with thoughts, with looks, with words, cloaking my murder in a thousand guises—and I feel the depths of hate in sharp words and insults, our bloodless but hate-filled pools of emptiness.  I have not regarded with due honor the sanctity of sexuality and holy matrimony, a holy vow to abide in love as one; watching child eyes are filled with tears as they see empty love.  I teach my children to be a thief of blessings God lends me, a thief of His glory which I claim as my own—and despite the hoarding of money, time, & glory—I am empty.  I am a slanderer of the Truth, and slanderer of others usually by blame-shifting rather than owning my faults–and I feel so empty.  I covet. I want and want and want some more, something I wasn’t given, something that isn’t there; I am a gaping unsatisfied hole of discontent of grumble and complaint and why can’t these kids just be grateful?–I feel empty.

And that excruciating empty means something. It wants something.  It’s craving something. The Bible has an interesting way of presenting itself:  A stumbling block for the wicked, life for the righteous.  Foolishness to the wise-in-their-own-eyes, wisdom for those in Christ.  Parables to confuse; parables to enlighten the wise in heart.  For those who reject Christ, that emptiness drives them in pursuit ad nauseum of the infinitely unsatisfying.  For the righteous in Christ, that very emptiness itself is part of God’s blessing—His discipline calling us home to be satisfied, calling us to leave behind the false idols and pig sty dung, calling us to the good mud, the mud on knees on holy ground in homage to Christ, the good mud that even the knees of the self-righteous-clad-in-his-good-enough-morality-elder-son doesn’t know and in his blindness, he can’t give thanks for.  A welcoming Father embraces prodigal with open arms of grace in spite of the sty fumes that linger.  But he bathes us. Clothes us.  Feeds us.  We are His children, sons and daughters of the living God. We are starting to smell like it too. We don’t return to sty life (we think: “I can’t believe I used to eat that stuff!”), we’re resurrected to live on thankful knees.  We still get dirty (very), but here we know the blessing of cleansing well water (or indoor plumbing as it were) and the bread and wine in His house.  And unlike the older brother with slave mentality to the house rules and loving parameters, we are thankful. The Bible doesn’t carry the prodigal parable ad infinitum to tell us how the sin struggle ensues with these two sons.  But it comprehensively does.  Those who stand in their own righteousness boast in their own grave clothes.  And those who receive the righteous covering of Christ to replace their grave clothes ought to wear them.  Unrepentant wallowing-in-the-past immorality and slave-mentality ingratitude meet the same fruitless empty end because neither live in the present embracing love and obedience of Son to Father.

I have this quote above my desk, in my window:

It is not the case that God does the initial work of salvation and then stands back and we have to do the rest all by ourselves.  But the logic of God’s grace goes deeper than the question imagines.  God loves us as he finds us—which is more or less messy & muddy—but the grace which meets us where we are is not content to leave us as we are.  The whole New Testament insists that it’s not so much affirmation as transformation, a transformation shaped and energized by Jesus’ death and resurrection and by the work and power of the Spirit.  That, after all, is what the New Testament insists on as the meaning of baptism. Learning the Language of Life, Wright

God’s Word is a double-edged sword; a sacrifice tool. Piercing. Dividing. Discerning thoughts and intentions.  Exposing.  It prepares, cuts, empties, kills.  But it doesn’t leave me there… empty.  It empties and kills to bring fullness and life.  It resurrects, transforms, renews mind, raises, and draws me out of the formless void waters, takes me to Hebrews 4  & 5, to Jesus–able to sympathize with us in our weakness, in every respect tempted, yet without sin—takes me with confidence to draw near to Him for mercy…the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.

The little people in my life are home schooling me.  We had hunch that would happen. They are always asking the good questions that drive me to God to ask good questions, too: How do I die? I am so uncertain.  But God takes my hands and leads me through the right now.  Right now, Rach, you learn to die by teaching phonics.

I’m almost sixteen years beyond writing a decent bibliography, but these authors have fueled and shaped thoughts, though I’m sure they’d pray for more of that on my part, and I’d like to tip my hat to them (which is far easier than finding my book on MLA documentation which is most certainly out of date.)  And it’s the nice thing to do because they brought some great things to my attention–albeit some  of them 13 years ago–that have been simmering since then as daily reminders in my right now.

Convicting implications, positive and negative, of the Ten Commandments:

Johannes G. Vos  The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary

Hebrews and sacrifice language:

Peter Leithart, A House for My Name

Slave versus Son mentality in the Prodigal Parable:

Sinclair Ferguson, Children of the Living God

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messes

She’s a mess,” a friend told me recently.  “I mean it”, she repeated, “She’s a mess.”  I wasn’t unconvinced the first time she said it.  Really.  I was throughly convinced before she told me.  I just thought I heard her saying the whole time– though admittedly she didn’t per se– that I wasn’t a mess.  And, that she wasn’t a mess.  And that is what astonished me.  And I thought, rather sadly, that she must not know me at all.  For I am very certainly a mess.  And whether or not she’ll own it,  she is too.  All the people I love best in life, I’m quite sure of this, they’re all messes.  And the ones I truly love most are the ones that eat and drink with me at the Table. The Lord’s Table.  Our eating and drinking are loud proclamations; they are our confessions together of our messes and thankful recognition that He has mended all.  And the Table offered there on the Sabbath is His confession  that “It is finished”.  Ahh, blessed Sabbath rest!  His death and resurrection mock death and scoff at the Accuser.  So we can too.  We rise up and walk and sing and dance and laugh with Him at our messes all wholly crucified behind us.  They are dead.  But we are still here, resurrected, alive, and nourished, because this Christ is the Living Bread in us.  We laugh at the taunts of yesteryear, yesterday, this morning, and a moment ago.  We know the laughter of freedom from our messes and we hear His earnest call to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, Living, as those who have passed through the waters, not as the dead, drowning, consumed, and conquered by their damned messes.

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O U T   O F   T H E    H A N D S    O F    N U R S I N G    B A B E S:

Early Learning & Sign Language as a Tool

Around 8 months, we start teaching all our small children some basic signs to aid their learning of our faith, language, and ways.  We give signs to them so they can learn to communicate nicely (Please), be thankful (Thank you), make pleasant requests (More please?, Help please?, May I be excused please?, Please stop.) and express their affection and emotion (I love you, I’m sorry).  And isn’t that ever so much more pleasant than training them (by default usually) that whining and screaming is how you get what you want? (:

We also teach them catechism answers with signs (we’ve made some of our own signs when the given sign seemed too complicated for little hands).  We start at the beginning:  Who made you?  God.   They learn the sign as we teach them the answer and we help their hands to do it.  And it sinks in slowly.  Who made that smiling sliver of a crescent moon?  Who made that towering, swaying tree?  And you?  Who made you?  God.  That’s right.  Creation’s already singing and signing and quivering and smashing and crashing all over itself to tell His story.  And as we look upon His unfathomable artistry, and as that child’s wide, bright eyes freshly gaze alongside our cloudy ones, we need only translate creation’s message into our English speech.  We say it.  And we sign it for their tied tongues: God.  He made all this stuff from scratch-nothing.  He spoke word to command it be and it was.  He gave creation speech, too.  Listen to the stars, the rivers, the skies–don’t you hear them all proclaiming, declaring His glory?   And soon the babes are doing it for themselves.  Signing and talking about it.  And knowing it themselves.  Not too many 8 month olds can talk fluently.  But they are listening and watching and copying and learning to speak.  For many a sermon, I have held a little 8-18 month old in my lap who is listening to the sermon and, though not an adept speaker at all, begins excitedly signing the words he/she recognizes.  From word to word, from task to task.  Teach them diligently.  When you lie down.  When you rise up.  When the sun rises, when it sets.  Creation hums faithfully as you sleep, trumpets it when you wake.  But creation can only go so far.  God gives a better speech, a better word.  He gives us His Word.  And he commands us to teach our children it diligently (Deut.6:4-9).  Speak the Word.  Teach the Word.  Sing the Word. Live the Word.  Let the Word dwell in you richly, the Bible says.  And for the littlest ones watching, perhaps, even sign it.

 

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