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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Valley of Vision for Children - A Christian's Prayer

Another from my effort to simplify language for children from the Puritan classic, Valley of Vision:

Wonderful God,
All around are so many traps I can fall into -
Will You defend me?
When I feel tired and lazy and want to just kick back and relax and not do what You ask me to, would You please show me just a little glimpse of heaven?
When all I want is the stuff I see around me advertised in store windows and fliers that come in our mailbox, would You help me to grow in the wealth of Your house?
When the pleasures the world has to offer me are tangling me up in their worthless causes, help me not to fall into the guilt that I'd feel if I gave into them.
Help me to remember how much You've freed me from -
Let me not ever be too busy to give attention to the important things of my soul.
Please help me to be mindful of my eternal home when I get wrapped up in the busyness of my life and consumed with each hour's tasks - so that I can not only live for You now, but grow closer to You also.
Make me think of You rightly - so I won't look at how I grow spiritually and pat myself on the back or think that knowing You had anything to do with my own efforts.
If only I could long to love You more and more!
When I give up all my flesh wants so that my spirit can grow to want only what You want,
When I have learned to be kind to all those I see and know,
When I have learned patience and grown strong inside,
When I focus on You and Your kingdom,
When I deeply want to please You both in public and when I'm alone and no-one sees me,
Then will You create on the canvas of my life a picture of Christ?
And as You masterfully design me from the inside out, will You delight in me as You see the image of Your Son formed in me?
Because I am only what You make me to be - re-worked in the life of Christ Jesus - Your indelible marker imprinted by Your Spirit's strokes -
I am Your churned up soil ready and waiting for Your expert gardening hand to plant life-seeds in me - and then to work with and in me until You harvest all You designed for me to produce - a fruitful yield for Your glory and Kingdom.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanks To God!

Here is a hymn that I love to sing at Thanksgiving.  Some of the words were a bit archaic so I took poetic license and changed them (apologies to August Ludvig Storm, 1862-1914).

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all that You provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!

          Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
          Thanks for colours in the fall!
          Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
          Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that You have answered,
Thanks for all that You’ve denied!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all that You supply!

          Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
          Thanks for comfort in despair!
          Thanks for grace that none can measure,
          Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!

          Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
          Thanks for peace in souls set free!
          Thanks for hope in the tomorrow –
          Thanks through all eternity!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Be Careful with Romans 8:28!

And we know

that in all things

God works

for the good

of those who love Him

who have been called according to His purpose...

I have a bee in my bonnet about the abuse of this verse.  So let me get it out there to set the record straight.

First - it begins with 'And' which means there were 27 verses previous to this leading up to it.  It cannot be ignored that this entire chapter is about the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer in Jesus.  I could go into an exposition of the first 27 verses - but this has been done by so many others so much better than I could, so I'll just leave it at that.  'And' means there is a context.  Don't ignore it.

'We know' refers to a group of people identified as 'we.'  It is not the royal 'we' but a specific group of those who can affirm the truths of this entire chapter, book, and book-of-books.  'We' does not refer to anyone.

'That in all things' - this phrase is self-explanatory, but is a good reminder because we sometimes tend to think that this cannot possibly include:

the time three kids were climbing over me and smashed my glasses into my nose
the time I had to lock myself in a room to calm down before I totally lost it with the warring factions in my living room
the time I should have locked myself in a room to calm down, but didn't and then blew it
the time one of my children dumped an entire box of cheerios down the stairs
the time we thought we couldn't meet our financial obligations
the time we had a 7-week old in the hospital with a fractured skull
the time I got clobbered with a brick on my head by nasty neighbours, resulting in stitches and a bald-patch

etc... you fill in and add some of your own!

But 'in all things' includes all of those scenarios.  I've seen it in the past and I trust the calamities I face in the future will also be to accomplish God's good purpose in my life.

'God works'
Keep in mind that it is God doing the work.  Not me.  Not my striving, efforts, pious exercises at spiritual disciplines.  It is certainly God who works IN me to even desire to do what He wants.

'For the good'
Here is the clincher.  Who is writing this book?  Paul.  Who, through Paul?  The Holy Spirit.  Who defines what 'good' means?  Us, or the writer?  I daresay we submit that defining what 'good' means belongs to the One Who IS good.  Perhaps we think 'good' refers to:

sipping iced-tea on a balmy day on a spacious expanse on a front-porch overlooking a white-picket-fence where well-behaved youngsters play cheerfully as the setting sun casts rosy glows over the gently lapping waves of the ocean...

Whatever.  You imagine what 'good' means to you.  Good does not necessarily mean whatever strokes my personal comfort funny bone.  To find out what God means by 'good' we need to do a thorough study of Scripture and see the many ways He demonstrates goodness to His people.

'Of those who love Him'
This one phrase should stop us dead in our tracks before throwing this verse around loosely.  I'm not saying we should doubt whether others love God.  I'm just saying that this phrase does qualify much of what is said in the previous few clauses.  Too often I hear it said, 'Well, God will work it out for good.'  Of course.  That's obvious.  But if you don't love Him, it may not go well for you.  And what good looks like may be different than what we expect.

'Who have been called according to His purpose'
We often ignore what God's purpose for us is.  To find out, read on to verse 29.  Never read a verse alone.  You'll miss so much!
'For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son...'
God's stated purpose for us is that we become like Jesus.  Therefore we could read Romans 8:28 like this:

"We who are in God's family know that in any situation we face God will be the One undertaking all we encounter to work His good purpose in our lives - that of becoming like Jesus His son - if we love Him and are called by Him."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Wee Bit About Politics

I love this quote I saw on a friend's facebook page:

‎"I never consider a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a 
friend." -Thomas Jefferson

Indeed - thank you Thomas Jefferson!!  

We would do well to remember that this country holds such a broad range of viewpoints and opinions. 

We who call ourselves Christians claim citizenship in a heavenly country - while we traverse this path
below - we must remind ourselves of the heavenly kingdom to which we belong.  

Yes, I see the need for changes in our country.  One party doesn't fit all the things I want to be changed.

At some level I need to trust the God will carry out His purpose for our nation.  And if anyone puts me in charge, then I suppose I will get to change everything to how I want it.  Ha ha.  Not really – because
we have this great system where there are checks and balances.

Anyway - I remain committed to the open hand of friendship to those with whom I disagree.

And as far as friendship goes - it's even more enjoyable if friends can discuss and understand the various views of each other.  This is one thing I do not appreciate about American culture (distinctly
American - not Western because in much of Europe the following 'rule' does not apply) - that conversations over politics or religious views are taboo and must be kept out of civil, polite discourse.  It is to our shame that our friendships cannot be robust unless we censor the diverse views we hold!  

So, that's my plug to change America.  

Thus endeth the lecture.

Simplifying Christmas: A Link

Today I will link you to a post I just wrote for A Biblical Marriage.

Here I share ideas for how to navigate the coming six weeks which can be quite stressful - by keeping your focus where it should be.

I appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment!

Celebrate the Holy Days with a K.I.S.S: Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!

(Featuring photography by the most excellent Lydia Francis herself, photographer extraordinaire!!  Her website is Ginger Snap)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Early Mommyhood Pitfalls

The other day I was reflecting on the first few years of being a Mom.  I had my first two kids so close together - 19 months apart - that I was often dizzy from the upkeep of home and kids and errands.  Now that we have more kids - and more variety in temperaments, I realize the first two were extremely easy-going and required very little to keep them happy.  I didn't realize at the time how easy I had it!  And if someone had told me I would have been annoyed - so thanks to all of you who kept your mouths shut.

The first baby is a bit of a shock.  I hadn't realized how much time it took to get out the door.  How much was involved in lugging a carseat everywhere.  How slow it was to buckle him in each time.  How inconvenient last-minute diaper blow-outs were.  You get the picture.

But after a while, and after the second baby and feeling like I was swimming in baby clothes and burp rags, the novelty of baby-fun had totally worn off.  Okay, it probably happened before the second baby, but I didn't have time to collect my wits and reflect on it.

The temptation was to look for other endeavours that were more intellectually stimulating and exciting. It is easy to think of throwing onesself into other causes when the alternative is snotty noses and diaper changes.  I went down this path once or twice.  Any stranger who knocked on my door could be prepared for a lengthy persuasive dialogue and when they were sent on their way, hours of my prayers for their lost souls.  A young person I had known made some poor choices and because of my grief and prayers for her, the laundry stopped in its tracks and supper was toast, canned soup and crackers - for two weeks!

I admit these things to my shame. I'm sure most of you super-moms out there have never been tempted to throw yourself into another cause because reading Green Eggs and Ham for the fiftieth time just seems too boring.  So I'm not talking to the super-moms who got it the first time 'round.  I'm talking to the distracted ones - who tend to find the small world of toddlers just a tad too small.

If I could go back, I'd reclaim those years.  I'd get into that small world of theirs and play more with them.  I'd get a strong cup of coffee and not drag my heels all day.  I'd try to be less head-in-the-clouds and more feet-on-the-ground.  I think I was slow to recognize my calling as a Mom and to devote myself fully to the domestic tasks I had been entrusted with.

If you're in the early years of mommyhood, (and are not in the super-overachiever-mom category), let me encourage you to learn from my mistakes!  Give yourself room to withdraw from causes and crusades and devote yourself to the small things - picking dandelions with your toddler, colouring pages together, making play-doh and sitting with them to model things.  Someone once said the secret to parenting isn't so much positive affirmation as much as it is parental participation.  Sure, affirm your kids - but they'll appreciate it so much more if you participate with them.

Sometimes parenting seems so simple and straightforward.  Lately it seems riddled with pitfalls and complexities.  So, you know it will be complicated eventually - why not enjoy the simplicity of the early years and carve out this special time to make memories with them?  Thankfully my kids don't remember most (any?) of the mistakes I made then.  But I do - and have changed my course for the latter kids.  I invite you to correct your course too - if you've longed to do something of more value lately.  The sense is that it is more valuable to write a book, lead a class, make a gourmet dish for the potluck, campaign for your public official, convert the cult members, pray and fundraise for the latest crisis on your horizon, glue yourself to the internet for any variety or excitement (news, nutrition for toddlers, DIY projects, home-business building - you name it).  But it isn't more valuable.

It may be a cliche - and so often that means it's true - you won't get these days/years back.  So focus on this task of being a Mommy.  Revel in it.  Appreciate the smallness of their world.  Open your eyes wide to their excitements and catch their innocence and cherish it in your heart.  Jump into this endeavour with both feet, without a backward glance at all the other stuff you could be doing (getting a doctorate, travelling the world, mastering the art of basket-weaving - whatever!).  I wish I had.

I'm so glad I have more kids to try again.  And I hope Caleb and Priscilla will forgive me for letting the ball drop during their early years.  Isn't God gracious to shield their memories from when they were so young!?