Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quiet Competence

She always like to do the home-like things-
To mend a pair of pants a small boy tore;
She never dreamed of palaces and kings
But loved the simple joys life held in store.
At twilight-time she walked beside the stream
To search for one lost duckling that had strayed
Too far from hom:  Should it be lost, her dream
Would be like some old garment worn and frayed.

Her neighbors marveled at her quiet grace
And wondered why she never yearned to be
Away, in search of some far distant place.
But home, for her, held joys they could not see.
They never guessed her faith was tested, though,
When rain beat down small things that tried to grow.
-May Smith White "Fourty Acres"

This poem reminds me of my oldest sister, and outside of my husband, she is my dearest and best friend.  She lives on a little farm in Idaho, when I read this - I miss her even more than I normally do.

She never dreamed of palaces and kings
But loved the simple joys life held in store.

But home, for her, held joys they could not see.

How differently the world would look if home was seen as a sacred place.  Mrs. White's worlview walks through her poetry - and I like at least the home part of her worldview.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's an early spring....

"God made the garden, and man made the town." - William Cowper

It's crazy that it is only the end of February and the wild daffodils and blanketing periwinkles are poking up and about.  We ate dinner on the porch and it was absolutely shorts weather.  We loved it, C. loved it, the girls were off working and missed it.
I drove up to the back of our drive this afternoon to see the trees and bushes sprouting green, I can't believe that winter is already over. The one thing that sold us on our property is the circle of trees that encase us in the spring, summer and early fall.  It makes me forget that we are very close neighbors to an apartment complex and a school yard.  Every November, I silently bemoan as winter brings with it a temporary end to our little enclosure.  This year, I am happy to see it return at least a full month early.  So lovely it is to see the flowers peek out, and my neighbor bustling in her garden. These neighbors inhabit the one side of our home without trees and we get to share the beautiful labors wrought by her fitful hands.  If all our neighbors had gardens like her, I should bemoan the trees, instead of the barren winter.

So very lovely.
I was looking for an appropriate poem by May Smith White in her book "Fourty Acres" which I always enjoy browsing.  When I looked up Bellingrath Gardens - it's in Alabama, I would have never guessed it was only a state away ...if we are ever down that way we must go. 

Bellingrath Gardens

There falls a stillness where these gardens grow.
A sacredness is felt along each trail ---
Repose to beauty,  Quietly as you go
Your way as if you sought the Holy Grail.
Through winding paths, down hallowed rows, serene,
The world is lost to all your senses, here:
For you become a part of every scene---
your heart drinks deep of charm and beauty near.

Could I but walk these dear trails often now,
I know my mind would feel a quickened urge
To think new thoughts; and then resolve somehow,
To fill each moment with their upward surge.
Though cherished gardens now are far away,
My heart throbs to their songs each glad spring day.

"your heart drinks deep of charm and beauty near" - a perfect line to keep in a pocket for the blessings of spring yet sprung.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Reason and Soul Growth

I appreciated our exhortation and message this morning, we are going through Titus, and so there is ample opportunity to discuss the life of the church and the life of the mind in the church and its spirituality.  I have been struggling with the question of when does reading and studying come together and gel,  many times it seems that Istruggle to see how all the parts of different readings fit together and I get discouraged at all the connection that I don't yet know and understand - which for me feeds in to my "I want to quit" monster.

Unfortunately, the intellectual life, the life of intentional, habitional cultivation of the mind under Christ's lordship, can be valued and entered into only as a part of the overall approach to life just described, and this approach runs contrary to the conditions that define our modern lifestyles.  Many people today, including many Christians, simply do not read or think deeply at all.  And when believers do read, they tend to read self-help books or other literature that is not intellectually engaging... 

The mind is like a muscle.  If it is not exercised regularly and strenously, it loses some of its capacities and strength.  We modern evangelicals often feel small and without influence in the public square.  We must recapture our intellectual heritage if we are to present to our brothers and sisters, our children, and a post-Christian culture a version of Christianity rich and deep enough to challenge the dehumanizing structures and habits of thought of a society gone mad.  To do this, we must change our reading habits; indeedm we must alter our enture approach to the life of the mind as part of Christian discipleship.     

- JP Mooreland "Love Your God With All Your Mind - The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul"
A few parts of this book that really caught me as I perused it today... first the parallel of the American culture and "the empty self" and truly - as someone aptly put it " I have seen the enemy and the enemy is -me!"  This was hard to hear and even harder to read through today-
  1. The empty self is inordinately indiviualistic.
  2. The empty self is is infantile.
  3. The empty self is narcissitic.
  4. The empty self is passive.
  5. The empty self is sensate.
  6. The empty self is has lost the art of developing an interior life.
  7. The empty self is is hurried and busy.
and secondly how we can get past that - "the casting out of the empty self" (from the chapter Harassing the Hobgoblins of the Christian Mind)
The Loving God with your mind - Mr. Mooreland sets out six things on p 94:
  1. Admit the problem
  2. Choose to be different
  3. Change your routine
  4. Develop patience and endurance
  5. Develop good vocabulary
  6. Set some intellectual goals
"We Christians must admit that we have allowed our culture to squeeze us into its mold.  We must stand against the culture (including inappropriate tendencies in the evangelical subculture), resist the empty self, and eschew the intellectual flabbiness that goes along with it."

So, returning to my discouragement of everything not coming together and gelling quickly enough.  I am a product of this microwave society- my "I want to quit" monster is how it fleshes out for me. The lack of understanding most definately won't be fixed in the microwave -- the life of the mind is more like a crock pot simmering with years of reading and work; and you know that sounds like, well, work. 
So this book leaves me with two requests from God - first, a repetitive attitude of repentence of all don't know and the appathetic attitude of my quit monster and secondly, (THIS is Primary, really) more grace to see Christ in and through the journey and to love God more and more with my mind.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In Him All things hold together...

G.K. Chesterton once quipped, "Coincidences are spiritual puns."

This past weekend I laughed out loud
when I saw the molecular structure of laminin-
a protein that holds our cells together.
-Louie Giglio talk on Dvd

So how long did it take man to develop all the technology to find a picture that demonstrates it is Christ who holds all things together...
-Colossians 1 

“Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”


Isn't it amazing that God shows His love with such humor and wonder? 
"He knit you together in your mother's womb..."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Not Forgot

For the Poor

When Hagar found the bottle spent
And wept o'er Ishmael,
A message from the Lord was sent
To guide her to a well.

Should not Elijah's cake and cruse
Convince us at this day,
A gracious God will not refuse
Provisions by the way?

His saints and servants shall be fed,
The promise is secure;
"Bread shall be given them," as He said,
"their water shall be sure."

Repasts far richer they shall prove,
Than all earth's dainties are;
'Tis sweet to taste the Saviour's love,
Though in the meanest fare.

To Jesus then your trouble bring,
Nor murmur at your lot;
While you are poor and He is King,
You shall not be forgot.
-William Cowper
I will restore the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild then as they were at first.  I will cleasnse them from all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.  And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them.  They shall fear and tremble because of all the good all the prosperity I provide for it.  -Jeremiah

Cause for meditation line:
'Tis sweet to taste the Saviour's love,
Though in the meanest fare.
When God talks in Jeremiah about restoring Israel and rebuilding them, it is easy to skip over the part that Israel is in the state of ruin and race to thanksgivings of prosperity.
If we believe that God is Sovereign, the verbiage implies over everything - therefore-- the word cannot  be used in part without a qualifier; and we must concede that He is the one who oversees the ruin.
God does ordain, is with us in, and through the ruin, to work His holy will in and through us.   
I find it uncomfortable to discuss the ruins of life even with close ones. There is a falsehood embedded in my heart that whispers, "Why this struggle? It is a shameful and difficult thing. If I were better - God would deal blessings upon me instead of struggle."
Believing God's hand of provision is firmly planted in the adversities of life as well as in, the blessings, is a challenge that must be considered. When I look at the really stellar men of old, like Jonathan Edwards, or Martin Luther - their lives were riddled with what we would call ruin. We are so ordered these days, that we only think of good and prosperity as the end all - when many times the riches gifts are those that are gathered along the paths of difficulties and darkness. 
Edwards and Luther did not consider themselves above the trials of life -- so instead of asking "Why me?" should we not be asking, "Why not me?"

Monday, February 13, 2012

Because He holds fast to me in love..

In our little community, it seems that so many are facing immense difficulties at this present time.  A friend was reading this Psalm out to a few of us and I remembered God's goodness -- I jotted a poem down the other night in desperation and frustration of circumstance, in hope of recalibrating myself towards His grace, "His Sovereign Joy",  as Athanasius called it.  I love that phrase, "sovereign joy".  Evey time I hear, or think, or read it -- my eyes are immediately drawn to Jesus.  It is canned and trite to say that hard times push us towards Christ, and yet -- it remains true....when all I have is God, when all I see is hope in Him, the tangles of life all come down to the truth that those very tangles are firmly held in the hands of a Loving God; "When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”  And that is true for all of us, as He is the one "we hold fast to in love" and the one "our heart knows best."

Psalm 91

My Refuge and My Fortress

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

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.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

A Midnight Prayer

Your Spirit lay me down to sleep-
As needs still hang I cannot meet.
The lonely one that friendless goes
Or searing pain of failure's blows.

And I do fight for peace to rest,
I call to whom my heart knows best.
You take each trial and turn it 'round
Retracing now--the blessing's found.

So limp and worn my aching head
On pillow lies upon this bed
And Prov'dence takes its course true
I whisper thanks for good -You do.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Natural Communion


How fair the golden petals

Bloomed from a slender stem —

Their molded, molten metals,

Their rubied, rounded rim.

A fragile, tapered swan neck

Grasped by a shadowed form,

A curving lip’s soft peck

Upon a mouth made warm.

How well does nature’s chalice

Bear out its vital brew!

So nurse for earth no malice,

For earth has nourished you.
This is from my favorite poet, she gave it to me to read under the guise of a poem she was studying in class, so as we talked I had no idea it was hers.  She wanted my honest opinion, not the gushy mommy variety that I am inclined to first give.  The poem is arcane -- and so there were a lot of places we went with the meaning of it.  I told her I really liked it-- and then she told it was hers... and I liked it even more.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Baby Catechism

I recently bought a new CD for my little ones, Ask Me Whoooo.. Who Made You.  I try to introduce the  young parents in my circle to the the baby catechism.  I use it at home for C. and at school for my twos. It is so fun to see the little lights turn on.  And this CD really helps with memory.  If fact, I'm sold on it...

This evening, my little grandone, was have a hard time, he was plain disagreeable.  After he'd been disciplined and seemed to be headed for another run in with me I decided to turn on "Ask Me Whooo" He was playing with his cars and I heard him say to himself "I don't want to listen to this one."  I said a little prayer and went about making dinner.  Within five minutes he had pulled a chair next to me, was standing and wiggling in sunny spirits and singing the along with the catechism, all smiles.

It's a few hours later... my grandone is rolling around on the floor and singing excerpts of "Is there more than one true God?  No!.... In how many person does this one God exist? In three persons.  Name those persons.  The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."

Sometimes,o.k.; oft times our emotions, whether we are small or of the tall grown varierty, roller coaster in dippty do's.  How we deal with it, when we deal with it, and the extent to which we deal with these dippty do's not only is telling of our character and personality but also evidenced to accept how quickly we accept  His grace and meditate on His goodness instead of wallowing in self-centeredness.

Os Guniness says something in the neighborhood of "the gospel isn't true because it works, it works because it's true."

Truth remains, feelings fades.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Growing the heart garden...

It started early.  On Wednesday, after Bible Study, a friend, a lady in our church had made a double layered chocolate cake that was amazing.  The frosting was super rich -- so yummy!  Friends gave me a hand made card with three coins, one to save, one to spend and one to eat.  Can you tell they were both teachers?Delightful evening.

My actual birthday was yesterday.  I had a wonderful day and was so well loved that I was overwhelmed with God's goodness.  He is so sweet to put people in living community.

 My husband woke me up extra early and read to me selected readings - he knew I would love --I did. It was a two cup morning when ususally we only have time for one cup of coffee.

On arriving at work --my table was filled with gifts and there were birthday greetings all around.  I must say, I work at a place where "Jesus with skin on" is running all over the place -- sixteen lovely, mature christian women who love each other well.  Later this month, we have a retreat and I can't wait.

My co-teacher and good friend got me a new leather journal with chocolate and a fivebucks, I mean Starbucks card.  It's gorgeous and I had accidently left my other journal about and have yet to recover it, so it was just perfect timing.

My secret pal gave me a book published in1866 about parables, it is gorgeous and I shrieked! One of the kidlets, of a co-worker, was really interested she enjoyed the smell of the old leather and pages-- it has a light musky lavendar scent; really wonderful. She asked about the browning around the edges and I was able to teach her about foxing.  At four - she's already a book girl.  What's not to adore about that?  And blooming sunny daffodils -- my secret pal knows me- even though I don't know who she is.
My school families overwhelmed me, the kiddos came in bearing flowers(tulips, roses and a huge daisy), a flower pot, a decorated box that said "For the kids you love so well in Iraq - From the kids you love so well in Nashville" and kiddos brought books as they arrived for the library in Iraq.  One of the moms, who is a semi-professional baker made cupcakes in red, white and green for the Iraqi flag; the buttercream frosting was the best I've ever tasted, everyone agreed --- so delish! She told me later it was the recipe from NYC's Magnolia bakery. (I'll want to visit - unforgettable cupcakes.)I was overwhelmed and then a parent brought me in an additional gift from all the families --a bottle of wine, a card signed by each family with precious sentiments and it was stuffed with green.  Oh my, how well they know me -- wine, notes and book money -- some of my favorite love languages!

My husband picked me up from work and he had a little snack box of sashimi for me; and we were able to chat and laugh about the happening of the day. He also carried my books and stuff for me.  Hubby brawn is so appreciated. En route home, I recieved a call from my daughter asking for pointers on what she would need for making dinner for the fam and a friend.

I came home to a hand colored card dictated from my grandone and a absolutely hysterical card from my niece. 

C. took a nap on my lap as I watched a favorite show - something I don't ever get to do in the middle of the day.

Then K. and I made dinner -- she did great.  Peanut salad --- she is going to be a good little cook.  Fried cabbage with garlic.  Ginger chicken with sticky rice and chicken egg rolls.  So very yummy. I can't think of anything I like better than cooking with my kidlet, er, I mean growing young lady.

My friend came over for dinner - bearing cupcakes with "J" on them and another fivebucks card - yes - coffee is a love comodity with me!

My sweet daughter gave me a set of crocheting needles and an awesome ink gel pen with refills!!! It writes so smooth - does she ever know me!

We all talked and laughed til after midnight. We ended the night with prayer.
I am overwhelmed with the wonder of being loved and known so well.
GOD is so good.  How wonderful are His gifts to us... He most often wraps them in people.

A perfect day.  It was overflowing with God's collateral blessing of living community. 

So many times as women, we are about the business of loving others.  On special days we are reminded once again, that repetative labors are not in vain - but make a difference to people.  Being so weel loved made me think about intentionality --How many times do we reflect on how loving the ones we love well grows the gardens of their hearts?  What a gift to love others, and to love them well. 

And yes, it is better to give than receive, but it is a blessing to receive... and I am very thankful for cups of overflowing love and being lavished on yesterday.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

He bow'd His ear down...

By night when others soundly slept
And hath at once both ease and Rest,
My waking eyes were open kept
And so to lie I found it best.

I sought him whom my Soul did Love,
With tears I sought him earnestly.
He bow'd his ear down from Above.
In vain I did not seek or cry.
My hungry Soul he fill'd with Good;
He in his Bottle put my tears,
My smarting wounds washt in his blood,
And banisht thence my Doubts and fears.

What to my Saviour shall I give
Who freely hath done this for me?
I'll serve him here whilst I shall live
And Love him to Eternity.
-Anne Bradstreet

He bow'd his ear down from Above.
In vain I did not seek or cry.
What is it that wakes you up at night?  Finances, a kiddo going through a seriously tough time,   broken relationship, a decision of direction that will change the landscape of life, broken health, a broken spirit?  -- some of these bring small ripples of concern, others much larger ripples and in these times I find myself searching in the wee hours of the morning for consolation amid the questions.

 I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.
 Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 
 -Psalm 116