Thursday, November 29, 2007

Knowing Him Through Suffering

Eternal life means knowing God. All our life on earth is designed to facilitate that. But knowing Him must include sharing His sufferings by reproducing the pattern of His death. (Phil. 3:10)
Instead of seeking first for escape from suffering, the soul hungry to know Christ will seek IN IT the means to know Him better.
Our human nature would look first for someone to blame, and focus our responses on that person. The spiritual mind looks first to God, "Teach me Thy way." The rest can wait.

Elisabeth Elliot,
A Path Through Suffering

No Scar?

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beast that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole - Can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?

Amy Carmichael

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thanksgiving Day at our house

Thanksgiving pies... The girls went to town with baking this year, and we had far more pies than we could eat Thanksgiving day!

Jemima and Becca busy cooking a huge breakfast Saturday morning. Becca is our good friend from China who is currently back in the States, in school to become a Physician's Assistant so she can be of more help in China... We are so glad she chose to come and spend part of her Thanksgiving weekend with us! Jemima and Liz love to get together with her and reminisce about the three unforgettable weeks they spent at her place in China this past spring...

Adam (3), our little "adopted nephew" loved building blocks with Dad, who he affectionately calls "grampa". He ran in our front door early in the morning, while his mommy and daddy were still in bed, and called out, "Morning, everybody! Grampa, wanna build blocks with me?"

Story time for Adam(3) and Carolanne (1). We're sad that they live so far away (Nebraska) and that they're moving even farther away (Nevada). At least, we do manage to see each other a couple of times a year for a few wonderfully fun days!

Everyone wanted to hold Thaddeus (6 months) but Mom won here as she got him to sleep!

Thaddeus with his daddy, Abe B.

The four wheelers were a major hit with the guys, who would ride them for a few hours, go buy some more gas, drive some more, and then have to share with the girls who wanted to drive them nearly as much!
The boys have had ATVs for years, but it's been a long time since they've had more than one running at a time, and running well enough not to worry about walking back!

And, Thanksgiving weekend concluded Sunday with lots of pilgrims in attendance at church....

Matthew Henry on Anger

I'm slowly working my way through Matthew Henry's book, "The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit", written in 1698.
It is so deep and so rich that one can only read a page or two at a time to properly assimilate what he has to say.

On anger he says:

When our hearts are at any time hot within us we should do well to put that question to ourselves which God put to Cain,
"Why am I wroth?" (Gen. 14:6).

Why am I angry at all?
Why so soon angry?
Why so very angry?
Why so far transported and dispossessed of myself by my anger?
What reason is there for all of this?
"Do I well to be angry for a gourd that came up in a night, and perished in a night?" (Jonah 4:6)
Should I be touched to the quick by such a sudden and transient provocation?
Will not my cooler thoughts correct these hasty resentments, and therefore were it not better to check them now?

Such are the reasonings of the meekness of wisdom.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Carissa's birthday

Friends make life so rich!

Here's a few pictures from our friend, Carissa's birthday in early November.
Her older sister, Christy, planned the party for her and asked us to be her guests...
So, we girls happily drove the two hours to their little place at the end of a dirt road and managed to totally take Carissa by surprise!

First, we visited their next door neighbor at his old farmhouse where our former governor grew up. He's former Governor Holden's dad and an interesting old farmer to talk to. We've heard about him from Christy and Carissa for years, so it was fun to finally meet him.

Then we headed over to the property where we had the picnic. The sun was setting and the day was rather chilly, but bundled in our coats and scarves, we managed to enjoy a wonderful picnic dinner in the meadow. Christy is a great chef!
(Below: Carissa is enjoying a gourmet tomato-rye sandwich)

Then, some of the girls decided to walk to the cabin, and scope out the lovely land. A couple of the old fogies (Christy and I) decided instead to drive and take pictures of the rest of the girls walking.

After a wonderful dinner, we settled into their little cabin and talked until nearly midnight by the light of a few kerosene lanterns. A few hours into the conversation, we began to wonder if our health would survive the intense kerosene odors and the smoke, so we occasionally let in some fresh, but freezing cold air from the outdoors. For the most part, we managed to ignore the cold and the kerosene because we were busy pondering bigger things, like growing up!

Above: Beth, Mary, Christy, Jemima, Kirsten, Carissa huddled under sleeping bags, sipping hot chocolate in the cabin

Back again after a long absence

It seems like it's been a long, long time since I've posted here.
I guess it really has been awhile.

I'm still not totally well, but I'm working on it...
Today is the first day I'm actually up and around in two weeks!

Laying around being sick provided me with thoughts on several topics for new posts.
I will get them up as soon as possible.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Eternity... Where?

Eternity, where?
It floats in the air....

As a little girl, the words to that song always sounded so strange. What did it mean?

Eternity can be frighteningly big and long and weird to think about... Especially if you don't know what eternity holds for you.

Most of my life, I haven't worried about eternity - for myself, anyway, because I settled that question as a very little girl.

I can confidently say:
Upon a life I did not live, Upon a death I did not die,
Upon another's life, another's death,
I stake my whole eternity.

Every time I quote that, the enormity and wonderfulness of the statement sends a thrill through me!

That word eternity also sends shivers up my back in a not-so-happy way when I think of many, many people who I know and love who do not love the One Who gave His life for them.

A few weeks ago, I was spending the night somewhere with a friend. I woke in the night and rolled over, seeing her sleeping form in the next bed, and a sadness drifted through me. I couldn't go back to sleep as I pondered the reality of her, now peacefully sleeping, someday oh, so soon, facing a Holy God to Who she will give account of every deed and word. Some such words she had just uttered that afternoon - an affront to the God who has long sought her and loved her.

She's a wonderfully sweet, intelligent person, one who I love dearly and would do anything for. And yet, her life, her actions, and yes, her very words, mock her Maker every day. She has created a god of her own imagination - one that is happy with whatever she chooses to do.

I spent awhile agonizing over where she is currently heading as she faces eternity, and then praying for her until I fell back asleep.

The next day I was reading a booklet which had an article entitled, "The Cry of the Soul of the Damned."

These lines just jumped off the page at me:
Why was intelligence given to me, that I might take care for my immortal soul,
and yet I did so little with it?
Why was reasoning given to me, yet I made light of any preparations for my future?
I was made with an immortal soul, and yet I lived as though there was no eternity...

Sometimes I hear non-Christian people say, But your God is so harsh. There is no room for anything but heaven or hell. Why would a good and loving God send people to hell... especially people who have lived good and decent lives and never hurt anybody?

In recent days, I've read a couple of quotes from various books that have spoken beautifully to this line of thinking:

~We are all sinners, from toddlers throwing temper tantrums to adults in road rage. Sin is rebellion against God - His laws, His provision, His Word. Sin is shaking our fist in the face of a perfect, holy, just, and loving God, and telling Him that we don't want to be told what to do.
Carolyn McCully

~Blame was the second sin. Adam fell by eating the forbidden fruit, but he cut himself off from restoration when he blamed God for giving him the woman who "caused" him to disobey. May we take responsibility for what we, the human race, have done (read the paper any day for a sampling of what we are like, or think back through your own failures!), and give God the glory for what HE has done (read the wondrous offer of salvation to sinners!)!

The greatest truth is that God is not severe -- sin is severe, and mankind is cruel.
Micheal Pearl

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Where I've been, and some thoughts for today...

It's been a whole week since I posted anything... even though it's been my goal every day since last Wednesday to get something up here...

I spent the weekend (Thurs-Sun) in Chicago working on legislative stuff, and then came home and succumbed to a nasty flu with a 104F fever, that has been generously shared between most of our family members. I have my fever down to 103 degrees today, but I'm still not up to catching up on my online life!

Until I'm "up and running" again, here's a few thoughts from C.S. Lewis and John Piper....

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slim because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
C.S. Lewis, 1941

That's it! The enemy of worship is not that our desire for pleasure is too strong but too weak! We have settled for a home, a family, a few friends, a television, a microwave oven, an occasion al night out, a yearly vacation, and perhaps a personal computer. We have accustomed ourselves to such meager, short-lived pleasures that our capacity for joy has shriveled. And so our worship has shriveled. Many can scarcely imagine what is meant by a "holiday by the sea" - worshiping the living God!
John Piper, Desiring God, 1986

And I venture to say that it is not necessarily that man's desires are too weak - for in his innate selfishness he seeks whatever he thinks will please him most. I think that mankind (me included) has no idea of the joy of loving, serving, and worshiping the Living God.

Somehow we prefer to believe our own minds that a new car or house or a better job would make us happier than God.

We are far too ignorant and foolish, because we don't take God seriously when He tells us that in His Presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand there are pleasures forever more. And that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him....

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

May A Mortal Sing Thy Name?

Mighty God, while angels bless Thee,
May a mortal sing Thy name?
Lord of men, as well as angels,
Thou art every creature's theme.
Lord of ev'ry land and nation;
Ancient of eternal days,
Sounded thro' the wide creation,
Be Thy just and endless praise.

For the grandeur of Thy nature,
Grand beyond a seraph's thought;
For the wonders of creation;
Works with skill and kindness wrought;
For Thy providence that governs
Thro' Thine empire's wide domain,
Wings an angel, guides a sparrow,
Blessed be Thy gentle reign,

But Thy rich, Thy free redemption,
Bright tho' veiled in darkness long;
Thought is poor and poor expression;
Who can sing that wondrous song?
Brightness of the Father's glory,
Shall Thy praise unuttered lie?
Break my tongue such guilty silence!
Sing the Lord who came to die.

From the highest throne of glory
To the cross of deepest woe,
Thou didst stoop to ransom captives;
Flow, my praise forever flow.
Reascend, immortal Saviour,
Leave Thy footstool, take Thy throne:
Thence return, and reign forever:
Be the kingdom all Thine own!
~ Robert Robinson

Singing this hymn always brings at least a few pangs of conviction to my heart.
It reaffirms to me the most noble and honored task I have of spreading the news of the glories of my Lord. And it reminds me how little and apathetically I do it.

I have several friends who are in various stages of marriage, courtship, engagement right now. As they should be, they are bursting with the wonders and greatness of the man they love. They almost appear bored if the conversation switches to something else. They are nice to their friends, but everyone can tell their heart is somewhere else. Their profile pictures online aren't just a picture of them; they are the best picture they can find that includes their sweetheart.

They don't have to try to focus on their lover... They almost have to force themselves to talk about something else and to talk politely to other people about other subjects.

Want to talk about how great their man is or hear about what wonderful things he has done for them this week? Their face lights up, and all aglow, they happily tell you everything wonderful they can think of! They never, ever run out of things to say about him. The rest of us see him as a great guy, but a mere human and smile at their sweet, blind love.

How often do the angels who bask in the presence of the great God, smile sadly at my weak estimation of His worth, my ignorant praise of his immense value, my slight comprehension of my pardon at Calvary, my weak "thank you" for my very breath and life?

How do I find myself struggling to find something to say about my Lord to someone I have just met who does not know anything of His worth, goodness, and majestic holiness?

Break my tongue such guilty silence!

That is my prayer for this weekend which I will spend with dozens of people who do not know the goodness of my Lord or even begin to comprehend His mercy extended to them.
Oh, for a tongue bursting with the glories and greatness of my God!

Monday, November 5, 2007

So Much to Do.....

Ever get up in the morning and just cry at the sight of all that stretches in front of you to do?
I don't. But I feel like it at times!

I have a to-do list today that seems to stretch endlessly into the horizon...
Calls to return, announcements to finalize, over a hundred emails that need to be responded to/dealt with(plus about another hundred that only need to be read!), several writing commitments to finish that are already past their deadlines, appointments that must be made before the close of business hours today, a critical meeting to prepare for, packages that must be mailed, clothes that need to be washed and packed, the list goes on.... It's so overwhelming that it's hard to know where to start..

But as I looked at my to-do list and sighed, I realized that a sigh is so opposite of what I should be doing.

I'm grateful that my Lord has entrusted me with a little corner of His Kingdom work. I am grateful that I have the energy to work on these things, the presence of mind to multi-task, a working computer to deal with all of it, and a family that cheerfully puts up with me on days when I barely step out of my office to grab the other phone line or a couple of bites of lunch...

I am grateful that I have much to do with every moment of my days. May I use each one wisely, and for what is best! May I never throw up my hands and complain that I have been given too much. May I thank my Heavenly Father for His wise and loving hand that graciously gives me all things to enjoy...

Friday, November 2, 2007

That is less of self, and more of Christ!

When you are forgotten or neglected,
or purposely set at naught,
and you don't sting,
and hurt with the insult or the oversight,
but your heart is happy,
being counted worthy
to suffer for Christ,
That is less of self and more of Christ!

When your good is evil spoken of,
when your wishes are crossed,
your advice disregarded,
your opinions ridiculed,
and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart,
or even defend yourself,
but take it all in patient, loving silence,
That is less of self and more of Christ!

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder,
any irregularity,
any impunctuality,
or any annoyance;
when you stand face to face with waste,
folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility,
and endure it as Jesus endured it,
That is less of self and more of Christ!

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation,
or to record your own good works,
or itch after commendation,
when you can truly love to be unknown,
That is less of self and more of Christ!

When you are content with any food, any offering,
any raiment, any climate, any society,
any solitude, any interruption
by the will of God,
That is less of self and more of Christ!

When you can see your brother prosper
and have his needs met,
and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit
and feel no envy nor question God,
while your own needs are far greater
and in desperate circumstances,
That is less of self, and more of Christ!

When you can receive correction and reproof
from one of less stature than yourself,
and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly,
finding no rebellion or resentment rising up
within your heart,
That is less of self, and more of Christ!

Author Unknown;
modified from a poem in
The Heartbeat of the Remnant magazine