Not abandoned

The title of this post has multiple meanings.

First – I have not abandoned this blog, I just haven’t put anything up in a really really long time. I have some stuff to add though, so I’ll get to that sometime soon.

Second – over the past year I have created a notebook of scripture, songs, and lessons or blog posts that speak to me. Things I need to know and remember. This morning I was reviewing and reorganizing the contents and came across a page where I had started transcribing the words to the hymn What E’er My God Ordains is Right with the reminder that He will never ever forsake me. What wonderful news.

That is the ultimate truth that must make a difference in my day and my behavior and my character.

*****

So why am I resurrecting the blog today? I am thinking about my reading plans for 2013 of course.

This has been a great year. I have read several books by Jerry Bridges and Nancy Leigh DeMoss and found so much meat in all of them.

For  sci fi, I’ve read a lot of John Ringo this year. The trilogy I devoured in Nov/Dec was joint with David Weber and John Ringo is The Empire of Man trilogy. What fun. I also read some John Scalzi and Connie Willis.

Mysteries – I’ve been working forward from the beginning of the Robert Parker Spenser series. Also moving forward with some Elizabeth George and Lee Child.  I started some Colin Cotterill but haven’t made it back to read more. I intend to, the first book was fun!

Other fiction includes books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – interesting and fun since we traveled to Barcelona in October. And quite a few John Steinbeck short novels.

****

What do I plan to read in 2013 then?

I attended a talk at a local temporary Passages exhibit about CS Lewis. Coming away from there I added to my list to read The Problem of Pain and a friend has recommended God in the Dock. That matches up with a fun CS Lewis Challenge at 52 books in 52 weeks.

I’m planning on 4 books: God in the Dock, Pilgrims Regress, Christian Reflections, and The Problem of Pain. And I may revisit the Chronicles of Narnia or even the Space Trilogy.

I read Heretics by GK Chesterton last year with the intention of reading Orthodoxy which I never made it to, so that is definitely on the list for 2013.

I’ll keep reading John Ringo, Lee Child, Elizabeth George, Stephen Hunter…

For the rest, we’ll see where the year leads us.

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Forgiveness

The topic is Unpacking Forgivness by Chris Brauns. It is a great book, well written, and needed.

I’ve talked about this book before and I will continue to talk about this book. You need to read this book, no matter who you are or where you are in your walk. If you’ve read it, you probably need to read it again. I thought this little exchange would be a great way to bring it back up on the blog. And since I’ve had plenty to say but haven’t posted anything since July I obviously need to restart things with something simple.

Any time anyone even sort of asks for my opinion on a good book for personal or group study, I will bring up Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns. My Circle has been going through this for 10 months now and I love the level of engagement from everyone of them. They have always read the chapter, they always dig into the meat of the subject. It’s something that matters and, sadly, this book has a lot to teach us about forgiveness because our culture isn’t dealing with it.

So, back in the summer I mentioned it to a friend who then apparently passed it on to another friend. This is the email I found in my mailbox this morning:

 Laura,

I have an interesting question for you, from chapters 11 and 12. A friend was reading exerpts on the internet because she might want to use it in a Bible study. She came across a test question about whether it is always right to forgive. The answer was no, and it was cited that God does not forgive the unrepentant. It said this would be discussed in chapters 11 and 12, but it did say that a view of our always forgiving was too simplistic. My friend questioned whether this view is Biblical and wanted me to ask, since I recommended the book because you had told me you were studying it. I’d welcome your response to her question. Since I have not read the book, I have no idea if what she read on the internet was accurate. Thanks!

I thought it was a great question. It’s why Chris Brauns starts his book with that little quiz. We all think we know what forgiveness is. And he does a great job of getting our attention when we realize we flunked the quiz on what we thought were the easy questions. 🙂

I sent her a response knowing and hoping she would send it on to her friend with the questions. It doesn’t begin to cover what the whole book says – that’s why there is a whole book. But I realized as I was typing that what most strikes me as I read this book for the 3rd time in 3 years is the definition of forgiveness requires so much more of us than we think. I think most of our “forgiving” is closer to “not forgiving” than true forgiveness.

The rest of this post is what I sent as my response – this got my juices flowing at 6am!

****

Yeah, a lot of us missed that question on the quiz. We think it sounds holier to say we will forgive everyone 🙂 And that is probably the root of why the entire study is so helpful. He challenges our current cultural attitude that we must always forgive everyone everywhere, even Hitler and serial killers who never think they did anything wrong. But then, if we say we should always forgive because God always forgives, we deny the reality of Hell. And Hell is quite Biblical.

In chapter 1 Brauns points out some things about God’s forgiveness

  1. God’s forgiveness is gracious but not free – God bought that gift at an infinitely high price, purchased at the expense of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ
  2. God’s forgiveness is conditional. Only those who repent and believe are saved
  3. God’s forgiveness is a commitment
  4. Forgiveness lays the groundwork for reconciliation
  5. Forgiveness does not mean the elimination of all consequences

A definition of God’s forgiveness: A commitment by the one true God to pardon graciously those who repent and believe so that they are reconciled to him, although this commitment does not eliminate all consequences.

A definition of forgiveness for Christians: A commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated.

He then goes on to say that Christian forgiveness is a commitment to the repentant and it is not automatic. But then he does say that Christians must always forgive the repentant. If someone repents then we must forgive. And that forgiveness is a commitment and the beginning of reconciliation.

Chapter 2 immediately gets to the root of our problems. It discusses the difference between therapeutic forgiveness (the only person you hurt when you refuse to forgive is yourself) and biblical forgiveness.

There are a whole lot of good points in this chapter that makes the case for why saying forgiveness is just a feeling and is ceasing to feel resentment or bitterness is incomplete and not biblical.

But then he says “Therapeutic forgiveness results in “cheap grace” and a reluctance to identify and name evil….when it is assumed that Christians ought to forgive automatically, it is not long before people begin to assume that God ought to forgive automatically.” p69

He talks about how cheap forgiveness prohibits healing in the Christian community, how it can encourage someone to avoid dealing with their sin, how it can leave Christians unprepared for true persecution.

For me the great point that Brauns is making is that forgiveness is a commitment to pardon the offender. In a later chapter he points out that when you forgive someone, you don’t just say “I accept your apology” and then don’t talk to them ever again. You restore your relationship with that person.

He has so much more that’s wonderful in here. He talks about why we need to be humble. He talks about when something isn’t even worth ‘forgiving’, just let it go. He talks a lot about how to work through forgiveness when someone has really hurt us and then comes to us repentant. And he talks about tough stuff – a rapist and his victim, a young boy and the man who molested him. He isn’t just talking about holding a grudge against Sally for sitting in your pew at church. He’s talking about real offenses that can’t just be ignored.

But now let’s jump to chapter 11: “How should a young mother remember her father who repeatedly molested her, never took any ownership of his offenses, and is now dead? How should parents remember their child’s killer who never took responsibility? How should New Yorkers remember the terrorists of 9/11?” He introduces a few principles here

Principle 1. Resolve not to take revenge.

Not the same as punishing justly, of course. He talks about the hollywood style revenge we might contemplate when a heinous crime is committed. But he also talks about the “garden-variety revenge that many cultivate regularly” and lists things like this one “Parents resent their adult children changing churches. Over the years they make small hurtful remarks designed to show disapproval.”

Principle 2. Proactively show love

  • “we are to use our mental energy creatively to plan a response that will end the cycle of violence” p135

Then chapter 12

Principle 3: Don’t forgive the unrepentant but leave room for the wrath of God

“Jesus told his followers that we ought to forgive people as many times as they ask for forgiveness (Luke 17:3b-4). But what about those who do not ask for forgiveness?”

He then refers to Deut. 32:35, 43. Then Romans 12:19. Then 2 Tim 4:14-15.

“It is not recorded that Paul ever forgave Alexander. He did not pardon his behavior. On the contrary, Paul told Timothy that he was resting in the truth that God would repay Alexander for his deeds, and he wanted Timothy simply to ‘beware’ of Alexander.”

Anyway – I could repeat the entire book here. It is very biblical. He is very careful to point that out on every page of every chapter. And if forgiveness were something we clearly understood we wouldn’t need a book about it. It is a great challenge to our thinking and at the end of it, instead of leading us to forgive less, I think it teaches us to forgive more correctly and completely.

*****

[Note: By the way, what you probably don’t know is that Chris Brauns regularly checks in when his book is mentioned. I kind of expect a visit on this blog from him sooner or later as a result of this post. He’s commented (politely) on prior posts about this book. I hope he’ll point out if he thinks I’ve misrepresented anything here. But of course, mostly what I hope is that you’ll read the book, study the Bible, and consider what you need to learn about forgiveness.]

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Setting expectations

Back in April I was posting on the chapters in the book Trust God by Jerry Bridges. I ended with chapters 5 and 6 and then didn’t come back to it here. I actually stepped away from that book, although not forgetting its lessons. But I am still struggling. Mostly I’m just not content – more like frustrated and irritated and impatient.

I’ve still been searching and praying and hoping it would all sink in, and the Holy Spirit would have something to work with to reform me. Some days my shortest prayer is “I believe, help my unbelief” but more often it’s just the short “Change me” that I throw out.

This month has been more of the same. The free audio book from Christian Audio last month was Hearing God by Dallas Willard. I downloaded it right at the end of the month and started listening. It’s been interesting because I am arguing with the book a little bit. Partly because I know that this is an author who is right on some things and not necessarily right on others. (I actually know that is true about all authors, and the good ones tell you that about themselves. But I’ve approached this book with extra care.) Perhaps I want to believe it so much I’m leery of the message.

Anyway, it’s made for great listening because I actually pay attention to it all and then journal and think and study to see how I really understand the points he’s making. For example, Dallas Willard was talking about the will of God and when something isn’t the will of God. For example, when someone sins or does something in direct contradiction to God’s word. A firm believer in God’s sovereignty over everything takes issue with that pretty easily. But I also understand where he is coming from. But for some reason this bugged me a bit, perhaps as I was struggling with my bout of lassitude and trying to clarify my role versus God’s will.

I turned first to Jerry Bridges – chapter 7 of Trusting God as a matter of fact. He has some vocabulary there to help as he states:

Our duty is found in the revealed will of God in the Scriptures. Our trust must be in the sovereign will of God…” p121

He actually started the chapter with this “The knowledge of His sovereignty is meant to be an encouragement to pray, not an excuse to lapse into a sort of pious fatalism.” p113

Then it gets even deeper. In my daily reading I’m back to the book of Job and we happen to have picked up a book on the book of Job by Derek Thomas. That book isn’t quite what I was expecting so far, but on the first page he points us to Calvin’s Institutes 1:15-18 so I pull down our version of the Institutes (thanks Beard!) and start wading into the deep end with Calvin. It’s on God’s providence and scripturally shows how all is under His sovereign control even when the person is clearly going against God’s revealed will.

Now, it sounds like I’ve gotten way off track, but I am struggling at work right now because I don’t like it, I don’t like the interruptions and the work load and the helpless feeling of not being able to accomplish good work and even when I do not having a moment to appreciate it before the next impossible problem comes along. But what Trusting God (and all kinds of resources and Bible reading over the past few years) has shown me is that I am wrong to be do discontented with where God has put me. And I want to fix that attitude. I want to love God so much that I will be happy wherever He has me.

Add on to all of that the fact that yesterday was a crummy day. I got very stressed out over 3 different things (all at once, so I was very efficient about it). My prayers were not very humble or God-honoring and I was quite disappointed at the end of the day (in my self). Will I never grow? We’ve (God and me) been working on this for awhile, surely I am trainable enough that I could change a little bit by now?

Well, my God is an awesome God (I love that song) and He speaks to me and sometimes, when I open my ears, I hear Him! (see, Dallas Willard is rubbing off on me already 🙂

This morning I got one of those emails from LinkedIn with links to articles you may find interesting. Often they are about computer security (I found one today I wish the entire Windows support team at work would read), or on how to treat your employees well, or how to manage your boss, or how to multitask (remember the rant on that earlier this month?).

Today there was an article on reducing stress. You better believe I clicked on that thing! And God spoke to me, like he was saying “if you won’t listen to Me this way, let me try another language”. Go ahead, click on the link and read it. It won’t take long and it’s a nice read. (Doesn’t it remind you a bit of what I learned about someone stepping on my story?)

By the way, I love the interview with Louis C.K. and I agree with him completely, but for some reason I still couldn’t translate it into my issues at work.

So, my new strategy (which is an old strategy, note the name of my blog) is to lower my expectations from perfection, change my expectations about what I’m supposed to get done every day, and get used to not getting what I want, except really I am seeking to change what I want so that when I get whatever I get, it’s what I wanted and I’m happy – content.

See, another book I have sitting here for a re-read is The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs and this is what I’m after:

Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.

I feel like a broken record, there is this post from earlier this year. But this topic is top of my “things I want changed” and I will keep working on this until I’m changed.

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Why I multitask

Here’s a typical article of the many I’ve seen  of this year about multitasking being bad.

And I don’t argue with the main points. If I were a writer, blogger, coder, analyst, tax preparer, etc. I would agree completely.

In fact, in my past jobs where I work, I’ve been a big fan of single-tasking. I was a business analyst for a year and it was heaven to have uninterrupted hours where I could pull together my data, build my pivot tables, validate my data, write my analysis. I could focus and pay attention to what I was doing.

I still had my email open and my instant messaging window open (requirements at work), but I didn’t get that much traffic.

Before that, doing dedicated support I could still focus for periods of time. I worked one email or one request at a time. Instant messaging was useful to ask quick questions, but there weren’t that many. Sure, I probably did some fun chatting with friends at work but it was usually between requests.

I make it sound ideal, and there was probably more multitasking going on than I let on. The primary reason is that many tools take time to log into or to bring up the next screen and I am very likely to squeeze in something else while I’m waiting for that.

I know that right now I spend my days multitasking just about every minute of the day. And I try to figure out why so I can figure out what I can change.

Some of it is indeed that pulling up a new website, clicking through the 3 screens of a tool where I’m submitting something where each screen can take a minute or two to come up, or waiting for someone who wants to ask me a question who then takes 3 or 4 minutes to figure out what their question is, leaves large gaps of time that I feel I should be doing something. (Because I never get it all done at work these days.)

On a larger scale, much of what I do is along the lines of mind-reading, and since I’m not good at that it really turns into a short Q&A session, where I guess at the 3 possible things this user’s cryptic comment could mean, then reply to their email with the possibilities and some questions to help narrow it down so I can actually understand what their issue or request is. This means I then have to wait for their response.

Or I have to pull together the data to be changed and then send that off to the technical team to actually run the scripts to make that change. So I have a lot of things I track in a todo list so I can remember what the next step is when it gets back. That kind of things turns my day into a series of short tasks, 3 to 10 minutes in duration, so by the end of the day I haven’t so much multitasked as just singletasked 50 to 80 times.

The primary impediment to singletasking at work is the instant messages from end users. I am still struggling to figure out how to get the message out that a request to our mailbox can’t be finished in an hour. Some of them take 2 or 3 days. So users send another email which takes up more of our time to sweep through the inbox, figure out where the current request is sitting, and then figure out how to reply (or ignore if we’re going to respond to the original request soon anyway) the request for an update. And if they are really in a hurry (and really, no one sends us a request until it’s urgent and important and critical, and the business is going to fail if their specific request isn’t finished in an hour) they will instant message me or my coworker and spend 20 minutes in short bursts telling us why we should drop everything else we’re doing and go work on their request.

What I’ve tried to do there is coordinate with my coworker so one of us can go on Do Not Disturb (work doesn’t like us to not be online at all). When I’m on DND, Bobby gets my pings plus his own. Not that they reroute, but that people know to go to him if they can’t get to me. Here’s where I work very hard to protect the rest of the team so people don’t see their names and start pinging them. I try to limit it to Bobby and me. I’d love to get rid of it altogether, but that would be a huge culture shift at work.

But with two mailboxes to monitor (mine gets about 60 emails a day, the tool support mailbox gets over 100 a day), plus actual support work and data verification and analysis, plus the instant messages, and the fact that we need a few more people (ok, a lot more people) working on our support team, reality is just that we have to keep a few balls in the air all the time.

Every time I see an article like the one above I pass it on to Anthony. He truly needs to get better at singletasking and the suggestions and advice in these emails make sense for him. Then we talk briefly about why it wouldn’t work for my situation. And then I go to work and it’s like a firehose turned on, until I walk away from it at the end of the day. No wonder I’m tired.

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Lassitude, languor,

Trying to define how I felt yesterday I came up with lassitude and looked it up to see if I was right. It fits.

But of course I had to then click on Languor, which led to Lethargy which led to the synonym discussion below.

lethargylanguorlassitudestuportorpor mean physical or mental inertness. lethargy implies such drowsiness or aversion to activity as is induced by disease, injury, or drugs <months of lethargy followed my accident>. languor suggests inertia induced by an enervating climate or illness or love <languor induced by a tropical vacation>. lassitude stresses listlessness or indifference resulting from fatigue or poor health <a depression marked by lassitude>

Just so you have the vocabulary.

Then today, while reading further in the biography of Amy Carmichael, A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot, I ran across a few things. First up is Mathew Arnold’s tribute to his father in Rugby Chapel, found on page 225.

If in the paths of the world
Stones might have wounded thy feet,
Toil and dejection have tried
Thy spirit, of that we saw nothing.
To us thou wast still
Cheerful and helpful and firm…
Languor is not in your heart,
Weakness is not in your word,
Weariness not on your brown.

Hm… no languor or weariness.  I’m not up to that, obviously.

In the chapter before that Amy wrote this prayer-poem (p 221)

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.
  
From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified,)
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.
  
Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.

A tad convicting and a good reminder for someone feeling a bit like a clod this week.

This morning I received a call from another woman in my denomination. Not someone I’m very close to, but we do get along well and share values and traits. She asked how I was doing and I forgot to give the usual response 🙂  I gave a fairly honest answer that work has me stressed these days and I’m tired. She shared such encouraging words with me and prayed for me (and both of us) before we ended the call. God is surrounding me, and I’m trying to listen and live out the truth.

Well, this post doesn’t seem to be very organized, and the points that were brought home to me today may not be clear to anyone else reading this. But my God is good and faithful and that is the important part.

 

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Dreams

Night before last I had a wild dream (not that uncommon for me).

Monday was a very stressful day at work, and I worked straight from 9am to 10:30 pm so it took me awhile to decompress and get to sleep. Then, early in the morning I had some dream where I was part of a really really long table in a huge room like a cathedral. We were part of some service and I had to ring some bells and read some lesson.

Except that the bells were shaped really weird and I had about 8 of them, some really long and others really small, none that looked like any handbells I’ve used, more like flutes you shake :-). Plus I had some reed instrument. And I had never played them before so I was going to be totally sight-reading this. I was given my bells so I laid them out in order and then we left them to go to a back area and sit until our turn to perform. Then I had this great idea that I should get a photo of this set up, so I slipped back down the side to get my photo with my phone. Only first I picked up the wrong phone and the power button just kept giving me a screen of a Christmas tree or something.  Anyway, I get in place to take my photo and there are some tourists (Japanese, not sure why) in my way. I get a few fuzzy photos and one photo of nothing at all since I tripped. Then the tourists start touching the bells and by time they finish all my bells are in a pile.

Next I start worrying about this little lesson I’m supposed to read. I haven’t been given anything to read. Someone tells me I will be able to just wing it, but I don’t even know what verse or topic or anything. Then I notice they are putting huge books (I mean 2 feet by 3 feet by 1 foot deep) on the tables so maybe one of them has what I need. But I don’t have the program/bulletin showing my lesson details so I don’t know which big book to look in.

It was all rather stressful but I was actually being pretty calm about it all. Just aware that I had some concerns.

I was happy to wake up. Not sure what it all means but if it was reflecting my stress and concern about issues at work, then I think I’d rather be playing those bells and making up that lesson 🙂

This morning I dreamed I was with Anthony in some different house with curtains that raised and through the bottom part of our windows we could see a horse walk by and then a few other people and Anthony kept asking why Spencer was out there. (That part didn’t make any more sense in the dream than it does here.)

***************

I’m reading Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges and found this quote by John Newton:

…if every event, great and small, is under the direction of his providence and purpose; and if he has a wise, holy, and gracious end in view, to which everything that happens is subordinate and subservient; – then we have nothing to do, but with patience and humility to follow as he leads, and cheerfully to expect a happy issue…

It’s actually part of a much longer quote from a letter he wrote. It’s all just as convicting and encouraging as that snippet shows.

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Introverts and phone calls

Scenario one – get all worked up to make the call, think through what I want to say and what they might say. Person answers and I spend the whole call trying not to take too much of their time and then wondering if it sounded more like I just didn’t want to be on the phone with them.

Scenario two – get all worked up, and then have to leave a message. Which means they will (hopefully) call me back and I will likely not be at all ready for the conversation so I’ll self-obsess while I stumble through it.  Or they won’t call me back and I’ll stress over how long to wait before I call them again.

I much prefer email – I know they can read it and reply on their time, and then I can read and follow up on my time.

Sure, we’re losing some connection by not being willing to pick up the phone, but everyone is so busy all the time that it always feels like an imposition. There are very few people I feel comfortable just relaxing and chatting away with on the phone.

But, I made my 2 calls today and I made 1 last week. Of those 3, 2 got converted into an email conversation, 1 will call me back (I have to stay ready 🙂

 

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Fun and Fellowship

Time to talk about something other than my reading. I have been doing a mental recap of what we have been so busy doing this year.

The year started out fairly quiet and I got a ton of reading done. It made up for the very small bit of reading I actually did the last part of 2011 (what with the security audit at work and the holidays and stuff).

In January I did get to have lunch and a pedicure with my friend Jill, our Christmas gift to each other. I also had two circle meetings and helped take down the Christmas decorations. I got to visit at Edie’s house and have sushi with Val and dinner with Dot and Larry.  And, very importantly, we mailed off our passport renewal packages!

Two rather big events in January included buying a new washing machine, and having 4 friends from High School (plus little Sterling) come visit. We had a great time catching up and Anthony made lunch for us. It is hard to get us together, but it is wonderful when we pull it off.

February started with a visit to Aunt Elaine and Don (and the arrival of our new passports!). Don was playing with a friend at Monkeez Brew in Thomasville which was fun. Elaine was getting ready for hip surgery so we did some rearranging of furniture to make sure she had room to get around while she recovered. This was the month that my sister-in-law Christine started coming up each Tuesday to visit. She is rehearsing with a band in the neighborhood next to hours, so we get to see just about every week. It’s great keeping up with each other and having time to just chat. We also drove to Columbia, SC, to listen to RC Sproul speak, and then to Gastonia for a Women’s Ministries and Elder/Deacon seminars. Being in Gastonia gave us a chance to visit with Aunt Anne. I have good family. Then Mom dropped by for a fun visit, so I saw all 3 sisters that month.

In March Edie and Chris came for dinner – what fun! I had brunch with 3 classmates from my EMBA a few years ago. Then we drove down to Florida for the Ligonier National Conference and visiting with Aunt Jessie and Uncle George. We also got to visit with Pastor Bob on the way home. (Thanks Mom for house/cat sitting!) After we got back, we had lunch with the Hodge family – as much fun as expected. We ended the month with a (sort of) surprise birthday party for Bill and a trip to Ikea with Aunt Elaine and Don (she’s getting around really well after the hip surgery, ready for the other one now).

April has already been fun and we’re only half way through. All of the Easter events of course. For the first year in awhile Mom didn’t make it down for Easter, but I’m hoping we see her next month. Dot and I worked up a solo for the Sunday after Easter and I got to do some spontaneous sight-reading in a duet with Larry one night – what fun. Anthony finally finished his part of our taxes. We traveled to Bonclarken for a Women’s Ministries meeting and presented to them about using technology, websites, and social media. Then the monthly deacon meeting, and two fun Circle meetings.

Last night I had my regular visit with Christine, then we ate sushi with Val again and got to see her new house. No wonder she was so excited about it, what a wonderful house. I’m heading there again in May to help do some more fixing, moving, and settling. Tonight we were going to go to the Davidson concert, but it turned into a dinner with a friend.

Some weeks it seems we have a lot going on, but I wouldn’t trade any of it. I love the time we are able to spend with family and friends!

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He Controls Nations and Nature

Back to Trusting God by Jerry Bridges.

Chapter 5 is about God’s control over the nations. This is like taking the previous chapters and taking them to the highest and largest application. Just as He is sovereign over people, He is sovereign over the people in charge of a nation, and the collective actions and decisions and results of those people as the government of a nation, the ruler of the nation, and even the military forces of a nation.

He points out that in the West, we tend to not think that much about our government and God’s sovereignty because we don’t feel the government impacting our lives on a daily basis, unlike countries where persecution is common. However, there is plenty of concern and fear about even our government some days. It is good to remember who is in control.

Yet, here’s the catch. He is talking about the book of Daniel in the Bible, which is heavy on discussion of the nations and God’s sovereignty. He concludes that “Daniel realized that God’s sovereignty and God’s promise were intended to stimulate him to pray.” (p95) This should be our response, not hand wringing or bemoaning, but prayer. Daniel also wasn’t afraid of being involved in the government of his day.

Chapter 6 moves on to God’s sovereignty over nature. He starts by showing God’s control over the weather. He brings the good and the bad weather, the part that nourishes the land, and the disasters that strike.He attacks our habit of complaining about the weather as a sin, complaining against God.

Not only do we sin against God when we complain about the weather, we also deprive ourselves of the peace that comes from recognizing our heavenly Father is in control of it. (p101)

He admits the struggles we have with natural disasters that cause deaths and hardship for so many. While we do not understand all the reasons why God allows or brings disasters, we must not remove them from His control.

The next topic is physical infirmities – handicaps like blindness and physical pain, and diseases like cancer. All of these are also under God’s control. Again, we cannot always know why. They are not always a sign of God’s judgment, but always a way for God to be glorified. We can trust God is in control.

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Feminine Appeal – Carolyn Mahaney

About a year ago one of my women’s Bible study groups started the book Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother by Carolyn Mahaney.

They are focused on Titus 2:3-5.

She starts with delight in loving our husbands. It is something we learn to do, can be trained to do. It doesn’t come naturally. She reminds us that tender behavior includes prizing him, cherishing him, and enjoying him. She challenges us with a statement that women tend to be weaker in displaying affectionate love. We’re great at sacrificial love, but need to learn to be better at affection in our love.

Next is the blessing of loving our children. She knows raising children can be exasperating, but reminds us to find our strength in the Spirit.

Next virtue she mentions is self-control. She’s starting to get personal here. Another reminder that “it is only as we cooperate with the power of the Holy Spirit that we will achieve self-control.” (p65) And a reminder that “self-control is our wall of defense against the enemies of our soul.” (p66)

Then she covers the pleasure of purity. Some advice was to be attractive, be available, and be anticipatory. This was a fun evening of sharing and encouraging.

She talked about the honor of working from home, without making those of us who work outside the home feel guilty. Instead, there is some freedom to know it is a legitimate choice. And she discussed our responsibilities to maintain a home (not just a clean house) for our family.She has some sobering comments on the feminist trends and why we should recognize them and re-evaluate them to see if we truly believe what we think we believe.

Then the rewards of kindness. Another timely serving of conviction for me. This chapter explored hindrances to kindness – such as anger (when our story gets stepped on), bitterness (wallowing in how we have been wronged), and judging. I love how she talks about how we must make loving judgments about our family members. “We should think the best that the nature of the case will allow, placing the best possible construction on their words, actions, and motives.” (p125)

She ends with a chapter on the beauty of submission. The beauty of living a life under the headship of a godly man. Not all have that benefit, and there is discussion of that. But none of us live with a perfect man, and none of them live with perfect women. We can display great inner strength when we let the husband lead. I believe this will look different in different households. It will depend on the strengths of the husband and those of the wife, certainly on the weaknesses of both, the work schedules and family needs at the time. Sure, many of us like to lead and do lead many groups and projects and even manage areas of companies. But we are given a role and obedience to God means submission to our husband, even when it means a lot of hard work.

Submission, in its simplest form, is trust in God, who is completely trustworthy. (p150)

 

 

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