The Lie of the Idol of Busyness

 

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“To be like Jesus, we must see the use of our time as a Spiritual Discipline.” -Donald S. Whitney

A new year is upon us and we are once again filling out fresh new planners and making exciting new plans. We may have added all the things we dream to do this year and all the things we didn’t get to, last year. You pen in this play date, that meeting, this extracurricular activity, that other extra-curricular activity, this and that and this and that until the schedule is over-full.  If you are like many American families the schedule keeps on filling. We feel accomplished to check off lists’a’plenty and we feel we aren’t maximizing our full potential if we do not keep adding to the fattened schedule’s of our lives. Busyness can be an idol of the heart and we know that all idols lie. Whether it is the 21st Century mantra of busyness or the idol of our own heart we can speak truth toourselves to combat the lie of busyness. Christians need not carry this lifestyle that is seen nowhere in the Bible as an example for living well in Christ and through further study is antithetical to Christ’s teachings.

Americans win the prize for busyness, probably not on a global scale but we work more and rest less than most developed nations and the effects of this culture of busyness is literally driving us crazy. Stress and Anxiety levels are rising rapidly and we are all feeling the weight. There are 40 million Americans that are struggling with anxiety and it is not uncommon now to hear of children suffering from stress-induced anxiety. People struggling with anxiety disorder are six times more likely to be hospitalized for a number of Psychiatric problems. What are we doing to ourselves and to our families?

s_meifxrzik-mario-calvoI am not talking about good work. The Bible has given an excellent model of good work as a habit worth having. We see a commandment of a work ethic in Exodus 20, and an example of hard working apostles in Mark 6  but we also see a much-needed habit of rest inspired by the Father himself in inspired sabbath rest. Work is good, it is biblical and it is needed. Work in excess or busyness for the sake of itself is not set forth for us as a model of  a good Godly habit. There may be other heart idols in play as well, but these require personal examination. Kevin DeYoung in his book Crazy Busy makes this very astute statement “Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. And like everyone else, your joy, your heart and your soul are in danger.” This is something that puts us in danger he says.  ” This is not a matter of a busy schedule, but busyness is a matter of values”, Paul David Tripp says in Parenting. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. A matter of values. 

We avoid the quiet.

We avoid the quiet. Silence is not part of our 21st-century nature. We need rest from chaos, we need time with our thoughts and time to wonder and awe on the good things given us. This is hardly achieved by over-bustling schedules. Ask yourself when was the last time you sat in complete silence with your thoughts with nothing blinking and telling you what to think on any number of issues. If you are a Mom, like me, you probably just laughed out loud, yes, I know that it seems impossible but I promise there are ways to make the time for the stillness our soul’s crave.

Even the way we speak is a testament to our lives. We rarely listen. We don’t listen to ourselves, we don’t listen to others and sadly we aren’t listening to our children. I have seen this in my own life in how I can tune out my kids and get frustrated when they vie for my attention. We need to listen to them, their words hold weight and show us their hearts, how else can we lead them well. I recently listened to a TED podcast about listening that I found very convicting because I can truly say I am a poor listener. Our rush to finish each other sentences, to micro-schedule quick jaunts with friends to check it off the “Good Friend Checklist” as opposed to resting in long conversation and quality time, our need to color others’ speech with our own dialogs makes listening a long-lost habit. More about that another time but Godly restfulness helps us to interact better with our co-inhabitants.

The lie of the idol of busyness. ‘Not enough’. The lie of the idol of busyness is not enough, almost anything. Not enough time, not enough work, not enough education, not enough qualifications, not enough extra-curriculars, not enough fun, not enough activities, not enough socializing, not enough . It says “you aren’t doing enough” and in our society of work ultimacy that is a statement on your being, “You are not being enough”, so you must “Do more” to be “Be more”. The one truth in this lie is that we are not enough. Because that it is true, we aren’t. Where the truth gets twisted is that we can be enough in our own rights by doing “all the things” and doing them better than everyone else. We must combat our Not-Enoughness with more truth and not more schedules.

David Mathis in Habits of Grace says ” We are humans, not machines. We were made for rhythms of silence and noise, community and solitude.” We need the balance of both.

So, what can we do to combat busyness?

Firstly, turn toward the Word. Look at your life and your schedule in comparison to the examples set for us. Ask yourself, “Does this resemble the habits of grace I see in the Scripture? Then if the answer is, “No”, pray and ask yourself where it went wrong and ask God for clarity. This is something that we are learning to do ourselves, in my family, often. You see, I am one of those statistics above and am thankful that God has been teaching my heart to rest in Him. It’s like any habit, it a process.

Practically,  though, in addition to prayer you may want some suggestions. I am no expert but these things have helped me greatly:

  • -Pray about your Schedule, match it up to Scripture, pray for wisdom and discernment.

 

  • -Cut the Fat. You prayerfully need to do this with your spouse, if you have one, and it might even need some discussions with children, as well, about their priorities. Cut all non-essentials, all the things that are not wanted and then examine what is truly needed. The matter of need and want is your own personal heart decision, so the prayer for discernment helps. It is a like a bandaid being ripped, the pain of it will be over soon and you will heal.
  • As an example a few years ago with only one child in activities, but still being  quite overwhelmed, we prayerfully decided to allow only one activity outside of the home so we had a conversation about what she would choose. She chose dance and has been faithfully focusing on that one activity for several years. Look into alternatives for the things you don’t want to lose, things that your children can pursue independently at home.

 

  • -Protect your Schedule. This is simple. Every week pray about your schedule and protect it. Keep it safe, examine every new thing that pops up with “Will this be fruitful?”, and once you begin to do this you will actually have more time for the organic and non-scheduled community that forms in our lives. Give yourself grace room, room to breathe and room to engage with others. One way we do this , personally, is by keeping our afternoons free and unscheduled. This allows my children time that isn’t school and time that isn’t scheduled to do what they choose to. **I will say as an aside that this does not mean TV, as a personal decision we have one Movie Night and Saturday TV only.** This is more what we call occupations, things they would like to pursue that do not require a guiding hand. For young ones, block building, for older ones, handicrafts or journaling, leisure reading etc. For mom putting the baby down and reading a book for a few moments or having a cup of tea. In addition, we only have one night a week that is reserved for outside-the-home activities for children.
  • -Make habits of restful enjoyment such as take up writing a diary, or journaling or a quiet hobby or reading more. Things that require a little more attention than checklists and iPhone reminders. These habits help slow our minds and let us know what is really in our hearts.
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My commonplace journal for keeping quotes, verses or passages I find in my reading.

To conclude, know that busyness although a very real and apparent part of our lives is not the example we are shown for living. We can work well in it’s own time and rest well in it’s own time.

 

On Teaching Perspective to Our Children: Church History

2dyvq1psbgw-jeremiah-higginsOur children being raised in Christian homes in the United States may probably never see the type of suffering we see in the lives of Christian martryrs that have gone before us. It is a rare occasion of true persecution for your faith in this country. I am not talking about Facebook friends chastising your beliefs on social media. I once heard an individual claim they were being “persecuted” for their faith online because there were some that disagreed with them. I thought that this must be a problem with perspective in our culture. Being teased or “yelled at” on Social Media  pales enormously to the suffering of a history of martyrs and saints that experienced death, beatings, sickness, loneliness, disease and more for the Gospel. There are many in the world today still that truly suffer in these ways for the faith. It is a matter of perspective. Much perspective can be gained by studying our Church History.

I have a three part series on teaching perspective to our children: 1. Church History  2. The World and Missions and 3. Our Neighbors. This is on Church History. Even though this post is geared toward teaching children about perspective in the history of our faith and the needs of this world, it is not meant just for children. We grow as we teach, I hope it inspires us as well.

(c) National Trust, Tatton Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) National Trust, Tatton Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

Let us begin by learning of Anne Askew and reading The Ballad Which Anne Askew Made And Sang When She Was In Newgate. 

Like as the armed knight
Appointed to the field,
With this world will I fight
And Faith shall be my shield.

Faith is that weapon strong
Which will not fail at need.
My foes, therefore, among
Therewith will I proceed.

As it is had in strength
And force of Christes way
It will prevail at length
Though all the devils say nay.

Faith in the fathers old
Obtained rightwisness
Which make me very bold
To fear no world’s distress.

I now rejoice in heart
And Hope bid me do so
For Christ will take my part
And ease me of my woe.

Thou saist, lord, who so knock,
To them wilt thou attend.
Undo, therefore, the lock
And thy strong power send.

More enmyes now I have
Than hairs upon my head.
Let them not me deprave
But fight thou in my stead.

On thee my care I cast.
For all their cruel spight
I set not by their haste
For thou art my delight.

I am not she that list
My anchor to let fall
For every drizzling mist
My ship substancial.

Not oft use I to wright
In prose nor yet in rime,
Yet will I shew one sight
That I saw in my time.

I saw a rial throne
Where Justice should have sit
But in her stead was one
Of moody cruel wit.

Absorpt was rightwisness
As of the raging flood
Sathan in his excess
Suct up the guiltless blood.

Then thought I, Jesus lord,
When thou shalt judge us all
Hard is it to record
On these men what will fall.

Yet lord, I thee desire
For that they do to me
Let them not taste the hire
Of their iniquity.

You see when Anne Askew spoke of enemies in her poem she truly meant enemies. The poem is reminisicent of the suffering by enemies in David’s Psalms and just as harrowing. Anne Askew, one of the first known female English poets was a protestant and had been kicked out of her home by her Catholic husband who had her later imprisoned. Charged with heresy for leading bible, prayer and discussions, of which one of those patrons was the then Queen of England, Catherine Parr, she faced many trials. The poem above is not merely a poetic work but truly what she had been experiencing. She was openly critical of the state of the church and was an important figure in the Reformation period. Because Anne Askew did not recant of her criticisms of the unbiblical teachings of the Church of England in her time even while imprisoned, interrogated by the Bishop of London, and tortured she was sentenced to execution by fire in 1546 but not before making the very poignant and critical statement “He errs and speaks without the Book” about the bishop’s executorial sermon. She died for her faith and history shows the Church of England was greatly influenced by reformation saints like her and they did eventually adopt the beliefs they killed Anne Askew for in her time. Even observation of the portrait above by Hans Eworth painted posthumously shows the inscription “Rather Death; Than False of Faith”. This is but one story of Church History.

Perspective in regards to martyrs and saints that have gone before us can help our children and ourselves understand 1. the weight of the knowledge we carry and 2. true suffering does not look what we might be accustomed to knowing. I am pretty sure there are very few Americans that have experienced execution by fire for the sake of the Gospel but even in our country we have heard of church burnings and shootings that should cause us to really pause and view our freedom to share the Gospel and the grace of our thriving in juxtaposition to the histories that have been written and will still be written of those that experience great trial in the name of Christ.

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I do not believe as Christians we should shelter our children from these truths and histories. In the United States, it is easy to become so insular that the world and history have no influence on our myopic hearts. We become hardened in our near-sightedness. So to combat our apathy we can teach our children about these stories and pray. Two resources that we use at home for teaching on martyrs and persecuted saints is Trial and Triumph and the Book of Missionary Heroes. We include this as church history in our schedule but can be read at any point in your week. We have read portions of the Book of Missionary Heroes before Family Worship as an example. Both are in story-form and make these stories accessible.

Another great resource is the Voice of the Martyrs website and the VOTM companion site Kids of CourageYou can read modern accounts and biographies of the persecuted church and write letters to imprisoned Christians around the world.

I believe we all need some perspective in our very narrow world-views. We all suffer with only knowing what if right in front of our eyes. It will do all of us well to challenge, Parent and Child.

Read Widely

 

x7cdil50kky-clem-onojeghuoIt’s a brand new year and I have many thoughts brewing. I haven’t made official resolutions, because that doesn’t work for me but as with every new year I’m reordering my plans and priorities.

One priority this year is to read even more. I know most people dislike “what I read in…” posts, so I’ll share a little of what I’m reading now.

I do not consider myself an excellent writer, far too many muddled thoughts, but on a few occasions I have had people ask what can they do to be a better writer. I do not feel equipped to give advice because I need it myself but my one thing is always, “Be a better reader” but to add to that, “Read widely”. It is fact that a baker cannot make delicious bread if he has not become a friend to the ingredients. To bake and to bake deliciously are two very different things. It is the same for reading and writing. The art of reading widely should be something we all know how to do.

When I say “read widely” I mean not only books by many authors but also many types of genres and on many different things. Mix a little fiction with your religious non-fiction, a little poetry with your leisure reading. Try a book of history with a beloved YA book. I have heard “I read, I just don’t like fiction” or “I find non-fiction boring”. Let me encourage you that there over 130 million books in this world and you may have yet to find your favorite.

There are three reasons why I believe we should read widely; First for wonder, second for growth, and thirdly for understanding and wisdom.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Firstly, reading for wonder will involve a lot of fiction reading. My personal opinion is that individuals that do not read fiction are doing themselves a huge disservice but especially those tasked with teaching and leading others. Of course you can take that opinion with a grain of salt but I do believe “leaders should be readers”, and “leaders should be wide readers”, I should put that on a T-shirt. maybe not as catchy as the original. Why? Because the world is already so bereft of light when we can’t see the beautiful, we need to grasp on to beauty when we see it and understand darkness in contrast to light. Also, because all wonder points us back to the awe-inspiring King, the beauty of creation shows that the creator is most beautiful. In addition, You do not need to teach children so much “how to be” if they have a steady diet of books that allow them to understand “the how” firstly in their own minds and hearts. I do not then understand why we would cut ourselves off from beauty when it can only enhance our lives. fiction is the land where all worlds exist. fiction allows for wonder far past our own little plot and gives us ability to awe at things beyond our imagining. We should be enraptured with the good gift of the written word and wonder on it’s beauty. Fiction gives us a safe space to think deeply.

I have heard many arguments against fiction. None have been convincing. It’s one thing if you are a pragmatist and choose not to read fiction but it is quite another thing to make arguments against it. Someone once told me that fiction was lying and this made me speechless. Storytelling is not lying but it CAN be quite the opposite, truth telling. Thank God that Jesus was a storyteller and wove truth through parable and the Psalms to show us the range of our humanness and our great need.

I personally believe that the child-likeness that is lauded in the Bible would have a harder time being extinguished if we read about wondrous things in our Bibles and books more often.

“I write, not for children, but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.”
― George MacDonald

There is wonder to be read also in non-fiction, in poetry, even in histories and biographies.

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I am a believer because of reading C.S. Lewis. What I mean is that C.S.Lewis was the tool used to prod me toward faith. As a child I read stories of heroism and magic and longed so badly for that land. As a young adult I read his religious works and the magic that I remembered now made sense. The wonder sat in waiting to make connections I never knew would be made as an 11-year old reading The Magician’s Nephew. Even now when I read Wendell Berry or Sigrid Undset I am touched by that awe. Reading is a tool for seeing, fiction is a sweet looking glass to see the world through. Friends are made in fiction that could never be made elsewhere and those friends are friends for life. If you have an introverted child or a child that becomes lonely easily, a good living book can soothe and give wonder like a playmate and friend.

Secondly, reading for personal or spiritual growth. This does not always mean Christian non-fiction. The greatest “Growing Books” for me have been sometimes biographies or narratives of Missionaries and Martyrs. The Hiding Place affected me in ways that I didn’t even now as a child and there are images from that book that have stayed visually with me for a long time. A biography that influenced me as a young child,  Joni  about Joni Erickson Tada changed my perspective greatly.

Fiction too can allow us to empathize and stand in the corner with people very different from us. Christians should want this.

“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.” -Lloyd Alexander

A lovely Christian religious non-fiction title can also prod us toward growth.  There are books that I have read and journaled about in my commonplace book that were tools to a forever change in my heart regarding some personal matter. Recently I have been reading the puritan Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Jewel of Christian Contentment and it has helped greatly with a lifetime of worries. I am thankful for this book and it has happily been added to a place of honor in my mind’s library where books like the Orthodoxy and Mere Christianity lie.

It is almost impossible to become a better writer by never reading a book, so personal growth in reading is a benefit to those that would love to write. I lack so much as a writer and although I am not a great Grammarian (Mark Twain said it’s ok) I like to think that reading vigorously has sparked my desire to write down my thoughts and create a space for wonder and growth. Stephen King has famously said that if you want to be a writer you need to read a lot and write a lot. That is something I have heard from many writers and take it to heart.

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“Force yourself to read books you normally wouldn’t read. For me, a self-confessed theology-lover, that means reading fiction. For novel-fans, it means adding a little Packer to the diet. If you are planning on being a good preacher, you’d better like good stories. The greatest preachers in Christianity have known how to express deep theological concepts through riveting narratives. So, hunker down and start reading classic authors like Hugo, Dickens, and Dostoevsky. Watch these brilliant authors paint masterful pictures of sin and redemption and salvation. Hold on to memorable characters. Enter other worlds through the imaginations of Tolkien and Lewis.
Secondly reading for growth. And when I say “growth”, I really mean the stretching of our hearts, compassion. Reading widely allows us to step outside of our insularity and into the world of others, into different experiences and hardships and joys and celebrations. It helps us to understand, love, show compassion to others. It helps our own hearts ” -Trevin Wax

Lastly, reading for wisdom, as a believer the number one book we read for wonder, guidance, growth and wisdom should be the Bible. It is the foundation of all things. It is very hard to see beauty in ashes if we do not see the bigger story or to rejoice in suffering if we do not know the true and better way that awaits.

There are many books that can also help us toward wisdom, firstly the Bible in books like Proverbs but also a book such as the Institutes of Religion or Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, books that Charlotte Mason considers “stiff books” that practically challenge our dull senses awake to think about what we think on a matter and to read more and study about it. Even books of Allegory such as the Pilgrim’s Progress or a sweet novel such as Stepping Heavenward or the always wise words of Wendell Berry.  There is so much wisdom one can glean from Church Fathers to humble authors if we would just read them, although wisdom is a process and reading a good book does not equate to being wise, wisdom comes through understanding and being open to truth.

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

God has gifted us with much beauty in this world, through word, art, music, and life. If we look for it, it is there. If we choose to forget it, the alternative is a sort of mind death, where we just run on auto-pilot in this fast moving culture from one mind-numbing thing to another, never stopping to awe, to grow, to become wise on truth, goodness and beauty from above.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

― Ray Bradbury

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So, my reading long-awaited reading list, just kidding. In the Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola recommends a Stiff Book, a Moderately Easy Book, and a Novel. Charlotte Mason, my 19th century educational mentor, would have read much like this and more, it would have included poetry and bible reading as well, so here is my list:

Bible and Devotional Reading: The ESV on a reading plan, Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon, and The Cloud of Witness.

Stiff Book: Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, Charlotte Mason and The Great Recognition edited by Nicole Handfield

Moderately Easy (Does not mean twaddle, just something easily read): Parenting by Paul David Tripp

Novel: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Poetry: Selected Emily Dickinson (with Emma for homeschool) and Roots to the Earth by Wendell Berry (a beautifully illustrated copy gifted to me at Christmas by my husband).

I have reverted to this system to keep me from unwieldy reading lists and although I have many half finished books, I won’t be picking them back up until I’ve finished these above. I pray. I should make a to read in 2017 post to help my brain remember what I want to read and pick back up. I hope 2017 is a year of reading more for all of us.

Our Advent Family Traditions

38643“Advent is for Adoring Jesus.”

The word Advent is Latin for “to come”. We use the word in the English language as an arrival of something important and so we celebrate the most important arrival. With great adoration, we celebrate the gift of the First Coming and with deep longing and expectation, we await the Second Coming of the best and merciful gift.

I did not grow up following the liturgical calendar but as my family has studied church traditions we have come to love so much of what believers before us did to honor God. Not out of necessity for sanctification but to increase wonder and remembrance.

“Earth breaks up, time drops away, In flows heaven, with it’s new day
Of endless life, when He who trod, Very man and very God,This earth in weakness, shame and pain, Dying the death whose signs remain
Up yonder on the accursed tree,—Shall come again, no more to be
Of captivity the thrall, But the one God, All in all, King of kings, Lord of lords, As His servant John received the words,“I died, and live for evermore!”    -Robert Browning

Not everything we do during the Advent/ Christmas season has a religious tone but resting well with Family in truth and goodness is also a part of the goal during the month of December, so we take it slow, plan little and enjoy one another’s company as a sweet gift of God.

Our Family Advent Traditions:

Advent Family Worship– Devotional: The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper. We use this for our Family Devotional reading for the month of December. Hymn: Silent Night and Oh Come All Ye Faithful. full_the-dawning-of-indestructible-joy

 Advent Calendars– We are recreating this lovely calendar from Mer Mag. I may be painting stars right up till Advent Devotion tonight but what a sweet tradition. I remember growing up in Germany we had sweet little chocolate advent calendars houses and you know sweets aren’t the Gospel but the are a good gift we can rejoice that we have in this season. I haven’t decided what else to put in the star but maybe it will be a question we can ask each other at Advent Family Worship.

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source: Mer Mag

Ornaments for our Advent Readings– Every year we have made ornaments, whether for a Jesse Tree or for our Christmas Tree, this year, we are making encaustic (my art medium, it is pigmented wax and more) family collaboration ornaments. We are making one for each day of the Advent readings to hang on our tree. File_000

Good Reading– Our Christmas reads this year are The Bird’s Christmas Carol, Little Women (I watched Little Women with my Mother every Christmas and since I am a book before movie person and I feel Emma is ready, we are reading Little Women for the first time together), and The Cloud of Witness (which is a daily read all year).IMG_0386

Joyful Work– In past years we have made jam for neighbors or screen printed ornaments for friends, we might make garland for our tree or bake a treat for someone. This is not antithetic to the rest we celebrate in the Advent season because we honor God in purposeful and joyful work and giving.

A Habit of Rest– We Protect the schedule and don’t overplan. There is time needed to awe in the wonder of the truths we hear. A culture of Black Fridays and 1 million events has allowed us to fill rest with busyness. Being busy for the sake of being busy is not good work. To do good work you must rest in goodness, beauty and truth.

What are your advent traditions new and old? Christmas is coming, Jesus is coming. Let us Adore him around our hearths and in our homes.

 

 

8 Women of Faith

What do the likes of Jane Austen, Esther and Sarah Edwards, Lady Jane Grey have in common? The book Eight Women of Faith by Michael A.G. Haykin. It is important. As a Christian woman that loves church history and stories of faith and has a burgeoning love for theology and getting acquainted with our church fathers I often think about the women that stood in the pages of our faith history with resolve and dignity. How many stories of women of faith are there that we will never know but that have touched the lives of so many souls all around them? How joyous is it to think of and how merciful is it that we have so many that we can read about.


Christian women could do much good to look back on the stories of women that although through very different circumstances loved the same God as we do in this year and learn from their wisdom and faith. Proverbs 31 is a beautifully daunting passage that exemplifies a Godly woman but we know how reality and poetry are not always the same. The gospel changes all of that and allows us to see the poetry in the mundane and how we may not be Queen or great novelist but how the intermingling of past story and faith can speak to us in our present circumstances as we realize the gravity of the call in the “celestial lines” of our present story.
I learned a many new things about women of the faith that I never knew, from this book. I am only inspired to learn more about the theological works of Anne Dutton and to listen and learn from the beauty in the hymns of Anne Steele. In addition, I can’t help but admire the heritage of Jonathan Edwards and family and the faithfulness of the women that belonged to it, and I hope to read more about Sarah Edwards and Esther Edwards Burr in the near future. I was personally touched with Esther Burr’s sweet female friendship with Sarah Prince and long for that sort of friendship for myself and one day for my daughters. In addition, I was happy to learn more of the Faith of Ms. Austen from Michael A. G. Haykin. Some have tried to mar her name with rumours of why she never married but truthfully she was always known to be a woman that loved God. The Jane-ite in me appreciated readinf it and although I know there is much mystery about her life her written prayers in this chapter show more truth than speculators could even know.

And about Anne Steele, it took me a few tries to find a hymn in one of our collected hymnals but as pictured above, I did (389). And read it as I loved on a sweet, sick baby. Again, I urge you to read Eight Women of Faith in your reading time and be encouraged. Here is Father of Mercies by Anne Steele, in full, (the methodist hymnal I found it in must have only cared for 3 verses :p ) :

1 Father of mercies, in thy word
What endless glory shines!
For ever be thy name adored
For these celestial lines.
2 Here, may the wretched sons of want
Exhaustless riches find;
Riches, above what earth can grant,
And lasting as the mind.
3 Here the fair tree of knowledge grows,
And yields a free repast,
Sublimer sweets that nature knows,
Invite the longing taste.
4 Here, the Redeemer’s welcome voice
Spreads heavenly peace around;
And life, and everlasting joys
Attend the blissful sound.
5 O may these heavenly pages be
My ever dear delight;
And still new beauties may I see,
And still increasing light!
6 Divine instructor, gracious Lord,
Be Thou for ever near;
Teach me to love thy sacred word,
And view my Savior there.

I received a review copy of this book from Crossway but all opinions are my own. You can visit purchase online or at Crossway.org.

Be of Good Courage

Last night before my husband and I went to bed we said a prayer for this country. My heart was heavy and thankfully we prayed for peace and I could sleep through the night with that peace. I woke up, heart heavy but of good courage.

Months in to this election cycle my daughter heard our newly elected President, then candidate, mocking any number of individuals. She said “That man is so mean”. I, of course, agreed with her. This whole election cycle has been discouraging. We had two major party candidates that had ethical and moral failings, much more so than I would like to think my President would possess. We watched the name-calling, the disparaging of cultures, the fear-mongering, the hurtful words and so many other examples of debased character and it didn’t seem to matter to a majority of people that supported these major candidates. I did not support either, convictions are not something to scoff at and I could not allow fear to mar true conviction of spirit. But I understand not everyone felt the same, I will pray to be gracious to those that asked for this outcome. 

I do not know what to think of the “White Evangelicals” that decided this election. I want to be upset but I know I need to show grace. We have a President now that fully acknowledges his opinion of women as “things” and nothing more, he jokes about sexual assault and judges them by some superficial standard. If you have never struggled with unwanted physical advances or assault then maybe it’s trivial but my heart is broken because I struggle with telling my girls that this is the leader of our country, someone that we should be looking up to. We now have a President that espouses the exact opposite of Lady Liberty’s call to the masses and has sewn xenophobia and hatred all along this election cycle. I am heart broken for all my brothers and sisters that long for the shores of America, the beautiful, and those that  love our earthly home just as much as me regardless our differences. I also struggle to understand or to put the words together to explain to my children when they ask how such “a mean man” can become president. I do not know, is my answer. God is sovereign and I know this place is not my home forever. I can trust him. 

I’ll make it clear that I did not choose the alternative either. You do not have to choose between two evils, thank God for that freedom.

Earlier this week we we’re learning America, the Beautiful for our patriotic song in our singing portion of our school schedule. I cried because we do truly need the grace of God in this hour and I truly desire that America be a good and beautiful nation. We have become lost on the way or we never knew the right path to begin with, history may be more telling than we would like. Have Mercy on us God but grant us good courage. God shed his Grace on thee, America. 

I read this from CH Spurgeon this morning, my most favorite speaker of truth:

Oh, do not give way! You need not be cowards; do not give way. Do not say, “I must be beaten, I must always be despondent, my life is crushed.” You need not be so. “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart.” Get you to your chamber, fall upon your knees, pour out your heart before God, tell your trouble to the Most High, and, as the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, he must and will help those who put their trust in him. Has he ever failed any who trusted in him? Who has ever stayed his hand, or withdrawn him from his designs? Who has ever made him deny his promise, or retract his word? If thou wilt trust him, he will be better to thee than thy fears; nay, better to thee than thy beliefs, or thy largest hopes. Stay yourselves upon him; lean upon the bosom of eternal love; lean hard, lean all your weight there, and leave that weight there, and the Lord be with you, and bless you! Blessed are all they that trust in the Lord.

Be of good courage, friends. Blessed is those that trust in the Lord.

Praying Together


IMG_8855I meant to sit down and write this review before Sebastian was born. I’m just now getting to it. Thankfully with the help of caffeine and finally some decent sleep I’m able to talk about this precious book, Praying Together by Megan Hill. Know that I read this during some very sleepless, anxiety-filled nights and I found it a great comfort.

“People who know their God are before anything else people who pray.” – J.I. Packer

In the beginning of Praying Together, Megan Hill quotes J.I. Packer “People who know their God are before anything else people who pray.” It’s a mic-dropping quote, I feel like Megan is saying “I’m just going to put this right here” but does one better  and continues to elaborate the point for the rest of the book. It is an excellent overall sentiment for the book, That God’s people pray, and people being plural…pray together. We aren’t islands for our own prayer, yes we pray in our prayer closets and by our bedsides and our early morning devotional corners but we were not meant to do life alone and for the believer that means prayer becomes a very important priority to being a part of the body.

In Praying Together, Megan Hill first shows us the foundation for praying together through the example of scripture and helps us to understand where we fit in this context.

“And so we come at last to the direct commands—the explicit imperatives—of the New Testament Epistles. Again and again these Scriptures tell us to pray together. With everybody. Everywhere. About everything.”

 

I love this simple and beautiful quote that sums up some why’s, when’s, where’s, who’s and how’s. Prayer with one another IS a beautiful gift of God and as we build on the foundation of scriptural prayer we see the fruit of that prayer. Praying Together has helped me to see the bigger picture of prayer in regards to the body. That not only is the desire of prayer, answered prayer, but it also the love, discipleship and the genuine revival God provides to believers that pray together. The fruits of prayer, Megan Hill calls them.

“In a glorious circle, as we love each other we cultivate one harmonious voice—with which we delight to pray together all the more.”

What better way can we become best knit together as we live in a world that breaks us and causes godly grief to form in our hearts at every turn, than through prayer?

I particularly enjoyed the portion of Praying Together that delved into the practical practice of prayer. Megan quotes Diedrich Bonhoeffer “It is, in fact, the most normal thing in the common Christian life to pray together.” and asks us to consider if this is true for us in our church, groups, and homes. I would love to say that it always is but I know that would be a lie. I am thankful though that Meghan Hill outlines some practical examples for us so succinctly to ponder the point. When I struggle with my prayer life, and just my life-life, I need to read of the godly wisdom of believers that first turn to prayer instead of the worries and anxieties alluringly laid before me.

“It is, in fact, the most normal thing in the common Christian life to pray together.”

If you would love to understand the larger picture of prayer in the life of the believer, I so encourage you to read Praying Together and allow it sit on your mind and heart as you begin to use the wisdom written in it.

The Women’s leadership group at my church will be heading to hear Megan Hill this Fall and I very much look forward to hearing her thoughts on prayer in person.

“Brothers and sisters, let us pray together wherever we can—in back rooms and backyards, in empty classrooms and in deserted stairwells, at picnic tables and pews and subway platforms—asking the Lord to gather a great harvest to himself”

The image here is such a beautiful one. In Psalms 42, which I have been studying this month for a teaching session, we see an image of great brokenness, great thirst for living water. It acknowledges our great need. We are broken, we are thirsty, our only hope is in a holy god that transforms us, our hearts, our minds and our desires. So let us pray and draw our hearts toward him, TOGETHER.


I received a review copy of Praying Together from Crossway. The review is my own.

Sebastian Luke Benson

  I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. We’ve been kind of busy here with a brand-new human. ;p He’s beautiful and we’re tired. God is good, so very good, and sustaining and gracious. Sebastian Luke Benson was born on June 30th, 2016 and we love our new addition. We are thankful.

Additionally our community has loved us so well through a difficult pregnancy and exhaustion of a new baby in our home. Thankful for gospel community.

 Kenny and I couldn’t love this baby more and the girls are over the moon with him. Here’s a bunch of cute images of him so far.

    
    
    
   
   

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