Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus

We sang this song at church last night. I had never known the story behind it. But now that I do know, it means so much more to me. . .

       One beautiful, sunny day, a young woman, Louisa Stead, and her husband took their four year old daughter, Lily, on a picnic at the seaside. They probably sat comfortably on their picnic blanket as they watched Lily chasing seagulls, or collecting seashells. Then suddenly, their peaceful lunch was interrupted by loud cries. A little boy was drowning and was screaming for help. Mr Stead immediately threw off his jacket and rushed down to the water. He tried to save the child, but as Louisa and Lily watched helplessly from shore, both the boy and Mr Stead were drowned. Louisa was in horrified shock. One moment her husband was with her - strong, healthy, full of life - and the next moment his body was cold and empty in the water.

      Louisa and her little child now had no way to support themselves and they were left destitute. Gradually, the small amount of money they had saved ran out completely. The young woman had no way to buy food. They were desperate and alone. But Louisa continued trusting in the Lord. She knew that He was the one Friend who would never leave them or forsake them.

       One morning, they didn't have any food at all, and Louisa had no idea how she was going to feed her little girl. She didn't despair, even though everything looked impossibly bleak. And when she opened her front door, there on the doorstep, someone had left food and money. That day, she wrote this hymn:

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to take Him at His word
Just to rest upon His promise
Just to know, "thus saith the Lord"

Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him
How I've proved Him o'er and o'er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus
Oh for grace to trust Him more

Yes tis sweet to trust in Jesus 
Just from sin and self to cease
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest and joy and peace

I'm so glad I learned to trust Him
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend
And I know that Thou art with me
Wilt be with me to the end.
~Louisa Stead


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Blessed Be Your Name

Where Have All the Good Men Gone? Ask the Women, Too.

I read this interesting article and thought I'd share it:



"What also makes pre-adulthood something new is its radical reversal of the sexual hierarchy. Among pre-adults, women are the first sex. They graduate from college in greater numbers (among Americans ages 25 to 34, 34% of women now have a bachelor’s degree but just 27% of men), and they have higher GPAs. As most professors tell it, they also have more confidence and drive. These strengths carry women through their 20s, when they are more likely than men to be in grad school and making strides in the workplace. In a number of cities, they are even out-earning their brothers and boyfriends. Still, for these women, one key question won’t go away: Where have the good men gone?" (Kay Hymowitz)
Once upon a time, there was a war on women, by women, and women lost. This war was called radical feminism, and today we inhabit the wasteland of a post-feminist nightmare. It is a world where manhood is not valued by many and fatherhood is absentee. So men are not men, and women are confused that men, having no models for how to behave, cannot tell the difference between attractive womanhood and common sluttery, or the difference between honorable manliness and unrelenting braggodocio.
Where have all the good men gone? The answer is: they have been snatched up, held onto, eradicated from the marketplace, because they are so few in number. And there will be fewer still, barring a backlash of some kind.
Feminism, properly understood, is not about the granting of power but rather its negation. We no longer teach girls that they control the future, even if men think they control the present, and in so doing concede to men power they once only thought they had–the power to muck about, do nothing, and still find a woman with relative ease later in life after the fun stops.
I remember the first time a woman swore at me, in Manhattan, for holding a door for her according to my Southern instincts, an indictment of old-fashioned manners in a compressed Bronx vowel. It was a jarring moment, and I have never forgotten it. I haven’t stopped holding doors open, but I’ve noticed others have. Men are all overgrown boys, after all (myself most definitely included)–it’s experience in life, the lessons we take from our mistakes and our triumphs, that makes us men. And if no lessons are taken, well, then you end up as Gronk, who has never wanted for female attention. James Taranto, notes that statistically, women are attracted to men who resemble their unique view of power. For today’s woman, Gronk does.
Women now hold on to a ridiculous concept of what they ought to expect of a man. Consider the models described in this Atlantic piece, which sounds more like a job description for a rather dull internship than a thriving and prosperous marital partnership.
Mr. Q executes whatever tiny tasks you assign, without argument—he accepts a stack of envelopes and addresses them, picks up the dry cleaning before noon, is on call for 24/7 emergency carpooling, and, best of all, when handed a grocery list, returns with—get this—that grocery list’s exact items (“not Tropicana carton orange juice but fresh-squeezed Naked Orange Mango”).
If that’s all you want, you’ll get even less. Turn relationships into the equivalent of a work-study course, and you’ll get the same level of fulfillment from them.
If you believe, as I do, that people respond to models, incentives, and the marketplace, this is not very surprising. The dark side of feminism was creating a relationship environment that put relatively little if any qualifications on any man before you take him to bed, and even less after. If young men are ever going to stop treating women like objects and instead like creatures of value, then women have to stop behaving like objects and stop confusing a wicked strut with life-affirming power. That ship has long since sailed.
Lena Dunham’s genius is in recognizing this truth, though she’s hardly the first. I think of Dunham as her generation’s Rachel Wetzsteon, a tragic figure and a brilliant poet, who anticipated much about the movement of the sexes toward this modern collapse. Here is an excerpt from “Love and Work”:
There is an inner motor known as lust
that makes a man of learning walk a mile
to gratify his raging senses, while
the woman he can talk to gathers dust.
A chilling vision of the years ahead
invades my thoughts, and widens like a stain:
a barren dance card and a teeming brain,
a crowded bookcase and an empty bed…
What if I compromised? I’d stay up late
to hone my elocutionary skills,
and at the crack of dawn I’d swallow pills
to calm my temper and control my weight,
but I just can’t. Romantics, so far gone
they think their loves live for wisdom, woo
by growing wiser; when I think of you
I find the nearest lamp and turn it on.
Wetzsteon’s heroic romantic woman doesn’t dumb herself down for the boys or take the pills to get skinny. But she knows this means her dance card may empty. Men may never know that she’s a wonder to talk to–there are women about who are more easy going and less complex. We should expect more of men–we should expect them to know how to tie a tie, change the oil, build a fire, say a prayer, and slap a puck–but not just men. We should expect women to reclaim control of the future, to understand that actions have consequences, and that unless men learn otherwise, they will seek after the lowest common denominator.
So: where have all the good men gone? The women ask the question justifiably. But they should ask it of other women, not just of men.

by Ben Domenech
men icon

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Master of Fate; Captain of Soul

The poem, 'Invictus', has always bothered me. It is so dark and despairing. . . .and yet people look at it like its meant to be victorious: "I am the captain of my fate; I am the master of my soul." That's supposed to be a good thing? "I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul..." Hensley boasts. "...My head is bloody, but unbowed." 

This second poem, here, 'Conquered', is so beautifully true. It contrasts the hollowness of chance, or fate, without Christ. . . .with the jubilation of salvation through our Redeemer.

W.E. Hensley, Invictus:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Dorothea Day, Conquered:
Out of the night that dazzles me,
Bright as the sun from pole to pole,
I thank the God I know to be
For Christ the conqueror of my soul.
Since His the sway of circumstance,
I would not wince nor cry aloud.
Under that rule which men call chance
My head with joy is humbly bowed.
Beyond this place of sin and tears
That life with Him! And His the aid,
Despite the menace of the years,
Keeps, and shall keep me, unafraid.
I have no fear, though strait the gate,
He cleared from punishment the scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate,
Christ is the Captain of my soul.

Hath God Said?

       We're working through a really excellent DVD series on Wednesday nights at church - Dust To Glory, it's called. The Story of the Bible, and God's plan for all of humanity.

       Last week we learned about the Fall of the first man and first woman from their place in the paradise of Eden, all because they were hungering for sovereignty, and self-rule. And there was this one point Dr Sproul made that just really stood out to me even more than all the rest. . .

       The first sin was an attack on the Word of God. "Hath God said...?" Satan asked, even though he knew very well what the answer was. "You will not die," the Serpent assured Eve. "You will not die. You will not die."

       That message is eerily familiar in our society today. "You will not die. You will not die. Because God loves everyone unconditionally."

       Where do we hear this message the most often? Sadly, it's in the one place where we should never hear the Word of God disputed: It's in our churches. It's too uncomfortable for people to talk about death and judgement. So, they chop out the hard-to-deal-with parts of the Bible, and focus only on the love. This "unconditional" love for everybody in the world completely undermines Christ's Passion for us. What is the point of Him suffering anguish, despised and rejected, if we were not doomed to Hell in the first place? We are told that we will not die --- not because Christ has ransomed us --- but because God didn't really mean what He said about Hell, and death, and all that; because we are "good" people and we don't deserve death.

       The Church is, most often unknowingly, repeating the very first lie that was ever told. They are spreading the disease of doubt through the congregations. And Satan is chuckling to himself, because that old temptation - the one that began in the garden with a piece of forbidden fruit - is still very much alive.

       People are still hungering for that sovereignty, and we, as humans, are tempted to believe almost anything that will reinforce our authority, even if it diminishes the authority of God's Word.

       Adam and Eve trampled on their beautiful role as God's image-bearers, when they believed the Serpent and bit into that fruit. Then it was, that they realized their nakedness, their shame, and they ran away. They tried to hide themselves from God. And the rest of scripture; the rest of the Story, is about a Creator pursuing His prodigal creation. It's about God coming for us, even when we don't want to be found.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Faith That Can Move Mountains. . .

There once was a place called Sunrise Home.

       The name didn't quite fit the place, because there was a large, dark mountain that blocked out all of the fresh sunshine that tried to get in. But still, it was a good place; a place that gave orphaned, Japanese girls a new and safe chance at life.

       One day a young mother came with four little children. The youngest was only a baby with a very bad case of tuberculosis. The father had been killed in an earthquake; their home had been demolished and they had lost everything they owned. So they came to Sunrise Home, hoping for shelter. The Home was not really meant to be for families, but Irene Webster-Smith, the missionary who ran it, decided to make an exception when she saw their hungry, frightened eyes, and the poor, sick baby. That baby needed a doctor, and quickly, so he was whisked away to a hospital.

       Over the next few weeks, the baby got weaker and weaker. The doctor did all that he could, but at last, he decided it would be best to take the baby back to the Sunrise House where he could be with his mother. The mother was so happy to be reunited with her child, but the baby needed sunshine and fresh air. And that big, black mountain blocked it all out. Irene wished so badly that she could get rid of that old mountain.

      "Children," she said, to the girls at Sunrise Home. "Let's move this mountain ourselves! We can work at it a shovelful at a time."
       And so, they all set to work with buckets and shovels, pots and spoons; whatever they could lay hands on that would scoop away the dirt. They worked all day long, but at supper time, as Irene sadly surveyed their work, they hadn't even made a dent in the massive side of the mountain.

       The next day, Irene had to go away on a trip, to meet with the head of her mission. The girls cheerfully told her that they would keep on with the digging while she was gone. Irene smiled, knowing how futile their attempts were, but nodded. As she told the children goodbye, she suggested that they pray about the mountain. There was no harm in asking.

       At first, the children really didn't know how to ask God about something like this. Move a mountain? There was just no way that was happening. But then, one little girl prayed, "Lord Jesus, last Sunday we heard that if we had faith like a grain of mustard seed, we could move mountains. Please, Lord, help us move our mountain."
Then another one prayed: "Dear God, you said we could move a mountain into the sea. The sea is only just across the road right here. Please, Lord, take our mountain and put it in the sea."

       Irene's trip took longer than she expected. When she finally got back to Sunrise Home, the girls were outside waiting for her. They took her hands, giggling, jumping up and down, and told her to close her eyes. Irene was bewildered as they led her by the hands around to the front of Sunshine Home, and warned her not to peek.
       "Now open them!" the girls cried. And when Irene did, she was dumbfounded. The mountain....was gone. She took several steps forward, staring in disbelief at the spot where a mountain had so recently stood. There was no trace of it.
       "What happened?" Irene finally stammered.

       The children ecstatically told her about a huge truck that had come, filled with workers; and how they had swarmed out over the mountain like ants with pickaxes, and shovels, and wheelbarrows, loading up the dirt. Truckload after enormous truckload they had hauled away. Finally one of the assistants  at Sunrise Home couldn't stand it any longer, and so she went up and asked what in the world was going on. They needed dirt to fill in an area for a children's playground, the workers explained. They needed this mountain.

       Irene turned to look at her girls, and she thanked the God who had moved their mountain for them. The sunshine was streaming down over their happy faces and warming their bare arms and legs; it trickled it's way over the grass and into the open windows of Sunrise Home.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Beautiful Things

I may have posted this song a while back. . . But I was listening to it this morning, and decided it was so good, that I wanted to post it again :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lewis on Love

It's That Time of Year Again. . . .

. . . when people's minds are on flowers and chocolate and kisses... and wuv. Twue wuv :P It's the day we set apart for everything lovey-dovey. It's the day many people end up engaged. It's the day that young men feel obligated to give their sweetheart something --- be it roses, or candy hearts, or a fancy dinner out.

But why? Where in the world did we come up with this holiday? How did February 14th come to hold so much importance in the romantic area?

       Well, it all started in Rome, a very long time ago. During the third century, in fact. 

At  that time, Rome was ruled by an emperor named Claudius. He wanted to have a huge army. And expected men to readily volunteer to join. But. . . not surprisingly, a lot of men just didn't have any desire to fight in wars. They didn't want to have to up and leave their wives and children. Soooo. . . not many men signed up to be a part of Claudius's army. This made Claudius very upset, indeed. He was used to getting exactly what he wanted. So, after thinking on it a while, Claudius had a crazy idea. An outlandish and radical idea. The men did not want to leave their families. . . So Claudius decided they wouldn't be allowed to have the families in the first place. If the young men were unmarried and didn't have any strong family ties holding them back, then they would be much more willing to go off to war. So Claudius declared that there would be no more marriages. None.

       Well, as you can probably imagine, this made lots of people extremely upset. This new law was completely ridiculous and everyone knew it. But there wasn't really much the people could do about it. Many priests just obeyed Claudius's cruel regulation even though they knew it was wrong. 

       But there was one priest --- his name was Valentine --- who decided that he could not, in good conscience, support such a crooked law. So he kept right on performing marriage ceremonies. Only now, he did it in secretly; in a small room at night, with only the bride and groom and himself. The young lovers had to whisper their vows because there was always the foreboding risk that soldiers were listening. 
       One night, as Valentine was performing a wedding, they heard the footsteps of soldiers coming. The bride and groom ran away and escaped, in the nick of time. But Valentine was not so fortunate. The soldiers grabbed the man and threw him into prison. Valentine was told that he would die for his crimes. 

       It was dismal in prison, but Valentine did his best to stay light-hearted. He knew that this was God's will for him, and he accepted that. He did not regret his faithfulness; Even though it was disobedience to his earthly ruler, he was obeying his heavenly Father. And not everything was miserable. Young people all over Rome knew of Valentine and his bravery. They came very often, bringing flowers, or notes of encouragement, which they threw into Valentine's prison window. They wanted the priest to know that they were thankful to him; that they, too, believed in the importance, and the sanctity of marriage. 

       One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. She went nearly everyday to visit Valentine. They became great friends and would sometimes talk for hours. She was like sunshine in Valentine's dark cell. She kept his spirits up with her conversation and her support. She believed that he was completely right to disobey the selfish emperor, and to keep on with the wedding ceremonies. 

       On February 14th, 269 AD, the day that Valentine was beheaded for his steadfastness, he left a little note for his friend, the jailor's daughter. In the note, he thanked the girl for her friendship and her loyalty to him. He told her that she had been a great encouragement and comfort to him. And then he signed it, "With Love, Your Valentine." 

       And so, as the legend goes, people began exchanging love messages and small tokens of affection on St. Valentine's Day. Gradually, it became more and more of a tradition. And now, all over the world people think about love and friendship on February the 14th. Although, unfortunately, most of them forget to remember St Valentine and his faithfulness. Instead, it's become a Hallmark holiday that doesn't really mean very much at all. 


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I'm Jean Valjean. . .

Jean Valjean was a bitter man.

       The chains that shackled his wrists were not his only fetters: his heart was in bondage too. He harbored a hefty store of anger deep inside; anger with men. . . . And anger with God.

       This man spent nineteen years of his life in a French prison. For stealing a loaf of bread. To feed his starving sister and her children. He was called prisoner 24601. He had no name and no identity. He was a slave of the law. He tried to escape four times, and each time, his sentence was lengthened. When at last his time was served, he was finally released, but he was forced to carry a yellow passport. And he was told that he must keep it with him for the rest of his life. That yellow paper branded him as an outcast, an ex-convict. It would forever separate him from "decent" people. It was a burden that he would have to stoop under until he died.

      No one sheltered him, or fed him, or even offered him work. Nobody in their right mind would trust a man who had been a prisoner. So, he slept in the streets. And then, one night, a bishop --- Bishop Myriel --- invites Jean Valjean into his house. The bishop trusts the man who was considered so dangerous, feeds him, and gives him a warm bed for the night. However, Valjean is still in an almost-animal survival mode. He gets up in the middle of the night and steals the bishop's silver plates. The police catch the thief right away and bring him straight back to the bishop's house.
       "We caught this man creeping away from your house early this morning," they tell Bishop Myriel. "He has this bag full of your silver. He claims that you gave him these things, but we know better than to believe that."
       "Monsieurs, release him," the bishop says. "This man has spoken true. I commend you for your duty. Now God's blessing go with you." When the police are gone, Bishop Myriel turns to Valjean and speaks tenderly: "But remember this, my brother. See in this some higher plan. You must use this precious silver to become an honest man. By the witness of the martyrs, by the passion and the blood, God has brought you out of darkness. I have bought your soul for God."

       From that point onward, Valjean becomes a new man. The old Valjean is no more. His soul is still in bondage --- but now it belongs to God. Valjean tore up his yellow passport and threw it into the wind. All of his long-suppressed bitterness slowly diminishes, and is replaced by forgiveness and grace.

      Valjean takes pity on one that others scorn: a heart-broken prostitute. And through his care of this miserable woman, Valjean realizes that "to love another person is to see the face of God."

And, so, when Fantine dies, Valjean spends the rest of his life loving that woman's orphaned child. 

       Valjean realized that living for revenge would only make his life utterly wretched. When he was given the chance to rightfully kill a man - Inspector Javert - who had treated him horribly in prison, Valjean instead released his enemy. "Repay no one evil for evil...Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'...Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:17, 19, 21). In showing grace to the Inspector, Valjean was, in fact, heaping coals of fire on his enemy's head; he was overcoming evil with good. Javert did not know how to respond to this grace, because all he had ever known was the law. "There is no God." He declared. "There is only the law." He spent his life keeping order, and keeping justice. His business was enacting the law "to the letter." And so, when he saw the power of grace. . . he couldn't live with it: "And does he know that granting me my life today, this man has killed me even so?...There is nowhere I can turn, there is no way to go on!" (Javert)
       Grace is something that could change the world. When it collides with judgement, true grace triumphs. Jesus was the embodiment of this true grace - "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do." (Luke 23:34). "Let the little children come unto me." (Matthew 19:14). "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone." (John 8:7).

Grace makes beauty out of ugliness. 

"Do you hear the people sing? 
Lost in the valley of the night. 
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light. 
For the wretched of the earth, 
There is a flame that never dies. 
For the darkest night will end and the sun will rise." 

(Do You Hear the People Sing?)


Why Do We Say It?

I haven't done one of these in SO long, I figured it was about time :)

Beat About the Bush
Why do we say that a person who avoids the issue is "beating about the bush"? 

In many forms of hunting it's necessary, in order to find the game, to follow it into the underbrush, beating the bushes and making a din to scare the animals out. A person afraid of the animals lurking there will "beat about the bush", pretending to go in to find and kill the beast, but not actually doing so. (Why Do We Say It? pg 30)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

An Apt Reminder From Mr Lewis :)

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

-C.S. Lewis

Seek the Kingdom

      More often than not, little things get overlooked. 

       But when it comes down to it, I think it's the little things that are the most important. Martin Luther once said, "If I knew that Jesus would return tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today." It's not always the grandiose ideas and actions that will last the longest. It's not necessarily power that advances God's Kingdom. After all, Jesus said that the first will be last, and that the last will be first (Matthew 20:16). He says that when we love the least ones, we are loving Him.

They say that the one who dies with the most toys wins. . . But being the most successful in the kingdom of man isn't going to bring us any closer to the Kingdom of God. 

Being a true Kingdom-Builder is something entirely different. You might say it's radical :)

It's daring to raise up a vivacious generation of world-changers; 

And opening your mouth for the speechless, and pleading the cause of the helpless ones (Proverbs 31:8-9);

It's determining to lead with strong hands (Sanctus Real, Lead Me);

And boldly proclaiming the gospel to all creation through the kind of life you live, showing that you are a Pilgrim --- in this world, but not OF this world;

It means planting trees. . . .

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 5).