Saturday, June 27, 2009

Still Reading

Though I haven't been mentioning it, or rather, haven't been posting much at all, I am still working through the Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin. I am behind in the schedule of reading, but not because it is ponderous or difficult reading. There are days which seem to get away from me before I realize that I've not taken the time to read. Other days, the time which I do have for reading lends more to falling asleep than focusing on the material before me. Perhaps I should not sit on the couch with Milo in my lap if I want to read a whole section...

I am now in Chapter XVI of book two, on The Knowledge of God the Redeemer. Of especial blessing in my reading of late has been Chapter X, on the similarity between the Old and New Testaments. Having been taught in the past, (years ago- not lately) much confusion concerning the promises of God and how they apply to believers, it has been refreshing to see here confirmed that God's promises of blessing run far deeper than mere temporal benefits. Concerning the patriarch Jacob, who declares to Pharaoh that his days on earth have been short and evil (Gen 47:9),

"In declaring that he had spent his life in constant wretchedness, he denies that he had experienced the prosperity which had been promised him by the Lord. Jacob, therefore, either formed a malignant and ungrateful estimate of the Lord's favour, or he truly declared that he had lived miserable on the earth. If so, it follows that his hope could not have been fixed on earthly objects."

Calvin makes clear the point that the Saints of the Old Testament saw the promises as pertaining to a greater blessing than merely what was possible in their brief lives.

"They had been duller than blocks* in so pertinaciously pursuing promises, no hope of which appeared upon the earth, if they had not expected their completion elsewhere. The thing which the Apostle specially urges, and not without reason, is, that they called this world a pilgrimage, as Moses also relates, (Gen. 47: 9.) If they were pilgrims and strangers in the land of Canaan, where is the promise of the Lord which appointed them heirs of it? It is clear, therefore, that the promise of possession which they had received looked farther."

(*I am copying and pasting these snippets from an online version of the Institutes, which is translated slightly differently than my own copy. Mine reads, "stupider than blocks of wood". Gotta love it!)

And looking at David, expressing his faith in the Psalms,

"And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee," (Ps. 39: 12, 5, 6, 7.) He who confesses that there is nothing solid or stable on the earth, and yet firmly retains his hope in God, undoubtedly contemplates a happiness reserved for him elsewhere."

While there are many promises of blessing throughout the Bible which have been misused, taken out of context, and have bludgeoned believers for years with doubt and fear of losing God's love, there are many more, which taken in context prove the wealth of God's wisdom and mercy toward us here and now, and into eternity. We cannot base our understanding of God, or our estimation of where we stand with Him, on present circumstances without the lens of Scripture that teaches us that all things come to His children from His loving hand, good as well as bad. His love for us does not waver or change based upon our actions, thought, or failings. God knows that we are failures; miserable losers, when it comes to obeying Him perfectly. Yet, while we were still sinners Christ died for us! (Rom 5:8) Our omniscient God can learn nothing new about us that would cause Him to change His mind concerning His love for us. Circumstances may be painful in this life, but they are not indications that God is leaving us to fall through any cosmic cracks. There are many purposes for pain, but Our God is a loving father who will use whatever means necessary to teach us to cling to Him.

But I am descending into rambling at this point. The house is no longer quiet. Chaos is reigning in the kitchen and I have no "cone of silence' to engage about myself to aid my concentration. It is no wonder that I can't finish full sentences or thoughts these days...

sigh. Praise be to God.


Isaac has been going with his friend from Boy Scouts, Emmett, to archery every Tuesday evening. Last week was my first opportunity to join them, so I took the camera, of course. What a treat to see his skills and patience that have been developing these past few months.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I Feel So Civilized

We have now hosted our very first overnight guests to sleep in our guest room. An actual, dedicated room, newly constructed and furnished, for guests. The process of building it took quite a few months, much lumber, drywall and two shades of green paint. (mistakes happen) Once the floor was finished I got myself over to Boscovs and purchased a whole new bed and mattress set, then to Marshalls where I found the perfect sheets, pillows and blankets for the bed. What luxury! What absolute opulence! No piecemealing here- this whole sleeping experience would be brand-new with the price tags (discount) to prove it!

A bedside table here, chest with extra blankets there, and nightlight and the room is complete and ready for company. My brother was the first occupant, and gladly so. Having him here for a few weeks was a blessing. Kate followed, as a more permanent resident, but the subterranian atmosphere interfered with her ability to wake up in the mornings. So she moved into an upstairs bedroom with Erin, normally reserved for permanent family members- which is appropriate, since she is one.

And last night we hosted friends for an overnight stay- no relation whatsoever- genuine guests! I feel as if I have (almost*) arrived as a hostess. "And here is the guest room, I hope you find it comfy. Don't forget to leave the nightlight on, it gets very dark at night."

Now for a basement bathroom complete with shower and tiny stolen hotel shampoo bottles...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Thank you, Harper Lee

My very-most-best-favorite book as I was growing up was, and still is, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. By the time I had graduated High School I probably had it memorized. I still return to it when I need the comfort of an old, familiar friend. Years ago I read it out loud to Nathaniel, a couple of years later I read it to Kate. I am now reading it to the younger three. Rebekah already had to read it for school, but some things are best shared, and this book is one of those things.

In two sittings we have read eight chapters. Three the first night, then last night I read four. When I announced that I was finished for the evening Isaac begged me for "just one more chapter". How could I resist? We left Scout and Jem with Miss Maudie's house burnt down and Scout in possession of a blanket presumable given to her by Boo Radley.

When we approach certain parts of the story I already know that I will be crying. The end certainly, but there are other moments that tug at my heart and my tears irresistibly. My kids are used to this weakness of mine. I cry over almost any book, from Velveteen Rabbit, (A real bunny? Sob,...sniff) to certain chapters of James Herriott. (Okay, maybe not Tom Clancy.)

Mockingbird should elicit tears. Injustice, seen afresh through the eyes of a child, once we have grown callous in our "maturity and wisdom" shocks one back to the pain that it should elicit. The pain of others ought always to move us to compassion- and action.

I pray that my children always recognize injustice and respond with courage. And I pray that their hearts remain tender enough to cry over a good book now and then.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Quiet evening; third rainy/ drizzly/ grey day in a row. (And since when can't I legitimately spell grey with an e? It just feels like a grey with an e sort of day.) Most of my family is here at home where I can see, hear, and hold them. Two of my menfolk are on opposite sides of the globe. Though they are a mere phone call away, when the time difference is accounted for, it just isn't the same as having them here to see, hear, and hold.

Perhaps I am just feeling deflated tonight.

The kids are re-arranging bedrooms again so that Kate can move out of the basement which is evidently infected with a mysterious sleeping spell against which she is utterly helpless, the only remedy for which is sunlight streaming through a window. They have done this dance often enough that I need not step in. My job is to maintain the peace, which can be done without lifting a single stick of furniture.

Bright side: guest room for guests... But I need to clean up the rest of the basement in order to feel comfortable with friends going down those stairs. Sigh.

I want a cookie, or five. But my fat pants are tight.

The bills are paid. The big yard clean-up is accomplished. Everyone is healthy. The kitchen pantry overflows with food. So why am I deflated?

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
(from Psalm 121)

I miss Jim. I miss Nathaniel. My Lord is as close to each of them as He is to me here, and he knows the ache in my heart. I have so much right here around me for which to be thankful, so very much.