Morning and Evening, by Charles Spurgeon

An amazing and convicting devotional this morning. I will only share a few pieces.

Based on Matthew 26:39, And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed.

Christ’s prayer was lonely, humble, filial, persevering, and resigned. He prayed alone, where only God could hear him. He prayed on his knees, falling on his face, giving everything to his beloved Father, while also asking repeatedly.In the end, he asked for God’s will.

Wednesdays are becoming my favorite day of the week. I get to have a morning with my boys, then I teach in the afternoons, before dinner and worship with other believers in the evening. It’s like having a tiny slice of Sunday, which is a tiny slice of heaven, in the middle of the week!

silence

Is a blessing and a curse. I was changing Fuzzy Bear’s diaper, when I realized that my bedroom door was still open. I go in to see Baby Bear trying to bite the toilet paper and saying “aaaaaaaar”, which is his version of roaring. 

Vicious, isn’t he?

Silly Time Change

Thomas has another grad school class tonight. The original time zone is AZ, which does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Over here in the Lone Star State, however, time shifted with the rest of the US. So, instead of class lasting from 5-7 in the evenings, it now starts at 6 and ends at 8. This means MammaBear is alone with the cubs till bedtime, since PappaBear has to stay at school all evening. 

In other news, we are getting internet and wifi on Wednesday, so posts, video chatting, and these online classes can all be done at home soon!

Here are some pics of our built in book shelves. Then I must head into the kitchen and try to figure out why our dishwasher isn’t doing its job while making some dinner. 

Have a glorious evening!

Lent and Luxury

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, and it was filled the typical ups and downs of daily life. (Power was cut off in our apartment, cleaning a house, boys refusing to nap, long faculty meetings, and late evenings out of the house.)

The day before was Fat Tuesday, and I saw many pictures on facebook and instagram of a last taste of luxuries before Lent.

I have spent the last two days pondering Lent… Everyone seems to give up something, or to make special promises of self-improvement. The biggest fad I’ve seen so far is “40 Bags in 40 Days”, where you fill one bag every day of the junk in your life, and throw it away or give it away, and thus end up with a cleaner, emptier, more fulfilling life. And, again, I wondered “WHY?”

What is the purpose of Lent, and what is the purpose of giving up luxuries, and are those purposes compatible? Or is Lent just “try #2” at the failed New Year’s Resolutions?

Stepping back.

Yesterday, Thomas and I took the boys to a local LCMS Lutheran Church for Ash Wednesday service. We heard a reading of one of Luther’s original sermons wherein he condemns the riots that many newly-enflamed Protestants led against the churches in their areas. It was convicting and fascinating at the same time. I was amazed at the words Luther used to describe the Catholics, whom he very much disagrees with, which were kind, gentle, submissive. And the words he used against the Protestants were harsh, rebuking, and called everyone, Catholic and Protestant alike, to look only to the cross, and to the humility, love, and sacrifice needed for Christ to take that punishment on our behalf. I was convicted because it is hard to speak kindly of those who disagree on fundamental principles, and harshly to those who need correction but have acted in agreement with us.

Why did we attend Ash Wednesday services? And at a church where we are not members?

As I’ve described before, I was raised Lutheran, my husband was raised Mennonite, and we became Presbyterian when we were married. I miss the liturgical calendar, where the entire church focuses on special events in Christ’s life by gathering throughout the week, and not just on the weekends. I wanted to attend Advent services, but life was not going to allow it this past year. For now, we would like to continue to worship with fellow believers, and have our attention drawn to the love and sacrifice of our Lord.

My grandmother passed away a couple days ago. My dad told me that when he visited her for the last time this past weekend, he found some old hymns on the radio. By this time, my grandmother was not very responsive, but she moved her hands slightly when Abide With Me, and other old hymns played. She and my grandfather raised my father and his siblings in a godly home, in the Lutheran Church, and I was raised in the same circumstances. Someday, when I am almost 90 years old, I hope that the hymns of the church will still draw a reaction from me. So, I want to surround myself with those prayers and hymns. This happens at my church every Sunday. But I want it more than just on Sundays. So, we sang old hymns and prayed and worshipped alongside other believers in the middle of the week.

Ash has been used since ancient times to mark mourning, sadness, repentance, and cleansing. While “Ash Wednesday” is different for various traditions, Lent itself, should not be different. It is a time to dwell on mourning our sin that required such a horrific sacrifice, on grieving the sin that so easily entangles, on repenting from our sinful ways and turning towards Christ, and being cleansed from our sins as we look forward to the resurrection of the saints. While I’m not sure I’ll be giving anything up for Lent (to prevent myself from falling into “self-improvement” mode), I am so looking forward to time carved away from our busy world to re-learn what it means to be sinful, redeemed, and sanctified in Christ with Christians throughout the world and throughout time.

 

David’s Vision

The Valley of the Shadow of Death…

Thomas has been leading Sunday School at our church for the past few weeks. We have been working through I and II Samuel. We have just finished the chapter about Absolom’s death, and David’s reaction to the news that the son who betrayed him has been murdered against his orders by one of his top generals. In his grief, he mourns so loudly, that the very general who murdered his son rebukes the king, because the very warriors who risked their lives for David’s life (many of whom were not even Israelites), were now slinking back from their victory like cowards who had fled from battle. As King, David is responsible for giving thanks for the sacrifice and risk of those who love him and his kingdom. But, as a father, he mourns the death of his son.

As Thomas said, this is a very messy part of the story. He and I began discussing the passage. How does it show Christ? Such messiness, such betrayal from a son and a trusted general, such grief, such rebuke. It all came back to one thing: David’s sin. He had sinned against Uriah and Bathsheba, and God has promised David through Nathan that the sword would never leave the king’s house, that what David had done in secret would be done in public to David by those closest to him. And, the child conceived of that sinful union would die, and would only be the first to die for David’s sin. That death is where the messiness begins. When that baby dies, David stops mourning. His servants, confused, ask him why his terrible grief ended so suddenly and easily with the very death of the child. His response is humbling.

“Why the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

David seems to recall this years later with the death of Absolom, because he ends his grief and goes to attend to the needs of his people and army.

Why is David’s grief so bizarrely timed?

In the Old Testament, heaven seems to be rarely mentioned as a promised status after death. But David seems to know about it. He doesn’t describe it in great detail, but his Psalms are filled with the faint promises of glorification.

No where is this more apparent than in Psalm 23. You can almost hear the grief wracking David’s body as he writes.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

We just found out that Baby Bear might be leaving us. Family has stepped forward to claim him. We don’t know anything more than that the homestudy process will begin this Tuesday. The pain required to echo David’s words right now is breaking my heart. Yes, the LORD is my shepherd, but I am an unwilling and WANTING sheep.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

Wherever He is taking me is better than where I am now, regardless of how little I want to believe it. That is not the hard part, however; I’m struggling to believe that God could have greener pastures for our Baby Bear than what we can give. But He will bring us to those pastures, willing or no.

He leads me beside still waters.

Baby Bear’s life has been turbulent. I like to think that we have provided a bit of calm for him in the first few months of his life. The little guy has brought such joy to our lives. Today, he hid behind our blanket holder and played peekaboo with me. He would poke his head out from behind the blankets with a grin, and then pull himself back into hiding, over and over again. He has learned to walk, grin, play, and even pray with us in the bits of quiet we have been able to provide. I hope it will be enough for whatever waters God has planned for him.

He restores my soul.

Can God really do this? Can He bring back a heart torn in two? The answer, of course, is yes. He tore His own heart in two, because he so loved little ones like Baby Bear, and even bigger sinners like myself. If God can love us so much, He can restore my soul. So, I pray that He will also fill up Baby Bear’s soul, so that whenever the day of goodbye comes, it will not be the final word between us.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Can you imagine what is going through David’s mind? I have sinned against God. I deserve every punishment for this sin. But God leads us, David and I, willingly and otherwise into righteousness. God’s name, His holiness, purity, and goodness will not allow His children’s sin (anger, mistrust, adultery, whatever sin we have) to defame His good name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

This part truly amazes me. David knew that God was not simply there for this life. There was something MORE beyond the Valley, and it held the opposite of Shadow and Death. It must hold Light and Life, whenever it ended. God promised to lead David there, and He promises to do the same for me, even though I can’t see the way. I don’t need to be afraid of what can happen to my foster kids, my family, my husband, myself. Those evils exist, but lose all power outside this valley. And what provides the comfort? Not God’s promises of goodness, prosperity, or health. No, God’s rod and staff, the tools necessary to lead His children with gentle prodding and fierce hits to the side. We are, afterall, stubborn sheep, are we not? I know I sure I am.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Here is where God makes His promises. My enemies will not overcome me. David and I will not be condemned for our sins. We will be sanctified, redeemed. It will certainly come AFTER the rod and staff, but it is promised just as strongly as God’s name will be protected. My life will be filled with blessings, not monetary, not prosperity, not health, not even children. But He will bless me. He blessed David, throughout years of turmoil in his house. David could always hold on to God’s promise that a son of David would sit on the throne of Jerusalem. And I receive that same promise. Nothing, no mistake of mine or David’s, no betrayal of a dear son or decisions of a judge, no grief shame or sin can take away these promises.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. 

You can almost hear David’s breathing calm as he meditates on the promise of dwelling forever in the house of the LORD. I know, because mine has done the same.

Snippets of Life

I’ve been reading Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional. Thoughts on yesterday’s text…

I was rereading yesterday’s morning and evening paragraphs (I went to bed exhausted, so I didn’t absorb it as well as I would like), and I was really struck by a quote in the morning paragraph.
“We are too apt to forget that while there are distinctions as to the persons in the Trinity, there are no distinctions in honor.”
I wasn’t quite sure what that meant at first. How does one honor the three persons of the trinity in the same way?
But then, the rest of the paragraph made it more clear what Spurgeon was talking about: all three persons were equally present and invested in every part and human of redemption, from “Bethlehem to Gethsemene to Calvary”.
I’m not sure how this effects my daily life, but it really blew my mind away for the day. I spent a lot of time (while changing diapers and singing “the itsy bits spider” for the millionth time) thinking about how closely God the Father and Son and Holy Spirit are to each other and to everything else in history.
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Baby Bear is taking his first steps. In the past, he has made his giant developmental milestones in the space of a week. He got up on all fours on a Sunday, and by the next Sunday he was a champion crawler. So, I’m slightly nervous (read “outlandishly petrified”) about what the next two weeks will hold for this Baby Bear and our family.
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Fuzzy Bear eats a ton, has rolls around his legs, and smiles like a cherub at anyone who will make eye-contact. He coos and talks and squeaks, which charms anyone in hearing distance. Unfortunately, he has absolutely no desire to crawl or roll over, apparently. If I place him on his tummy, he holds his head up high and watches the world, and then sets it down and sleeps. To be clear, it is dangerous for babies to sleep on their tummies for the first few months, until they can roll over on their own. This makes for a slightly stressed out Mama Bear.
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I’m already counting down the days till Spring Break. We are hoping that Thomas can get all of his papers done before break happens, so we can have a full week off together as a family. I’m not sure it will happen with all that is going on, but we are hoping and praying for it!
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Our church particularizes (becomes a church, not a home mission) this Friday, and Thomas will become an official elder in the church. I feel like his name should have been Timothy, not Thomas, with how quickly he is usually called upon to lead in his areas of life. I’m so proud of him, and humbled to stand alongside such a godly young man with such a godly old head on his shoulders.
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We closed on a house on Friday, and are now in the throws of getting it ready to be moved into. We have two project lists going: Immediately and Eventually. The difficulty comes when we can’t agree which list the project should be on. (For example, I think the ceiling of the kitchen should NOT be the same berry pink color of the walls as close to IMMEDIATELY as possible. Thomas is of the opposite opinion.)
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Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Praise Him, all creatures here below!
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Anger and Pride vs. Wild and Good: Rather rambly thoughts of a frazzled but forgiven mama-bear

Confession time: I don’t like to lose control of anything. I like plans, and sticking to them. I like recipes that work. I like buying things with my hard-earned money, especially after several weeks of careful research to know exactly what I want. And when I do something well, I want it to be acknowledged. No, I’m not the rooftop shouting person. I prefer the quiet and cool, “Oh, you did that? Brilliant!” 

I dread messed up plans, days with no schedules, failed recipes, and being told that I failed. 

And I don’t forget. I learn quickly how to adjust my grip to avoid that mistake again. 

Sometimes, this is good. In a professional world, people look kindly on others who make a mistake once, and never again. We call it learning from our mistakes. 

But children have an uncanny ability to turn every compliment-earning trait, skill, or mindset into a trap for anger and injured pride. 

Baby won’t stop crying. And there is NOTHING I can do about it. 

Baby won’t eat, because of teething. And there is NOTHING I can do about it. 

Baby will only sleep if mom carries him while walking around… when there are quizzes to grade and floors to clean. And there is NOTHING I can do about it. 

Add to this some other issues that have been causing some anxiety in our house (moving, friendships changing, financial issues (because buying a house requires the value of TWO houses), increased responsibilities at church and school, etc.), and I finally became a mess this week.

This fight for control must end!

But how?

Here is the best answer I can figure out at the moment.

Pray a lot. Do something incredibly active for a significant amount of time every day. Pray some more. Eat at least two real meals a day. Pray again. Clean one room of the house. Pray. When babies are screaming, and you have tried everything, go sit on the porch for a few minutes. Count the cars that go by. Pray while you sit. Begin and end the day in at least one verse of Scripture, and pray.

Does this stop the anger or stem the pride? I’m not sure. But God has already forgiven my sins, so the battle I fight every day isn’t actually for my soul. The devil would love to turn these struggles of mine into just that. But God has won. I don’t have to fight my anger and pride alone. But it means I have to let go of all control. That is the Battle. It’s not between me and the devil. It’s my natural mistrust against my utter need to fall on Him. If I insist on maintaining control, then God will throw everything at me to make me see what I really need to hold on to. At least, it seems that was His strategy this past week. 

Afterall, as Lewis says, “Tame? Tame! Who said anything about tame? Of course He isn’t tame! But he is Good!”