Especially hurting

Suffering had a beginning and will have an end.

Church is a safe place but it isn’t. Elementary schools are a safe place, but they aren’t. We can’t even feel secure in our families – they are broken as well. There’s no place that isn’t broken, no place that is safe. No haven on this earth can protect us. That cloud above us of despair is overwhelming, and I have no idea how a person can get through a day of this without the hope of Jesus Christ.

but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame,

Suffering produces endurance, gives us perspective on our momentary troubles and afflictions. That endurance in turn refines our character. As we endure suffering and gain perspective, we are drawn to Christ-likeness. We don’t look for the healing of our hurt, we look to the healer Himself. That is how we hope. Hope that the suffering is temporary – that we grieve here on earth because we know and long for the redeemed world we’ve been promised.

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. 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, The Problem of Pain

As we try to numb the pain and suffering, we miss the truth of God spoken to us. Shouted at us. We don’t always like what we hear. We certainly don’t like the way the message is delivered. When we close our hearts to the message, we miss the blessing. If the suffering is to have a purpose, we must allow God to speak to us through it. We must endure. We must continually seek sanctification. And we must cling to hope.

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Adorned – a Review

Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel TogetherAdorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together is a practical, down to earth treatise on living according to the scripture in Titus chapter 2. Discussing how both older and younger women can benefit from living according to the lessons Paul imparts to Titus, and how that calling relates to the wider narrative of scripture, Nancy Wolgemuth has written a wonderful treatise on what Christ has called us to be as Christians and as women.

I found plenty of encouragement in the pages of Adorned, but also plenty to challenge me. Nancy was careful to always draw attention back to scripture for every chapter – and not just from Titus. She shares plenty of personal anecdotes to illustrate the benefits of community, particularly a diverse community of women of all ages. All of her insights stay Biblically grounded. I especially appreciated that she began with a chapter on doctrine – and on why doctrine is important. “Doctrine is our what. Its application is our now what” (page 47).

There is a great deal of time spent on a concept called “sophron” – Greek for “sound mind” – and why it is fundamental to living the Christian life.

Instead of viewing Titus 2 (or Proverbs 31, for that matter) as a list of rules or a paragon to emulate, Nancy suggests that they are to help establish priorities, giving us a heart (or a sound mind) from which we can live the kind of life that will draw others to Christ.

I especially appreciated that Nancy’s perspective is different than wife and mother. Married for the first time recently and in her 50’s, she is still able to understand God’s purpose for her life within the context of scripture traditionally interpreted for wives and mothers. She repeatedly draws those without husbands or children back into the community she describes and reminds all women of their value and purpose. I’d recommend this book for any woman looking to be challenged and encouraged in her Christian life.

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The Christian Book of Mystical Verse: A Collection of Poems, Hymns, and Prayers for Devotional Reading (a review)

The Christian Book of Mystical Verse: A Collection of Poems, Hymns, and Prayers for Devotional ReadingThe Christian Book of Mystical Verse: A Collection of Poems, Hymns, and Prayers for Devotional Reading by A.W. Tozer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Tozer introduces this slim volume as for the worshiper. I grew up on hymns and praise songs and since they dwell deep in my heart and memory, at any time that I desire to worship God in song, I am able to do so. Tozer rightly points out that over time we’ve lost our spiritual heritage of English language verse. It is his recommendation that the book be used as needed for private devotion, whether reading one selection or several.

I began by reading through the first section on the Adoration of the Godhead, and found quickly that I responded best to the writings by reading aloud. The selections are arranged topically and include among others “Penitential Reflections on our Sins”, “Rejoicing in Forgiveness and Justification”, and “The Prayer of Quiet”.

Tozer has selected verse that is sound in theology and is “mystical” – he defines the mystic as one who is in “intimate fellowship with the Godhead”. I include the below description from the introduction because it really sets the tone of the book and subsequent personal worship:

“He [the mystic] differs from the orthodox Christian only because he experiences his faith down in the depths of his sentient being while the others do not. He exists in a world of spiritual reality. He is quietly, deeply, and sometimes almost ecstatically aware of the Presence of God in his own nature and in the world around him.”

I thought that the book would be helpful to me as a teacher and for those I consider students (Women’s Ministry) as I sometimes like to share selections for meditation or study. This book is not for that. However, I’ve already thought of those who might use the poems, hymns, and prayers Tozer has collected for their own private worship as I have. It is a gift to the heart that longs to cry out to God in a way that is beautiful.

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The Last Battle (review)

The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia, #7)The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is the first book I’ve wished for a “re-read” option on goodreads. because I cannot stress enough how important I think it is for you to know I love it enough to frequently re-read it.

The final volume in the Chronicles of Narnia, we see the Eustace and Jill return to Narnia, only not as they are used to it. Animals are treated like animals – trees cut down without concern for their very real souls (remember it is fantasy). I loved the descriptions of the two worlds (ours and Narnia) and the idea that such a thing could be a reality isn’t so far-fetched as you might think, as Lewis helps us to see God as bigger than we’ve imagined.

The end perfectly captured the poignancy of leaving the earth for an unknown – and in faith in an extraordinary God.

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Thank God for Roller Coasters

Last week, following the first week of school, my mother and I took my two children to Knoebels Grove (you pronounce the “k”). For my children it was their third trip to the park this summer. For those of you unlucky enough to have never heard of such a place, you must know that it is a hidden paradise in Central Pennsylvania. It’s free to enter, free to park, and my six and three year old children rode a huge variety of children’s rides for $9 each. That’s right – unlimited amusement park fun for less than $20 for the four of us.

Anyway, before the night ended at 10:00PM, I indulged in one single, $1.50 roller coaster ride. I stood in line for about five minutes in the special line for those who like the very first car, and then entirely on my own, I went for a roller coaster ride on the Phoenix.

What is the Phoenix? A beautiful wooden roller coaster originally built in 1947 as “The Rocket” in a San Antonio amusement park and moved in 1985 to Knoebels, it is known for it’s airtime and the delicious sensation of a wooden structure that shakes, sways, and rattles.

The ride begins with a short ride through a tunnel, which at 9:45PM is pitch black. The night was cool. The sky was clear. As we made the ascension in the comparative light, I stared up at the dark night sky and I said “Thank you God, for roller coasters”. And then I held on.

It’s been a good summer. I have had much to be thankful for and I love expressing my gratitude to the Father for each wonderful moment. But on that last day of my summer, I felt His presence most at the top of a rickety wooden hill, and I smiled.

<image credit themeparkreview.com because I was afraid to photograph while riding>

 

the pursuit of you

This idea, that God pursues us, has been stuck in my heart and mind of late. It could be from the incredibly catchy TobyMac song Love Broke Thru, which is all over Christian radio right now. It could be that he started putting people I care about in front of me and saying “I love them. You love them. I want you to pursue them.”. And it could be knowing that God has created the desire to be pursued within our hearts. Mine. Yours. I know what it is to have the Holy Spirit calling out, to have God pursuing me. And better yet, to be caught.

So when my friend from high school, who has the greatest heart for reconciliation I have ever seen, started asking me how we could reach out to those people from our past, I realized that my unsaved friend was not only asking me to pursue her with the truth, but to come together and be reconciled with people we both care about so that we can pursue them with the truth as well. She is a dear friend and the one brilliant example of my desire and effort to pursue someone. I wronged her once upon a time and it took many attempts to receive forgiveness and reconciliation. She was worth it. Our friendship is worth it.

I know that my mission field is riddled with broken relationships and long forgotten friendships with people God still loves. People I still love. Hearts I must pursue. I’m grateful that when people see me, they see something different. Now I must prepare myself to give a reason for my hope.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,

“Whoever would love life
    and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
    and their lips from deceitful speech.
11 They must turn from evil and do good;
    they must seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”[a]

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[b]; do not be frightened.”[c] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

1 Peter 3:8-16 NIV