Laudable Linkage

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I’ve been mostly absent from the blog this week. It’s rare for me not to do a Friday’s Fave Five, even if I don’t post anything else. But it has been a busy week: card-making and present-shopping and wrapping for a baby shower and my oldest son’s upcoming birthday, house-cleaning for my son’s visit from out of state, buying tons of food for family get-togethers, etc, etc. It’s amazing what you can done when you’re not blogging! 🙂 I am not sure how much I will be online the next week. My oldest son is here, my husband is off, we’ll have more time with the whole family. But, in the past when I have thought I would not be posting much, I have been surprised. Our whole family likes our computer time, so we’ll see.

Meanwhile, I have collected in odd moments online the last week some thought-provoking, helpful reads I wanted to share with you.

Poor Interpretation Lets Us “Believe” the Bible While Denying What It Actually Say, HT to Challies. “Historically, theological liberals denied Scripture, and everyone knew where they stood. But today many so-called evangelicals affirm their belief in Scripture, while attributing meanings to biblical texts that in fact deny what Scripture really says. Hence they ‘believe every word of the Bible’ while actually embracing (and teaching) beliefs that utterly contradict it.”

Grace Comes With Refills.

Love Is Not a Feeling.

Praying the Words of Jesus for Your Teen.

Pants on Fire. The folly of the “I don’t know whether this is true or not; but I just wanted to get it out there” type of post.

Are We All “Harmless Torturers” Now? HT to Challies. “When we think of the savagery of social media, we often think of awful individual behavior…Harmless Torturers never go that far; we just like, retweet and add the occasional clever remark. But there are millions of us, and we’re all turning the dial.”

Why Getting Lost in a Book is So Good for You, HT to Linda.

Finally, you might be blessed by this video even if you don’t know Ron and Shelly Hamilton (of Majesty Music, aka Patch the Pirate and Sissy Seagull) and Shelly’s parents, Frank and Flora Jean Garlock. I had no idea the Garlocks were in this situation or that Ron had been diagnosed with dementia. This is not only an update of how they are doing, but a sweet testimony of a man caring for his wife.

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Book Review: Full Assurance

For several years I struggled with whether or not I was really a Christian. During that time we visited my mother-in-law’s home, and I discovered on her book shelves Full Assurance by H. A. Ironside. I borrowed it, and it helped me with one key point in particular.

Recently while looking for something else on my bookshelf, I came across this volume again (I guess that means I never gave it back – sorry, Mom!) I couldn’t remember much about it except for the one point that had helped me so much some 30 or so years before, so I decided to read through it again.

Ironside says in his introduction that he wrestled with assurance for a while himself, and he wanted to “make as plain as I possibly can just how any troubled soul may find settled peace with God” (p. 7). He said that “so many people who profess to want help along these lines are too indifferent to investigate,” but he wanted to appeal to “earnest seekers after truth” (p. 7). He assures that God cares about us and wants us to rest in His salvation.

In subsequent chapters he unpacks several verses that speak specifically of assurance, like Isaiah 32:17 (“And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever”) and Colossians 2:1-3 (especially verse 2: “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding“).

Then his longest chapter deals with “Difficulties Which Hinder Full Assurance” in the form of questions and answers, like “How can I be sure I have repented enough?” and “I do not feel fit to come to God” and “I don’t know if I can hold out.”

Ironside had been a preacher for almost 50 years at the time of this writing, and he deftly handles every issue from the Scriptures and shares several anecdotes to illustrate his points.

The point I mentioned having trouble with was whether I had repented “right” or “enough.” Forgive the long quote, but I wanted to share his whole answer here:

Very often the real difficulty arises from a misapprehension of the meaning of repentance. There is no salvation without repentance, but it is important to see exactly what is meant by this term. It should not be confused with penitence, which is sorrow for sin; nor with penance, which is an effort to make some satisfaction for sin; nor yet with reformation, which is turning from sin. Repentance is a change of attitude toward sin, toward self, and toward God. The original word (in the Greek Testament) literally means “a change of mind.” This is not a mere intellectual change of viewpoint, however. but a complete reversal of attitude.

Now test yourself in this way. You once lived in sin and loved it. Do you now desire deliverance from it? You were once self-confident and trusting in your own fancied goodness. Do you now judge yourself as a sinner before God? You once sought to hide from God and rebelled against His authority. Do you now look up to Him, desiring to know Him, and to yield yourself to Him? If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, you have repented. Your attitude is altogether different to what it once was.

You confess you are a sinner, unable to cleanse your own soul, and you are willing to be saved in God’s way. This is repentance. And remember, it is not the amount of repentance that counts: it is the fact that you turn from self to God that puts you in the place where His grace avails through Jesus Christ.

Strictly speaking, not one of us has ever repented enough. None of us has realized the enormity of our guilt as God sees it. But when we judge ourselves and trust the Saviour whom He has provided, we are saved through His merits. As recipients of His lovingkindness, repentance will be deepened and will continue day by day, as we learn more of His infinite worth and our own unworthiness (pp. 89-90).

One other point that I remember being struck with, though I can’t find now the specific place he discusses it, is from Hebrews 6:11-12: “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Showing “diligence to full assurance” helped me understand that when we’re having problems along this line, we need to “be not slothful” but diligently seek God’s Word for the answers rather letting doubts and questions fester in the background for years.

I have many places marked in the book. Here are a few of the helpful, standout quotes:

It is well to remember that some vivid emotional experience is not a safe ground of assurance. It is the blood of Christ that makes us safe and the Word of God that makes us sure” (p. 29).

Faith is not the savior. Faith is the hand that lays hold of Him who does save. Therefore the folly of talking of weak faith as opposed to strong faith. The feeblest faith in Christ is saving faith. The strongest faith in self, or something other than Christ, is but a delusion and a snare, and will leave the soul at last unsaved and forever forlorn (p. 39).

Assurance is not based upon any emotional change, but whatever emotional experience there may be, it will be the result of accepting the testimony of the Lord given in the Scriptures. Faith rests on the naked Word of God. That Word believed gives full assurance (p. 45).

So long as a man considers himself worthy there is no salvation for him; but when, in repentance, he owns his unworthiness, there is immediate deliverance for him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without repentance the sinner is unable to believe unto salvation (pp. 91-92).

Many times Ironside counsels readers to study the Bible:

As soon as one knows he is saved, he should begin, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, a careful regular, systematic study of the Word of God. The Bible is our Father’s letter to us, His redeemed children. We should value it as that which reveals His mind and indicates the way in which He would have us walk. ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:16-17). The study of the Word will instruct me in the truth, it will show me what needs to be rectified in my life and walk, it will make clear how I may get right with God, and it will guide me in paths of uprightness. No Christian can afford to neglect his Bible. If he does, he will be stunted and dwarfed in his spiritual life, and he will be a prey to doubts and fears, and may be carried away by every wind of doctrine (p. 48).

Nothing will make up for lack of this diligent study of the Bible for yourself. You cannot get the full assurance of understanding without it. But as you search the Scriptures, you will find truth after truth unfolding in a wonderful way, so that doubts and questions will be banished and divinely given certainty will take their place (p. 50).

How necessary then for His redeemed ones to study His Word in dependence upon His Holy Spirit, that they may be delivered both from the fears that are a result of ignorance of His truth and pride that is a result of self-confidence. The liberating Word alone will give to the honest, yielded soul who searches it prayerfully, in order that it shall have sway over his life, the full assurance of understanding, for it is written: ‘The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple'” (p. 54).

There’s a very helpful section for those fearing they might not be “elect” or “predestined,” but it’s about three pages long, too long to share here. But one excerpt: “But what does the Word say? ‘Christ died for the ungodly.’ Are you ungodly? Then He died for you. Put in your claim and enter into peace” (p. 92).

I have seen this book listed by various titles just Full Assurance, or Full Assurance: How to Know You’re Saved; Full Assurance, or A Series of Messages for the Anxious Soul, and the author’s name sometimes listed as Harry A., most times as H. A. Ironside. I assume they are all basically the same book, but I don’t know whether there might have been some revisions between reprintings. The copy I have is from 1968, but it says it is a revised edition. If you look at Kindle versions, check the reviews first: one I came across said that several chapters were left out.

This book is an excellent resource especially for those who have wrestled with assurance of salvation or those who counsel such people, but it is also a good resource for those who want to learn more about what salvation is or for those who are already saved to understand and appreciate more what their salvation involves.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

You are not enough

I keep seeing the same message all over the place: “You are enough.” I’m sure people mean it as an encouragement. Sometimes we feel broken down, inadequate, criticized, unsure of ourselves, and dear encouragers want to lift us up by assuring us, “You can do this! You are enough!”

But the thing is, I know I am not enough.

Apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. Romans 7:18

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. Isaiah 64:6

I know, because the Bible tells me. I know, because I have tried in my own strength and failed.

But thankfully, the story doesn’t stop there.

And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God. Ezekiel 16:14

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 1 Peter 1:3-4

Ye are complete in him, Colossians 2:10, KJV

For a while when I was facing a task that I felt was particularly beyond me, it helped to reduce 2 Corinthians 9:8 to a few words to carry with me and remind me what God had promised: All grace. All sufficiency. All things. All times.

Sometimes as Christians encouraging Christians, we take God’s grace and help for granted when we assure others, “You are enough.” We think, “Well yes, of course it’s understood that we are only enough in His strength. Of course they know that.”

But we shouldn’t gloss over or take for granted that wonderful truth that God enables us to do His will when we abide in Christ. Sure, sometimes we need a boost of confidence or a switch from a negative to positive attitude. But we need to remind ourselves every day that we can only do His will by His grace and power. We need to consciously depend on Him. And when we achieve success, we need to remember that it came from Him, thank Him, and give Him the glory.

If you have blogged this phrase recently, please don’t be offended or think I am “getting after” or “correcting” you. I am not “blogging at” anyone in particular and have not kept track of the places I have seen this phrase. I’ve just been pondering the concept, and the Daily Light on the Daily Path selection for August 9 dovetailed with my own thinking. I wanted to share what was on my heart.

So what would some better encouraging phrases?

If this is God’s will, He will help you.

You can do all things through Christ. He will strengthen you.

God’s got this!

Or just quote 2 Corinthians 9:8.

What phrases encourage you yet keep the focus on God?

I Need Thee Every Hour

by Annie, S. Hawks, 1872

I need thee every hour,
most gracious Lord;
no tender voice like thine
can peace afford.

I need thee every hour,
stay thou near by;
temptations lose their power
when thou art nigh.

I need thee every hour,
in joy or pain;
come quickly, and abide,
or life is vain.

I need thee every hour;
teach me thy will,
and thy rich promises
in me fulfill.

I need thee, O I need thee;
every hour I need thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to thee.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire)

Laudable Linkage

I have just a short list today, but I thought it best to go ahead and share it rather than have an overly lengthy one next time.

The Greatest Thing You Can Do With Your Life.

Know the Neighborhood, HT to True Woman. “Because many Christians have not ‘walked the streets’ of our Bibles, we are overly susceptible to the views of others, right or wrong. Like would-be travelers or gullible sightseers we take as fact the opinions of the ‘experts’ about the 66 cities we have rarely or never been to visit.”

Why Women Should Be Readers of Good Books, HT to Out of the Ordinary.

The “At Least” Among Us, HT to True Woman. “The thing about saying ‘At least’ to someone—particularly someone who’s confessing their own anger, fear, grief, or sadness at the circumstances of their life, is it negates their wrestle and it naturally elevates our own.”

Five Dangers of Reading Christian Biographies, HT to True Woman. You know I love Christian biographies, but there are some potential stumbling blocks in reading them.

And finally, HT to Laura, this fun real estate listing showed a guest using the various facilities on the property.

Happy Friday!

Friday’s Fave Five

FFF daisies
It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

Funny how this week seems to have gone fast in some ways, slow in others. Here are my favorite parts.

1. Sunday lunch out with the family. Somehow we were all out of church and in the same vicinity at the same time, so we texted and met for lunch.

2. Lunch with my friend Melanie. We hadn’t been able to get together for a while. so it was nice to catch up. Plus we ate at Cracker Barrel, one of my favorite places. Plus I took home a slice of their Chocolate Coca-Cola cake, which is always scrumptious. Plus Melanie gifted me with a pretty teacup, as she is downsizing her collection.

3. A not so bad week. That might sound odd. 🙂 Jim was gone from Monday through Thursday this week, longer than he usually travels. He tries to keep it to a day or two, but it couldn’t be helped. I sometimes get a little down or depressed in regard to having all of his mom’s care on my shoulders for even a night, so I was afraid I was going to be a basket case before the week was over. But I prayed about it at the beginning of the week, tried to just take it a day at a time, and here we are nearly at the end. As I write this on Thursday, he is on his way after being delayed due to storms. (Update: he got home a few hours later than planned, but safely.) Jason and Mittu brought dinner over one night and then cleaned up the kitchen while I fed Jim’s mom, and that was a big help.

4. Cutting back sweet treats. I have been telling myself that I needed to cut back on sweets to at least once a day, but I keep not doing it. Then this week I was reading a book about someone changing their lifestyle and routine to a healthier version, and she mentioned she only had sweets a couple of times a week. I thought, “I should probably do that.” And, only by God’s grace, I have! I’m astounded, especially after struggling so long with the idea of cutting back at all. And though I occasionally crave my Hershey’s miniatures or other treats, once I ignore the craving and go on to do other things, I am not bothered by it any more. I still drink my glass of decaf sweet tea with lunch, but everything else I drink is sugarless. It’s only been a few days, but I’ve lost five pounds already! Though there are other measures I need to take in addition, this was a big one. To God be the Glory!

5. Two anniversaries. My son and daughter-in-law celebrated their anniversary this week! And it was eight years ago today we moved to TN. That was a year of many big changes, but God was good and faithful through them all.

Happy Friday!

Book Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo was published in 1831 but set in the Paris of 1482.

Quasimodo was a deformed child left at a place where foundlings were deposited for anyone who might want to take them in. He had so many physical issues that one of the gossipy women observing him declared it “must be a sin to look at such a thing.” A priest came by, saw the child, and adopted him.

The priest, Claude Frollo, had been a promising scholar when his own parents died. In compassion he took in his younger brother, Jehan, and raised him, and thoughts of what would have happened to Jehan if Claude had not been available compelled Claude to take in Quasimodo.

But several years later, Jehan became dissolute, preferring drinking and carousing to studying. Quasimodo, “From his very first steps among men…had felt himself, later on he had seen himself, spewed out, blasted, rejected. Human words were, for him, always a raillery or a malediction. As he grew up, he had found nothing but hatred around him. He had caught the general malevolence. He had picked up the weapon with which he had been wounded.” Quasimodo became the bell ringer for Notre Dame and loved the bells as he did no one else except Claude, but the bells made Quasimodo deaf. He was unable to benefit from the study Claude longed to impart. Thus, “Claude, saddened and discouraged in his human affections, by all this, had flung himself eagerly into the arms of learning, that sister which, at least does not laugh in your face, and which always pays you, though in money that is sometimes a little hollow, for the attention which you have paid to her. Hence, he became more and more learned, and, at the same time, as a natural consequence, more and more rigid as a priest, more and more sad as a man.” His insatiable thirst for knowledge led him to delve “further, lower, beneath all that finished, material, limited knowledge; he had, perhaps, risked his soul, and had seated himself in the cavern at that mysterious table of the alchemists, of the astrologers, of the hermetics.”

Further drawing Claude away from anything good and right was his lust for a gypsy girl named Esmeralda, who used to dance in the streets with her tambourine and have her goat perform tricks to earn money. Claude deemed that his unhealthy obsession for Esmeralda must be due to some sorcery on her part.

When Quasimodo was publicly punished for a crime that Claude put him up to, Esmeralda was the only person who took pity on him and offered him water. That act of kindness caused Quasimodo to love her, though he knew his love would never be returned.

Claude’s jealousy led to an assault for which Esmeralda was blamed. Quasimodo rescued her and hid her in the cathedral. But massive misunderstandings all around led to multiple tragedies.

My thoughts:

I have not seen any of the film versions of this book, but from what I understand, many of them twist the ending to be more upbeat. There is no happy ending in this book, except maybe for the playwright and the goat. In fact, it’s so dark and seemingly hopeless, I pondered for a long while what it was all for.

Some have said, due to the fact that the Hugo’s original title was Notre-Dame de Paris, and most of the action in the novel takes place in and around the cathedral, that it is the main character. One reason Hugo wrote this book was to call attention to the value of the Gothic architecture in the city and to rouse support for preserving it. Many of Paris’s buildings had been damaged over the centuries and new construction or repairs were not always in keeping with the Gothic style. One chapter in the book talks about how literature will “kill” architecture as a means of expression.

But on another level, this novel depicts a very human story. I can’t believe that it is all about the cathedral.

It could be about the destructive power of lust. Most of the tragedies that came raining down on almost everyone stem from Claude’s obsession with Esmeralda. Some of the others came or were exacerbated by a lust for power. Early in the novel, a playwright wanders into the wrong part of town and is put on “trial” by the riffraff of the city. Later, two different trials by the proper magistrates show themselves to be no more just than the underground kangaroo court. Even one scene involving the king shows his misplaced priorities.

It could be about the mistake of judging by appearances. Quasimodo, of course, was obviously misjudged from day one, which had an effect on his character. A captain, Phoebus is misjudged, but on the other end of the scale: because he is so handsome, people think he is good, when in reality he is a cad. Esmeralda is misjudged for her beauty but also for her ethnicity: gypsies were not respected, and she is constantly accused of sorcery or other crimes just because she is a gypsy. One of my favorite parts is a song Quasimodo sings outside Esmeralda’s window, translated by Project Gutenberg as follows:

Look not at the face, young girl, look at the heart. The heart of a handsome young man is often deformed. There are hearts in which love does not keep. Young girl, the pine is not beautiful; it is not beautiful like the poplar, but it keeps its foliage in winter. Alas! What is the use of saying that? That which is not beautiful has no right to exist; beauty loves only beauty; April turns her back on January. Beauty is perfect, beauty can do all things, beauty is the only thing which does not exist by halves. The raven flies only by day, the owl flies only by night, the swan flies by day and by night.

It could be about the nature of real love. Claude thinks he loves Esmeralda but his affection is dark, destructive, and self-centered. Esmeralda thinks she loves the captain, but her warm feelings are based on his looks and an act of kindness he rendered toward her. She’s totally blind to his real nature. Quasimodo, though not a good character, shines in his love for the bells and the cathedral – some say he is the soul of the cathedral, and without him, the building “seems deserted, inanimate, dead…like a skull which still has holes for the eyes, but no longer sight.” He loved Claude, but it was a love based on “gratitude carried to its extreme limit.” But his love for Esmeralda causes him to extend himself and sacrifice for her benefit. When he rescues her from the gallows, for the first time the mob sees him as “really beautiful,” at least for a time. Personally I like this view the best.

It could be about fate. In Hugo’s introduction, he describes “rummaging about” Notre Dame coming across the word “ANNAKE” inscribed on one of the walls. Later someone in the book defines the inscription to mean “Fate.” That did not make much sense to me, as the troubles in the book came often from wrong choices rather than outside forces. But Wikipedia defines the word as “a personification of inevitability, compulsion and necessity.” That makes more sense considering who inscribed it and why. The Wikipedia article also quotes Hugo in a collection of his poems, Toute la Lyre:

Religion, society, nature; these are the three struggles of man. These three conflicts are, at the same time, his three needs: it is necessary for him to believe, hence the temple; it is necessary for him to create, hence the city; it is necessary for him to live, hence the plow and the ship. But these three solutions contain three conflicts. The mysterious difficulty of life springs from all three. Man has to deal with obstacles under the form of superstition, under the form of prejudice, and under the form of the elements. A triple “ananke” (necessity) weighs upon us, the “ananke” of dogmas, the “ananke” of laws, and the “ananke” of things. In Notre Dame de Paris the author has denounced the first; in Les Misérables he has pointed out the second; in this book (Toilers of the Sea) he indicates the third. With these three fatalities which envelop man is mingled the interior fatality, that supreme ananke, the human heart.

I’m still sifting through what that means.

I chose The Hunchback of Notre Dame for the “classic that intimidates you” category of the Back to the Classics Challenge. It intimidated me due to its length, due to the fact that the subject matter didn’t naturally draw me, and due to Hugo’s penchant for rabbit trails. I have come close to reading it many times and then backed away, but Tarissa’s review encouraged me toward trying it.

There were fewer side discussions here than there were in Les Miserables, one of my top three favorite novels, and this book is not as long as Les Mis. But Les Mis ends triumphantly and beautifully even though it ends sadly. And even though darkness pervades Les Mis, light shines through. There’s little light in Hunchback. I was stunned to find much more sensuality in Hunchback, even though a major character in Les Mis is a prostitute. I thought Les Mis was fairly discreet, but Hunchback goes into much more detail in Frollo’s thoughts and in the captain’s nearly successful seduction scene. On the other hand, sometimes it sounds worse than it is: Esmeralda is described as “half naked” when she is taken to the gallows, but she is in a shift (something like a slip) with her legs uncovered: that hardly constitutes being “half naked” in our day, but it would have been indecent then.

So, I have mixed emotions about the book. I am glad to have read it, but it will never go down as a favorite. But I did enjoy the way Hugo developed the characters and their psychology. And, as most classics do, this book had me pondering different aspects of it for days after finishing it.

Forgive the lack of page numbers for the quotes: I listened to the audio version marvelously narrated by Bill Homewood. I got a paperback copy from the library to go over some parts, but it was a modernized translation. So I ended up using the Gutenberg version online to look up certain sections.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

Book Review: Back Home Again

Back HomeIn Back Home Again: Tales from the Grace Chapel Inn by Melody Carlson, Alice Howard is a middle-aged single woman who has lived with her father in the old family home for years. Now her father has passed away, and her sisters have come home for the funeral. The house has been left to the three of them equally, and as they discuss what to do with it, they hit upon the idea of converting it to a bed-and-breakfast.

Their first obstacle is a meddling aunt and small-town resistance to anything new. Then, the three sisters are so different, and two of them in particular disagree over every little aspect. Alice tries to be a peacemaker between her two sisters and her family and the town.

The sisters, their aunt, and the town learn to come together, forgive, and give each other the benefit of the doubt.

This is the first book in a series of over thirty, authored by various writers. A light, pleasant read.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday)

Book Review: The Pattern Artist

Pattern ArtistIn The Pattern Artist by Nancy Moser, Annie Wood left her dysfunctional family to go into service as a housemaid in England in 1911. She had a knack for sewing and alteration and hoped those skills would pave her way towards becoming a lady’s maid. She accompanied the family on a visit to America, and a number of factors worked together to compel her to run away with a couple of friends to see what life had to offer in this country.

Their first few days are rough, but then Annie lands a job at Macy’s Department Store in the sewing department. Her suggestions for her customers are noticed favorably by her managers, but negatively by a jealous coworker. A Butterick pattern salesman sees her potential and recruits her to join his company as a pattern designer.

Annie’s path is not always smooth, though. A number of obstacles, dangers, and a tragedy block her way. But she hopes, with hard work, determination, and a faith just beginning to bud, that she might find her own American dream. She learns “Humble beginnings are a badge of honor. It’s not where you begin, but where you end up” (p. 187).

This book caught my eye because I have enjoyed many of Nancy’s books, plus I used to do a lot of sewing and worked in a fabric shop for years. It was fun to read of how all of that worked in the early 1900s.I had not heard before of the Reform Dress Movement, an effort “started in the 1840s, rejecting the unhealthy confinement of the female form, and promoting practical clothing” (p. 189), but I am glad it helped get rid of corsets and ridiculous fashions like the hobble skirt.The movement plays a part in Annie’s career.

I enjoyed the author’s explanations in the afterword about how she came to include some of the various historic details. And somehow I totally missed the double meaning of the title until I read it in that afterward, but it should have been plain to me. Realizing that made me enjoy the story all the more.

It dawned on me at some point that the family Annie first worked for was in Nancy’s Summerfield (Manor House) series. I have only read the first book in that series so far, but it was fun to make that connection.

Overall quite an enjoyable read!

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday)

Toward a Quiet Soul

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?

Have you ever felt disquieted?

Three times the psalmist asked himself why he is cast down and disquieted (Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5). The ESV says “in turmoil”; the NASB uses “disturbed.” Other translations say “sad,” “restless,” “upset.” But “disquieted” aptly includes all kinds of disturbances.

The Hebrew word translated “disquieted” in those two psalms includes these definitions:

“To murmur, growl, roar, cry aloud, mourn, rage, sound, make noise, tumult, be clamorous, be disquieted, be loud, be moved, be troubled, be in an uproar, to roar, to be in a stir, be in a commotion, to be boisterous, be turbulent.”

Ever felt any of those?

Each of those times the psalmists asks himself why he is disquieted, he answers himself, “hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

That’s the course of many of the psalms. The writer has no peace of mind for various reasons: enemies are after him; sin weighs on his conscious; wicked people are prospering at the expense of the righteous. I love the honesty of the psalmists’ emotions as they lay out their dilemmas and questions before God. And gradually, as they remind themselves of what they know about their God and put their situation in the proper perspective, their souls return to peace, to rest.

Psalm 107 speaks of a physical storm, but there are parallels to a spiritual, emotional, or mental storm as well.:

Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Psalm 107:28-30, KJV

We’re always glad when peace and quietness reign after any storm.

A quiet soul is not a result of Zen-like tranquility or an emptying of the mind. It’s not a mystical state. It comes from deliberately, consciously reminding ourselves of God’s love, wisdom, promises, and power and resting in Him. Whatever we’re going through, God has a reason for it and will give us grace to deal with it.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:2, ESV

It’s fine to pray for calm circumstances.

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV

God doesn’t always remove the problems, but He gives His peace. I once saw a saying on a plaque that said, “Sometimes God calms the storm: sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child.”

But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil. Proverbs 1:33, KJV

A quiet soul is not passive, but actively resting in God.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling…Isaiah 30:15, ESV

A quiet soul can go from God’s Word and prayer into everyday life, still trusting and resting.

But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-13, ESV

For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, ESV

But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious, 1 Peter 3:4, ESV

Having a quiet spirit does not mean one is silent or mousy: it doesn’t quell exuberance. It’s a quietness of rest and peace. It’s not stirred up in a wrong way over the wrong things.

It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:26, KJV

And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. . Isaiah 32:17, ESV

Sometimes God has to disquiet us before He can quiet us. Sometimes we need to be shaken out of our complacency or chastened. Jonah was disturbed at God’s calling for him and tried to run away. God dealt with him rather severely. In Jonah’s prayer in the fish’s belly, he laments:

For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me (verse 3, ESV).

The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains (verses 5-6, ESV).

But when his “life was fainting away,” he “remembered the Lord” (verse 7), prayed, thanked God, and promised to fulfill his vows. God delivered him, and Jonah went on to obey God. Unfortunately, Jonah continued to have attitude problems and never did seem to come to truly rest in the Lord, at least in this book. The end result of chastening rightly received is “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:5-13).

I originally wanted to publish this post last week, but felt strongly impressed to go with a different one instead. I think one of the reasons for waiting was that God knew I would come across two quotes in my reading this week that tied in with this topic.

H. A. Ironside said in his book Full Assurance:

As one walks with God, and learns to suffer and endure as seeing Him who is invisible, eternal things become more real than the things of time and sense, which are everything to the merely natural man. Thus there comes to the heart a trustful calm, a full assurance, based not alone on the revealed Word but upon a personal knowledge of communion with God, which gives implicit confidence as to this present life and all that lies ahead. (pp. 59-60, emphasis mine).

Then the ESV Study Bible says of Psalm 62:1-2:

The description of a trusting soul is there to set an ideal for God’s people: each one should aspire to this kind of quiet faith (p. 1011).

And the introduction to Psalm 63 in the ESV Study Bible says:

This psalm opens as if it were a lament, seeking God in a time of trouble; and yet the overall flow of the song is one of confident expectation. Hence it is best to see the psalm as enabling each of God’s people to develop confidence during their times of trouble (p. 1012).

Whatever the source of our trouble – God’s chastening or growing us, outward circumstances or inward turmoil – we can rest in His presence, wisdom, love, care, and provision.

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness;  he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17, ESV

He Will Quiet You

In this life, there are times of tribulation;
Hearts are filled with deep despair.
Heartache and pain and troubles abound;
Is there comfort anyway?
In your times of trial,
Lift your eyes to the Father above
He alone is the Answer,
The Source of please and love.

He will quiet you,
He will quiet you.
He will take delight in you,
And quiet you with his love.
His plans for you are perfect
And all His ways are best.
He will give you rest
As He quiets you with his love

He longs to take you into his arms,
And gently shelter you.
Only He can calm the storms in your life,
And give you peace anew.
And He will rejoice,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
He will rejoice,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
The Creator of all will lift up His voice;
And over your life
He will sing and rejoice!
He will rejoice!
He will rejoice!

He will quiet you,
He will quiet you.
He will take delight in you
And quiet you with his love.

His plans for you are perfect
And all His ways are best.
He will give you rest
As He quiets you with his love.
Come to Him for rest
Let Him quiet you with his love.

~ Words and music by Cindy Berry

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire)

Laudable Linkage

Here’s my latest round-up of thought-provoking online reads:

Danger: Doing “Jesusy” Stuff Without Knowing Jesus, HT to True Woman.

7 Things You Should Know About the Formation of the New Testament, HT to Out of the Ordinary.

Russian Spies, Post-millennialism, and the National Prayer Breakfast.

The Morning Before a Sexual Fall: How the Battle for Purity Is Lost. Though the context is sexual sin, the principles apply to any temptation.

Smells Like Teen Spirit, HT to Challies. “For many, ‘going to church’ is less about worshiping the infinitely holy God who was redeemed a people for Himself by giving up His Son to the bloody death on the cross, as it is about getting a shot of motivational vitamin-B for existential significance. Rather than being called by God into His presence by the mediating work of His Son, “Here we are now; entertain us” becomes the liturgical responsive call to worship. After all, the success of the church is dependent on your excitement, isn’t it?”

6 Warning Signs Of A Bad Pastor And Spiritual Abuse, HT to Challies.

Learn to Embrace Mess, HT to Challies. I didn’t think I was going to agree with this, based on the title, but it does make sense in context.

Confusing Christ-likeness with Christ: Seeking the soft-hearted in the search for a spouse, HT to True Woman.

No, Kids, You Can’t Be Anything You Want to Be.

9 Things Adult Daughters Want Their Moms to Know.

Shouldn’t We Share Our Concerns About a Book Directly with the Author Instead of in the Public Forum? HT to Challies.

How Many Cups in a Quart? A free printable chart.

Fake Views: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Soviet Photoshopping – before Photoshop was invented. HT to Challies.

And finally, a couple of thoughts for the day found on Pinterest:

Happy Saturday!