End-of-March musings

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March is a month of contrasts. The worst of winter and best of spring. Daffodils pushing through brown grass. Rain and sunshine.

Our days have contrasted as well — a couple of very busy weeks followed by laid-back ones.

Writing

I started off the very first March weekend with my second writer’s conference. Though I enjoyed and learned from the first one, I gleaned so much more from this one. The keynote speaker, Karissa Culbreath, had some excellent sessions. I benefited from great workshops and meetings and an immensely helpful and encouraging critique of my partial manuscript submission. And! I won a prize in a devotional writing contest and an opportunity for a chapter of mine to be included in an anthology. Exciting! And encouraging that there has been improvement in the last year.

I am sorry to say I have not accomplished much on the writing front since then. Distracted by other things, I guess. I did incorporate the suggestions made by the person who critiqued my manuscript at the writer’s conference, and I keep a running list of notes about things to add or adjust. I think the difficulty is that now I need to go back and shape up each chapter, and the first one needs the most work. In some ways that’s harder than just getting my thoughts out in the first place. But I will get back to it as soon as possible!

Family

The very next week after the conference, we celebrated my dear husband’s birthday and I had a follow-up appointment six months from my physical (with good results, thankfully). This is the only card I hand-made this month.

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We also celebrated with my middle son his one billionth second of life. 🙂

My favorite Timothyism of the month: Evidently when we get up from a sitting position, we often remark that we “must be getting old.” So one evening as I got up from the dining chair and groaned a little, my four-year-old grandson said, “Are you old now?” Getting there! Much too quickly!

Around the house

After the scheduled events settled down, the activity around the house picked up. The weekend I was away, Jim took up the carpet that was in our bathroom and replaced it with new flooring.

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Much improved! Now the search is on for wall paint and bath mats. The first sample paint we tried was too blue and we’ve yet to try another one. I found some pink and grey striped bath mats, but they looked a little too busy – plus they had all kinds of strings hanging from them after washing them. I think I need mostly solid-colored ones.

Jim’s also been busy transforming the room his mom lived in for the last five years back into his office. We’d had some of her equipment (Hoyer lift, Broda chair) on sale on Facebook and Craig’s list, hoping to recoup some expenses plus get them to someone who needed them. But we didn’t have any takers. Jim has a colleague who was helping some friends, a husband taking care of his wife, and Jim offered to give the equipment to them. At least he had the satisfaction of knowing it was a help to someone.

He took some things off walls, patched and painted holes and dents, and rearranged a few things. He has a way to hook up his computer to her TV, so he has an extra screen. He mounted the TV on the wall to give his desk (an old table) more surface space. My son and daughter-in-law had a photo blown up and printed on wood that my oldest son had taken of the Snake River Canyon when we were in Idaho and given it to Jim on his birthday. They had Romans 8:18 printed in the corner, a verse that was special to us when Jim’s mom passed away. He was able to get that up on his office wall.

I couldn’t get a picture without the shadow of my arms in it – it looks much better in person!

The room is starting to look a lot more like his own space now. I’m so happy for him to have it. Not just because I don’t have to listen to one-sided business conversations any more. 🙂 But he really didn’t have his own spot to work, spread things out and leave them, etc., and now he does.

I don’t usually go on a cleaning frenzy just because of a date on the calendar. But recently I’ve noticed that our kitchen cabinets were in sad shape: dusty inside and out. Plus I needed to create some space for our small blenders (one an immersion blender and the other a “Magic Bullet” type, though not that brand). We had used them several times a day to puree Jim’s mom’s food, and washed them by hand and left them in the dish drainer for the next time. Since we’re not using them so often any more, I needed to find a spot inside for them. I followed my friend Dianna‘s example and just did a section at a time. I started with the easy ones – the cabinets that were already organized but just needed everything taken out and the shelves dusted. Now they’re all done except the biggest two that are going to need the most work. Though my goal was cleaning and rearranging, I have found a few things to get rid of.

Exercise

I’ve been struggling (again) with exercise. I benefit from the gym but hate the traveling time and the time involved changing into special clothes and back – as well as the time it takes just to exercise. But I can tell such a difference in my stamina when I am exercising regularly. So the past week or two I’ve been using some walking DVDs I have at home. Jim has been looking for a used exercise bike – the thing I use most at the gym – and just found one over the weekend. I’ve already put it to use and plan to keep at it!.

Reading

I’ve enjoyed a lot of good reading this month! I’ve finished the following and have linked back to my reviews:

Laura Ingall’s Wilder’s Fairy Poems, compiled by Stephen Hines

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Songbook compiled and edited by Eugenia Garson. Music and a little background of the songs mentioned in the Little House books.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis by Patti Callahan, a fiction based-on-fact account of C. S. Lewis’s wife.

Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey, another fictional book based on the true friendship of C. H. Spurgeon and a freed slave, Thomas Johnson.

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke, a novel about the daughter of an American genetic scientist who hides and saves the deaf daughter of a friend. Excellent! My first book by Gohlke, but not my last.

Love Is Not a Special Way of Feeling, a reprint of Charles G. Finney’s Attributes of Love by another name. Difficult to read, and I disagreed with several points, but did glean a few helpful thoughts.

She Makes It Look Easy by Marybeth Whalen, about a “perfect” friend who is not really so perfect after all.

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright, a novel about a family’s discovery, after their parents’ deaths, that the father had written a letter to his wife ever Wednesday of their 39 years together.

I’ve just finished but have not yet reviewed The Fashion Designer by Nancy Moser and How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn.

I’m currently reading Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior, How to Understand and Apply the New Testament by Andrew Naselli, The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, and I’ll Watch the Moon by Ann Tatlock.

Around the blog

Besides the book reviews and weekly Friday’s Fave Fives, I’ve shared:

And that wraps up another month!

(Shannan invites us to share our end-of-month round-up posts, what we’re into, what’s keeping us sane. Also sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Quick Lit)

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Laudable Linkage

Here are a few interesting reads found on the web lately:

Next in the Sexual Revolution: Children. HT to Proclaim and Defend. “They claim children are sexual beings too and who are we to deny a consenting child that right?” Scary and appalling.

Matthew 18 is Not Instructive for Book Reviews, But Much of the New Testament Is, HT to Challies. “‘Did you contact the author privately before you posted the review?’ . . . The question invokes the well-known, but oft-misunderstood, church discipline passage in Matthew 18:15-20.”

The Miracle That Can Happen When You’re Tired. “They were tired. They were overworked. They were hungry. Which just so happens to be the perfect time for God to display His power.”

Who Says Social Media Can’t Make You Wise? HT to True Woman. “Ten years of social media has shown me the wisdom of being slow to speak, how comparison kills joy, how in-person friendship knows no substitute. But it has also taught me the sweetness of the well-timed word of encouragement, of shared celebrations and shared losses. Used wisely, a virtual platform can actually minister. For those indwelt by the Spirit, wisdom can be unearthed from even such common soil as social media.”

14 Stunning Illustrations That Perfectly Capture the Introverts Love of Books, HT to Linda

The $8,000 Mistake All Bloggers Should Beware. I forget where I saw this one. “Copyright laws have created and enabled an industry of predatory lawyers – also known as copyright trolls. These attorneys take advantage of photographers and artists who make their images available online, as well as the bloggers who don’t know any better and post the wrong content to their sites.” Apparently they don’t have to warn you first and give you a chance to take it down. We all know (or should) that just because a photo is on the Internet doesn’t mean we can use it. But apparently some of the instances we thought were ok, like a link back to the original site, don’t justify the use of the photo.

You’re Using a Cutting Board Incorrectly, HT to Challies. I never knew! But it makes sense!

And, finally, someone on Facebook posted this video of a baby trying chocolate milk for the first time. Adorable!

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

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

Here are a few of my favorite things from the last week:

1. Jason’s one-billionth second. Somehow my son Jason had determined a while back that his one-billionth second of life would occur this week. So Mittu, his wife, cooked up a little surprise celebration and asked us over for it. Fun!

My grandson had not known we were coming, and he was out with his dad in the front yard riding his tricycle as we approached the house. As soon as he realized it was us, he started pumping his arms up and down, then started tapping my door after we parked, and gave me a hug as soon as I got out of the car. There’s nothing like being so warmly greeted by a sweet little boy.

2. Good news. My oldest son is looking to buy his first home, and we’ve enjoyed reports that the process is coming along. Especially good was that his credit number was better than when he first looked at it – turns out if you have a dispute over a charge on your credit card, that card isn’t listed in your credit report. Thankfully, on the second check, his number was back up there where it should be.

3. An insulated drink holder. I recently discovered this. My soft drinks tend to lose their coldness too soon. I don’t like to use ice, because it dilutes them. This helps!

4. More out-of-the-ordinary tasks accomplished. I don’t spring clean per se, but lately I’ve noticed my kitchen cabinets looking dusty inside and out. Last Saturday I cleaned the outside of all of them. I’m taking the insides a bit at a time and have gotten most of the upper cabinets done. It’s a nice feeling to be getting that done.

5. Fluffy pillows. I *love* how my pillows feel just after I’ve washed and dried them.

Happy Friday!

Book Review: The Wednesday Letters

Jack and Laurel Cooper were married for 39 years. The last few years they’ ran a bed-and-breakfast in VA. Jack had been battling cancer and knew his time was short. Laurel had heart issues they were both unaware of. At the end of the first chapter, Jack and Laurel died in each other’s arms.

The Coopers had three adult children. Matthew, the oldest, is a tightly wound businessman. Samantha, the only daughter, is a police officer who originally wanted to be an actress. Malcolm, the youngest, is a bit of a wild card, living in South America and writing a book at the time of his parents’ deaths.

As the three converge at their parents’ place and start going through papers, they discover a collection of letters. They had never known that their father wrote a letter to their mother every Wednesday of their marriage. Some are fun (especially one about a chance meeting with Elvis). Some recall daily or major events, some are silly, some are poignant. Some reveal deep and painful secrets that are of particular consequence to Malcolm. Can he forgive as his parents forgave?
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I first saw this book advertised in the Victoria Trading Company catalog and thought it sounded interesting. Because it was in that catalog, I thought it would be from the Victorian era. Instead, it’s set in 1988. I don’t often take chances with modern secular fiction, unless I have heard favorable reviews from someone I trust, because it usually contains bad language or explicit scenes. But I decided to go ahead with this book. And I was pleasantly surprised. There were no objectionable elements, and the story was well-written and touching with an undercurrent of faith.

I did not know until after I finished the book and was looking for more information that the author is a Mormon. I have serious disagreements with much Mormon doctrine, but I didn’t pick up on anything of that nature in the story.

Book Review: She Makes It Look Easy

In the novel She Makes It Look Easy by Marybeth Whalen, Ariel Baxter is a stay-at-home mom and photographer. Her photography side business has taken off to such a degree that she and her husband can afford a nice new home in a neighborhood she has dreamed of living in for years. Though Ariel has her gifts, her life and home are disorganized and chaotic.

Through my lens I watched the dynamic of friendship play out among Heather and her friends: the familiarity laced with timidity, the chance to open up paired with the fear of being exposed, the awkward dance of really knowing another person. . . somehow the girls always found a way to come back together, to find what made them stick and hold on to that. I envied their natural rapport, the ease that can only come with time together. How ironic, I thought as I focused and clicked, that these girls already had what I couldn’t seem to find.

Ariel’s neighbor, Justine is one of those women who has it all together. She’s pretty, fit, perfectly made up for a pool party, her daughters wear matching outfits. She’s organized – she even has an organizing notebook! And she’s creative and speaks to her church’s ladies’ group.

Ariel is delighted that Justine deigns to befriend her and help her start organizing and exercising. As they spend more time together, Ariel is sometimes frustrated that Justine calls the shots in what they do. But she doesn’t want to jeopardize the friendship, so she goes along. She even acquiesces when Justine steers her away from another neighbor, Erica, whom Ariel actually likes.

As events unfold, we see that Justine’ life is not as perfect as everyone else thinks. She may be organized, but her happiness, marriage, and spiritual life are facades.

We had been living in denial for months, fooling ourselves into thinking that we were safe if we stayed inside the bubble of our affluent neighborhood, not realizing that’s the problem with bubbles: They shimmer and shine, but they burst easily.

I think we all have a little bit of Eve in us. She had perfection and everything she could ever want and still she reached for more.

I fell asleep praying for the strength to do what was right and for God to guard me from situations that could land me in the same situation Justine had gotten herself into. I was learning we all need protection from ourselves.

The not-so-subtle theme of the book is that no one is perfect and we shouldn’t put people up on pedestals. No matter how great everything looks on the outside, we all have our issues. While I think this is an important point, and we get into a lot of trouble comparing ourselves to each other, I felt the author took the theme and characters to extremes. I don’t think she’s saying that organized, put-together people are bad and disorganized people with messy lives are on the right track, but it almost looks that way in the book.

Another theme is the contrast between healthy and toxic friendships. Justine is the suburban equivalent of the “queen bee” at school whose favor almost everyone seeks and who decides who is “in” and “out.” Ariel’s just glad to be “in” at first and she’s entirely too trusting. Slowly and painfully her eyes are opened to the truth.

Motivations are another key factor. Justine seems to be primarily motivated by finding “happiness,” even if it takes her on a path that she knows is wrong. Her organization, ministries, and everything else were not for God and His glory or to benefit her family and others. They were her personal search for significance.

Some readers would want to know that a couple of characters engage in adultery, but there are no explicit scenes.

Overall, this story uncovers important truths to consider in our friendships, motivations, our evaluation of ourselves, and our walk with the Lord.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved)

The humility of wisdom

When’s the last time you heard anyone say they needed wisdom? About the only time I hear anyone mention wisdom is in regard to a particular situation. “I need wisdom about this job decision.” I’m praying for wisdom for dealing with Johnny’s continued disobedience.”

But when is the last time we thought about our need for wisdom just to live our everyday lives for God’s honor and glory? We often pray that He will guide us, provide for us, forgive us. But do we pray for wisdom? Do we value wisdom as the Bible does?

Or do we plunge ahead with our day and our plans, thinking we know everything we need to and can make our own choices?

Our church has been reading through Proverbs together the last few weeks. If you’re familiar at all with Proverbs, you know it is all about wisdom. I don’t think there is a chapter that doesn’t mention it. And since we’ve been camped out there, the need for and value of wisdom have been emphasized repeatedly and in varying ways.

A full-scale study of wisdom would take more space than a blog post allows. But what struck me most during this reading is the humility of wisdom.

It takes humility to understand that we need wisdom, that to go our own way often leads us astray.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
 Proverbs 14:12

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10

It takes humility to search for wisdom, to acknowledged that I don’t have it, and no matter how much I have, I need more.

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;  yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:1-5

It takes humility to receive and instruction, and even more to receive rebuke. I was familiar with one or two verses about it being wise to receive reproof,  but I’ve noted 19 so far! Here are a few:

Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear. Proverbs 25:12

The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.
Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:31-33

By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.
 Proverbs 13:10

If someone tries to correct us, is our first response, “I better take heed: I might gain some wisdom from this?” No, our first response is anger with thoughts of “Who do you think you are?” and “Don’t judge me!” But the Bible says the wise person listens and learns. By contrast, “A scoffer does not listen to rebuke” (Proverbs 13:1) and “He who hates reproof is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1).

It’s scary to think of the personal consequences of rejecting reproof: it’s even more scary to realize that my lack of listening to instruction can negatively affect others. “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray” (Proverbs 10:17).

I wonder if this lack of realization of our need for wisdom is behind our subtle ageism, even in the church. Once when visiting a new church, someone was showing us where the various classes were, and as we passed one door, our guide said, “Oh, you don’t want that one. That’s where the older folks are.” One younger lady told me she didn’t come to our ladies’ meetings because she thought only older ladies attended – even though at that time most of the attendees were just in their forties. Instead of deeming older people as worthy of our time and drawing on their wisdom, we label them out of touch, too slow, not “with it.” Proverbs honors older saints and the value of listening to authorities.

Of course, the need for wisdom runs throughout the Bible, not just Proverbs. One notable passage says:

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. Colossians 2:1-4.

May we continually seek Him and His wisdom through His Word.

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(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth. Links do not imply complete endorsement)

Friday’s Fave Five

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

Here are a few of my favorite things from the last week:

1. Lunch with a friend. A joyous time of talking together and a wonderful lunch – an entree I had not tried before and loved. (So much, in fact, that I ordered it again yesterday when my son and I got take-out to bring home!)

2. A church potluck. Good stuff, good times. Added bonus: I’ll spare you the details, but I had to adjust what I was making from the recipe’s instructions to work around the time constraints, and I was concerned about it being not done enough or overdone. But it came out just right! Thank you, Lord!

3. Time with the grandson while his parents went out on a date. Among other things, he and his granddad made slime and put together and flew a balsa wood plane. His parents brought over frozen mini tacos and Mexican rice for an easy dinner (and one that he likes).

4. Getting some “extra” cleaning tasks done – those that are occasional rather than weekly or monthly.

5. Pill sorters. Sometimes it’s the little things. I used to keep a running list of what pill I was taking at what time, otherwise I could never remember. I used one of these containers that divides your medicine into different days of the week for a trip, and I have been using it ever since.

Bonus: The first day of spring! One of my favorite days of the year! Even though this winter was not as bad as previous ones, there were enough bone-chilling cold days and bleak landscapes to make me long for spring. I don’t have my spring decorations out just yet – hopefully this weekend.

Happy Friday!

Book Review: Love Is Not a Special Way of Feeling

I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes struggle with the concept that Christian love, agape love, is said to be more about what we do than how we feel. Yet 1 Corinthians 13 warns that we can do notable, even sacrificial things without love, which sounds like clanging gongs and such. So if I go through the motions of, say, caregiving without feeling warm and loving about it, is that lacking in Christlikeness and therefore assigned to the gong department?

Evidently this question has been on my mind for a long time, because I got this book, Love Is Not a Special Way of Feeling, way back in college. Yet, somehow, I never got around to reading it. I just rediscovered it recently and determined to get it read this year.

First of all, I do not know much about the author, Charles G. Finney. I had heard him quoted favorably in my first few years as a Christian (which probably was a factor in my picking up this book). In more recent years I’ve heard him referred to negatively as somewhat manipulative in his revivalist methods. His Wikipedia page says he was an advocate of Christian perfectionism, which I do not believe in (not until heaven, anyway). So I especially prayed for discernment while reading this book.

As it turns out, the text of this 1963 book is taken from a section of Finney’s 1846 Lectures on Systematic Theology titled “Attributes of Love.” The latter is much more accurate. The back of the 1963 books admits the new title was an attention-getting device.

After a chapter on “What is Implied in Obedience to the Moral Law?” Finney discusses three to four attributes per chapter. Some you would expect: kindness, impartiality, holiness, truth, justice, sincerity, self-denial. Some were a surprise and took a bit of reading to discern how he meant them in regard to love: economy, efficiency, severity, complacency, and others. Some words have changed since the book was originally written. Finney supports some of these attributes with Scripture; others seem based on conjecture.

The language was very difficult to work through: the back of the book and the foreword concede that. But if I am reading him correctly, he seems to be saying that emotions are in themselves neutral. They are only good or bad depending on one’s will or intention. Anger can be a sin or not, depending on what one is angry about. There’s a righteous anger against wrong-doing, like slavery, human trafficking, abuse, etc. But there’s an anger the Bible warns against, especially in Proverbs, Colossians, and Ephesians. I don’t think I’d agree entirely with the thought that emotions are totally neutral, because some of them spring from my sinful nature before I even have time to think about will and intent.

On the other hand, faith is not based of feelings: it is based on facts. He remarks rightly, I believe, that too many Christians, when asked about their spiritual life, will reply with how they feel.

They judge their religious state not by the end for which they live–that is, by their choice or intention–but by their emotions. If they find themselves strongly exercised with emotions of love to God, they look upon themselves as in a state well-pleasing to God. But if their feelings or emotions of love are not active, they of course judge themselves to have little or no religion (p. 31).

I agree that our spirituality is not just a matter of our feelings. But I disagree “that feeling and outward action are only results of ultimate intention and in themselves neither virtue or vice” (p. 125).

Some of Finney’s statements were helpful. Some I strongly disagreed with.

The biggest takeaway from the book for me was that a thought or feeling can sometimes be just a temptation and not a sin in itself. I’m sure I knew this to a degree, but these pages brought it home to me in a new way.

Patience as a phenomenon of the will, tends to patience as a phenomenon of the sensibility. That is, the quality of fixedness and steadfastness in the intention naturally tends to keep down and allay impatience of temper. As, however, the states of the sensibility are not directly under the control of the will, there may be irritable or impatient feelings, when the heart remains steadfast. Facts or falsehoods may be suggested to the mind which may, in despite of the will, produce a ruffling of the sensibility, even when the heart remains patient. The only way in which a temptation, for it is only a temptation while the will abides firm to its purpose, I say, the only way in which a temptation of this kind can be disposed of, is by diverting the attention from that view of the subject that creates the disturbance in the sensibility. I should have said before, that although the will controls the feelings by a law of necessity, yet, as it does not do so directly, but indirectly, it may and does often happen, that feelings corresponding to the state of the will do not exist in the sensibility. Nay, for a time, a state of the sensibility may exist which is the opposite of the state of the will. From this source arise many, and indeed most, of our temptations (pp. 66-67).

I wish now, then, to state distinctly what I should have said before, that the state or choice of the will does not necessarily so control the feelings, desires, or emotions, that these may never be strongly excited by Satan or by circumstances, in opposition to the will, and thus become powerful temptations to seek their gratification, instead of seeking the highest good of being. Feelings, the gratification of which would be opposed to every attribute of benevolence, may at times co-exist with benevolence, and be a temptation to selfishness; but opposing acts of will cannot co-exist with benevolence. All that can be truly said is, that as the will has an indirect control of the feelings, desires, appetites, passions, etc., it can suppress any class of feelings when they arise, by diverting the attention from their causes, or by taking into consideration such views and facts as will calm or change the state of the sensibility. Irritable feelings, or what is commonly called impatience, may be directly caused by ill health, irritable nerves, and by many things over which the will has no direct control. But this is not impatience in the sense of sin. If these feelings are not suffered to influence the will; if the will abides in patience; if such feelings are not cherished, and are not suffered to shake the integrity of the will; they are not sin. That is, the will does not consent to them, but the contrary. They are only temptations. If they are allowed to control the will, to break forth in words and actions, then there is sin; but the sin does not consist in the feelings, but in the consent of the will, to gratify them. Thus, the apostle says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” That is, if anger arise in the feelings and sensibility, do not sin by suffering it to control your will. Do not cherish the feeling, and let not the sun go down upon it. For this cherishing it is sin. When it is cherished, the will consents and broods over the cause of it; this is sin. But if it be not cherished, it is not sin (pp. 67-68).

The example from which Finney posits this truth is Christ in Gethsemane.

Patience as a phenomenon of the will must strengthen and gird itself under such circumstances, so that patience of will may be, and if it exist at all, must be, in exact proportion to the impatience of the sensibility. The more impatience of sensibility there is, the more patience of will there must be, or virtue will cease altogether. So that it is not always true, that virtue is strongest when the sensibility is most calm, placid, and patient. When Christ passed through his greatest conflicts, his virtue as a man was undoubtedly most intense. When in his agony in the garden, so great was the anguish of his sensibility, that he sweat as it were great drops of blood. This, he says, was the hour of the prince of darkness. This was his great trial. But did he sin? No, indeed. But why? Was he calm and placid as a summer’s evening? As far from it as possible.

Patience, then, as an attribute of benevolence, consists, not in placid feeling, but in perseverance under trials and states of the sensibility that tend to selfishness. This is only benevolence viewed in a certain aspect. It is benevolence under circumstances of discouragement, of trial, or temptation. “This is the patience of the saints.” (pp. 69-70).

In conclusion, at the very least I can say that I have finally read this book. I gained perhaps a bit more insight into my original question of faith vs. feeling, but not a definitive answer.

As I have thought through this repeatedly over the years, I agree that love sometimes means doing the right thing despite feelings. A weary mom awakened by her baby for a 2 a.m. feeding probably doesn’t feel warm and loving at first. She probably feels groggy and maybe even grumpy at having to get up in the middle of the night. But those warm, loving feelings kick in later. I don’t necessarily feel the joy of ministering to my family as I make dinner: sometimes I am frustrated at not being able to finish whatever I was doing. I don’t feel kind and loving when I’m interrupted at the computer just when I’m on a roll in my writing. And some of those irritations at being interrupted are selfish. But the kind and loving thing to do is to give my attention to my loved one and hope that the brilliant ( 🙂 ) thoughts come back to me later. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17, KJV). But, hopefully, as I grow in the Lord, my feelings as well as my actions will line up more and more with a true expression of godly love.

Book Review: Saving Amelie

AmelieIn the novel Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke, American Rachel Kramer’s dreams for her life do not match her father’s, so she is eager to get away and start her own life. But she agrees to accompany him for one last trip together to Germany in 1939.

Her father, Dr. Kramer, has done extensive work in the field of genetics, specifically eugenics. Motivated by a desire to eradicate tuberculosis, he argues for sterilization of those who might spread the disease. He shares his work with German scientists who want to apply eugenics much more broadly.

While in Germany, Rachel plans to meet with an old friend, Kristine. But instead of a joyful reunion, Rachel is alarmed at the changes. Kristine is cowed by her controlling husband, SS officer Gerhardt Schlick. Furthermore, Kristine is afraid for the life of her daughter, Amelie, who is deaf and thereby a blight on Gerhardt’s Aryan bloodline. Kristine begs Rachel to take Amelie away before something terrible happens to her. But Rachel has her own plans. She’s not good with children and doesn’t know how she would ever get her out, much less what to do with her afterward.

But as Rachel checks further into her father’s research, she finds that eugenics goes far beyond the prevention of disease, and the German scientists are running experiments on a wide variety people whom they deem imperfect in some way. She’s further stunned to find that she herself has been an object of experimentation, and she has a family she never knew of.

American journalist Jason Young’s reports have been censored by the authorities before leaving the country. But even though his reporting has been hampered, he’s aware of much more than he lets on. At first he thinks Rachel is a part of the Nazi regime and scientific community, then realizes she doesn’t know the full extent of it. Once she does, they join together to save Amelie and others, even crossing paths with theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Rachel herself has to go into hiding, with Gerhardt Schlick determined to find her.
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This is the first book I’ve read by Cathy Gohlke, but it won’t be the last. Not only was the story was riveting, but Cathy deftly showed how some of the policies of that day are making inroads in modern times, with some less than perfect children deemed unworthy of life. I love how she wove the philosophical discussion in without weighing down the action of the story. The secondary characters are just as well-drawn as the main ones. Highly recommended.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Press on toward the goal

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There is a tension in life between satisfaction with where we are and the need to grow in various areas. Coaches encourage and applaud athletes’ efforts and milestones while still pressing them to do more and do better. Parents celebrate and reward good grades and bolster their students for the next test or project. Performance reviews acknowledge an employee’s strengths and successes, but they also note areas where the employee needs to grow and improve. A wise coach, parent, teacher, supervisor, or mentor has to constantly seek balance, avoiding the stance of a slave-driving task-master who is never satisfied with anything less than perfection on one hand and that of the indulgent grandmother who never sees a fault on the other hand. And we need to seek that same balance with ourselves.

I see some of this same tension in the Bible, particularly Paul’s epistles.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, Paul writes, “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more.”

Paul prays that the Philippians’ “love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9).

In Colossians, Paul proclaims: “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (1:27-29). Christ is in those of us who believe in Him, yet there is a sense in which we grow in maturity in Him.

In Philippians 3, Paul acknowledges that he’s still in a state of growth and hasn’t reached perfection yet. We often use his statement in verse 13, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” as an encouragement to forget the sins and failures of the past. But what Paul is setting aside in that passage is his past laurels (verses 4-11).

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11, ESV).

Our righteousness comes by faith in Christ, not our efforts. Our own efforts could never measure up. Yet there is still a “straining forward” toward growth in maturity.

Sometimes perfectionists can be thoroughly discouraged that no matter how much progress we’ve made, we’ll never get to the point where we don’t have something to work on. But we won’t be perfect until we reach heaven. Part of Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:11 is that we may “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” That fruit comes from God. But fruit also conveys the idea of growth. And growth takes time.

On the other hand, some of us are prone to inertia. “Good enough” is sufficient for some ares of life. I once heard of someone who boasted that when she made the bed, the sheets were stretched so firm and tight that a quarter could bounce off them. And I thought, “Whatever for?” I’m all for a neatly made bed, but a good-enough made bed falls far below quarter-bouncing standards for me. But “good enough” isn’t sufficient for spiritual growth.  We need that prodding to keep pressing on.

In recent years it’s become common to read of our “mess” in an effort to be transparent and authentic. We’re not perfect and we shouldn’t try to put forth a false perfect image, so we need to pull back the curtain and let people see our flaws and failures. And there’s truth in those thoughts. We can more readily identify with someone who doesn’t seem to have it all together all the time. Yet it’s easy to go so far as to glory in our “mess” instead of progressing.

Or we can feel that the progress we’re making in most areas offsets the areas we’re struggling with. We all have our besetting sins, after all. One son once got upset that I pointed out the one area of his report card that needed attention instead of being satisfied with the rest of commendable grades. While I needed to remember to acknowledge the good grades, I couldn’t overlook the bad one.

While fruit in our lives comes from God, He also calls us to pursue wisdom (Proverbs), love (1 Corinthians 14:1), righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11), peace (2 Timothy 2:22, 1 Peter 3:11).

Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” We’re made perfect in Christ when we believe on Him for salvation. But while we live here on earth, we still have our old nature, which fights against the new one we received at salvation (Galatians 5:16-17). That process of growth toward Christlikeness is called sanctification. Romans 12:2 tells us we’re transformed by the renewing of our minds, and one way we do that is by changing our thinking, lining it up with what God’s Word says, putting specific Scriptures in our minds that the Holy Spirit can then use to remind us.

The standard the Bible continually points to is Christ. We’ll never be Christ. But we don’t rest in self-satisfaction with how we’ve grown over the past ten years or how far we are compared to others: we grow towards His likeness. Yet we will stumble and fall, and we extend grace to ourselves while still making progress. II Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” As we behold Him in His Word, He changes us to become more like Him.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14, ESV).

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Titus 2 Wise Woman, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth)