Psalms for the Sleepless

Most of us occasionally wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep, but it seems to happen more as we get older. Sometimes I can get right back to sleep after a brief nocturnal trip to the bathroom, but other times I’m awake for a couple of hours. I don’t know what makes the difference. Generally I try keep things quiet, turn the lamp back off as soon as possible, avoid checking my phone, and do whatever else I can to make the atmosphere conducive to sleep. But still I find myself staring into the darkness.

I know some who read if they wake up during the night. Reading on the couch makes me doze off: reading in bed keeps me awake.

I’ve learned that stressing about it only makes it worse. Elisabeth Elliot once said that when she woke up in the night, she could luxuriate: she didn’t have to be up and doing anything else, so she could relax and rest, even if she didn’t get back to sleep. I’ve tried to take that tack, and it helps some.

But sometimes I find myself distressed, even in tears, over my sleeplessness. As it is I struggle with finding the best way to arrange my schedule and get everything done that I want to during the day. A nap sometimes gets me over feeling draggy, but it takes a chunk of time out of my prime work hours. I’d rather sleep when it’s time to sleep, not when I want to be busy doing other things.

Once I dealt with sleeplessness for several Saturday nights in a row…and had trouble staying awake in church the next day. I would plead with God in prayer: “Lord, You know I need sleep. You made me to need sleep. You know the things I need to do tomorrow. I’d really like to stay away in church, and I think You want me to as well. You’ve said you give to your beloved sleep. Why won’t You help me get back to sleep?” I try, instead, to rest in the fact that He does know when I need sleep. I ask Him in the morning to multiply the few hours of sleep like He did the loaves and fishes and make them sufficient for the day ahead. And He does.

Recently I looked up a couple of verses that refer to thinking or praying during the night, and that turned into a Bible study with much more than I bargained for! I primarily searched through Psalms but checked in Job and Proverbs a little, too.

Apparently many Bible people were up in the night. Job said, “When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn” (Job 7:4). Here’s what some Biblical writers did during their sleepless hours (some of the verses could be used in multiple categories):

Attend to needs

Some got up or stayed awake to attend to urgent tasks.

David vowed, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed, I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob” (Psalm 132:3-5).

One who had gotten himself involved in an unwise pledge was urged to “Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler” (Proverbs 6:1-5).

“He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame” (Proverbs 10:5).

The Proverbs 31 woman got up “while it was yet night” to prepare food and worked late into the night (Proverbs 31:15, 18).

I just finished a book in which the author told of using late night hours to write because she had trouble falling asleep. My husband has said that he can often get much more work done when he wakes up in the night than when he is in a busy office.

Mourn and seek comfort

Painful or sad thoughts can be kept at bay while we’re busy through the day. But at night, there is nothing else to distract us. Asaph said: “In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (Psalm 77:2-4). David mourned over sin until he found forgiveness (Psalm 6, especially verse 6: “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears” and 32, especially verses 4-5: “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.'”) It’s good to confess sin as soon as we’re aware of it, but it’s not a bad practice at the end of the day to ask God to search us and show us anything we overlooked.

The psalmist of Psalm 42 mourns because of an enemy (verse 9): “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?'” (verse 3). He remembers past times of praising God in the house of God and admonishes himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (verses 5 and 11).

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:4-5).

Meditate

Biblical meditation is not an emptying of the mind but turning something over in your mind.

Psalm 1 says of the blessed man “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:5-8).

“My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” (Psalm 119:148).

“I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me“(Psalm 16:7).

“Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent” (Psalm 4:4).

One good example of the process of meditation is Psalm 77. There Asaph was so troubled he could not sleep. But then he reminded himself of God’s character, grace, faithfulness, love, past works and deeds.

Pray

Sometimes when I lament nighttime wakefulness, someone glibly advises me to “just pray.” That makes me feel they don’t understand or aren’t taking into account the problems with wakefulness I mentioned above. On the other hand, though the advice comes across as a little unsympathetic, those hours are a good time for undistracted, heartfelt prayer.

“O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol” (Psalm 88:1-3).

“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words” (Psalm 119:147).

Of course, the mourning and seeking comfort above and singing and praising below are also parts of prayer.

Sing

“By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:8).

“I said, ‘Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.’ Then my spirit made a diligent search” (Psalm 77:6).

One of my favorite posts discussed songs in the night.

Praise

“For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds” (Psalm 149:4-5).

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night” (Psalm 92:1-2).

“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 134:1).

Rest from fear

Like mourning, fear can plague at night. When we’re still and quiet, our thoughts can run rampant. But we can take our thoughts captive and turn them to God’s protection.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

“He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day” (Psalm 91:4-5).

“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night” (Psalm 121:3-6).

In the context of rejoicing in God’s presence with him everywhere (“Where shall I go from your presence?” verse 7), David says, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,'” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (Psalm 139:11-12).

Among the benefits of keeping “sound wisdom and discretion” is this: “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught” (Proverbs 3:21-26).

Then there are people whose nighttime activities we don’t want to emulate. The adulteress of Proverbs 7 was active at night. “The wicked…plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil” (Psalm 36:3-4) and “they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble” (Proverbs 4:16).

Some people dread night, but God “made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God” (Psalm 104:19-21). “Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun” (Psalm 74:16).

It would be a profitable exercise to read some of these psalms in their entirety, maybe one a day, and see in context what the psalmist was troubled about and how he turned his thinking around. I love how so many of the psalmists begin with trouble and anguish, remind themselves and the reader of God’s truth and love, and end up in hope and peace.

Losing sleep in the middle of the night can be frustrating. But if we turn our thoughts to the Lord, those moments can become precious times of fellowship with Him.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday)

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Laudable Linkage

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Here’s my latest list of thought-provoking reads:

Women, Don’t Be Weak-minded, HT to True Woman. “I’m grieved every time I see another woman I care about succumb to the latest ‘Christian’ bestseller which, more often that not, is feel-good psychology scantily clad in a few decontextualized Bible verses.” “Critical reading in one thing. But, trying to glean ‘something good’ from an author who denies Christ’s supremacy, man’s depravity, or Scriptural inerrancy is entirely another thing all together and should be avoided.”

How (Not) to Discover Your Spiritual Gifts, HT to Challies.

Five Things I’d Tell My Newlywed Self.

A Slanderous Charge. Far from promoting racial prejudices and stereotypes, the Little House series shows a different side.

I’d Like to Have an Argument, Please, HT to Out of the Ordinary. “In fact, all this opining just makes things worse. You don’t like what someone wrote and it upset you? Shouting your reaction is infantile (mere stimulus-and-response) and, worse, destructive….What we need instead is argument: inference from evidence to clear conclusions. Or, in a more right-brained approach, the setting-out of a compelling alternative.”

And finally, this cracked me up:

Happy Saturday!

Book Review: The Song of Sadie Sparrow

In The Song of Sadie Sparrow by Kitty Foth-Regner, Sadie’s assisted living facility could no longer meet her needs, so her daughter found a lovely new nursing home. Sadie feels sad and neglected by her daughter, but soon she makes friends with the other residents and staff and gets involved in the activities.

Meg Vogel is in her fifties and ready for a new start in life. Her husband recently passed away from cancer, and she closed down the freelance copywriting business she’d had to neglect during her business. She’s hired at Sadie’s nursing home to assist the activities director, her special project being the use of her writing and interview skills to compile biographies of the residents.

Elise Chapelle is the daughter of one of the residents, Charles. She had quit her job as a teacher to take care of her father, but now that he is in a nursing home, she wonders what to do with her life. She takes a writing class that involves setting up a web site.

These three women from different generations form a friendship though Elise is a Christian and Meg is an atheist. Meg is particularly antagonistic towards Christians because her husband became one near the end of his life, and she felt his new religion and views took him further away from her. She’s fairly sarcastic in any kind of religious conversation, but she genuinely likes the other ladies.

I enjoyed a view of life from inside a nursing home. My own mother-in-law’s experiences in a nursing home not nearly as nice as this one were mostly negative, but her early assisted living experiences sound like they could have fit in with this book. One common theme in all of these places is the neglect of many of the residents by their too-busy families.

But this is not just a story about a nursing home: it’s a story of faith.

Kitty’s experiences inform the book as she was once an atheist (her story is told in Heaven Without Her) and she spent much time in a nursing home first visiting her mother and then volunteering. Her web site, Everlasting Place, hosts two blogs: Eternal Eyes: A Blog About Forever and Golden Years: A Blog About the Elderly. A neat interview with the author about this book is here.

Special thanks to the author for sending me a copy of her book.

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

Doing or Don’t-ing?

The Christian community I was once part of seemed to emphasize what we as Christians don’t do. We don’t dress like that. We don’t listen to that kind of music. We don’t watch those programs. We don’t play those games. We don’t use that kind of language. Any new fad was viewed with suspicion and placed on the “don’t” list.

During part of this time I had a job in retail sales. I wanted to be a good testimony. I definitely stood out as I politely said no to invitations to places I didn’t feel comfortable going with my coworkers, as I quietly absented myself from certain conversations, as my style of dress was noticeably different from that of others. They knew I didn’t do a number of things: some were even kindly protective of me, careful not to put me in situations where I might be uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, what these actions (or inactions) indicated to my coworkers and customers. They knew I was “religious.” But could they tell the difference between me and an adherent of any number of other religions? They saw my standards, but did they see my Jesus?

The Bible does have a lot to say about what we should not do. God’s command for our holiness filters down into every part of our lives, and our love for Him does influence our choices of dress and entertainment. We need to understand what things are wrong. We need to realize we’re innately drawn towards wrong. Paul said, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet'” (Romans 7:7). It’s important to remember the Bible’s warnings against sin. Some people fall off-balance by minimizing or even overlooking the “don’ts” in the name of love and positivity or an effort to be inoffensive.

But the Bible doesn’t stop with a list of “don’ts.” “So flee youthful passions,” 2 Timothy 2:22 says. But it goes on to say, “and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Colossians 3:5-9 tells us to “ Put to death ” or “put away” “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry….anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another.” The reasons given: “on account of these the wrath of God is coming” and though “you too once walked” in them, “you have put off the old self with its practices.

But then verses 10-17 continue: “...and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Ephesians 4:17-32 has similar instructions to “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (verses 22-24). We trade lying for truth (v. 25), stealing for honest work (v. 28), corrupt talk for edifying words (v. 29). We don’t let anger linger (v. 26), and we replace bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness “as God in Christ forgave you” (vv. 31-32).

We’re not aiming just for “positive thinking”: we’re seeking a balanced focus. “Putting on the new” not only keeps us balanced, but it actually helps us put off the old. We have known of preachers who have fallen into sexual sin after years of preaching against it. Surely a number of factors contributed to their fall, but one may have been an undue focus on the forbidden. Erwin Lutzer shared a helpful illustration in How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit: if someone tells you not to think of the number eight – suddenly that’s all you can think about. The more you try not to think about it, the more it fills your mind. But if you start thinking of other numbers or working equations, you’re distracted from eight. Likewise, if I try to diet by repeating to myself, “Don’t eat chocolate cake,” my mind is filled with chocolate cake and I am likely to give in and have some. But if I turn my thoughts toward other things I can eat, chocolate cake lessens it’s hold on me, and now I can focus on the positive, on what I can do rather than what I can’t. Years ago I read in a forgotten source about “chastity meetings.” The author didn’t elaborate, but evidently these meetings were held to help young people make a decision to pursue purity. His wise advice was, “Have your chastity meetings, but then go on to another subject.” If every single week these young people were warned about sexual sin and urged to avoid it, their thoughts would be filled with it just like mine would be with the chocolate cake I needed to avoid.

Concentrating on “doing” rather than just on “don’t-ing” not only helps us avoid sin and pursue good, but it presents a better testimony. If all we talk about is what we don’t do, we sound either curmudgeonly or self-righteous. Pursuing the positive also creates joy in Christ rather than mourning what we can’t do.

But we don’t follow a list of impossible good works in order to gain favor or rack up points with God. We focus on these good traits not to become righteous but to demonstrate that God has changed us and made us righteous. The Ephesians passage mentioned above says the goal is to  “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (verse 13). It also says we effect these transformations by being “renewed in the spirit of [our] minds (v. 23) and because that’s the way we have learned Christ (vv. 20-21). Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Colossians 3:10 tells us our “new self…is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

We learn to reflect our Savior by beholding Him: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). He works these changes in us as we behold Him in His Word, as we study Him and get to know Him better. 

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

Free Indeed

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Glorious Freedom

by Haldor Lillenas

Once I was bound by sin’s galling fetters,
Chained like a slave, I struggled in vain;
But I received a glorious freedom,
When Jesus broke my fetters in twain.

* Refrain:
Glorious freedom, wonderful freedom,
No more in chains of sin I repine!
Jesus the glorious Emancipator,
Now and forever He shall be mine.

Freedom from all the carnal affections,
Freedom from envy, hatred and strife;
Freedom from vain and worldly ambitions,
Freedom from all that saddened my life.

Freedom from pride and all sinful follies,
Freedom from love and glitter of gold;
Freedom from evil, temper, and anger,
Glorious freedom, rapture untold.

Freedom from fear with all of its torments,
Freedom from care with all of its pain;
Freedom in Christ, my blessed Redeemer,
He who has rent my fetters in twain.

John 8:32, 3: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

When the solution I want isn’t what I need

I saw a new point in an old story today.

A man had been an invalid for thirty-eight years waited for “a long time” by a pool of water which, in his day, would heal any who could get into the pool when the water was stirred. But because he could not move quickly, others got in before him, and he couldn’t make it into the water in time.

One day a stranger came up to this man and asked him if he wanted to be healed. The man explained his dilemma, his inability to get to the pool in time. Perhaps the man thought this stranger would help him get to the pool. Instead, the stranger told him the oddest thing: “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” The invalid could have thought, “Weren’t you listening? That’s exactly what I cannot do.” But before the words even formed in his mind, he found that all of a sudden he could stand! Not only that, but he could walk and carry a load, all impossibilities just a few moments before.

This story, as I am sure many of you know, is from John 5:1-17 and occurred at the pool of Bethesda. Among other things, this incident shows us Jesus’ power. The invalid wasn’t a “plant” in the audience who had been engaged to respond to a healer. The invalid had been lame for a long time and was known to stay at this pool. Anyone who knew him, anyone who hung around that area, would have known the invalid and his condition. The fact that he could stand, walk, and carry his bedding instantly, when his muscles would have been atrophied, when he otherwise would have needed time regain his balance, all magnified the ability of Jesus to heal.

What I had always missed in the story, however, was this: the invalid was fixated on the one solution to his problem, and had been for a very long time. His one focus was to get into that pool, and he kept trying despite repeated failed attempts. He didn’t recognize that the stranger standing in front of him could provide another solution, much less be a better solution. And the invalid did not even realize that the healing of his body was not his primary need. When Jesus found the former invalid later, Jesus told the man to “Sin no more.”

We have a tendency to fixate on our own solutions, too, don’t we? If we can just marry that guy, land this job, get that loan, treatment, or whatever, life will be perfect. We’ve looked at the situation from every angle, and, yes, this is what we need. And we overlook Jesus in the process.

Too, while we’re so focused on that one area of desire, we can miss the greater need: the need of our hearts for forgiveness and a closer walk with Jesus.

There may be nothing at all wrong with what we want. It may, in fact, even be the Lord’s will to provide us with that very outcome. But it might be God’s will to bring that answer about in a different way than we had planned, or to provide a different (and better) outcome, or to withhold the answer we wanted while providing grace to deal with it.

One of my favorite prayers in the Bible is Jehoshaphat‘s in 2 Chronicles 20. When King Jehoshaphat learned that a great enemy was coming, “Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (verse 3). He reminded himself who his God was: “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you” (verse 6). He recounted times of God’s provision in the past and His promises. He laid out the problem. He asked for God’s help. And he confessed, “we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” How often I have prayed something like that. “Lord, this is what I think the solution might be. But I don’t know all the ramifications. You know the need. You know the best way to meet it. I don’t know what to do. But I love You, and I trust You. Your will be done.”

Let’s not overlook the Lord in our desperation to get our needs met. Let’s not overlook our spiritual needs while trying to meet our outward desires.

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:31-33, ESV

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

 

Laudable Linkage

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Here’s another round of notable reads found recently:

How to Avoid Becoming (Heavenly) Hangry on Vacation.

What Your Child Needs More Than Self-esteem, HT to Story Warren.

A Parent’s Guide to the 5 Skeptics Who Want to Shame Your Kids for Being Christian, HT to Challies.

When You Don’t Enjoy the Little Years. Even though you love your little ones dearly, some days are hard.

Can I Trust God With My Child’s Suffering? HT to True Woman.

How to Bring the (Whole) Bible to Life for Kids, HT to True Woman. Though I chafe at the phrasing of the title (the Bible IS living – John 6:63), I know what the author meant, and there are some great ideas here.

When the Content Police Came for the Babylon Bee, HT to Challies.

Hope for People With Food Allergies, HT to True Woman.

The Real Story of Christopher Robin, HT to Glynn. Sad, but I hope on some level the family retained some joy that the Pooh stories were such a dear part of many people’s childhoods.

Several people have asked me if I’ve heard of the recent ruling to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a literary award. I’m not surprised, especially in today’s climate. There were characterizations and incidents in the books that we cringe at today. But I hope this does not lead to a pulling of her books from shelves or reading lists. We encounter what we would consider wrong attitudes in a number of older books, even classics. If we tossed books that had anything in them we disagreed with – well, we wouldn’t have much left. It takes long years to change cultural thinking. The better way, I believe, is to realize that every person and every generation is a mixture of good and bad and to educate about both sides. A couple of good articles I’ve seen on this are Scrubbing Laura Ingalls Wilder is a Dangerous Step Toward Ignorance (HT to Melanie) and How to really Read Racist Books to Your Kids, (HT to 19th Century Classic Children’s Books You Might Have Overlooked, which I found through Story Warren). I wouldn’t agree with every point in the latter (mainly the evolutionary lens), but both articles make good points.

I usually like to close these posts with a funny or thoughtful picture or meme – but I don’t have one handy and need to get on to today’s tasks, so I’ll wish you a Happy Saturday!

Active Faith

The verbs in the first few verses of Psalm 37 (one of my favorites) stand out to me:

Fret not

Trust in the Lord

Do good

Delight yourself in the Lord

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him

Be still before the Lord

Wait patiently for him

Fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath

Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

The repetition of “fret not” indicates the Israelites were in a situation that could cause them to fret, namely, the encroachments and threats of the wicked. Later in the chapter God assures them that He will take care of them, provide for them, protect them. Their faith was not passivity nor naiveté, not sticking their heads in the sand: rather, it was characterized by active trust, patient waiting (v. 7), and focusing on doing good to others (v. 3).

Peace is a part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), but we’re also to “keep in step with the Spirit” (v. 25). We can work against peace of heart by fretting, magnifying the problems, spending too much time with swirling, fearful thoughts. Or we can work with God to promote peace of heart by focusing on Him, committing our way to Him, delighting in Him, trusting Him to take care of the issues, and getting out of our own heads to see what we can do for others.

It’s counterintuitive to pray for or expect peace of heart without taking the means God provided to take our thoughts captive. When we find ourselves fretting, fearful, downcast, we seek God and remind ourselves of His truth in His Word.

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

 

Book Review: Heaven Without Her

HeavenI first became aware of Heaven Without Her: A Desperate Daughter’s Search for the Heart of Her Mother’s Faith by Kitty Foth-Regner when Sherri reviewed it here. I commented that I was putting the book on my TBR list, and the author graciously contacted me and offered to send me both this book and another of hers, The Song of Sadie Sparrow.

This book is part memoir, part apologetics. Kitty grew up with a loving Christian mother, but she rejected the gospel. She felt God wasn’t real and Christianity would just get between her and her idea of fun. She became a feminist and an agnostic, developed a good writing business, had lots of like-minded friends and a significant other. Life seemed good.

Then her aging mother became sick and was not expected to live. Kitty couldn’t bear the thought that she might not see her mother ever again. To Kitty’s credit, she didn’t just mouth a false profession. She couldn’t agree to Christianity if she didn’t believe it was true. But she was willing to investigate it. So she dug, read, and studied not only Christianity but also other religions from every conceivable angle, such as the existence of God, creation vs. evolution, the veracity of the Bible, and more.

The book tells how she got “so lost” in the first place and how, point by point, God dealt with all her objections and brought her to Himself.

A few quotes:

The most dangerous lies are those that contain a healthy dose of truth.

It didn’t take me long to make the most important aspect of radical feminism my own–all the me-centered principle that made my ambitions, my feelings, my intellect, and my freedom my number one priorities.

It was time to quit wondering and take some action.

Later, I would read in Philippians 4 about “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” It was like that: peace that I hadn’t felt since I was a little kid, before I knew the heartbreaks and fears and humiliations that can happen in this world. The sort of peace you feel when you know someone much bigger than you is in total control, loves you to pieces, and will take care of you always.

My friendship with several hyper-feminists were among the casualties of my conversion. Maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut. But I figured that a friend doesn’t let a friend live without hope; a friend shares the gospel.

Kitty ends the book with a list of recommending resources for anyone wanting to research the same questions and concerns that she did.

I’ve heard people criticize creation and apologetic ministries because they are not the gospel, and it’s only the gospel which “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16, ESV). That’s true, but the seed of the gospel is the Word of God, according to the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-15), and apologetics ministries pull out some weeds and rocks in the soil of people’s hearts and minds so the seed can better take root.

I’m thankful for Kitty’s sharing her testimony and the truths she learned in her book, and I can highly recommend it.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

As a father

A section of a recent book I read compared a daughter’s loving relationship with her father to our relationship to the Lord. It’s an apt comparison with many parallels: resting in his love, asking freely for needs and even wants, trusting his protection, etc.

But I thought of someone to whom I had given this same book to read. Her relationship with her father was nonexistent for twenty years (by his choice) and abusive before that. I hoped this ideal father-daughter description in the book did not bring her pain.

When the word “father” comes with painful baggage, the thought of God as a father is not necessarily comforting until we learn the ways He is different.

Someone told me once that it’s impossible for a person with a poor father figure to have a right view of God as a Father. I disagree. If that were the case, none of us would have a right view of God because none of us has a perfect father. Even the very best of earthly fathers is flawed in some way, though some are certainly better than others.

However, I think we all have an ideal father in mind. As a child I had an image in my mind of a father as a kindly, soft-spoken man in a cardigan sweater and slippers carrying a newspaper and a pipe. That was not my father at all. Years later I realized that mental image came from a 1960s TV show.

C. S. Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Similarly, I think our longing for an ideal father figure is a reflection of our need and desire for our heavenly Father.

If your father has been a gracious and godly example, thank God for that and rejoice in your father’s reflection of Him. If your earthly father fell far short of perfect, thank God that your heavenly Father never will. He always welcomes His children, loves them, corrects them, provides for them, protects them.

Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
Psalm 27:10, NIV

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
 he remembers that we are dust.


Psalm 103:11-14, ESV

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