Laudable Linkage

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It’s been a little while since I’ve been able to share some of the noteworthy items found around the Web lately. Enjoy!

Repeating My Father’s Words. Spiritual lessons from a toddler.

As We Empty Ourselves For God, He Will Fill Us. This was a helpful principle for me. I used to get discouraged when I felt depleted after extending myself for someone instead of realizing that that’s perfectly natural.

What’s Worse – Removing Scripture or Adding to It? (HT to Challies). Both are wrong, of course, but this particularly addresses that some versions of the Bible that people accuse of leaving out verses don’t, actually, and some add them in, which is just as wrong.

Being Pence-ive About Dinner With the Ladies. You’ve probably seen a number of posts about Vice-President Mike Pence’s rule of thumb about not meeting alone with women, some thoughtful and some ridiculous. I thought this was one of the best.

Should it be illegal to be a stay-at-home mom? I am astounded anyone would seriously propose this.

25 Tips for Moms of Boys. I had three, and I can agree with most of these.

Buy nice not twice. Good advice. Being frugal doesn’t always mean buying cheap. But beyond that, this was one of the most balanced posts about minimalism that I have read.

Showing vs. telling, the main principle of good writing these days, and how best to do it.

Charting the Legacy of Les Miserables. If you’re a fan of the novel, you might like this article about a book about it. I particularly liked the paragraph about the impact on French society.

And, finally, for a smile: this is adorable. A little girl sees an old water heater set out on the street for pickup and thinks it is a robot.

Happy Saturday!

Book Review: Spiritual Mothering

Spiritual MotheringWhen our pastor’s wife announced that the ladies would be going through a study of Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Design for Women Mentoring Women by Susan Hunt, I was a little wary at first, because in reading a few of Susan’s other writings, I thought she came across as clinical. I’m happy to say, though, that that’s not the case with this book, and she comes across as much more warm and personable. This edition is a revision of a book she wrote about 25 years ago.

She begins by noting that Titus 2:3-5, the instruction about older women teaching younger, is not to be taken in isolation or out of context and only read during women’s ministry functions. It fits within the broader framework of our Lord’s command to make disciples, and the function of the church as a whole, and the context of living life for God’s glory.

To glorify God means to reflect back to him the glory he has revealed to us (p. 53).

No earthly relationship will meet all of our needs. Fulfilling the purpose for which we were created is he only way we will experience wholeness. Mary focused on glorifying God. She did not speak of Elizabeth as her only source of help; spiritual mothering is not a cure-all for the older or the younger woman (p. 52).

[Re giving birth in a stable]: [Mary] exercised the discipline necessary to move beyond disappointment and distractions and to carefully think about the thing that really mattered–God’s glory (p. 56).

Mary could adjust to these extremes [angels and stables] in her life because she saw them from the vantage point of obeying God’s will, not from the perspective of her expectation or preferences. In defining herself as a servant, she had relinquished control to God. Her purpose was not her convenience but God’s glory (p. 57).

Susan defines spiritual mothering thus: “When a woman possessing faith and spiritual maturity enters into a nurturing relationship with a younger woman in order to encourage and equip her to live for God’s glory” (p. 36). Her main Biblical models throughout the book are Elizabeth and Mary, and my first thought was that I don’t think that’s primarily what the passages that speak of them are there for. But she draws out many applicable principles from their time together and draws from other relationships as well (like Ruth and Naomi). However, she points out that the principles of spiritual mothering can be seen in and drawn from many passages where God compares His care of His people to a mother’s love. And because we draw from His example and because He equips us, spiritual mothering has nothing to do with having biological children or even being married: God calls each woman to nurture in this way and enables them to do so. Usually we’re in the position of an older lady to some and a younger lady to others.

It would be easy for some women to quickly disqualify themselves by saying, But I don’t have the gift of teaching.” Sorry, that won’t work! A closer look at the word translated “train” will render that reasoning invalid. The Greek word is sophronizo and denotes “to cause to be of sound mind, to recall to one’s senses…the training would involve the cultivation of sound judgment and prudence (p. 72).

The popular concept of mentoring and coaching suggest some degree of structure and formality. Spiritual mothering may involve mentoring and coaching, but it is broader. Nurturing seems to be more compatible with what Paul is advocating in the Titus command (p. 72).

Before reading the book, I was a bit afraid that Susan would be pushing a formal and structured relationship, which can too easily seem artificial. She does share ways that can be implemented. But overall she advocates this type of nurturing in connection with other interactions, activities, and ministries, which I’ve always felt was a more natural way to go about it. “Spiritual mothering has more to do with demonstrating ‘the shape of godliness’ than with teaching lesson plans” (p. 93).

She discusses characteristics of the relationship and sprinkles many examples from modern life throughout the book, as well as opening each chapter with one woman’s story. Each chapter ends with a challenge of meditating on a specific passage of Scripture and taking definite steps in regard to the chapter’s subject matter.

Other quotes that stood out to me:

Servitude is not easy. Obedience is not a one-time decision. Obedience is a lifetime discipline. But it does bring a simplicity to life because it settles the issue of who is in control (p. 59)

This command [Titus 2:3-5] is sandwiched between the exhortation to “teach what accord with sound doctrine” (v. 1) and a statement of purpose: “that the Word of God may not be reviled” (v. 5). Sound doctrine must be the basis for the older-woman/younger-woman relationship and honor for God’s truth must be the goal of the relationship (pp. 65-66).

A reverent life is the product of a reverent view of God (p. 69).

Resentment erects barriers that cause older and younger women to miss each other. Resentment is a product of a self-centered approach: unless you are doing and being what I want you to do and be I am offended. Living for God’s glory frees us to value and appreciate rather than resent one another. We can appreciate our diversity of temperaments, life-stages, life-situations, abilities, and callings from God. We don’t have to be or do the same thing. In fact, there is no real unity without diversity. Two of the same things don’t need to blend to become one (p. 131).

There were just a few places where I agreed with what Susan was saying but didn’t feel that it quite came from the passage she was using for its basis, and one or two places where I felt she was wrong. For instance, on p. 52 she says, “Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms how to glorify God: ‘I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.’ (John 17:4, NIV). Completing the work he assigns us – joyful obedience to his will – is the way we glorify him.” It is a way, but not the only way. A couple of other ways: “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” (Psalm 50:23, ESV); “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8, NASB).

But overall I thought this was a good and helpful book and I gleaned many good things from it.

The ladies at our church who were studying the book met every other week to discuss a couple of chapters at a time, and I am sorry I missed that, because I think it would have reinforced the principles and truths brought out in the book. I did hear that they also had some panel discussions with some older ladies, which I would have loved to hear, and paired up an older and younger lady for some one on one time. I’ve been meaning to ask some of them how that went but haven’t thought of it while at church.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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

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Faithful in Obscurity

Many years ago, our former pastor preached a series of messages about Jesus’s 12 disciples. Several concentrated on Peter, naturally: he’s the one who is mentioned most often in the gospels and Acts and who also wrote two books himself. James and John, with Peter, made up the closest inner circle. We have memorable and telling scenes in the gospels with Matthew (aka Levi), Nathanael (also called Bartholomew), Philip, Andrew, and Thomas. And, of course, much could be observed about Judas. But there are several about whom we know little except their names and the fact that they were chosen of Jesus and were there in all the situations that involved the twelve.

My pastor pointed out that one lesson we can learn from them is faithfulness in obscurity. Their names might not be the ones everyone remembers: in fact, theirs might be the hardest to come up with in a trivia challenge. But they had their purposes and their duties.

Sometimes God has us “in the background” for a season. I’ve just been reading the first few chapters of 1 Samuel was was struck by how often it’s said that “Samuel was ministering before the Lord” or “Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man” in contrast with Eli’s wicked sons. His time of more public ministry came later, and I’m sure he had no idea how far-reaching it would be. But he faithfully served God whether in the background or the limelight. Paul spent three years in Arabia, a section of his life we know little about, before becoming well-known.

Sometimes we’re in obscurity because our mission is to be the help and support behind the one out in front. Perhaps you’ve heard mention of Mr. Edward D. Kimball, perhaps not, but he is the Sunday School teacher who led D. L. Moody to the Lord. From what I have read of him, he faithfully served in that capacity for years, and his ministry in the life of each of his students is as valuable as the one that resulted in a world-famous evangelist. John Newton’s mother was only able to influence her son for Christ for under seven years before she died. But God took the seed sown, watered it, and brought it to fruition years later. I read once where C. H. Spurgeon credited much of the success of his ministry to those who prayed for him behind the scenes.

Some experience a time of seeming obscurity after a wide and public ministry. Philip experienced quite a successful ministry in the city of Samaria, but he was just as faithful and just as useful when called to speak to one man on a desert road. Amy Carmichael had a very busy ministry in India when an accident left her an invalid for the last several years of her life. She might have felt more obscure and less useful, but God used her writings after that time to influence multitudes for years to come. Paul, as well, might have felt pretty obscure in a Roman prison after years of missionary journeys and preaching to crowds, but what we know as the prison epistles were born in that scenario. As Elisabeth Elliot said, our limitations don’t hinder our ministry: they define our ministry.

But probably the great majority of us are like those few disciples in the background. Our name isn’t meant for the spotlight. Maybe we couldn’t handle it. Maybe that’s just not where God wants us to be. People might not ever see or know what we do. But God does. Faithfulness to Him and whatever ministry He has called us to are what matters.

Though this isn’t a post primarily about blogging, some years ago a blogging friend wrote of something that has stayed with me all these years. She was struggling with the desire for more readers. But God helped her with the concept of “feeding those at the table”: being faithful to those who were within her reach and trusting Him with the size of the audience.

In what we call “the parable of the talents,” different people were given different amounts of the master’s money to steward. We’re not told why different ones had different amounts. But the person with only three wasn’t to covet the ten given to another: he was to faithfully invest what was entrusted to him.

It’s not necessarily wrong to seek a wider audience, especially when we’re trying to convey truth and encouragement. And it’s wrong to avoid a larger sphere of ministry if that’s what God is calling us to. But we’re to be faithful whether we’re ministering to few or many, whether our opportunities are wide or seemingly narrow. What matters is doing whatever we do as unto Him, and “thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:4, 6).

(Sharing with Inspire me Monday, Testimony Tuesday, Woman to Woman Word-Filled Wednesday)

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My Father’s Love

I have this song on a couple of CDs, and a lady in the church we used to attend in another state sang it occasionally. It always ministers to me, especially the last two lines of the refrain.

The world’s wealth and riches can be bought and sold.
But I possess a treasure far greater than gold;
‘Twas a gift passed down to me from heaven above,
‘Twas the gift of my Father’s love.

And my Father’s love is strong and true,
Always believing, always seeing me through.
So no matter what happens in His grand design,
I’ll be fine with my Father’s love.

Safe and secure now in His love alone,
I find here my place of worth as one of His own.
And I don’t need ev’rything this world wants to give,
‘Cause I live with my Father’s love.

And my Father’s love is strong and true,
Always believing, always seeing me through.
So no matter what happens in His grand design,
I’ll be fine with my Father’s love.

So, no matter what happens in His grand design,
I’ll be fine with my Father’s love,
with my Father’s love.
I have my Father’s love.

Text and music by Amy Susan Foster, Mike Harland and Niles Borop, recorded by the Soundforth Singers on their CD A Strong Tower and also by Sena Rice on Love Lifted Me. I don’t know who the folks are in this video, but the arrangement and accompaniment are much like the recordings I have.

Trusting God in the Dark

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I’ve been rediscovering a CD that I’ve had for a while that had somehow gotten buried in my little basket I keep on the kitchen counter for CDs: Beyond All Praising by the BJU Singers and Orchestra. One of the songs that stands out to me from this CD is “In Your Silence,” words by Eileen Berry and music by Molly IJames, on the theme of trusting God even when He seems silent and distant.

In Your word I find the echoes of the questions in my mind;
Have I fallen from Your favor, is Your ear to me inclined?
When Your silence is unbroken, though my prayer ascends each day,
Father, keep my faith from failing in the face of long delay.

While You wait in gracious wisdom and my doubts begin to rise,
I recall Your loving kindness, and lift my hopeful eyes.
While Your hand withholds the answer, I will not withhold my heart.
I will love you in Your silence, I will trust You in the dark.

When the troubled thoughts within me hold me wakeful in the night,
And the shadows that surround me seem to hide me from Your sight.
Father, bring to my remembrance mercies shown in days gone by.
Help me rest upon Your promise: You will not neglect my cry!

While You wait in gracious wisdom and my doubts begin to rise,
I recall Your loving kindness, and lift my hopeful eyes.
While Your hand withholds the answer, I will not withhold my heart.
I will love you in Your silence, I will trust You in the dark.

It is performed beautifully here:

I think many Christians go through times like this. Biblically Job and the psalmists share similar thoughts, and this song echoes some of the Psalms: the second stanza brings to mind Psalm 63. The last two lines of the chorus particularly resonate with me: “While Your hand withholds the answer, I will not withhold my heart. I will love you in Your silence, I will trust You in the dark.”

This song also brings to mind a section in Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose (linked to my review). The following occurred while she was in a Japanese prison camp, having been captured while a missionary to the New Guinea during WWII.

I knew that without God, without that consciousness of His Presence in every troubled hour, I could never have made it…Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, I felt enveloped in a spiritual vacuum. “Lord, where have You gone? What have I said or done to grieve You? Why have You withdrawn Your Presence from me? Oh Father—” In a panic I jumped to my feet, my heart frantically searching for a hidden sin, for a careless thought, for any reason why my Lord should have withdrawn His Presence from me. My prayers, my expressions of worship, seemed to go no higher than the ceiling; there seemed to be no sounding board. I prayed for forgiveness, for the Holy Spirit to search my heart. To none of my petitions was there any apparent response.

 I sank to the floor and quietly and purposefully began to search the Scriptures hidden in my heart…

 “Lord, I believe all that the Bible says. I do walk by faith and not by sight. I do not need to feel You near, because Your Word says You will never leave me nor forsake me. Lord, I confirm my faith; I believe.” The words of Hebrews 11:1 welled up, unbeckoned, to fill my mind: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The evidence of things not seen. Evidence not seen — that was what I put my trust in — not in feelings or moments of ecstasy, but in the unchanging Person of Jesus Christ. Suddenly I realized that I was singing:

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

 On Christ the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

I was assured that my faith rested not on feelings, not on moments of ecstasy, but on the Person of my matchless, changeless Savior, in Whom is no shadow caused by turning. In a measure I felt I understood what Job meant when he declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (13:35). Job knew that he could trust God, because Job knew the character of the One in Whom he had put his trust. It was faith stripped of feelings, faith without trappings. More than ever before, I knew that I could ever and always put my trust, my faith, in my glorious Lord. I encouraged myself in the Lord and His Word.

We don’t always know why God seems distant. Sometimes it is sin: though He is with us always, that fellowship can be broken when we’re sinning against Him. Sometimes, as in Darlene’s case, He is teaching us to trust in Him and His Word and not in our feelings. Sometimes, like for Daniel, answers are delayed due to spiritual opposition. There may be other reasons as well, but the answer is the same: reminding ourselves of and resting on His Word.

Though this is not a “dark” time for me, it is for a few friends, so I hope this encourages them, and I can shore these truths up for myself for when those times might come around in the future.

Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. Isaiah 50:10

(Reposted from the archives)

(Sharing with Inspire me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Wise Woman, Testimony Tuesday, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-Filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire)

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Laudable Linkage

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It’s been a little while since I’ve been able to share some interesting online reads with you. Here is my latest collection:

Behind on Bible Reading? Sometimes our Bible reading plans from January have fallen by the wayside by this time. This is some encouragement to pick back up where you left off: “The point of reading daily is to continuously stay in the Word so I might better know and worship the Lord, not to be legalistically bound to a calendar.”

5 Ways Porn Lies to You. Much of this is true for other sins as well.

God Is Much Greater Than Her Experience of Him.

It’s Not My Place to Judge.” What’s right and wrong with this sentiment.

Yes, You Can Please Your Heavenly Father.

God Will Open Doors For You to Serve.

Manoah’s Wife.

Blame Your Parents?

Parents, Take Time for the Tender Moments.

The Surprising Power of Little Things. HT to Challies.

No, “Saul the Persecutor” Did Not Become “Paul the Apostle.” I would have sworn this was wrong, until I read it.

When Should Christians Use Satire?

Solomon’s Twitter Guidelines.

No, Stay at Home Moms Do Not Waste Their Education, HT to Challies. I have felt this way but hadn’t put in into words quite like this. Very much agree that “Education is not just a synonym for job training” and “Education helps people do a better job at any task by helping them discover how to think, how to learn, and how to exercise the self-discipline necessary for achievement.”

A couple about missionaries:

5 Things Every Missionary Wants You to Know, HT to Kim.

Praying Biblically For Your Missionary: Clarity.

And a couple of funnies found on Pinterest:

Happy Saturday!

 

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Sandpaper Christians

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Some years ago I read a book by a Chinese Christian whose life was severely impacted by the mercurial demands of his mother. In that culture at that time, respect for elders was taken to extremes, and neither this man nor his wife felt that they should ever confront his mother. He wrote of the Lord using the situation to smooth some of his rough edges, like a pebble that has been worn round and smooth by being tossed and bumped around in a stream. I wish I could remember the book title or author’s name, because I would love to revisit this book. (By the way, I am not suggesting that mothers-in-law should act that way or that adult children shouldn’t sometimes have some frank discussions with their parents, but this was how this man felt led in his time and culture.)*

Around that same time, there was a lady at the church I was attending who, I am sad to say, really rubbed me the wrong way. Unfortunately, that says more about me than it does about her. She was not mean or unkind. I won’t go into the details about what I found so irritating, but I had just about decided that the best way to keep positive thoughts about her and to keep peace in my heart towards her was just to avoid her as much as possible. Then one January, our ladies’ group at church drew names for “secret pals” from others in the group: our primary duty to our secret pal was to pray for her, but we were also encouraged to send notes and small gifts through the year. Guess whose name I drew. Yes, that particular lady. I was tempted to put her name back and draw another, but I decided that was petty, and this woman was one for whom I was supposed to especially pray that year. And praying for her did help. I began to understand a little of why she acted the way she did and, though we never became very close friends, I saw her in a different light and my attitude changed.

I don’t remember exactly when those two incidents happened in relation to each other, but in my mind I connected them, and began to think of my “secret pal” as a sandpaper Christian, one designed to smooth off some of my jagged edges.

Though I have moved away and lost touch with that particular lady, it seems like I almost always have one or two sandpaper acquaintances in my life. Again, that is a sad commentary on me more than a reflection on them. I admit sometimes I wonder who is sandpaper to them, but God reminds me that’s His business, and He is working with each of His children to help them grow more Christlike. And, sadly, though I am not aware of being an irritant to anyone else, I am sure I am unwittingly sandpaper to somebody.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote in A Lamp For My Feet (and it encourages me that she felt this way about some people, too, sometimes):

How can this person who so annoys or offends me be God’s messenger? Is God so unkind as to send that sort across my path? Insofar as his treatment of me requires more kindness than I can find in my own heart, demands love of a quality I do not possess, asks of me patience which only the Spirit of God can produce in me, he is God’s messenger. God sends him in order that he may send me running to God for help.

We’re all made in God’s image and deserve each other’s respect for being His creation if nothing else. That image is marred in each of us not only because sin in general entered the world, but because each of us has our own particular sinful tendencies. God loved us “while we were yet sinners,” and since He wants us to love as He does, that means loving others who are still sinners, who aren’t yet perfect, who don’t have their act completely together yet. And if the other person is a Christian, he or she is my spiritual sibling. Further, He calls us to “in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” I often remind myself that I am no better than the other person; in fact, I am a good deal worse.

I am often discouraged by my lack of love and my abundance of irritation towards people, and it is a frequent matter of prayer. In a quote I saved but can’t find now from a sermon by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones from I John, he makes a distinction between liking and loving and says we are to love people we might not necessarily like, and that helped some. Biblical love, after all, is not just a warm fuzzy feeling. I always appreciated Bible verses about “forbearing one another in love” partly because it’s an admission that there are going to be people in our lives who are going to require forbearance. Sometimes I have felt that tolerating or forbearing was the best I could do, but God calls me to more. They are His dear children for whom He died, and He wants me to love them as much as I love myself, and even more – as He loves me. A tall order that can only be accomplished by meditating on His great love.

A few years ago I read C. S. Lewis’s Weight of Glory, and one section in the first essay of the same title really helped along these lines. After discussing what our future glorification in heaven means, he writes:

“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to …remember that the dullest and most  uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”

I would disagree with what I think he is saying about the sacrament – I believe it is symbolic and representative and doesn’t contain any glory in itself. It is bread, not Christ’s actual body, meant to put us in mind of His body torn for us. But Christ does indwell a fellow child of God, and he is continually working in His children so that more of Himself can be seen through them.

No mere mortals. No ordinary people. Future glorified saints. Fellow citizens of the household of God. Sons and daughters of the King. These are the ones with whom we have to do. May we treat them accordingly. And may we treat those who are not yet in the family of God as if we are eager for them to be.

Beneath the cross of Jesus
His family is my own—
Once strangers chasing selfish dreams,
Now one through grace alone.
How could I now dishonor
The ones that You have loved?
Beneath the cross of Jesus
See the children called by God.

~ Keith and Kristen Getty

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25:40

Love each other

(Revised from the archives)

*There are times to confront, and there is some behavior that should not be tolerated. Sometimes the authorities even need to be brought in, for example, in cases of abuse. This post is not dealing with those issues, and I am not saying we should be doormats for people to walk all over us. This post is talking mainly about those everyday irritations we experience as our personalities bump against each other.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Testimony Tuesday, Wise WomanWoman to Woman Word-Filled Wednesday, Tell His Story, Thought-provoking Thursday)

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