Laudable Linkage

This is my latest collection of thought-provoking online reads:

Is the God of the Bible a Genocidal Maniac? HT to Challies. No, but some have made that accusation. Here is a thoughtful response.

When Joy Feels Far Away, HT to True Woman. “What do you do when you have tried everything, but joy still feels far away?”

How to Study the Bible. I have not had a chance to watch these videos yet, and I normally wouldn’t post something I haven’t checked out for myself first. But Jen Wilkin’s Women of the Word is one of my favorite books. An updated version has just been released, and Jen published a series of videos showing how to use the Bible study method she writes about.

A Stack of Bibles. “The power of the Reformation was the power of the Word of God in the hands of normal people.”

How to Hope in God When a Door Closes.

My Love Cannot Save You, HT to Challies. As deep and wide and strong as a mother’s love is, we’re still limited in how much we can protect our children. “I can’t prevent her pain or her tears, but I know the One who wraps his arms around her and catches every tear in a bottle, present and attentive to each one.”

How TO (and how NOT to) Raise a Monstrous Son, HT to Lou Ann. “For his own good, and for the good of all the women he will encounter in life, he needs you to stand up to him when he crosses the line, especially in regard to using his physical strength to harm others.”

Four Things the Princess Culture Gets Wrong, HT to True Woman. “Rather than jumping on the bandwagon of the mommy wars—to princess or not to princess—I’ve opted to reframe the concept according to biblical truth.”

Why NO ONE Should Object to Clean Teen Fiction. Believe it or not, some do! These are good reasons they shouldn’t.

I don’t follow many comics online, but xkcd is one. Here are a couple of recent entries:

Happy Saturday!

Christmas Grief, Christmas Hope, Christmas Joy

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December’s festivities are tempered with sorrow for some. My mother passed away December 10, my father December 12, and my grandmother Christmas Eve, each in different years. In more recent years a college friend and our only family dog died on December 21. My brother once commented that he just wanted to cancel the whole month.

The death of a loved any any time of year can shadow the whole Christmas season as we miss our normal interactions with that loved one. Grief begins as a flood but slowly transforms into a stream that occasionally overflows its banks. Even several years after a loss, it’s not abnormal to be caught off guard by a memory or a longing leading to a good crying jag.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that there is no one right way to celebrate Christmas. That’s true not only among different families or individuals, but even within the same hearts in different years.

When someone is grieving over the holidays, they may not want to participate in some of the “normal” happy pastimes. It’s not that they don’t ever laugh or enjoy gatherings. But as Sherry said, “I am enjoying the traditional holiday celebrations, and at the same time they move me to tears, sad tears for things that have been lost this year. I am singing the music, and yet I’m tired of the froth of jingling bells and pa-rumpumpum.” I remember almost wishing that we still observed periods of mourning with wearing black or some sign of “Grief in progress” — not to rain on anyone else’s good time, but just to let people know there was woundedness under the surface. Just as physical wounds need tenderness while healing, so do emotional ones.

Other events can cast a pall over Christmas: illness, job loss, a family estrangement, etc. One Christmas we were all sick as dogs, and my father-in-law had just had a major health crisis and wanted us to come up from SC to ID to visit. There was just no way we could drag ourselves onto a plane until antibiotics had kicked in. But a few days later we did go, and if I remember correctly, that was the last time any of us except my husband saw him alive. In retrospect we were glad we went, though it wasn’t the merriest of Christmases. A good friend grieved over “ruining” her family’s Christmas by being in the hospital with a severe kidney infection. Lizzie wrote about visiting her husband in prison for Christmas. Quilly commented about being homeless one Christmas.

If you’re grieving this Christmas, don’t feel guilty if you’re not quite into the “froth” this year.  Give yourself time to heal. It’s ok to pull back and have a quieter Christmas. There may be times to go through with some holiday festivities for family’s sake — and, truly, those times can help keep you from the doldrums.

Perhaps a new tradition commemorating your loved one might help. My step-father and sisters who live near my mother’s grave go out together as a family to put up a little Christmas tree there. I’m too far away to join them, but every year on the anniversary of my mom’s death, I have a private little moment of remembrance. A family we used to know whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver requested that their church host a special service in December for those who have lost loved ones in that way. Some men from our former church participated in a biking event together in memory of our pastor who died of liver cancer.

On the other hand, don’t feel guilty for enjoying Christmas. Experiencing joy shows no disrespect to your loved one or your circumstances. Your loved one would want to be remembered but would also want you to be happy. Sherry shared how making a list of reasons to celebrate Christmas helped. Look for the good things to rejoice in. My two friends mentioned above, Lizzie and Quilly, mentioned reasons for rejoicing in the midst visiting prison and homelessness. E-mom left a valuable comment that we can treasure up the memories of good Christmases to tide us over the not so good ones, and then look forward to better things ahead.

As I mentioned before, the first Christmas was not all about the froth, either. It was messy, lonely, and painful, yet out of it was born the Savior of the world and the hope of mankind.

If it weren’t for the hope that Christmas represents, I wouldn’t be able to endure the losses. The Christmas carol “O Holy Night” shares “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” comforts, “Now ye hear of endless bliss: Joy! Joy! Jesus Christ was born for this!…Now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ was born to save.”

The baby in the manger didn’t stay a baby.  He was no ordinary child: the only begotten Son of the Father came to earth for a special mission. “Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give us second birth.” He taught, He healed, He lived as an example, but His main purpose in coming was to take sin away by bearing it Himself on the cross some 33 years after His birth, so that all who believe in Him could have their sins forgiven and live with Him in heaven some day. I have the hope of eternal life and the hope of seeing my loved ones again. Biblical hope isn’t tremulous: it’s a confident expectation.

But eternal life doesn’t begin at death: it begins the moment God’s gift of faith is received. We have hope not only for life after death, but for joy and peace in the midst of sorrow, for help, grace, strength, love in this life as well. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.”

Rejoice in that hope and promise. Draw near to Him who has borne our griefs and carries our sorrows until grief and sorrow are done away forever.

(This post is a blending of a previous post from the archives and a newspaper article published in 2011.)

(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 is another round of great reads online:

To Great Things That Never Came, HT to Challies. “Despair forgets that there are more pages. It gazes at the brief span of our lives and complains that all should be fulfilled before the page is turned. But hope loves the whole story. Hope breathes, laughs, and draws courage from gazing upon something grander than self.”

How Could God Ask That? A different take on Abraham’s being asked to sacrifice Isaac and other hard stories.

Ever Feel Punished and Passed Over? What We Can learn from Caleb. Some interesting points that hadn’t occurred to me before.

It Takes a Church to Raise a Child. “It takes a church to raise a child because it is in the church that our children find a whole community of adults who love them, who have a deep concern for them, and who are eager to see them come to faith and grow in godly character. This ‘village’ is not there just to keep them in line when they get unruly, but to experience the joy of seeing them grow up in God and grow up for God.”

Why Youth Stay in Church, HT to Story Warren. I personally did not have the advantage of #3, at least the spiritual advantage, though my parents did teach us right and wrong and held us accountable. So young people who are not from Christian homes, don’t despair: God can work abundantly through the first two.

To Be a Princess. “Her histories remind us that the life of a princess is not one to be envied. Those who made their mark on the world were the ones who refused the easy road.”

Telling a Better Story, HT to Challies. “The interviewer asked him how to keep young men from falling into racist and nationalist ideologies. [Jordan] Peterson responded, ‘Tell them a better story.’” The author points out the good of what Jordan said but presents the even better story.

How to Help – Not Hurt – the Singles in Your Church. The “lousy encouragement” especially stood out to me.

Practical Help for Those With Chronic Health Conditions. Good information not only for those with health issues, but for their loved ones and friends as well, to get a picture into their world behind the scenes.

Why Mr. Rogers Still Matters, HT to True Woman.

Compass Book Ratings, HT to Kim. I had often wished there was a rating system or “parental guidance” cautions for books like there is for movies. Now there is!

A cute story: a woman sees a porcupine stuck on its back and helps it out:

Happy Saturday!

Absent From the Body, Present With the Lord

My pastor, who has been battling pancreatic cancer the last few months, passed away last night.

It’s been hard to know how to pray the last few weeks as we’ve seen the effects of cancer continually decimate his body. We wanted him to have as many days with his family as possible, but we didn’t want him to have to suffer any more than necessary. My youngest son has frequently prayed that Pastor “would have as many good days as possible,” which I thought was probably the best way to pray in addition to asking for God’s will and grace for him and his family and all those who loved him.

As people arrived for prayer meeting last night, a few men were stationed at the church doors and would go out to greet people individually as they approached the building to let them know Pastor had passed away just a short time before. That was probably the best way to handle it rather than waiting for everyone to come in and then starting the evening with a shock moment, or having someone who didn’t know accidentally overhear it mentioned in the conversation of someone who did. This way everyone had a moment to react, absorb the news, and collect their thoughts for a moment before going in, and we could start the service more or less on the same page. One of our assistant pastors led us in singing a song Pastor Tom had requested often lately, “O The Deep, Deep Love.” Another of our men shared some Scripture, someone prayed, people in the congregation were given opportunity to  share Scripture that was comforting to them, we broke up into smaller groups to pray, and we sang “O The Deep, Deep Love” one more time.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

The comforting and sharing have continued through the night and into this morning on Facebook. It has been a great blessing to me, and I am sure to many others, as we’ve shared with each other through this journey, particularly in the last several hours. This extension of community has been both comforting and edifying as I’ve seen photos and read various thoughts, memories, Scriptures, and bits of song that people have shared.

I’ve only known Pastor Tom for four years. Two main things stand out to me about himself as a person and his ministry. One, he continually led (even gently pushed) us to be deeply grounded in the Bible and in our relationship to God: to see Him in the Scriptures, not to “surface” read the Bible or pray in cliches. He constantly encouraged us to make it real and make it deep. Secondly, he had a true pastor’s heart. He deeply cared for his people, would be with them through any trial as much as he could. When we came forward at the end of a service to join the church, my mother-in-law was with us in her wheelchair. He got down on one knee to speak to her face to face and tell her how he wanted to be her pastor. When my husband was facing his kidney surgery (they joked about being in the “one kidney club” – Pastor also had a kidney removed when he was younger), we had told him that I’d probably be more comfortable getting lost in a book while waiting than having someone outside the family with me – then I’d feel pressured to keep a conversation going. He understood. But he showed up at the hospital in the early hours just as we arrived and signed in, and we had a few minutes to chat and pray before we were called back. That meant a lot to both of us.

Two verses came to mind as we shared during prayer meeting last night. One was shared with me when my mother passed away and it ministered to me greatly then: Psalm 119:76: “Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.” This, among other things, is what I pray for Pastor Tom’s family. I am so thankful he was able to walk his two older daughters down the aisle at their weddings this summer and that they were all able to be there when he passed. Though we “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (I Thessalonians 4:13), we do sorrow, “Sorrowing most of all …that they should see his face no more” (Acts 20:38) until we join him there. I know I felt it was much too soon when my mother passed away in her 60s: I can imagine that feeling is even more magnified when a father and husband passes away in his early 50s. Even trusting that this is God’s will and plan and rejoicing that he is with his Savior and out of pain, it still hurts in a way that only God can heal. Death is called an enemy (I Corinthians 15:26), and though its sting is removed and it’s “swallowed up in victory” (I Corinthians 15:54-57), grief is wrenching, and I pray for His special kindness and comfort for them and our church in the days and months to come.

The second was the verse I did share last night: not long before His own death, Jesus prayed, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). That’s where Pastor Tom is now – with Him who loved him since before he was even born, where he is, beholding His glory. Though we miss him, we rejoice and look forward to joining him there.

Craigs

I once scorned ev’ry fearful thought of death,
When it was but the end of pulse and breath,
But now my eyes have seen that past the pain
There is a world that’s waiting to be claimed.
Earthmaker, Holy, let me now depart,
For living’s such a temporary art.
And dying is but getting dressed for God,
Our graves are merely doorways cut in sod.

 Calvin Miller

When you sailors see the haven before you, though you were mightily troubled before you could see any land, yet when you come near the shore and can see a certain land-mark, that contents you greatly. A godly man in the midst of the waves and storms that he meets with can see the glory of heaven before him and so contents himself. One drop of the sweetness of heaven is enough to take away all the sourness and bitterness of all the afflictions in the world. ~ Jeremiah Burroughs