A Bittersweet Week

A Bittersweet Week

It’s the third week of August, and we start school in a week and a half.  That means that I’m madly planning our school year just as I have done the last 17 years.  The difference is that this is my last year to plan, our last first day of school, our last year to study together, and the beginning of a new phase in our lives.

I’m of two minds about this change. Part of me is so pleased to launch my final child into the world after almost 20 years of teaching my children at home.  However, there is a part of me who chokes up at the thought that this precious time of raising my boys, teaching them everything from Latin and math to how to say “thank you” to trusting Jesus in everything, and giving and receiving hugs daily is over.

There have been days of exasperation and difficulty, to be sure, but there have been so many more of wondrous discoveries, reading aloud, laughing over silly poems, splashing in mud puddles, building lego structures, going on library and park trips, and many other special times of learning and living.

As I plan this last year, I long to finish strong with my youngest child and watch him walk the path the Lord has ordained for him.  That desire plus lots of prayer will make it our best year yet, I am sure.

What is your focus today?

Never has it been so easy to live in half a dozen good harmless worlds at once – art, music, social science, games, motoring, the following of some profession, and so on.  And between them we run the risk of drifting about, the “good” hiding the “best” even more effectually than it could be hidden by downright frivolity with its smothered heart-ache at its own emptiness.

It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies.  Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning?  Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day?  Does this test not give the clue?  Then dare to have it out with God – and after all, that is the shortest way.  Dare to lay bare your whole life and being before Him, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focussed on Christ and His glory. Dare to face the fact that unfocussed good and useful as it may seem, it will prove to have failed of its purpose.*–excerpts from “Focussed” by I. Lilias Trotter

Distractions abound these days, even more so than in Lilias Trotter’s time–home, school, family, friends, work, church functions and ministries, books, magazines, and newspapers, music, movies, and television, phones, tablets, and computers, and so forth.

How hard it is in this busy world with all of its noise and news and amusements to stop and sit at the feet of Jesus, to be still and know that He is God, to quiet your heart and mind so that you might hear His voice.

A favorite hymn from my childhood, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, was written when the author, Helen H. Lemmel, read this pamphlet by Lilias Trotter.  The chorus of this hymn is a reminder of how we can learn to focus on the eternal things:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

I pray that you would turn your eyes upon Jesus today and that, as you gaze upon Him and His grace and glory, you would choose the best things, not merely the good.

*To read the entire pamphlet, Focussed, go here.

Affirming my choice in thousands of ways

Daffodils April 3 2014

To be “saved” requires a severance from the former life as clean and sharp as though made by a knife. There must be a wall of separation between the old life and the new, a radical break. That means death—death to the old life, in order for the new to begin. “We know that the man we once were has been crucified with Christ, for the destruction of the sinful self, so that we may no longer be the slaves of sin, since a dead man is no longer answerable for his sin” (Romans 6:6-7 NEB).

This wall of separation, this barrier, is the cross.

From earliest memory I understood that everybody ought to love Jesus. Then I began to hear that everybody ought to “receive the Lord Jesus Christ as his own personal Savior.” To the best of my understanding that is what I wanted to do, so I did it—I asked Him to come into my heart, as I was instructed to do. It was a once-for-all decision, and I believe He accepted the invitation and came in. So far so good. I was told that I was now “saved,” saved by grace. That was a gift, a free gift, from God. Amazing. Simply amazing that the Lord of the Universe, the One who is “the ruler over all authorities and the supreme head over all powers” (Colossians 2:10, JBP), “the blessed controller of all things, the king over all kings and the master of all masters, the only source of immortality, the One who lives in unapproachable light, the One whom no mortal eye has ever seen or ever can see” (1 Timothy 6:15-16, JBP)—amazing that the same One bends His ear to the prayer of a child or of a sinner of any age and, if asked, comes in and makes His home with us. For His name is Immanuel, God with us.

How shall He be at home with us unless our lives are in harmony with His holy life? Unless He lives His very life in us and we live our lives “in company with Him’? Salvation means rescue from the pit of destruction, from the miry clay of ourselves.

So my decision to receive Him, although made only once, I must affirm in thousands of ways, through thousands of choices, for the rest of my life—my will or His, my life (the old one) or His (the new one). It is no to myself and yes to Him. This continual affirmation is usually made in small things, inconveniences, unselfish giving up of preferences, yielding gracefully to the wishes of others without playing the martyr, learning to close doors quietly and turn the volume down on the music we’d love to play loudly—sufferings they may be, but only small-sized ones. We may think of them as little “deaths.” –pp. 26-27 A Path through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot

I am re-reading A Path through Suffering for the fourth or fifth time and was struck by this passage in light of our sermon yesterday about Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial.  Our pastor pointed out that the reality of many of us is that we often follow Jesus at a distance just as Peter followed Jesus and His accusers at a distance in Matthew 26:35 before denying that he knew Him.

It seems to me that the only way to be close to Jesus, to walk beside Him rather than follow at a distance is found in this passage from Elisabeth Elliot’s book.  The turning away from my own selfishness and fear and preferences and the turning towards Christ in humility and trust and desire for righteousness.

My year in reading 2015

This year, Goodreads did all of the hard work of compiling what I read. I’m glad I faithfully added titles and dates read, even if I didn’t always add a full review.

Goodread’s Year in Books for 2015

I had set a goal to read 100 books and went slightly over at 105.  My average rating overall was 3.8, which means I was reading mostly good books with an occasional bomb.

17 nonfiction books (if I include Dante’s Divine Comedy and Shakespeare’s plays in with fiction).

The rest were fiction.  Not quite as many non-fiction as I had hoped, but I find it easier to work through a novel quickly than a nonfiction book.  Perhaps this year I will be able to read at least 25 nonfiction, which would be about 25%–not ideal, but a better percentage.

I have a couple of reading challenges I’m eyeing and a Bible reading plan I am starting, both of which I will discuss in my next post.

I hope all of you had good reading years, too.  If you’re comfortable, please share how your reading year went in the comments.  I’d love to hear your experiences with books this past year.

Advent 2015 – December 1

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”
Says your God.
“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
That her warfare is ended,
That her iniquity is pardoned;
For she has received from the Lord’s hand
Double for all her sins.”
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God. – Isaiah 40:1-3

Advent is a time for preparation, a time to reflect on the meaning of the child in the manger, a time to stop and think about how the God of the Universe gave up His glory for a time and came down to Earth. I hope to spend a few moments each day this December, meditating on Christ’s love for us at Christmas and preparing my heart and my spirit to receive all of the gifts He has to share with those of us who are His children.

Instead of merely joining the frenzy of shopping and baking and wrapping and parties, why don’t you take a minute to think about the glorious truth that Jesus, the Son of God, came down from Heaven to Earth to be our Emmanuel, God with us, to be the best possible gift God had to give us—Himself.

First Sunday of Advent (a day late)

  
The First Sunday in Advent is Hope. The hope of light in darkness, of joy in sorrow, of life in death, of a Savior to take away the sins of the world.  

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.   – Book of Common Prayer

Blogs that I love – Modern Mrs. Darcy

Knitting

Several months ago, I discovered that I was reading articles from a new (to me) blog: Modern Mrs. Darcy (MMD).   First of all, those of us who are Jane Austen fans can’t possibly resist the name, Modern Mrs. Darcy!   Add to that, Anne, the owner of MMD, is an engaging writer who covers so many topics I’m interested in.  From book reviews to articles about Myers-Briggs personality tests** to organizing life the Kondo way  to introducing services like ePantry, there is always something of interest.  Add to that, a weekly round up of favorite links and lists and lists of good books to read, and I was hooked.

While I read some blogs for moral or theological edification and others to help me organize or learn things I need to know for work, school, or my home, there are a few blogs I read just for the sheer fun of it.  MMD is one of my fun blogs.  I hope you all enjoy it, too.

Here are just a few articles to get you started:

Books worth binge reading

3 time management rules I wish I’d learned 10 years ago

My accidental capsule wardrobe

The perfect summer reading for every Myers-Briggs personality type

Grown-ups shouldn’t finish books they’re not enjoying

 

**I adore taking Myers-Briggs personality tests.  Even though I rarely deviate from the expected result, I still can’t resist taking it again, just in case I’ve changed, and then reading all of the various personality quirks, perfect jobs, and people like me articles that go along with my personality type.  It’s fun.  Give it a try.