Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Red Envelope Day

Today, Gentle Readers, I am participating in a gentle protest, and wanted to give you the opportunity to join me. As a way of increasing the current administration's awareness of the devastating effects of abortion-on-demand in our nation, many are sending red envelopes to the President today. Here's what to do:
~Get any red, letter-sized envelope.
~Address it to:
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

~Be sure to include your return address.
~On the back of the envelope, write:
This envelope represents one child who died because of abortion. It is empty because the life that was taken is now unable to be part of our world.

~Put first class postage on the envelope, and mail it today.

It's that simple. And let's pray that our President will have a change of heart in his promotion of the culture of death in our nation.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A "Soft Safari"

Here is my finally-finished quilt for Tim and Nikki. It was on track for their wedding last September when cancer interrupted, and now they will have it before their seven-month anniversary, anyway!

It is a extra-large queen size, which was a bit of a bear for machine quilting, so I kept it simple and stiched in-the-ditch. I am glad that it is finished, and that I like the way it turned out. The pattern is called "Four Square" and is from the book Big 'n Easy: Supersized Quilts for Queen Beds by Judy Hopkins. I called it "Soft Safari" because of the safari theme that Nikki chose.
Hopefully Tim and Nikki will love it!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sundays with Jean

Dave and i are almost caught up with our reading after our travels! Here are a few favorite quotes from our recent reading.

Some of my favorite Augustine quotes:
"O man! Learn by precept what you ought to do; learn by rebuke that it is by your own fault that you have it not; learn by prayer whence you may receive what you have to desire."

To will is of nature, but to will aright is of grace.

Unless God helps, we shall be able neither to conquer nor to fight.

And some clear Calvin:
If anyone wants a clearer answer, here it is: God works in his elect in two ways: within, through his Spirit; without, through his Word.

...God's majesty is too lofty to be attained by mortal men, who are like grubs crowling upon the earth.

For the Lord then freely bestows all things upon us so as to add to the full measure of his kindness this gift also: that not rejecting our imperfect obedience, but rather supplying what is lacking to complete it, he causes us to receive the benefit of the promises of the law as if we had fulfilled their condition.

For if by the law coventousness is not dragged from its lair, it destroys wretched man so secretly that he does not even feel its fatal stab.

This means that, dismissing the stupid opinion of their own strength, they come to realize that they stand and are upheld by God's hand alone; that, naked and empty-handed, they flee to his mercy, repose entirely in it, hide deep within it, and seize upon it alone for righteousness and merit.

Now, the law has the power to exhort believers. This is not a power to bind their consciences with a curse, but one to shake off their sluggishness, by repeatedly urging them, and to pinch them awake to their imperfections.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Consecrate the secular...

If worldlings desecrate the holy, then let Christians consecrate the secular.
~George Grant

Friday, March 27, 2009

Warm food for a cold day

This morning we awoke to several inches of snow on top of several inches of ice. And Dave's work is cancelled, so we are having a bonafide snow day even though it is almost April! Last night as the cold front began blowing in, I had a a hankering for warm food, and several requests have come in for recipes. So, here is last night's dinner. It's a good one for chilly weather!

Pide (Turkish flat bread)
This recipe is courtesy of Elsa, who retrieved it from a web site somewhere and thought it very much like what she ate in Turkey. We loved it.

1 pkg yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 3/4 cup warm milk
4 cups flour
1 TBS salt
1 TBS olive oil

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/4 cup of the warm milk. Stir well to dissolve, and let sit and bubble for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and salt. (I might use a little less salt next time...) Add in the bubbly yeast mixture and the rest of the warm milk. Mix, then place on a lightly floured surface and knead about 5-10 minutes, until smooth. Coat the inside of a clean bowl with some of the olive oil, place dough in bowl, and top with the rest of the olive oil. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to rise about 1.5 hours.

Punch down the dough to remove the air, then cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Knead each piece and shape into a ball shape. Cover with damp tea towel and let rest another 15 minutes, then roll out each one with a rolling pin until flattened and thin. Poke several holes in each pide with a fork. (Next time, I will poke a bit more vigorously.) Place each pide on parchment paper on a cookie sheet, and bake in a 450 degree oven that has a dish of water place in the bottom, for about 10 minutes. Then enjoy!

Lentil-Barley Stew (this is one of my standards from the More-with-Less Cookbook)

Saute 1/4 C. margarine, 3/4 C. chopped celery and 3/4 C. chopped onoin in a large pot. (Alternatively, brown pork sausage or pork shoulder, draining most of the grease, then add the onion and celery and cook until soft.)

Add 6 C. water and 3/4 C. lentils, and cook for 20 minutes.

Add 1 qt diced tomatoes (I use a little more, about 2 14-oz cans), 3/4 Cup barley or brown rice (we LOVE the barley!), 2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1/2 tsp. rosemary, and 1/2 tsp. garlic salt. Simmer for 45-60 minutes.

5 minutes before serving, add 1/2 C. shredded carrots. Enjoy!

Wilted Spinach Salad
This is something new I tried last night, and liked!

Heat a little olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of your frying pan) Add a clove of garlic, crushed or chopped, and heat for a few minutes. (I think you could add a little onion here, too, and it would be good.) Add several handfuls of fresh baby spinach- enough to feed your family. Toss and heat this until the spinach is wilted slightly. Turn off heat, and add a little balsamic vinegar (we used white balsamic last night, and it was yummy!) In a small bowl toss fresh, diced veggies, dried fruit and nuts. (Last night we used cucumbers, cashews, snap peas and craisins). Serve the spinach on a plate or bowl, topped with the veggie/fruit/nut mixture. An added benefit is that the dressing is GREAT to dip the hot pide in!

Now I have to think of another warm, inspiring meal for tonight.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ben's baby

No, it's not a REAL baby... it's an electric guitar and amplifier! We were treated to mini-concerts while in Bloomington. His playing is always improving, but I must confess that I am glad he and the guitar and amp are now living with Elsa...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A visit with B & E

It's hard to believe that our long-awaited visit with Ben and Elsa is already over. It was such a joy to see them in their native environs, and to get to "know" them better as a couple.

Here are the other three gathered around the breakfast table. Elsa has made their little townhouse a real home.

Dave had time to help Ben with a few household chores.

We enjoyed some great museums, like the Art Museum in Indianapolis, and below, the home of the first president of Indiana University, which is being restored to its mid-1800's style.

We also visited the Lilly Library on campus at IU, and enjoyed its amazing puzzle collection. Below, Dave and Ben put their minds together on one of the puzzles.

We also enjoyed walking around the beautiful IU campus. We were just a little early to see the magnolias in full bloom, but we enjoyed the daffodils and the small star magnolias. For more of my photos around campus, look here.

Perhaps the best part of the trip, aside from spending time with B & E, was seeing their church and how plugged-in they have become. We really enjoyed attending worship and spending an evening with their fellowship group. We had a wonderful trip!

Monday, March 23, 2009


I hope you will be patient, Gentle Readers, with my lack of communication while in Indiana. We are having a lovely time being part of Ben and Elsa's life here in Bloomington for a week, and there is not much time nor easy access to the computer!

Yesterday we enjoyed a wonderful Sabbath....We enjoyed worship at B&E's church, had a lovely dinner made by E, and enjoyed a fascinating time at the home of David and Carole Canfield, who host the small group B&E attend on Sundays. In addition to the brilliant Dr. Canfield, the group includes two PhD classicist students (one who is from Sri Lanka), and B & E. The conversation was full and enjoyable, if sometimes over my head. But what a treat to be included in their lives in this way!

Tomorrow we will head back to NM late in the day. And then normal posts about the boring details of my life should resume.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Having fun

I am enjoying time in Bloomington with Ben and Elsa. Dave is on work-related travel, so mostly I had a date all day long with my eldest son! We played music for each other, browsed through book stores and game stores, met Elsa for a lunch picnic on the beautiful IU campus (in 70-degree weather, beside blooming magnolia trees!), played games, and now will end the night early with a bit of reading (on my and Elsa's part) and guitar playing by Ben.

Tomorrow, we head up to Indianapolis to pick up Dave and check out the Indy Art Museum.

What a blessing it is to have this time!

Monday, March 16, 2009

News to make me sing

I just got an excellent telephone call. Not only is all my blood work "normal" and in good shape, but my mammograms are all clear. Hurrah! God is good and to be praised no matter what, but it is so easy to sing praise to Him when he is so kind to me!

I am still scheduled for a chest C-T in April, followed by a follow-up with the oncologist, and I need to make some decisions about whether I will see my current oncologist or not, so I would appreciate your continued prayers for me, and for these upcoming events.

Tomorrow, I am getting on a plane, Lord willing, and heading to Bloomington, IN, to visit with Ben and Elsa. I was excited anyway, since this trip was canceled a couple of times due to my treatment. But now I can go without wondering about those test results. Isn't God gracious?

Praise God from whom all blessings flow:
Praise Him all people here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!
~ The Old Hundredth metered Psalm, sung by grateful children since around 1550

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sundays with Jean

Here are a few collected quote from this week's reading of Calvin's Institutes.

If we confess that we lack what we seek of God, and he by promising it proves our lack of it, no one should now hesitate to confess that he is able to understand God's mysteries only in so far as he is illumed by God's grace. He who attribultes any more understanding to himself is all the more blind because he does not recognize his own blindness.

If...the Lord wished to show that nothing good can ever be wrung from our heart, unless it become wholly other, let us not divide between him and us what he claims to himself alone. If, therefore, a stone is transformed into flesh when God converts us to zeal for the right, whatever is of our own will is effaced. What takes its place is wholly from God.

As Augustine teaches, grace precedes every good work; while will does not go before as its leader but follows after as its attendant.

...God by co-operating perfects that which by operating he has begun...

"...Grace anticipates unwilling man that he may will: it follows him willing that he may not will in vain." Bernard agrees with Augustine when he makes the church speak thus: "Draw me, however unwilling, to make me willing; draw me slow-footed, to make me run."

...the human will does not obtain grace by freedom, but obtains freedom by grace; when the feeling of delight has been imparted through the same grace, the human will is formed to endure; it is strengthened with unconquerable fortitude; controlled by grace, it never will perish, but, if grace forsake it, it will straightway fall; by the Lord's free mercy it is converted to good, and once converted it perseveres in good; the direction of the human will toward good, and after direction its continuation in good, depend solely upon God's will, not upon any merit of man. Thus there is left to man such free will, if we please so to call it, as he elsewhere describes: that except through grace the will can neither be converted to God not abide in God; and whatever it can do it is able to do only through grace.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The agrarian side of life...

My sweet husband is out in the back yard turning manure into my small vegetable garden so that when we return from our trip to Indiana next week, we will be ready to plant peas and spinach. Meanwhile, in the sun room, tomatoes and squash, snapdragons, violas and forget-me-nots are all growing from little seedlings into bigger seedlings. And next week is Spring break at Indiana University. And the NCAA basketball tournament announcements are tomorrow. I guess Spring is really almost here!

There is something about the rhythm of the seasons and growing things that reminds me of the preciousness of life, and the care of our heavenly Father for us and out world. Are you weary of the winter, Gentle Reader? Get a pot and plant some seeds. You will feel better.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Redeeming time...

Recently a friend remarked that she was amazed at the number of books I read. I was, in turn, quite shocked. I am a slow, plodding reader, and don't consider myself a very "good" reader, though I love books and reading. When I started to think about it, I realized that there are many ways I chip away at reading, and over time, the little chips add up to quite a mound.

One thing I do is download an audio book on my mP3 player to listen to while I walk each day. This means 30-50 minutes of listening most days. I can chip away at some longer books that I may not otherwise complete that way. Right now I am enjoying Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy as I walk. And sometimes when I want a little break from Hardy, I switch over to Scripture Memory Songs, or just listen to the world around me and the reflections of my heart. However, at times, I need to discipline my own thoughts, and listening to something helps with that!

I also download an audio book onto the computer in the office to listen to while I sew. Currently I am being awed by the prose of Augustine in his Confessions.

When I am doing busy-work in my room (dusting, or cleaning my bathroom or floors, or organizing closets or drawers) I often listen to sermons or lectures on the computer in there. That is how I am chipping away at Dr. David Calhoun's lectures from Covenant Seminary on the Institutes of Calvin. I'm not sure how flattered Dr. Calhoun would be to know I listen to his excellent lectures while I clean the bathroom, but I am enjoying them and finding them profitable.

I also take time each morning to read scripture and pray. I am currently going through the bible in two years, and my dil Elsa is joining me in that journey.

I set aside a little reading time most afternoons. This is rest and refreshment time, and my body and mind need it.

Dave and I read aloud together for a few minutes at the end of the day most days, as well. Currently, we are reading through Calvin's Institutes that way, though we have read a variety of things in that time, and it has been a great way to finish the day together.

I also never leave the house without a book. This is how I chip away at some of my non-fiction reading in particular. I can read a few paragraphs or a chapter while waiting in the doctor's office, and it adds up over time.

This year as I have completed my cancer treatments, I have found it a particularly necessary spiritual discipline to keep my mind fixed on good and true and beautiful things. These are some of the disciplines that have helped me to do that. I hope they will encourage you, Gentle Readers, and if you have other suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Basketball as therapy...

Yesterday my sweet husband sent me an article on the effects of menopause which was sent to him by our insurance company. That pretty much sums up my yesterday. Just read the list of symptoms: mood swings, hot flashes, trouble sleeping and concentrating, etc., etc. There you have me. Add to that the additional problems with all this being induced by a drug, with the stress of waiting for medical test results, and with the normal-life adjustments that have to be faced post-cancer, and yesterday was just a tough hill to climb and leave behind me. But today the daffodils are blooming (even though we are under a winter storm warning...)

March has historically been a tough month for us. Dave has had at least three cancer recurrences start in March, and I've had one. We like to just get through March, quite frankly, and I'm sure it is part of the little battle I am fighting with my emotions. I am fighting to trust God here, and He is gracious in keeping me from despair.

The up-side of March is that even if you end up in the hospital, the NCAA basketball tournament games are on all day. What a lovely distraction! Part of fighting despair, after all, is distraction. When do brackets come out, anyway?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Our continuing culture of death...

Gentle Reader, as you know, I usually post family news here: updates on my health, my family's health, or the doings of various family members, or reflections on the doings of our great God in our hearts and lives. I usually save my rantings for my other blog. But I am so concerned about the turn of policy in this country with regards to the use of embryonic stem cells in research, that I felt obliged to write not only about it on my other blog, but here as well.

On Monday of this week, President Obama rescinded the ban on federal funding for certain types of embryonic stem cell research. He did so without ever addressing any of the moral question surrounding such research, and public funding of it. I have grave concerns for the broad approval President Obama has given. Even the Washington Post and the New York Times, not normally places I look to for my moral compass, discuss the problem. Andrew Kern over at the Quiddity blog asks the question fairly:
The natural sciences are not morally neutral, they are subservient to morality. They are mere knowledge, which, in turn gives power. Knowledge may conceivably be regarded as morally neutral (I don’t think I see it that way, but I can see how people would). Power cannot. Power enables action. Action is always moral.

Therefore the moral sciences provide a higher order of knowledge than scientific knowledge...

The last century has, practically and philosophically, made clear that scientific knowledge is not morally neutral if only because human beings possess it and are empowered by it.

Let us grant, then, for the sake of argument, that science should be freed from religious constraints. Should it also be freed from moral constraints? And where do those morals come from? Historically, I can only see two options: metaphysics (philosophy) and religion.

The trouble with metaphysics is its practical instability. Plato made it rather obvious that only a few people can attain to the level of metaphysical clarity that can order a society. That is at least one reason why he never opposed religion per se.

For this reason, a democracy could never survive a scientific age in which morality is based on metaphysics. If, then, we have eliminated metaphysics (philosophy) and religion, then what will we base our decisions on?

This question cannot be dodged.

You can read the whole thing here (only slightly longer than this excerpt) here. President Obama's claim that science is morally neutral is absurd, as is aptly pointed out here. Robert George and Eric Cohen state the case much better than I can. They say in part:
For those who believe in the highest ideals of deliberative democracy, and those who believe we mistreat the most vulnerable human lives at our own moral peril, Mr. Obama's claim of "taking politics out of science" should be lamented, not celebrated.

In the years ahead, the stem-cell debate will surely continue -- raising as it does big questions about the meaning of human equality at the edges of human life, about the relationship between science and politics, and about how we govern ourselves when it comes to morally charged issues of public policy on which reasonable people happen to disagree. We can only hope, in the years ahead, that scientific creativity will make embryo destruction unnecessary and that as a society we will not pave the way to the brave new world with the best medical intentions.

You can read the whole piece from the Wall Street Journal here.

If you would like to learn more about this whole issue, I suggest you read this piece by Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, or read this List of the Media Myths about stem cell research. The truth is, there have been no applied cures from embryonic stem cells, even though a life is destroyed. Adult stem cells have had much more success in actual treatments, and are available without the death of the donor.

I am afraid that the research and morality involved in this issue is being ignored in favor of promulgating the idea that we are free to do whatever we wish. And the culture of death we are creating will be a frightening place to try to live. May God have mercy on us, and cause us to both follow Him and protect the lives of the helpless.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Happy Birthday Elcejo!

When we were first getting to know Elsa, we would occaisionaly IM with her when she was at Hillsdale. Her "screen name" was "Elcejo", short for "Elsa Christine Johnson" (and pronounced el-see-joe). Well, somehow, I still think of her affectionately as Elcejo.

So happy birthday, Elcejo! You have brought much joy to our family, and now we can't even imagine you not being part of our lives!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sundays with John

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from this week's Calvin reading, on the nature of man's will:
Man will then be spoken of as having this sort of free decision, not because he has a free choice equally of good and evil, but because he acts wickedly by will, not by compulsion. Well put, indeed, but what purpose is served by labeling with a proud name such a slight thing> A noble freedom, indeed--for man not to be forced to serve sin, yet to be such a willing slave that his will is bound to the fetters of sin!

...[W}hen the will was conquered by the vice into which it had fallen, human nature began to lose its freedom. Again, man using free will badly has lost both his himself and his will. Again, the free will has been so enslaved that it can have no power for righteousness. Again, what God's grace has not freed will not be free. Again, the justice of God is not fulfilled when the law commands and a man acts as if by his own strength; but when the Spirit helps, and man's wilkl, not free, but freed by God, obeys.

And about man's nature in general:
...[W]hoever is utterly cast down and overwhelmed by the awareness of his calamity, poverty, nakedness, and disgrace has thus advanced farthest in knowing himself. For there is no danger of man's depriving himself of too much so long as he learns that in God must be recouped what he himself lacks.

And lastly, about the nature of the Christian life:
A saying of Chrysostom's has always pleased me very much, that the foundation of our philosophy is humility. But that of Augustine pleases me even more: "When a certain rhetorician was asked what was the chief rule in eloquence, he replied, 'Delivery'; what was the second rule, 'Delivery'; what was the third rule, 'Delivery'; so of you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, first, second, third and always I would answer, 'Humility.'"

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Love of the Word

"Love of the Word has been a prominent feature in the history of all the saints, of whom we know anything, since the days of the Apostles. This is the lamp that Athanasius and Chrysostom and Augustine followed. This is the compass that kept the Vallenses and Albigenses from making shipwreck of the faith. This is the well that was reopened by Wycliffe and Luther, after it had been long stopped up. This is the sword with which Latimer, and Jewell, and Knox won their victories. This is the manna that fed Baxter and Owen, and the noble host of the Puritans, and made them strong in battle. This is the armoury from which Whitefield and Wesley drew their powerful weapons. This is the mine from which Bickersteth and M'Cheyne brought forth rich gold. Differing as these holy men did in some matters, on one point they were all agreed -- they all delighted in the Word."

~J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Where we ought to be

'...the great point for our comfort in life is to have a well-grounded persuasion that we are where, all things considered, we ought to be...The promise, 'My grace is sufficient for thee,' is necessary to support us in the smoothest scenes, and is equally able to support us
in the most difficult...He is always near. He knows our wants, our dangers, our feelings, and our fears. By looking to him we are enlightened and made strong out of weakness. With his wisdom for our guide, his power for our protection, his fullness for our supply, and
proposing his glory as our chief end, and placing our happiness in his favour, in communion with him, and communications from Him, we shall be able to 'withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.'
~exerpt of a letter from John Newton to William Wilburforce

I was reminded of this quote while reading an update from a friend whose young daughter has just undergone another surgery for her rare and invasive cancer. She said these words encouraged her. Pray, Gentle Readers, for Karina to respond well to her cancer treatments and be healed.

This morning I also read an amazing example of people being where they ought to be. Two doctors (a married couple) minister in Uganda, raising their family among heart-breaking poverty and the ravishes of AIDS. If you have a moment, look at their post today about some of the children they are treating. And if you need more proof of the amazing ministry taking place in this place, read this article about last year's ebola virus battle. I don't know these folks, and only found their web site through a link here. As I have read their blog reports, I have been amazed by the sacrifices these folks have made to be where they ought to be. I praise God for their willingness to follow Him into this remote place. And yet, it shames me, and makes me wonder if I am, indeed, where I ought to be.

Jennifer Myhre closes the above article with these words, appropriate for us all:
There is a weighty glory to surviving ebola, a redemption only God can give. Even our personal survival constitutes a sort of burden to be considered. It is good to be alive, and God has been glorified by the substantial, tangible story of our deliverance, and by the concrete good that has emerged from loss. This good and glory anchor us in new ways to our Lord, and require us to examine our purpose for being preserved in Bundibugyo. Let us all live each new day in the gravity of the gift that has been given to us.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Health update

Last night, for the first time in probably about a year, I slept all night: from 10:30 to 5:45, solid, uninterrupted sleep. I don't think one can really appreciate the blessing of sleep until one goes without it on a regular basis.

Sleeping through the night is just one more sign of slow-but-steady improvement in the way I feel. I am gaining energy a little at a time. Some of my brain fog may even be starting to lift a little. While I am still not at what I consider "normal", I am grateful for signs of improvement. I still need my afternoon naps, and I still can't sing worth a darn (one of the sadder aspects of this whole business...) I am learning to deal with the aches and pains, and able to get better exercise again. God is so faithful to answer your prayers for me, Gentle Readers, and I am grateful for His blessings and your care and friendship!

Next week I have mammograms and blood work done, then in April I have a CT-scan of my chest, and see my oncologist again. Testing after cancer is simply not the same as it was before cancer, so I would appreciate your prayers that I could keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, and follow his admonition to let tomorrow worry after itself. And prayers for a clean bill of health would be appreciated, too!

Here is one of the songs I've been singing lately that has helped me to keep my focus. May we all remember the fathomless nature of God's love for His children!

This Fathomless Love by Steve and Vikki Cook

Lord, what moved Your heart to love lowly man
Before any star could herald Your praise?
And why did You come, abasing Yourself
Veiled in a robe of frail human clay?
Why would You, the pure, give Your life for the vile
The innocent seeking the guilty
To be reconciled?

I can’t comprehend this fathomless love
I’m gripped and amazed at what You have done
Why would the adored become the despised
To bear all the furious wrath that was mine?
How awesome this mystery
Of Your fathomless love for me

Why would You adopt and take as Your own
Those who had crushed Your one precious Son?
Why mercy and grace towards Your enemies?
Your name they have cursed and Your throne they have shunned
Oh, how could You choose to show kindness to these?
The ones who would mock You and hate You
The ones just like me?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

All a-Twitter

Yesterday I watched Charlie Rose while I ate my lunch. He was interviewing Evan Williams, the CEO of Twitter. It was interesting, and made me wonder what all the fuss is about, so this morning I got onto Twitter, and you'll see my experiment in the side bar.

I appreciate the many good things all of these cyber-relations can do for us. Having access to family far away, opportunities to build communities around a particular topic, etc. is all great. But I have to wonder if is retards our ability to have or value real-life relationships.

So, I am experimenting with Twitter. I'll let you know what I think.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The theology of suffering

For those of you who have never listened to Joni Erickson Tada discuss suffering, I encourage you to listen to the short talk (about 25 minutes) at this link. She begins about 5 minutes into this video. It will not be a waste of your time. And for those of us who struggle with our own peevish little trials, she provides excellent reminders on how to fix our eyes on Christ, and remember what is really important. J.T. also lists several specific prayer requests from Mrs. Tada here.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sundays with John

As Dave and I read the Institutes every night, I keep a supply of stickie-note flags at hand, and when something strikes us, we "flag" it. There are lots of flags in the sections from this week, so I'll have to choose just a few. In addition to the quotes, what is impressing me in reading Calvin is how logical and thorough, yet interesting he is. It deals with heavy theology, but it makes such sense to me, and is so practical!

Here are some of my favorite quotables:

...[W]hen we are unjustly wounded by men, let us overlook their wickedness (which would but worsen our pain and sharpen our minds to revenge), remember to mount up to God, and learn to believe for certain that whatever our enemy has wickedly committed against us was permitted and sent by God's just dispensation."

This one is actually Calvin quoting from Augustine. So think of this as two-for-one:
...There is a great difference between what is fitting for man to will and what is fitting for God, and to what end the will of each is directed, so that it be either approved or disapproved. For through the bad wills of evil men God fulfills what he righteously wills...so that in a wonderful and ineffable manner nothing is done without God's will, not even that which is against his will. For it would not be done if he did not permit it; yet he does not unwillingly permit it, but willingly; nor would he, being good, allow evil to be done unless being also almighty he could make good even out of evil.
~Augustine as quoted by Calvin (1.18.3)

But knowledge of ourselves lies first in considering what we were at creation and how generously God continues his favor toward us... Secondly, to call to mind our miserable condition after Adam's fall; the awareness of which, when all our boasting and self-assurance are laid low, should truly humble us and overwhelm us with shame... it behooves us to recognize that we have been endowed with reason and understanding so that, by leading an upright and holy life, we may press on to the appointed goal of our blessed immortality.

Here, then, is what God's truth requires us to seek in examining ourselves: it requires the kind of knowledge that will strip us of all confidence in our own ability, deprive us of all occasion for boasting, and lead us to submission.

Yet God would not have us forget our original nobility, which he had bestowed upon our father Adam, and which out truly to arouse in us a zeal for righteousness and goodness. For we cannot think upon either our first condition or to what purpose we were formed without being prompted to meditate upon immortality, and to yearn after the Kingdom of God.