Sunday, February 28, 2010

The One who knows the end from the beginning...

I've been working on memorizing the following verses this week, and so I have been meditating on them. These are very big verses, full of very big promises.

for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, 'My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,'
~Isaiah 49: 9b-10

If what these verses say is true of God, then there are several inescapable conclusions that have life-shattering consequences. Take, for example, just the idea that God knows (actually, truly and really KNOWS) the end from the beginning. If this is true, it has something to say about how we trust God, how we educate our children, how we worry (or shouldn't worry) about circumstances, where we go in times of need, where we look for strength and support, how we conduct our vocation, how we structure our marriages and families, and on and on.

And after a week of meditating on such things, I was very prepared by the One who knows the end from the beginning to listen to a sermon on the providence of God, from the book o Esther.

These are very big verses, Gentle Reader, because we serve a very big God. May we all rest in Him on this Lord's Day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fun for a bleak February...

The photo at right shows how it looked on our street early yesterday. Sometimes the bleakness of winter causes us to find relief in unexpected places. This morning in an e-mail with my friend Randy, he mentioned wanting to write a book of "The Lost Rules of Strunk and White". You know Strunk and White, Gentle Reader: that grammar book of pithy rules for keeping your writing crisp and clear? (You can see the updated version here, or find an older version online here.) It recently passed the 50th anniversary of printing in the current version (with both Strunk's original and White's additions) and many wrote of its pros and cons at that time. The book consists of a short rule, followed by examples. For instance:
Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas.

The best way to see a country, unless you are pressed for time, is to travel on foot.

This rule is difficult to apply; it is frequently hard to decide whether a single word, such as however, or a brief phrase, is or is not parenthetic. If the interruption to the flow of the sentence is but slight, the writer may safely omit the commas. But whether the interruption be slight or considerable, he must never omit one comma and leave the other.

Well, Randy suggested a book of the "lost" rules: the ones that never made it into the book. He suggested:

Never use the words "cat" and "stupid" in the same sentence. It is a redundancy.

And the following occurred to me:

Not every noun should be used as a verb for convenience.

My personal favorite example of this was recently seen on a billboard in Tucson, AZ: "If you 'officed' here, you would be home by now." I mean, really...

Or how about:

The manner in which one spells text messages should not be his guide for normative spelling.

If I get one more e-mail that ends with "Thnx"... How long does it really take, after all, to add the two additional letters that would make the spelling correct?

Well, I thought it might be diverting to ask you, Gentle Readers, if you have discovered any of these "lost rules" from Strunk and White. Share them in the comments, and bring some smiles to bleak February!

Monday, February 22, 2010


My sister, Jeni, is the author of what I call the VBB (Very Brave Blog). Like me, Jen has struggled her whole adult life with weight issues, and looking for accountability (a whole world's worth) as well as a way to raise hunger awareness, she has started her VBB. There, people have pledged money to go to hunger relief for each pound she loses. Each week she photographs her toes (nicely pedicured) standing on her scale, and what her weight for the week is. Now that is being OUT THERE!

A few weeks ago, Jen was featured in her hometown paper (The Cedar Rapids Gazette). You can read the article and see the photos by clicking on their link, then choosing the date 2-13-10, and going to page B6. After the article, her blog got over 200 hits in a day! So, the VBB has initiated her "15 minutes of fame".

Please pray for Jen and all of us who struggle with weight, Gentle Reader. Pray that we would be successful in out attempts to lose weight, and that we would learn to be filled-up with the love of Christ, and seek to honor Him in all things!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sabbath Sentiments

O God, to us show mercy and bless us in Thy grace;
Cause Thou to shine upon us the brightness of Thy face;
That so Thy way most holy on earth may soon be known,
And unto every people Thy saving grace be shown.

O God, let all men praise Thee, let all the nations sing;
In every land let praises and songs of gladness ring;
For Thou shalt judge the people in truth and righteousness,
And through the earth the nations shall Thy just rule confess.

O God, let people praise Thee, let all the nations sing,
For earth in rich abundance to us her fruit shall bring.
The Lord our God shall bless us, our God shall blessing send,
And all the earth shall fear him to its remotest end.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Awaiting God's purpose...

Another storm is heading our way. It's supposed to rain tonight, changing into snow and keep it up all weekend. I love snow and rain now that I live in the mostly-sunny Southwest. Each drop of moisture in this dry climate is a tender reminder of God's love for His people, His creation.

And yet, He is still in control of His creation in Haiti, where so many thousands have died. He was still sovereign when the tsunami in South Asia wiped out thousands. He was sill tender when I was battling cancer. I can't understand His purpose, because, as a dear friend reminded me yesterday, God is incomprehensible to a mere mortals like me. At times like these, I cling to what He has revealed to me in His word. I know He is good. I know He is sovereign. So I am left not understanding His plan, but trusting He has one. When I get to heaven, maybe then I'll get a glimpse of His plan.

Holding onto the truth when you don't really see how it all works together is sometimes tough. Walking by sight and having a nice, neat little paradigm for reality into which all the tricky things "fit" would certainly be easier than living by faith. But I guess we have to trust God there, too, and patiently await His purpose.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Grandbabies and other blessings...

I am reading through 1 Chronicles right now in my daily bible readings. Somehow I had forgotten how many lists of things there are in that book of the bible: lists of priests, lists of clans, lists of Mighty Men, lists of genealogies, and most recently read, a list of all the things David had accumulated to build a house for the Lord (which Solomon would build).

I have to admit all the lists get to me, and I have a hard time slogging through them. But today I was struck by all the blessing that huge list of wealth marked. David had accumulated a lot of of precious things to use in building God's house. They represent God's great blessing, and his provision for a temple. And that boring list reminded me of my many blessings. The little critter in the new sonogram above is over 8 weeks old now. He or she is growing eyelids, lips, nose, getting webbed fingers, and has a four-chamber, strong-beating heart. What a blessing: the first of a new generation. And Little Finni's parents and Aunt and Uncle are pretty wonderful, too. And he or she has an awesome Grandpa. I need to remember to be thankful for the miracle that is life, and for the way it multiplies and grows.

And that new life is only one in my long list of blessings. May God make us truly thankful!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday without words...

We had a lovely weekend in sunny Tucson. We did some pruning and other household chores, enjoyed walking and finding geocaches, and enjoyed spending time with the parents of our grandchild. But, I forgot my camera, so I am in these photos, and Nikki, who took the photos, is not. Much to your loss, Gentle Reader, because she just glows!

Friday, February 12, 2010


We are safely arrived in sunny Tucson, and looking forward to a day of working with Tim and Nik! There are lots of fun little projects in the possibilities pile for today, along with wonderful company! We feel very blessed to be just 8 hours away, and able to get here for long weekends. Now if Ben and Elsa will just move to the Southwest somewhere...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A new adventure...

If you look very carefully in the sonogram photo above, what you'll see is my first grandchild! So our year of adventure continues with us becoming Grandparents!

Here, at almost seven weeks, he or she is a little peanut just about a centimeter long. And he or she is a busy peanut this week: elbows are forming, fingers are forming, feet and ears and nose are forming. No wonder his mommy (Nikki) is tired all the time! Rejoice with us, and with Tim and Nikki, Gentle Reader,and pray for this little one, who is fearfully and wonderfully made!

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
~Psalm 139

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

An over-ride of blessing...

Years ago, I used to pray regularly, every morning, for God to order my days as He chose. And in this year of living adventurously, I remembered that prayer, and have begun once again praying it as I wake each morning. Let me tell you, Gentle Readers, of a couple of surprises the Lord had planned for my day yesterday.

First off, through my sweet dil, Elsa, we connected up with a young man who needed a place to stay for a few days. He is on an adventure of his own right now, but we are enjoying his company. You can read about Drew's adventure here.

And secondly, I got a very special call last night. Dave and I have been praying for one of my loopy friends (my online classical education loop) whose 18 yo son was in a serious auto accident in December. Zac received terrible trauma to his head, particularly his brain stem. Peggy and Bobby, his parents, spent the first several days beating off the folks who wanted them to donate Zac's organs. The doctors gave them little hope, but the strength of a mama's heart is an amazing thing, and Peggy knew they were going to get Zac back. Well, here we are, two months later, and last night I spoke to Zac on the phone. His strong, clear voice, and ability to carry a conversation and follow thought brought tears to my eyes! He no longer needs a walker to walk with, he is playing memory games, and beginning to dream dreams for his future again. He is a testimony to God's continued power to heal. The doctors say they have no explanation. But we know Who gets all the glory for this healing!

So, I had other plans last night. But God did a loving over-ride of my measly plans, and brought us great blessing instead. The adventure continues every day with Him!

Monday, February 08, 2010

The next generation of Christ-followers...

Not long ago, I was asked to give a devotional at a baby shower for a new mom having her first baby. I thought I'd re-post some of those ideas here (in a less personal version) for any of my Gentle Readers who could gain encouragement from them.

First, let's read Psalm 127:

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

As I think about the exciting road that is ahead of first-time moms, this psalm seems to address many of the things that motherhood will bring her way. Each of us who become a parent for the first time discover that we have a God-given capacity to love that is deeper than we ever thought possible. We also find our hearts can be more crushed and broken than we ever thought possible. We discover new heights of joy in our children, and often more depths of sorrow. We are amazed as our children show child-like faith, and discouraged as we see our own sin become their sin. We have hopes and dreams for our children that may overcome us and them if we are not careful.

But the first thing I encourage you to remember, new moms, as you encounter these strong and amazing emotions, is that this baby is not really yours at all. This baby belongs to the Lord, and you will only be entrusted with this little one for a short time. Unless the Lord is building your house, or your family, you are laboring in vain. Give this baby to the Lord every day. Remember that God has dreams and hopes for this child, and give her to Him over and over again, and wait patiently for His dreams to be fulfilled..

The great temptations that come to every mother are anxiety and worry. We worry about health and development, about intelligence and education, about acceptance and opportunity, about our own loss of freedom and independence, about a million different details concerning this little child. But when we worry, we are denying that this child belongs to God. No matter how hard we work to bring about perfect opportunities or friendships for our children, or protect them from danger and evil, the plan of God is perfect for their lives. If we labor day and night and let anxiety rob our sleep, we are usurping God’s place, and laboring in vain again. As it says in verse 2 of Psalm 127:
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

As we depend on God, we learn to release our anxiety and trust Him with these precious little ones, who belong to Him and are beloved of Him.

Verse 3 tells us that children are a heritage from the Lord. They are our heritage, but more than that, they are His heritage: they belong to Him, and your first responsibility as a mom will be to teach your child about Christ, and to show her what it looks like to be a follower of Christ. She will learn everything you show her—those things you try to teach, as well as those things you would rather she never saw in you. I challenge you to watch your walk with the Lord, and live it out before this little one in faithfulness. Be her example of how a child of the King behaves, and set priorities in your family that will always remind her that she is a heritage from the Lord.

We see in Verse 4 that children are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. As you train this child to be a follower of Christ, she is a weapon you send into the future. She will begin at your side, but she will fly forth and go places you have never been and will never see. Never forget that you are preparing a warrior for Christ, to stand for Truth in a broken and hurting world, and to speak love and redemption there. But for our children to perform that task, we have to let go of them, and let them fly as the Lord has ordained them to go. The job of a mother is to put herself out of a job, by remembering that she is training the next generation of Christ-followers.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Sabbath Sentiments

Today Dave and i taught a new song to our congregation. It is a beautiful rendering of a prayer from the book Valley of Vision to one of my favorite English folk tunes (I know it by the name Lazarus and Dives, and R. Vaughn Williams has a lovely arrnagement of it, too). The lyrics are below. You may hear the composer sing it here. It encourages my soul, and I hope it will yours, Gentle Reader.

I Once Was Ignorant of Grace
I once was ignorant of grace
Though living in its light;
The things of earth held my embrace
And captured all my sight.
Though I was blind and dead in sin
In love You called to me
And gave my heart new life within,
New eyes Your grace to see.

The Spirit then revealed to me
My heart was fully tinged
With strife and boundless enmity
That soon would be avenged.
But then I saw a God of grace
So eager to forgive
He let His Son die in my place
That in Him I might live.

My heart was changed – I then admired
The One I caused such loss
For all that Justice had required
Was finished on the cross.
The Savior then became to me
My joy and all-in-all
And now into eternity
Will never let me fall.

My soul must overflow in song
Each time I call to mind
That to my Jesus I belong
When judgment I should find.
O grant that I might always weep
Because of mercy shown
To one whose treason runs so deep
Yet now is called Your own.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

My 2009 book report...

On my other blog, I keep a list of books I am currently reading, along with a list of books completed for the year. I began this while I was recovering from illness, and had extra reading time on my hands. Last year with less reading time, it looks like I averaged a book every couple of weeks. Not bad, for a slow, methodical reader like me.

Below is my list of completed books from 2009, just so I can remove it from the other blog. This list includes both reading books and audio books listened to on trips or while sewing or cleaning or taking walks. Let me comment on a few stand-outs, and not-so-noteworthy, titles.

The last book I finished, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, was beautifully written, if rather on the philosophical side. I found it charming and funny and sarcastic. I could imagine myself as a girl in the place of the younger protagonist, with her self-centered assuredness and sweeping moral judgments. Dh, on the other hand, was never a pre-teen girl with a dramatic flair, and he found the book irritating and annoying. This book had the most widely varied opinions in the house of the year.

My least favorite novel of the year was Henry James' Daisy Miller. If i could ask Mr. James a question, it would be, "If you had to write this story, why not make it a short story, or better yet, a haiku, and get it over with?"
Spoiled Americans
Waste their lives and die in pain.
No redemption here.

In the Willa Cather category, I found O Pioneers to be much better than My Antonia, but not nearly as good as Death comes for the Archbishop. But whatever the book, you can't bat Cather for lovely, moving description of the land the relationship of the people to it.

The most enjoyable theology book of the year was definitely Minority Report. Trueman is a savvy writer, and blends humor, truth and wit in all his essays.

Best new novel (to me) of the year: The Kite Runner. Brutal and hard to read in places, but beautiful and moving in a way I've not been moved since Cry the Beloved Country. (Both of these books were new to me in adulthood.)

And there was a liberal sprinkling of re-reads last year: Tolkien and Lewis, Sayers and Wodehouse. One can't do without one's old friends!

How about you, Gentle Readers? What books did you read last year? Or which of the following do you have opinions about? I'd love to hear from you!

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by M. Barbery (completed 12-09)
The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien (completed 12-09)
The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis (completed 11-09)
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (completed 11-09)
The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis (completed 10-09)
The Eclogues by Virgil (completed 10-09)
Persuasion by Jane Austen (completed 10-09)
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by A. M. Smith (completed 10-09)
The Confessions of St. Augustine (completed 9-09)
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (completed 9-09)
Foundation by Isaac Asimov( completed 9-09)
My Man Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse (completed 9-09)
Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon (completed 8-09)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shhaffer (completed 8-09)
The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith (completed 7-09)
Knowing God by J. I. Packer (Completed 7-09)
Death of a Maid by M. C. Beaton (completed 7-09)
Thrones, Dominations by Dorothy Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh (completed 6-09)
Ender in Exile by orson Scott Card (completed 6-09)
Daisy Miller by Henry James (completed 6-09)
Minority Report: unpopular thoughts on Everything from Ancient Christianity to Zen Calvinism by C. Trueman (completed 6-09)
The Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card (completed 6-09)
The Kite Runner by Kahled Hosseini (completed 6-09)
The Lighthouse by P.D. James (completed 6-09)
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (completed 5-09)
The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper (completed 5-09)
Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther (completed 4-09)
Stardust by Neil Gaimon (completed 3-09)
Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists by Collin Hansen (completed 3-09)
Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card (completed 3-09)
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (completed 2-09)
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (completed 2-09)
The Kalahari Typing School For Men by Alexander McCall Smith (completed 2-09)
Xenocide by Orson Scott Card (completed 2/09)
Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers (completed 2/09)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (completed 1-09)
The Mortification of Sin by John Owen (completed 1-09)