Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When Helping Hurts...

Tomorrow a new series of webinars will begin from the Chalmers Center at Covenant College. Given by the authors of the book, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor... or Yourself, the webinars last only one hour each, and will cover topics like "The Church and the Concept of Poverty". I sat in on a previous webinar these gentlemen did on relief work in Haiti, and it was excellent, so I am excited about tomorrow. They will lay a foundation of Biblical concepts for dealing with redemptive life in a fallen world. I can't wait!

All the information is listed and free registration can be handled at the webinar site here. The registration is free, but you must register and receive a code to attend. I hope to see many of you there, Gentle Readers. Tomorrow, 1-2 PM EST. Be there, or miss out on excellent teaching!

The "People's Attorney" in NM

Today I tried to call our state Attorney General's office. I wanted to lodge my opinion and encouragement with him concerning the health care issue. I think that is being a good citizen, whether you agree with me or not. Well, I was shocked at the treatment my call received. Whatever you believe about health care, you should be able to encourage your state government officials in some way other than writing a letter. It is time for the government to stop thinking of the citizens they serve as a nuisance, and start listening again.

March 23, 2010
Attorney General Gary king
P.O. Drawer 1508
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1508

Dear Attorney General King,

I would ask two things of you.

First, please consider bringing suit against the federal government, as many other Attorneys General from many other states are doing, and question constitutionally the right of the federal government to impose the current health care legislation upon our State. In addition to being a grab for power from the states which needs resisting, the financial burden imposed on our state will be huge.

Secondly, please allow some reasonable format for contacting you, as an important official in our state government. This form of mail is out-dated and antiquated, taking days to arrive to your attention. Please provide a means for citizens of this state to make their will known at all levels of our government, including your office. When I telephoned and asked to leave a message for you, the polite gentleman on the phone gave me the address here and said, “That will help ‘you people’ out, and this is how we’re going to handle it.” I felt both patronized and dismissed. If you are, indeed, “the people’s attorney” as your web site claims, then the people need to be able to get in touch with their advocate.

Christine M. Finnegan
Los Alamos, NM 87544

Monday, March 22, 2010

God over all...

This morning I feel the need to remind myself of what is true (as opposed to what is hype, what is spin). So I turn to that wonderful book of Puritan prayers, The Valley of Vision, and pray for the week ahead:

O God all-sufficient, Thou hast made and upholdeth all things in this world by your power;
darkness is Ty pavilion,
though walkest on the wings of the wind;
all nations are nothing before thee;
one generation succeeds another,
and we hasten back to the dust;
the heavens we ehold will vanish away like the clouds that cover them,
the earth we tread on will dissolve as a morning dream;
But thou, unchangeable and incorruptible, art forever and ever, God over all, blessed eternally.
Infinitely great and glorious art thou.
We are thy offspring and thy care.
Thy hands have made and fashioned us.
Thou hast watched over us with more than parental love, more than maternal tenderness. Thou has holden our soul in life, and not suffered our foot to be moved. Thy divine power has given us all things necessary for life and godliness.
Let us bless thee at all times and forget not how thou hast
forgiven our iniquities,
healed our diseases,
redeemed our lives from destruction,
crowned us with loving-kindness and tender mercies,
satisfied our mouths with good things,
renewed our youth like the eagle's.
May thy Holy Scriptures govern every part of our lives, and regulate the discharge of all our duties, so that we may adorn thy doctrine in all things.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sundays with Jean

"Heal my soul, for for I have sinned against thee."- Psalm 41:4

Sometimes Calvin's pastoral gentleness surprises me. He compellingly paints a picture of the love of God and His tenderness towards us who are undeserving. I love the way he speaks of God's grace:

I, indeed, confess that in these darts there would be deadly stings if God did not help us. But according to his incomparable compassion, our most gracious Father has added a timely remedy, by which, calming our perturbation, assuaging cares, casting out fears, he may draw us gently to himself--nay, removing all rough spots, not to mention hindrances, he may pave the way.
~Jean Calvin, Institutes, Book III, Chapter 20, Part 12

Such a God is worthy of our praise, and makes a quiet place for our soul to rest. May you rest in him this Sabbath night, Gentle Reader!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A wedding week...

Next Saturday we will be celebrating the marriage of a our dear Em. So this week and next are full of the fun of helping to put on a feast that pictures in this world the celebration of the Lamb when He takes His bride. I am full of decorating ideas from tissue paper flowers to my contribution to the arsenal of small layer cakes that will feed the guests. It is such a privilege to be part of the lives of those one loves!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rooting oneself in truth...

Gentle Readers, please continue to pray for Matt Chandler, his wife, and his young family.


Monday, March 15, 2010

A winter wonderland in March

We awoke to a winter wonderland this morning...in March. God certainly has a sense of humor. And to think that just yesterday I was contemplating planting peas this week... Despite the timing it is quite beautiful, and being March in the Southern Rockies, it will all be gone soon So I am determined to enjoy it while I can.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

That He may better prove His love for us...

For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears towards their prayers...
~Psalm 34:15

This is a verse both comforting and terrifying. The fact that God's eyes and ears are attuned to me can be disconcerting when I desire to hide away my sins in secret. But when I remember that He looks on me with the love of a Father, and with abundant grace, I am truly comforted. And I feel God's call to me for fellowship with Him. As Calvin says, speaking of this verse:

This sentence so commends the providence of God--intent of his own accord upon caring for the salvation of the godly--as yet not to omit the exercise of faith, by which men's minds are cleansed of indolence. the eyes of God are therefor watchful to assist the blind in their necessity, but he is willing in turn to hear our groanings that he may better prove his love toward us...
Jean Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter 20, Part 3

And as to the desire to hide that sin from God, Jean addresses that as well:

Words fail to explain how necessary prayer is, and in how may ways the exercise of prayer is profitable. Surely with good reason the Heavenly Father affirms that the only stronghold of safety is calling upon his name. By so doing we invoke the presence both of his providence, through which he watches over and guards our affairs, and of his power, through which he sustains us, weak as we are and well-nigh overcome, and of his goodness, through which he receives us, miserably burdened with sins, unto grace: and, in short, it is by prayer that we call him to reveal himself as wholly present to us. hence comes an extraordinary peace and repose to our consciences. For having disclosed to the Lord the necessity that was pressing upon us, we even rest fully in the thought that none of our ills is hid from him who, we are convinced, has both the will and the power to take the best care of us.
~Jean Calvin, The institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter 20, Part 2.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Feeling God's pleasure...

Yesterday I sat in frozen aluminum bleachers to watch my young friend, M., play her first home game of the season in softball. The wind was awfully cold, but there were plenty of benefits from the outing. First, I got to watch the snow falling across the valley on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and the clouds shift and change in the setting sun. It was gloriously beautiful. And I enjoyed the company of friends, including M.'s parents (to whom I owe thanks for the photo). But mostly, I was on the scene when M., as a freshman playing her second year of varsity softball, made her first home run. As she rounded second, and saw the ball sailing clean out of center field and over the fence, there was a look of pure joy on her face. I was reminded of a quote by Eric Liddell, Scottish Olympic runner and Christian missionary, who said:

God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.
~Eric Liddell

God made M. strong and brave. And His pleasure was pretty obvious on her face yesterday. Well done, M!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Miscellaneous quotes from the morning...

This morning in my worldviews class, we had a fascinating and inspiring speaker. Bill is passionate about many things: Jesus, politics, history, worldview. And he gave my students and myself lots to think about this morning. He discussed the fact that everyone has a worldview (a basic underlying set of assumptions through which we view reality): some are consistent, some inconsistent; some are rational, some irrational; some are coherent, some are incoherent. But it is never a case of someone having a "neutral" stance while someone else has a religious viewpoint. All worldviews are religious because they are the beliefs we hold.

Bill has been a friend of this class since before his life became so very public, because he was a close friend of the man who conceived of this class here in Los Alamos before "worldview" classes became the rage, Tim Wilson. And Bill reminded us this morning of Tim's often quoted motto: If you get the answer to the God question wrong, you get all the other answers wrong as well. Bill also helped the students unpack the most important sentence in the most important document in the most powerful nation in the world (the US Declaration) and see that it is rationally based on a Creator from whom all human rights flow, and that the job of a govenrment is not to grant human rights, but to secure those given by God.

And a few of my favorite Bill quotes of the day:

"Don't be a rebel without a clue!"

"Stupid for Jesus is still stupid!"

"If the world is dark or decaying, it isn't the fault of the world. Where is the light and the salt to take care of the dark and the decay?"

"Equality is three fold: we all are created in the imago dei (image of God), the ground before the cross is level, and the judgement at the final day is impartial. Do you see room for racism in there anywhere?"

"There are no atheists, only idolaters."

I wish you all could have listened in with me this morning, Gentle Readers. It was inspiring and challenging!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Aggregate tiny pushes...

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker. ~Helen Keller

Monday, March 08, 2010

Monday with Jean

I know, I know... it is usually Sundays with Jean. But yesterday I had already posted about "O Sacred head Now Wounded", and it wasn't until late last night that something spectacular happened. Dave and I completed the first volume of the Battles/McNeill version of the Institutes. Yes, Gentle Reader: that means Dave and I have read all 849 pages aloud to one another over the last year and a little. I call that a stupendous feat! It is actually made easier by a great translation, and by a readable Calvin who exhibits a very pastoral heart. So now it is on to the second volume (pages 850 - 1521)!

But before we leave volume one, I had to leave you with at least one last quote from these pages, and again, it is actually Calvin quoting Augustine. I spoke to one of Ben's grad school buddies once who is writing his dissertation on Augustine's Latin writings, and he said he believed all of Calvin's most quotable quotes were actually from Augustine. He just may be correct. Here is a gem:

"The Lord," [Augustine] says, "is faithful, who made Himself our detor--not by accepting anything from us, but by promising us all things."
~Jean Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter 18, Part 7

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Sabbath Sentiments

What makes a hymn "great"? Take a meaningful text which is true to biblical theology (thank you, Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, and translator James Alexander, 1830). Couple said text with perfect part-writing and a memorable melody (thank you Hans Hassler, 1601, and J. S. Bach, the master of part writing, for his harmonization in 1729...) Add centuries of history: saints singing this song to the glory of God and for their own comfort in good times and bad times, times of plenty and times of want, times of trial and times of blessing. There is a recipe for a "great" hymn. And in the version below, there are several less-familiar verses.

O Sacred Head Now Wounded
O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

What a Savior...

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
~1 Corinthians 13:4-7

This week I had the occasion to revisit these familiar verses and work on re-memorizing them after many years. I was so moved and convicted by the Holy Spirit through them!

This is what love is. And how do I measure up to this standard? I think sometimes I do better at bearing all things than I do at believing all things...ask my husband and children whose spirits I have sometimes crushed by my unbelief. I think I endure better than I hope, being a pessimist by both inclination and genetics. But then, if I am honest, even my enduring is full of self-seeking and whining. I can sympathize with Paul when he says in Romans 7:24, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?". It is this thought that sends him full-throttle into Romans chapter 8:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son...
~Romans 8:1-3a

And all I can say from my point of weakness is, "Hallelujah, what a Savior!"

If you have never considered the claims of Christ, Gentle Reader, do so now, while it is still called today.

Friday, March 05, 2010


Earlier this week, my parents made the trip up from Rio Rancho for the night. We enjoyed playing Carcasonne and Five Crowns, had dinner together, and used Dave's miter saw to help with a project they are working on. (They are going to redo their kitchen table top using tile.) Here is a photo of Dave and all the parents.

It is a blessing to have our parents close. After many years of being far away, the little irritations that come from bumping up against one another are nothing compared to the blessing of being near to these folks who have raised us, nurtured us, and loved us for years. God is good to so order our lives. A friend recently blogged a list of the best things about his parents, and I thought I'd follow his good lead, and rise up and call my parents blessed. Here are just some of the gifts they have given me:
*My parents are hard workers, and taught us to work hard as well. Their motto was "It's better to wear out than to rust out."
*My parents taught us that we needed to be honest and have integrity in what they did, and showed us by example how to accomplish that.
*My parents taught us to make our beliefs our own, and not let others sway us.
*My parents taught me the value of family and the fun to be had in a house full of children and friends.
*My parents are fearless creators: they get brilliant ideas and make them come into existence.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for the way you bless us!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Trusting a big God...

I have been privileged over the years to know many remarkable people. Some are remarkable because they are brilliant or talented. Some are remarkable because they are gifted. My friends Terry and Juanita are remarkable because they serve a big God, and trust Him with the sorrows of their hearts.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

No Greater Portrait

I am learning a new song to teach on Sunday, and it is a winner: true and lovely words, and beautiful, singable tune!

There Is No Greater Portrait by E. Schumacher and D. Ward

There is no greater portrait
Of love and sacrifice
Than Jesus leaving glory
And laying down His life.
When I look on the sufferings
My Savior chose to bear,
It fills my heart with sorrow
To think I put Him there.

He ran the race before Him
Though it was filled with pain,
And walked the road to glory
In agony and shame.
Then for the joy before Him,
He chose to bear the cross,
Pursued His Father’s pleasure
And counted all else loss.

The Son of Man was lifted
Before creation’s eyes;
Was mocked and scorned by soldiers,
By kings and priests despised.
But now the Son is risen,
Ascended to the skies.
By angels He is worshipped;
By nations glorified.

O Savior, let this sinner
Be ransomed by the flood
Of mercy and forgiveness
Abundant in Your blood.
O Lord, be my salvation,
Your Holy Spirit send
To change my heart and cause me
To love You to the end.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Fearfully and wonderfully made...

I think it's already clear that I will be one of those obnoxious grandmothers who loves to share photos of their grandchildren, and bore others endlessly with tales and anecdotes abut them. Feel free, Gentle Reader, to ignore me in such instances, or even to lovingly tell me I'm being obnoxious. It may not help, but I will at least try...

According to the mom of grandchild #1, our little peanut has grown into less of a bean and more of a teddy bear. If you are really good, you can make that out in the latest sonogram photo. Little Finni has little feet, and litle hands with forming fingerprints already! It is amazing how we are formed in the womb, and it makes me rejoice:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
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,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
~Psalm 139: 13-17

Please keep our little teddy bear and his or her momma and daddy in your prayers!