Sunday, January 30, 2011

How do you smell?

This morning we heard a convicting sermon on these verses:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?
~2 Corinthians 2:14-16
 The gist of the message was that if we belong to Christ, we smell like Him to others: if they love Christ, itis a sweet fragrance, and if they don't, it is the stench of death.  And if we don't smell of Christ to others, then we need to question if we belong to Him.

Perhaps one reason the message was so moving this morning is that it came from the lips of a man who has served God in costly ways for many years: first, abroad in places like Columbia and Ecquador, and now as a chaplain in a maximum security prison for the criminally insane, and for a regional hospice program.  You know how stressful the prison job is when you hear that he took on the hospice chaplaincy to have a break from the stress. Here is a man who knows what it means to smell like Jesus.

Of course, these verses end with a question: who is equal to such a task? The implied answer is, of course, none of us.  Not you, Gentle Reader, not me, not my amazing friend who did the preaching this morning.  It is only Christ Himself who is equal to such a task.  And so I find myself thankful, indeed, that He leads us always in victory. May you rejoice in the same, Gentle Friend!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

My most recently completed quilt...

It is already off to my dil Nikki, to celebrate her upcoming birthday.

And here is a close-up of the center.  The subject matter is so very precious!

The photograph in the center was "painted" using GIMP, then printed on cotton fabric, and measure about 5 x 7.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A delightful weekend

In a stunningly spontaneous act, my dh decided on Saturday that we were running away together for the weekend.  So off we trooped.  We had geocaching adventures, and a picnic in the car under gray January skies.  But here are the views from our picnic spot:

And Sunday found us enjoying fellowship with a sister congregation where we are loved, and then having a gargantuan geocaching adventure in the afternoon, finding 12 (count 'em-- TWELVE!) caches in the afternoon.  In addition to the treasure-seeking aspect of this, we wandered through some lovely areas in the bright New Mexico sun.  It was entirely delightful!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Good-bye year of adventure, hello year of service...

My sweet husband, sometime in January of last year, dubbed 2010 our "Year of Adventure".  We had never had a "theme" for a year in our previous 30 years of marriage, but he was moved by what he observed as a tendency to repetition and complacency, and wanted us to challenge ourselves to be more adventurous: more adventurous in our spiritual lives, our relational lives, and even in our entertainment and reading lives.  So, we embraced a year of thinking about taking what looked to us to be adventurous paths, the road less travelled, the decision that looked less comfortable and more, well, exciting. It was frightening at times! And how did that work out for us? It was a tremendous year!

Some of the "adventures" that came our way included new jobs for both of us: one keeping the world safe for democracy, the other in the world of online teaching. We traveled to places we had never been (like hiking to the top of Pajarito Mountain, buying a car on e-bay and driving it home from California across the Sonoran desert, and geocaching in all sorts of places).  We entered the new world of Grandparenthood.  We also found ourselves identifying the places where we stop ourselves from doing things because we are creatures of habit.  This was a very valuable part of our year! So it was a wonderful year, with little adventures popping up everywhere we turned.

After much prayer and thought, my dh has made another declaration for this year: a year of service.  Our job is to ask, "How would God have me serve this person, or in this circumstance, or through this trial? How can I set my own desires aside and serve God or someone else?"  And already, the options for service are popping out of the woodwork.  This topic is also a little frightening.  The truth is, I love living in the Cosmos of Chris, where everything in the universe revolves around me.  But already, I am seeing how this goal for the year will change my perspective in healthy ways.  I am tutoring some students to serve their families, and it is really exciting to watch these folks learn and change, and to have the privilege of taking part in that process. 

I think this will be another adventurous year, Gentle Reader.  And I hope you will join us.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Health update, and counting blessings...

For those of you wondering what ever happened with my iron infusions, I thought I would give a general health update. There may only be a couple of you, but since those couple have asked, here we go...

The infusions (5 of them) are done, but the bruises and the bills remain. They were not really problematic, especially for the first three.  The last two found my veins saying "No more!", but we accomplished them.  I will have blood work next week, when we hope to find I have a full load of iron on board.  I will get results from the oncologist on the 31st, Lord willing. I'm not sure who I will be seeing, but they assure me they will have a doctor in the office...

I have more tests scheduled for February to look for sources of some slow bleeding that may have added to my problem. I continue to appreciate your prayers, Gentle Reader, as I traverse this rocky landscape of health issues.  As a friend here in town (now almost through her 80's) says: Growing old is not for sissies.  I am trying to learn not to be a sissy..

I am not always succeeding at that "not being a sissy" part, however.  I often feel a little (or more than a little) sorry for myself.  It's at those times that the discipline of counting one's blessings is vital.  And I have many, many of those to count, by God's grace!

May the tough times find us all counting our blessings, Gentle Reader, and fighting for non-sissy status...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A New Year's goal already met...

Over dinner on New Year's Eve, we discussed our goals for the New year.  One of my daughters-in-law stated that her goal was to finally be added to the family tree which hangs in our dinning room.

May all of our goals be so easy to accomplish!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

By Night When Others Soundly Slept by Anne Bradstreet

By night when others soundly slept
And hath at once both ease and Rest,
My waking eyes were open kept
And so to lie I found it best.

I sought him whom my Soul did Love,
With tears I sought him earnestly.
He bow'd his ear down from Above.
In vain I did not seek or cry.

My hungry Soul he fill'd with Good;
He in his Bottle put my tears,
My smarting wounds washt in his blood,
And banisht thence my Doubts and fears.

What to my Saviour shall I give
Who freely hath done this for me?
I'll serve him here whilst I shall live
And Love him to Eternity.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Who calls me his child...

Sometimes I get to the end of the day--even good days-- and feel weary, and want to indulge in a little night-time pity party.  Some times, unfortunately, I manage to pull it off.  But more frequently, I find the kindness of my Savior simply won't allow me to go there, despite my foolish trying to do so.  Following on the heels of Sunday's excellent message, I read this tonight:

The bottom line is this: The problem is not that God is not here or that He is inactive; the problem is that we don't see him. Our perspective on life is is often tragically godless. We miss the one thing worth seeing, the glory of the ever-present God. When this happens, our lives are not built on the foundation of God's glory, which was intended to give our lives a starting point and a destination, a reason to get up and strength to go on...
~Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Resources for Changing Lives) p.98
The truth is, I could have quoted most of the 10 pages I read tonight for their sheer application to the sorry state of my own heart.  But the story doesn't stop with my weakness and sin and self-glorifying idol-making. 
Galatians 5 calls us to hold onto two realities. The first is the every-day reality of the war for the heart, the war between God's "within you" kingdom ad the kingdom of creation. I must face the reality of indwelling sin and my propensity to run after god-replacements. I am called to face my duplicity and my idolotry, and the fact that this war is the most significant inner dynamic of human experience...The second reality must be held tightly at the same time.  it is the reality of my idetity as a child of God and the resources that are therefore mine in Christ...

~Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Resources for Changing Lives) p.92
And so, I set my pity-arty aside, and remind myself not of my feelings, but of what I ought to be feeling: love and gratitude for a God who calls me his child.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The One who cares for me...

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore,( confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
~1 Peter 5: 6-11

I am continuing to ponder these verses after both a fine sermon upon them yesterday, and a fine discussion of them last night in our fellowship group. I don't think I saw the connections before, or at least not so clearly: to humble myself before God is to obediently trust Him, casting all my cares upon Him, and not picking them back up again.  When I do this, I am resisting the Devil, because his prowling is useless when my heart is obedient and humbled as it is supposed to be.  What an amazing idea: when I am beginning to despair, I fight that temptation from Satan by casting all my cares upon the One who cares for me and bears them gladly.  It sounds too simple, but my own pride and inflated sense of self gets in the way over and over again. 

All the same, this morning I am marveling at a new day before me, and new opportunities to cast my cares upon One who not only cares for me, but leads every detail of my day, in His divine providence, for my good and His glory.  That is grace, indeed!  May you spend today surrounded by such grace, Gentle Reader.

And more thoughts on all that suffering stuff in the future...

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Keeping the right focus...

This morning in church I was challenged by the sermon from 1 Peter 5.  One of many thoughts that went through my hard little heart was how easily I get distracted by Satan's prowling.  The following hymn is a good way to refocus on what is important.

The God of Abraham Praise 

Words: From The Yig­dal of Dan­i­el ben Ju­dah, a Jew­ish judge in Rome, cir­ca 1400, par­a­phrased by Thom­as Ol­iv­ers, cir­ca 1765; first ap­peared in The Gos­pel Mag­a­zine, Ap­ril 1775. The lyr­ics are based on the 13 creeds of Mos­es Mai­mon­i­des (cir­ca 1130-1204).

The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of everlasting days, and God of Love;
Jehovah, great I AM! by earth and Heav’n confessed;
I bow and bless the sacred Name forever blessed.

The God of Abraham praise, at Whose supreme command
From earth I rise—and seek the joys at His right hand;
I all on earth forsake, its wisdom, fame, and power;
And Him my only Portion make, my Shield and Tower.

The God of Abraham praise, whose all sufficient grace
Shall guide me all my happy days, in all my ways.
He calls a worm His friend, He calls Himself my God!
And He shall save me to the end, thro’ Jesus’ blood.

He by Himself has sworn; I on His oath depend,
I shall, on eagle wings upborne, to Heav’n ascend.
I shall behold His face; I shall His power adore,
And sing the wonders of His grace forevermore.

Tho’ nature’s strength decay, and earth and hell withstand,
To Canaan’s bounds I urge my way, at His command.
The wat’ry deep I pass, with Jesus in my view;
And thro’ the howling wilderness my way pursue.

The goodly land I see, with peace and plenty bless’d;
A land of sacred liberty, and endless rest.
There milk and honey flow, and oil and wine abound,
And trees of life forever grow with mercy crowned.

There dwells the Lord our King, the Lord our righteousness,
Triumphant o’er the world and sin, the Prince of peace;
On Sion’s sacred height His kingdom still maintains,
And glorious with His saints in light forever reigns.

He keeps His own secure, He guards them by His side,
Arrays in garments, white and pure, His spotless bride:
With streams of sacred bliss, with groves of living joys—
With all the fruits of Paradise, He still supplies.

Before the great Three-One they all exulting stand;
And tell the wonders He hath done, through all their land:
The list’ning spheres attend, and swell the growing fame;
And sing, in songs which never end, the wondrous Name.

The God Who reigns on high the great archangels sing,
And “Holy, holy, holy!” cry, “Almighty King!
Who was, and is, the same, and evermore shall be:
Jehovah—Father—great I AM, we worship Thee!”

Before the Savior’s face the ransomed nations bow;
O’erwhelmed at His almighty grace, forever new:
He shows His prints of love—they kindle to a flame!
And sound thro’ all the worlds above the slaughtered Lamb.

The whole triumphant host give thanks to God on high;
“Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” they ever cry.
Hail, Abraham’s God, and mine! (I join the heav’nly lays,)
All might and majesty are Thine, and endless praise.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Hanson get-together

On Christmas Day, 19 of us gathered for dinner and gifts and caroling here in New Mexico.  It was a delightful time, though we missed Jeff and family! Emma got properly passed around: above with Great-aunt Jeni and cousin Zoe, and below with great-uncle Matt.

Above, Emma with great-Aunt Annie, and below with great-grandparents Jack and Shirley.

 Maria, Zoe, Hallie, Atalie

Matt, Anne, Shirley, Jack.  In front: Hallie.  Behind: Gwen and Chris.

Jeni, Ben, Nikki, Emma and Tim.

Emma with Aunt Elsa.