Saturday, December 20, 2014

Finding True Peace

I recently spoke at a women's breakfast. Here is the text of the message.

*********************************************************************************Well, it’s December. Anyone know where November went? Actually, never mind November, how about August?

Our family has had a very busy month. Our son got married 3 weeks ago in Ottawa and then we hosted a reception for them last weekend in Calgary. We loved having him and his new wife with us for the week before the reception but I have to admit, I was ready to get back to routine when it was time for them to go. A week and a half before the wedding, my husband’s brother passed away unexpectedly as well. So between regular life of school, work and church activities, we’ve had lots on the go.

I say all this not to elicit sympathy but to let you know that I’m quite familiar with stress and anxiety. Today I’d like to talk about peace and what it means to be free from anxiety and worry and I want you to know that I’m not speaking in theoretical terms. A few days after we heard about my brother in law’s death, my husband came home from work early as his boss had noticed his stress level was high and he wasn’t feeling well. I said to him that I felt like I had a spring inside me that was getting wound tighter and tighter and sooner or later, it would let go. Anyone else ever felt like that?

I think as women, we often experience high anxiety and worry leading into the Christmas season as well. I’m sure there are some of you here that have all your presents bought and are ready for the season. In all sincerity, I applaud you. I’m not there! But maybe you have other things to worry about. We worry about getting the right gifts, how our family or extended family is going to get along, how we’re going to pay for everything, whether our house will be ready for company and if our children will really enjoy their Christmas.

The other thing I’ve observed about women is that we tend to want to hide everything away and make it look like everything is perfect and we are handling every aspect of living with perfect aplomb. We want it to look like we have it all together because we are afraid of what others might think. Why are we afraid? Because we think that they have it all together and that they will judge us for not being perfectly prepared, organized, clean, or whatever our worry is.

When I was thinking about this, I thought it’s kind of like having company over. You know – when the living room, kitchen and bathroom are perfectly clean and organized – only because everything has been moved into our master bedroom! Once my very helpful children started putting guests’ coats on our bed in our bedroom. That would have been fine except that I hadn’t planned for them to do that so my room was a complete disaster!

But isn’t that kind of what we like to do with our lives? We present an image of perfectly put-togetherness but inside, our “master bedroom” is a complete disaster and we are holding everything together only by the skin of our teeth. And occasionally, it all bursts out.

What I’d like to talk about today is not how we can project and perfect that perfect image while protecting all our hurts and worries and anxieties inside but how we can be honest with ourselves, our friends and families and most importantly, God.
To deal honestly with the griefs and worries that we all face and find a way to know “the peace that passes understanding”.

So whether your worry or anxiety today is from Christmas preparations or busyness or if you have other stresses in your life due to relationships, illness or busyness, I think that the Bible has something to say to us all.

1.       The Promise of Peace – Isaiah 26:3

What is peace?  The dictionary definition tells us that peace is the freedom from disturbance or from violence; the cessation of war. It can also refer to tranquillity or seclusion – being “away from it all”.

As women, it’s pretty hard to get “away from it all”. You all know what it’s like to try to go to the bathroom in peace. Sometimes our desire is just to get away from it all. But I think that we very quickly find that first, we have to go back to “it” sooner or later. There’s no escaping life. And secondly, the lack of peace is not external, outside of ourselves, but internal, inside of us.

Biblically, “peace” can be defined as “completeness” or being “sound”. An animal like a horse is said to be “sound” when it is completely healthy and can do whatever it needs to do.

So today, we’re going to approach peace as a freedom from anxiety or disturbance in our souls, not based on external circumstances but based on being settled internally.

Isaiah, one of the old Testament prophets, has a lot to say about peace. He records a promise from God in chapter 26, verse 3. Here is the promise:

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

First, let’s just recognize that the “him” in this passage is a generalized pronoun, referring to all of mankind, not just to men. So we can easily read this as “You will keep her in perfect peace, … because she trusts in you.”

In this passage, a song of salvation is being sung and a promise is made to those who trust in God.

1.       Who gives the promise here?

This passage is a song of praise – sung to Israel about God. A picture is painted of a place of safety. A walled city where enemies cannot attack. The singer praises God for the salvation that He brings to his people. A place where a righteous people can enter, live and be safe.

Who gives the promise of safety and peace? Of freedom from conflict or disturbance. It is God, called “O Most Upright”; “Lord”; “Lord, our God”.

The first step to peace is recognizing who gives it. It’s not something we can find on our own. Sometimes we think we have found it, when everything is going well and life is good. But when the worst happens, will you still have peace?

The promise is one of not only peace but perfect peace. Charles Spurgeon says that it is a double peace – “peace, peace.” “You will keep him in peace, peace.” Spurgeon says, “It is the Hebrew way of expressing emphatic peace; true and real peace; double peace, peace of great depth and vast extent.”

Some of you might be thinking that this is an impossible goal – there is no such thing. But the Bible is clear that it does exist.

Remember who gave this promise? God gave it and so our starting point in finding peace must be in our relationship to God.

But the Bible also says that we cannot be in relationship with God because our sin has made a barrier between us and God. There is no peace between us when there is sin between us.

Romans 3 says this:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit;
The poison of asps is under their lips;
Whose mouth is full of curses and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

That’s quite the indictment of us, isn’t it? And the writer of Romans makes it clear that this applies to all people. He says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Thankfully, just a chapter later, he offers the answer to our problem of sin and lack of righteousness.

Romans 5:1-2

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.”

Peace with God with no barriers! Access by faith! How? Through Jesus. Verse 8 continues – “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Here is the answer to the peace that we all need in our hearts. God, who promised peace, shows his love toward us in sending Christ to die for us. And he didn’t do it when we were all ready and perfect. Instead, Christ died for us “while we were still sinners”. That’s where our peace comes from to begin with – in our relationship with God – being made righteous by what Christ has done for us.

So the promise “You (God) will keep him in perfect peace” has been answered in what Christ has done for us on the cross.

Now, you may be thinking that this is all well and good but it doesn’t answer the hard questions of life – where to find peace in the midst of busyness, grief or hard times. Let’s continue on.

We’ve looked at who gives peace and what the promise is. We’ll come back to some application of the promise of peace to our lives but for now, let’s consider the “why” of the promise. Why will God give peace?

2.       “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because (s)he trusts in You.”

Why will God keep us in peace? Because our trust is in Him.

What does that mean – to trust in God?

It’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot – just “trust in God”. I think, though that there are a few things to remember that will help us avoid empty words.

The first thing to consider is the object of our trust. Who is this person that we trust in? What makes him reliable?

These days, in the world of fraud online, we’re urged to make sure the “security certificate” online is trustworthy. If you are going to order from a website, make sure that it has an “https” at the beginning – that tells us it is secure. So we put our trust in something that has been deemed secure and trustworthy by those who are presumably in the know. Hopefully, it does prove true.

God is much more trustworthy than a secure website and we have a greater degree of security in Him. Why is that?

Well, first we must consider God’s character. He is trustworthy because His character is proven. The Bible makes it clear through all its pages that God can be trusted. We find that He is merciful, that He is good, that He gives grace and that He loves the people He created. We also find that He is just – He is fair and judges fairly.

All of this enables us to trust God’s character and to know that He doesn’t do anything that is outside of His character. 

Secondly, we can trust in God because it is made clear that He is in control of all things. The Bible tells us that He is sovereign over all. He has no beginning and no end and therefore, His plans are always reliable. Often, we don’t see how the plans all fit together but we have to trust that He will bring good from evil because that’s what He has consistently done in the past.

The Bible gives us the example of Joseph. Sold into slavery by his brothers, unjustly imprisoned for many years, he eventually became second in command in Egypt. When his brothers came to him and realized who he was they expected him to retaliate in anger. Instead he says this: "You meant it for evil but God meant it for good." God put it all together so that in the end, the nation of Israel was saved from famine.

The opposite of trusting is, of course, not trusting. When we say that people are untrustworthy, it is because in the past, they have proven themselves to be untrustworthy. If you have children, especially when they get to their teens, you have probably said that in order to be able to do something in the future, they have to prove themselves trustworthy. In other words, they prove that they are trustworthy in the small things that they do and eventually, we will trust them in the bigger things.

But what happens when we don’t believe? If a child has shown himself trustworthy and then we turn around and refuse to allow him to do something, what is the child likely to say? He’ll probably cry “unfair”, and he would be right. We would be wronging that child if we refused. Sometimes as parents, we refuse permission from fear or from not trusting even when we should.

A couple of weeks ago, we had our newly-married son and his wife with us for a week. It was a cold, snowy week and it took some trusting on my part to allow him to take the car, since he hadn’t driven in snow for a while. But his track record is good and I had to surrender my fear and let him take it. He did report one wobble stopping at a slippery intersection but he learned from that as well and can only improve if he has the opportunity to learn.

Our trust in God can be shaken in the same way. Whether it’s from fear or unbelief, we can be so anxious that we refuse to trust God with a situation and instead, we hang on to it and “worry it to death”, like a dog with a new toy. I sometimes think of it as being on a hamster wheel. Have you ever worried over a situation so much it’s like you are running on a hamster wheel? Sometimes, I make myself jump off but in just a few minutes, I’m back worrying over it in my mind – thinking about all the things that could happen, what I could say or did say or should have said and my peace is completely gone.

3.       You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You

Spurgeon has this to say about “staying”:

“Staying means upholding. We speak of a stay and of a mainstay; it is something upon which we are depending. Such a person is the stay of the house, - its chief upholder and support. See, then, what it is to stay your souls on God, and mind that you daily carry it out. Some are staying themselves upon a friend, others are staying themselves upon their own ability, but blessed is the man who stays himself upon God. We are to have no confidence except in the Almighty arm; our reliance must be placed there only.”

But, you may say, how? How do I have confidence only in the Almighty arm, to put my reliance on him?

First, know Him. We’ve talked about that already but you must know God in order to put your trust in Him. How do we know him? Through His word, reading it and listening to it preached. Through His people. And through prayer.

Do you read God’s word? Do you know His character because of what you know about him through the scriptures? There are many Bible reading plans out there; it’s not important which one you choose but that you do choose one. Start small. If you are new to Bible reading, don’t start in Genesis. Start in one of the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.

Do you listen to the Word preached in your local church? A steady diet of good preaching will help you to understand more about God but you may not realize how much you are learning until you look back in a few years and understand how much more you understand.

Spend time with God’s people. Ask for help in understanding. Observe those who you can see have a close relationship to God and get to know them. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to open up your heart to them.

And finally, through prayer. We’ll spend the last few minutes in Philippians 4:4-7.

It begins with “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”

Sometimes it’s easy to rejoice. When things are going well, when you are settled and comfortable, it’s easy to rejoice. And we’re thankful for that. But when our hearts are not at peace and it seems like there is a whirlwind around us, Paul still says, “Rejoice”.

Ann Voskamp wrote a book a few years ago called One Thousand Gifts. The chief idea is one of gratitude – to find reasons to rejoice in God in the midst of every circumstance.

Our society talks a lot about gratitude. But it rarely talks about who we are grateful to.

Isaiah tells us to put our trust in God; to be grateful to him for every circumstance.

In Philippians, Paul tells us to rejoice in all circumstances. But he also gives comfort and encouragement by reminding us that “The Lord is near.”

Rejoice because the Lord is near. Even when you don’t feel like He is near, He is. Even when you don’t feel like He’s in control, He is.

So we put our trust, we stay our minds on God, in His word. And then we take everything to the Lord.

Paul says: “Be anxious for nothing…”

There have been times in my life that I’ve quoted this verse to myself several times a day, maybe even several times an hour. Be anxious for nothing.

How do we do this?

In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

In other words, pray. Tell Him all about everything. Not just what you think He wants to hear but what you are really feeling and need to tell Him. Keep bringing everything to Him. When your thoughts are flying around on that hamster wheel, take them off and give them to God. Quote this verse to yourself. Remind yourself of what the Psalmist says,

“Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him
The help of my countenance and my God.”

Sometimes we need to talk to ourselves and remind our hearts of what the truth is. Sometimes we need to allow others to speak truth to us, whether through conversations, sermons or music.

When we lost our daughter, I found it really hard to sing the songs at church. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them but I had a hard time singing through tears. But I found that those songs expressed truth that I needed to hear and hearing them sung spoke truth into my life.

And that gives peace.

Here’s another promise:

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

How many of you sang “I have the peace that passes understanding down in my heart” when you were a child? I remember singing that and wondering what that meant. What is the peace that passes understanding?

A few months after Emily’s death, we were practicing the kids’ song for church and we were singing, “I have the peace that passes understanding”. I remember the very minute that I realized that NOW I understood. I knew what that peace was because God had given it to me.

I mentioned earlier that my husband’s brother passed away unexpectedly a month ago. When we went to see the family, both his wife and children expressed to us separately that they understood that peace too. It’s inexplicable in the face of sorrow but it comes as a result of prayer, whether our own prayers or other people’s, and it is real.


So today, we’ve talked about peace. The peace that God has promised us through His Son and the peace that is possible for those “whose mind is stayed on God”.

Perhaps you are here and you really are at peace, inside and out. Whether you are ready for Christmas or not, your confidence is in Christ and you are trusting in Him for all things. If that is the case, be thankful. Trust God and don’t forget about Him when things are going well. Search your heart and see if you understand God’s sovereignty; trust in Him because at some point, you will have to walk through “the valley of the shadow of death” and at that point, you will be able to say, “I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”

Perhaps you are here today and this is all new to you. You’ve thought about peace just in terms of world peace and lack of war. Maybe you haven’t even thought about the war in your own heart against God. If you are in this situation, I urge you to think about it. Try reading the Bible and ask God to help you understand your need for him. Talk to a friend and ask them what it means to have this peace.

Finally, perhaps you are someone here who is walking “through the valley of the shadow of death” even now. This doesn’t have to be actual death; there are so many circumstances that can cause us to question God and His good. Maybe you’ve been trying to hold it together on the outside for far too long and you know that one of these days, it’s all going to break loose. If you are in that situation, please take these Scriptures and meditate on them. Pray, give God all of it and ask for His leading. Don’t be afraid to admit that your “bedroom” is a mess and you can’t clean it up on your own, even though you’ve been trying to make it look like you’ve got it all under control.

Ultimately, peace is rooted in Hope. We have peace because we have hope. Hope in Christ and all He has done for us.

Romans 5 tells us more about this hope: 

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Trust Christ. Confess your sins and receive His forgiveness and then live at peace with God and man.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Hidden Art of Homemaking - ch 7 quotes

Since I'm so far behind in my reading, I'm just going to copy some quotes from ch. 7. Ch. 7 is entitled  "Flower Arrangements".

Mrs. Schaeffer contends in this chapter that using flowers to decorate is an essential part of making a beautiful home atmosphere.

Referring to a flower arrangement at the table: (P. 100) When the call comes, 'Dinner is ready', 'Supper is served', or 'Hurry, the soup will be cold' then there should be something to bring realization, a warmth of knowing that someone has taken thought and put some originality into preparing the place where food and conversation are going to be shared."

(P.101) "the art of living together, of being a family, is being lost, just as the wealth of the earth is being lost by man's carelessness in his ignoring the need for conservation of forests, lakes and seas. The 'conservation' of family life does not consist of sticking a rose in the middle of the table; it is a deeper thing than that....what I am talking about is something anyone could do, anywhere: an expression of individuality, personality, originality."

This reminds me of a decision that we made several years when we sit down together as a family. We had, for convenience, been in the habit of lifting up our plates at the stove. My husband and I decided to switch to serving the food from serving dishes at the table. It means a few more bowls to wash but it's so much nicer to serve from bowls at the table.

"Children growing up in an atmosphere where beauty is considered an important part of daily life cannot help being inspired to develop their own original ideas in these areas, nor can they help being prepared to live aesthetically themselves." P. 104

"An atmosphere of love and consideration, in which one is trying to anticipate the mood of others, requires something tangible, something that can be seen, as well as a feeling inside oneself." P. 107

This inspires me to think about including flowers or other arrangements not just for special occasions but for every day as well. As a young bride, I made the foolish statement that cut flowers are a waste of money. I repented of that statement and thankfully my husband didn't hold it against me!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pray for Your City

Bliss Spillar has written an excellent article on praying for your city, found here.

Praying for the mission of God in our cities is one of the beautiful ways we join God in His renewal and redemption of our city. Let us be people who are marked not just by lives on mission in the everyday, but people who intercede daily and earnestly on behalf of our cities.
Below I have listed out prayers that we have recently been utilizing to pray for our city. My prayer even now, is that the Lord would use these to glorify Himself in the redemption and renewal of your city.

Monday, July 08, 2013

The Hidden Art of Homemaking - Chapter 6

I'm behind (as in "where did June go?") but better late than never!

This chapter is about gardens and gardening and the beauty of the natural world. I'd like to simply show you some pictures after a few brief quotes from the chapter.

"Ecology is a subject that everyone is now discussing in a worried sort of frenzy. [note: this was written in 1971] But it is one thing to sit around talking about how the balance of nature is being upset and how black the future looks because of this, to sit and discuss the tragic felling of age old trees, the hacking of chunks out of majestic mountains so that unspoiled beauty is becoming rapidly a thing of past memory; it is quite another to ask ourselves what we are doing about our own plot of ground, whether it is a little four by four square, or an acre, or a whole farm or forest. This is where we should be doing some original landscape architecture which combines art with preservation and conservation, which produces a growing beauty, and which inspires other 'artists' to do the same thing." (p. 87-88)

"Certainly we who have a logical base for beauty, as well as morals, should be the ones to be fitting our landscape gardening into artistically beautiful and ecologically 'sound' treatment of land and plants." p. 89

"Dig [the seed] up and see the discouraging 'first appearances' after a day or so - but wait, watch - with water and warmth of sun, with the life within ready to burst, suddenly the first sprouts appear, and you can watch day by day, week by week and begin really to feel the reality of what Jesus said as that one grain multiplies itself. 'He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.' One sighs as one gradually realizes that there is simplicity here, and great and complicated depth all at one time. To come to a place where one is really wanting to 'die' to self and ambition, to come to a place of seeming to 'lose' one's life by handing it over to God's plan is, it seems to me, more vivid for a person living in the setting of seed-plant-fruit process, rather than always in the midst of the mechanical machine processes." p. 94

Pictures from my current garden:

The beauty of a tomato blossom

Columbines - aren't their spiky petals beautiful!

I was in BC last week on Shuswap Lake. The wildflowers are so beautiful this time of year - and so are the flowers in the yards. This poppy had obviously planted itself on the side of the road beside the lake. I only had my camera phone and I just missed the best light of the evening but it's still beautiful to see.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Hidden Art of Homemaking - Chapter 5

Chapter 5 - Interior Decorating

Once again, Mrs. Schaeffer writes an interesting chapter with all kinds of side-lines. I suppose this style may bother some people but I enjoy her almost "stream-of consciousness" writing. It's interesting to see where she goes but always comes back to the main idea of the chapter.

The title of this chapter is "Interior Decorating". Now I have to say up-front - I am not a great decorator. I have a few ideas and I know what I like when I see it but I'm not great at coming up with ideas. And then I have to go shopping and find something that matches my inner vision at a price I can afford. Rarely do I find just what I'm looking for. Actually, I'm looking for every day dishes right now with luncheon sized side plates and cereal bowls that aren't big enough for serving! So far, I have struck out but hopefully sometime soon I'll find what I like. (Add to my pickiness about the look is also a desire to find something not made in China!)

However, Mrs. Schaeffer is not saying to copy the designs in House Beautiful, but instead to find what expresses your own personality, creativity and individuality. I think there is a danger in these days of show homes and a plethora of home decorating magazines, not to mention Pinterest, to feel that the only way to decorate a house is to make it all like a magazine look. Instead, have it reflect what you are interested in and your family life. In our family, we decorate in books. :-) And that reflects who we are as a family. Having been married for almost 24 years, we also have many items that have a special significance to us.* I'm sitting in my living room and everything on the walls has a story behind it. That's special. We visited friends a couple of weeks ago and I loved seeing her new house with her collection of tea pots and vases. Now I know what to look for when I'm shopping for a gift for her because her house reflects her interests and her personality.

One of her main points in this chapter is to live in the here and now, not in the future. Don't wait until you can afford the perfect house with the perfect furniture to start making your surroundings beautiful. She finishes the chapter with an admonition to a single person to start making a home now, not waiting until marriage. This is a good reminder that not only does this make your life more pleasant now, it also expresses one's personality and encourages creativity, which can only lead to personal growth.

"Your home expresses you to other people, and they cannot see or feel your daydreams of what you expect to make in that misty future, when all the circumstances are what you think they must be before you will find it worthwhile to start. You have started, whether you recognize that fact or not." (p. 76)
Mrs. Schaeffer also takes some bunny trails off into furniture building, furniture restoration and helping older people beautify their surroundings when they are unable to do it themselves. She gives an interesting recipe for restoring wooden furniture.

This book was written in 1971, and she says in this chapter, "Ecology is of vital importance in our moment of history." (p. 67) She ties it to our Christian stewardship of the earth.

I have often thought, and expressed to my husband, that Christians should, first of all, be the most "green" people we know and second, if one lives in a modest fashion and is a careful steward, one will be ecologically friendly.+ We don't buy a lot of new things (because we can't afford them), we shop at thrift stores and the like and we try to buy used when possible. All this is friendly to the earth and it helps us too. When I am threatened by discontentment, which is usually tied to what I've seen in a store or online, it's good to be reminded of that which is truly important.

I am reminded again of the importance of surrounding ourselves with beauty. I have plans to put up some photos along our stairway and this is a good reminder that I need to make my plan and put them up.

Excuse the clutter, but I wanted to show some of the special items that mean a lot to us. Pictures on the left were taken by our daughter, Emily. I need to reframe them but I love having them up. The quilt was a gift for our family after Emily's death and means a lot to us. The large landscape scene was a wedding gift from a special couple, books dominate the corner and the mirror on the far right was a gift that says "Stauffer - Bless this house with Love and Laughter".

* For years, any time someone admired something in our house, we would say "wedding present".
We've moved beyond that now. We still have lots of special items that were given to us when we married but now we have other special gifts on display too. Which brings me to another thought, which will probably veer close to a rant.

I've noticed that there is an increasing tendency on the part of couples getting married (and couples having babies too) to ask for either very specific gifts or to say that they prefer gift cards. Of course, this all started with gift registries. Certainly, gift registries have their place and sometimes gifts of money or gift cards can be very helpful or even necessary, depending on the circumstances. (I'm thinking of a couple who are moving farther away. Or even some cash is helpful for the honeymoon. We were shocked to be given, way back in 1989, about $900 in cash for wedding gifts. We bought a camera for the honeymoon and were able to enjoy our honeymoon much more because we had money to pay for it! So cash isn't always bad. But we also didn't ask for it - it was a surprise blessing from God).

However, I think that couples are cutting themselves off from a very great blessing by wanting to choose all their own gifts. For example, you may not realize what you need in the kitchen until someone older and more experienced gives you a tool or an appliance. Or you may wish to buy only "practical" items when actually in the future, those impractical items that are beautiful will be what lasts and what makes your house a home. When we got married, a couple, who we didn't even know that well, gave us a tea pot in the Royal Albert China pattern that we liked. In case you don't know, china tea pots are expensive and I would never have spent the money on one, even if I had thought about buying it. But that tea pot is still in the cupboard and still gets used regularly and it is a thing of beauty that I am thankful for. I think the main point I am trying to get at is to allow others to bless you and not try to control everything on your own because you will cut yourself off from blessings that you don't even expect. As one older friend of ours will say, "Don't take away my joy of giving!"

+ This is probably an urban legend but a good message nonetheless.

The Green Thing

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”

That’s right, they didn’t have the green thing in her day. Back then, they returned their milk bottles, Coke bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they actually were "recycled."

But they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks.

But she’s right. They didn’t have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby’s diapers because they didn’t have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts – wind and solar power did the drying. Kids often got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right, they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.

Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house – not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a pizza dish, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn’t have electric machines to do everything for them. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, they didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right, they didn’t have the green thing back then.

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty, instead of using a plastic bottle or cup every time they had a drink of water. They refilled pens with ink, instead of buying new pens, and they replaced the blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But they didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus, instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from a satellite 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But they didn't have the green thing back then!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Hymn - Jesus, Lover of My Soul

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Hidden Art of Homeschooling - Chapter 4

In chapter 4, Mrs. Schaeffer discusses the hidden art of art - painting, sketching, sculpturing. She says,

(p. 48)" ... come to a recognition of the fact that it is important for you to be creative in this area to the extent of your talent: important for you as a person who is a creative creature." (emphasis in the original)

She urges the reader to include sketches and drawings on all sorts of papers, even grocery lists or menus. Included in the chapter are illustrations of sermons that she did for small grand-children as they would sit beside her in church.

The chapter is a continuation of the idea that art does not have to be part of a career in order to be an important part of one's life. She concludes the chapter with this:

"There is no need to lock up this capacity for expression because you have not been able to make a career of it. Develop it for your own sake, for the enrichment of the lives of those you live with, and as an unconscious spark to set fire to other dry wood, other creative creatures on a finite level." (p. 63)

I completely agree with this idea of developing one's creative expression and enriching your own and others' lives. However, I have to say that this is one area that is not likely to develop very much in my own life, although we are trying. If I was to decorate a grocery list or menu, others would wonder what small child had been scribbling on them! We are making more of an attempt to include some artistic expression in our studies. And I also scrapbook which is a form of artistic expression and one that I feel much more comfortable with!

Once again, though, I really appreciate the reminder to not lock up our artistic expression because it's not part of a career (or school studies). As a homeschool family, it can be easy to put art firmly in the school studies and if we don't get to it in our studies, we assume that we can't include it elsewhere. I would love to have my children have the ability to draw, paint or sculpt and not only that, to include it in their adult lives on a regular basis.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking - Chapter 3

Making music is a fairly natural part of our household so this chapter is an "easy" one for me. The girls each study piano and another instrument and sing; I play piano, am learning cello and love to sing when I can.

However, what is not so easy for me is combining all those into a group activity. I would love to be the type of family that always sings together or plays music together. Somehow we seem to get caught up in just the practicing/performing type of things. Or we just don't take the time. This is a good reminder to me to make things happen differently. Perhaps as we all get more fluent on our instruments that will help too.

We have a man in our church who is very good at bringing his guitar to various gatherings and we often sing together when he is there. It is really wonderful to do that.

On another note, my husband visited another church on a recent Sunday that is quite new and quite small. Their music consists of recorded music that the congregation sings along to. He said that it is quite difficult to sing as a congregation when the "accompaniment" is not designed for congregational use. As I said, it's quite new and they don't have musicians yet to lead. However, as we discussed this as a family, we wondered if no one even could just lead without instruments. Somehow, we first seem to have lost the ability as a society to sing together - it seems to exist mostly in religious circles - and second, to sing without an instrument or recording. And we also have lost the desire or even the recognition of the beauty of the unadorned human voice. I love musical instruments, although I do prefer them to be "unplugged". But there is beauty in just human voices singing together, especially singing praises to God.

I hope that my children will continue to sing together, accompanied or not. I hope that we can incorporate more informal music into our lives to go along with the formal music studies. And I hope that my children will have hymns and choruses tucked inside that they can sing to themselves and others throughout their lifetimes.