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A New Year Dawns

I know that there is little difference between yesterday and today and yet, somehow, there is a sense of newness I always feel on New Years Day. It could be that with the winter solstice now behind, a new hope naturally dawns with the lengthening of days. It could be that with a new calendar a fresh opportunity to determine the story it will tell presents itself. Whatever it may be, it's a good opportunity for me to examine the past year for changes that need to be made in the new year, receive God's grace for patterns of sin and seek to grow and change. It is a good time to examine evidences of God's grace and goodness over the past year and be renewed in hope for future graces in the coming year.
Ordinarily I don't make any New Year's resolutions and I don't take the opportunity to examine the past year as I've just described but this year I feel pressing in on me the need to take account of the past year and enter the new year with new purpose. Perhaps because January is a long, dark, cold month and February usually colder still. Perhaps because we are more housebound than usual and there are no celebrations or gatherings on the horizon to focus on. Perhaps because I find this time of year to be the time when I am most tempted to despair and discouragement. Whatever it is, the feelings I have on New Years Day rapidly wane and I have come to realize that this year will not differ from the last if I don't make an effort to examine and plan.
I have not yet taken the time to examine the past year and plan for the new but my husband is working tomorrow and so during our afternoon quiet time I plan to take the time to do this. I have come across two helpful resources that I will use as tools to focus my thoughts and planning. First I will go through Don Whitney's "Ten Questions for a New Year" plus the additional questions he offers. Second, I hope to take my answers, narrow them into three specific guiding goals and chart how I am going to act on them.
While today bears little resemblance from yesterday, by God's grace tomorrow can look
different and next year I can look back and see measurable growth and graces.

Happy New Year!

I read a lot of books this year, but not 52. With a home to care for, 2 children I'm homeschooling, 2 more preschoolers, and other outside commitments a book a week was a little ambitious. Here is the rest of what I did read this year (for a total of 35):

These were great or very helpful reads and I would recommend them:

These were informative or interesting reads, but not wholly recommended:

Driven to Distraction byEdward Hallowell
The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin
Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult
An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison
The Outcast by Sadie Jones

I shouldn't have bothered finishing this one:

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

Currently I am reading:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Grandma's Joy

This is brilliant! Oh the joys that await beloved children of God!


I really should be on the road right now heading to a U2 concert but, alas, I am not. Say what you will about Bono's doctrine, I would consider Bono to be a modern day prophet and I found Bill Hybel's interview with him deeply convicting. The only point I would argue is Bono's reason for the church's hesitance to get involved in humanitarian efforts. I would say the reason the church has been "behind the curb" is that much of what we call "the church" practices what the apostle James calls dead religion. A dead unrevived life can not go and be the hands and feet of Jesus feeding the poor and hungry or caring for the orphans and widows. It's that simple and ought to make those of us quite comfortable with our small, quiet lives uncomfortable. I know I'm feeling rather uncomfortable and rather petty for being more upset about a concert than the injustices going on all over the world right now.

Lake of Fire

I watched the documentary Lake of Fire last week. A week later it is still permeating my thoughts. In fact, it is the stunning ending and closing image that bothers me the most (in a good way).
It is very graphic, leaving no question in the viewer's mind that abortion kills babies. Tiny, human beings with hands, feet, faces, mouths, noses, eyes. But this film doesn't embody a pro-life view. You will be exposed to a picture of a woman who died in her hotel room after attempting to perform an abortion on herself with a coat hanger. You will hear the arguments from the pro-choice side.
Critics have hailed this documentary as being balanced and weighing in on both sides of the argument equally. I think it does that and just when I thought to myself, "Yes, but what about..," my question was addressed.
I came away still fully convinced that abortion is wrong but with the somber realization that the issue is not as black and white as those on either side of the issue like to make it out to be. The film is in black and white but if the medium is the message, the film is not "black and white" at all: it is filled with shades of gray (it'll tell you that on the back of the cover) and I think its message comes across loud and clear. Both sides would do well to listen to each other a little more intently before making a barrage of arguments in favour of their position. Both sides would do well to ask more questions of each other.
Where this documentary was deficient was that it's depiction of the pro-life movement was very American and very extreme. It would have done well to portray those who do make efforts to help women with unwanted pregnancies such as Heartbeat International. It would have done well to interview a woman years after her abortion and share her regrets. It would have done well to interview those who are pro-woman and pro-life and seek to educate about the physical and emotional toll abortion takes on a woman years later. There is one scene that is rather vulgar and out of place that it would have been best left out. Fast forward through that. Otherwise, this film may go a long ways to opening people up to more intelligent, level-headed conversations about abortion and moving us toward some real solutions that would have both sides cheering.

I've written a guest post for my friend Stephanie, who has just gave birth to her third child last weekend. The topic is a departure from my usual choice of what to write about but I hope will prove helpful to those who struggle with some of the same organizational difficulties I do:

Once I arrived at work on time and my boss asked me if everything was ok. I quit borrowing books from the library years ago when I realized my money was better spent on buying books than on late fees. I own a dozen white shirts, at least as many black shirts and I have four dozen cans of tomatoes in my pantry all because I’m too distracted while shopping to remember what I already have. I like the idea of using coupons but actually remembering to put them in my purse is another thing and if they’ve made it that far I usually forget to take them out upon payment. My keys now have a visible home where I hang them but before that I would spend up to half and hour looking for where I left them: my jacket pocket – but which jacket? my purse? the counter? the table in the foyer? the diaper bag? You get the picture. I have some organizational issues. Can you relate?
Read the rest here.

God is at Work

I came across a couple quotes that are very encouraging, and fit in so well with the theme I've been writing on this week, our need for God, that I thought I would share them here:

The sooner we realize that it is not about what we do but about what God does, the sooner we will stop focusing on ourselves and our shortcomings, and begin focusing on God and His power. Likewise, the sooner we quit worrying about doing our part, the sooner we can start rejoicing in the fact that God is doing His part. And the sooner we can recognize that God is at work, the sooner we can jump in and join Him.” - Jodie Berndt, Praying the Scriptures for Your Children

The gospel, God’s free gift of grace in Jesus, only works when we realize we don’t have it all together. The same is true for prayer. The very thing we are allergic to—our helplessness—is what makes prayer work. It works because we are helpless. We can’t do life on our own.

Prayer mirrors the gospel. In the gospel, the Father takes us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of salvation. In prayer, the Father receives us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of help. We look at the inadequacy of our praying and give up, thinking something is wrong with us. God looks as the adequacy of his Son and delights in our sloppy, meandering prayers.” —Paul Miller, A Praying Life

"Now we know that whatever the law says speaks to those who are subject to the law, so that every mouth may be shut and the whole world may become subject to God's judgment. For no flesh will be justified in His sight by works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin." Romans 3:19-20
Consider with me the Pharisees of Jesus' time. They were the most righteous of men; schooled in the law, obedient to the law, esteemed by those around them. To be considered a Pharisee was to have honour among men. Today, to be a Pharisee has negative connotations, to be called one stings; we don't like the Pharisees, we know what Jesus thought of them.
And yet, in His sermon on the mount*, Jesus does not condemn the Pharisee's attempts at fulfilling the law. In fact He says, "Don't assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished."
You can imagine how the Pharisees felt hearing those words. Smug. Justified. Nodding their heads in firm agreement. They were on the right track; doing as they ought. But Jesus isn't finished, he goes on,
"Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
Do you think some of those Pharisees paused, considering whether they have broken any of the commands? Perhaps. But I still see the teachers of the law nodding their heads, agreeing and imagining being great in the kingdom of heaven.
Then Jesus says something that ought to have caused their heads to stand still, their pulses to quicken,
"For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
Pan around the crowd and you can imagine the confused looks on the men's faces and they consider how they can surpass the law. Perhaps they look at their peers and consider ways they know another fails to measure up then stand a little prouder. But consider those who already knew they couldn't measure up to the scribes and Pharisees, their shoulders are slumped in defeat, their faces somber with the realization that even if they tried to measure up Jesus has told them they have to do better. Despair sets in.
For those who still think they've made the mark, have a place in the kingdom, Jesus zooms in on the heart,
"Anyone who is angry with his brother is subject to judgment...anyone who looks with lust has already committed adultery, ....go the second mile, your enemies."
There are none in the crowd who can claim innocence. All are guilty. The standard has risen beyond any human attainment. The Pharisees have probably walked away by now. They've heard enough from Jesus, who does he think he is anyway? Who is is father? Conceived when his mother was unwed. They don't need to listen to him anymore.
But the others left standing, broken, helpless, defeated what are they to do? What can they do? The standard has been set and they can't even begin to meet it. They know they are sinners and the law cannot save them.

From this vantage point, let's consider the Proverbs 31 woman. Among Christian women, she is revered, to be called and example of a Proverbs 31 woman is an honour. We long to have our children rise up and call us blessed and to have our husbands praise us just as hers did. Our tasks seen through the lens of this scripture rise to heavenly heights and are priceless; worth more than rubies or diamonds.

The Proverbs 31 woman:
  • Is completely trusted by her husband and rewards him with good, not evil each and every day of her life,
  • Works with willing hands, brings her food from afar, rises while it is still night, and her lamp never goes out at night,
  • Evaluates large investments and earns a return on them,
  • Plants a vineyard, and is healthy and strong from all the hard work,
  • Spins thread, sews plenty of clothing and bed coverings with fine linen for her family,
  • Reaches out to the poor and offers a hand,
  • Operates a home based business,
  • Is not fearful and does not worry or get anxious,
  • Anticipates and plans for her family's needs, watching over all the activities of her household,
  • She has a good reputation among her husband's peers,
  • Is clothed in strength and honour,
  • Speaks wise words, has loving instruction and words of kindness
  • Is never idle,
  • Her sons call her blessed, her husband praises her,
  • And she surpases all capable women.
It is easy to approach the Proverbs 31 woman and begin checking off the list:
My husband trusts me. Check.
I do him good not harm. Check. But not every day. Fail.
I do the grocery shopping. Check. But I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer for dinner. Fail. But I never rely on McDonald's to feed my family like that a woman I know, so Check.
I rise early. Check. Ooops, I pressed the snooze button 4 times and got up after my kids. Fail. I fall into bed late. Check.
I don't sew, but I do ensure my family is clothed for all seasons. Check. Wait a minute, what about that mending basket I never get to? Fail. But the woman down the street never seems to get the laundry done, so I should get a check.
My husband plants the garden. No check for that.
I worry.
I'm idle during the day.
I lost my patience when my son asked for juice for the thirtieth time today.
My husband wondered why the house is such a mess when he came home.
I didn't even get a shower today.

Fail. Fail. Fail. Fail. Fail. Fail.

But the Proverbs 31 woman: she could do it all. And there seem to be so many women around me who eagerly embrace being a Proverbs 31 woman. What is wrong with me? I'm a failure. Hopeless. Defeated. Broken. A sinner. I cannot possibly begin to meet the standard this woman sets.

Perhaps, just as Jesus led those listening to the Sermon on the Mount to see that they could not fullfil the law, the Proverbs 31 woman is meant to lead us to the same conclusion and give us knowledge of our sin.
What if Proverbs 31 is not a standard we must attain - a way to please God and become righteous in His sight? A way to ensure our children will rise and bless us and have our husbands and others in the community praise us?
What if the whole point of Proverbs 31 is to say: You can't do it all!!!! If you think you can, this woman surpases them all! You can't surpass her. You can't surpass her.
A faint echo of this is heard in Jesus' words, "Unless you surpass the scribes and Paraisees..." Do you hear it? Unless, your righteousness surpases that of the Proverbs 31 woman you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Read the words of Jesus with fresh eyes,
"Those who are well don't need a doctor, but the sick do...For I didn't come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:12, 13ff)
The Proverbs 31 woman is not a standard of righteousness for us to follow so we can meet Jesus. What she can do is lead us to Jesus, showing us just how sick we are and just how deep our need for a Saviour is. Take her hand and let her lead you to Christ who extends his hands to us and says,
"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up my yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light."
"But now, apart from the law, God's righteousness has been revealed - attested by the law and the Prophets - that is, God's righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. " Romans 3:21-24

*Matthew 5:17-20

Sarah Edwards

Often Sarah Edwards is hailed as a wonderful example of a godly wife and mother. She reared eleven children, housed many overnight and long term guests, buried a grown daughter and was the wife of Jonathan Edwards who wrote many books, was an itinerant preacher and a principle figure in the First Great Awakening.
Sarah's diligence in teaching her children has overflowed into generations of faithful followers of Christ and influential figures in American History. It would be easy to look at Sarah's example and not feel overwhelmed, especially considering the era in which she lived, the relative poverty they experienced and the isolation from immediate family she experienced.
But there was a month in her life where Sarah is thought to have either had a nervous breakdown or an indwelling of the Spirit of God that left her incoherent and bedridden.
Admittedly, when I first read of this I was certain she must have had a nervous breakdown; it makes sense considering her circumstances. I would have had a nervous breakdown I'm sure. In much lesser circumstances than Sarah's I have often felt on the brink of falling apart.
In the biography of Sarah "Marriage to A Difficult Man" Elisabeth Dodds wrote of the nervous breakdown,

"Here we don't like her at all. The serene mother becomes limply needful. The patient wife comes to the end of her patience. The attractive hostess becomes grotesque - jabbering, hallucinating, and idiotically fainting. We are embarrassed for her. But isn't this what each of us does in our bad dreams? what sometimes we refrain from doing by the thinnest edge of self-control? what we finally do when we have a nervous breakdown?
Here Sarah stands exposed as a fully human woman. One with a breaking point as any woman has. Before, she had been too good to be true."
Now consider what Sarah's own husband writes of her experience that month,
"The soul dwelt on high, was lost on God, and seemed almost to leave the body. The mind dwelt in a pure delight that fed and satisfied it...Extraordinary views of divine things, and the religious affections, were frequently attended with very great affects on the body. Nature often sunk under the weight of divine discoveries, and the strength of the body was taken away. [Sarah] was deprived of all ability to stand or speak. Sometimes the hands were clenched, and the flesh cold, but the senses remaining. Animal nature was often in a great emotion and agitation, and the soul so overcome with admiration, and a kind of omnipotent joy, as to cause [Sarah], unavoidably, to leap with all the might, with joy and mighty exaltation...the flesh and heart seems often to cry out for a lying low before God, and adoring Him with greater love and humility..."
Noel Piper writes of this in her introduction to Dodds' book,
"There is no doubt that both Jonathan and Sarah recognized her experiences as being from God and for her spiritual delight and benefit...Yes, stresses over finances, distress at having upset her husband, jealousy about another's ministry - all those things were looming in Sarah's life. But God used those things to reveal weakness, to show her that she needed Him. And then, when the almost-physical sensations of the divine presence came upon her, God was all the more precious and sweet to her, because of what he had forgiven and overcome for her...
Her life was different after those weeks - different in ways that you would expect God had especially visited someone."
And Jonathan's conclusions of his wife's experience,
"Not only a great increase of religious affections, but with a wonderful alteration of outward behaviour, in many things, visible to those who are most intimately acquainted, so as lately to have become a new person...
Oh how good said [Sarah] once, is it to work for God in the day-time, and at night to lie down under his smiles!...Worldly business has been attended with great alacrity, as part of the service of God: Sarah declaring that, it being found thus, was found to be as good as prayer."
Piper concludes that, "Sarah's changed life bore the fruits of God's Spirit who seems to have visited her in an extraordinary way." And Dodds writes,
"...Sarah seems to have discharged the pressures of fourteen taut years. From then on, she sailed through strains that would have sent another woman into bitter seclusion or into whining invalidism with migraines or sinus.
So she went back to making jams and hemming linens, but after this time her work appears to have been done without resentment. The martyred protestant wife is a familiar figure in the social history of the West. These ladies thought they were being self-effacing when actually they were boiling beneath the surface...
Sarah Edwards stopped straining to please God and began to live in assurance of a salvation she didn't have to try to deserve. She stopped pushing herself to be worthy of Edward's love and from then on had his unreserved admiration. Before, onlookers had considered her a saint but her husband knew she wasn't. Afterward, Edwards marveled at her "constant sweet peace, calm and serenity of soul." For the rest of their life together, Edwards was to marvel at his wife's good disposition."
Unfortunately in reference to Sarah as an example of a godly wife and mother, this episode in her life is often left out. I have no less than four books on my shelf that esteem Sarah's example without mention of this life transforming event. Considering Sarah's example in isolation from her experience of beholding the glory of God we miss all that her example is for us. Sarah did not merely follow the example of the Proverbs 31 woman.
We can read of Sarah and then pray, "Lord, surely if she could do all that, so can I. Please help me to be like her," just as we read of Mary and Martha and say to ourselves, "Well, the work still needs to be done - Jesus would you meet me in the kitchen," and then carry on in a way that wreaks of stoicism and self-sufficiency. Sarah can be presented as a kind of Martha persona when in fact, she served her family as she did and bore the fruit of the Spirit as she did because of her Mary experience at the very feet of Jesus.
Sarah came to the end of her abilities, all stoicism was abdicated, she admitted weakness and inability, realized her powerlessness over her flesh. It was here that God met her and she became the woman we admire from afar today. God forced her out of the kitchen, rendered her useless for service in any capacity and sat her at His feet for a whole month! Sarah Edwards is not an example for us to imitate, so much as she is an example of the effect the transforming power of God can have in our lives. She is a woman who came to the end of herself, giving up all stoic effort and self-reliance.
I no longer think Sarah Edwards had a nervous breakdown, I think the Lord took hold of her for that month thoroughly possessed her.

Oh that Jesus would grip my heart as he did Sarah's and so change me that my "changed life bears the fruit of God's Spirit." Oh that God would awaken my soul to His beauty as He did Sarah's. Lord, don't make me like Sarah - instead would you do for me, as you did for her. Possess me.

Right Here

When on the phone with the grandparents, often my three year old son is asked, "Where's your Dad?" meaning give the phone to him, my son inevitably responds to the literal interpretation, "he's right here."
Well, where have I been? Right here. I didn't quit blogging, haven't stopped reading the blogs of others, have commented on a few. Posts I've started just never got finished and thus were not published. Moments to write were few and far between. Life has just been like that.
When a quiet moment or two has presented itself, I've chosen to read. Read books, read the news, read the thoughts of others.
Thoughts have abounded and like I said, attempts to write here have been made they just didn't flow out through my fingertips in a way that was coherent; in a way that conveyed what I was thinking. Topics I wanted to write about required more than a cursory paragraph or two.
But somehow, the words have begun to flow again. The desire to write has won out over the desire to read. Like when my son finally hands the phone back to his dad who is "right here" to talk, I'm right here on they keyboard ready to write again.

I've been reading - just not writing. But this week is Spring Break and the time to pause and reflect on what I've read these last few weeks has presented itself. The question of course is, have I read 10 books now that the 10th week of the year is upon us? The first three I already posted about and here's the rest:

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller
A must read! The parable of the prodigal son is not about the son at all. It's about the Father - our Father and His character. It's about the true nature of Christianity. This is a book you can give to anyone - Christian or not. I'll be ordering a bunch to give to my family at Christmas.

An Exact Replica of A Figment of My Imagination - A Memoir by Elizabeth McCracken
I'd never heard of this author before but apparently her work is pretty funny. This book is not. It's a reflection on her first pregnancy which ended in stillbirth. A year out from her son's birth, she writes with a newborn on her lap and so the story is bittersweet.
When her baby has died and subsequently born still, she and her husband leave France (where they resided for the duration of the pregnancy) and make every effort to leave those memories and any reminder of that time behind. The pain and grief is too much to bear, so they just walk away from it and it becomes a figment of her imagination. Then she has a second son a year later and the memories of the first born baby are there as she gazes upon her new baby (an exact replica) and the writing begins and the book is published.
This book is one person's story, presented plainly. It interested me because of the similar experience I've had.

Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns
In this book, Brauns works out a clear and biblical understanding of forgiveness that really rattles the false idea that we are to just "forgive and forget" even if the other person is unrepentant. He delineates between extending the offer of forgiveness and true reconciliation. This book was very helpful in so many areas of my life and brought some clarity on what forgiveness really looks like as opposed to "cheap grace".

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell
Ok, I admit I didn't read this book word for word but I skimmed through all the sections and read what was most applicable to my present situation. I heard Bell speak at a local homeschool convention last year and she is apart of the same family of churches I am. Her message is incredibly encouraging, full of the gospel, and practical. Supposedly an updated version of this book is due to be published and when it is, I plan on getting it for my bookshelf as I know I'll refer back to it again and again over the years.

Ten Years Thinner by Christine Lydon
This is a book that combines common sense nutrition with a very doable exercise routine. Lydon was trained as a medical doctor but has gone on to work in the fitness and nutrition industry because she wanted to help people prevent illness rather than treat illness.
The diet is designed to combat insulin resistance and addiction to sugar and high glycemic foods (like breads, pasta, rice, etc...) and is very doable. I've had no trouble combining what I eat with what I would cook for my family. For the most part, I just cook what I would ordinarily with some small adjustments.
The exercise regiment requires 25 minutes a day, with a 4 on, 1 off rotation and all I needed to invest in were a few dumbbells.

That's it! Not too bad; I'm only two weeks behind. I have several books on the go now so am still confident that by the end of the year I'll have read 52 books.

Here's the address for the Prime Minister of Canada:

Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
K1A 0A2

Pass the idea for "Red Envelope" on!

Red Envelopes

Shawnda posted about "Red Envelopes" on her site, and I think this is a fabulous idea! It is one I would like to see replicated here in Canada where our current government has no intention of tabling any sort of legislation that would protect the lives of unborn Canadians. This is something we all can do to speak up for the unborn.

"Red Envelopes"

Dear Friends and Intercessors:

This afternoon I was praying about a number of things, and my mind began to wander. I was deeply distressed at the symbolic actions that President Obama took as he began his presidency. Namely, that he signed executive orders releasing funds to pay for abortions, permission to fund human stem cell research, and federal funding for contraception. I have been involved in the pro-life movement for nearly 20 years, and it pained my heart to see a man and a political party committed to the shedding of innocent blood. This man, and this party lead our country, but they do not represent me or the 54% of Americans who believe that abortion is wrong and should no longer be legal.
As I was praying, I believe that God gave me an interesting idea. Out in the garage I have a box of red envelopes. Like the powerful image of the red LIFE tape, an empty red envelope will send a message to Barack Obama that there is moral outrage in this country over this issue. It will be quiet, but clear.
Here is what I would like you to do: Get a red envelope. You can buy them at Kinkos, or at party supply stores. On the front, address it to President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Washington, D.C. On the back, write the following message.
This envelope represents one child who died in abortion. It is empty because that life was unable to offer anything to the world. Responsibility begins with conception.
Put it in the mail, and send it. Then forward this email to every one of your friends who you think would send one too. I wish we could send 50 million red envelopes, one for every child who has already died by abortion or other intentional pre-birth destruction, before having a chance to live. Maybe it will change the heart of the president.

Warmly in Christ,

John Otto

Though it is a short book (84 pages), The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by DA Carson is a weighty and difficult read but worth the effort. It's divided into four chapters that were originally given as lectures:

  1. On Distorting the Love of God
  2. God is Love
  3. God's Love and God's Sovereignty
  4. God's Love and God's Wrath

It is difficult to reconcile the wrath of God with the love of God and the love of God with His sovereignty over a world filled with evil. On a personal level, it is challenging to believe that God loves me, when I see all that is unlovable in me clearly. This book addresses all these issues from a theological perspective but also in its practical implications.
A highlight from chapter 2,

What we have then, is a picture of God whose love, even in eternity past, even before the creation of anything, is other-oriented. This cannot be said (for instance) of Allah. Yet because the God of the Bible is one, this plurality-in-unity does not destroy his entirely appropriate self-focus as God. As we shall see in the last chapter, because He is God, He is therefore rightly jealous....The love of Allah is providential, which, as we saw in the first chapter, is one of the ways the Bible speaks of God. But here there is more: in eternity past, the Father loved the Son, and the Son loved the Father. There has always been an other-orientation to the love of God. All the manifestations of the love of God emerge out of this deeper, more fundamental reality: love is bound up in the very nature of God. God is love.
- page 39

The book sweeps from the intra-trinitarian love of God (as highlighted above) to His love for the world and His love for the elect which culminates on and is displayed most profoundly on the Cross. The book concludes with the practical implication of absorbing the kind of love described in Ephesians 3:14-21,

All this has transformed us, so that we in turn perceive the sheer rightness of the first commandment - to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength. As that is the first and greatest commandment, so the first and greatest sin is not to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength. For this there is no remedy, save what God himself has provided - in love.
- page 84

I do recommend this book to anyone who has a love for doctrine and wrestles with believing God's love but I wouldn't hand this book to just anyone. The original lectures the book is based on were given to seminary students and some areas of the book are difficult to understand (though worth wading through if you're so inclined).

This past week I finished reading My Fundamentalist Education by Christine Rosen. The book is largely a memoir of Rosen's experience at a fundamentalist Christian school in Florida and is a reflection on the contours of that education.
What had made me want to read the book was the fact that the book is one of many known as "Apostate Lit"; the author no longer maintains the belief system she was raised in and I wanted to know why.
It is not clear why the author's parents chose to put Rosen and her siblings in a Christian school as it becomes apparent early on in the book that they weren't Christians. Along with this, was the fact that the author's biological mother left her and her younger sister when they were just babies. She was an unstable person in their lives and yet, a professing pentecostal Christian who was quite active in a long string of churches over the years.
What struck me was that despite a Bible based, Christian Education Rosen's familial experiences and influences held the most sway. This was a reversal of what I am accustomed to hearing in homeschool circles. I have chosen to homeschool because I want to maintain the primary sphere of influence over my children. What this book showed is that parental influence does override outside influences - or at least, has a greater affect on the lives of children than we often like to acknowledge when arguing against public education.
But this isn't why Rosen is not a Christian. The most telling pages of the book are in the last chapter where she reflects on how she's benefited from her fundamentalist education and ultimately why she rejected fundamentalism (and along with it Christianity).
The main reason she gives is a desire to engage in the culture and world around her, to understand it and not avoid it. Fundamentalism encourages a disengagement from the world and culture - a sort of segregation from society. This is sadly, a gross distortion of Christianity and is the reason many have fallen away; the difficulty Rosen had in merging her interest in world history and culture with fundamentalist values is easy to understand.
Sadly, the main reason I believe Rosen never embraced Christianity and salvation in Christ alone is found on the last page of the book when she is describing the notes scribbled onto the margin of her school "textbook" the Bible,

"The questions written in an older hand grow more pointed: 'What is the Gospel?' 'Why without blood no forgiveness?'"
She received an education devoid of the Gospel. And if she didn't hear, how would she know? This is the most valuable point I took from the book: if we desire to see our children come to a saving faith in Christ, what is most important is keeping the Gospel message central so that they may never wonder, after years of Christian school or homeschool, "What is the Gospel?"
It is humbling to see that the message is far more important than the method. This book is a great case in point.

This past weekend I listened to a message for young moms by CJ Mahaney called, "What a Mother Can't Do Without." I ended up sitting down and taking notes, so that I could absorb and begin to apply all the rich truths laid out.
I would strongly encourage any mother of young children to listen to this sermon in its entirety - the scriptural truths laid out will transform the way you approach mothering.
Here are my notes:
Hebrews 11:6, "Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him."

*Faith will make all the difference; difference in effect, fruit and pleasing of God.

The Nature of Faith:

1. Faith Trusts in God - must believe that He exists
- faith in the God of Scripture as revealed through His Son Jesus Christ

2. Faith Comes to God - whoever would draw near
- through the sacrifice of Jesus; through our mediator Jesus

* DO NOT disqualify yourself from drawing near either through sins of omission or sin of commission OR your awareness of sin
* Draw near not only through the practice of the disciplines but throughout the day, no matter the challenges.
3. Faith expects from God - must believe that He rewards those who seek Him
- He bestows favour; nothing pleases Him more then when mothers put His promises into circulation; He LOVES to fulfill His promises.

*"God is wildly generous." That is the God we serve
Charles Bridges, "All our failures may ultimately be traced back to a defect of faith. The main difficulty therefore is not in our work but in ourselves; in the conflict with our own unbelief. The remedy to the difficulty is faith in the God of promises and faith in the promises of God. Difficulties heaped upon difficulties can never rise to the level of the promises of God. Unbelief looks at the difficulties. Faith regards the promise. It is faith that enlivens our work with perpetual cheerfulness."

* Where there is an absence of joy in mothering, there is an absence of faith.

* Faith commits every part of mothering to God in hope that even mistakes shall be over-ruled for the glory of God and thus relieves us from an oppressive anxiety often attended by a deep sense of our responsibility.
Charles Bridges, "The shortest way to these will be casting ourselves upon God for daily pardon of our deficiencies and for supplies of Grace without looking too eagerly for fruit." (The Christian Ministry)

How Do I Develop Faith:

* Where your faith is deficient, THE GOSPEL IS SUFFICIENT! (Romans 8:32)

* Faith is a fruit of the Gospel, so if you will cultivate the Gospel you will experience faith; you will know a more perpetual cheerfulness and you will ultimately please God.

* Hebrews 12:2, LOOKING TO JESUS is how you develop faith that pleases God and makes all the difference in your mothering. WHERE are you looking? Are you looking to Jesus?
A STRICT and LIMITED diet of the Gospel, the ccharacter of God and the promises of God; be careful about what you read - particularly during the season of small children.
Books: Bible Doctrine (Chapters on the Character of God) by Wayne Grudem, The Cross Centered Life by CJ Mahaney, Spurgeon (all his writing focuses on God's promises)

* God called you to be a mother and God gave you specific children that He chose for you. He chose them for your sanctification and He chose them that they might experience the influence and effect of the Gospel as a result of your care and your training and your affection and ultimately your trust in God will reveal Himself to your children. "He who began a good work in you,will bring it to completion."

* Turn away from the difficulties and look to the promises of God, look to the character of God, look to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For as we look to the promises, the character and the Gospel we realize that the difficulties never rise to the level of the promises of God. Then when we face difficulties is our perspective and attitude has been transformed and our children are affected by this transformation.
It was interesting that Mahaney opened up his sermon with his wife's example. She had expressed in an interview regret over not having more faith in her mothering - her regrets were not based on her practices.
All too often I focus too much time and energy evaluating what I am doing and then despairing because it's not enough, not good enough or, or, or... that I forget that what pleases God is not the "what" of what I'm doing but the "how". Is it in faith? That is, do I approach my day trusting that Christ's sacrifice on the cross will cover all my sin and that his perfect life has been imprinted on mine so that I don't have to be perfect? Do I approach my day assured of His pleasure or fearful that another day will end in shame?
I know all too well the difference right thinking makes because I've spent too many days despairing because of unbelief. Thankfully, even that is covered by the blood of Christ!

For some time now I wanted to change the name of my blog but hadn't found a new name that captured all I wanted it to. The old name, Motherhood Apologia, seemed limited in scope and too focused on defending my role and practices as a mother.
I've finally found a new name that I hope captures the scope and theme of this blog. At least what I hope is conveyed in my writing. The following quote from Martin Luther serves as my inspiration (emphasis added):

Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason . . . , takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores. . . ? What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a [woman] and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of the child [as] its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight. . . . God, with all his angels and creatures is smiling—not because the [mother] is washing diapers, but because [she] is doing so in Christian faith.
- Martin Luther
(From "Martin Luther and Marriage," in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ)
Met With Perfect Pleasure is my new blog name and the tag line emphasizes the message I hope to convey, "...not because of what I do, but because it's done in Christian faith."

Let me know what you think! Is the new name better? Does it capture what I've written here over the last year or so? Honest feedback would be appreciated!

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