Friday, November 06, 2015

Sir Walter Scott: on Cats

One reason I enjoy reading great literature is the gems of description often found interspersed throughout the story.  Here is one we found this week while reading Quentin Durward. I would say Scott pretty much nailed it. Our cat has done all these things, although for him, he pursues geckos and flies and crickets rather than mice. I would not trust a courtier who acted like a cat!

The aptest resemblance of his motion and manners might perhaps be to those of a domestic cat, which, while couching in apparent slumber, or gliding through the apartment with slow, stealthy, and timid steps, is now engaged in watching the hole of some unfortunate mouse, now in rubbing herself with apparent confidence and fondness against those by whom she desires to be caressed, and, presently after, is flying upon her prey, or scratching, perhaps, the very object of her former cajolements. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Scott on Leaving Something to Imagination

"...he was startled by a strain of music which was suddenly waked by one of those doors, and which, at least in his imagination, was a combination of the same lute and voice by which he had been enchanted on the preceding day... These delightful sounds were but partially heard-- they languished, lingered, ceased entirely, and were from time to time renewed after certain intervals. But, besides that music, like beauty, is often most delightful, or at least most interesting, to the imagination when its charms are but partially displayed and the imagination is left to fill up what is from a distance but imperfectly detailed, Quentin had matter enough to fill up his reverie during the intervals of fascination."

--Sir Walter Scott, Quentin Durward

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Are We Our Kids' Friends?

I dislike when parents say, "I am not my kids' friend." I get the point. We do need to guide and influence our kids and not just be their buddies. Also, I realize I have way more desire for my kids' approval than is probably good for them. And I understand hyperbole-- that the shock value of "I am not your friend" is a legitimate literary device.

But it really rubs me the wrong way. Not because I want my kids to like me. Not because I want to have fun with my kids and pal around with them without feeling like I'm doing something wrong. (I do want these things, and maybe more than I should.) But because traditionally, the word "friend" has been used to indicate people who are affected by your happiness, who care whether you live and thrive, who have your best interest at heart.

Think of the great literature. Orphans like Oliver Twist are said to be friendless and rejoice to find friends like Mr. Brownlow, who takes Oliver in and provides him with a healthy, respectable life. (Sounds like a parent or guardian to me.) Destitute young women-- Jane Eyre, for instance-- are asked whether they have any friends. These people could be contacted and told she was in dire straits, and they would do all they could to help. (Sounds like a parent or guardian to me.) The Bible calls Jesus a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He loves us through our good and bad choices and bids us to "sin no more". (Sounds like a parent or guardian to me.)

The Webster's 1828 definition of friend is, “One who is attached to another by affection; one who entertains for another sentiments of esteem, respect and affection, which lead him to desire his company, and to seek to promote his happiness and prosperity; opposed to foe or enemy,” and even the modern Merriam-Webster includes family in the definition of friendship.

If my mother had said to me when I was a teenager, "I am not your friend," it would have caused unnecessary pain and disconnection. Growing up is hard enough without your most important people making divisive remarks. I am my kids' friend. I care whether they live and thrive, whether they make good choices, whether they have everything they need-- food, clothing, a word spoken in good season. I've seen them at their best and their worst and I love them no matter what. I respect and esteem them, even when I have concerns. This is my petition for a more thoughtful use of "friend" in reference to our kids. (We could probably use more thought when pulling out that word, period.)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sharing about Depression

This article explains what it is like to have depression.  I was depressed as a young adult, and it was just the way the author describes.  I lived in a beautiful city. It was frustrating to walk down the street, to see the architecture, the flowers, the people, to know it was beautiful, and not be capable of enjoying it.  I stayed in my room a lot. I felt ashamed for not being thankful.

I could describe the hikes I took, the sketches I made, the books I read, the music I sang, trying to pull myself out of that hole. I was in college. I changed majors, I moved colleges, I quit school.

I nannied for the sweetest little girls and the kindest employers in the most beautiful city. My family loved me and was concerned for me. They tried to help.  Church folks were amazing and wonderful. They accepted and loved me and were always glad to see me.  But nobody understood.

One day as I drove back to the city from a visit to my family and church, I realized I was imagining what it would be like to run my Honda into the barricade on the freeway and just end it. Life stretched out before me, decades of emptiness that I must fill. It seemed like so much work.  Then I realized I was contemplating causing an accident on the freeway. I could hurt others as well as myself. That was my thinking self. My feeling self was saying, "It hurts, it hurts, it hurts. Oh, the pain. Make it stop." I got very scared.

I decided I wasn't safe to operate heavy machinery. I returned my car to my parents. I told them I didn't need a car in the city, cars were a major cause of pollution, and it was too hard to keep it parked when I wasn't using it. I didn't tell them I was suicidal, which I should have, but I didn't.  I didn't want to worry them.  Instead, I told them I needed therapy for the eating disorder which was also going on.  I had done some therapy sessions when first diagnosed the year before, but hadn't started anything new since moving.

My therapist's name was Priscilla. She was lovely and so patient. Her voice was soft. She asked good questions. She never rushed.  She had a beautiful office in the beautiful city, and as I went to her, I began to enjoy the beauty again.  Talk therapy was wonderful for me. 

Eventually, I married Bradley. I began to live again. I've had other depressive times, and it has gotten bad, but never to the extent of that year, thank the Lord.  

I'm writing this because it is part of my story. I've not talked much about it because it is hard for people to hear. But there it is. I believe firmly in talk therapy. Talking things out helped me a lot. Some people need medication for depression, and if that helps, I say do it.  Also, if you have never been depressed or anxious, please be patient with depressed people. I know it's hard to understand, and it feels so helpless to watch and not know how to help.  But please. Be patient. Do research. Learn. See if you can maybe understand a little. Lay off the morality side of things a bit and simply listen.

If you are depressed, reach out. Keep reaching out until someone listens.  Message me if you want. (bwktbarr@gmail.com) And remember, you are here. We want you. Stay.  Live your wild and precious life. Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces... Stay.




Monday, August 10, 2015

Itches

I came back from camp with mosquito bites, and boy did they itch. Some itched quietly: “Hello, just wanted you to know I'm still here.”

Others insisted on my notice, “Hey you! I'm HERE!” Those I scratched, which was supremely satisfying in the moment. Afterward, however, the bite was bigger, and the itch more insistent.

I've found the best strategy for mosquito bites is to focus to something else whenever they intrude upon my attention. Lotions and gels soothe a little, but even a small touch increases the itch for a time. Giving in is the worst solution. Giving in does not appease them. Giving in makes them bigger and noisier, and increases the possibility of infection. I hear some of my friends say, "Hey, there's an oil for that!" Haha, yes. Yay oils :)

Itches aren't only physical. A lot of time the itches I scratch are emotional, personal, sore and aching wounds of the heart.

I heard a minister say this weekend that the average person has around 55,000 thoughts per day, 80% of which are negative. I can attest as an intuitive introvert, that I have at least 55,000 thoughts per day, and probably more. If I have my stern face on, I'm probably thinking. Sometimes I wish I could shut my brain off.

Each of us has a mind, and, if we pause and consider a little while, can probably name several thoughts that flit through our heads every day. I struggled with anorexia as a young adult, trying to develop the perfect control I thought all adults had.  That's a story for another day, but one of the things my therapist did that helped so much was to have me write down thoughts. Until then, I had no idea the sheer number of negative voices in my head. (At that time, the thoughts were generally some variation of, "Not good enough, not good enough, not good enough.")

Thoughts lead to action.  As a young adult, my thoughts led me to starve myself and exercise compulsively.  But it's the thoughts we entertain, whether consciously or unconsciously, that lead to actions.  A friend insisted I get help, and I learned to recognize and then divert my thoughts to better channels. I eventually stopped the mad cycle of exercise, and began eating enough food to support my body.

Learning to divert your thoughts is huge. I recommend everyone who is a person (and that is all of us) learn to do this. Also, it will take honing as you get older because life gets more and more complicated. Trust me. It is an ongoing process your whole life.  One of the best strategies for diverting thoughts is found in Charlotte Mason philosophy.  Sonya Shafer has written a good article on the subject, found here.

We all have itches-- physical, mental, emotional. We examine them to see if anything can be done. We ask mom or the doctor or our friends or Google for advice.  But nope. They are just annoying itches that need to go away. We must let time and healing do their work. Scratching satisfies us for the moment, but as soon as we leave off, the itch returns more raw, prominent and insistent than before.

Also, guess what? There's an oil for that. No, really.  It's the oil of God's grace, which the Lord pours on our souls, even when we don't perceive Him there. Cling to that thought. It's happening.

And whatever-it-is will eventually subside, or at least get quieter, if left alone.  Easy to say, hard to do.

Caveat: If you discover you have a deep wound and not a mosquito bite, don't try to distract yourself from that!  Deep wounds require close attention.



Psalm 146

Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, oh my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being. 

 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man [human beings] in whom there is no help. 

 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. 

 Happy is he who hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose help is in the Lord his God! Which made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that therein is; which keepeth truth forever! Which executeth judgement for the oppressed, which giveth food to the hungry. 

 The Lord looseth the prisoners! 

 The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind! 

 The Lord raiseth them that are bowed down; the Lord loveth the righteous; the Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and the widow. 

 But the way of the wicked he turneth upside down. 

 The Lord shall reign forever! Even thy God, O Zion! Unto all generations! 

 Praise ye the Lord!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Pro-life Action List

My 20yodd and I were talking the other day about some friends of ours who have a young baby and are also foster parents. We love watching them with their little foster boy and their baby girl.  The boy has a lot of struggles, because early on he missed out on some experiences important to development, but oh, the love showered on that little boy, and he is a treat and a half to be around.  Such bright eyes and so much life.

What our friends are doing is the work Christians should do if they care about the life of unborn children.  In that vein, here is my action list for pro-lifers who want to take the long, arduous road of compassionate love:

  1. Stop vilifying women and girls who have babies out of wedlock.  I've seen the disgusted looks, heard the condemning comments. Yes, from Christians. Yes, in church. This has got to stop.  Abortion is blood on the hands of us as Christ-followers. The shame we heap on women who get pregnant outside of marriage often leads them to take the lives of their children. Yes, fornication is a sin. A haughty attitude is also a sin. Which does Jesus dislike more?  He hates both sins equally.  He died for people who commit both sins.  He loves them both. 
  2. Teach your sons to take responsibility for their actions. Our sons' bodies and reputations will not be sacrificed for a child the way our daughters' will be.  This is a huge reason to teach young men not only to respect young women, but to honor them the way Christ honors the church.  I understand guys are wild at heart, but please. Teach your sons to honor women and take responsibility for their actions and not act like girls are overreacting when they try to protect themselves.  The conversation about rape culture has arisen because we do not teach our sons properly and well on this point.  
  3. Welcome and serve single moms in your community without demonizing or "other-izing" them.
  4. Volunteer for a reputable crisis pregnancy organization.
  5. Work in foster care.
  6. Adopt.
These are Christian responses to the abortion debate. The culture will do whatever.  We as Christ-followers have an obligation to respond with humility and compassion as well as truth.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Positioning Yourself to Take the Blows

I crave words strung together full of meaning. When I read something I like, I write or print it out and post it on my bulletin board, or my cabinet and pantry doors, or on my refrigerator. Dry erase boards covered with quotes line the lower wall of my dining room. Half the cabinets in my kitchen are covered, as well as the pantry door and the door to the music room. Poetry and pictures plaster the fridge.  It's not attractive, but it encourages me. If you want to know what I am pondering, all you have to do is read my kitchen.

Awhile back, I found an article saying that turning the other cheek is a lot like jujitsu.  I love this article. It is currently hanging on my pantry. I've reread it many times the last few months while emptying the dishwasher or fixing dinner.

I don't know a lot about jujitsu, but one of my piano students does, and her mother has said I can come watch her practice sometime. I'm looking forward to it, because I just love this article so much.

Here is what I've taken from it:
  1. People will mistreat you every day.
  2. Jesus taught us how to deal with it: turn the other cheek.
  3. Turning the other cheek does not mean being a doormat.
  4. Turning the other cheek means position yourself to absorb the blows without falling.
  5. Turning the other cheek results in the other person being stopped by the force of their own aggression.
The author provides a list of strategies for finding that strong position. One thing I love is that he says trying hard doesn't work.

Let me repeat that:
Trying hard doesn't work.
Don't get me wrong. I think endeavoring is good. But oh boy, trying hard to turn the other cheek doesn't work. That is truth. I've learned it from experience!

He recommends the following:
  1. Ask the Lord and your close fellow believers for what you need. (Prayer, scripture reading, meditation, fellowship and conversation with your church folks. Note: if your church folks aren't helpful, you may need to get some new church folks)
  2. Work through past issues so you aren't overreacting to a current situation as a result of unfinished past ones.
  3. Strengthen your boundaries. It is not only okay, it is necessary to delineate where others stop and you begin. 
  4. Make sure you are thinking about your feelings and feeling about your thinkings. (People usually only do one of these things. We need to do both.)
  5. Once you've identified your Self, it's time to practice self-denial.
  6. Acknowledge that God is in charge of outcomes.
  7. Look at trials as opportunities for growth.
  8. Avoid passive submission and angry aggression. Work toward a response that says, "Both of us matter."
  9. Focus on the light of Christ in every person.
  10. Learn to accept persecution but not abuse. (I admit I am still trying to figure this one out.)

These ten things position us to disarm whoever is mistreating us and teach us to trust the Lord.  

This article will probably hang on my door for another few months, at least.  Such an important and difficult lesson to learn. Turning the other cheek is a power position. How about that?


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Of Prisoners and Porcupines

There is a poem I've been thinking about a lot the past couple months. I first saw it on Glennon Melton's Momastery blog. I don't agree with everything Glennon says, but I love her spirit and honesty and just her way of embracing people no matter what. We need more of that.  We need to be like that.  Anyway, here's the poem:

The small man
Builds cages
For everyone
He
Knows.
While the sage
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the
Beautiful
Rowdy
Prisoners. 
-Hafiz

I love the beautiful rowdy prisoners. I am the beautiful rowdy prisoners!  I need keys to get out of my prisons, and I find them in grace.  With scripture and prayer and meditation, and the beautiful moving of the Holy Spirit, I am able to position myself to take the blows of this world, to stay open and soft and love others while still respecting myself as a child of the King.

But I am a work in progress. Aren't we all?  This week, a friend told me of a sermon he once heard by a very able minister of the Lord, who said the following, and this is a paraphrase of what my friend said the minister said:

Think of people as crazy dancing porcupines with "as-is" tags and big egos. Church people. This includes each of us. There is no such thing as a perfect church. And if you find one, don't join it, because you'll ruin it.
We each have our prisons, and our prickly quills, and our egos. I am a porcupine and I am a prisoner. God bless the beautiful rowdy prisoners and the earnest, egotistical porcupines.  We take it in turns to be one or the other, you know. God bless us all!

Thank the Lord we are not in charge of the universe, or even our tiny corner of it.
Thank the Lord He only gave us the responsibility to serve Him and enjoy Him forever.

Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What I Believe about God and Salvation

This is what I believe in my own words. If you disagree we can still be friends.  

Spiritually, I believe we are convicted and released. Convicted because of objective truth and total depravity. Released because Christ has to change a person's depraved condition himself, and He does that without any help from us-- without our faith, without our choice, without any kind of action from us. I truly believe we can't do one thing before regeneration, not even believe, because we are dead spiritually. Not sick, dead. All dead, not mostly dead. I do not believe a person even has the ability to believe in Christ before he is saved eternally. Believing, accepting Christ, praying prayers... we are incapable of these things before we are saved.

After He changes us (regeneration-- without our help), we love Him so much we begin to seek Him. Depending on our environment, this seeking may take the form of professing faith in Christ, or simply beginning to want to do right things. Think of the Gentiles Paul refers to who had not been taught God's law, but tried to follow it because it was written in their hearts. There are so many people in the world today in this position! Who are we to say they are going to Hell if they don't pray a prayer? They are going to Heaven same as us. Rather than scaring them into checking off boxes, we should be comforting them with the good news that they are free in Christ.

Anyway, after regeneration it bothers us to do wrong things. But we still do wrong things and have that struggle Paul talks about in Romans 7 (Oh wretched man that I am! Who can deliver me from the body of this death!). We can find rest by leaning on Jesus and trusting Him no matter what-- not leaning on our own efforts, whether they are efforts of belief or behavior. And this is why Jesus was harder on the Pharisees than on the people caught committing outright sins. Because the Pharisees thought they were getting it right.

Some people would call my beliefs antinomianism (the belief that the saved are not bound to follow moral laws) . But I do believe it matters whether people do right things in life. I just don't believe it matters eternally. Paul addresses that accusation in Romans 6 (What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?). It's very important to live a moral life. It glorifies God. But it is not important eternally. It is a devotional thing. We live moral as best we can because we love Jesus, not because we are trying to meet some standard. And we fall short constantly, but there is no condemnation for it, because Jesus paid the price. He set us free.

We should dwell in that restful place and not try to establish our own righteousness. I think laboring to enter into Christ's rest is the most important labor we can do. Like it says in Hebrews, our high priest totally understands our temptations and how difficult it is to live a good life. He was tempted just like we are, but without sinning. This is why we must lean only on his works, not on our own. Laboring to enter into His rest is not at all like working to establish our own righteousness, nor does it eliminate the necessity of striving for a moral life. It changes the focus of morality from “I am duty bound to follow a code, and I'd better follow it” to “I am devoted to the Lord and want to please Him, but when I fail, he is full of mercy and does not shame me.”

Some people find it easier to live by a moral code, and some people find it more difficult. I believe there are people saved eternally in both of these categories (as well as in every different people group on the planet, whether they have heard the gospel or not). People who find it easier to walk the straight and narrow need to be super careful not to fall into self-righteousness, because it creates hellish shame for others of God's children. I believe this is why Christ was so much harder on the people with the stones than on the woman caught in adultery. Even when I do right things, I am still just one step away from despicable. Any virtues I have were cultivated by Christ, not me. And I may find it easier, but that doesn't mean I am getting it right. The Bible teaches that no man or woman except Jesus behaves perfectly. Sins of pride are just as wrong as sins of lust, but they are more insidious because we think we are doing it right.

You may ask, how does God decide who to save, then? If it is not because of our works? I believe that before God created the world, God the Father and Jesus (who was known as the Word at that time) and the Holy Spirit got together and looked at the way things would turn out after Creation. I tend to think they were like scientists making projections, but of course the most perfect scientists who see exactly how things will turn out if this or that is done. I believe they wanted to create a people to love who would love them back. (This is the whole reason we were created.) They decided it was going to be a sticky wicket creating people with free will who were also perfect enough to dwell with them in eternity.

They had to make a plan to save these people from themselves. They knew Adam wasn't going to resist that fruit, and they saw that without some kind of sacrifice on their part, no human being would be able to live with them in the bright light of their perfection. Everyone would quickly be destroyed, and their plan for a people to love and commune with abolished, if someone didn't do something. They could make the people automatons who did whatever they were told without thought or will, but God didn't want to hang out with people like that. He wanted to be with people who made their own choices, who chose to love Him. He didn't want automatons, and He couldn't have reprobates. Reprobates would be burned up in the mighty perfection of Heaven.

Then the Word said, “I will go down there and die for a great number of those people, and then they will be covered by my sacrifice and able to live with us without being destroyed by the light of our perfection.” God and the Holy Spirit agreed, although they were very sad to think of the pain the Word would have to endure. It was a solemn decision to save these people, and the only reason they decided to do it was love.

After deciding to save some people, they figured out the plan of predestination and election. They sorted through all the people who would ever be born, and picked out a great number-- because God's love is great, and because He is mighty-- to save. When I say a great number, I mean huge. I mean as many as there are stars in the sky, or grains of sand on the earth. This number is amazingly large, a vast number of people.  You walk down the street, you are bumping into these people left and right. 


If you have love in your heart, then you can be sure you are one of the chosen, because only God's regenerate children can love. In Galatians, we are told that love is a fruit of the Spirit, a result of regeneration. What do I mean by love? Love for your neighbor, love for your family, for Jesus, for God, for His word. Our actions assure us that we are His children, but the fact of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you (which happens at regeneration) means no matter what you do or don't do, you are His and are going to Heaven.

Some people say God looked down through time and chose people He knew would serve Him best. I do not agree with that. I believe we were all completely and thoroughly disgusting. When God looked down, He saw how horrible we would be without Him regenerating us. Not one of us looked at all good. Think of God as an apple grower and us as apples. He had a bin of apples, and every single one was slimy, putrid, horrid even to touch. Every single one of us. God picked through a huge enormous bin of grotesque apples, and chose a ton of them to make new. He seriously chose rotten apples, because none of those apples were even slightly good. He couldn't choose good apples. There weren't any. I don't believe he looked at the apples and decided, “Well, I can see that this one will serve a good purpose, so it gets chosen.” No. He looked to His own power and said, “I can make these apples new and good through the sacrifice of My Son.” And He chose a great many. If He had made His choice based on what we would do later, then we would be back at works salvation. I do not believe we did anything to get into Heaven. Not one thing.

There is a doctrine called Absolute Predestination, and I want to make it clear that is not what I am talking about. Absolute Predestination says that God orchestrated everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen on earth. I do not believe that. If He did that, we would not have free will. We would be automatons, puppets. God did not want puppets. I believe predestination only refers to God choosing his elect before Creation. Every time predestination is discussed in the Bible, it is in reference to people, not events. 

I also do not believe that God predestined that every one of the elect would hear the gospel. I do, however believe in Providence, the idea that God closely watches out for His people, and sometimes intervenes in their lives. That is different from God orchestrating events.  Although God providentially cares for His children, He does not necessarily provide each of them with a way to hear the gospel at some point in their lives-- just as He does not necessarily provide every child of His with two parents, or enough money to have a comfortable life, or good health.  We live in a sin-cursed world, and the swirling effects of sin buffet us.  The Lord intervenes sometimes, and sometimes He doesn't. I don't know how He decides these things, but I bet it has nothing to do with our righteousness because, well... see above. I believe there are people going to Heaven who have never heard the gospel, and I believe they get there the same way as God's people who have heard the gospel.  The gospel is a sharing of the good news of jubilee-- that we are free in Christ. It is not a means of eternal salvation. 

I also believe there are people who have heard the gospel and walked away who are going to Heaven, because, frankly, we Christ-followers are sometimes not very kind to people who have been hurt, and sometimes it's just too painful to be around us.  This is not God's fault. This is our fault. (See "people who find it easier to live a moral life," above.)  I include myself in this. I have been the Pharisee referred to in Matthew 23, who imposed heavy burdens, grievous to be borne, on the shoulders of others, and refused to lift a finger to relieve them.  Lord help me, never again permit me to do this.

Also, I want to make it clear I am not a Calvinist. For one thing, I do not believe God predestinated events, ie., that His children would necessarily hear the gospel. I also do not believe He chose some people to go to Hell and some to go to Heaven. I believe he chose a (vast, amazingly large number of) people to be with Him in Heaven, and left the others where they were. 

In addition, I do not believe in Perseverance of the Saints. I think it is possible for a child of God to backslide enough that he loses the joy of walking with the Lord and lives his earthly life separate from God, but still goes to Heaven when he dies. It is a sad, sad thing for God's child to lose this connection on earth. Jonah is an example of a child of God who did not persevere. The last we hear of him in the Bible, he is angry and disappointed at God for saving the Ninevites when they repented. There is no evidence that he turned toward the Lord before his death. However, I believe that in spite of his bitter end, he is rejoicing with the Lord in Heaven today.

Gideon is another example in the Bible of God's child not persevering to the end. His last act before dying, according to scripture, was to make a golden ephod and lead the children of Israel into idolatry. Yet Christians hold Gideon a strong man of God, and I truly believe he was. Here's the thing-- we all do stupid stuff. We all walk away from the Lord. David himself did many abhorrent things I don't have room to list here. This theme is presented over and over in the Bible. God's people walk away from Him. They go do what's right in their own eyes. They wander and get lost.

God's law is perfect and exact, and we cannot keep it. None of us. Not even after regeneration. God does not insert a tricky little clause into salvation that says, “Be careful, because if you are hit by a bus and your heart isn't right with Me, you were never saved.” God loves us. He never changes. He is honest. He is not playing a shell game. He is saving His people. Perseverance says that a child of God, though he may err, will ultimately persevere in his faith to the end of his life. This is a works salvation. It is impossible for God's child to attain. More importantly, it flies in the face of Christ's finished work on the cross. He persevered; we did not.

I believe in Preservation of the Saints. I do not think Preservation and Perseverance are different sides of the same coin. Preservation says that Christ's work is sufficient to preserve even the erring child of God who turns his back and is given over to his own devices, even if the child keeps pursuing his own way and never returns to God for the rest of his life. If we turn our backs on God enough, God will allow us to go our own way in this life. However, we cannot do anything at all-- not one thing-- that is bad enough to negate the work Christ did on the cross of saving us. That work was finished when Jesus said, “It is finished.” Nothing we can do will change that.

It is a terrible thing to push against the Lord so much that he finally says, “Okay, go do your own thing,” and removes His providential hand from your life here on earth. Much better to stay close to Him and try to hear and do what He says, no matter how many times you fail. Stay close to the Shepherd. He is gentle and loves you so much. Even His correction is easy, compared to that of the world. Once, when David had grievously disobeyed the Lord, God gave him a choice to endure seven years of famine, or to be subject to his foes for three months, or to endure three days pestilence in Israel. David said, “Oh, please, Lord God, let me not fall into the hands of man. Let me fall into Your hands, for Your mercies are great.” No matter how many times we mess up, we should turn back to the Lord. His mercies are brand-new every morning. He is approachable. He gives wisdom to every person who asks it. And remember, Paul and Peter and David and Gideon had big struggles. In spite of their failings, God loved them so much. He loves us exactly the same. He will not let us go, no matter what. I do think we can separate so much from God here on earth that He gives us up. But not eternally. He would never give up His children eternally. That work was done on the cross. Nothing we can do will change that.

This is what I believe. I get so confused navigating Christian communities. There are many different ways of seeing the Bible. Many times we use the same terms with different meanings. It is difficult to understand each other. But I know what I believe. I want to share the good news of Christian liberty with God's people, but I don't want to put others down for their beliefs. I also don't want to feel like an outcast because my beliefs are different from the mainstream. I am not in charge of others' moral or spiritual walk, nor are they in charge of mine. I want to enter into Christ's rest. It is the work of a lifetime. I am challenged to figure out what to say, how to react (if I act at all), how to help others, how I make and keep contracts with people, how I spend money, how I order my days.

We do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but with spiritual darkness. We may experience many troubles here. Others may make things hard for us. But really, we are wrestling against spiritual wickedness, and that's not necessarily the person across from me who is pushing an immoral agenda. He may be one of God's children, and I do not want to be responsible for pushing him further into darkness by condemning him. I want to disagree with civility.

I aspire to be more like Christ and less like the Law. Nevertheless, I struggle. I get angry. I get envious. I follow after wrong things. Then I pick myself up, go back to the beginning, and try again to stay close to Christ. 



Thursday, July 02, 2015

Commonplace Book: A Working Philosophy of Education

"We want an education which shall nourish the mind while not neglecting either physical or vocational training. 

"...the mind of a child takes or rejects according to its needs... the mind, in fact, requires sustenance––as does the body, in order that it increase and be strong; but because the mind is not to be measured or weighed but is spiritual, so its sustenance must be spiritual too, must, in fact, be ideas (in the Platonic sense of images).

"...education is of the spirit and is not to be taken in by the eye or effected by the hand; mind appeals to mind and thought begets thought and that is how we become educated. For this reason we owe it to every child to put him in communication with great minds that he may get at great thoughts; with the minds, that is, of those who have left us great works; and the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books.

"...The teacher affords direction, sympathy in studies, a vivifying word here and there, help in the making of experiments, etc., as well as the usual teaching in languages, experimental science and mathematics."

--Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, Towards a Philosophy of Education

Monday, June 29, 2015

Blog Title Change

This is indeed the blog formerly known as "CM, Children, and Lots of Grace".  I've changed the title to "Lots of Grace" for several reasons:

  1. The "CM" in the title may indicate more Charlotte Mason following than I actually do in real life. While I feel like I follow Charlotte Mason method in spirit, I'd rather not hold myself or my family up as ideal.   
  2. My youngest child is fourteen.  The "Children" in my title seems to me to imply younger kids. They will always be my children, but at this point they are truly practicing adults-- or practicing-to-be-adults.
  3. I want my blog title to reflect a broader focus than home schooling or a particular educational philosophy.  When I've posted lately, which hasn't been often, it's been mostly about us living and loving each other and trying to follow Jesus and making mistakes and trying again.  
  4. I am keeping "Lots of Grace". I need lots of grace! I think all of us do. So the grace part remains.
Also, you may notice that I've rearranged the sidebar and added a list of links explaining our religious beliefs. I've been circumspect about sharing those beliefs in the past, as I think religion is something personal.  Also, a wise man once said the only statement of faith that matters is the one you live. But it seems to me time to put it out there. So there it is.

Thank you very much for reading this blog. I don't get many comments, but Blogger tells me I have followers and get page views.  I appreciate you, readers. As you look around, please comment if you feel led.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How Summer is Going, or Changing Expectations

I had all these good intentions of spending quality educational time together with Cornflower this summer. We were going to read poetry and essays and Shakespeare, practice dictation, do some writing, and finish the last four chapters of her biology textbook. So far, all we've done is kept up with biology. It's only mid-June, but I'm already thinking I may use my beautiful summer plans as a basis for our together work in the fall, and allow summer to be what it should be-- a relaxing of requirements so she can rest a bit. She's entering high school this fall. This may be her last restful summer for awhile.

I never feel like I do enough with Cornflower. She is my youngest, and I have this perpetual sense that she's gotten short shrift.  When I'm thinking rationally, I'm pretty sure that is not the case-- at least not anymore. But the guilt has become a habit that is hard to shake.

She has been painting her room this week.  She did some babysitting for a friend and earned some money which she used to buy paint in exactly the color she wanted. For the past five or six days, she's spent all her spare time thinking about her room and painting and arranging it.



And this is part of my insanity.  This girl has been painting her room all week and I'm fretting that we haven't read Shakespeare.  She is making exciting strides in piano practice, and I'm upset that we aren't working on writing.  She is volunteering at the library, and I'm sad we aren't having poetry teatime together.

The other day, I mentioned that it didn't look like we were going to follow the (beautifully laid-out and posted in the kitchen) summer schedule I had made.  She said consolingly, "Yeah, I'm really sorry you went to so much trouble to plan out stuff we aren't going to do."  Little stinker. ;)

So I've decided to switch gears and make new plans. I've been wandering the house this week like a lost soul, trying to figure out what to do whenever I'm not working in my music studio or tidying the house or making meals. Because I laid all these plans and we are not doing them and I don't feel right forcing them on my daughter.

Today is my day for starting over with new summer expectations.  I can't keep wandering the house picking up odd socks and wondering what I'm supposed to be doing.

It's weird having almost-grown kids.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Christ and Perfection

When I read the Bible, I sometimes get frustrated at the Israelites and the Apostles. I mean, the Israelites walked away from God over and over again. Throughout their long history, they get close to God, receive blessings, forget God, go into slavery, remember God, beseech Him to rescue them, are rescued, and the cycle begins again. Over and over this happens. And I think, “Come on, Israelites. Haven't you read your own history? Look at the pattern!” It's easy for me to think this because I'm reading what they lived. They lived it slow and messy, but I read it quick and tidy-- in a book.

The Apostles walked with God-on-Earth. Jesus, the Lord Incarnate. They admire him and love him and are in awe of him... and they think he is here to set the Romans straight, put them in their place. One more rescue from the God who is there. Jesus continually tells them they are on the wrong track, but they never get it until they see him rise from the dead. It takes him dying himself-- destroying their dreams of earthly power-- for them to realize something bigger is at work here.

Perhaps when Peter told the people, “You have with wicked hands crucified the Christ,” he was also thinking a little of himself-- how his expectations of Jesus had been so low. He wanted earthly justice, but Christ brought love. After he betrayed the Lord, watched him killed and saw him rise, he finally understood Jesus's perspective. This world is not our home. Then Peter stood fearless and meek-- can we be both?-- although persecuted and eventually killed by his earthly enemies. Because it's not about earthly control. It's about God's love.

This life's problems can seem so big. We don't have God's perspective. If there's one thing I've seen in the Bible, it's that life is complicated and messy and requires a God to put in order. Most of the time, that order is not revealed until later, that's why He says to trust Him and do good. As best you can, do good and love and live at peace with others, even if it seems like it won't “work”. What you think is the solution may not be what God intends at all. His ways are not our ways. They sure aren't. I would totally have gone after the Romans. But that was the wrong thing.

Remember this when you mess up. God doesn't expect us to live to perfection. That's what he was showing us with the Israelites-- he gave an entire nation so many opportunities to get things right, and they went in circles. None of us are any better. None of us. Some sin one way, and some another. If you think you are doing a pretty good job staying within the lines, be wary. The law is a continuum with sin on one side, and sin on the other, and a teeny little sweet spot of perfection in the center. And that's why Christ came. Christ is our perfection. We love him, and good comes of it. But it's all Him. Remember.