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• Monday, June 24th, 2013

 

20130624-214718.jpgWe had three shifts today. The 7 am van took work supplies and got started on construction. Robert, Jerry, and Trent started taking some rotting wood from one front corner of the entrance. Trent also started taking off some skirting and clearing a path to put edging and the plan is to lay pea gravel. Great progress was made on all but plenty more to be done tomorrow.

The second van was scheduled to leave at 7:30 am but got off a bit late. This van took Linda and Clara back to Walmart to pick up cold foods for today. We already spent a few hours yesterday at Walmart and BJ’s picking up dry foods, etc.

20130624-214901.jpg The third van left around 8 am and drove straight to Canal Point. They beat van 2 this time. Once all were at the church Pastor Bill took the younger crew, including Jill and Beth, to a Haitian mission where the children were reviewing the lessons and singing the songs they learned last week at VBS. the mission group had a good time there and then visiting a few other sites.

20130624-214948.jpg Linda and Clara had a great lunch ready for a sweaty and hungry crew at 11:45. Then the men got back to work while most of us started getting ready for VBS. We put up decorations and reassigned teachers to cover blanks left by the crew members who couldn’t come.

Linda and Clara started on dinner. Anthony, Connie, and Ryleigh are the primary actors in the nightly skit. Bethany and Jenna are doing crafts with things prepared by Tina (transported on Jerry’s truck). Pastor Bill is doing the oldest class, Beth is teaching the next oldest class. Connie and Madeleine are teaching the kindergarten class while Hannah and Ryleigh lead the pre-k class. Music is led by Laura (me) and recreation is coordinated by Anthony with help from Spencer and a young man from the church here.

Today was a great success! We had 11 kids show up for VBS and we all had a great time. We look forward to doing this 4 more times this week! Thank you all for your prayers and support.

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• Thursday, March 28th, 2013

In my reading I am occasionally revisiting the era of the founding of the Unites States. I’ve read a biography of George Washington, John Adams, and just this week one on Thomas Jefferson. Another book, from Thomas Nelson publishers that fit in with this era was called The Founders’ Key by Larry Arnn.  The subtitle is “the divine and natural connection between the Declaration and the Constitution and what we risk by losing it”. The book is a response to a practice I had missed in our politicians. That of stating support for the Declaration of Independence, but distancing it from the Constitution. As if the two documents are opposed to each other.

The book was well written in clarifying the points in the Declaration that were not only against the form of government that England was imposing on the States, but also showing the form of government that the Declaration demonstrated was a better way. Then the author shows how the Constitution is a natural product to implement just that kind of government that the Declaration identified as better. The case is made in eight chapters that are clear and easy to follow for the most part. The second half of the book is a collection of the original documents referred to in the first half. This includes the Declaration and the Constitution, of course. Plus the specific letters from the Federalist Papers that are referred to most frequently.

The book is fairly timeless, which is a strength. It refers to a few specific politicians and recent events, but the scope is the unchanging purpose of the Declaration and the Constitution and why the vision that led to those documents is not outdated due to the passage of time. I was intrigued enough, however, to want to learn more about what current politicians actually are saying to themselves to be able to say one document is good while the other is not. I think any book that covers its chosen topic while also stimulating interest in related topics has done a good job.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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• Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

A group of women at my church are reading through Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. The main character is Much-Afriad and she is journeying to the High Places of her Lord. While on this journey she is being pursued and harried by her cousins Pride, Resentment, Craven Fear, and Self-Pity.

At one point she was cornered by all 4 and finally called out to The Shepherd to save her. A few pages later she recited Psalm 27:6 and thought about how rough it must be to be an enemy of the Lord. All of this coming so close together made we look at the Psalms differently than I ever have. I’ve always struggled with the part of the Psalms that talk about enemies and false witnesses. Probably because I’ve lived a fairly safe and maybe even cowardly life, I don’t have many enemies to talk of. But Much-Afraid is grappling with her own voices of Pride and Self-Pity so I suddenly realized those were enemies I can relate to. Now when I read those lines in the Psalms I can apply them to my life.

It was also interesting that the Psalm she quoted was Psalm 27. A few months ago at our church Wednesday night lesson on feasts and festivals, it was mentioned that the people would recite Psalm 27 for one of the feasts so I decided to memorize it. It is a demonstration of my lack of focus that over 2 months later I am still not done memorizing the 14 verses in that Psalm. But each verse has been important to me and it is changing how I pray.

Psalm 27:1 begins

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

That includes those voices trying to steal my Truth. That leads right into verse Psalm 27:2

When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.

It does feel like I’m under attack sometimes when my fear and pride and resentment get going. Especially when helped along by some hormonal storming.

The latest verse I’m memorizing is Psalm 27:12 and when I was struggling with fears about an issue at work this is what calmed me down and reminded me I am protected.

Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;

for false witnesses have risen against me,

and they breathe out violence.

That is what it felt like as my anger and frustration and fear kept trying to make me feel terrible and alone and weak. Those are false witnesses. That is NOT who I am. What is my only hope in life and death? That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God, and to my Savior Jesus Christ. (Question 1 of the New City Catechism)

Verses Ps 27:4-5 have brought me back to calm peace and trust.

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after;

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;

he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;

he will life me high upon a rock.

Then Ps 27:6 is the one Much-Afraid quoted in the book I mentioned above.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;

and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;

I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

He is faithful! He hides me in his shelter. I have prayed the words of Psalm 27 many times in the past 2 months. Much-Afraid tries hard to ignore the voices of her enemies. She stuffs cotton in her ears at one point. But then she finds that singing songs of praise works even better at drowning out their voices. That is what Psalm 27 has become for me – I will sing and make melody to the Lord!

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• Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

The title of this post has multiple meanings.

First – I have not abandoned this blog, I just haven’t put anything up in a really really long time. I have some stuff to add though, so I’ll get to that sometime soon.

Second – over the past year I have created a notebook of scripture, songs, and lessons or blog posts that speak to me. Things I need to know and remember. This morning I was reviewing and reorganizing the contents and came across a page where I had started transcribing the words to the hymn What E’er My God Ordains is Right with the reminder that He will never ever forsake me. What wonderful news.

That is the ultimate truth that must make a difference in my day and my behavior and my character.

*****

So why am I resurrecting the blog today? I am thinking about my reading plans for 2013 of course.

This has been a great year. I have read several books by Jerry Bridges and Nancy Leigh DeMoss and found so much meat in all of them.

For  sci fi, I’ve read a lot of John Ringo this year. The trilogy I devoured in Nov/Dec was joint with David Weber and John Ringo is The Empire of Man trilogy. What fun. I also read some John Scalzi and Connie Willis.

Mysteries – I’ve been working forward from the beginning of the Robert Parker Spenser series. Also moving forward with some Elizabeth George and Lee Child.  I started some Colin Cotterill but haven’t made it back to read more. I intend to, the first book was fun!

Other fiction includes books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – interesting and fun since we traveled to Barcelona in October. And quite a few John Steinbeck short novels.

****

What do I plan to read in 2013 then?

I attended a talk at a local temporary Passages exhibit about CS Lewis. Coming away from there I added to my list to read The Problem of Pain and a friend has recommended God in the Dock. That matches up with a fun CS Lewis Challenge at 52 books in 52 weeks.

I’m planning on 4 books: God in the Dock, Pilgrims Regress, Christian Reflections, and The Problem of Pain. And I may revisit the Chronicles of Narnia or even the Space Trilogy.

I read Heretics by GK Chesterton last year with the intention of reading Orthodoxy which I never made it to, so that is definitely on the list for 2013.

I’ll keep reading John Ringo, Lee Child, Elizabeth George, Stephen Hunter…

For the rest, we’ll see where the year leads us.

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• Friday, September 07th, 2012

The topic is Unpacking Forgivness by Chris Brauns. It is a great book, well written, and needed.

I’ve talked about this book before and I will continue to talk about this book. You need to read this book, no matter who you are or where you are in your walk. If you’ve read it, you probably need to read it again. I thought this little exchange would be a great way to bring it back up on the blog. And since I’ve had plenty to say but haven’t posted anything since July I obviously need to restart things with something simple.

Any time anyone even sort of asks for my opinion on a good book for personal or group study, I will bring up Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns. My Circle has been going through this for 10 months now and I love the level of engagement from everyone of them. They have always read the chapter, they always dig into the meat of the subject. It’s something that matters and, sadly, this book has a lot to teach us about forgiveness because our culture isn’t dealing with it.

So, back in the summer I mentioned it to a friend who then apparently passed it on to another friend. This is the email I found in my mailbox this morning:

 Laura,

I have an interesting question for you, from chapters 11 and 12. A friend was reading exerpts on the internet because she might want to use it in a Bible study. She came across a test question about whether it is always right to forgive. The answer was no, and it was cited that God does not forgive the unrepentant. It said this would be discussed in chapters 11 and 12, but it did say that a view of our always forgiving was too simplistic. My friend questioned whether this view is Biblical and wanted me to ask, since I recommended the book because you had told me you were studying it. I’d welcome your response to her question. Since I have not read the book, I have no idea if what she read on the internet was accurate. Thanks!

I thought it was a great question. It’s why Chris Brauns starts his book with that little quiz. We all think we know what forgiveness is. And he does a great job of getting our attention when we realize we flunked the quiz on what we thought were the easy questions. :-)

I sent her a response knowing and hoping she would send it on to her friend with the questions. It doesn’t begin to cover what the whole book says – that’s why there is a whole book. But I realized as I was typing that what most strikes me as I read this book for the 3rd time in 3 years is the definition of forgiveness requires so much more of us than we think. I think most of our “forgiving” is closer to “not forgiving” than true forgiveness.

The rest of this post is what I sent as my response – this got my juices flowing at 6am!

****

Yeah, a lot of us missed that question on the quiz. We think it sounds holier to say we will forgive everyone :-) And that is probably the root of why the entire study is so helpful. He challenges our current cultural attitude that we must always forgive everyone everywhere, even Hitler and serial killers who never think they did anything wrong. But then, if we say we should always forgive because God always forgives, we deny the reality of Hell. And Hell is quite Biblical.

In chapter 1 Brauns points out some things about God’s forgiveness

  1. God’s forgiveness is gracious but not free – God bought that gift at an infinitely high price, purchased at the expense of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ
  2. God’s forgiveness is conditional. Only those who repent and believe are saved
  3. God’s forgiveness is a commitment
  4. Forgiveness lays the groundwork for reconciliation
  5. Forgiveness does not mean the elimination of all consequences

A definition of God’s forgiveness: A commitment by the one true God to pardon graciously those who repent and believe so that they are reconciled to him, although this commitment does not eliminate all consequences.

A definition of forgiveness for Christians: A commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated.

He then goes on to say that Christian forgiveness is a commitment to the repentant and it is not automatic. But then he does say that Christians must always forgive the repentant. If someone repents then we must forgive. And that forgiveness is a commitment and the beginning of reconciliation.

Chapter 2 immediately gets to the root of our problems. It discusses the difference between therapeutic forgiveness (the only person you hurt when you refuse to forgive is yourself) and biblical forgiveness.

There are a whole lot of good points in this chapter that makes the case for why saying forgiveness is just a feeling and is ceasing to feel resentment or bitterness is incomplete and not biblical.

But then he says “Therapeutic forgiveness results in “cheap grace” and a reluctance to identify and name evil….when it is assumed that Christians ought to forgive automatically, it is not long before people begin to assume that God ought to forgive automatically.” p69

He talks about how cheap forgiveness prohibits healing in the Christian community, how it can encourage someone to avoid dealing with their sin, how it can leave Christians unprepared for true persecution.

For me the great point that Brauns is making is that forgiveness is a commitment to pardon the offender. In a later chapter he points out that when you forgive someone, you don’t just say “I accept your apology” and then don’t talk to them ever again. You restore your relationship with that person.

He has so much more that’s wonderful in here. He talks about why we need to be humble. He talks about when something isn’t even worth ‘forgiving’, just let it go. He talks a lot about how to work through forgiveness when someone has really hurt us and then comes to us repentant. And he talks about tough stuff – a rapist and his victim, a young boy and the man who molested him. He isn’t just talking about holding a grudge against Sally for sitting in your pew at church. He’s talking about real offenses that can’t just be ignored.

But now let’s jump to chapter 11: “How should a young mother remember her father who repeatedly molested her, never took any ownership of his offenses, and is now dead? How should parents remember their child’s killer who never took responsibility? How should New Yorkers remember the terrorists of 9/11?” He introduces a few principles here

Principle 1. Resolve not to take revenge.

Not the same as punishing justly, of course. He talks about the hollywood style revenge we might contemplate when a heinous crime is committed. But he also talks about the “garden-variety revenge that many cultivate regularly” and lists things like this one “Parents resent their adult children changing churches. Over the years they make small hurtful remarks designed to show disapproval.”

Principle 2. Proactively show love

  • “we are to use our mental energy creatively to plan a response that will end the cycle of violence” p135

Then chapter 12

Principle 3: Don’t forgive the unrepentant but leave room for the wrath of God

“Jesus told his followers that we ought to forgive people as many times as they ask for forgiveness (Luke 17:3b-4). But what about those who do not ask for forgiveness?”

He then refers to Deut. 32:35, 43. Then Romans 12:19. Then 2 Tim 4:14-15.

“It is not recorded that Paul ever forgave Alexander. He did not pardon his behavior. On the contrary, Paul told Timothy that he was resting in the truth that God would repay Alexander for his deeds, and he wanted Timothy simply to ‘beware’ of Alexander.”

Anyway – I could repeat the entire book here. It is very biblical. He is very careful to point that out on every page of every chapter. And if forgiveness were something we clearly understood we wouldn’t need a book about it. It is a great challenge to our thinking and at the end of it, instead of leading us to forgive less, I think it teaches us to forgive more correctly and completely.

*****

[Note: By the way, what you probably don't know is that Chris Brauns regularly checks in when his book is mentioned. I kind of expect a visit on this blog from him sooner or later as a result of this post. He's commented (politely) on prior posts about this book. I hope he'll point out if he thinks I've misrepresented anything here. But of course, mostly what I hope is that you'll read the book, study the Bible, and consider what you need to learn about forgiveness.]

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