Thursday, November 24, 2011

celebrating



Remembering with thankfulness God's constant care for us. How blessed we are to be sheep in His pasture.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

~Psalm 100

Monday, November 21, 2011

early morning missive



And Daddy noted with glad surprise, "His spelling is getting much better!"
And that made his teacher-mommy very happy to hear! :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Unity of God's Redemptive Story

Yesterday in church, our pastor continued his series through Revelation by preaching on chapter 12 and outlining the Child of Promise, the Seed promised in Genesis 3 who would crush the serpent's head, the dragon. He traced the godly line through the Old Testament, highlighting instances where Satan conspired to snuff it out and thus attempted to make God's Promise of no effect. But God showed Himself faithful so that a remnant always remained. Finally the Promised One was born and even Herod's wicked and cruel murdering heart could not prevent God's purposes from being fulfilled. In light of this recent sermon, I thought about God's covenant-keeping to His people as it is recorded by Luke about the faithful priest, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.

I am quoting extensively from this older post by Pastor Bret McAtee(not our pastor). I hope it provides you with new insight into the Word of God as it did for me. The text to which Pastor Bret refers is Luke 1:67-79, quoted from the NIV as follows:

Zechariah’s Song

His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”


We need to keep this in mind when we come to passages like the Benedictus which is before us this morning. If we were to follow an all too typical type of sermon we might say something like,
“Zechariah serves for us as an example of faith, all be it tardy, that we ought to follow. Zechariah eventually obeyed God and we should also. Zechariah teaches us that God never gives up on people, even if he has to discipline them for a season and so if we have failed God we can still be faithful and He will give us another chance.”

But is it really the purpose of this pericope to teach us to emulate Zechariah’s example, or is there something about God’s story that we are to draw out from this?

First we should note that the story is linear and has teleology. That is to say that the part that Zechariah has to play in the story is consistent with earlier portions of the novel and is indicative that the Novel has a destination. This Hero comes from the promised house of Heroes (Luke 1:69) – a house that had been reduced to a withering stump (Isaiah 6:13). Further the coming of the Hero is consistent with promises that were given by God way early in the novel (Luke 1:70 cmp. w/ Genesis 3:15) that He would provide a dragon tyrant slaying Hero who would deliver and redeem His people from the clutches of His enemies (Luke 1:71). Indeed, Zechariah being filled with the Spirit of the Author of the Novel (Luke 1:67) can say that this Hero was part of a storyline that includes in it earlier Heroes such as David (Luke 1:69) and Abraham (Luke 1:73) who were literary anti-types of the great Hero in God’s novel.

Second, as we read this part of the story we realize that this story is framed by covenant (Luke 1:72). This is the literary tool used to unite the whole story. Covenant is how God, as a Novelist, brings unity and diversity into His story. The literary tool of covenant allows the novel to keep building while at the same time providing a sense of wholeness to the story as it unfolds. When Dr. Luke wanted to show early Christians that the Heroes’ life and ministry were the fulfillment of God’s ancient purposes for His chosen people, he pointed to the covenants and quoted Zechariah’s prophecy which reveals that believers such as Zechariah in the very earliest days of ‘the new and better covenant’ understood Jesus and His messianic work as a fulfillment (not a ‘Plan B’) of God’s covenant with Abraham (Luke 1:72-73). God didn’t shelf the previous story of the Old Covenant with the arrival of Jesus and start a new story with the intent of getting back to the previous story once he had finished the new story. No, Zechariah’s appeal to the covenant reveals that the characters in God’s novel understood that this was one incredible narrative.
The Novel doesn’t change plot lines with the coming of Jesus. The author of the Novel doesn’t suddenly switch to an alternate plan of rescue for His people all because His royal people reject the Hero. Quite to the contrary this was part of the Author’s intention from when He began writing His novel.

Another thing we want to see about this novel is that it is interactive, which is to say that God’s story is not a story that leaves us unaffected. While it is certainly not the case that we are to turn God’s story into our story, it is the case that God takes us up into His story so that we become participants in his story. Zechariah notes that the salvation (deliverance, redemption) that is being provided by the Messiah is to have the effect that God’s people might ’serve Him without fear.’ The idea is that having been delivered we might be loyal servants (hence royal priesthood) to God. The redemption provided by God in His story doesn’t end with a people who deaf dumb and mute to the extension of God’s Kingdom. No, in God’s story we are delivered in order to serve. God does not become a participant in our story but we do become participants in His story, and we do so by rendering Him the service a delivered people delight in rendering.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Understanding the Spirit's Work

Re-posting this from the archives.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

As we are teaching and training our four year old son, we are praying, like all other responsible Christian parents, that God will save him and that it might happen while he is still young. So it was while I was reading Dr. Martyn Llyod-Jones book, God's Ultimate Purpose, An Exposition of Ephesians 1, that I found his teachings on Ephesians 1:3 lifting me above my usual understanding of what spiritual blessings we have received.
Here is Pastor Lloyd-Jones teaching on how a person can ever become spiritual:

Man by nature is not interested in spiritual matters at all; they seem strangely remote to him. He is interested in the life of this world, in things that can be seen and touched and felt and handled; but when you begin to talk to him about the soul and the things of the spirit he really does not know what you are talking about. This is so because he is dead and his life is governed by the 'prince of the power of the air'. He is interested in houses and in horses, in dogs, in animals, in furniture, in pleasures of various kinds and business and great affairs; but begin to talk to him about communion with God and the life of the Spirit and he is at once in an utterly strange realm. And he will remain in that condition until the Holy Spirit begins to quicken him and to put a spiritual principle in his life. He needs a spiritual mind, a spiritual outlook and a spiritual understanding; and the Spirit gives these blessings in regeneration. These are preliminary blessings that come to us through the Spirit to prepare us to receive the fulness that is in Christ. He then proceeds to convict us of sin, to make us see something of our utter emptiness and woe. He makes us see how appalling it is that God should be of no interest to us, the things of eternity utterly remote, and these great things of the Spirit boring and unattractive to us. He makes us see the enormity of our sin.

And it's those last two sentences that gripped me as I seek to explain to my son how terrible sin is and what it has done to us.
It has gouged out our spiritual eyes and left us to see only ourselves and our selfish pleasures. It is only by the Holy Spirit that we recoil from ourselves and see what our sin has caused us to become and do.
Martyn Llyod-Jones calls this act a "preliminary blessing that comes to us through the Spirit to prepare us to receive the fulness that is in Christ." This initial work of the Holy Spirit is what Reformed theologians speak of as regeneration. Our minds are being given a spiritual awakening as to our true condition. We see with a spiritual mind and a spiritual understanding what our sinfulness entails.
But thankfully, the Holy Spirit does not leave us there to drown in the tsunami of the wretchedness of our sin. He moves to provide another spiritual blessing for us. Dr. Lloyd-Jones continues:
Next, the Holy Spirit gradually leads us on to contemplate the Lord Jesus Christ and his perfect work on our behalf. He gives us the faith by grace. 'By grace are ye saved through faith'(Ephesians 2:8). The Spirit creates faith in us. 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned'(1 Corinthians 2:14). So the Spirit enables us to exercise this gift of faith and thus we come to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
...The Holy Spirit then leads and guides us and keeps us in this union, so that we are enabled progressively to receive Christ's fulness, and 'grace upon grace', 'grace after grace'.
...This is what happens to us as Christians; this is God's way of salvation.


When we understand what the work of the Holy Spirit includes, it is only then that we can truly say, "It's all of Him and none of me".
And this is why I continually need to take the gospel to my son and take my son to God the Father and intercede on his behalf. His four year old spiritual eyes are still dim, perhaps not even open at this point, but by the Spirit's awakening and convicting, we pray that he may soon see Christ in all His fullness and can experience life in Christ.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

practice, practice

Since this is November and the warm fall days won't last, I've been making extra time for the girls to be outside. Yesterday I took out the walker we are borrowing from the Treatment Center to give Kate some time to practice. The way this walker works is that the front is open so that Kate cannot lean forward as she walks but must stand upright and hold onto the sides. The walker is designed so that it is very hard to push backwards, making it safe to stand still or maneuver the walker around turns. Also having the bar along her back helps keep her moving if she lags a bit as the gentle nudge from behind propels her to keep taking steps. Now that she is walking with more confidence and stability, she stays ahead of the bar most of the time.
(Please pardon the kinda-dorky outfit, but her outside play clothes are her older ones that can handle the dirt and pavement. She also wears tights under her pants in the colder weather since she won't keep socks on. She still tries to tug on the tights, but quickly realizes the futility in short order.)











This is Kate in action.

video

And one more for the grandparents and other very interested parties. :)

video

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

a peaceful heart

Sally Clarkson with Close Every Day With a Blessing
No matter what a day has held: fussing, conflict, excitement, drudgery, joy, celebration, hard work, putting the day to end well is a wise endeavor. When we understand this idea of blessing our child each night before they go to bed, it carries with it the idea of giving our children a peaceful heart. We give love to our child’s heart when we tie all loose ends together with unconditional love by blessing them every night, putting to rest all of the burdens of the day and giving them into the hands of God. Every day, we ended in words of love and grace.

No matter what has transpired through out the day, we can close it by speaking to our child’s heart. “I love you no matter what. Forgive me for my impatience today, please? Or I forgive you for your disobedience today. You are very precious to me. I am blessed to have you. You may go to sleep without bearing anger, or a guilty conscience, or fear, because I love you and God loves you and He will be with you. Sleep in peace, my precious.”

As I put Laura to bed last night I thought of two things. 1)Oh boy, putting her to bed in her crib is so easy, what will it be like once she is in a toddler bed? Another worry for another day, I don't have to think about it tonight. 2)I should move the comfy rocker chair back in here so I can sit and read and sing with her at bedtime just like I used to do with Seth when he was little like her.
I remember sitting with him and singing and telling him about who God was and His Son Jesus. We talked about lots of things. He always listened so well and I enjoyed that extra quiet time in the dark with only a nightlight to see by.

Laura loves to read books and recently she has started to remind me to sing during some of our bathing routines, like hair drying and nail trimming, her two least favorites. "Sing?" she says. I like that. :)

(I have always sung to the kids when I trim their nails to help distract them and keep them still. Laura was the worst when she was younger, now she is very good, but I still sing.)

Seth at four years old. Just to remind me.

looking closely










Thursday, November 03, 2011

in real life

Trying something new today. I'm posting a video here instead of on Facebook like I've always done.

We've been watching Kate practice this for a few weeks now and I finally caught her on video in good daylight. I kept on filming to give you a further taste of the circus that occurs here each day at some point.

video

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Sunday school

Last year, Kate was slated to be in the youngest Sunday School class at our church. I wasn't too sure how she would do, but Kim, the teacher was delighted that Kate was to be included. I knew Kate would want/need me to stay with her which is how I got involved helping in the Age 2-4 Class. And they were a lively crowd to be involved with. Kim had her hands full as we worked to keep the children engaged and enjoying themselves, her own two year daughter included. I admired her calm response to all the chaotic moments and her gentle way with the children. Half way through the class year, she shared she was expecting again and that her husband, our Assistant Pastor, thought she should not take on another year of teaching. I quickly reassured her that he was right and that I would take on the lead teacher role, with herself or whoever could help. I panicked about fifty times this summer thinking, what did I sign myself up for?

One week before classes were scheduled to begin, I received a class roster with twelve(!) names of students, two of which were my own two girls. Gulp. My name was listed, along with Kim and another church friend, Vanessa, as the teachers. Kim was now six weeks away from her due date. I reassured her that she did not have to help at all before or after the baby was due if she was not interested or able. I talked with some of the other mamas at church who had children in the class and they all reassured me that they could take turns helping.
Vanessa committed to every week, although I wanted her to be able to skip if she needed or wanted to. We are now six weeks into the Sunday school year and there hasn't been a class time yet, where I haven't felt a momentary panic that the whole room could erupt into uncontrollable chaos with just the right spark. But Vanessa has been faithful and my Mom helped when she visited a few weeks back and two weeks ago, another Mama, Katie, stayed to help in Vanessa's place.

The children are well behaved and listen very intently as I recount a Bible story on "old fashioned" flannelgraph with as much story-telling gusto as I can muster from my imagination. We are going through the Old Testament stories as they provide many narratives and lessons of God's attributes to think about. I try not to water down the stories but to provide them with a faithful rendering that can remain in their minds throughout the week.

We begin with a snack, usually fruit and crackers of some variety. And I begin by reviewing what we talked about last time, trying to provide a transition to the current lesson. I have a small metal easel inherited from my grandfather that the flannelboard sits on in full view of the children seated at the tables. I have it covered with a flannel pillowcase that prevents them from seeing anything until I am ready to reveal the scene, usually with a grand flourish(smile). As I teach, I ask them predicting questions or perhaps an opportunity to tell what they already know about the story. Sometimes I get right answers, sometimes I get confused looks, but either way, they are eager to see what comes next on the board.
Recounting the lesson and discussing it together takes the bulk of our time, so we end with a coloring page and by listening to the same story retold on a cd set I bought years ago for Seth.

By the end of our listening time, the children have finished coloring and their parents are starting to arrive outside the half-door.
Not every class-time goes off without a hitch, however. Sometimes a little one remembers their Mom and Dad are not there and that makes them sad and tearful. Other times, someone takes a tumble and requires some extra care. And occasionally a quick trip to the bathroom in the classroom is in order. Thankfully I have a helping Mama to help tend to all these needs without having to stop the entire lesson. We have a wonderful time together.

Without fail, at some point during every week I think, did I really commit to this all year? But by Saturday evening(or even as late as Sunday morning, gasp) the creative juices are flowing and when I see the kids streaming in after morning worship, I am filled with such happiness to spend the next hour with them talking about God's word and enjoying their littleness.



(I apologize for the awkward angle of the photo but I took it quickly without wanting to draw too much attention to the camera and to get all the kids in the frame. Sorry if you get a crick in your neck!)

I have been trying to bring nature and beauty into the classroom for the children to enjoy hence the basket of apples and jars of marigolds. Plus we were talking about seeds(as part of reviewing our Thanksgiving Sunday lesson) and I wanted to have things that have seeds. I will have to get creative as winter takes its hold on the Canadian landscape. But I always try to think about the lesson through the scope of Charlotte Mason's ideas on teaching young children and bringing beauty to children is one of those ideas. And I enjoy the beauty too! :)

Fall in the garden

This past weekend brought us a frost that dared to venture inside the garden gate and reduce most of the green to a mushy olive drab. But having harvested the celery stalks weeks ago, nothing of value was lost.
The hardy carrots held their own against the icy crystals that coated their lacy fronds. I would like them to stay in as long as the ground stays unfrozen as I imagine the fat orangey shoulders I see poking through the dirt narrow down too quickly, giving me short stubby carrots.






With most of the plants cleared, the world of Tonka once again reclaims the land for its many digging and dumping purposes.









If you look carefully, you can spot a plump blue-jay sitting on the hinged side of the gate facing into the cedar tree. I imagine he is checking to see if the birdfeeder as been filled yet. (And the answer is no, as there is still plenty left to hunt and peck for on his own.)



Not sure what the post digging project is all about, but I was told, "Now this is doing real work." :)



And slightly related to the topic of the garden is how to use up multiple stalks of celery awaiting their turn in the crisper drawer. My latest attempt is using it in rice pilaf with some sage to echo the flavors in bread stuffing which only I prefer and rarely make. It was delicious and will be made many times over this fall and winter.
It is adapted from the Betty Crocker rice pilaf recipe.

1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion chopped
2-3 celery stalks chopped(or as many as you can get away with)
1 cup rice
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of pepper
1/2 tsp. sage (I didn't actually measure so use your judgement, I love sage.)

Melt the butter on med-high. Add the onions and celery and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. Add rice, stir until lightly browned, a few minutes at most. Watch it doesn't burn or stick to pan. Turn to med-low and add broth. Stir together, adding remaining seasonings. Cover and cook for 12-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed and rice is fluffy. Enjoy with baked chicken and steamed seasoned broccoli (or carrots!) to name just one delicious meal that we like around here. :)