Being content with life means accepting the circumstances in which God’s providence has placed me…And so this is what I need now; the courage to face an ordinary day…from Ordinary by Michael Horton
It these still-new days of widowhood, some ordinary days do take courage; some are easier. Yesterday was a good day: had fans installed and a few pictures hung by my very sweet handyman. He and his wife are expecting a baby in July and I was able to give him a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible . I painted some chairs, wrote a letter, paid a bill and did some cleaning. I picked up the kids from their summer camps – basketball for one, cheer for the other. Later I went back over to their house for a delicious supper of grilled chicken and vegies. When I got home Ruby and I had a short walk around the block. An ordinary day. A blessed day.
The true field for religion is the field of common life. – Andrew MacLaren
“You see, we can talk about grace, sing about grace, preach about grace, just so long as we do not get too close to it. Election is too close. When we give in to election, we finally give up on ourselves in the matter of salvation.The doctrine takes grace to its logical conclusion: if God saves me without my works, then He must choose me apart from them, too.” – from Putting Amazing Back Into Grace Michael Horton
The doctrine of election isn’t easy to understand. But, really, no more difficult than the Trinity. Believing in the Trinity doesn’t change the way we look at ourselves as much as election does. Election makes us face the fact that salvation is all of God, all of grace. It forces us to give up on that little thread of good works that we cling to. Good works are not a stepping stone to heaven, but rather a gift we are given that we are not to keep.
I still struggle with understanding sometimes, but I don’t doubt the truth of election. The last line in Horton’s quote above makes so much sense. He chose me and He saved me – in spite of me!
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering- Col.3:12
“The Christian’s heart is constantly sending up sighs and petitions to God, regardless of whether he happens to be eating or drinking or working. “ – Martin Luther
I know I do not pray enough. I try not to tell people I’m going to pray for them without actually doing it. “Prayers!” on facebook just isn’t enough, but neither are empty words. Guilty.
But God is patient and kind and puts up with my feeble prayers. I do believe He hears me when I don’t even realize I’m sending up those sighs and petitions. And I am grateful for those who I know are praying for me. Many prayers have lifted me up this past year.
Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, And you have strengthened the feeble knees; - Job 4:4
“It is easy to make a law; it is more difficult to make wise decisions.” – from Putting Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton
The song above, “A New Law” by Derek Webb really packs a punch if you listen carefully. Derek seems to have gone off the track in recent years, but he may be finding his way back. Either way, this is a good song.
...I don't wanna know if the answers aren't easy
So just bring it down from the mountain to me...
...Don't teach me about moderation and liberty
I prefer a shot of grape juice...
Don't teach me about loving my enemies...
Sometimes it’s just easier to give up asking questions. Sometimes we have to because there are things we aren’t intended to know yet. But, asking the questions is okay, even when it’s hard.
I don’t have to avoid the wine as I was taught as a youth; i just need to use moderation. And loving my enemies? I’m ever learning better ways to do that.
“First, we have an incredibly weighty existence which requires that we respect God and our neighbor whether the latter is a Christian or not. It means that we should expect to find common ground with non-Christians as a natural part of human existence.” – Michael Horton
I find myself thinking about my neighbors a lot lately, mainly because I’m still new in the neighborhood. When I meet someone, I try to remember to write down the person’s name when I get home and something to remember them by, like a house number or a dog’s name. I’ve met 14 neighbors on my street so far. I’ve found a little common ground, such as other dog owners, someone who recently lost a family member, and one who likes strawberries. There are differences, too, such as a practicing Buddhist, the young couples, the single mom. But we can all talk about yard work, termites, and good restaurants. I just want the conversations to one day go beyond watering the yard to something more substantial. All in good time; all in God’s time.
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ - Matthew 22:37-39
I think I am opposite from the definition of patriotic: having or expressing devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country. I have become less and less patriotic the past 20 years or so. Memorial Day, July 4th, Veteran’s Day all hold little meaning for me. When 9-11 happened I was so on fire for our country. But within ten years the disgust I felt for the deceit of our government had grown so much that I didn’t even want to vote.
“There is no thing as a Christian nation other than the body of Christ.”- from Putting Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton
Many churches have twisted their brand of religion and patriotism so much that it is hard to tell them apart. Being a “good American” does not make me a Christian. But, being a Christian should make me a good citizen. Can I be a good citizen without being patriotic? I think so.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his own weight; that he shall not be a mere passenger, but shall do his share in the work that each generation of us finds ready to hand; and, furthermore, that in doing his work he shall show, not only the capacity for sturdy self-help, but also self-respecting regard for the rights of others.” I think I’ve fulfilled that requisite, but there are others I struggle with.
Most lists of "Good Citizen" qualities include the following:
Obeys the law / Respects authority.
Contribute to Society and Community/ Performs Civic Duty.
Loves his/her country/ Patriotism.
Courtesy and respect for the rights of others.
Trust worthy and Honesty.
I am thankful to be an American. I treasure the land and I delight in its people. But, its government and ideals are harder to hold dear.
This is about Matt Redmond, author of The God of the Mundane , not the well-known (to some, not me) worship leader Matt Redman.
I had to do some digging around back in time for this post, so bear with me. On August 22, 2013, I wrote a post titled Daily Praises – you can read it HERE. I first heard of Matt and his book via my husband who heard of him via Rev. Shane Lems.
Fast forward nine months and we are living in Birmingham, Alabama, where Matt lives. Somehow I found him, read his book, and interviewed him for a small local newspaper. We met at the library and I got to know him a little bit. I have searched high and low for that interview/article to no avail. But, an offshoot of that meeting was that in addition to our faith, we also have a love for music in common, his much deeper than mine. But he was the one that connected me to a guy who sold me tickets for the first Avett Brothers’ concert that Chuck and I went to. At the concert we saw Matt and were able to meet his wife Bethany. This was now November of 2017.
Jump ahead again to 2021. I’m attending Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church where I now live in Tampa and I meet a sweet woman named Suanne. She tells me about Tim Challies and I sign up for his emails. So, today’s email has a list of book recommendations and guess what shows up? Yep. the new edition of Matt’s book!
Side note: I just finished reading Ordinary by Michael Horton, which is similar in many ways to Matt’s book. Of the two, I’d probably recommend Matt’s only because it seems more focused on the topic, whereas Horton’s rambles around a little more. And, FYI, Matt’s was published first.
"There is a mystery to all love. Why does this one man so move me? Why does this small corner of our planet make me feel that I am home?" - Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle
Love for people truly is a mystery. Why did I fall in love with Chuck? How is it I love my children, and grandchildren, more than anyone else’s children? What is this connection to my brothers? How do I explain this love for my parents? Or the special bond I’ve had with a very few dear friends? And the cousins!!
More mysterious than that is God’s love for us. I could make a long list of attributes I love and admire about all the people I mentioned. But, what attributes do I have that would make God love me? The only good in me is what He’s put there.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
"Music, too, tends to pluck at the chords of emotion. Tears are healing. I do not want to cry when I am not alone, but by myself I don't try to hold the tears back. In a sense this solitary weeping is a form of prayer." - Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle
I understand exactly what she means. I try not to cry in public, but it’s difficult at church sometimes. Oh, that music. The hymns he loved get me every time; at home it might be other music. Especially, but not limited to, The Avett Brothers. Occasionally it’s a scene in a movie. Or a beautiful evening sky. Or dates on the calendar.
Sometimes I’ll come across something that probably only I would understand. Like a book he read where some of the sentences were underlined. He would use an index card and make the lines perfectly straight. I’ve even found a card a time or two, with the edge faintly marked with ink where he had used it.
He was by no means OCD, but he did have these little endearing habits. Like buying the same socks and underwear at JC Penney. Or washing his work shirts every Tuesday. As often as my schedule allowed I’d do it for him. And he always thanked me. Now, this was YEARS into our marriage, not when I had four kids running underfoot and would have loved him to wash some shirts for ME. But, we all tend to mellow and learn so much as we age. As we should. And he thanked me!
"But if Hugh dies first, would I ever be able to stop saying "we" and say "I"? I doubt it. I do not think that death can take away the fact the Hugh and I are "we" and "us", a new creature born at the time of our marriage vows, which has grown along with us as our marriage has grown." - Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle
I find myself struggling when I talk to people who don’t really know me yet. I think when I say “we” I confuse them. But, so many times it’s just not the right time to tell the whole story. And If I just say, “My husband passed away last year,” they are left in an uncomfortable position sometimes. They always say, “I’m so sorry,” but then there is this awkward silence.
And I really don’t like being introduced as the woman who just lost her husband. I’d rather tell people on my own terms, in my own time, in my own way.
So, yes, I’ll always be a part of “we” but I’m also “I”. Whoever that is.