Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Venerable Washington

The book I'm currently working on is "George Washington's First War" by David A. Clary.  This book is a challenge for me in a way that I wasn't expecting.  George Washington is one of the most influential men in our nation's history; many historians would say he is the most influential man in our nation's history.  And because of this, we tend to think he was near perfect.  I doubt anyone would say it out loud but this is what we think.  A man so wise and yet so humble, so knowledgeable on every important subject, a man who was able to lead a ragtag army to victory over the largest military on the planet at that time, a man who was almost unamimously elected our first president, a man who people know more by myth than reality it seems. 

This book delves into his adventures as a young man, before he became the George Washington that we know.  And this book tries to show him for who he really was: arrogant, ambitious, driven by a desire to make money and be somebody, with a tongue that would twist the truth to his advantage when it was apparent that the straight truth would hurt him or the cause he was working for (namely, the Ohio Company).  To be frank, I don't really like what I'm reading because I don't like my heroes falling to earth and living like the rest of us humans.  I would prefer that Washington was always the great man that we now know him to be.  But this book also offers hope.  George Washington had a rough start in life.  He had a mother who was manipulative, petty, and clingy; he lost his father and then his older brother (father-figure) at a young age; in his campaign against the encroachment of the French in the Ohio country, he made many military mistakes.  He critically misjudged and misunderstood the allegiance of the Indian tribes on several occassions.  He undertook the command of a campaign against the French that was clearly driven by the ambition of the men who owned the Ohio Company and who were afraid the French would cut off their land conquests and trade with the Indians.  Most of his decisions in early life were driven by personal ambition rather than any thought for the good of others.  And of course, one of the great marks against his character that is well-known is his status as a slave-holder. 

The reason all this should give us hope is because he's an example to us that people who make grave mistakes can go on to do great things.  Instead of wallowing in our mistakes and letting them define us, we can learn from them and go on to be a better person.  This isn't something we can do in our own power.  It's clear that George Washington's transformation was due to his faith in God, a faith that he relied on more and more throughout his life.  This is why he's one of my personal heroes.  Our heroes should always point us to Christ and it's clear that Washington would not have been able to do the things he did without God working through him.  There is always hope for us through the person and work of Jesus Christ. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Prayer Meeting

This summer our church is doing a Wednesday night prayer meeting in our new building.  Pastor Chad is doing an 8 week (I think) sermon series on prayer so the prayer meetings give us a chance to put into practice the things we're learning and also spend some time in our new building before we move into it, praying for the building and the people who will worship there.  Daniel and I went to the second prayer meeting last night and I have to say, it wasn't at all what I was expecting.  I've never been to a prayer meeting before and even when I had opportunity to go, I'd avoid it because it just sounded like it would be very uncomfortable.  I don't like to pray out loud (I think that's true of most people) but I figured I should get out of my comfort zone and attend.  And I'm glad I did.

There were about 25 adults and half a dozen or so kids that showed up.  We started out by singing a song together and then one of our deacons, Dave, gave us some instructions.  He told us to break into groups of four or five and spread out throughout the sanctuary and balcony.  He would tell us specifically what to pray about for a few minutes, then we would move around and find another group and pray about something else.  Dave had us pray the five parts of a prayer: adoration, thanksgiving, supplication, intercession, and confession.  He also included a few minutes for people to give some examples of things they were thankful for. 

It was amazing.  And the thing that surprised me the most was that I wasn't nervous about praying out loud because... it wasn't about me.  It was about the body of Christ gathering together to seek the face of God.  And I think that brings up an important point.  Our faith isn't only a personal faith; it's also a corporate faith.  Jesus knew that we would experience things when we gathered with other believers that we'd never be able to experience on our own and that's why He commanded us to gather with others.  We'd be able to see that we aren't alone.  We'd be able to use our gifts to help others.  We'd be held accountable and loved and showed grace.  And most of all, we'd get a glimpse of what it looks like in heaven.  Believers gathered together, worshiping the Lamb.  Last night I got a glimpse of it.  I get a glimpse of it every Sunday.  And that glimpse reminds me of why I'm here.  It's not about me. It's about Him.

"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." Revelation 7:9-10

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Puppy

Well, my sister got a puppy.  Belle, her previous dog, developed heart problems and had to be put down several months ago.  Since they've been in the house-selling and house-buying process since that time, they've held off on looking for another puppy until they were settled in their new house.  They found one that they liked and picked her (Zuzu) up on Monday.  Josiah was a little scared of Zuzu at first but soon warmed up to her and now loves visiting her.  We'll be taking care of her for a few days since my sister (hopefully!) has a few more days of work before she goes on maternity leave. 

It's always been my intention to get a dog when we moved to a place with more property.  I don't want one in our current house because our backyard is open to the road and we just don't have the room for a big dog (we'll probably get a golden retriever... they're good family dogs and I grew up with one).  But I do believe that kids should have pets.  Pets teach children responsibility and empathy and are good companions.  They're also therapeutic and help children to heal from emotional or psychological wounds (something we'll likely have to deal with if we continue to adopt or become foster parents). 

Anyway, here's a picture of my baby with Zuzu.  I know.  They're adorable. :)

 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

A few years ago, I started to try to figure out what giftings the Holy Spirit had given me.  As Matt Chandler (President of Acts 29 network and lead pastor of The Village Church in Texas) said in a sermon recently, there are gifts that people are born with and other gifts that people receive when they're saved.  Some things, like compassion, people have naturally.  It's a personality trait that they have and they don't need to be saved to be compassionate (now, we can argue whether they're really being altruistically compassionate or if they hope to gain something in the end, but that's a different rabbit trail).  Other things, like the gift of healing, people only get from the Holy Spirit after they've been saved.

When I first started thinking about the gifts I have, I realized that one of my dominant gifts is the gift of generosity.  I like to give people things (money or material items) and whenever our church has a need or a drive, I always want to help.  It's pretty easy for me to be open-handed with our money and resources because I truly believe that we don't own anything (God does) and He expects us to be generous with the things He's entrusted to us.

Another gift that I've only recently come to realize that I have is the gift of encouragement.  This one is kind of weird because being encouraging in conversation with people isn't usually natural for me (and it usually is for people who are natural encouragers).  When I'm thinking about someone, I can carry on a whole conversation in my head and say all sorts of encouraging things to them.  But it feels awkward to say those things out loud to them.  So I started doing something else that's really working for me.  I write.  I have a box of cards on my desk and I write out the things I want to say to someone.  Sometime it's a birthday card, sometimes it's a thank-you card, sometimes it's just an anonymous card of encouragement.  I really like doing the cards because it not only gives me the opportunity to say the things I want to to someone but just about everyone loves getting mail. 

The following is a pretty conclusive list of the gifts: exhortation, giving/generosity, mercy, prophecy, service, teaching, administration, leadership, discernment, faith, healing/miracles, knowledge, tongues, wisdom, evangelism, celibacy, hospitality, martyrdom, voluntary poverty.  I think we err if we think we only have to do those things that we're gifted for.  On the contrary, we should strive to become good at the things we aren't naturally gifted at doing while continuing to exercise those gifts that are easier for us to do.  There are some that may not apply to your life (for example, those who are married shouldn't be practicing the gift of celibacy) and some that shouldn't be practiced without supervision and input from church leadership (for example, trying to heal someone or cast out a demon - those types of things shouldn't be taken lightly). 

If you haven't thought about what you may be gifted at, I hope this blog post encourages you to think about it.  Knowing and using your gifts is important to the edification of the body of Christ and the advancement of His kingdom.  And if you are exercising your gifts but have excused yourself from the others because they aren't natural giftings, hopefully you'll rethink that conclusion.  We mature and grow when we step outside our comfort zones.         

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Slavery Handbook

I've almost finished "Bound For Canaan" and I have a few thoughts I'd like to share with you.  First, the more I learn, the more I realize how much more I have yet to learn.  Each book I read leads to at least two or three more books that I want to read.  And that's in addition to the half dozen books I have in my line-up!  I hope I never lose my desire for knowledge and I hope Josiah grows up with the same insatiable desire.  'Tis a sad thing when a person neither wants to learn nor cares about learning. 

Second, I have a hard time trying to wrap my mind around the fact that, a mere 150 years ago, there was slavery in this country.  Slavery in one form or another has always existed and will always exist.  It's one of the horrible evils that will always exist because of the evilness of men's hearts.  But what I don't get is that America was supposed to be different.  We were founded on the principles of all men being created equal.  Most of the people who first came to America were deeply religious and were escaping religious persecution in Europe.  There was a wide-spread knowledge of and submission to the Bible.  Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not one of those people who thinks that everyone was "good" back then, that there wasn't immorality or sin.  But Americans had just fought a revolution to declare themselves free of tyranny.  And yet, they were tyrants to an entire race of people.  So much principle and so little practice. 

It's interesting to see the ways proslavery people justified slavery.  One way was to dehumanize black people, to assert that they were an inferior race or condemned (as descendants of Ham) to perpetual slavery or even created at a different time than white people.  And isn't it interesting that the same thing is done today when it comes to babies in the womb.  "They aren't babies!" abortionists scream.  "They aren't humans!  They're blobs of tissue!"  Or how about this.  Slave owners purchased their slaves for a price and because they owned them, they could do with them what they pleased.  Sound familiar?  "It's my body!  I can do whatever I want with it!"  Seems like abortionists have taken a page from the slavery handbook.

And then there's this.  When abolitionsts started to gain ground in the north and more and more people started condemning slavery, laws were passed to try to punish and silence abolitionists.  In fact, during a trial for a white man who had been caught trying to help some slaves escape, the judge told the man's defense attorney that he couldn't say anything negative about slavery during the trial.  The attorney was not allowed to say that the reason the man was trying to help slaves escape was because slavery was a horrible evil and all people had a right to be free.  Abolitionists were driven out of towns, banned from southern states, frequently in danger, and sometimes killed, all because they wanted to speak about the horrors of slavery.  And again, the same thing happens today.  Anyone who speaks out against abortion or homosexuality is punished in an attempt to silence them. 

If the only way you can win an argument is by silencing your opponent, you've just lost.  If your argument is reasonable, it will stand up to criticism.  It's only when the arguments are ridiculous and contemptable that the critics have to be silenced. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Busyness

It's been a busy week.  My sister and her husband signed the papers to sell their house and buy their new house on Thursday so I spent most of Thursday and part of Friday helping them load and unload the moving truck and unpack boxes.  I personally love that sort of thing.  I enjoyed moving from our apartment to our current house 4 years ago.  I like going through stuff and packing boxes and I especially like unpacking boxes and deciding where things are going to go.  My sister and her husband haven't been quite so thrilled about the process but that's understandable since my sister is 37 weeks pregnant and her husband tends to just see all the things that still need to be done or things that need to be fixed at their new house (I think he would even agree that he's a bit of a pessimist).  I was at their house for awhile yesterday afternoon, unpacking baby clothes and sorting out sizes.  There's still lots to be done so I'm sure I'll be over there tomorrow (they both work today). 

On top of all that, Daniel's aunt and two cousins were in town last week (from Michigan) so there were several family events that we participated in.  It's always fun to get together with family, especially since we aren't going to the family reunion this year. 

Josiah has had a pretty miserable week and a half.  He has one tooth that's really causing him some pain and probably several more that are getting close to coming through.  I know it's bad when he gets a runny nose and is unusually cranky. 
He's added a couple more words to his vocabulary.  According to Daniel, he said "water" a few days ago and he's said "uck" (truck) a couple times when trucks have gone by on the road.  It continues to amaze me how much he understands when I talk to him but that doesn't always work in his favor because there are times when I'll tell him to do something or stop doing something and he ignores me, even though I know he knows what I'm saying to him.  And people think children are born without a sin nature... hah!  Another thing he started doing recently is folding his hands and jabbering when we pray before meals.  It's especially cute if I put him in his high chair and turn away to get something and he sits with hands folded, patiently waiting for me to come back so he can pray.  It's kind of scary that he's so young but already so good at mimicking what we do.  When the Bible tells parents to train up their children, it means from the time our children are born.  They understand far more than we give them credit for.