Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Sweet Ride

"Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. 
Let my soul come not into their council; 
O my glory, be not joined to their company. 
For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness, they hamstrung oxen. 
Cursed be their anger, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel." 
Genesis 49:5-7

In response to the rape of their young sister, Dinah, Simeon and Levi plot and exact revenge on the men of Shechem. There is a part of me, to be quite honest, that cheers their fierceness in defending their sister. But Jacob was dismayed at their violence.  It would have been one thing to demand justice from the perpetrator. It was another thing to exceed the eye-for-eye bounds of justice in pouring out their fury on an entire city. Jacob, from his deathbed, has not forgotten their behavior. And he offers his blessing. But his blessing sounds more like a curse.

But Simeon and Levi are sheep of God's flock. And He is the Good Shepherd. Turns out theirs is a story of hope amid the consequences.

Consider Simeon. He is destined to be scattered because of his violent anger. Yet we find Simeon nestled right inside the territory of Judah. Simeon's storyline will find him alternately defending the tribe of the Messiah and being protected deep within its bounds.

Our stories find us there, too. Our lives are laid before before Him with Whom we have to do. He will bring judgment; He will remove middle ground. We are, in essence, cornered by God. But we are carried by God, too. When we stray out of bounds, the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to come get us. He lifts us to His shoulders and brings us back. And sometimes, sometimes, He buries us deep within the Messiah's boundary.

Can't get out...
Can't breathe...
Claustrophobic...
Terrified...
But when I calm down enough to think,..
Surrounded by strong arms.
Not pinning me down...
Wrapping themselves around me...
Inspecting.
Correcting.
Healing.
Restoring.

Maybe being hemmed in by this Messiah isn't such a bad deal...

Consider Levi. Scattered indeed. Of all the tribes, Levi is the only one who doesn't get any territory. Their inheritance is the Lord.
Yeah, yeah, God's my passion.
Not really. Though they did have an occasional good day, like the time they rallied to Moses against the golden calf, Levi's commitment is, shall we say, rather spotty.
Levi, who made such a show of strength in Genesis 34, will be beholden to the rest of the tribes for sustenance and shelter.
Levi will be the ransom for the firstborn.

Levi, who intentionally spilled the blood of Shechem, will administer the cities of refuge.
Cities of refuge, which offer shelter to the unintentional spiller of blood, but turn over the cold-blooded killer for justice...
Daily reminders of what should have been for Levi,
Of the mercy of God...
Of not getting what was so justly deserved...
Oh, and Shechem, the very site of Levi's vicious carnage?
That would be one of the refuges.

More importantly, Levi will deal in bloodshed in a whole new way.
Every day.
Rams, bulls, goats, sheep, pigeons, turtledoves...
Blood running down the altar, down their garments...
Everywhere the sights, sounds, smell of death...
I will show you what you must suffer for My name...
And every day they would be the ones to make intercession for the people.
How ironic.

God did not give Levi the boot after Shechem. But he did have a plan for them.
He carried that sheep back into the flock.
And up there, on His shoulders, from that perspective, Levi saw the cost of sin.
Levi did the work of atonement...
Levi did the work of inspection...
It was Levi who went into the Holy of Holies...
To face a holy, holy, holy God once a year.

Life up on His shoulders. Sometimes we do time up there.
Some of us more than others.
So next time you blow it, and He hoists you up, yeah, you might lose some independence.
Yeah, you might be getting a ride that the other sheep all see.
But He's not casting you out.
He's holding you close.

And maybe you'll get a glimpse, just a small glimpse, of life from God's perspective.
That's a sweet ride.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, 
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 
He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever. 
He does not deal with us according to our sins, 
nor repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:8-10

(Many thanks to my elders, Brett and Craig, for helping me connect some of these dots.)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Let's Walk Together

It started as the Summer of Theology. A couple guys, united by their disillusionment with church and wanting to do something a little better, decided to meet and see if they could be like-minded enough to proceed with a new church.

What they did not want was some kind of 'wherever believers are gathered, there is a church'  twaddle. True, the Church is the people. But church is not you and your friends sharing dinner and a nice bottle of Merlot and talking about kingdom things. No. It's not. Church is only functioning as the Bible tells us it should function where there is preaching of the Word, the sacraments of baptism and communion, corporate worship, and discipline. The dinner and the Merlot can happen as a part of that. But simply calling our gathering church does not make it so.

We also didn't want to segregate ourselves into age sectors.
That's the stuff of government education, not the fellowship of the saints. There's one very, very large church in our town with multiple spin-offs where the ushers literally meet you at the door and tell you where to take your kids.

As in, no, your children are not welcome to worship with you in the Big Sanctuary.
Just like Heaven.
Oh wait.

So much for suffer the little children...

Back to that summer...No one really had time to do this thing. After all, each of these men was employed somewhere else. No one was looking to take on more responsibility.
But...no one wanted to shirk their responsibility to their families, either.

That was ten years ago. My husband was one of those men.
And, oh boy, has my appreciation of church grown over this past decade.

Careful preaching.
The preaching is expository. Starting with scripture and finding God's truth, rather than starting with a topic and attempting to prove it with scripture, has been a meaty experience for me. Jesus and His gospel are everywhere! I am thankful for expository preaching.

Careful positions.
Just because the Bible condemns lust does not mean Christians should not keep women in our homes. But churches take 'official church positions' like this all the time. The problem is that we often turn the crank farther than God does. We put burdens on people because our own consciences are weak--I caught myself doing this very thing last spring--and we call it the High Road. Before you know it, anyone who holds any position in the church has to sign something, vow something, abstain from something, yadda yadda yadda.  It's good to put some distance between us and the Pharisees, nu? I'm thankful for a church that is careful to distinguish probable implications of scripture from merely possible implications.

Careful worship.
What we sing to God should be as theologically robust as what we hear from the pulpit. I am thankful for elders and a worship team who carefully select our songs. (We've tossed songs by famous people because the theology was not sound.) And they regularly review our sets to make sure that the words we sing to God in the congregation of God's people are Truth. I am thankful for worshipping in Truth.

Careful relationships.
We have covenanted together. We are family. We feast. We fellowship. We do retreats. And before communion is offered, we have time to get things straight with each other because we sin against each other, too. Brett tells me that it is powerful to stand up front on Communion Sundays and watch people quietly working things out with each other before we come to the Lord's Table. I am thankful for a church that encourages relating rightly to one another.

Romans 14.
We are a varied bunch. We have different backgrounds, different testamonies, different convictions. Calvinist. Arminian. Undecided. Covenantal. Dispensational. Paedobaptist. Credopbaptist. Undecided. Television. Alcohol. Halloween. Christmas. Undecided. Firm convictions; no convictions. Weak consciences; strong consciences. We are a local Body learning what hard work it is to not trample each other's consciences and likewise to not trample each other's freedom. I'm thankful for a church willing to be gracious.

In essentails, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity. (Rupertus Meldenius)
To which Henri Blocher adds:
In matters secondary or subtle, a gracious attention combined with exactness.

I'd say that describes us pretty well.

We celebrated our first ten years with a feast last Friday. One of my sweet friends told me, "Wow. Ten years ago, I wasn't even saved." This is the same woman who just finished reading Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology!

This is the local Body God has been quietly building since that Summer of Theology ten years ago.
They are robust. They are hungry. They are godly.
And this is the Body I am so privileged to be a part of.
They are longsuffering with my flaws.
They laugh with me on my good days and cry with me on my bad days.
They pray for me, confide in me, model goodness for me.

That's my church.
Let's walk together.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Coach Bags, Ayn Rand, and Classical Liberalism

Two days ago, the eleven year old made herself a pot of soup. While she set it on the table to go get a drink, the five year old slunk up and helped himself to a spoonful. She was incensed. And I don't blame her. So the five year old and I sat in the Situation Room and chatted about personal property.

"You cannot--can.not--take your sister's soup without permission. She made it. It's hers. If you would like some, you may ask, but she just might say no. And that will have to be okay with you."

Personal property. The American public had better get a clue. And every American household had better start having conversations just like this.

A few of my kids have worked in grocery stores during their high school and college years. The number of people on food stamps who come through their lines is astounding. And my kids are offended. You know why? Because these women are carrying Coach bags and paying for groceries with my children's money. (If you want your kids to learn about socialism, just explain their pay stub to them.) One of my sons, who no longer works there, said, "Yeah, a Coach bag is the new hashtag for welfare." Nice. What kind of upside-down world do we live in when a woman thinks nothing of dropping $400 on a purse but steals from her neighbor to feed her family???

My daughter worked for her soup. She thought of the idea (intellectual capital); she did the work (physical capital); she expected to reap the rewards of her investment. Then my five year old came in, without so much as a by-your-leave, and claimed it for himself.

Nuh-uh. Not in my house, you don't.

My husband and I have just finished watching the Atlas Shrugged trilogy. Author Ayn Rand does a good job at addressing part of the problem. (Granted, hers in an atheist world, devoid of God and covenants. She doesn't even acknowledge the realms of family- and church-governments.)  But she does have some wonderfully logical things to say about self- and civil governments. It's not so much that she's brilliant as much as she's one of the few who taken the time to think statism and socialism through to its logical end. It reminds me of Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson--which should be required reading for anyone who ever hopes to hold public office.

And what is that lesson?
Before a government passes any economic legislation, that government must consider how it will affect ALL groups, not just the special group it's trying to 'help.'
Why is that so hard to understand?

Atlas Shrugged has become the rallying cry of libertarians everywhere. And I can see why. Gifted people pour themselves into a business or a venture or an invention. They expect their intellectual, financial, or sweat equity to be a reward for themselves and their families. Then they are excoriated by the public for not sharing. Then the thugs in Washington help themselves to the profits. Do that enough times and the intellectual, financial, and physical capital will quit.
Not, as so many silly, stupid progressives claim, because they are heartless.
But because they are hopeless.

Who is John Galt? You might want to take some time and find out.

The fact is: our civil government has overstepped its jurisdiction. On that point, Rand got it right.
No government should compel charity.
The fact that there are poor citizens does not in any way, not in any way, mean that it falls to the civil government's jurisdiction to feed, clothe, or educate them. Not.at.all.
No government should steal.
The fact that some are successful and some are not is not in any way the concern of the civil government. If the government would like to see more private success, then it needs to get out of the regulation business and let people experiment, create, and invest.

Free-market capitalism is not about compassion; it is about compensation.

Back to Rand. I think she offers part of the answer. When we talk about individuals in terms of civil government, unless he is hurting another citizen, the individual should be left alone. But there is more to the equation than just individuals and civil government.

I admit that I wanted to like Atlas Shrugged Part III more than I actually did,
Because a world without God and without covenants leaves me cold.
And here's where I want to distance myself from the libertarian label.
Libertarians, as a group, tend toward anarchy. For many libertarians, the only legitimate form of government is self-government.

But government was God's idea. It does do some good. It does have a job. Romans 13 tells us that the job of government is to bear the sword against evil-doers. So the government's job is to protect citizens from each other (enemies within) and our borders from enemy nations (enemies without).

Unlike most libertarians, I am not an anarchist. But I am a minarchist. I am for limited civil government...
...which brings me to classical liberalism.

Our Founding Fathers were classically liberal. They architected, debated, and passed a Constitution with the understanding that "a combination of political decentralization, economic liberty, free trade, and self-government creates, day by day, the most prosperous, diverse, peaceful, and just society the world has ever known." (Lew Rockwell, An American Classical Liberal) They didn't believe in the absence of civil government. But they did believe in the limiting of its power.

Apparently, I think, so did the Apostle Paul.
Romans 13.
Ahem.

Classical liberalism in not anarchist. But it does leave the individual alone.
Listen to me. Do you know what that means?
It means that a legitimate government protects life, liberty, and property.
It means that civil government is not an arm of church government.
It does not come into your bedroom. Fail there at your own peril.
It does not come into your garden. Plant, eat, drink, smoke, chew, and sniff at your own peril.
It does not tell you how you can barter--or what with.
It does not tell you how to raise your children.
It does not tell you where you cannot have your bank account.
It does not tell you where or how you may travel.
It does not tell you what you may do on your personal property.
It does not spy on you in the name of 'national security.'
It does not build a wall to keep people out...because the same wall keeps people in.

You sow; you reap.
At your own peril.
And the civil government washes its hand of your failures and your successes.

It does not give special privileges to the disabled, the veteran, the poor, the unemployed, the disenfranchised...whatever that means.

"In the 18th and 19th centuries, the term liberalism generally meant a philosophy of public life that affirmed the following principle: societies and their component parts need no central management and control because societies generally manage themselves through the voluntary action of its members to their mutual benefit. Today we cannot call this philosophy liberalism because the term has been appropriated by the democratic totalitarians. In an attempt to recover this philosophy for our own time, we give it a new name, classical liberalism." (Rockwell)

I submit to you that America's two  main parties have lost their way. Democrats? Well, obviously. But Republicans, too. Because Republicans don't trust the Individual any more than the Democrats do.

You do know that the Defense of Marriage Act is not going to save marriage, right? You do know that to save marriage, we need to stay married. We need to have a biblical view of marriage. We need to be complementarian. We need God to be the third strand.
You do know that, right?

You do know that the civil government has no business even discussing covenantal relationships, right?

You do know that banning marijuana will not keep people off of marijuana, right? But it will give the government a 'right' to come onto your personal property and inspect your house, your garden, your pantry, your car.
You do know that, right?

You do know that writing new laws, even in an attempt to overcome old ones, merely expands the domain of the federal government, right? that the fact that Dems blocked the passage of over three hundred Republican laws simply points to the fact that the Republicans are as eager to expand the civil government as the Dems are?
You do know that, right?

I wash my hands of both parties.
But if you know a true Classical Liberal who is running for office,
you'll let me know, right?

Right?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Enthusiasm and Grace

We've logged another home school year for the books, and now it's time to begin our eighteenth year--if I don't count the five years before my first son began kindergarten. This past year, our eleventh baby was born, our firstborn graduated from college, and my fourth child graduated from high school.

This summer's focus was on marrying off our third child. But I at least toted one book around, keeping it alternately in my pool bag, on my nightstand, or in the car: A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. Despite the break-neck pace of the last twelve months, I was able to get a vision for this year. And I'm excited.

Classical, as an educational approach, exudes all the warmth of a hospital corridor. But the draw, of course, is that it's thorough. And no homeschooling mama wants gaps. Unit studies. Oh, I miss unit studies. I want to cry when I think of all the good stuff we learned with Konos and how my younger kids are missing out. But unit studies don't really cover high school level academics. Unschooling, well, unschooling is just weird. No, I'm not going to teach my kid math by building a deck. I'm just not. Not when there are these convenient little things called workbooks.

Every year, I resolve to get back to cozy. We sit around the couch sipping tea or hot chocolate. The baby plays on the floor. The children are working at some kind of handicraft. And I am reading a classic out loud while dinner simmers in the crock pot.

Then I wake up.

The baby has something in his mouth. He always has something in his mouth. So the five year old is squawking. The two girls are arguing over who got the crochet hook first. (Really? Do we not have enough crochet hooks to go around?) The nine year old is mad because he thinks he's too old for read-aloud. And I'm sorely tempted to call it a day and call Bob Jones.

Every year, I am my own worst enemy. And my inner, pitch-forked Type A overtakes my inner angelic Charlotte Mason. Narration? We don't have time today, kids. Move along. A living book? I don't have time. Here. Do this multiple choice.

Bottom line: Charlotte Mason is not efficient.
But then education is not efficient, either.
I've just got to stop barreling through my school year like it's a to-do list.

Back to Charlotte Mason. This has always been a resource book for me, but this summer was the first time I actually read it cover to cover. It challenged me and moved me. And I determined to stick with it this year.

I put away all of my formal history curricula this year. We're learning about the ancients by reading about pharaohs or hearing an archeologist's own story. And we do a lot of talking. The high schoolers are writing their own study questions, which they answer for our weekly discussion. We're writing fables this semester, but we've doubled down on narration and dictation. We do have some textbooks on hand for math and science. But even science includes narration and discussion. In Bible, we're going covenant, not just being granular by talking about each incident, but taking a step back and looking at God's covenant with His people.

I think if we're not teaching our children that God is the Bible's main character, history's Hero, we might be doing it all wrong.

As I write this, Brett is at a conference where the keynote reminded the audience, "The purpose of education is worship."
Yes!
I want the kids to worship when they see God's hand in history, His wisdom in science and math, His covenant in the Bible. I want them to worship when they tell it all back to me.
Perhaps cozy is not really what I'm after; worship is.

Maybe that explains why this concept just jumped off the page at me: I want the kids to be enthusiastic. Andreola writes that enthusiasm is from the Latin entheos: to be full of God. (That explains why I can't make them enthusiastic; to be full of God is a work for God to do Himself.)  Enthusiasts are "heroes and heroines, the poets, the prophets, the warriors, the high-tempered spirits, the giants of human nature who, through force of mind, courage, and perseverance, have won the day for nations and also for individuals, when all other hearts but their own were faint, and who against all hope, believed in hope when others desponded. The enthusiast manifests a glowing splendor and gladness that leads him on to victory." (Andreola, 281)

Enthusiasts are the ones who will stand alone if they have to. And they do it with gladness. I want to be an enthusiast; I want to raise enthusiasts.

And, finally, this has been a year in which our family is learning all about grace. I still have a long, long way to go. I am still lapping this mountain. And I don't know if I'll ever have this licked.

"We mustn't think that because these old Greeks were heathen, therefore God did not care for them and taught them nothing. The Bible tells us that this was not so, that God's mercy was over all His works, and that He understands the hearts of all people, and fashions all their works." (Andreola, 210)

I want a theme of common grace to thread its way through our school year. So, while Egyptian history is full of pagan idolatry--and I make that clear to the kids--I want to shift the emphasis ever so slightly. This time around, I want the kids to know that God made every Egyptian in His image, that He gifted them and knew them and worked through them. I want them to see God's grace at work even in the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. These men gifted the world with architecture, engineering, mathematics, government, and art. We are, in part, a modern civilization that stands on the shoulders of the ancients and the dominion they took.

I want to work harder at finding the true, the good, and the beautiful even in the ancient literature that we read because we ought to--but spend more time criticizing than acclaiming. Will we be able to find it? I don't know; stay tuned.

God rained on the ancient pagan and His people alike. Never in my eighteen years of home schooling have I taught that to my children. But I will this year. I want the children to see God's gift of common grace to all people.

And then we will worship.

That's my theme this year.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The MOG Files

My son just got married. It's our first wedding and my first performance as Mother of the Groom.
MOG.
This is my story.

On wardrobe:
So, like any female, the first thing I think of when I think wedding is 'clothes.'
MOG dress.
Shopping for the MOG dress is a nightmare.
Try googling it, and you see that exactly two options await you.
In one corner are the models who weigh approximately three pounds wearing dresses with hemlines just below their armpits. Checking search parameters...did I type 'ill-repute' by accident?
Where are the fertile, birthing hips? Where is the droopy bustline? What about this woman says she ever gave birth? or wears an overtheshoulderboulderholder?I just think if you're going to model Mother of the Groom dresses, you should at least be...a mother.
In the other corner are the moo-moos. To qualify, you must weigh at least four thousand pounds.

But I'm not Twiggy, and I'm not Moo-moo. I'm the MOG with a son at the altar and a son on my hip. Accesorize means 'burp cloth'. I need a cute clutch to carry a lipstick binky and an extra diaper.

And then there's the hair. I've been making peace with my hair for decades now. My angst over my 'curly' hair elicits little compassion from my straight-haired friends.
"Wish I had curly hair. Let it work for you."

No.
Just all kinds of no.

Do you say to someone with a curved spine, Just let your scoliosis work for you?
And the grey hair.
Like having pipe cleaners permanently sewn to your scalp.

My daughters gave me endless grief over shoes.
I wanted something comfortable, something I could dance in. But they just shook their heads and sighed. What about me says I can walk down an aisle balancing on a three inch head of a pin?
In the end, I found everything on clearance. And I felt like a dignified forty-something. Which was all I wanted, anyway.

On crowds:
I've never been a the more, the merrier kind of person.
The more, the harrier is my maxim.
The thought of spending days on end with LOTS of people I don't know, well, I was just a wee bit agitated.

I'd rather kick a rock down the road.

But God was SO good to us. We made new friends of our new family even in the midst of weddings, to-do lists, cars and kids zipping in and out of the driveway, curling irons and tuxedos everywhere, sleepless nights with baby, relatives flying in...
Lots of crowds? Yes. But lots of laughter, memories, and hugs, too.
And helium. Lots of helium.

On Plastic Bubbles:
Rehearsal day finally arrived. As MOG, this is my day.
The day I have to decorate something.
And feed lots of people. Lots of food.
Neither of which I particularly excel at.
This is the day my 14 yr old and I drove all over town looking for disposable tablecloths that didn't come in play doh colors--the same day my bank blocked my card because I was in another state.
This is the day that I climbed through mounds of black-eyed susans with scissors to make centerpieces.
Me. Centerpieces. Bwahahaha.

This was also the day that the wedding was becoming a reality.  As the kids stood at the altar, and all the family was gathered to hear their parts, the pastor said, "We're going to pretend there is a plastic bubble around these kids. That's to protect them from you. (smile) Today, theirs is the only opinion that matters."

What fantastic insight. This is a new season for them. And a plastic bubble is not a bad idea from here on out. They are going to make friends, find a church, raise a family, pursue a calling. And what they do not need is our unwanted input.

I'm a big fan of voluntary accountability.
But unsolicited advice always feels like interference.
Plastic bubbles remind me that requests for advice should come from within, not without;
That our job will be to pray for them and cheer them on;
But it's their job to learn on their own, to seek our advice when they want it, not when we think they need it. It's their job now to walk the walk and live the life.
Discovery learning, we call it in our home school. The kind when experience and mistakes are the most powerful teachers.
Plastic bubble.
An idea whose time has come.

On legacy:
Wedding day!
Pomp and tears and siblings letting go. Kisses and covenants and witnesses approving with their presence.
The legacy is passing to a new generation.

At the reception, after traditional toasts, each set of grandparents said something to the kids. Dani's grandfather quoted Jimmy Stewart's Shenandoah speech and urged Luke and Dani to spend time cultivating their relationship. Brett's dad reminded them that long-lasting marriages are hard work. My mom quoted Psalm 61. "You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name."

Inheritance, indeed.
This new couple has three sets of grandparents who have been married a total of 153 years and two sets of parents who have been married a total of 51 years.
204 years of marriage covenant.
And we've got their back.

What are you, some kind of love expert?
Why, yes, we are.

The wedding clothes are put away now.
There's a new household, a new apartment, a new daughter-in-law.
This week I turn my attention to my other children.
My brief evening stint as MOG is over. And now I'm just MOM.

But as I reflect on this next generation of covenant, of the heritage behind me and God's faithfulness in front of me, I'm a very blessed, very happy woman.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Praying Friday

(Part 5 of 5)

And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. (Exodus 23:15, Deuteronomy 16:16)

It's tempting when we've got a lot of important things to pray for to get right to business, so to speak, roll up our sleeves and start working through our lists.
But...
Our Father who is in Heaven
We must never forget what an awesome privilege it is to appear before the Throne of Grace. And that's why I start every prayer time with worship. Sometimes I sing a hymn; sometimes I just praise God for some attribute of His. But I really, really try not to appear before Him empty-handed. He is the giver of all good things, including the privilege to even have this relationship with Him. He is our Father who is in Heaven. Do we even get how amazing that fact is?

Marriage. Like it or not, the relationship with have with our children's other parent will be a lasting legacy to our descendants. Let me say that again. The way I behave towards the father of my children will become part of their permanent history. That sobers me. Anyone who has been married knows that good marriages are hard work. They are also God's goodness to us. So good marriages are worth praying for. From the time our babies are born, I am praying for their life's partner because it's that important. So Friday, much of my time is devoted to praying for marriage.

For the kids.
For Brett and me, too.

First, I'm praying for godly partners from godly homes for my children. It's my hope that their spouses will come from homes that have modeled good marriage. On the other hand, that's not to say that there aren't good mates from difficult backgrounds. It's just a different kind of work creating a first-generation good marriage. But nothing is impossible for God.

I pray a few specific things regarding marriage.
May my sons, and the men my daughters marry, be men who love their wives and lay down their lives for them. May they live with their wives in an understanding way.
May they be the four P's: Priest, Prophet, Protector, Provider.
May they be the priest of their homes, praying over them, seeking God on their behalf.
May they be the prophet of their homes, talking to them on God's behalf, teaching them God's Word.
May they be the protector of their homes, gatekeeping, vigilantly watching over what/who comes into the home.
May they be the provider of their homes, doing whatever it takes to put food on the table, humble enough to work at anything, chivalrous enough to not place that burden on their wives.

May my daughters, and the women my sons marry, be women who joyfully submit to their husbands' leadership.
May they complete their husbands, meeting their needs and making their homes a refuge.
May they embrace motherhood and the raising of godly children.
May they be partners to their husbands in whatever adventures God brings them.
May they make their husband's task easier and not more difficult.

I pray the same things over Brett and myself. I also pray that we will nurture our relationship, even during seasons of intense parenting or business issues or other stresses. I pray that we will be prudent in other relationships and run, not walk, away from things that would threaten our marriage.

And it may seem like marriage for the little ones is a long way off. But we are now entering that season; and it was only a blink ago when we were counting their little toes. Pray for their mates. Pray now.

Praying Friday:
Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Who will we see today? Where will we go? May we represent You well.

Your kingdom come.
..to the lost. Here's what I know about salvation. We are dead in our sins. Dead. Like a corpse. Unable to respond to any stimulus. Therefore, for us to feel any horror over our own sin and our standing with God, we must be alive. So the order of salvation must start with regeneration, coming alive, before justification. We must revive, see that we are buried under our sin, (picture the horror of coming alive and realizing you are buried in a coffin) and feel the full horror of that before we can grasp our need for God. Then, and only then, can we cry to God, "Lord, save me!" When I pray for the lost people we know, I pray that God will make them alive so that they can see their sin, see a Holy, offended God, feel the horror of that, and cry to Him for salvation. That's how I pray for the lost. And that's what it means when Jesus says, "No one comes to the Father, except those to whom He reveals Himself." Only God can raise a dead man to life; only God can begin and end the journey of salvation. If He doesn't initiate it, it doesn't happen.

Your will be done.
Our marriage.
The kids' future mates and marriages (see above).

Give us this day our daily bread.
Specific needs that arise.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Examine myself, confess, repent. Forgive others.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Protect us and defend us from Satan and his schemes.

And this ends my series on prayer. This is certainly not the only way to pray. This is just the way I pray. The bottom line, for me, when I pray is best summed up in John Piper's famous quote, "Don't waster your life."

That's what I hope is the end of all this praying.
Don't waste your life.
Don't waste your tribulation.
Don't waste your persecution.
Don't waste your role as child.
Don't waste your role as parent.
Don't waste your health.
Don't waste your pain.
Don't waster your poverty.
Don't waste your plenty.
Don't waste your marriage.
Don't waste your life.

Hast thou not seen how thy desires e'er have been granted in what He ordaineth?

Whatever comes our way, whether God answers prayers my way or chooses a better way, may we learn to glorify God in everything He brings our way.

For Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory.
Amen.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Praying Thursday

(Part 4 of 5)

One of the best sermons I ever heard was by a pastor of a church we attended as young marrieds. Geoff preached a sermon entitled "Not Moving the Ancient Boundary Stone Your Forefathers Have Set." I've never forgotten that sermon, even though it's been well over twenty years. And it has informed what I pray over my family every Thursday.

It's actually a story of prudence...
Of finding the cliff of sin...
And drawing the line a mile back.

When God tells us to not do something, He is pointing to the line of sin and saying, If you cross this line, that is sin. And since the wages of sin is death, we would do well to see that that line is right at the cliff's edge. Cross it to your peril. The fool will go right up to the line and frequently over it; the wise man will play it safe and stay a mile back. A mile back. That's what prudence is.

We can choose prudence in a plethora of life's circumstances. But I've chosen four overarching areas, or ancient boundary stones that God has set, to focus on as I pray for prudence in my family:
1. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father, except by Me. This is the line we do not get to cross. We do not get to God by any way or any name other than Jesus. My prayer is that my family will be prudent about this, that we wouldn't toy with false gods or false gospels. May my family draw the line a mile back from these deceptions.
2. Bad company corrupts good morals.  This is when I pray for good friends for each of the kids, friends who will walk alongside them in this life, who will spur them on to love and good deeds, who would bring refreshing fellowship. Friends are an incredibly potent influence in our lives. The other side of that is that time  with unbelievers should be viewed as times to shine our light, to be the fragrance of life, not times to have fellowship. For what fellowship has light with darkness? My prayer is that each of us will know where to draw the line out there; when we are being effective at shining our light and when we are being pulled and tempted; and that we would be discerning enough to know the difference.
3. Keep the marriage bed holy. Sex is a gift of God to be handled with the utmost care. And it is polluted in all kinds of ways: ungodly relationships; books; tv and movies; music; imprudent 'friends.' God set this boundary stone at the place of the marriage covenant between one man and one woman. Key words here: 'marriage','one', 'man-and-woman.' Anything else is walking right off the cliff of sin. So I pray that my family would draw the line a mile back; that we would run from people who tempt us, that we would protect our eyes from books, tv, and movies that tempt us, that we would protect our ears from music that tempts us. Draw the line a mile back. Run, don't walk, from sexual temptation in all of its forms.
4. Remove the High Places. The high places were where the pagan peoples of ancient times worshiped their false gods. They were places of idolatry. And it was a never-ending battle among the people of God to remove those high places. That battle continues today. So I pray over the high places in my family. Idolatry can look like many things. It can be money, possessions, or fashion. It can be exercise, food, and health. It can be self-image. It can be drugs or other addictive behaviors. It can be education and intellectualism. It can be hobbies. It's pretty much anything that vies for God's place in our lives. And it's different for each one of us. So I pray for discernment for each of us, that we would each know where our battle and our temptation lies; that we would be vigilant; that we would run and draw the line a mile back from the things that lure us into idolatry.

Prudence. It takes longer to pray on Thursdays. But it's really important.

Praying Thursday:
Our Father who is in Heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Who are we with, where are we going today? May we represent You well today.

Your kingdom come...
...to our local church. I must sheepishly admit that praying for my pastors was never on my list until my husband became one. On Thursdays, I pray for the elders, because living life on this side of eldering is a whole different ballgame. I pray a number of things for the two elders. First, relationally, that they would protect their own walk with the Lord, their marriages, their jobs as fathers; I pray that they would have a good relationship with each other, iron sharpening iron, humble and confrontable, keeping short accounts with each other, no vain imaginations. Second, I pray for them as preachers, that they would preach the Truth, fearing God more than man, and protecting the integrity of the Scripture. Third, I pray for them as pastors, that they would know the condition of the flock, that they would shepherd lovingly and wisely.

Your will be done.
I pray for prudence in my family. See above.

Give us this day our daily bread.
On Thursdays, I pray for provision for our adult kids. They have worked hard to get through school. And now one is getting married. I pray for the provision the single ones' need for cars, bills, etc, for careers. I pray for provision for the new household that is forming.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Examine myself, confess, repent. Forgive others.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Render the devil powerless in our lives today.
For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory.

Next, praying Friday...