Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day


Painting~ Howard Pyle

My favorite sonnet about love is from Amoretti, sonnet 79 by Edmund Spenser.
"Men call you fair, and you do credit it,
For that yourself ye daily do see.
But the true fair, that is the gentle wit
And virtuous mind, is much more prais'd of me.
For all the rest, however fair it be,
Shall turn to nought and lose that glorious hue.
But only that is permanent and free
From frail corruption, that doth flesh ensue.
That is true beauty. that doth argue you
To be divine and born of heavenly seed,
Deriv'd from that fair Spirit from whom all true
And perfect beauty did at first proceed.
He only fair, and what He fair hath made;
All other fair like flowers untimely fade. "  

And just for fun...  Sir Philip Sidney~Astrophil and Stella, sonnet 7

When Nature made her chief work, Stella's eyes,
In color black, why wrapt she beams so bright,
Would she in beamy*black, like painter wise,
Frame daintiest lustre, mixt of shades and light?
Or did she else that sober hue devise,
In object*best to knit and strengthen our sight,
Lest if no veil these brave gleams did disguise,
They sun-like should more dazzle then delight?
Or would she her miraculous power show,
That whereas black seems Beauty's contrary,
She even in black doth make all beauties flow?
Both so and thus, she minding Love should be
Placed ever there, gave him this mourning weed,
To honour all their deaths, who for her bleed. 

* beamy~ radiant, in object~in order

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fairy Tales

Mom has been reading Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton and she has been sharing the good bits with me.  One of the things that Chesterton seems to emphasize is the power of fairy tales. They aren't just stories of love and chivalry.  Instead, this is the first battlefield for children.  They get to fight the bad guy, save the girl, and live happily ever after.  In these stories, children learn lessons of humility, kindness, the true meaning of love, and fighting for the side of right.  There are also amazing spiritual sides to the stories. 
C.S. Lewis, in "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader", says that Eustace is a boy who knows a lot about facts and figures, and trains and drains; but he is rather weak on dragons and the like.  This creates problems for Eustace later on in the story.  If he had been exposed to and taught to love fairy tales, his character would have been very different and a painful lesson would not have been necessary.  Because Eustace had been taught  to believe only in things he could see and touch, he utterly rejects the idea of a "make-believe" land with dragons, talking animals, and wizards.  But it also means that he discounts the spiritual world as well.

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."   Ephesians 6:12

The spiritual world is not something that we can see or touch, but it is extremely powerful.  Have you ever stopped to think that the Witch of Endor can actually call the spirit of Samuel up?  She can actually do that!!  In the Book of Deuteronomy, God lays the law out for His people. He tells them that He doesn't want them to go to witches and the like to ask for advice from the dead.  Instead, He will give them a prophet that will conduct the words of the Living God-in other words, the prophet is speaking the words of a Spirit, albeit a living one. This means that the prophet would be represented by a good witch in the story.  (This would also justify the reading and enjoyment of such popular literature as The Wizard of Oz, Tolkein, and the ever controversial Harry Potter, as well as any other story where white magic is used to defeat evil.) God, who has ultimate power, doesn't deny the minor, though not to be underestimated,  power that these sorcerers have.  He simply says, don't go that way. Not only don't go there, but drive all of them out of your land!

Want some examples of fairy tales with deeper meanings?

 Cinderella (not the Disney version) is a girl with horrible family problems, but she is kind and patient and for that she is rewarded.  Cinderella is also the story of a girl who is given one very simple rule that she can't seem to keep and she is forced to leave the palace.  But there is redemption in this story.  The prince loves this simple peasant girl and so he tracks her down and elevates her to the status of princess.  This sounds vaguely like what happens to us.  We couldn't keep one simple rule in the Garden of Eden and were thrown out;  but Christ loved us so much that He tracked us down and elevates us to the status of His bride and takes us to heaven to live with Him.  

The story of Beauty and the Beast is a story on the true meaning of love.  True love is not based on the physical appearance of someone.  True Love is also self-sacrificing.  It wants only what is good for the person it loves.  In this story, the Beast lets Beauty go home to her family without being certain that she will return and knowing that if she does not, he will die.  

Jack and the Bean Stock says that Giants should be killed because they are giants, kinda like how bad guys should be defeated because they are bad guys. 

One of my favorite fairy tales is of three brothers who set out to rescue a princess with the grand prize being her hand in marriage.  The oldest two brothers see no need to help animals along the way that are in distress.  They are totally focused on strategies for rescuing the princess.  Only the youngest brother, who has taken the time to learn the different animal dialects, helps the animals and in the end they help him with impossible tasks. This establishes the idea that we should be kind to the people under us, even the bees and the ducks.  All things have worth because God made them and we should be good stewards of all of those things and not abuse them. 

One last point, in fairy tales everyone (at least all the good people) live happily ever after.  Some people say that this isn't fair to kids because not everything works out perfectly. Life is messy and full of difficulties.   Oh! but we do get happily ever after.  A fairy tale is the Gospel in a nut shell.  Christ (the prince) defeats Satan (the Dragon), saves and marries the church (the girl), and then lives happily ever after.  No matter what happens here on earth, as Christ's bride, we are going to heaven to be with Him.  We will celebrate the marriage supper and we will never be separated from Him.  That sounds like a happily ever after to me! 

Thursday, January 31, 2013


I have been thinking about love recently, not romantic love but the love Christians should have one for another. 

What does this love look like?

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." I Cor 13 : 4-7  NIV

 Something that stood out  to me was that Love keeps no record of wrongs, and is not self-seeking.  There is no one-upping anybody, no assuming the worst about someone's behavior,  no "did-you-see-what-she-was-wearing-??", no "does-he-ever-wash-his-car", no "what-a-control-freak", no "does-she-ever-say-no-??", no "does-he-ever-shut-up", no "she-never-says-anything" .  It also struck me how accepting Love is.   I think that this has it's roots in Christ.  Christ came to free us from the bondage of our sins.  And not just from our sins but also from the ties we have to the world.  The worry over how such and such will look to the neighbors or the fear that the people at church will think badly about us because of this or that.  Christ is only concerned with our relationship to Him.  In the place of our cares and silly worries, He offers us an easy yoke and a light burden.  Most of all, He offers us Love, unconditional and  free flowing.  A love that we, as the scum, bottom sucking, sin filled creatures have no right to,  expectation of, or way to earn. 

 Once we experience that Love, we should want to give it to others over and over again because we know that the more we give, the more Christ has to give to us.   This unconditional love makes us more accepting of others and where they are at because we know that Christ is at work within us, molding and shaping us to fit His idea of a Christian and our place in the body, and He will do the same with others.  It isn't our job to change other people to what we think they should be.  That is God's job.  All we have to do is Love them, pray for them, encourage them, and be long suffering with them, especially when they have hurt us, as in taking my feelings out and jumping  on them. We never fully achieve any of this, only strive for it.  Our love is a reflection of His.

And please don't think that I have it perfect.  I am still learning how to love.  How to love my sister when she gets bitey, how to love by controlling my temper when all I want to do is to break and throw and curse everything in sight, how to love the people I don't like or understand.   And I am still trying to figure out how loving people looks for me.  My natural inclination is to give everybody a present.  That is appropriate at times, but not very often!  But I know that all I have to do is wait.  God will show me where my gifts lie and how I can best use them for the building of His kingdom. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013



Have you ever stopped and thought about what makes life beautiful?  I think that it is the little things.  The warm, fuzzy body and soft purr of a kitten in the morning, the wonderful feeling of being clean after you have been really dirty or sweaty, the warm sun on your face or a cool breeze that smells of a storm, the first little flower in the spring after everything has been barren for so long.  Baby laughs and smiles, a good dinner, a really encouraging chit-chat with a friend or member of your family, the first hint of cool weather.  Or the wonderful tired feeling at the end of the day when you know that you have worked hard and gotten a lot accomplished.   There really is so much that God has given us. I guess we have to be like Pollyanna and look for things to thank Him for.

  'This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.' Psalm 118:24


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Strong and Capable


I have been doing a lot of reading in the last few months about women of the colonial period.  I have also be doing a fair bit of thinking (dangerous, I know!).  I have been wondering why Alexis de Tocqueville, (Democracy in America, published 1835), when he  visited in young United States in the early 1830's and said that American women were some of the most content.   What is it about their circumstances, worldview, or religion that made them so content.  Why did these women send their husbands, brothers, and sons to fight tyranny so willing?  They took on all the responsibilities of not only home but farm or business, freeing their male relations to fight, and then gave those responsibilities right back to the men without a second thought for the "freedom" they were giving up.  Compare that to the women of the Second World War, who also took on jobs that once belonged to men, and hated giving them back.  Why did the colonial women make their own fabric?  Why did they give up tea in favor of coffee or home-brewed concoctions ? There are stories about women from some of the most respectable families in a couple of counties in North Carolina that pledged to themselves that they would not receive the addresses of any man who had not served his country in her time of need.   Why? Why? Why???   

I think that these women, like the men in their lives, believed passionately in freedom and for them principles always came first.  They were willing to suffer any deprivation, bear any hardship necessary.  The word that always comes to mind when thinking about these women is 'strong' or 'capable'.  They realized how important the cause was and as they didn't think it was their place to fight the British in hand to hand combat or duke it out in the halls of Congress, they took the British on in their own way, in their own sphere.  They freely took on added burdens (I mean really, no one is going to volunteer to card their own wool, spin it into thread, weave their own fabric, and then make it into clothes for themselves, their families and neighbors when they could go down to the store and buy some unless they are really dedicated). Principles really were the most important and we can see that because they acted on them. 

One of the other things that I have noticed is that the men of the era would tell anyone who would stand still long enough how great their wives were in a way most men don't today.  Most men say yeah I've got a great wife and then spend the rest of the conversation talking about how they bought themselves a boat.  The men of the colonial era attribute almost all of their success to the up bringing their mothers gave them and the encouragement of their wives.  John Adams writes to his wife Abigail:

" I think I have sometimes observed to you in conversation, that upon examining the biography of illustrious men, you will generally find some female about them in the relation of mother,or wife, or sister, to whose instigation a great part of their merit is to be ascribed... I believe that the two Howes have not very great women for wives.  If they had, we should suffer more from their exertions than we do.  This is our good fortune.  A smart wife would have put Howe in possession of Philadelphia a long time ago."

Some else said " We cannot appeal in vain for what is good, to that sanctuary where all that is good has its proper home-the female bosom."

I believe that because these men praised and valued what their wives did for them, the wives were happy and contented knowing that they were doing something worth while.  They in turn submitted willingly to their husbands and encouraged them to keep fighting for right. That is why the women of the War for American Independence could give back the farm or business to their husbands and return to their normal work and Women of WWII couldn't.  The women of WWII had lost all belief in the value of what they were doing.

All of my reading and thinking has lead me to the question of what kind of a woman do I want to be. Do I want to be strong and capable, the kind of woman that my husband can trust, the one who challenges and encourages him to stand strong and be more Godly and receives the same? 

Forgive the length of this post but this is what I have been thinking and chewing on recently and I thought I would share it with you and see if it resonated with anyone else.