30 May 2011

Shedding Abroad

Of late, I have been thinking of where love comes from--the kind of love that I am supposed to have in the humility of Christ for souls, for people.

I'm not thinking of the people I naturally connect with, form deep bonds with right from the start, who bless me just by being in the room. No, not those. I'm thinking of the ones Jesus had to tell me to love. The ones who, sometimes or all the time, feel like my enemies, or worse yet, God's enemies.

Meanwhile, I keep chipping away at my long-term memory projects (I hope to post more about these soon), in this case the book of Daniel, one verse at a time. I come to chapter four, where king Nebuchadnezzar has another disturbing dream. He calls all the sorcerers in his kingdom, seeking some kind of interpretation for the dream.

None of them can help.

Just like last time, I think to myself. Why doesn't he call Daniel first, since at least this time he knows Daniel's God was the only one who could interpret the dream last time? Why does he fall so easily back to these vain babblers? He has had all the evidence a person could ask for--even seeing God rescue His followers from a fiery furnace--and yet he STILL goes back to the false gods for counsel? This man makes no sense.

Soon, of course, the king does call for Daniel, in this moment the king's one connection with the Most High. The last resort.

The thought strikes. How many times do I make the true God my last resort instead of my first one?

Daniel hears the dream. It's the huge tree, the strong tree, the tree that bears a lot of fruit and provides shelter for all the beasts and birds, the tree that is so tall it reaches to heaven and can be seen through the whole earth. Yet a God larger than the tree, the God of heaven, decrees that the tree should be cut down, and that Nebuchadnezzar (symbolized by this tree) would be like a wild beast for seven years, with no human capacity to reason.

And Daniel is the one who gets to tell the king this crazy, disparaging news. He pauses. The verse (Daniel 4:19) is long, and I have to take it in small sections to get it into my mind, into my memory.

"Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies."

At this slow-motion pace, the words sink in deeply, and I catch a glimpse of the astonished Daniel that in turn astonishes me.

Maybe it's the hour that it takes for Daniel to speak. Maybe it's the king's plea for him to speak combined with his attempt to assure Daniel that he is brave to hear the interpretation no matter how bad it is. Because I am sure he knows it's going to be bad.

Whatever it is, when Daniel wishes the dream on the king's enemies, I see it: the astounding love of Christ for an enemy. Who has more reason to hate the king than Daniel and his people, who have been torn from their homeland, who have seen the king destroy many of their people as well as the house of the true God?

Sure. I know this king has given Daniel position and honor and education. But Daniel still has every reason to be the one who hates this king. Does he realize that when he wishes, at least figuratively, this dream on those that hate the king, he could easily have been, except for this strange and godly love and forgiveness in his heart, wishing this dream, the seven years of beasthood, on himself?

Yet I see him there. Unable to speak for an hour. More overcome with his grief and astonishment for the king's heart and mind than by the embarrassment of standing before the expectant king without saying anything, not even speaking immediately to prove that the Most High God is the only one who can interpret the dream He has given.

They both know that already anyway, and the king can only take so much of this loving silence. He reaches out to comfort the heart that is breaking for him, and just before diving into the strange and heavy glimpse into Nebuchadnezzar's future, he expresses this soul-love for one who has shunned repeated invitations of grace.

Jesus said to love these enemies, but how did this happen in Daniel's heart? How can this happen in my heart? Can this happen in my heart?

Well, we know the answer to the second question right away: "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

I turn to Romans 5:5, studied with my Sabbath school class a few weeks ago, where I find the answer: "...the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."

This is how my heart gets love for souls. I cannot generate it. All I can do is see how empty my efforts are to obtain it and follow Christ's command, and ask by faith for the Holy Spirit, who is promised to me when I ask. And when He comes to my heart, one of the things He does there is give me Christ's love, filling my heart to overflowing.

This is righteousness by faith, new birth. This is the faith that lives and produces good fruit, good works, a deep love for even the enemies.

23 May 2011

Mowing the Lawn

The husband's research was long....and really high quality....and really time-consuming. And our poor grass got long, too....because wife didn't manage to make room in her schedule for that and didn't try very hard to make room, even though the rain and the sun gave the grass all the attention it could desire in two weeks' time.

I've mown plenty of lawn in my time, and somehow, having a husband these days, I basked in the knowing that he would do the chore as soon as all the citations were edited properly.

And now that he's tending the lawn, rejoicing in the research well done, the paper well written, he's reveling in the fresh air.

Since we have a small lawn, we opted for the small mower without motor, which means he hears the birds singing and the neighborhood children playing while he works. Relationships get caught up on, too--he manages phone calls to Grandma, Mom, Dad, leaving message for Twin. And receives calls from soon-to-be-missionary we get to visit with this weekend. (Yay!)

How he ever manages to call all those people in such a short time is beyond me--I would be talking for hours with each one. But his cup and theirs get filled, and I enjoy a quiet moment of writing before our moments together, walking by our river.

20 May 2011

A Sign of Success

Your husband has been outside editing his {30+ pages of} research paper and soaking up the sun while he works. You have been inside cooking and cleaning, preparing the home for Sabbath.

You know you're doing well with all your little jobs when he comes in and says, "I don't know how you can focus on anything else when that bread smells so good in here!"

17 May 2011


"No one can give place in his own heart and life for the stream of God's blessing to flow to others, without receiving in himself a rich reward. The hillsides and plains that furnish a channel for the mountain streams to reach the sea suffer no loss thereby. That which they give is repaid a hundredfold. For the stream that goes singing on its way leaves behind its gift of verdure and fruitfulness. The grass on its banks is a fresher green, the trees have a richer verdure, the flowers are more abundant. When the earth lies bare and brown under the summer's parching heat, a line of verdure marks the river's course; and the plain that opened her bosom to bear the mountain's treasure to the sea is clothed with freshness and beauty, a witness to the recompense that God's grace imparts to all who give themselves as a channel for its outflow to the world."

White, Ellen. Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing. 81-82.

15 May 2011

Family Worship

Recently, my husband and I attended the last vespers of the school year--we could hardly believe how fast the time had flown! But that is beside the point, because they had indeed saved one of the best topics for last. A brother and sister, both students at our university and renting a small house together, shared their testimony about family worship, which went something like the following.

They had been busy, squeezing every bit of life into every day, but missing something. One particularly busy morning, seminary student brother bounced into speech pathology student sister's bedroom, where she was frantically studying for an exam.

"Let's have family worship!" he said.

"I don't have time!" she replied.

Both siblings showing a bit of their strong personalities, sister eventually gave in and they had family worship. In fact, that morning they began having family worship together twice, I believe, every day, just as they had done in childhood with their parents.

They started noticing something: a line from the reading would give them needed strength for a trial; a snippet from a hymn sung together that morning would encourage their tired steps; the Lord blessed each with greater efficiency in their regular studies and tasks throughout the day.

The principles and ideas? A set time in the morning and evening that works well for all the members of the family. A set length of time, ensuring a non-rushed morning. Variety. Prayer--for each family member. Singing. Bible reading, or reading from another trusted book. Brief discussion of things read.

They also encouraged family members to have their own private devotional times before the beginning of family worship, and to have family worship before anyone leaves the house for the day.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful things of the presentation was that at the end of a concise presentation, they pretended we were not in the room, and had a family worship so that we could all, in our mixed group of singles, couples, and parents with children, see how they did it. And they applied the principle to everyone, saying that no matter what your life circumstances, it's important to connect daily with others, encouraging and building each other up.

Our couple-family has always had morning prayer together, and a wonderful evening worship. Since this vespers, we have filled out our morning prayer to a morning worship, complete with singing. What a blessing it has already been to our lives, and how grateful we are to be learning and practicing these principles early in our lives and marriage.

(Note: Something else we like to do, as shown in the above photo, is to take a little pocket Bible along on hikes and walks, and at a pretty stopping place, pause to reflect on our Creator and His words for us.)

(If you would like more ideas for family worship, you might reference, as the brother/sister team mentioned above did, a little book called Child Guidance, by Ellen White.)

13 May 2011

Five Affirmations Before Breakfast

We both know it. When I'm rushed in the morning, feeling that the whole day is gone before it has really begun and I'm already behind schedule, I'm not on my best behavior.

But even the knowing doesn't make it any more pleasant for either of us.

Yesterday was just such a morning. Behind again, the minutes slipping right through my fingers. I stepped into the shower, grateful for Husband's offer to whip up breakfast to help offset my tardiness, yet still feeling discouraged.

For once, at this moment, by the grace of God, I did something reasonable.

I prayed--after all, I had just given my Lord the whole day, and wasn't this too part of the day?

I remembered--because "we have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget how the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history." (E. G. White, Testimonies to Gospel Workers, p. 31) Last week when I felt discouraged, my feelings reflected no part of reality. It was easy to see it all in retrospect. Could that be true this morning as well?

I smiled--in spite of my stress the words at the bottom of a friend's e-mail came to mind: "Sometimes I believe in five impossible things before breakfast."

I thought--of my husband, to whom words carry great power to encourage or to tear down. What about five affirmations before breakfast? So what if I didn't feel affirming? Far from impossible, wouldn't that be a more pleasant path for both of us than speaking of all my worries before breakfast? Or at any part of the day?

I counted--with each delightful thing about my husband, said to him aloud, came the remembrance of another. And soon these selfless attempts to brighten his day's start, possible because of Jesus' selfless blood shed for me, brought sunshine to my morning as well.