Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wise Words for Women: Forgiveness, Forbearance & Fertilizer

Today's wise words are unashamedly from Noel Piper again! Last week, Noel posted on the Desiring God blog some thoughts about her husbands sermon on Forgiveness and Forbearance in marriage. Here is her post in full. I hope you find it as insightful as I did.

"What my husband said last Sunday at the end of a sermon on forgiveness and forbearance in marriage:

Picture your marriage as a grassy field. You enter it at the beginning full of hope and joy. You look out into the future and you see beautiful flowers and trees and rolling hills. And that beauty is what you see in each other. Your relationship is the field and flowers and the rolling hills. But before long, you begin to step in cow pies. Some seasons of your marriage they may seem to be everywhere. Late at night they are especially prevalent. These are the sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits in you and your spouse. You try to forgive them and endure them with grace.

But they have a way of dominating the relationship. It may not even be true, but it feels like that’s all there is—cow pies. I think the combination of forbearance and forgiveness leads to the creation of a compost pile. And here you begin to shovel the cow pies. You both look at each other and simply admit that there are a lot of cow pies. But you say to each other: You know, there is more to this relationship than cow pies. And we are losing sight of that because we keep focusing on these cow pies. Let’s throw them all in the compost pile. When we have to, we will go there and smell it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can. And then, we are going to walk away from that pile and set our eyes on the rest of field. We will pick some favorite paths and hills that we know are not strewn with cow pies. And we will be thankful for the part of field that is sweet.

Our hands may be dirty. And our backs make ache from all the shoveling. But one thing we know: We will not pitch our tent by the compost pile. We will only go there when we must. This is the gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again—because we are chosen and holy and loved.

What I thought as he went along:

That is so true....But then I hope the congregation doesn’t think he means we should just shovel our problems aside and live in denial. We do need to deal occasionally with the disagreements and sins that come between us....No wait. Listen to him. I should have known he wouldn’t leave us with that misunderstanding. “When we have to, we will go there and smell it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can.”

What I told him after the service:

The compost pile is such a good analogy, and you know, you can take it even further. Thanks, see you later.

He smiled:

I wonder what she means.

What I meant:

I’ve never composted, but I understand that periodically you need to leave your pleasant paths and visit the compost pile.You need to bring your shovel or pitchfork and stir the compost around. In other words, occasionally we do need to revisit the causes of stress and anger that are between us and release and diffuse the heat that’s been building up in the pile. Yes, we spend most of our time in the large, pleasant meadow that represents the good that predominates our relationship, but sometimes we have to talk about hard things or sometimes one of us needs to confront the other about something that is difficult. We do sometimes have to go there and smell it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can.

When we do that digging and stirring, our hands will be dirty and our backs will ache. But after the digging and stirring is done for now, if we have stirred well, our aches will be the satisfying pain of a job well done.

We don’t want to live there, but the compost heap does exist and we do need to dig down deep sometimes. This can involve stirring up some stinky, rotting material that we’d rather not see or smell. But if we don’t stir it up, we’ll just have a manure pile, not compost. We wouldn’t want to pitch our tent right there, but we do need to visit sometimes.

I expect to hear more about that kind of visiting and shoveling during your sermon dealing with confrontation, because confrontation is one thing that drags us helter-skelter to the compost pile.

I don’t expect ever to enjoy shoveling the compost. But it helps to know that over time, with proper shoveling and mixing, our stinky, rotting manure becomes compost. Yes, composting and fertilizing is hard work, but the whole field of our relationship is richer and greener and sweeter for it."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Titus 2 Truths: To Love their Children Pt 1

As we move on in our study of Titus 2:3-5, we come to consider how we are called to love our children. Similar to loving our husbands, Paul says that this is something that must be taught to younger women, and again this concept can seem strange to us. Surely no women needs to learn how to love her children? Indeed, it amazed me how, when my two daughters were born, I immediately felt intense love for these two little girls whom I had only just met in person!

We can show our love for our children in many ways, from patiently getting up in the middle of the night when they are babies, to providing for their physical and material needs throughout their childhood. However, the most fundamental way we should show our love is by fostering a deep concern for their souls. This is perhaps obvious to the Christian mother and yet how easily this aspect of love is suppressed and pushed to the side by the day to day demands of caring for our children. J C Ryle argues in The Duties of Parents that our child's soul must be top of our list of considerations for their welfare:
Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if you love them, think often of their souls. No interest should weigh with you so much as their eternal interests. No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die. The world, with all its glory, shall pass away; the hills shall melt; the heavens shall be wrapped together as a scroll; the sun shall cease to shine. But the spirit which dwells in those little creatures, whom you love so well, shall outlive them all, and whether in happiness or misery (to speak as a man) will depend on you.

This is the thought that should be uppermost on your mind in all you do for your children. In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement that concerns them, do not leave out that mighty question, "How will this affect their souls?"

Soul love is the soul of all love. To pet and pamper and indulge your child, as if this world was all he had to look to, and this life the only season for happiness — to do this is not true love, but cruelty. It is treating him like some beast of the earth, which has but one world to look to, and nothing after death. It is hiding from him that grand truth, which he ought to be made to learn from his very infancy, — that the chief end of his life is the salvation of his soul.

A true Christian must be no slave to fashion, if he would train his child for heaven. He must not be content to do things merely because they are the custom of the world; to teach them and instruct them in certain ways, merely because it is usual; to allow them to read books of a questionable sort, merely because everybody else reads them; to let them form habits of a doubtful tendency, merely because they are the habits of the day. He must train with an eye to his children’s souls. He must not be ashamed to hear his training called singular and strange. What if it is? The time is short, — the fashion of this world passeth away. He that has trained his children for heaven, rather than for earth, — for God, rather than for man, — he is the parent that will be called wise at last.
So loving our children is hard work. It will sometimes hurt, as it is certainly tempting to take the easy road and pander to our children's wants to attain a bit of peace now. As they get older, it will be difficult to sometimes deny them the things the world values, but as Ryle says we must ask in everything "How will this affect their souls?". Let's determine in love not to hide from our children "that grand truth, which he ought to be made to learn from his very infancy, — that the chief end of his life is the salvation of his soul."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Your Weekly Dose of Susannah Spurgeon

For this week's dose of Susannah Spurgeon we consider the beginnings of home life for Susannah following her marriage to Charles. While reading Charles Ray's biography, one thing struck me in particular: the use of their home in service to God and others.

Charles and Susannah's first home was in New Kent Road, London: a "modest" house, where the "best room became the library." Mrs Spurgeon explains:
'We never encumbered ourselves with...a drawing room, perhaps for the good reason that we had no need of so useless a place - but more especially I think, because the best room was always felt to belong by right to the one who "laboured much in the Lord." Never have I regretted this early decision; it is a wise arrangement for a minister's house, if not for any other.'
In thinking about this, I found myself asking this question: Do I organise and utilise my house in such a way that my devotion to God and service to others is enhanced? How willing are we (even with limited space) to sacrifice our comfort for the service of others? Ultimately, Spurgeon's library was to benefit others in the preaching of God's Word. But are our homes designed to benefit others, or are they nests for our own comfort? Even more, are they designed to enhance our devotion to God?

For example, John Piper in his book, When I Don't Desire God finds it incredulous that more Christians do not partition off some space in their house for personal prayer and devotions. Piper writes:
There needs to be a measure of privacy so that you are not distracted and are able to read and sing and cry. If complete seclusion is not possible, create the best situation you can, explaining to spouse or children or roommates that when you are in that chair at that hour you would like to be undisturbed. I would suggest that you think creatively about the place of prayer.

I have often wondered why Christians build houses with a room designated for play (called a den) and for food (called a kitchen) and for sleep (called a bedroom) and for cleaning (called a bathroom) and for clothes (called a closet), but do not build a room for the solitude of prayer and meditation. But if we gave thought to this, could we not find or create such a space? The reason we don’t do it is mainly that nobody thinks of it. But now I have caused you to think of it. Where could you create such a space? Is there a space under the stairs that could have a kneeling mat
and a prayer bench and a light?

In 1975, when we bought our first home, I built a prayer bench with a place for my elbows in a kneeling posture, and a place for my Bible to lie, and a shelf underneath for the Bible or other books and a notepad. It has been with me ever since in three different houses. For the last twenty-one years we have lived in the same house, and there has a been a nook in my study, created by positioning filing cabinets to block it off from the rest of the space. There the prayer bench welcomes me every morning and several times during the day. God alone knows the tears and songs that have mingled there. I urge you to think creatively. Seriously consider building a place of prayer, even if it is just the rearrangement of furniture or the cleaning out of an unused storage space.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Womanhood Watch

Here's some highlights from blogland this week. See you on Monday with Susannah Spurgeon.
  • Mark Dever interviews Joshua Harris on his testimony, his books, his pastorate and family life here.
  • Paul Tripp, author of books such as Instrument in the Redeemer's Hands and Age of Opportunity has started blogging. Check out some of his recent posts on relationships.
  • My husband, the Unashamed Workman has started a short series of posts on Mondays as he endeavours to become an anchor man.
  • The new Children Desiring God resource catalogue is available for download.
  • Amy has started posting about "Life with Three Under Three." Some great tips! Read part one, two, three, four, and five.
  • I recently came across Ginger Plowman's website, "Preparing the Way: Inspiring Women to be Committed, Content and Complete in Christ." Check out some of her resources and articles here.
  • See this Precious Little Life: the world's most premature baby to have survived.
  • Handling Singleness: Are We Causing Grief? is the subject of this week's post on singleness at the Purple Cellar.
  • If there are any husbands reading, the Irish Calvinist has a five minute sermon for you here.
  • And wives, if you want some practical ways in which you can implement Proverbs 31:12, "She does him good", Girltalk offer 10 ways and a link to a talk on the subject here. Check out also their link to a talk from Carolyn McCulley on 10 ways to do good to others.
  • And finally, do you ever wonder what, if anything we will remember in heaven? John Piper posts on this here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pondering Providence

I'm currently reading the biography of Elizabeth Prentiss by Sharon James along with the girltalk blog. This is an excellent book giving valuable insights into the life of this Christian woman who lived in the United States in the 1800s. Elizabeth endured many trials throughout her life, but one in particular stood out for me as I read it, causing me to ponder God's gracious providence to me living in the early 21st century.

Just before her marriage, Elizabeth had developed a tumour on her shoulder which was causing her some degree of pain. Eventually, her doctors decided action was required:
In April, Elizabeth's doctors decided that the lump on her shoulder had to be removed. In the days before anaesthetics, all operations, however minor, were horrific. This one was mercifully quick, but even so, Elizabeth was not able to sleep for a week afterwards, and lost an alarming amount of weight for someone who was so slender. Worst of all, the wound did not heal properly and she continued to suffer pain throughout the summer. In September she and her mother travelled down to Boston, where a leading surgeon, Dr John Warren, agreed to operate again. He told her that the operation would take about five minutes - a bad enough prospect. Instead, it took and hour and a quarter. Julia Willis was with Elizabeth throughout, and was awestruck by the patient's self control. Elizabeth spoke only once during the procedure . 'After the knife was laid aside and the threaded needle was passed through the quivering flesh to draw the gaping edges of the wound together, she asked, after the first stitch had been completed, in a low, almost calm tone, with only a slight tremulousness, how many more were to be taken.'
As I read about this I was struck by how fortunate we are to be living now, in the age of medical technology and advanced anaesthetics. After my first daughter was born, I required an operation for the removal of a benign tumour and although an emergency procedure, I had excellent local anaesthesia and good post-operative pain relief. In Elizabeth's day this would have been a potentially life threatening condition and surgery to remedy it would have been well-nigh impossible, yet I was feeding my baby after an hour and home two days later.

We are currently watching the DVDs from the 2005 Desiring God Conference "Suffering and the Sovereignty of God" in our church mother and baby group. This week we watched the message given by Joni Eareckson Tada. Among many powerful things she said, one in particular stood out for me. She explained how every morning, it was a struggle for her to face the day and be able to greet her caregiver with a smile as she came into her room with coffee. She had to pray each day to God for his strength and enabling to get through the day. She then asked the audience who they thought the really handicapped people were. She answered that those who were really handicapped were the people, many of them Christians, who jump out of bed when the alarm goes off, rush into the shower, gulp down breakfast and run out of the door without giving any thought to the God that enables them to do all this. I can certainly see myself in this picture she painted.

So let's stop and remember who gives us all good things and ponder just how many good things God gives us; from the privilege of living in a country with modern medical care to the very air that we breathe each day.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"Between the Dreaming & the Coming True"

Today I want to break from our Wise Words for Women to recommend some more music to you! Christmas brought a few new CD's to the Adams' household, one being Bebo Norman's latest, Between the Dreaming & the Coming True. This might not sound like much of a recommendation when I mention that it is only in the last couple of weeks that it has featured in our car CD player!

The album is inspired primarily by themes of light vs. darkness and fear vs. hope. Bebo says: "You can't understand light until you understand darkness, because that is where life is often most lived...somewhere between the two. It's messy and it's beautiful, all at the same time."

These themes are expressed in such songs as "Into the Day" that speaks of the offering of hope in a new day; "Time Takes its Toll on Us" concentrates on finding beauty amid pain and "I Will Lift My Eyes" draws on Psalm 121, reminding us where our present help comes from. For me these are three of the best on the CD.

What makes this CD different from his others is that Bebo now finds himself married! Previous albums speak much of the loneliness he experienced as a single guy, where now we find a few love songs such as "The Way we Mend" with its gorgeous melody and lyrics which speak of keeping humility in marriage.

If you enjoy Caedemon's Call, Stephen Curtis Chapman or even Michael W Smith, you'll enjoy this similar style of music. My only critique, as with much contemporary music these days, is that Jesus yet again fails to be explicitly mentioned! There is no doubt that this is a Godward focussed album, it just never mentions the saviour by name. That aside, I still find myself hitting the play button.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Titus 2 Truths: Love Is...Respect

Over the last two Tuesday's we have been considering for our Titus 2 Truths slots, how to love our husbands. Catriona posted on how we should not only cultivate tender thoughts towards our husbands, but left us last week pondering about how love is always discipline. Today we are going to think a little bit more about how we can practically love our husbands, by respecting them.

A little while ago I read a very helpful book, Love That Lasts: Where Marriage Meets Grace by Gary and Betsy Ricucci. In her chapter, "Walking in Wisdom: The Role of the Wife", Betsy gives considerable attention to respect: a vital attribute of any biblically wise and loving wife. She writes:
Early in our marriage we may find it fairly easy to respect our husbands. We marry Sir Romance-A-Lot, convinced he is our knight in shining armour...

But within a few years or months or hours, the armour begins to creak and tarnish. We begin to notice sin and weakness. Before long, we may see even the qualities we most admire in him in a less flattering light.
If your disappointment, fear, or pride sometimes makes it difficult for you to think about or behave toward your husband with respect, don't despair...To position ourselves to receive God's grace in this area, we must begin by facing reality. The Bible doesn't mince words on this topic. Ephesians 5:33 says, "let the wife see that she respects her husband." This command is given without qualification or ambiguity.
Betsy goes on:
We are commanded to demonstrate respect. Let's ask ourselves some questions:
  • Am I more aware of my husband's deficiencies or his strengths?
  • Am I more inclined to criticise my husband (whether verbally or in my heart) or commend him?
  • Have I failed to express respect for my husband because I'm so concerned about a particular area of sin in his life?
  • Have I ever thought, If I encourage him in one area, will he think I'm condoning everything else he does that's wrong?
Some of these questions no doubt resound a clanging bell in many ears, as they do mine. But how do we address this issue and what do we do about it? Betsy continues:
My respect and gratitude - or lack thereof - speaks volumes about my view of God. I can only be truly grateful for the efforts of an imperfect husband if I'm truly grateful to God for the undeserved favour of he extended to me in my salvation and continues to extend each day. despite my overwhelming imperfections. God's ongoing grace and kindness to me - when all I deserve is judgement for my sin - allow me to extend grace, gratitude, and respect....To extend these things to my husband is to honour the God who is at work through my husband.
And so there is clearly a theological aspect to our loving and respecting our husbands. Are we appreciative for the grace God extends to us, and are we willing to extend that godly quality to our husbands? But let's get practical for a moment. In what ways can I show respect? Betsy mentions three ways: In the way we think, in what we say and in what we do. She continues:
1. Respectful Thoughts

Develop a habit of directing your thoughts about your husband in biblical, God-glorifying directions. Dwell thankfully on his strengths rather than resentfully on his weaknesses. Thank God for the gift he is to you. Start making a written list of things about your husband and your relationship with him for which you are grateful.
  • What thoughts spring to mind when I think of my husband?
  • Do these thoughts honour my husband?
2. Respectful Words

Commend and encourage your husband wherever you can. Withholding respect or encouragement from my husband has never produced good fruit...We may not realise it, but when we withhold respect, what we're really thinking is, When they're worthy, then I'll express respect.
  • How do I speak to my husband when we are alone?
  • How do I speak to him in public?
  • How do I speak of Him to others?
3. Respectful Deeds

When a husband and wife are together, a wife's entire posture toward her husband says a great deal about whether she is carrying in her heart an attitude of respect for him.
  • Do I show respect to my husband through my actions? How so?
  • Do I freely display affection fr him through appropriate physical contact?
  • Do I listen intently when he is speaking, whether in private or in public?
  • Or do my deeds communicate a lack of respect, inattentiveness or even interrupting him, looking elsewhere when he's talking, or forgetting to get to things he's asked me to do?
I would thoroughly recommend this book to those of you who are married and for those contemplating marriage. Some of the questions above no doubt have left us with much to contemplate. Perhaps some of you are thinking, How do I start to establish a pattern of respect and encouragement when I've done so much criticising of my husband?

Can I suggest a few things. Why not take time to sit down and think about your husband's godly qualities. Write down what you respect, admire and appreciate about him. Reread and consider more fully the bulleted questions above. Perhaps even discuss with your husband how you are loving him in this area and whether he feels respected.

As Catriona mentioned a few weeks ago, we need to make big efforts to love our husbands, and respecting them in the way we think, speak and act is one practical way of learning to love them.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Your Weekly Dose of Susannah Spurgeon: Marriage

Today we come to the wedding of Susannah Thompson and Charles Haddon Spurgeon. For many, the prospect of getting married brings much anticipation and nervousness, tinged with a sense of the awesomeness of the commitment about to be taken. This was no less true for Susannah and Charles, as we shall see.

The marriage between Susannah was no ordinary wedding, far from the quiet 'just for family and friends' ceremony. Instead, we find two young people pledging their lives to one another, not only before God, but before many. Charles Ray in his biography writes:
The wedding of Susannah Thompson and Charles Haddon Spurgeon took place at New Park Street Chapel on January 8th, 1856, Dr Alexander Fletcher of Finsbury Chapel officiating. As may be imagined in the case of a man whose name was in everybody's mouth, and whose remarkable work was the topic of discussion up and down the country, it was quite impossible for the wedding to be a quiet one.

At a very early hour in the morning, people began to gather outside the Chapel, ladies being among the first arrivals, and soon after eight o'clock the crowd had swelled to such proportions, that New Park Street and some adjoining thoroughfares were blocked with people, and traffic was practically at a standstill. A special body of police had to be summoned to prevent accidents.

When the Chapel doors were at last opened, there was a rush for seats, and less than half an hour the building was filled to its utmost extent. Large numbers who had tickets of admission but arrived late were unable to gain entrance. Many went home when they found that there was no chance of their being able to get inside the chapel, but some thousands remained in the streets to see the bridegroom enter and leave.

It must have been a trying ordeal for the modest and retiring girl. She had risen early and spent much time in her bedroom in private prayer. Although awed with a sense of responsibilities which she was about to assume, she was 'happy beyond expression' that the Lord had so favoured her, and on her knees, with no one else near, she earnestly sought strength and blessing and guidance in the new life opening before her.
Driving through the city to the chapel with her Father, Susannah's chief thought was whether the crowds 'knew what a wonderful bridegroom she was going to meet.' Bewildered by the many spectators, Susannah remembered little more until she was inside the Chapel.

Charles Ray continues:
The service was commenced by the congregation singing the hymn, 'Salvation, O, the Joyful Sound!' after which Dr Fletcher read the hundredth Psalm and prayed for the divine blessing upon the young couple. The venerable minister then gave a short address and the wedding ceremony was performed in the usual manner. The reading of another lesson, a hymn sung by the congregation and a closing prayer, completed the proceedings, and Mr and Mrs Spurgeon, after receiving the congratulations of their friends in the chapel, drove away amid the crowds gathered outside the building.
Charles and Susannah later spent ten days of honeymoon in Paris. Some years later during one of C.H. Spurgeon's numerous visits to the city he wrote to Susannah: 'My heart flies to you as I remember my first visit to this city under your dear guidance. I love you now as then, only multiplied by many times.'

Friday, February 16, 2007

Womanhood Watch

Here's some of this week's worthwhile reads in cyberspace. We'll be back on Monday with the next installment in the life of Susannah Spurgeon: her marriage to Charles.
  • Rebecca Writes offers a book review on Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce by John Piper.
  • Are you, or do you know someone considering or preparing for marriage? Read John Piper's suggested topics of conversation for marriage prep here.
  • What difference does it make whether we have a right view of God's wrath? What happens to the gospel if we ignore that God is very angry at sin? How can knowing this make us happier, more loving people? Watch this 5 minute video on the value of knowing God's anger.
  • Although it's past, Tim Challies asked a question to all single folk on Valentine's Day: What can non-singles do to serve you on such a day? I'd encourage all couples and singles to read some of the responses here.
  • As normal there are some worthwhile articles to read over at Boundless. Among them is the next installment in Scott Croft's series Biblical Dating, "Are You Ready To Date?" and "The Hindrance of a Hint" by Carolyn McCulley. And one for all you multi-tasking homemakers: "Christians Can't Multi-task" by Alex and Brett Harris!
  • If you are in Edinburgh next weekend why not join us for our women's ministry weekend with CWR. For details click here.
  • Should worship be fun? Read here to find out.
  • The results are in for the Modesty Survey at the Rebelution. Take a peek here.
  • Finally, watching American Idol at the moment? You should read this.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"The Shadow of Your Wings"

Today I want to recommend a CD that I heard for the first time about a month or so ago on a women's weekend away. Yesterday, the CD became a part of my own music collection when Colin bought me it for Valentine's Day!

The Shadow of Your Wings: Hymns and Sacred Songs is the 11th album from Fernando Ortego, released last October. It is a mixture of hymns and new songs written by Fernando, beautifully arranged with merely a piano and at times accompanied by a chamber orchestra.

The CD can be described as pensive, reflective and definitely appropriate for the more mellowed listening ear. Much of the inspiration is taken from The Book of Common Prayer, specifically sequenced for quiet and reflective times. Fernando explains:
There is too little time for reflection in my life these days - too little meditation and quiet. As everything about our culture gets louder and more "in-your-face," my ability to concentrate on spiritual things feels thin and compromised. These songs were written in response to that dilemma.

My starting point was the Morning Mass from The Book of Common Prayer, a pronouncement of peace, prayers of contrition, the bending of the knee. These things bring me to a right perspective for worship.

From there the record turns to the Holy Trinity - the faithfulness of the Father, the wooing of the Holy Spirit, the sacrifice and supremacy of Christ.
I really enjoyed this CD and envision myself listening to it when needing some quiet background music. I can also see it aiding me in keeping a meditative focus on God in everyday life: when the dishes, the ironing, the dusting and cooking need doing!

Some of the hymns included are: 'All Creatures of our God and King', 'Great is Thy Faithfulness', 'Sing to Jesus and Saviour', 'Like a Shepherd Lead Us.' If you are open to listening to some of these classics set to new melodies then this CD is for you. Perhaps these renditions can't compete with the original tune which made some of these hymns great, however Fernando does bring a new and fresh appreciation of the words through his creative arrangements.

As for Fernando's new songs almost all of them are rooted in Scripture. The opening song is fittingly called 'Grace and Peace' based on 2 Thessalonians 1:2, followed by 'All Flesh Is Like the Grass' (Isaiah 40:6-8). 'Open My Lips' and 'Come, Let Us Worship' (Psalm 95:6-7) are two of the better compositions, though my personal favourite is 'Oh God, You Are My God' based on Psalm 63.

I hope you will take the opportunity to listen in on a few demos at Fernando's website here and if you enjoy it, you can buy it online or in any reputable Christian book store.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wise Words for Women: Anne Bradstreet

Being Valentine's Day, today's Wise Words for Women have been chosen appropriately. It is a poem by Anne Bradstreet and beautifully expresses a wife's love for her husband.

But before leaving you to read this piece of poetry, you may be wondering who Anne Bradstreet is. Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) was the first American female writer and poet to have her work published. She was born in Northampton, England in 1612 and married at the age of 16 to Simon Bradstreet, the son of a Puritan minister. In 1630, Anne and her family emigrated to America on one of the first ships to bring the many Puritans to New England.

Her work serves as a document of the struggles of a Puritan wife against the hardships of the New England colonial life and an ongoing battle with illness. In spite of this, Anne's faith has been described as exemplary, as was her love for her husband and eight children. Many of her poems were written not only in times of trial but in periods of loneliness when her husband's political duties required him to travel frequently on political errands.

Much of Anne's work centres around religious themes, the family, and in particular the love she had for her husband. In a time when Puritan culture somewhat repressed the love between husband and wife, so as not to distract from devotion to God, some of Bradstreet's sonnets work against this idea. A good example of this is the poem, "To My Dear and Loving Husband."
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov'd by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompence.
Thy love is such I can no way repay.
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
If you would like to read more about Anne Bradstreet and her work go here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Titus 2 Truths: Love is Always Discipline

Last week we thought about what it means in practice to love our husbands and we are going to reflect on this a bit more today. As I was thinking about this I read a sermon by J.R. Miller written in 1894 which has much to say to us now in 2007. It is called Secrets of a Happy Home Life and you can download the whole article here. He writes:
In the last analysis, home happiness depends on the wife. Her spirit gives the home its atmosphere. Her hands fashion its beauty. Her heart makes its love. And the end is so worthy, so noble, so divine, that no woman who has been called to be a wife, and has listened to the call, should consider any price too great to pay, to be the light, the joy, the blessing, the inspiration of a home.

Men with fine gifts think it worth while to live to paint a few great pictures which shall be looked at and admired for generations; or to write a few songs which shall sing themselves into the ears and hearts of men. But the woman who makes a sweet, beautiful home, filling it with love and prayer and purity, is doing something better than anything else her hands could find to do beneath the skies.

Some marriages are unhappy. How can husband and wife live happily in their wedded life? Wedded happiness is a lesson that must be learned. No two lives brought into this close relation can blend into one without self-discipline. "Marriage is the beautiful unfolding of many years."

Ofttimes it takes a long while for a wedded pair to learn the lesson of living happily together. They are discouraged because such love as theirs does not yield perfect happiness from the very first day. It always costs to learn the lesson. The block of marble must wane, as the statue is sculptured and grows. There must be the cutting away of much in both lives; there must be restraint, self-denial, self-effacement, while they are being trained to live one life rather than two. Love is always discipline.
Maybe you are single just now or looking towards getting married. This is such an important lesson to learn as we prepare for what may lie in the future. Much difficulty and heartache can be avoided if we realise that there is hard work involved in "sculpting the statue" of a good marriage. And there may well be a lot of corners in our lives that will need to be chisled off! As we thought last week, love in a marriage takes work and a lifetime of commitment.

One important practical way in which we can be disciplined to show love to our husbands is by taking time to support and nurture his spiritual life. In particular, praying for our husband should be a top priority each day. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has written a helpful prayer guide which takes you through 31 days of prayer for your husband and it is certainly worth printing off and putting in your bible.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Your Weekly Dose of Susannah Spurgeon

Last week we considered some of the more difficult moments Susannah worked through in her courtship with Charles Spurgeon. Today for your weekly dose, we're going to further consider their impending marriage and what I would call "demands and absence: the demands of ministry, yet not at the expense of love's absence, and the absence of togetherness, while failing to succumb to selfish demands."

While re-reading about Susannah and Charles' courtship, a few things struck me about the commitment they had not only to one another, but moreover to God himself, and the paths he had marked out for them. I cannot help but be reminded at how dependent Susannah was upon her God as she took on the role as the wife of such a popular preacher. Not only that, at times the demands upon Charles' life left him separated from his earthly love, which would leave him with a burden of absence. Such absence is expressed in some of Charles' letters just before he married Susannah.

As I share some words from Charles Ray's biography concerning the demands of marrying such a preacher, and the burden of absence felt by Charles, it is somewhat striking, when in our courting and marriages today, we demand the right to spend so much time with our partners at the risk of pushing God and ministry to the side. Don't get me wrong, it is vitally important to have 'quality time' with those God gives us. But the example of Charles and Susannah does not fail to reflect the deep, deep love they had for one another and how they cherished every moment together while God's work was faithfully carried out. Charles Ray writes:
When the young minister was in London he had little time for courtship, and when he did visit his fiancee at her Brixton home he usually took proofs of a sermon with him to revise for the press. 'I learned to be quiet and to mind my own business while this important was going on', says Mrs Spurgeon. 'It was a good discipline for the Pastor's intended wife.'
...His wonderful popularity and success as a preacher naturally delighted and awed the timid maiden, but with the pleasure was mingled something of anxiety and distress, for the strain on the preacher's physical power when addressing the large congregations that gathered at Exeter Hall was tremendous, and his fiancee, sitting watching him from the body of the Hall, often felt she must rush to his succour....'Oh, how my heart ached for him! What self control I had to exercise to appear calm and collected and keep quietly in my eat up in that little side gallery! How I longed to have the right to go over and comfort and cheer him when the service was over! But I had to walk away, as other people did - I who belonged to him and was closer to his heart than anyone there! It was sever discipline, for a young and loving spirit.'
In a letter to Susannah from a preaching trip to Scotland, Charles writes:
'Oh! what it is to be popular, to be successful, to have abundance, even to have love so sweet as yours - if I should be left of God to fall and to depart from his ways? I tremble at the giddy height on which I stand, and could wish myself unknown, for indeed, I am unworthy of all my honours and my fame.'
And yet, amid such struggling thoughts of God, ministry and fame, Charles' affection for Susannah never wained, yet grew deeper, if that were possible in her absence. He writes:
'I have had daydreams of you while driving along...I thought you were very near me. It is not long, dearest, before I shall again enjoy your sweet society, if the providence of God permits. I knew I loved you very much before, but now I feel how necessary you are to me, on my return, more attentive to your feelings, as well as equally affectionate. I can now thoroughly sympathize with your tears, because I feel in no little degree that pang of absence...How then must you, with so much leisure, have felt my absence from you even though you well knew that it was unavoidable on my part! My darling, accept love of the deepest and purest kind from one who is not prone to exaggerate, but who feels that here there is no room for hyperbole.'
As Charles Ray concludes: "It must have been no ordinary woman who could draw such letters from Charles Haddon Spurgeon."

Stay posted next week for Susannah and Charles' marriage, and what an occasion that was!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Womanhood Watch

It's Friday and it's time (already) for Womanhood Watch. However, I must apologise for the small amount of links - my family and I have moved house this past week and only just managed to join the (un)real world once again! For that reason there's not been much I've been reading or listening to online amid the many boxes I've had to unpack. However, what I've noticed I commend to you. Your Weekly Dose of Susannah Spurgeon will be waiting for you on Monday.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Wise Words for Women: Susannah Wesley

Today's Wise Words for Women are short, yet full of wisdom from the life of Susannah Wesley, mother of 19 (yes, 19!) children. I came across these words of wisdom as I was reading about her life and her parenting.

At first I found myself reading these words, not to 'use' in the parenting of my own children, rather they spoke directly to my own life and need for godliness. There are many times in a day when I succumb to things which will not have any bearing on my eternal future, but will certainly hinder my daily walk with God.
Susannah Wesley was one of the the great mothers of history. One day one of her daughters wished to do something which was not altogether bad, but which was not right. When she was told not to do it, she was not convinced.

It was late and she and her mother were sitting beside a dead fire. Her mother said to her: "Pick up that bit of coal." "I don't want to," said the girl. "Go on," said her mother. "The fire is out, it won't burn you." "I know that," said the girl. "I know it won't burn me but it will blacken my hands." "Exactly," said Susannah Wesley. "That thing which you wish to do won't burn, but it will blacken. Leave it alone."
So I commend these words to you, short, yet profound. Use them to teach your children and moreover, apply them to your own personal holiness asking yourself this question: in doing this or that, it won't burn, but will it blacken?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Titus 2 Truths: To Love their Husbands

As we continue our weekly look at Titus 2:3-5, this week we move on to the content of what older women are to teach younger women. In Titus 2:4 we read that older women are to "train the young women to love their husbands and children", and today, we are going to focus on loving our husbands.

I found it interesting that in this verse, Paul states that the young women must be trained to love their husbands. In our culture, love is so often portrayed as something that happens to you, over which you have little control, almost like catching a virus! In films we commonly hear the line "I'm sorry, I just don't love you any more", as if we are powerless to do anything about it. This, however, is not the view of married love that Paul is putting forward. Young women need to be trained to love their husbands, in other words it is something that needs work. This probably comes as no surprise to you whether you are married or not, and yet we so often forget this in the practicalities of everyday life.

So how can we consciously, daily make an effort to love our husbands in the way Paul is talking about? Of course, a happy marriage is a two-way street, and yet the call to love our husbands is not conditional on them being or acting the way that we would like. One important area we can focus on is addressed by Carolyn Mahaney in her book Feminine Appeal. She urges us to cultivate tender thoughts towards our husbands:
Your husband comes home from work, heads for the nearest comfy chair and pulls the newspaper up in front of his face. What sort of thoughts run through your mind? Are they kind thoughts? Loving thoughts? Or thoughts you dare not reveal?

We frequently face situations where we are tempted to think harsh and critical thoughts. Sometimes as wives we are more inclined to concentrate on what our husbands are doing wrong than what they are doing right. We are more aware of their deficiencies than areas where they excel. But if we submit to these temptations, they will only lead to the demise of warm affection.

Rather we must chose to focus on our husbands' many commendable qualities. As we do this, we will be amazed. We'll start to discover more and more good qualities that we were failing to see because we were blinded by our critical thoughts.

She goes on,
The apostle Paul understood the influence of people's thoughts on their feelings and behaviour. He exhorted the Philippians in this way: "Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Phil 4:8) If we make it our aim to think these kind of thoughts about our husbands, we will experience tender feelings for them.
Maybe with Valentine's Day coming up we could take the opportunity to make a special effort to show our husbands that we love them. I must confess I've always cynically thought that Valentine's Day is just a marketing ploy on the part of the card companies (and it may be!) but perhaps we could hijack it and use it to strengthen our marriages to the glory of God.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

CWR Seminars come to Edinburgh

Over twenty years ago I came into contact with an organisation called ‘Crusade for World Revival’ for the first time. As a new pastor’s wife, it was suggested to me that I would benefit from attending CWR’s seminars on the subject of ‘Caring’, and the course spread over three Saturdays was an excellent overview of the subject.

Many of those who have heard of CWR will associate it with ‘Every Day with Jesus’ daily reading notes. However, CWR is much more than an organisation that just produces daily reading notes. It was founded in 1965 by an‘ordinary man’ called Selwyn Hughes who put his life into the hands of an ‘extraordinary’ God. Over the years CWR has developed into a thriving and expanding international ministry involved in training seminars and programmes, conference events and a steady stream of publications.

For those of us ‘north of the border’, visiting CWR’s home at Waverley Abbey to participate in seminars and training events is more difficult in terms of travelling time, absence from the family etc. So last year my interest was re-awakened by the news of CWR doing a day seminar at a church in Glasgow on the subject of ‘God’s Design for Women’. This was an excellent day of teaching and encouragement for women, and convinced me to approach CWR to bring seminars to Edinburgh.

Reading down the list of seminar titles and descriptions, two seemed to leap out at me. The first one was ‘Women Mentoring Women’, which fits in well with the aims of the Women’s Ministry of our church as we begin to encourage mentoring relationships between women of different ages. This seminar will take place on Friday 23rd February 2007 at the Faith Mission, 548, Gilmerton Road, Edinburgh at 7.30 p.m. The seminar focus is on how God equips women for the roles he has called them into, including leadership, through the intentional influence of other women. Mentoring involves using your God-given wisdom, skills and experience to help others develop their potential. This is a time of encouragement, inspiration and practical advice. We will be looking at different areas of our lives where the influence of godly women can help others be better Christians.

Choosing the second seminar, ‘How to be a Secure Woman’, was not difficult once I had read the description, and bought a copy of the Discussion Booklet based on the seminar. One paragraph commented “ We all have these deep needs to be unconditionally loved and to belong: to be valued and feel of worth: and to have meaning and purpose in our lives. Too often however, we look to sources other than God for those deep needs to be met. We develop strategies which allow other people and things to occupy our attention. We are motivated, albeit unconsciously, to find our identity apart from God. Then, when there is a crisis, we discover where our security really lies.” Both as a woman and pastor’s wife, I know how many of us tend to struggle in the areas of worth and identity. This seminar will take place on Saturday 24th February, again at the Faith Mission Edinburgh, from 10.00 p.m. till 3.30 p.m.

Tickets for the Friday seminar cost £6, and the Saturday £14 with a buffet lunch included. For tickets or more information see our website. For more information on CWR you can visit their website here.

Posted for Nita by Catriona.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Your Weekly Dose of Susannah Spurgeon

Last week's Weekly Dose of Susannah Spurgeon hit the spot with all you romantics out there! As one reader made note: how often do we let TV and movies spoil our idea of romance! (But that's another post!) What a great love story Susannah and Charles exampled! However, this doesn't mean to say things were always rosy in the garden. Here is another excerpt from Charles Ray's biography of Susannah Spurgeon. It tells of how they both had to grow in certain areas: "that Charles may have space for mending, and that 'Susie' may exhibit her growth in knowledge of his character, by patiently enduring his failings."

At times the preacher would be so absorbed in his great mission, when about to preach, that on his fiancée entering the vestry, he would fail to recognize her and merely greet her with a handshake as if she were some casual acquaintance or visitor. Once there was a more trying experience still. C. H. Spurgeon was to preach in a large hall at Kennington on a certain afternoon and Miss Thompson accompanied him thither in a cab. The pavement outside the building was thronged with people as were also the entrance hall and staircase leading to the auditorium, and the maiden had hard work in struggling through the mass of people and trying to keep near her lover. Suddenly he turned in at a side door on the landing, leaving Miss Thompson to manage as best she could in the throng eagerly pressing forward to get into the hall. The burden of souls was resting heavily upon the preacher, and occupied with the momentousness of the message he was to deliver, he had forgotten all about his poor fiancée.

Miss Thompson's feelings at what she considered an unpardonable slight, may easily be imagined. "At first," she says, "I was utterly bewildered, and then, I am sorry to have to confess, I was angry." She at once returned home, without making any further effort to get to a seat, her indignation and grief increasing momentarily. But the young girl possessed that best of gifts a wise and loving mother, who with the greatest tact sought to soothe her daughter's ruffled spirits. "She wisely reasoned," says Mrs. Spurgeon, "that my chosen husband was no ordinary man, that his whole life was absolutely dedicated to God and His service, and that I must never, never hinder him by trying to put myself first in his heart.

Presently, after much good and loving counsel, my heart grew soft, and I saw I had been very foolish and wilful; and then a cab drew up at the door and dear Mr. Spurgeon came running into the house in great excitement, calling, 'Where's Susie? I have been searching for her everywhere and cannot find her; has she come back by herself?' My dear mother went to him, took him aside and told him all the truth; and, I think, when he realized the state of things, she had to soothe him also; for he was so innocent at heart of having offended me in any way, that he must have felt I had done him an injustice in thus doubting him. At last, mother came to fetch me to him, and I went downstairs. Quietly he let me tell him how indignant I had felt, and then he repeated mother's little lesson, assuring me of his deep affection for me, but pointing out that, before all things, he was God's servant, and I must be prepared to yield my claims to His. I never forgot the teaching of that day; I had learned my hard lesson by heart, for I do not recollect ever again seeking to assert my right to his time and attention when any service for God demanded them."

The incident closed happily with a cozy tea at her mother's house, and Mrs. Spurgeon speaks of the sweet calm which reigned in the hearts of all after the storm of the afternoon. When a few weeks later the preacher was to fulfill an engagement at Windsor he wrote and asked his fiancée to accompany him, adding, "Possibly, I may be again inattentive to you if you do go, but this will be nice for us both, - that Charles may have space for mending, and that 'Susie' may exhibit her growth in knowledge of his character, by patiently enduring his failings."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Womanhood Watch

Here are a few interesting links I've noticed this past week. Have a great weekend and we'll be back with the next instalment of your weekly dose of Susannah Spurgeon on Monday.

Womanhood Watch

Here are some of the links that we've found useful this week. We'll be back on Monday as we continue to learn from the life of Susannah Spurgeon.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

End of the Spear

I have just finished reading End of the Spear by Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint, one of the five men killed in Ecuador in 1956 by the people they were trying to reach with the Gospel. In 1958, Steve Saint's aunt went to live with the tribe responsible for her brother's death, the Waodani, and since then, many of them have become Christians. Steve himself spent much of his childhood with the Waodani and has come to view them very much as family. When his aunt died in 1994, the Waodani asked him to bring his family from the USA to live with them in the Ecuadorian jungle, to help them adjust to the modern world around them without losing their own identity in the process.

This is a fascinating account of the time Steve Saint and his family spent in Ecuador and the aftermath. It is very easy to read but also extremely challenging. Although you might imagine it would not have much to say about biblical womanhood, one of the aspects of the book that did challenge me in this area was Steve Saint's wife, Ginny. She had to leave her comfortable home in Florida to live for 18 months in a house which lacked proper walls and the most basic of facilities:
The Waodani women loved to sit and watch Ginny prepare food in her "modern kitchen". They cooked over open fires, but Ginny had a four-burner camp stove. Ginny also had a sink cut into two chainsawed boards, although she had to carry her water up from the creek behind the house in a bucket. Then she would carry the dirty water outside to dump it.

How would I cope if God wanted my lifestyle to change this dramatically? Although Ginny Saint initially struggled with the thought of living in the jungle, her husband relates how she embraced the challenge and supported him wholeheartedly in his endeavours.

Another aspect of the book which will stay with me is its focus on God's sovereignty in the midst of human tragedy and suffering. In one of the early chapters, Steve relates how he discovered the circumstances behind his father's death, nearly forty years later, after the death of his aunt. As he relates the events that led up to the fatal spearings in 1956, he writes:
There are too many factors that all had to work together to have allowed the events to happen as they did. Too many for me to believe it was just chance. I have come to the conclusion that God did not look away. He did not simply allow this to happen. I think He planned it. Though this has not been an easy conclusion to come to, I believe it is the right one. I have personally paid a high price for what happened on Palm Beach. But I have also had a front-row seat as the rest of the story has been unfolding for half a century. I have seen firsthand that much good has come from it. I believe only God could have fashioned such an incredible story from such a tragic event.

You can find out more about Steve Saint's continuing work here and buy the book here.