Monday, August 25, 2014

I've Moved!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Say No to Sex Slavery

     Horrifying reports of women and children being sold into sex slavery in Iraq and northern Africa strike a chord of fear in our hearts, as women. We know our vulnerability, our intimate, fragile self that is so easily violated by the strong and ruthless.
     I hear the reports and I also notice when they fade away with the news cycle. My imagination follows those dear girls and women into the life to which many will now be captive. I give, I pray, I care... but I am also infinitely grateful for our much safer culture.
     And there I stop.
     Is our culture so much safer? Is there no sex slavery here in North America? Perhaps you now think of sex trafficking or prostitution, and those are evils that certainly must be fought.
     But there's another kind of sex slavery that we've grown accustomed to. In our culture, it surrounds us on every side and dogs our upbringing.
     When I was six, an older girl at school sneered at the up-do my big sister had done for me that day.
    "You think you're so sexy," she said.
     [My mom's explanation that sex was the difference between boys and girls didn't clear things up for me. Poor Mom! :)] I knew that the way the girl had said it, to be "sexy" was something desirable. Something like, "You think you're so smart".


      And so, for many girls and women, the natural longing for significance and love morphs into a slavery to being thought beautiful and sexy.
     Not content with just beauty and desirability though, music and the media drive us to be found sexually aggressive as well. It drops to new lows with the "hook-up" culture and "friends with benefits". I wonder if the feminists of the 70s anticipated this new slavery.
     Jesus said, "Whoever commits sin is a slave to sin." (John 8:34)
     In seeking emancipation from men and the confines of proscribed roles, the movement arrived at today's deeper bondage. Girls are sex slaves if they think no guy will ever be interested in them unless they dress and act sexy. Women and girls are sex slaves when they believe the lie of casual sex only to experience the emptiness, betrayal and rejection of being used. Girls are in bondage when they assume they must give sex in order to gain love.
     When God makes laws against sex outside of marriage, and guidelines for our behaviour and appearance, we're wise to remember that the Manufacturer gets to write the manual for optimal use.

      And with that, may God make us truly content.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fretful and Peevish?

Do you see the blooming flowers? Or the dead tree and the weathered fence?

"Christian contentment is that sweet inward ... frame of spirit..." 

So says Jeremiah Burroughs in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. He explains that being content isn't just a matter of not verbalizing our dissatisfaction. If it were only a case of keeping quiet outwardly, there wouldn't be much to learn. But, he says, "God hears the fretful, peevish language of [our] souls." Now, even though I love the way old-fashioned terms like "fretful" and "peevish" create a picture in my mind, the reality in my soul is an ugly thing. So, it's having a quiet heart that God wants of me.

I remember as a young wife, in a Bible study confessing my sin of covetousness and my tendency to inordinately want things. One of the other young women, only slightly older than I, said she could relate.
"I used to feel envious," she said, "and then we started to get some things."

While it was comforting to find I wasn't alone in my temptations, her answer seemed to be no answer at all. How could the solution to a temptation simply be to satisfy the urges of that temptation? (What if we applied that reasoning to a man's lust for another man's wife?!)

I pictured people living in mud huts or in refugee camps having experienced the loss of all material possessions. If it were only "getting some things" that could produce contentment, then surely we affluent North Americans should be the most content people on earth. And conversely, those in great poverty would never be content. Yet that's not the case on either end of the spectrum.

My experience, even those many years ago, had been that the satisfaction produced by "getting something" was pitifully short-lived. No, it had to be something other than "things" that brought contentment.

I discovered some closely-related attitudes that, when I practice them, quickly bring me into a state of contentment:
     1.Relinquishing Ownership. When I first understood that God owns everything and has only assigned me as a caretaker of some of what He owns, I roamed around my little home and relinquished all I had to Him. It was surprising to me how much there actually was, and how that led to the next attitude...
     2. Gratefulness. (Recognizing that what I have comes either from God or others.) There is something about physically listing all that I have to be thankful for, that changes my frame of reference. Singing hymns of gratitude is another transforming exercise.
     3. Confidence in Providence.
                  "Providence is the almighty and ever-present power of God 
                                 by which He upholds, as with His hand, 
                     heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that
                                                     leaf and blade
                                                   rain and drought,
                                               fruitful and lean years,
                                                    food and drink,
                                                 health and sickness,
                                              prosperity and poverty--
                                          all things, in fact, come to us
                                not by chance but from His fatherly hand."
                                   -Heidelberg Catechism, 1563, A. 27
     4. Abiding. I learned early on, that regularly reading and pondering the Bible was an antidote to discontentment. I took seriously Jesus' warning that "...the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word [God's truth]". God's Word has a way of directing my thoughts to what's really valuable in life, changing my self-focus to thoughts of Him and all He has given me. In that way, He becomes all I need.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Of Flour Sacks and Barber Poles

It was inevitable that I would be involved in home renovations. A love of pretty things and creativity in improving what I have is clearly something I inherited from my grandmother.

During the Depression, she didn't merely use the printed cotton flour sacks of her day to make underwear for her daughters, she crocheted lacy trim on them, too. She sewed a frilled cover for a dressing table made of wooden orange crates.
And years later, the doll clothes she made for me were intricate in their style details.

In my own case, I've had a love of old houses from an early age, preferring their crannies and quirks to the sensible lines of the bungalow (ranch) home I grew up in.
  • There was a derelict, paint-chipped house on our school bus route that sparked my renovation imagination. In my mind's eye, I painted the exterior, planted flowers and covered the interior walls with coloured art paper. Hey, when you're 9 years old you have limited DIY skills. 
 Flowers + Paint = Home Sweet Home
  • I mentally decorated our unfinished basement in a red, white and blue colour scheme, c. 1970, complete with barber pole striped teleposts. (What a mercy some dreams don't come true.)

But living in a fallen world, every God-given gift of creativity seems to carry a risk. Discontent and covetousness for starters. And that can lead to greed, idolatry, and the destruction of relationships as we pursue that perfect look.

God tells me I'm to be content with whatever I have (Heb. 13:5).

So can a creative God-given gift for home decor square with the Bible's admonition to be content with such things as you have? I believe it can and I'd love to hear how you have found ways to balance the two.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Rare Jewel... (and I don't mean The House)

 "...I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content."   (Phil. 4:11)

These words of the apostle Paul have been a challenge and an admonition to me over the years. But Jeremiah Burroughs, in his wonderful 1648 book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, (order it here) called contentment "a cordial to revive the drooping spirits of the saints".

When our family first moved to this acreage-in-the-middle-of-nowhere in 2003, I purposed to be content with it.
April 2003 -- A whole lot of potential...
It will be an adventure, we said, putting right a century home abused by time and some well-intended but misguided renovations.

The potential was "huge", the Realtor said; it just needed "some TLC to finish it".

I had no idea the process of renovation would be so agonizingly slow. Or just so agonizing, period. Eleven years later, we are still in the thick of renovating, though energy, enthusiasm and elves (our family work force) have waned.

I also had no idea God's renovation of my heart and soul would be so agonizingly slow or pervasive, touching every facet of my life.

"Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal [planning, provision] in every condition," Mr. Burroughs writes.

So the mice in our traps (almost one a day for the first two weeks) and the cold that first winter (because the furnace had yet to be moved from the main floor to the newly-dug basement) were all part of God's wise planning for us? Apparently so.

And the worst trial of all for ultra-visually-oriented me, the ugliness wherever I looked as we lived amidst the renovations -- that, too was all part of God's fatherly provision for us? Yup.

Burroughs goes on to emphasize, "...that to be well skilled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory and excellence of a Christian."

Was I sweet, quiet, gracious through it all? Freely submitting to and delighting in it all?
That'll be the subject of future posts!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Just one more thing...

     When I was a girl, I used to dream about being poor.

     It wasn't poverty that was appealing. I knew nothing of that. It was the getting out of it -- the rags to riches -- that drew me.

     So I'd load my cats, Squeak and Smoky, into my wagon on a burlap sack (before burlap was chic) and off I'd go, seeking my fortune.

     Trouble was, I could always think of one more "essential" I needed to be able to make it, living by my wits. A blanket. Snacks. A book. My dolls. And that, right there, is my basic problem. Maybe yours too.

     It's always that "one more thing" that'll satisfy me. It's as true of material goods as it is in relationships and other areas of life.

     But God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). And that means everything necessary for contentment too.
     So join me as I blog on what I've learned about the balance between doing what I can with what I have, and "godliness with contentment, which is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6).

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Brief History of God's Provision

Fall 1984
It was a strange thing to see an ad for drapery fabric in the classifieds of the farm newspaper I'd worked for before I had children. But there it was. And I thought it might just be what I was after.

This house we lived in, a 723 sq. ft. "fixer upper", had been alternately our pride and joy or our grief and misery.

Little House in the Big Woods

It needed a lot of work. Monsieur's work stresses combined with a shortage of funds since I had quit my job to raise our children at home, meant that progress in transforming it into my House of Dreams was slow.

I had been longing for something lighter and more elegant than the dark brown drapes and "stale oatmeal" (so named by Monsieur) wall colour in the living room. The only large window was also shaded by an exterior awning and it all translated into a darkly oppressive room. "Let there be light," I prayed.

Now the awning was gone and with fresh cream paint and white trim, the curtains were the only throwback to the Dark Ages (i.e. The Seventies). I had in mind a double set of cream sheers, one outer set pulled back while the other set remained closed to filter light.

Yet I had only $100 saved. In stores, my dream drapes were far beyond that meager budget. So I figured I'd make them myself. Unfortunately the fabric was also beyond my means.

So when I saw the ad, I called. I asked what the fabric was like. The lady countered by asking what I wanted. I briefly described my hopes, fearing all the while that I was getting in deeper than I had funds for. She responded by saying she would come to my home and do some measuring.

Now I was really in for it! I had intended to make my own. I could only imagine what she would charge and I knew  custom made  couldn't possibly be cheaper than even the up-scale stores I had checked. But before I knew it, she'd arranged a consultation.

When she arrived, it was a round, cheerful, sixtyish fairy with long white hair that stood at my door. She cooed over my newborn and chatted amiably with my little boy. We quickly learned, in the way fellow believers do, that we were both Christians. She didn't do much measuring but said she could make up what I wanted in not too much time.

I had to be forthright. "I only have $100 to spend," I confessed. She said not to worry, it would all work out. That troubled me. She soon left, but not before giving me some advice. "If you want a baby girl next time," she told me, "be sure to get pregnant right after your period when the blood is rich." It had all the makings of a fairy-tale.

Less than two weeks later, the lady's husband delivered a bag to our door, I paid him the $100 which he insisted was quite enough and he left without ceremony.

When I opened the bag, there were these beautiful, high-quality, perfectly, professionally-sewn pinch pleat drapes. Both sets had a beautiful Cornelli (embroidered) hem which I had long before ruled out as unnecessary extravagance.

I almost wept.

I never saw or heard from that woman again and I knew beyond a doubt that her labour alone was worth much more than $100.

I knew, too, that God cares for me. He cares about beauty. And He cared about a young mother trying to feather her nest in an attractive way. But more than anything, I saw that He delights to delight in me!
                                          "For the Lord delights in you" Isaiah 62:4
That He should care about such inconsequential details -- "His eye is on the sparrow..." -- and provide so "exceedingly abundantly above all [I] ask or think" -- Oh how I praised Him!
And I've never forgotten it. I praise Him now.