Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Of Pearls and Oysters...

I think the Christian treatment of trouble is splendidly illustrated by the oyster, into whose shell one day there comes a tiny grain of sand. By some strange circumstance, this tiny piece of quartz has entered into the shell of the oyster and there like an alien thing an intruder, a cruel, unfeeling catastrophe imposes pain, distress, and presents a real problem. What shall the oyster do?

Well, there are several courses open. The oyster could, as so many men and women have done in times of adversity and trouble, openly rebel against the sovereign providence of God.

The oyster, metaphorically speaking, could shake a fist in God's face and complain bitterly: "What should this have to happen to me? Why should I suffer so? What have I done to deserve this? With all the billions of oyster shells up and down the seaboard, why in the name of higher mathematics did this grain of sand have to come into my shell?" The oyster could conclude: "There is no justice. All this talk of a God of love and mercy is not true. Now, since this calamity has overtaken me, I'll throw away all the faith I ever had. It doesn't do any good anyway." Yes, the oyster could say that. So many men and women have in times of trouble.
But the oyster doesn't!

Or the oyster could say - again like some men and women when adversity strikes... "It can't be true! It isn't true. I must not permit myself to believe it." The oyster could say - as some of our very best people today are trying to say in the face of cruel circumstance: "There is no such thing as pain. It is an error of the mind, and I must, therefore, project my thoughts on positive planes of beauty, truth, and goodness, and if I fill my mind with such thoughts, then I shall know that pain is unreal."
But the oyster doesn't do that.

There is another attitude the oyster could adopt - a very commendable one - one that calls fora lot of fortitude and courage and determination. The oyster could say: "Now that this hard calamity has over taken me, this thing that hurts and cuts and stabs, this enemy that bruises and bleeds, now that this has come upon me, I must endure to the end. I must show them all that I can take it, and I won't give in. I will hold on if it kills me. I must remember that the darkest hour is just before the dawn."

Now, there is something noble in that, something praiseworthy in that attitude. But the oyster does not do that because the oyster is at one and the same time a realist as well as an idealist. There is no point in trying to deny the reality that tortures every nerve, so the oyster doesn't try. In spite of all the denial, nothing can change the fact that the grain of sand is there. Nor would grumbling or rebelling do any good, for after all the protests and complaints, the grain of sand would still be there.

No, the oyster recognizes the presence of the grim intruder, and right away begins to do something. Slowly and painfully, with infinite care, the oyster builds upon the grain of sand - layer upon layer of a plastic, milky substance that covers each sharp corner and coats every cutting edge... and gradually... slowly... by and by a pearl is made... a thing of wondrous beauty wrapped around trouble. The oyster has learned - by the will of God - to turn grains of sand into pearls, cruel misfortunes into blessings... pain and distress into beauty.

And that is the lesson that we are to lean along this pilgrim way. The grace of God, which is sufficient, will enable us to make of our troubles the pearls they can become. It is no mere figure of speech. It is something more than a simile to say that one enters Heaven through pearly gates -one enters into the presence of the Lord through gates bedecked with pearls, and every pearl - a trouble, a pain, a heartache, a misfortune, which, by the grace of God, has been changed into a beautiful, lovely thing.

-Peter Marshall

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Little things...

"...the compensatory intensification of delight in little things that comes when larger things have been renounced is God-given. Why should He have scattered such playthings as sunbeams and kittens along the thorny way if they were not to be exclaimed over and enjoyed?"

-Elizabeth Goudge
Green Dophin Street

Monday, December 28, 2009

Jen's reading list

I decided to take Natalie up on her challenge - posting pictures of books I am currently reading and those I want to read. Oh, and I could mention that the want-to-read pile could, potentially reach to the ceiling - only I don't exactly own all of those want-to-read books to take a picture of... Not to mention that it would get tedious reading all of those titles in a pic where the books reached the ceiling...

Without further digression, here are my pics!

"Here's what I am reading"

The titles aren't all that easy to read in the picture; on the top is Gold by Moonlight by Amy Carmichael. This is one that I pick up when I need something quiet and comforting. A friend gave it to me years ago, and it's one of those books that you do not necessarily read all at once, but when you are in the mood for it. Written for "fellow toads under the harrow" this book has uplifting thoughts for painful times.

Next in the pile is Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge. I love Elizabeth Goudge's characters, storylines, wording, setting, just about every aspect of her books. She has a lovely way with words, and I tend to keep a blank notebook by me when I am reading to jot down random quotes that grab me. So far this one has a bit of a frustrating plot - it is about two sisters with the same dream - and the scheming, manipulative sister appears to win over the sweet, noncompetitive one. Or, does she really? I'm waiting to discover how this book ends... As usual Elizabeth Goudge has some telling observations about human nature.

Next is War and Peace by Tolstoy. It sounds like a challenge but so far it really is a fairly easy read, my only trouble is keeping the numerous characters straight! During my winter break from school last year I read Anna Karenina in a couple of weeks, which is also by Tolstoy and comparable in length to War and Peace. Anna Karenina inspired my interest in Russian literature, which I had read little of previously. I'm still hoping to finish War and Peace on this winter break.

On the bottom is Disciplines of the Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes. This one is a reread that I have picked up on and off again since I was a teenager. It is divided into chapters such as "The Discipline of Prayer," "The Discipline of Submission," "The Discipline of Perseverance," and others, - all important characteristics to develop in the continual strive to be perfect; like our Father in heaven.

On the top is Mr. Jones, Meet the Master, which is a collection of Peter Marshall's sermons compiled after his death by his wife, Catherine Marshall. I read A Man Called Peter twice, and was drawn into the life story of this sincere and dedicated Scottish pastor. I have read other works by Catherine Marshall, such as Christy, Julie, and To Live Again, and love her books. I'm looking forward to reading this one, but will probably not read it all at once. I'm guessing I will read it like I read most devotional type books, here and there when the mood strikes me - with notebook and pen handy.

The Child from the Sea is another Elizabeth Goudge book, and one of the few left that I have not read.

Breaking free is by Beth Moore. I did one of her studies as a teenager, and the only other of her books I have read since is Praying God's Word. She seems to be good at identifying common footholds that Satan may have in a person's thought life, and directing thoughts to scripture to overcome those footholds, or "strongholds," as Beth Moore puts it.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky is one that I picked up last winter break and did not finish. I am going to have to begin again from the beginning in order to follow the plot and characters. As I remember, the book was thought provoking in how it portrayed human nature - even though I did not agree with all of Fyodor Dostoevsky's views. Still, it makes you think.

So - now that I have photo documentation I must follow up and finish! This winter break I have been sick more than I would have liked, still it's a mixed blessing because lack of energy to leave the house means there is more quiet time to read...

Well, that's my list. :) I'm interested in picking up some more ideas from other readers to add to my could-reach-the-ceiling pile of want-to-reads... ;)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Beneath the Cleansing Flood

I accompanied for hymns at my church this past weekend and was confronted with one of those situations that makes most accompanists cringe; that is, when the congregation blissfully sings a song musically incorrectly. This particular instance was with the hymn, "O Victory in Jesus," in the eighth measure: "to save a wretch like me." The correct way to sing/play it, is dotted eighth note, sixteenth note, half note, quarter note. For those not musically inclined, it's something like this: "to saaveawretchhhh. Like-meee." The way the congregation actually sang it was half note half note half note half note, or somewhat like 'Save-A-Wretch-Like-Me.'
(Does that translation make any sense? ;)) 

Faced with the on-the-spot decision; should I continue playing the measure as written, correctly, albeit alone in the correctness?  Or should I switch to their sung version, and if so, would I be encouraging musical incorrectness? Or, on the other hand, is correctness outweighed by how the hymn is traditionally sung? 

Right or wrong, I decided to adapt to the congregation. I played while the congregation sang this measure in the next two verses as half note half note half note half note. And yes; I cringed every time. 

I did some research later and discovered this measure adjustment was not unique to my church, but the song is often sung incorrectly. This musician followed a different course of action than I did - again making me consider which would be the best approach for the next time this happened. 

Know what? I never did figure it out.  

And know what else? I decided it doesn't matter all that much. Because if we are singing of victory in Jesus, the point isn't in how the song is being sung...the point is that there is, indeed, victory in Jesus. 

(And it's okay if I still cringe, isn't it? ;))  

O Victory in Jesus

I heard an old, old story, 
How a Savior came from glory, 
How He gave His life on Calvary 
To save a wretch like me; 
I heard about His groaning, 
Of His precious blood's atoning, 
Then I repented of my sins 
And won the victory. 

O victory in Jesus, 
My Savior, forever. 
He sought me and bought me 
With His redeeming blood; 
He loved me ere I knew Him 
And all my love is due Him, 
He plunged me to victory, 
Beneath the cleansing flood. 

I heard about His healing, 
Of His cleansing pow'r revealing. 
How He made the lame to walk again 
And caused the blind to see; 
And then I cried, "Dear Jesus, 
Come and heal my broken spirit," 
And somehow Jesus came and bro't 
To me the victory. 

O victory in Jesus, 
My Savior, forever. 
He sought me and bought me 
With His redeeming blood; 
He loved me ere I knew Him 
And all my love is due Him, 
He plunged me to victory, 
Beneath the cleansing flood. 

I heard about a mansion 
He has built for me in glory. 
And I heard about the streets of gold 
Beyond the crystal sea; 
About the angels singing, 
And the old redemption story, 
And some sweet day I'll sing up there 
The song of victory. 

O victory in Jesus, 
My Savior, forever. 
He sought me and bought me 
With His redeeming blood; 
He loved me ere I knew Him 
And all my love is due Him, 
He plunged me to victory, 
Beneath the cleansing flood. 

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Simpler Days

We spent Saturday afternoon at my grandmother's house. She got out her old albums and boxes full of pictures and we lost track of time as we poured over the pictures of days gone by. With pictures scattered all over the living room, we asked my grandma to identify this person and that person. Interestingly, or ironically, the striking part of each picture was its very simplicity.

This picture is of my mother's parents with the first seven of their thirteen, yes, that was thirteen, children. Obviously, in the raising of such a large family, there were sacrifices. The family was far from well off, and they lived in a fairly small house in the country surrounded by farms. But they all worked hard, and they all loved to laugh and have fun.

It is interesting to compare today, complete with our economic "crisis," with those times. I think part of the problem for us today is that we have come to expect more in the way of "things" than our grandparents and great-grandparents did. When you compare our standard of living to that of many others in previous generations, and even today in other cultures, you have to wonder, are we really as badly off as the media would like us to think? Or is it just that we been spoiled to the extent of developing skewed ideas of what distinguishes between "necessities" and "luxuries?"

My mother's family worked hard for what they had. They didn't whine for what they didn't have. When my mother's brothers were old enough to be hired out, they worked for farms in the area - and then voluntarily handed nearly their entire salary to their father at the end of the week. When I compare this to many of the younger generation of today who are thankless for what their parents have invested in them, who seem to expect instant gratification as a right instead of a privilege, it boggles my mind.

I think part of our problem today is that our lifestyle is based on paradigms we have developed that were unrealistic in times past and may be unrealistic going forward. Who knows? It may be that the economy scare will provide enough of a jolt for many of us to return to a simpler lifestyle.

And that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer Days - 'lil bits of life

"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world, and all who dwell therein."
-Psalm 24:1

"But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."

- Isaiah 43:1-2

"Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him."

-Psalm 34:8

Friday, June 19, 2009

has it really been this long? And yes, I'm still alive! :)

I think in my last post I promised to post more often - only that was some 8 or 9 months ago... and, I ask, wherever did those months go??!!

Time just seems to whisk by these days!

Here's a few random "catch up" facts of what I'm up to now:

1) Derivatives. Logs. Integrals. Tangent lines. Ugh. Yes - I'm taking a summer calculus class! And already in over my head... as in, will bake cookes for tutor. (hehe). I'm grateful for a dad who has the math brain that somehow skipped me!

2) Music. Still involved in the music at church about 3 weeks a month. Also singing with the Sunday School aged kids. When I suggested to the children that they sing out, as in loud-enough-so-as-not-to-sound-totally-bored-yet-not-ear-splitting, they asked if they could "scream." Um, no. However, I did introduce a song in which there is a line "Praise Him with a shout!" and they are allowed to "shout" the word "shout." This has become their favorite song, and we now sing it often. As in: Every. Single. Week. Twice. Ah yes, fun! :) Oh, and their teachers, (one of whom is my mom) absolutely love me for it... ;)

3) Major switch. Right, from accounting to business. Never thought this would happen, and my accounting professor gave every evidence of being broken-hearted over it, but my motivation is that I graduate a semester earlier by switching. It was odd timing, immediately after a particularly intimidating accounting exam, and actually my fellow students told the professor that I switched because of his difficult exam. He took it personally. My poor professor.

4) Car. My Plymouth Breeze had come to the point where I refused to put any more money in it. It was time to find a more reliable car, yet one that would still fit in my small (think college student) budget. Well, my dad and I found a DEAL! Yes, we were so excited I bought the car on the spot, and post purchase realized that a) the A/C didn't work (minor detail, who needs it?) b) the windows stuck when you rolled them down (yikes don't like that one!) c) it smelled like cigarette smoke (somehow we didn't notice because of the DEAL) d) oh, and other things stick, such as the gear shift and the key, but if you wiggle them just long enough you can work with it. Anyway, what a DEAL! :D

5) Can't. Wait. For school to end. Oh, hang on, that one isn't new... :)

6) Hiking. Yes, I actually fit a hike in BEFORE finals this spring! :) (I was sore for two days, ahem, could that mean, out of shape?! I think possibly. :) )

7) Lots of other stuff. Yes, busy, busy. And honestly, since this has been a very difficult year, I wouldn't have it any other way. I think I needed every distraction I've had, even when I complain about the lack of sleep! I actually think that this has been a trend for me over the last few years, as in whenever I went through a particularly difficult time, it was also such a busy time that I didn't have too much extra time to think. And that's been a good thing. Anyway... I'm still taking it one day at a time. And in less than 365 of those days I will have graduated and will be looking for something else to keep me busy... :)

I've missed writing, and hope to post another update soon (say maybe a real blog post as opposed to this rather strange quick-facts-of-what-I've-been-up-to-blog-post).

And this time, I'm thinking soon will mean something less than the last 8 or 9 months that went by since my last post...