Training in Righteousness
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Thankful Thursday

Have I mentioned that I love late summer? I do, and I'm thankful for beautiful weather this past week. Tuesday was very hot and humid, but it cooled off. I love the smell of late summer and the colour of the sky.

I'm thankful for time with our whole family this past weekend, including the grandparents. I'm thankful my kids have got to know their grandparents.

I'm thankful for fresh peaches. We're blessed to have a lot of local fruit at this time of year, including blueberries, cantaloupe, peaches, and soon, apples. I love it when the peach is ripe enough that you can peel the skin off in one piece.

I'm thankful for working with my hands. I'm almost finished an afghan I've been knitting, and then it's time to start on Christmas presents.

I'm thankful for God's Word, for time to study, and the privilege to teach.

Rebecca is also thankful today.


To be the perfect friend

Many years ago, I was in a friendship that ended badly. All relationships have their ups and downs, but this one could only be classified as toxic. It started out very well, and then deterioriated.

How can you walk away from a friend?

There was no open conflict for a long time. I told myself to overlook the offenses and the way she manipulated. I needed to be more forebearing, more loving. When I discovered quite by accident that my situation with her was only one in a long line of similar ones with other women, I began to wonder if perhaps I wasn't all to blame. My husband said he thought I should consider just stepping back. I found that hard to contemplate. I couldn't bear the thought of giving up. Surely, walking away from a friend meant I had not loved enough. 

I finally had to confront her about an issue, and was met with a cold, hard stare. She wouldn't speak to me after that. Now the feeling of failure really did set in. It was only after quite a number of years of distance that I finally understood that I could not be the perfect friend. I could not love enough to make the necessary difference. For a long time, that bothered me, but when I realized that it actually revealed my own pride, it was easier to accept what had happened. I was indeed culpable, but perhaps not in the way I thought.

God reassures our hearts

Recently, I was reading I John 3, the passage about love. Christ laid down his life for the brothers, and we are to do the same (I John 3:16-18). This is, in fact, the way we know we abide in Him. Later in this passage (I John 3:18-24), John provides comfort for those who feel their heart condemning them in this area of love. He reminds the readers that whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater, and knows everything. God knows our motives. We may carry guilt because we feel like we have not loved enough, but God knows our hearts better.

In the context of this passage, Karen Jobes in her commentary on I John, has some wise words about this issue:

God recognizes that our flawed, inadequate attempts to love others are genuine acts of faith and love. He knows all about people we attempt to love and the situations that have given rise to their needs. Our attempt to respond to another's need may be misguided or miscalculated. The person we try to love may rebuff our good intent. Our loving act may actually flow from motives that are not unmixed with selfishness or our own needs. There are many reasons why even our best acts may leave us feeling unsettled, unsure, and confused inside. Love can be complicated, and God knows that; his own love for the world has been misunderstood, rebuffed, and rejected. Still, he continues to love his creation by providing what we need to sustain life physically and spiritually.

The apostle knows that his readers need to quiet their hearts in order to continue in their faith in Christ and in their love for others. For a heart that constantly accuses us of disappointing God will erode our resolve to love.

Love is non-negotiable for the Christian

We can love others without expectation, squash our feelings of being offended, and offer as much of our hearts as we can, and things can still go wrong. But God knows our hearts. We should be encouraged by John's words, that God knows our hearts, and that he can wash away any lingering guilt. Guilt can make us build walls without our even realizing it, and we may be reluctant to love others. That must not be; love a non-negotiable for the Christian. John has just made that clear. But God can reassure our hearts, and that's a wonderful truth.


Chasing the light

I love the sky. I love its many moods, and I love watching how its light changes with the rising and setting of the sun, and how its own colour casts shadows on the earth below. 

My desk faces into the east, and into my back yard. This is an older neighbourhood, full of stately maples. We have a huge one in our yard which provides privacy, but as the sun rises, I can see snatches of light peeking through its branches. Yesterday, when I looked up from my book, I could see a brilliant orange coming through. I immediately got up and got my camera, because I knew an orange that brilliant indicated a lovely sunrise. 

The clouds were soft, and ripple-like. I put my sandals on and went out in between my house and my neighbour's house, in the wet grass, to take a few pictures.

I think I took about eight in all, and was out there for less than five minutes. When I got back into the yard and closed the gate, the light had already faded, again changing the colour. There have been times in the winter when the sun comes up and I want to take a picture, and by the time I grab my coat, the moment is gone.

When I got back inside, I thought of how fast the light changes. And then I thought that our lives are like that in the face of eternity, fleeting. As children, our lives feel so slow at times, but as we age, things go so fast. When we contemplate it, we see what a mere breath our lives are.

We think we have time, so we put things off. Perhaps it's restoring a fractured relationship, or getting involved with that bible study we've heard about, or helping with a ministry at our church, or even visiting an elderly neighbour. I know people who have stopped attending church. They say they love the Lord, but it's been years since they darkened the door, and it's all becuase they're offended and bitter. We think we have time to get right with God, to take him seriously, to learn about him. But maybe we don't have that time.

Psalm 90:12 is one of my favourite verses in the Psalms:

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

I love the connection between evaluating our lives and the outcome of gaining wisdom. If we don't know we're a vapor, I don't see how wisdom will come very easily.

This is still a verse for all of us. We will not be here forever.  A year ago at this time, my husband's best friend from high school, and the man who was best man at our wedding, died suddenly at the age of 53, leaving three teenagers and a wife. That could be me or it could be you. Our lives are brief and just like that perfect moment to take a picture passes quickly, so do our opportunities. Let's make the most of them now to learn of God, to love him, to serve him and to proclaim his name.


Lifting Up Our Hearts - 37

Pursuit of Piety

Grant, Almighty God,
since Thou hast pointed out to us
the true way of safety
since Thou didst perceive us all deficient
in this respect, and since the law
which ought to have given us life
brought death through our transgressing it:

Grant, I pray Thee,
since Thou has set before us Thine only Son,
in whom we may be reconciled and obtain
the perfect righteousness that we need,
that we may so embrace the grace
that is offered to us
in the gospel that we may strive
more and more to proceed in the pursuit of piety,
till we arrive at length at the blessed inheritance
that the same, Thine only begotten Son, has acquired for us. Amen. 


The straddle generation and digital immigrants

A friend of mine shared an article recently that led me to purchase the book The End of Absence, by Michael Harris. Harris, a journalist, writes about the effects of being continually connected. He alludes to this as a "Gutenberg moment," drawing parallels and demonstrating differences between the effects of the printing press and the proliferation of information through the internet.

Specifically, he focuses on the fact that his generation (which is my generation) are the ones who know what life was like before the internet and after. 

If you were born before 1985, then you know what life was like both with the Internet and without. You are making the pilgrimage from Before to After. (Any younger and you haven't lived as an adult in a pre-Internet landscape). Those of us in this straddle generation, with one foot in the digital pond and the other on the shore, are experiencing a strange suffering as we acclimatize. We are the ditigal immigrants, and like all immigrants, we don't find the new world welcoming.

Harris's reserach and thoughts have brought him to the conclusion that all of this technology has created lack of absence, a principle which he will explore further in the remainder of the book. I'm only 23 pages in, and I'm hooked.

It is good that a book like this is written now. It's an interesting time. I think it's important for those of us who are in the pre-Internet age to record what our lives were like before this thing took over our world. When our generation is long dead, there will be no one who as Harris puts it,"speaks both languages."

One comment he makes really struck me:

As we embrace technology's gifts, we usually fail to consider what they ask from us in return -- the subtle, hardly noticeable payments we make in exchange for their marvelous service. We don't notice, for example, that the gaps in our schedules have disappeared because we're too busy delighting in the amusements that fill them. We forget the games that childhood boredom forged because boredom itself has been outlawed.

This is so very true. We may neglect to ask ourselves, "What consequences will this bring?" We run the extremes of completely dismissing any potential negativity and grasping on with both hands to the present time like a child grabbing onto his father's leg to keep him from going out the door. I have known both kinds of people, and have been both kinds of people. As always, somewhere in the middle is a lot better position to take.

I'm looking forward to this book.