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Do you need to be refreshed?

In between Greek pronouns and Hildegard of Bingen (the subject of my term paper in Church History) I managed to read and thoroughly enjoy Shona and David Murray's book Refresh. I've reviewed it today at Out of the Ordinary.

Here is a snippet from the opening: 

OverwhelmedExhausted. Depreessed. Panicky. Stressed. Burned out. Broken. Paralyzed. Drowning. Empty. Recognize yourself in any of these words? Maybe in all of them?  
You're not alone. These are the most common words I've heard Christian women useing to describe themselves and their lives. 
Whatever happened to the words peaceful, calm, joyful, content, quiet, rested, refreshed, and fulfilled? Wouldn't you like to exchange the second set of words for the first? 

Click here to read the review.

This was an encouraging and helpful book. I would definitely recommend it. 


God of Grace

God of grace, amazing wonder,
So immeasurable and free;
Oh the miracle of mercy,
Jesus reaches down to me.
God of grace, I stand in wonder,
As my God restores my soul.
His own blood has paid my ransom,
Awesome cost to make me whole.

God of grace, who loved and knew me
Long before the world began,
Sent my Saviour down from Heaven,
Perfect God and perfect man.
God of grace, I trust in Jesus;
I'm accepted as his own.
Every day his grace sustains me
As I lean on him alone.

God of grace, I stand astounded,
Cleansed, forgiven, and secure;
All my fears are now confouned,
And my hope is ever sure.
God of grace, now crowned in glory,
Where one day I'll see your face;
And forever I'll adore you
In your everlasting grace.


Looking like monastics

I am deep in literature about Medieval women and mystics at the moment as I research for a term paper in Church history. At the same time, in our class readings last week we looked at the Desert Fathers. Some of those saying were just simple common sense, but others reveal a real desire to live a life of self-denial and humility. One of the sayings caught my attention:

A hermit said, 'This is the life of a monk; work, obedience, meditation, not to judge others, not to speak evil, not to murmur. For it is written "You who love God, hate the thing that is evil" (Ps. 97:10). This is monastic life: not to live with the wicked, not to see evil, not to be inquisitive, not to be curious, not to listen to gossip, not to use the hands for taking, but for giving; not to be proud in heart or bad in thought, not to fill the belly, in everything to judge wisely. This is the life of a true monk.

Some of those are very worthy aspirations. I'm all for hating evil and avoiding gossip. I'm against pride in my heart and bad thoughts. But I did raise my eyebrows at the admonition not to be curious or inquisitive. That attitude was not confined to the Desert Fathers. In some of the reading regarding women that I've done, I have discovered the reality of a premium put on the spirit above the intellect, despite the fact that many of the notable women of the Middle Ages were well-educated. For example, Hadewijch, a 13th century monastic woman was herself educated, but she did not believe that reason was the clearest path to God, and placed value on the spirit above the intellect.

The sentiment that a developed intellect interferes with our spirituality is alive and well. On more than one occasion, when women find out I'm in seminary (and even before then, when I said I liked to read theology) I've been met with the comment, "Well, I just really depend on the Spirit to teach me." 

I see some similarities between monastic women of the Middle Ages and groups of women today in the principle of separating ourselves. I saw it alive and well in homeschooling circles when my kids were younger. I've come across it with other women who will vigorously reject the use of a commentary in a Bible study because they want the Spirit to teach them. This notion of a simple life, free from the interferences of the secular world is promoted as the higher spiritual life.

I occasionally feel like my own curiosity and inquisitiveness is looked upon by other women as one of those weaknesses that must be tolerated, sort of like being the one in the crowd with the irritating, loud laugh; probably not something to be encouraged too much.

In reality, it's not the curiosity itself that is the problem; it's the content. Women are expected and encouraged to be curious, but perhaps not about theology. I don't understand why some women are curious about what movie stars wore on the red carpet at the Academy Awards. I am not curious about the lives and happenings of celebrities, but many women are. Curiosity isn't necessarily bad; it's just that there is an expectation of what we should be curious about. 

Men and women who went into monasteries were often looked upon as being elite Christians. I wonder sometimes if we think that by separating ourselves we are demonstrating a superior spirituality. I have yet to be convinced that shunning learning makes me more spiritual.


Day by Day

See below for a beautiful a capella rendition.

Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Give unto each day what he deems best.
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord himself is with me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares he fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow'r.
The protection of his child and treaure
Is a charge that on himself he laid;
"As the days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me he made.

Help me, then, in every tribulation
So to trust thy promises, O Lord;
That I lost not faith's sweet consolation
Offered me within thy holy word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.


Our Great God

Eternal God, unchanging,
mysterious and unknown;
Your boundless love, unfailing,
In grace and mercy shown.
Bright seraphim in ceaseless flight
around your glorious throne;
They raise their voices day and night
in praise to you alone!

Hallelujah! Glory be to our great God!
Hallelujah! Glory to be our great God!

Lord, we are weak and frail,
Helpless in the storm;
Surrounds us with your angels
Hold us in your arms.
Our cold and ruthless enemy,
His pleasure is our harm.
Rise up, O Lord, and he will flee
Before our sovereign God.

Let every creature in the sea
And every flying bird,
Let every mountain, every field
And valley of the earth,
Let all the moons and all the stars
In all the universe,
Sing praises to the living God
who rules them by his word.