And Just Like That Everyone Went Home

So we’ve all been sent home to “shelter in place,” to school our children at home, to eat food together as a family around our own table, to clear our schedule of meetings and practices and play-dates –in other words, to cease the madness of a frantic go-go-go lifestyle at once. Could be a good thing. After all, I could smugly assert that’s basically how our family’s been living for years. But forcing the entire country to do so is another story.  Our rights and freedoms are being stripped from us at a pace that would make even Stalin’s head spin. I’ve wondered the past few days if most people are even aware of the first or fourth or tenth amendments to our constitution. They’re kind of a big deal, folks. Take it from someone whose mother had her whole world stripped away from a war between totalitarian regimes and fled to the only place on earth where she trusted that could never happen again. In fact, if you have to choose between reading this blog and reading your Bill of Rights (assuming you’re a U.S. Citizen– sorry those are the only people it covers), I’d way rather have you pull out your Pocket Constitution (which every citizen should have in print and on hand, btw) or just click here. Of course, all of that means nothing when a national emergency is declared. I just think it’s good to be aware of what’s actually being taken from us in the name of public health and safety.  Benjamin Franklin once said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  Of course he also said a lot of other things that were bunk, so take it or leave it.

But as much as I believe in the excellencies of the Constitutional Republic we inhabit, I believe in the sovereignty of God and His Kingdom more. And as much as I believe every U.S. Citizen should have a copy of the Constitution in print and on hand, I believe it’s even more important to have an actual copy of sacred Scripture in your hands. It too, has a few things to say about government and our response to it. God says He’s in control. He sets up those in authority over us and He removes them. He knits our bodies together and numbers our days. There are no maverick molecules in God’s universe. Not even Covid-19 shaped ones. He is working all things together for our good and for His glory.  And yes, if you have to choose between reading this blog, reading the Constitution or reading your Bible, please pick up your Bible!

Trying to make sense to my children of the bewildering changes upending our world in the last month, I have to keep in mind that as God sets up kingdoms (was Trump’s victorious State of the Union address only a month and a half ago?) and tears them down, it is all with His eternal kingdom purposes in mind. And the marvel is, He is doing that great kingdom building through OUR OWN HEARTS.  What are my boys learning about the Christian walk through all this? Are they learning as much about what it means to be a Citizen of Heaven as they are about what it means to be a Citizen of the United States of America? Can they see where my true allegiance lies?  How I respond to these inconveniences, injustices, and financial uncertainties speaks volumes to them about the Lord’s sanctifying work in my own heart.

I’m pretty sure I can already see some of the good being wrought.

  1. Most immediately, I’m looking at my husband right now who is also a full-time seminary student at TMS, studying hard for his Greek mid-term. Normally he’d be at work instead. He’d fallen a little behind due to all the back and forth travel surrounding my Dad’s death a couple weeks ago. Now he can finally get caught up on his Mdiv studies!
  2. My boys are finally hearing from sources other than their own nagging mother that our elderly people matter. That they should be honored and cared for. It’s a soap box issue of mine that I’ve written about here, here,  here and here and it has been such a blessing to hear it now proclaimed from places like the White House.
  3. My natural tendency toward social distancing has been overwhelmingly affirmed as not only healthy life-styling but the law of the land!
  4. The first two weeks of Feb. we were all sick in bed with the worst flu ever which was immediately followed by two weeks of taking care of my Dad. It was a crazy time of upheaval for our family during which I longed for days just such as the ones we are now getting to experience indefinitely.
  5. The time is ripe for compassion. Everyone in the world seems to be making it very clear that they are very much afraid of death. So many opportunities to share the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ. From a distance of course :).
  6. I’m relearning the sweetness of trust. Yes, “Tis, So Sweet to Trust in Jesus!” Don’t just click on the link and listen, dust off the old hymnal and sing along!

Finally, as disturbing as this government overreach might be, we haven’t been required yet to do anything sinful or dishonoring to God. We’re simply being told to “Go home.” And while that might ruffle some feathers in the feminist coop, in the end that might be right where God wants us during such a time as this.  Yes, the first and the fourth and the tenth amendments to our Constitution are pretty important, and yes, if we want to remain citizens who benefit from them, we better be willing to take up arms to preserve them. But let’s not forget the 10 Commandments are so much more important than that. And Jesus said they could be summed up this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

Tolle Lege: Feasting Amid Fears

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Yesterday was a big day for us.  Titus had been feeding his homemade sourdough starter (appropriately named Patrick) for 2 weeks and yesterday he turned it into fragrant, golden loaves to supplement our St. Patricks Day feast of corned beef, bangers, mash and all the fixings. Don’t know the story of Patrick, who after being kidnapped by Irish pirates and forced into servitude, escaped, and then went back to Ireland to bring his captors the good news of Jesus Christ? Click here for a great biographical article from Ligonier Ministries.  Since our kids are half German/half ScotchIrish we use holidays like Reformation Day and St. Patricks to celebrate and learn more about the Christian heritage of those cultures. And yes, we consume copious amounts of pork sausage for both. This year I made bookmarks with Saint Patrick’s “Lorica” printed on them so we could recite it together around the table. Timely words in a world riddled by fear of disease and economic upheaval.

Stuck at home with extra time on your hands?  Why not study up on other saints (and I mean that in the broadest, most Biblical sense of the word) in church history?  How have others believers braved times far more perilous than that which we now face? My boys have thoroughly enjoyed “Sketches From Church History” put out by Banner of Truth Publishing where you can read all about defenestration (Joel’s favorite new word, and don’t let anyone tell you German doesn’t have at least some Latin roots) and other such violent acts.  For my more genteel readers I want to suggest the two-volume set, “Memorable Women of Puritan Times” by James Anderson (Soli Deo Gloria Publishing). Tom bought me these when we were newly weds and I have returned to them again and again. In tumultuous times there is nothing to gird one up like considering others who have “endured opposition from sinful men.”

And finally. Once upon a time, Christian families had the time, or rather I should say, MADE the time to read God’s Word together and talk about what it said. The result of this was more often-than-not believing children who grew up knowing what they believed and why they believed it.  If you’re one of those families who have never tasted of the sweetness of reading scripture TOGETHER (and judging by the rampant Biblical illiteracy even in our churches, there’s probably more of you than you’d care to admit), why not use this time to invest in a habit that according to Isaiah 55:11 is guaranteed eternal returns? Our family is using the chronological Bible reading plan this year but we’ve used all kinds of others. You don’t need a reading plan. You just need to read. Aloud. Together.

And talk about it. If you want to combine church history with your Bible readings, Crossway has put out a couple really excellent Bibles to keep on hand for that purpose. I already did a review of their ESV Prayer Bible. You can read it by clicking here.  Recently they sent me a copy of their “ESV Bible With Creeds And Confessions.” It’s really beautiful and has large enough print that if you’re passing the Bible around during family read aloud time your younger and elderly readers will have no trouble participating.  It really is the perfect “family Bible” and has enough of that “heirloom quality” to be cherished for generations. Best of all it is a great tool for all believers who want a better understanding of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Because it contains all the creeds and confessions of Orthodox Christianity you will see not only the doctrines considered by all to be essential, but also the variances deemed (relatively 🙂 )unessential such as the different views of baptism contained in the London Baptist Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism.

Please understand that I’m not throwing this all out there to make anyone feel like we’re using this as an opportunity to prove our own holiness over others’.  But people I love are starving.  I see friends and family picking at crumbs fallen from the table and drinking great gulps of poisonous teachings that have spread like the yeast in Ty’s bread through our churches. All the while, we more than any generation have a splendidly nourishing and sumptuous feast spread before us 24/7.  Oh dear ones, please, take and eat. You too, can choose feasting over fear.

Some of you really liked the link to one of Titus’s youtube videos that ended up in the comments last week so here’s another one for your listening pleasure.

On Dying Well

I returned home this weekend after a week by my Dad’s hospital bed and then another week taking care of him in his home alongside my siblings with the help of Hospice. In the early morning hours of February 28, he shook off earthly fetters and entered into the presence of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. My mom had preceded him to glory by 3 years.

So thankful for the sacred time around his deathbed as family from near and far gathered round to see him off. This included my own 5 sons who saw their ‘Opa’ as nothing less than a hero who had survived plane crashes, encounters with grizzlies and gators, and earned a reputation as one of the worlds best mountaineers.  The body that 3 years prior, at the age of 85, had beaten them to their campsite on Gideon’s first backpack trip, now lay wasted and worn.

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My boys are no strangers to seeing grandparents off to glory.  A year after we moved back from Hawaii my Mom passed suddenly and a year later Tom’s Mom “won” her battle against cancer and entered into eternal, painless rest.  Our boys were blessed to spend the week prior by her hospital bed laughing and sharing and singing just as I had with my own “Oma” when I was 12 or 13.

This time my fingers knew right where to turn in the Bible and the Psalter and the hymnal.  I wondered often how people face death without these things on hand. I thought about our modern, feel-good worship music and how little it prepares us for deathbed vigils.  I cataloged hymns in my heart aimed at helping saints die well.  Here’s one for each day I spent by my Dad’s side and the lines forever highlighted in my memory.

My Jesus, I Love Thee  “I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, and praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath; and say when the death dew lies cold on my brow; “If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, tis now.”

Jesus Lives and So Shall I  “Jesus lives, and so shall I. Death! thy sting is gone forever. He who deigned for me to die, lives, the bands of death to sever. He shall raise me from the dust: Jesus is my Hope and Trust.”

How Firm A Foundation  “When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;  For I will be with thee, they troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee they deepest distress.”

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus  “Through death into life everlasting He passed and we follow Him there;  Over us sin no more hath dominion for more than conquerors we are! Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling  “Time is now fleeting the moments are passing, passing from you and from me; Shadows are gathering, death’s night is coming, coming for you and for me. Come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home; earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner, come home!”

Nearer, My God, to Thee  “There let the way appear steps unto heaven; All that thou sendest me, in mercy given; Angels to beckon me nearer, my God , to Thee, Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.”

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go “O Cross that lifted up my head, I dare not ask to fly from Thee; I lay in dust life’s glory dead, and from the ground there blossoms red Life that shall endless be.”

He Leadeth Me “And when my task on earth is done, when by Thy grace the victory’s won, Even death’s cold wave I will not flee, since God through Jordan leaders me.”

Be Still My Soul “Be still, my soul! the hour is hastening on when we shall be forever with the Lord, when disappointment, grief and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. Be still, my soul! when change and tears are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.”

All the Way My Savior Leads Me “All the way my Savior leads me; O the fullness of his love! Perfect rest to me is promised in my Father’s house above; when my spirit, clothed immortal, wings its flight to realms of day, This my song thru endless ages, “Jesus led me all the way.”

Day By Day “Help me then in every tribulation so to trust Thy promises, O Lord, that I lose 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.”

Rock of Ages “While I draw this fleeting breath, when my eyes shall close in death, when I soar to worlds unknown, see thee on thy judgement throne, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hid myself in Thee.”

Saved By Grace “Some day the silver cord will break, and I no more as now shall sing; but oh, the joy when I shall wake within the palace of the King!  And I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story –Saved by grace; and I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story –Saved by grace.”

Abide With Me “Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes, shine through the gloom and point me to the skies; Heavn’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee, in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”

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There are dozens more that could be added to this list and if you’d like to share any that come to mind, please do so in the comments below!