Just what did He do?

What the Old Christianity teaches:

“The belief that the passion of the cross was redemption itself is the fundamental error of the church; and this error, together with the error respecting three Divine persons from eternity, has perverted the whole church to such an extent that there is nothing spiritual left in it. What at the present day more fills and crams the books of the orthodox, or what is more zealously taught and inculcated in the schools, or what is more frequently preached and proclaimed from the pulpit, than that God the Father, being angry with the human race, not only put it away from Himself, but also included it under a universal damnation, and thus excommunicated it; but being gracious, He persuaded or inspired His Son to descend and take upon Himself this determined damnation, and thus appease the anger of His Father; and that under no other conditions could the Father look with favor upon mankind? And further, that this was actually done by the Son; in that by taking upon Himself the damnation of the human race He suffered Himself to be scourged, to be spit upon, and finally crucified by the Jews as one “accursed of God” (Deuteronomy 21:23); and after this had been done the Father was propitiated, and from love for His Son canceled the damnation, but only on behalf of those for whom the Son might intercede, and that the Son thus became a Mediator perpetually before His Father. ” —True Christian Religion 132

What the New Christianity teaches:

“Redemption was a subjugation of the hells, a restoration of order in the heavens, and the establishment of a new church, because without these no one could have been saved. Moreover, they follow in order; for the hells must be subjugated before a new angelic heaven can be formed; and this must be formed before a new church can be established on earth; because men in the world are so closely connected with angels of heaven and spirits of hell as on both sides to be one with them in the interiors of their minds.” —True Christian Religion 115

Little By Little

“Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until thou be fruitful, and inherit the land.” (Exodus 23:30)

Do you ever wish that the Lord would give you a sign? Maybe if you’ve read this passage you don’t think of asking for signs:

“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign. But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:39)

But maybe, like me, you wish some things would be more obvious, or something big would happen to course correct your path. Or you seek a big change. “Something dramatic needs to happen and then I’ll______.” “I just need this to change and then I’ll start _____.” Whatever it is, I think we are all prone to waiting for something. Waiting until January first to start a resolution. Or the first of the month, or the first of the week. Can’t stop and make a change in the middle of the week. Nope. “I will go off caffeine this week!” and if I drink some Tuesday, the week is a goner. Gotta start fresh next Monday. Can’t go caffeine free the rest of this week. At least that’s the way my mind works.

Why is that? I get that we want a reset point, or some way of marking our progress and keeping track. And we do think in time and space. That’s how we measure things. By hours, days, weeks.  We want to know how long it has been. How many minutes has it been since I last checked my phone? How many days have I been off sugar? How many weeks have I kept up my running?

So we need markers that we’re on track. We want to be able to check off days. We want to see progress and results. We use time to keep track of how we’re doing. But what about getting started in the first place? How do we start a new routine or habit? How and why?

It can be hard to try a new thing, or even to find a reason for it. We want to stay where we are, because it is safe and comfortable. Well, actually, it might not be safe OR comfortable, but it is familiar. And familiarity can masquerade as safety.

So in order to get out of our familiar bubble we want a wakeup call. We want a lightning strike (near us, not on us!) We want an earthquake. Or at least a spiritual earthquake. We want something to wake us up and get us working on repentance and change. We are waiting for something big to jolt us out of ourselves.

But the Lord doesn’t work that way. We don’t have to wait until we’re ready to change all at once. He lets us change little by little. He does not demand that we be ready all at once. We can’t change all at once. We have to accept that one thing at a time is okay. A not so spiritual example is cleaning my room. I often want to wait until I can do a thorough job. “No point in picking that sweater up if I can’t also hang up that skirt right now.” “I can’t sort all my clothes so I’m not gonna bother setting aside this shirt to get rid of.” Um, why not? It would be so much easier if I just put away this one article of clothing today instead of waiting until I can do it all, and yet it is so very hard to convince myself of this.

It is the same for me with spiritual tidying up. I don’t often spend the time resisting this minor bad habit until I can sit down and really work through my evils. Which is just silly, because the Lord tells us that even though repentance is exceedingly difficult we can still remind ourselves to resist every time something comes up:

“Since actual repentance, which is examining oneself recognizing and acknowledging one’s sins, praying to the Lord and beginning a new life, is in the Reformed Christian world exceedingly difficult for many reasons that will be given in the last section of this chapter, therefore an easier kind of repentance is here presented, which is, that when anyone is giving thought to any evil and intending it, he shall say to himself, “Although I am thinking about this and intending it, I will not do it because it is a sin.” (True Christian Religion 535)

We’re supposed to pick up the one shirt, even if there is a massive pile of laundry, start by putting the one shirt away. That’s what the Lord asks. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. It can’t be. I need the constant reminder that the Lord is not in the fire. He is not in the earthquake. He is calm and He does not demand everything at once, He just wants us to start.

“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;  and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

Home Worship

This week we are sharing images of a variety of home worship areas. Last week’s article finished with this quote from Deuteronomy 6:4-7, which fits nicely as we contemplate these warm and thoughtful family worship set ups.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”

Book Hero

I remember as a young teen coming across a small book inside a tissue paper lined box on a shelf in our home, crafted from birch bark, with poems carefully copied onto every curled-edge black-marked satin page, each poem a gift of words chosen by a young man for his future wife. 

I had always known my mother loved poetry and the written word (after all, she read to us daily, her golden voice a shining road to faraway lands and places of wonder) but as a smaller child, seeing my father as Strength, Work, Wisdom, Fun and Humour, I had somehow missed, with childhood’s myopia, his love for words (How, I don’t know, because he, too, read to us almost every day, from the Word, and chapter stories before bedtime). 

How wondrous to hold in my heart the new knowledge that his love for poetry had lead him to trudge through the woods he loved, selecting perfect peels of bark. Love had lead him to search through the forests of poems to gather those whose sweetness and strength seemed worthy of Her. Here I held between my palms the proof that his strong capable hands were also capable of this delicate artistry and tender tribute…this labour of love. 

As a voracious reader, I had a young girl’s theoretical standards about romantic book heroes, but as I carefully put the birch bark anthology back in its box, my heart swelled in new appreciation for my real ‘book hero and heroine’. (Theirs is still my favourite love story to this day).

Since then, I’m happy to say we have had many sessions sitting around the kitchen table looking up at our favourite mountain,  or by the fire, sharing poetry and stories with my parents and with each other. It’s especially fun to get my Dad started on poems, since he will recite them ‘by heart’ , having learned them over his lifetime. I treasure the almost daily emails I receive with poems and stories from Mama, almost as good as sitting basking in their sunny window seat and reading with them.

Finding the birch bark book that day marked a new state in my life, that of beginning to notice my parents as people, with inner landscapes of their own. I began to see how they dedicated their skills and talents to build a life for us. How they forged ahead in parenting when they probably actually felt young, and inexperienced, and confused and worried at so many points when raising us. How they went from being the center of a romantic story, where every tiny detail about the other was a new discovery, rejoiced in by those around them,   to being the leaders of a house full of small people, somewhat incurious about their parents,  little kids who probably noticed very little beyond what directly affected them. 

So much of my childhood revolved around stories and words, leaning against a parent, watching hands turn the pages of a myriad of books.

I am sure it would have been easier after a long day of work, for my parents to leave us to find our own entertainment. Yet after dinner and chores, before bedtime, they read to us, both picture books, and also chapter books. 
Daddy, after a long commute and longer work day, might sometimes require the combined frantic massaging of several small hands on his head and neck to keep awake while he read to us about Narnia or whatever story it was; yet he still chose to spend his scarce evening hours reading to us of heroes and heroines of courage and honour, of humour and tenderness.

Mama might have liked to put her feet up after running after us, cooking meals of artistry and flavour, teaching, and nurturing us, but instead she put us up on the couch, braving the wandering of sticky fingers in her hair, and wove magic with her voice, her evening hours a gift to us.

These reading times were such a part of my childhood, yet looking back, I know that the most important reading of all was my parents’ dedication to family worship.

My Dad read through the Word from Genesis to Revelation, and starting again at Genesis over the years.  They involved us in the simple rituals of candles, prayer, readings, singing. I remember the faint, comforting cadence of Daddy’s voice floating down the hall as we drifted into sleep, reading The Writings to my Mama.

I have become an adult, and my parents are my best friends.  As I spend time with the children in my life now, observing their parents (my siblings and friends)  from a peer perspective, I find that the book of my early life has many more pages than I had known. As I watch this generation of parents, I learn more about the work my Book Heroes undertook when they were so young, and when I was too young to notice much.

Each page of that book was searched out and chosen by them, each satiny surface marked with wisdom and examples for me to keep, an anthology of spiritual and natural life, carefully crafted by their hands, bound with their youth, wrapped in translucent sheets of their dedication and kept safely in their promise to the Lord at my baptism.

Yet when I look closely at that  book,  I see that every leaf has the same message inscribed on its surface; the reminder that any story that is good, any idea that is true, is so only because it echoes the Real Story. My earthly heroes point the way to the Real Hero of that True Book that I  received when I turned seven. 

That Book, with its inner cover inscribed with these words:
‘I will lift up mine eyes to the mountains, whence come my help. My help cometh from the Lord who made heavens and the earth’.

‘And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.’ Deut 6:6