Thursday, December 28, 2006

Home Fires Burning.

This year we went to my mother-in-law's house for Christmas. Besides being a pretty nice house overall, one of the specific things that makes it attractive is that it has three fireplaces.

This is the living room one, although it's hidden behind a chair we moved. About twenty years ago they had it converted to a gas fireplace, which is great because you don't need to keep adding wood to it, and when you want to leave the house, you just turn it off. It's a little strange to do that to a fire, but handy, and the heat is just as efficacious. We used it alot.

However, pretty much everyone preferred the family room fireplace:

This is a conventional wood burner, and once I got the fire going (I am the designated fire builder because I have an inexplicable knack for it-- Rich says it's the inborn Viking in me, laying the poor wee Scots to the flame), everyone snuggled down in there and we turened off the gas one. At one point Ian, Meg, Mom and I commented on it according to their personal priorities:

Ian: This one definitely has better audio feedback.
Meg: It's much cozier, and smells right too...
Mom: It's the real thing!
Me: Ahhhh.... blisssss.

The third fireplace is located in the basement rec room, but no one has used it in the past thirty years. When they built the house, Mom and Dad thought their kids would likely have parties down there, but both kids turned out to be less gregarious than that. That room became Dad's home office, but it was too cold. Someday it will work perfectly for someone though.

The older I get, the more lame I realise I am when it comes for decorating for Christmas. My in-laws are far better at it, and I appreciate their ability. My sister in law lives in a house built in 1830, and she puts candles everywhere. It always looks great. My mother-in-law used to do more, but for an 80-year old lady, she's not doing too badly with a false tree now instead of a real one. Here is her holiday table:

And here we are, in the mad rush to fill plates and weight it down:

I'm not going to post the picture of us afterward, lying around the fire like satiated walruses. But it was a good meal and a good four days of eating and lying around in heaps afterward with books. Hope yours was too!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

It Just Got To Me.

After writing the last post I went out for my run. It is currently 43° and very foggy and quiet. As I ran past one house I noticed a light on in a window and in the busybody way I have, I glanced in as I passed. For two seconds I got a view of a dining room looking through to a comfortably cluttered kitchen, where a man was bent over a coffee pot, pouring into a mug. The scene was so peaceful and ordinary that I was touched to the heart, and found myself blessing all the good men like him who provide a home for their families, and find their comfort there, and in their morning cup of coffee. God bless them, every one.

Pondering Satan

I know this is a strange time to be pondering Satan, maybe, but one of the ways in which I find it most profitable to study something is by looking at its opposite. So, in a way, a study of Satan is a study of God. Of course, Satan is not God's antithesis, being a creature. But his purposes are antithetical to God's in any case.

SO the question I ask myself is: What is Satan's role? And what is Satan not? On the surface of it, Satan is:

-the Accuser. Some of his accusations against us are false, but thanks to our sin nature, many are quite true. He isn't picky-- whatever might get us in trouble, he'll try.

-the Adversary. Primarily, he is the adversary of God, but also of anything that God created, mainly humanity, who are the "Crown" of His creation.

-the Captor. I'm less sure about this one...I think I like the term 'malevolent jailer' better.

-the Enemy. This is pretty much the same as Adversary, but I put it here to highlight a different aspect, that of activity. Satan is against us, and he is a jailer, but he is a jailer who goes looking for captives. He's like a highwayman of medieval days, an entrapper. He has helpers in this work.

-the Prince of Darkness. He isn't just some lackey jailer. This creature has terrible power, and we do well to fear his abilities. He has many, many helpers of varying power, most of which are too strong for us. Satan is the Prince of demons.

So those are the main headings of my, what isn't Satan? He isn't:

-the Punisher of our wrongdoing. Surprisingly to some, God is, which is why we are to fear God more than Satan.

-The cause of our fall into sin. That has to be laid at our door. No, you can never say the Devil made you do it. He's got some powerful tools: He starts with your fallenness, and then adds generous dollops of foolishness, fear, and appetite, among other things....but what he can't do is force you to it. This is why we pray, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

-A captor. This is where I have to split hairs. It's not like Satan gets any kind of payment to release us. He has no right to any payment. Powerful as he is, he's a lackey of the Court, and when payment is made, he has to release us by command of the Creator to whom Satan is still subservient.

And payment was made on the Cross... but only for some of us. God chooses not to release some...some are condemned. That's one of the toughest truths of the faith, the one that tenderhearted Christians choke on. We know that some will never make it.

As the saying goes: We are saved from God, by God, for God.

Feel free to correct or comment. This is just me thinking aloud, and whole books have been written on the subject.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It Isn't Enough.

Scenario: You leave your wallet full of credit cards on a restaurant table. It is found by an unscrupulous waitress, who goes to the mall with it. She maxes it out in an amazingly short time buying clothes and jewelery. Your credit limit has been reached. You discover your wallet missing, and report the loss too late for the card. But the waitress is caught, and she, by borrowing and selling and returning, is able to pay the bill. Your credit card company clears your record and rating. The debt is paid and your credit rating restored. The waitress goes free.

Wait a minute...the waitress goes free? What's wrong with this picture?

Well, why not? She made good on the debt, didn't she?

But she stole. That's breaking the law!

What's the big deal? Isn't it enough that she paid you back?

No, sorry! She broke a law of the land. There's still justice to be served! Is it OK to steal if you just pay back, eventually?

This is the big deal with sin. There's a violation against something bigger than property and commerce. It's a violation against law-- God's law...that God set down Himself, that mere restitution does not satisfy.

If I set myself a limit (I will not eat any chocolate today... ha, fat chance!), this law is satisfied if I run two miles to off set the chocolate I broke down and ate. It was my law, and my law is a reflection of myself.

If society sets a law, that's something different, because the fact is that I am supposed to be in agreement with the laws of the land: I have submitted myself to them for the good of society. The offense is against something greater than myself, and so the penalty will be higher. I have sinned against civilisation.

If then, I sin against God, then the penalty is highest of all. If I defy God's laws then I have sinned against the Creator and King of the Universe, Who alone knows how this cosmos should be run. To defy Him is to defy the highest Authority of all, an Infinite Authority in the most basic and true sense possible. And what is the appropriate punishment for that? An offense against the Infinite and Eternal God requires an infinite and eternal punishment.

The only problem is that I can never pay it in full.

Despite what we like to believe, humans are immortal. Our souls are eternal. And the Scriptures tell us that to go with these eternal souls, we will all, someday, be given eternal, physical bodies. The question is really what will be done with those immortal, eternal bodies. Some will be raised to glory, says Scripture. The rest, to eternal torment which will never end-- because of the offense they gave to an eternal God. The debt cannot be paid.

Unless there is one who is also Infinite and Eternal to pay it for me. That One alone has the means to pay that debt:

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! ...There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...

Romans 7:24,25-8:1

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Laugh-A-Minute Website


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Minuted and Seconded To Death.

I've been getting alot of mail recently. About half of it is catalogs, which I usually just throw out; the rest is credit card offers (I shred these), bills buried in ad junk (which makes me crazy, and yes, I do pay online what I can), card reminders for church stuff or tennis or youth group (I leave these out for a few days then throw out if no one claims them), So today I ended up throwing out 90% of what I received in the mail. Christmas must be such a headache for the post office. And the garbage men, who may or may not appreciate the weight lifting exercise.

I've been, over the past week, making an effort to get at the clutter and dirt of the house. In ten years alot can accumulate. I started with the kitchen and have made my way into the family room, where I came across a bunch of old photos. Inwardly I groaned and cursed, becuase I hate putting photos away. They take up so much space. I like digital photos much better. What I'd especially like to do is scan our slides and get them on CDs...but I don't know how I can easily do that. Anyone have any inexpensive ideas?

Schedules get royally messed up during December. Normally I deal with this by opting out of most activities. I am finding that all the visual and auditory cues of Christmas have become a major distraction for me. I prefer the routine of my usual study and silence. Bah, humbug; don't argue with me. If you differ, I am happy for you. Go indulge. As for me, meditation on the Lord Christ is easier when I confine it to my mind and in the consecration of everyday actions.

....and about those actions. I need to work at consecrating the mess cleanup and the mail-sorting and the bill-paying and the detail work. The Devil isn't in the details, God is. May God enable me to serve others in the doing of the details ('cuz no one else is going to see to them.) What am I here for? To serve God now, in the task at hand, as my post below so beautifully outlines. May it be so.

I'm being nibbled to death by ducks in the Lord's service!

Listen Up!

Shamelessly snagged from Pyromaniacs... this kick-in-the-gut post from Dan Phillips that I got from Anne's blog:

...and you were going to do this, when?
by Dan Phillips

Take a look at this for a moment:

Big long line. Can't tell where it starts, and it just goes on, to the right. Oh, and a little bitty red dot on the left.

A verse I used to try to impress on my two older children, in homeschooling, was Ecclesiastes 9:10 —

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,
for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

My intent was to discourage slack, inattentive, halfhearted work, and to encourage them to give their all to what they were doing. They'd not get their childhood again, they'd not get a chance to lay the foundations again. Now was the moment to act, and to act heartily.

Our lives are like that line. We're all going to exist forever; and we who have been saved by Christ are going to live forever. This little bit we're having now, this 20, 40, 60, or 80 years, is like that little red blip off to the left. It's a passing nothing. It starts, it's over.

But there are unique qualities to this life, there are onlies about this life.

In all eternity, in the thousands and millions of years that stretch on ahead of us, this is the only opportunity we'll have to walk by faith. Now we love Him and rejoice, though we don't see Him (1 Peter 1:8). Then we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2), shall see His face (Revelation 22:4).

Specifically, this is the only chance we'll have to honor our father and mother, to love our wives, to respect and subordinate ourselves to our husbands, to raise our children in Christ, to tell unbelievers of Jesus, to love our enemies.

This is the only chance we shall have to suffer for Christ, to accept suffering in faith, and rejoice in trial. It is the only opportunity to be humbled by our own personal thorns in the flesh, and know the grace and power of Christ in them.

Only now do we live in a time of warfare, strife, constant battle.
We constantly battle — or are supposed to be battling — with our flesh and remaining corruption (Romans 7:14-25; 1 Peter 2:11)
We wrestle with principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:11ff.)
We contend with those who forsake the law (Proverbs 28:4)
We know danger from false brothers (2 Corinthians 11:26)
Insofar as we walk with the Lord, we live in a world that hates us (1 John 3:13)
This life is a battlefield. As far as we know, it is the only battlefield we shall ever experience. Therefore, it is the only opportunity we shall ever have to fight for the Lord, to do battle for Him, to overcome for Him, to score victories for Him, to win any trophies for the Crown.

So if we're going to do this, we need to do it now. Soon, all we shall have from this life is a once-in-eternity record. That, and a great many regrets, I wager.

Do you honestly imagine that there is any chance you'll regret trusting the Word too much? That you'll regret believing in God too heartily? That you'll regret giving too much of yourself to Him, in His service? That you'll regret having mortified the flesh too much, having walked in the Spirit too much? That you'll regret having been too godly of a husband, wife, parent, child, churchman, citizen? That you'll wish you'd indulged your fleshly passions more, loved the world more, pursued your private agenda more, absorbed yourself in the world's passing distractions more? That you'll wish you'd gotten more things, better things, and given less of your time and energies to the Word and the Lord?

I have wondered this often as I've seen believers going on and on in patterns of sin, laziness, stubborn disbelief and disobedience. Do they ever think thus? Do they ever think of the passing transience of this life (James 4:14)? Do they ever think of eternity, of the perspective of God, to say nothing of His judgment?

You've been in a pattern of fleshly indulgence in your marriage. You know what God calls you to, but you just won't do it. When were you going to start? Do you imagine that this is some sort of dress rehearsal, and real life, life that counts, will start... when? When were you going to start putting on the Lord Jesus, and making no provision for the flesh? When were you going to start putting to death the practices of the body? When?

You're a young adult about to leave home, but you've never learned to honor — honor! — your father and mother. Were you going to be born into some other household, and practice your Christian faith there? When?

And what to parents? My dear wife discovered a poem once called Babies Don't Keep. Forget that it brings tears to her eyes, she's a great mother — it brings tears to my eyes! I can't say it better.

You're in a church where you're hearing the Word, but you're doing nothing with it. You're not involved, not serving, not growing, not giving; indulging in self-absorbed fascinations. When were you going to start doing all those "one anothers"? In the Millennium? After?

You've heard the couplet; you're about to hear it again.

Only one life, 'twill soon be past
Only what's done for Christ will last.

This is a thought that haunts me, as I try to project myself forward, looking back at what is my present. The time God has given you and me to walk by faith and not by sight is now. In fact, that is the only time.

What should we be doing, that we aren't?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

O, For That Day!

In the Economist, there are two recent articles that make me want to scream, Maranatha!

One is about how humans evolved visible white scleras to their eyeballs because, evolutionary speaking, it is easier to see where others are looking, "proving" the importance of sociabillity in Homo sapiens.

The other has to do with the reason for which men ask women for sex. "Scientists" have decided that the main reason is so that men can "spread their DNA".

There are actually people paid to come up with this stuff!

I so long to see the day when the theory of evolution is disproved. I long to see these fatuous, self-impressed evolutionary scientists wandering around with their mouths hanging open because they have just realised that the entire worldview foundation has just been vaporised. Their science is not science.

"What is truth?" Pilate asked.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fantasy Christmas

Supposing you could go anywhere in the world for Christmas week with the people you love best, on someone else's money (of course)? Where would you go? I asked Rich this question yesterday (and in discussing it found I needed to insert the 'barring wretched excess' caveat because I could see he was thinking wild thoughts, like spending it with Queen Elizabeth at Balmoral on a shooting holiday...he doesn't know how to shoot, but it sounds lots of fun), and he eventually said that he would love a Christmas in the US mountains somewhere in the West, in a log cabin, with a large fireplace and lots of X-C skiing trails. That was one of the places I was thinking of too, but my vote was for Southern Europe, because I'd kind of like to see how they do it in Italy. Or Greece.

...a WHAT???

Last night we had red cabbage for dinner. I mean, it was one of the things we had for dinner. If you've never steamed red cabbage, it's worth doing at least once. It turns the water to a rich, sapphire blue. We all stood around watching, oohing and aahing as I poured it off, and wondering if it could be used as dye. (Probably not; it would come out only as grey in the end.) Little things excite us around here.

This morning as I was dressing for church, I remarked to Rich that it was interesting to me how my eyes sometimes seem greyer on certain days, and bluer on others, independently of what I happen to be wearing, even. After a moment, he brightly said, "Maybe your eye color depends on what you a flamingo changes color depending on the algae it eats?"

Friday, December 01, 2006

Oh Dear! Bad Weather!

This is the NWS forecast today:

10 MPH.
15 MPH.

Big deal. There's no real snow in this forecast. At the moment it is 40 degrees and I am still not ready for Christmas. You can do better than this, Indiana.