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On Arrows and Portions

Mother, Mother, Watch and Pray

Mother! Mother! Watch and pray,

Fling not golden hours away!
Now or never, plant and sow,
Catch the morning’s earliest glow.

Mother! Mother! Guard the dew,
While it sparkles clear and true.
No delay! The scorching noon
May thy treasures reach too soon.

Mother! Point them to the sky,
Tell them of a loving eye,
That more tender is than thine,
And doth ever on them shine.

Mother! Lead them soon and late
To behold the golden gate;
When they long to enter there,
Lead them to the Lamb by prayer.

Mother, seize the precious hours,
While the dew is on thy flowers!
Life is such a fleeting thing,
Mother! Mother! Sow in spring.-Selected, “Verses of Virtue”

Counting down the minutes

In 53 minutes-but who’s counting?-Gabe’s school bus is due to return him at the end of our driveway.  The only day I’ve wanted to see him more was the day he was born.

This first day of school for Gabe distracted me. I meant to write about portions today.  As in Psalm 73:26:

My flesh and my heart may fail; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. 

And Psalm 16:5

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

Parenting can be one’s portion. But only for a little while. Child-rearing is a temporary assignment. Being a mom is a sweet, short season, but it shouldn’t be our biggest “portion,” the source of our identity and hope.

Is parenting your full and first portion?

Are your children your refuge, your identity, your strength? Does parenting more define you, or refine you?

My latest favorite 17th century Puritan is George Swinnock. In The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourish

 

ing of Faith, he urges moms like maybe you and like me with incredible candor to resist finding our portion in anything on earth. This would, I think, include your beloved children.

Swinnock was only 46 when he received his eternal portion. And I don’t even know if he was a father. Regardless, he speaks to my almost-bursting mother’s heart, even as I count down the 13 minutes before the bus returns my boys and I steal a hug from a brand new kindergartner, and, if I’m lucky his third grade brother.

The fuller the blossom, the sooner they shed.

Swinnock explains the finding our ultimate hope and joy in an earthly portion.

Earthly portions are like roses, in that the fuller they blossom, the sooner they shed. They are often misused through pride and wasted throughcarelessness…However, my portion will always be full (without diminution) and first (without alteration).  This God will be my God forever. He will be my guide and help unto death. Even death, which dissolves so many bonds and unties knots, will never separate me from my portion. On the contrary, it will give me a perfect and everlasting possession of it. 

Arrows in the hands of a warrior, are sons born in one’s youth.

That came to mind in the bittersweet walk alone from the bus stop this morning.

But then I remembered: Arrows leave the hand. They are not one’s portion. Arrows are meant to be shot forth. Seize the precious hours and watch them fly.

To kindergarten and beyond. God speed, my sons!

 

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Game On, Grumble Monster!

A heart that is full of grace and goodness wi

thin will bear a great many strokes, and never make any noise, but if an empty heart is struck it will make a noise.

Context is everything.  New context infuses new life into the old, the familiar. Hanging an old rose acrylic on new wall in our new house was the painting’s revival. It’s part of the rational for dating one’s spouse, too. Spiffed up and conversing over bruschetta in the restaurant’s dim lights transforms my daily Jim into my date James.  Also a resurrection of sorts.

 So with a familiar text, reread in its unfamiliar context.

Here’s the familiar text:

No temptation has seized you except that which is common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it. 

Now here’s the context to which Paul addressed his encouragement:   

9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.  11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.  12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.  13 No temptation has seized you, except which is common to man…

You may have known 1 Corinthians 10:13 by heart. But did you know the context?

Without the context it,  I had mostly attached “no temptation” to others’ temptation to sexual immorality or my own temptation to gluttony, or generically to theft or lying.  With context, I now see a much more pernicious and tempting temptation: the GRUMBLE MONSTER!  He is AKA: complaining, bellyaching, whining, fault-finding, murmuring or griping.  One and the same. To the Israelites wandering through the wilderness it was a crime punished with, well, um, destruction.

Yikes.

 Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…Philippians 2:14-15

In the walls of my secular workplace, I’m convinced that there is no other single attribute, or rather, lack thereof, that could distinguish me as a light-of-the-world, child-of-God.  The absence of complaining, not to mention the presence of thanks and praise, in the face of increased work demands, more rigorous performance reviews, and challenging co-workers shines.  Conversely, there is no more direct route to the underside of a basket than griping with the group.

As it is with a vessel that is full of liquor, if you strike it it will make no great noise, but if it is empty then it makes a great noise; so it is with the heart, a heart that is full of grace and goodness within will bear a great many strokes, and never make any noise, but if an empty heart is struck it will make a noise.  When  some men and women are complaining so much, and always whining, it is a sign that there is an emptiness in their hearts.  If their hearts were filled with grace, they would not make such a noise. * 

Are you a noisy, empty vessel? Does your “great noise” betray an empty heart?  Or when you feel wronged, when you are struck, do you make noise?  Do you bad talk your boss, squawk about your spouse, whine about your workplace demands (domestic or outside) demands?  We must be watchful, lest we disgrace our Father’s name.

Take heart: God promises a way out!

Tempted and tried, we can cling to God’s promised deliverance: no more than we can handle or a way out. In his 1658 treatise on “Temptation,” John Owen urges us to consider: 1)  The faithfulness of the Father, 2) the grace of the Son and 3) the power and efficacy of the Holy Ghost.  And all these are engaged for the preservation of such persons from the hour of temptation.  

God who is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made; including the promise to preserve us in the hour of temptation.  His very nature is faithfulness. The Father who remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. 

Christ the Son whose whose grace is sufficient. Who himself has suffered when tempted, is able to help those who are being tempted.  It’s the marvelous grace that kept watch over our lips and transformed the grumpy thoughts into grateful thoughts.

Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts impacted my understanding of gratitude. Far from being encapsulated in an isolated thank you note, gratitude it is a discipline to be nurtured, cultivated.  It’s a way of seeing. Writing an actual list of a thousand gifts, was to her the nail driving out another nail.  It was her way to apply Erasmus’ wisdom to a discontented spirit. One habit is overcome by another habit.

It is painfully hard to resist complaining.  From puckered baby faces spitting out orange mush, to elders bewailing achy bones, complaining is endemic to our kind. But it needn’t destroy us!

With patient practice, and the efficacy of the Spirit’s power, thanksgiving kills grumbling.  The Spirit strengthens us with power in our inner being where Christ dwells by faith. Not a spirit of fear, but power, love and self-control.

God promised to his help when we’re tempted (old promise), including temptation to grumble (new context). Patiently pressing on, in faithfulness of the Father, the grace of the Son and the power of the Spirit assure victory in the face of temptation.

Game on!  Go on out and get that Grumble Monster!

*Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs, p. 29