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My New Shirt

I’ve got a shirt story. It’s nothing like my other clothing posts.

It’s not about how l’il Abigail preferred to play farmer girl over princess and how it still feels more fake than fun to dress up up all fancy like. It’s not bittersweet like the day I gave the dress away or a smug take on my husband’s none too GQ sense of style .

The Find

Then last Thursday, I landed at Goodwill on the hunt for polos and khakis for sprouting up boys. It didn’t take long to find those. Which left time me some time in the ladies’ tips. So I rifled through the color lines. Through purple, cream, black, blue and green- and came up dry. 

But then I saw it. Across a crowded aisle, on a rack jammed with a hundred styles, one alone caught my eye. It was a peachy-pink floral print with undertones of goldenrod and hints of forest green, with the delicate cut neckline and flouncy cap sleeves.

Not quite princess, I thought, but still feminine and pretty and casual enough to wear with my jean capris. 

The Fineprint

And so I did. I wore it to work the very next day- my new floral shirt with the just right neckline and the flouncy cap sleeves. And, wouldn’t you know, my new shirt garnered some praise. So I donned it again for church that Sunday.

I like your top, Hon, Jim said at breakfast. I smiled, demure. And that pretty little shirt got more shout-outs at church. I don’t think I owned a more fetching garment than that frilly floral find acquired from the pink shirt rack for just $1.99.

Then I washed my new shirt Sunday night. I paused before tossing it into the dryer long enough to locate the special shirt’s brand name: Gilligan and O’Malley.  

But there was another word too, in fine print on the far side of the tag. What was it? I scrunched up my eyes to read it:

Sleepwear

Yes. It was. My fine new shirt was a Target brand pajama top. And I’d felt so smart at work and at church in that pretty pink shirt.

Soon my face matched my shirt and I laughed and laughed.  And I shook my head and I laughed.

The Finale

That could- maybe should- be the end. But I’m an inveterate meaning  seeker; I’m ever on the hunt for a moral to the story and lesson in the mess. 

So what do you think of these three? 

  1. Laughter is good medicine. It just is. Replaying my days in the delicate floral garment and the unwitting compliments on it was just what the doctor ordered in the midst of some extra stressful days. It was exactly the “don’t take yourself so seriously” tonic I needed.  “A joyful heart is good for the soul,” (Psalm 17:22). It just is.
  2. Associations matter. I bought my flouncy, cap sleeved, pretty floral top because it was hanging with the real shirt, on the pink shirt rack. I wasn’t shopping for jammies. But associations are powerful.  “He who walks with wise will be wise,” (Proverbs 13:20a). And so  my PJ  top was sanctified.
  3. Never say never.  Poetic justice. You see, I’m the Grinch on every school spirit “PJ Day.”  I don’t participate.  And if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it ten times:  I never wear PJ’s out of bed. Never. Wearing pajamas during the day makes me feel lazy. I like to get up and go and I don’t like to feel lazy. No PJ’s in the day. Truly, “with God all things are possible,” (Matthew 19:25). His ways are higher.

Oh, yeah- and a fourth.

Read the fine print.

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Number Our Days

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

Ever had on of those fragile, frail-feeling days? The kind that leave you feeling how vulnerable and feeble and one breath away you really are?  Those days when you just feel so…mortal?

Sunday was one of those.

So teach us to number our days.

After church, we dashed over to Mom and Dad’s for the annual corn roast. This year was a special combo: potluck and dunked-and-buttered corn first, then out back for the baptism service. Thirteen born-again souls, including our two sons, were slated for immersion in the borrowed baptismal. But only 11 went under, because Son #2 got stung by some bees.

So teach us to number our days.

He’d been stung before, so first- no worries. But when rash and itch and panic grew despite baking soda and Benadryl, we knew. Help the boy be calm and breathe, dear Lord, I prayed. And, after my poorly timed words about his being sans phone, Jim steered the van out of the hayfield, onto the highway.  For the next four hours, that was the last I knew.

So teach us to number our days.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, my friends told me about their Teddy. After more than 15 years together, Saturday was the last day with their little Japanese Chin. and forever-pup part of the family named Teddy. We knew Teddy from years of weeks of his warm, wiggly welcomes. If we were lucky, or salty, while we waited during piano lessons, we’d get friendly licks too. But effervescent Teddy won’t be greeting this week.

So teach us to number our days.

Before Gabe got home and soaked up theTLC (The doctor said I might need a little candy if I get a dry mouth from all these pills.), I texted my friend Terry. Terry’s only son got married the day Teddy departed. Terry said she’s swimming in a swirling sea of feelings now that all her family has gone home. A strange “gel of emotions,” she texted me, “emptiness, fullness, exhaustion and extreme joy all in one.”

So teach us to number our days.

It’s been 48 hours since the stings. The meds- 4 pills carefully laid out at breakfast- 2 at dinner- are halfway gone. Gabe’s not so free-wheeling anymore. His mile bike ride to see his dog-friend Kate and his five-minute walk to feed Cookie the cat need more forethought. I need a Epipen and a fanny pack, he says, just to be safe. I feel how I felt that time Gabe got infected– vulnerable and exposed.

So teach us to number our days.

Did I happen to mention that last week was my Psalm 90 week?  That it just so happened that every single day last week there was meditating on and praying over the “Prayer of Moses, the man of God”?  I learned that many think Moses prayed teach us to number our days in between watching dozens or hundreds of Israelites die in the wilderness each day. 

Here’s part of that Prayer of Moses (Psalm 90:10-13):

The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?

So teach us to number our days
  that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!

God had mercy on me today.  

Gabe said that, in a sleeping bag on our bedroom floor Sunday night. If I would have got to the hospital 30 minutes later, I might have died.

You’re right, Gabe, he did. We don’t know what would have happened if we had waited.
But I don’t think the bee stings and Teddy and Terry’s post-wedding text were all coincidence. I think God was answering my prayer about numbering days.

Sunday’s Takeaways

Maybe He wanted to drive these home, before we fly away.

1. Be wise. Live each day as if it could be your last.

Which is why we ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live…and do this or that’” (James 4:1315). Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says, Wisdom is the ability to look at all of life from God’s perspective, to see life from God’s point of view.

Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is, David wrote

How do we gain wisdom? By numbering our days! By seeing how fleeting our lives on earth are  in the light of eternity. So do we? Are we: Storing up treasures in heaven? Investing our time, talents, treasures in God’s Kingdom? Using well our fleeting days before we fly away?

2. Fear not. God’s got this. Our frail children of dust lives, I mean.

Jesus said: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground” — that  means die — “apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of much more value than the sparrows” (Matthew 10:29–31).

My mouth, on autopilot, starting singing this Sunday while I waited. They’re from that hymn, O Worship The King, the verse about feeble as frail,

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in Thee do we trust, nor find thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

3. Fear not. God’s got this. Even the date of our death, I mean.

God’s mercies are firm to the end, But have you wondered, like my Gabe did on Monday, “Does God decide when we die?”

John Piper answered that this way:

[I]f the time for the death of a tiny bird in a remote forest is of a concern to God and determined by God, how much more will our days be numbered and determined by God with great care and wisdom. In fact, the psalmist says to God, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16). Which means, the days that God has allotted for me and you are already written in a book. They are decided.

Piper concludes,

God is God. He governs the world, and that includes the time for our conception in the womb and the time for our death. His children don’t want to have it any other way, do we? God is always better than blind fate. ..What else would we want than for God to determine when we are born and when we die?

Days Numbered, And In Good Hands

Our days are numbered. Only God knows when we will die. So it makes sense that the One who alone can teach us to number them is the only One who already has them counted.

Priest and missionary Henry Martyn said, You are immortal until God’s purpose for you is complete.

So you and me- and all God’s children, Gabe- we are in the best of hands.

And if that’s not invigorating truth and good news on those fragile, frail-feeling days, I don’t know what is.

My times are in your hands.

Psalm 31:15

Postscript:

Life is hard, but God is good.

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Would Be Slaves

Eastman Johnson, A Ride for Liberty 1863, Brooklyn Museum


We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. 

Romans 6:6

Some would be slaves. 

They would fight for the right. They would weep to return; and faithless forget the horrors. For fear of the unknown or to keep peace at home, they would stay enslaved. 

A line in Lincoln’s “Speech to an Indiana Regiment” launched this post. In the speech, he addressed the baffling matter of slaves who would fight for the Confederacy. 

Fellow Citizens…I may incidentally remark, however, that having, in my life, heard many arguments, — or strings of words meant to pass for arguments, — intended to show that this negro ought to be a slave, that if he shall now really fight to keep himself a slave, it will be a far better argument why should remain a slave than I have ever before heard– He, perhaps, ought to be a slave, if he desires it ardently enough to fight for it…[March 17, 1865]

Then I read the book of Numbers. The Israelites were about a year out of Egypt, and already they would return:

And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic (11:4-5). 

Why is the LORD bringing us into this and, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to EGYPT? And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt”(14:2b,5).

Why would a freed slave fight for the Rebels? Why would he return to Egypt?  Why would we turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves we want to be once more? Surely not to let our stomachs and screens play god? Or to let lust and greed rule; to allow pride or pity to throw parties? Why would we possibly be slaves to the world’s weak and worthless ways? 

Scripture offers (at least) these three reasons:

1. We choose slavery to sin because sin just feels good. 
For a second at least. We choose “to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin,” (Hebrews 11:25) because killing sin hurts and ice cream tastes good. Zipping our lips to blame and complaint is hard, and it’s not easy to open them to forgive and repent. Gossip rolls of the tongue, anger flies, and impatience and envy are so…comfortable. Status quo needs no fight. Natural need not deny the flesh. 

2. We choose slavery to sin because we have selective memory
We are faithless enough to think only of the “free fish and garlic,” and “My Old Kentucky Home.” We choose to remember short-term security over the deadly wages of sin. We remember the pleasure, but forget to remember the bricks and the straw, the whips and the welts. We forget God’s provision in the past and ignore his promise to prosper.

3. We choose slavery to sin because we fear. 
Slaves, at least, know stability. Leaving Old Masters brings fear of unknown places, but also sworn enemies. When Jesus said, “If your hand or foot causes you to stumble, cut it off,” he wasn’t talking about peace in our time. His mind was on the kingdom that the violent take by force. We did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back again into fear (Romans 8:13-14a). But of little faith, we fear much.

But we would be slaves
Like Old Testament slaves, we have a choice in our service. He could choose to stay forever with a master he loved. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free, then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever” (Exodus 21:5-6). 

But Slaves-R-Us, whether to sin which leads to death or obedience which leads to righteousness. But this kind is not forced on us against our will. Either we see a) the pleasures of sin or b) the beauty of righteousness as more appealing. 

I think we will opt for b) if we:  

  • Remember right: the fruit we’ll will get (Romans 6:22), not the fruit we got. 
  • Wage war against the flesh: stop keeping the peace with our eyes and ears, our tongues and hands and feet (Romans 8:13).
  • Fear not, for our Master goes before us (Numbers 14:9). 

Like Lincoln said, “Perhaps he ought to be a slave, if he desires it ardently enough to fight for it.” 

And so, with the best of Masters, we press on in the good fight.

Since we would be slaves. 


Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Romans 6:16-18



For more on the parallels and imperfections of the slave metaphor for our relationship to God, I recommend John Piper’s sermon “Slaves to God, Sanctification, Eternal Life.”