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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lord, Have Mercy

Have your family devotions kind-of languished since Advent? What about getting back into the swing of things just in time for Lent? My family devotional book is written to give you devotions for each day during Lent, but because we can't manage to have family devotions six nights a week, our family has already started! 

Here's the info from the back cover:
Lord, Have Mercy is a unique family devotional guide for Lent that can help you make Easter what it should be, the Christian’s most treasured holiday.

With forty days of devotions centered on discovering Jesus, Lord, Have Mercy will lead your family to the cross as you discuss Jesus’ humanity, his divinity, his miracles, his glory, his fulfillment of prophecy, and his gift of salvation.

Week 1: We need God’s mercy.
Week 2: Jesus is holy; we are not.
Week 3: Jesus is God and has the power to heal and save.
Week 4: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of Man.
Week 5: Jesus is Glorious.
Week 6: Jesus is the Only Savior.
Holy Week: Jesus Christ, God’s Anointed One

Each day's devotion provides a question-and-answer discussion about the Bible reading so that you can easily lead an engaging discussion of God's Word. With questions geared toward both young and old, all family members will be able to participate in a lively and interactive conversation about the Scriptures.

By God’s grace your eyes will be opened to the wonders of God’s mercy that are given to us in Jesus Christ.

Get your copy of Lord, Have Mercy here.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Quite Alone in the World

"It is a very strange sensation to inexperienced youth to feel itself quite alone in the world, cut adrift from every connection, uncertain whether the port to which it is bound can be reached, and prevented by many impediments from returning to that it has quitted. The charm of adventure sweetens the sensation, the glow of pride warms it; but then the throb of fear disturbs it; and fear with me became predominant..."

So says Jane Eyre, as she arrives in Millcote, on her way to Thornfield, thinking that someone would be there to meet her, but finding that not to be the case, at least for a few frightful moments.

Good literature powerfully resonates in part because the characters have feelings or experiences that we all recognize. Oh, how I recognized this feeling!

As a young girl of twenty-one, I embarked on a journey alone, traveling from the middle of America to Nairobi, Kenya in order to spend the summer with my parents and sister, who lived in Nairobi at the time. Although they called Africa their home, I was an American college student headed off on my first trip to the continent. All was well and I had an uneventful trip over the ocean and reunited with my family in Kenya, never really feeling quite alone, even as I braved a long layover at Heathrow.

After a time in Nairobi, my family arranged for me to take a trip to visit some missionaries who lived in a very remote part of Zaire. I would travel on an MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship) flight into the jungle, spend a week or so with a few different missionaries in the village, then travel back to Kenya with several missionary families who were scheduled to come to Nairobi for meetings. I was eager for the adventure.

On the flight to Zaire, I sat next to the pilot in the small prop plane, and peered out the window at the terrain below. We first made a stop in Bunia, where I went through customs--which was essentially a pathetic building next to a small airstrip, at least in my memory. African men with machine guns slung over their shoulders seemed to be everywhere I had no inkling that in a few years a terrible and horrible civil war would devastate Zaire (now Congo) and that very place would not be safe at all. Before long I was back in the plane, next to the missionary-pilot, and on my way again. The jungle below us seemed endless, and I was surprised to see wisps of smoke curling up from countless spots across the greenness, each one a signal that there were people living there at that spot, cooking their food or burning their brush.

The pilot taking me to my destination in the jungle was only dropping me off. He had other stops to make and I don't remember details now, but he probably would be back in Kenya that night. As we neared the village, he talked on the radio, but I couldn't hear even his side of the conversation. Then he turned and told me the news.

 As nearly as he could tell, there wasn't anyone expecting me at the tiny airport in Isiro where we were about to land. He didn't know where the family was that I was visiting, but word on the radio was that there was no one at the airport to receive his passenger--me! In spite of this, the pilot had to continue on with his itinerary. 

And this is the moment that sticks with me stronger than almost anything else in my week-long visit. 

"Cut adrift from any connection, uncertain whether the port to which it is bound can be reached, and prevented by many impediments from returning to that it has just quitted." 

We landed and the pilot walked me into the small airport building. Details are lost to me now, but another American showed up for me and took me to the home of the missionaries who were my hosts. Thankfully, the moment of being cut adrift was just that, only a moment. The pilot took off again, and a gracious woman welcomed me and took me to the home of the family I was visiting. 

Probably everyone who reads Jane Eyre has their own moment of recognition when they read that passage. This was mine.

(Photo found in Google Earth, taken about ten years after I was there.)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Discovering Greek Drama and Thoughts on Friendship

I wish I could call this post "Re-discovering Greek Drama," but the sad truth is that my education was very light on classics. I am playing catch-up these days and studying Euripedes and Aeschylus and Sophocles alongside my daughters.

This weekend we started in on Aeschylus's Oresteia trilogy, beginning with "Agamemnon." Last week we read Euripedes's "Trojan Women," a play that we are performing in a few weeks. Thankfully Greek drama calls for very spare productions! 

Greek drama is long on speeches and short on, well, drama. At least the sort of drama and realistic acting that we have come to expect from Hollywood or even Broadway. While the text of Greek drama is sometimes difficult for untrained ears to follow, it is worthwhile to make the effort. More on that in a bit.

This winter I have thought a lot about friendship through the reading that I have done. First, I read Lewis's Four Loves which has me thinking about philia in a new way.  Not long after that I re-read Chaim Potok's novel The Chosen, which deeply affected me. As Lewis describes it, philia love is the love of two people facing together a common aim or purpose, like the Greek warrior and his armor-bearer (this image resonated far better with me thanks to our school study of Homer last fall). In The Chosen, Reuven and Danny loyally support each other through their journey to manhood. Their relationship is marked by philia as well as agape, the sort of love described for us by Paul in I Corinthians 13. Selfless love that bears all things. 

Another book in my stack at the moment is Tim Keller's The Meaning of Marriage. (This is a highly recommended book about marriage and let me add my own endorsement. Very good.) In the chapter "The Mission of Marriage," Keller writes about the importance of building a marriage on Christian friendship. Keller writes, 

"Christian friendship is not simply about going to concerts together or enjoying the same sporting event. It is a deep oneness that develops as two people journey together toward the same destination, helping one another through the dangers and challenges along the way."

The ultimate destination in a Christian marriage--or friendship--is Christ. Dangers and challenges encountered may be physical and may be spiritual and may be emotional, but Christian friends ought to selflessly be ready to help a friend or be ready to receive help from a friend as they journey toward Christ.

Back to Greek drama.

That selfless agape love Paul described, added to the philia love (and in a marriage friendship eros love) is impossible to live out apart from Christ. And so it is no wonder that Aechylus puts these words into the mouth of Agamemnon, who has returned from waging war in Troy alongside friends for ten years:

"In few men is it part of nature to respect
a friend's prosperity without begrudging him,
as envy's wicked poison settling to the heart
piles up the pain in one sick with unhappiness,
who, staggered under sufferings that are all his own,
winces again to the vision of a neighbor's bliss."

(Lattimore translation, lines 832-837)

Envy is indeed a poison and the only antidote is contentment in Christ. Sad that the Greeks perceived so much truth but lacked knowledge of Truth. 
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