Musings — June 2017

Hand in tiny hand they meandered their way down the aisle, flower girl and ring bearer, each gripping a bouquet, searching the crowded pews for the faces of their grandmothers.  I can’t recall ever Captureseeing a more beautiful flower arrangement than the one with the dangling rose that I received from my grandson at his uncle’s wedding.  It is no small thing to survive a journey in the hand of a small boy.

June has been a month of family, a season of gathering together around both celebration and mourning.  We’ve spent moments cherishing memories, and we’ve invested  time in preparation for the future as another son finds his balance on the edge of the nest and makes solid plans for his launch into good days to come.

We have welcomed another daughter-in-love into our family chaos, and we also continue to grow in our love and appreciation for the woman who loves our oldest son and cares for our grandchildren.

Father’s Day Celebration at Pemaquid Point

On the Blog

I enjoyed the hospitality of two blogging friends in June.

Sue Donaldson flung the doors and the windows open wide and filled the room with stories about the blessing of faces around a table.  I shared the story of our family’s ongoing relationship with missionaries who have visited in our home and have enlarged our hearts and our view of the world.  You can read the whole story here, and, while you’re over at Sue’s place, be sure to check out the series because Every Table Tells a Story.

Then, one day I received an email asking if I would share a review of one of my family’s favorite movies.  Well, of course I would, but first — which movie?  There’s been a lot of popcorn consumed in this house!  Hop on over to Melanie Redd’s writing home to find out why Chitty Chitty Bang Bang won out (over Master of Disguise) and why you should consider watching it with your kids and grandkids.  Also, be on the lookout for upcoming installments in Melanie’s series of good family films for summer viewing.

We met around four books at Living Our Days this month.  Thank you for your good thoughts — the conversation has been lively and I invite you to join us if you haven’t already.

Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker addresses the longing we have for authentic friendship, and just might feel like a heart-to-heart talk with a trusted girlfriend.

Kay Warren wrote Sacred Privilege with ministry wives in mind, but if you’ve done time in a pew, you will find rich wisdom in her words for navigating life with the family of God.

I devoted two separate posts to Keeping Place by Jen Pollock Michel because it addressed the meaning of home both theologically (read “A Theology of Home” here) and practically (read “The Work of Home” here).  If you’ve ever read words from Scripture and longed for the permanence that is more than place, or if you’ve found yourself overwhelmed by the practical details of housekeeping (and wondered if it’s worth it), you’ll want to settle into this book for a good long re-setting read.

Reading the Bible Supernaturally by John Piper was a challenging and rewarding reminder that, while we must approach our reading of Scripture with discernment and with all our diligent efforts as a student, we are mightily assisted by the Holy Spirit in our assimilation of truth and in the outworking of righteousness which comes about as a result of our having seen and savored Christ in His Word.

In the Garden

I am pleased to report that the entire garden has received its first thorough weeding . . . and now I’m starting all over again.  There is no “once and done” in this business of growing vegetables, which is an excellent metaphor for our process of spiritual formation.  I enjoyed the challenge of writing about this very thing at a new Facebook Group that I’m helping out with these days:  Seeking God Daily.  You can read my first contribution here, and you’re welcome to join the group for daily inspiration to pursue God through His Word.

Blessings and love to each one of you.  It’s a privilege to share words of encouragement and challenge here, to talk books, and to hear your thoughts in the comments.  Enjoy these fleeting days of summer (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere!).

My favorite Sunday morning women and I are finishing up Peter’s first letter to his “elect exiles,” and since we are included in his wise offerings, let’s come into this new season with a renewed determination that  “above all [we will] keep loving one another earnestly.”

//

Join me over at Leigh Kramer’s place for What I’m Into where others will also be sharing their end-of-month recap posts.  Great recommendations for reading and listening and enjoying life abound!

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

 

Advertisements

The Work of Home

Most days on this country hill are a blur.  With every line in my planner filled, there’s also the background music of laundry and continual cleaning.  In the winter, there’s a voracious wood stove; in the summer there’s a garden that needs constant attention.  Of course, at the far right side of this equation of work and home, there’s a family that knows they’re loved and a home that is well-lived in.

The steady thrum of activity is the glue that holds a home together, and it is one of the most startling discoveries of my life that it is possible to find a fulfilled and meaningful existence in the midst of mind-numbing routine.  It turns out that it’s not what you’re doing that makes a life.  It’s why you’re doing it.

The importance of home and the words of Scripture that shape a right understanding of home are reason enough to spend two weeks pondering Jen Pollock Michel’s Keeping Place.  Last week in Part I, we laid the foundation of God as Homemaker and the Bible as a story of homecoming, welcome, and longings fulfilled.  In Part II, Jen lifts her eyes from her own lunch-packing duties and makes this stunningly succinct observation:

“To love is to labor.”

She goes on to trace the connection between the routines of domesticity and the “quotidian mysteries” of spiritual practice.  Just as the swiping of crumbs off the dining room table will never be a once and done affair (at least at my house!), neither are the practices of spiritual formation.  In tending to the health and wholeness of our souls, every day there will be “crumbs” that need brushing away, and this is a good thing, for it keeps us mindful of our creaturely dependence on God.

In the parlance of Keeping Place, “housekeeping” corresponds to a term found in the Hebrew Scriptures:  ‘avodah.  It shows up in the contexts of “work, service, labor, duties, ceremony, [and] ministry . . . It is also the word that signifies the priestly work of the tabernacle and temple.  ‘Avodah reminds us that worship — and its attendant calls to vocation — can share the banality and ordinariness of everyday work.” (116)

Labors of Love

It is, therefore, possible to draw important conclusions about the nature of worship and the importance that hands-on housekeeping plays in the ebb and flow of a well-balanced Christian life:

1.  Just as Jesus is portrayed as the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, the believer is called to a life of “two -dimensional” servanthood, directed toward God and offered to our neighbors.

2.  The “yawning attention” (131) paid to the details of tabernacle construction in Exodus also points toward care and provision for worship — a house for God.  In referring to my “home church” for the past twenty years,  I have spoken truer than I realized.  The welcome and belonging that my family has appreciated there has strengthened us, and, furthermore, we do our fellow parents a huge favor when we reinforce the same messages that they are speaking to their young charges at home.  In fact, research is revealing that “the most important predictor of whether children from Christian families keep their faith into adulthood is the number of multigenerational connections they enjoy at church.”  This statistic should be on a billboard at planning meetings for youth ministries.

3.  Housekeeping is an act of generosity.  In the early church, one sure sign of a conversion to Christianity was a commitment to generosity and mission.  When Jesus put the spotlight on acts of service performed by the Good Samaritan, He underscored the truth that “a neighbor is the one who takes up the housekeeping.” (142)

4.  With marriage rates in the U.S. falling (In 2015, only 50.5% of adults were married), it’s time to look at the reasons why people marry and to equip prospective brides and grooms with tools for doing the routine work of marriage — frequent application of the words “I’m sorry” alongside the daily willingness to “keep choosing love’s bearing, love’s believing, love’s hoping, and love’s enduring all things.” (155)

5.  Keeping Place is a matter of being willing to welcome others into “our place.”  Gathered around the welcome of a prepared meal, no matter how simple, “the table is a burning bush.  Around the feast we are enflamed with the presence of God.” (163)  And is it not God’s way to spread a feast before His people?  We meet around a table and “the feast preaches” the gospel to our hungry and thirsty heart.

6.  The idea of Sabbath precedes the Ten Commandments in Scripture, and is connected from the outset with housekeeping: the provision of manna in Exodus 16 is scheduled to make room for Sabbath rest.  As the Author and Finisher of Home whose Son bore our homelessness, God has instituted practices of housekeeping that draw His children into the hands-on love.  Mercy, justice, and sandwich-making hold equal real estate in the values system of heaven, for the God who works and has worked on our behalf invites us to join Him in the Great Work:

“Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us,
yes, establish the work of our hands.”  (Psalm 90:16,17)

Let the work of housekeeping continue, and may we find fulfillment in the smallest task performed for the greatest worship of God.
Amen.

//

This book was provided by InterVarsity Press in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Last week I spent time interacting with Part I of Keeping Place (click here to catch up) in which Jen laid a foundation with the history of home and the place home plays in Scripture and in our understanding of the gospel. I’ve so enjoyed Jen’s robust theology and elegant prose that it’s been a delight to linger over her words for two weeks.

If you are interested in hearing Jen’s voice and more of her story, check out this Q+A with Ashley Hales or this twenty-minute interview.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.