Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Longing to Digest God's Word

How often do we read without really comprehending? I have to wonder because it seems that when someone asks us what we read about in our devotions, we often can't remember. Or perhaps we have a vague sense of the passage, but we can't really articulate the gist of it with words. (With means we didn't really understand it to begin with.)

Digesting the Word of God is essential for joy in motherhood. But between fatigue and busyness, accomplishing this feat becomes difficult. How do we do it when all odds seem against its success?

One practice I have found very helpful is reading out loud. It seems the ancients almost always read out loud. I recently read an interesting and somewhat humorous chapter from Alberto Manguel's book, A History of Reading, entitled "The Silent Readers". In it, he outlines the development of silent reading in a world permeated by spoken word. You can find it online here. I am convinced that if everyone read out loud we would retain and comprehend a great deal more than we do reading 'in our heads'. Probably largely due to the fact that we we would be forced to read more slowly. Also, when reading out loud, we not only see the words, but also hear them. And we are much less likely to have our thoughts drift in another direction. I find I get much more enjoyment
from reading out loud. (Although maybe it drives my husband crazy...)

There are many other helpful tools to help us digest Scripture. But during certain stages in life, these good things may make us feel burdened or overwhelmed. We must be wary of feeling guilty or self-righteous when comparing ourselves to some arbitrary standard.

It is better to be able to anticipate, even a brief time, when our anxieties and burdens are lifted. When we clearly see the beauty of our Saviour in the Word, and our souls are able to rest in him. Here we are reoriented to truth. Sin is exposed and dealt with, and any false guilt or anxiety is done away with. In God's Word, we see the frailty of this life and the Sovereignty of our God. We remember to fear no man, and we fall into deeper adoration of our God and Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. And we know the wonder of what it is to be loved so perfectly by One who is above all others.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Missing My Husband

I find it amazingly hard to be apart from my closest and dearest companion. He left early this morning for the T4G conference in Louisville, KY. It's funny how you love someone wildly when you marry them, but then you find that time brings a sweetness and depth to that love that surpasses all previous experience.

I am somewhat consoled by the fact that he is benefiting from my loss. I think it is easy for a woman to view her husband as one who exists to make her life better. It is much harder for her to do what's best for him, and to help him serve the Lord to the best of his abilities.

Charles Ray tells a story in The Life of Susannah Spurgeon, a little bio included in Free Grace and Dying Love: Morning Devotions by Susannah Spurgeon, where Susannah is having a hard time letting go of her husband. She was married to the famous 19th century baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, and he was often away preaching. The story goes like this.
Once and once only she broke down, when her dear one was about to leave in the early morning for a distant mission, and the tears could not be kept back. 'Wifey,' said her husband, 'do you think that when any of the children of Israel brought a lamb to the Lord's altar as an offering to him they stood and wept over it when they had seen it laid there?' and when she replied in the negative he added, tenderly, 'Well, don't you see, you are giving me to God in letting me go to preach the gospel to poor sinners, and do you think he likes to see you cry over your sacrifice?'

'Could ever a rebuke have been more sweetly and graciously given?' says Mrs Spugeon. "It sank deep into my heart, carrying comfort with it and thence-forward when I parted with him, the tears were scarcely ever allowed to show themselves, or if a stray one or two dared to run over the boundaries he would say, "What! crying over your lamb, wifey?" and this reminder would quickly dry them up, and bring a smile in their place.' (p. 158-159)
A woman does not have to be married to a preacher to apply this principle. A man who is working any job to provide for his family is serving the Lord, and his wife needs to help him to do it well.

I suppose letting go of our beloved is a way we can deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24). However I don't see it as some dreadful stoic duty of a wife. The next part of the verse says, "
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

And this promise is what I cling to.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Physical Spirituality

I think sometimes we underestimate the importance of physical rest on the soul. And for many a weary mother, opportunities for physical rest are few and far between. It is tempting for mothers to feel guilty about resting during the day, or if not guilty, then simply overwhelmed at the list of "things to do." The problem is that there will always be something more to do.

I wonder if we realize how much our fatigue effects others? For example, how does it effect a husband to know he is coming home to a tired and cranky wife? How different would it be if he knew he would receive a sincere and warm welcome from a loving wife?
Do our children receive abundant love and kindness from us throughout the day, or do they feel like a burden? How about the effect on our own soul, and our passion for our Saviour?

Donald Whitney, in his book, Simplify Your Spiritual Life, says, "Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to take a nap." He goes on to say,
God made us a unity of body and soul, and one influences the other. When your soul is either happy or discouraged, it can affect how your body looks and feels. And when your body is exhausted, it tends to dampen the zeal of your soul. In fact, fatigue often weakens our resolve against temptation and provides excuses for anger, lust, and other sins. (p.161)
Granted there are seasons when this sort of fatigue is unavoidable (and we are still accountable for our sin). But I think we sometimes forget that our body, mind and spirit are intricately connected.

John Piper, in his book, When I Don't Desire God, quotes Martyn Lloyd-Jones on spiritual depression. Lloyd-Jones was a medical doctor before becoming one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century. He says,
Does someone hold the view that as long as you are a Christian it does not matter what the condition of your body is: Well, you will soon be disillusioned if you believe that...You cannot isolate the spiritual from the physical for we are body, mind and spirit. The greatest and the best Christians when thay are physically weak are more prone to an attack of spiritual depression than at any other time and there are great illustrations of this in the scriptures. (p.211)

It is truly humbling to realize our own weakness. We are not the Fountain of Life, but rather borrowers of life. The Only Immortal lends us energy even to take each breath. We are not God. So go take a nap!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Walking and MP3s

An MP3 player is a worthy investment for a new mother in my estimation. When reading is difficult because of fatigue and time constraints, listening to edifying sermons and lectures is extremely helpful.

One of my favorite practices when I'm feeling bogged down and babied-out, is to buckle my son into his stroller and go for a nice long walk with my MP3 player in hand. There is something about the combination of fresh air, sunshine (ideally), and exercise, combined with mental stimulation that I find very helpful. And its benefits seem to last for hours after I return home.

I know some women find it helpful to listen to something while doing dishes or other chores, but I find find that I am too distracted by my son or my activity to really benefit. Whereas when I walk, my son is buckled in (and usually mellowed out) and I am free to concentrate on what is being said.

Some of the audio files that I have enjoyed listening to recently are:

Carl Trueman's lectures on Sermon Audio. Specifically, John Owen on God, John Owen on Christ, and John Owen on the Holy Spirit.

Joel Beeke's series on marriage, also found at Sermon Audio.

David Wells' lectures on The Gospel in Contemporary Culture part 1, part 2 and part 3, found at the Desiring God website.

D. A. Carson's lectures given at the University Reformed Church Institute on The Reliability of the New Testament and the Emergent Church.

Frank James' Virtual Course in Church History found at RTS on iTunesU for free.

Kenneth Maresco's lecures on parenting found at the Covenant Life Church website.

Here is a starting point anyway. With such a vast wealth of helpful lectures available online, why not utilize these resources to feed the weary woman's mind and encourage her heart. Enjoy!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Reflections of a New Mother

Being a full time stay-at-home mother is a very enlightening experience. You are suddenly your own boss. You have complete control over your own schedule. How you spend your time is your own business. That is, as long as your itty-bitty dictator is in agreement. How will you spend your time?

There is definitely a pull toward some indulgent practices in order to, as it were, make up for your servitude the rest of the time. For example, when baby goes down for a nap, it is tempting to pop in a movie, watch a talk show (if you have cable tv), read a novel, eat some ice cream, or whatever your indulgence is. I don't think these things are wrong in and of themselves, but they are almost guaranteed to steal your joy! By the end of the day melancholy is inevitable.

The difficulty arises because we are so fatigued from sleepless nights and busy babies. It feels hard, if not impossible, to do any diligent study. We start to read the bible or some other stimulating book and fall asleep in the first few pages. How do we fight this physical and spiritual lethargy?

I thought I would share some practices that I have found, through trial and error, to be helpful in giving energy and joy to motherhood. Starting tomorrow, I will begin to share some of my thoughts on this issue, in hopes that, to some degree, these tools may be a help for the weary mother.

Monday, March 31, 2008

A Christian Wife's Struggle for Identity in the 21st Century: An Unethical Worldview

Biblical marriage is politically incorrect. In fact, to have a man and women function differently from each other is almost scandalous. If a woman strives to fulfill what God has uniquely designed and equipped her for, she will be going expressly against the feminine ethics of her time. I would even go as far as to say that she will be viewed as morally corrupt in some sense.

The influence of feminism in our culture makes it very difficult for a woman to enjoy contentment in marriage. The feminist agenda is so far reaching that its effects are felt even within our churches, and although strictly speaking our own sinful nature is that root of discontentment, feminism stirs it up, and acts as a stumbling block for many women today. One of my favorite authors, Sharon James, writes, "By now, the idea that a woman may find her chief role in life as a wife and a mother has been discredited beyond repair." A woman whose energies are primarily devoted to a domestic sphere is seen in a degrading light. Many women feel that if they are not pursuing a successful career as their primary goal, they are somehow second-class.

The difficulty that arises for many women is an identity question, "Who am I, if not defined by my career?" and "What is my worth?" As women living in the 21st century, we need to have a solid grasp on what it means to be in Christ. If our sense of self-worth comes from what we do, we will constantly be struggling with insecurity and discontentment. But we have a higher calling than what the world would have for us. Our worth can only be realized in light of the greatness and majesty of our God who has counted us worthy, based on the blood of Jesus Christ. We have the privilege of serving the One we love most in the role that he has purposefully and thoughtfully designed us for. We need to fight to keep worldly ideas from stealing our joy.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom. 12:2)

The Anchor of My Soul

A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more. ~ Robert Murray M’Cheyne

M'Cheyne understood what it is to kneel before the Lord in prayer. There is nothing like prayer to give you a healthy dose of reality. In those moments your carefully created persona and god-like
self-image are dreadfully stripped away and you stand there naked and exposed. In this state you see who you really are...nothing more and nothing less. Thank God that we can be clothed in Christ's righteousness! Those who trust in Him need never be ashamed because their sin is taken away. What Christ has bought let no one despise.