A Prayer for Good Friday

“Blessed Lord Jesus,

Before thy cross I kneel and see the heinousness of my sin, my iniquity that caused thee to be ‘made a curse’, the evil that excites the severity of divine wrath.

Show me the enormity of my guilt by the crown of thorns, the pierced hands and feet, the bruised body, the dying cries.

Thy blood is the blood of incarnate God, its worth infinite, its value beyond all thought. Infinite must be the evil and guilt that demands such a price.

Let me walk humbly in the lowest depths of humiliation, bathed in thy blood, tender of conscience, triumphing gloriously as an heir of salvation.”

Today, as I think about the cross, do I truly see the ugliness and severity of my sin? Am I duly humbled by the enormity of my guilt?

“O Lord, I marvel that thou shouldst become incarnate, be crucified, dead and buried.

Give me to die with thee that I may rise to new life, for I wish to be as dead and buried to sin, to selfishness, to the world.

O Lord, there is much ill about me — crucify it; much flesh within me –mortify it.

Purge me from selfishness, the fear of man, the love of approbation, the shame of being thought old-fashioned, the desire to be cultivated or modern.

Let me reckon my old life dead because of crucifixion, and never feed it as a living thing.

Grant me to stand with my dying Saviour, to be content to be rejected, to be willing to take up unpopular truths, and to hold fast despised teachings until death.

Help me to be resolute and Christ-contained.

Grant me more and more of the resurrection life; may it rule me, may I walk in its power, and be strengthened through its influence.”

Is my life crucified with Christ? Am I living as one dead to sin and selfishness? Am I willing to let Christ crucify the sin within me and mortify the flesh that still longs for the things of the world?

“O my Saviour,

I thank thee from the depths of my being for thy wondrous grace and love in bearing my sin in thine own body on the tree.

By thy cross crucify my every sin; use it to increase my intimacy with thyself;

Make it the ground of all my comfort, the liveliness of all my duties, the sum of all thy gospel promises, the comfort of all my afflictions, the vigour of my love, thankfulness, graces, the very essence of my religion.

O my Lord and Saviour, Thou hast also appointed a cross for me to take up and carry, a cross before thou givest me a crown.

Teach me, gracious Lord and Saviour, that with my cross thou sendest promised grace so that I may bear it patiently, that my cross is thy yoke which is easy, and thy burden which is light.”

Am I living in such a way that the cross is all my comfort, the essence of my faith, and the very center of my life? Do I live under the weight of the cross I must take up to follow Christ? Or is it just something I think about one Friday each year?

“Heavenly Father,

Thou hast led me singing to the cross where I fling down all my burdens and see them vanish, where my mountains of guilt are leveled to a plain, where my sins disappear, though they are the greatest that exist, and are more in number than the grains of fine sand;

For there is power in the blood of Calvary to destroy sins more than can be counted.

At the cross there is free forgiveness for poor and meek ones, and ample blessings that last for ever;

The blood of the Lamb is like a great river of infinite grace with never any diminishing of its fullness as thirsty ones without number drink of it.

In the midst of a world of pain it is a subject for praise in every place, a song on earth, an anthem in heaven, its love and virtue knowing no end.”

Does my life daily sing the good news of the cross?

“Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy, cast off that I might be brought in, trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend, surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best, stripped that I might be clothed, wounded that I might be healed, athirst that I might drink, tormented that I might be comforted, made a shame that I might inherit glory, entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes, groaned that I might have endless song, endured all pain that I might have unfading health, bore a thorny crown that I might have a glory-diadem, bowed his head that I might uplift mine, experienced reproach that I might receive welcome, closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness, expired that I might for ever live.

O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise, my every step buoyant with delight, as I see my enemies crushed; Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed; sin buried in the ocean of recoiling blood, hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.

Go forth, O conquering God, and show me the cross, mighty to subdue, comfort and save.”

Do I truly understand the miracle of the cross? Can I ever really fathom it? Lord, on this Good Friday, show me the cross.

………………………

(All quotations taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, emphasis mine. Specific prayers quoted: “The Precious Blood”, “Crucifixion and Resurrection”, “The Grace of the Cross”, “Calvary’s Anthem”, and “Love Lustres at Calvary”.)

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A Prayer for a New Year

O Lord,

Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed in thy presence, in thy service, to thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,

that I may not be one moment apart from thee, but may rely on thy Spirit to supply every thought, speak every word, direct every step, prosper every work, build up every mote of faith,

and give me a desire to show forth thy praise; testify thy love, advance thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year, with thee, O Father, as my harbour, thee, O Son, at my helm, thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt, my lamp burning, my ear open to thy calls, my heart full of love, my soul free.

Give me thy grace to sanctify me, thy comforts to cheer, thy wisdom to teach, thy right hand to guide, thy counsel to instruct, thy law to judge, thy presence to stabilize.

May thy fear be my awe, thy triumphs my joy.

(from The Valley of Vision: Puritan Prayers and Devotions. Emphasis mine.)

A Prayer for Year’s End

O Love beyond compare,

Thou art good when thou givest, when thou takest away, when the sun shines upon me, when night gathers over me.

Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world, and in love didst redeem my soul; Thou dost love me still, in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.

Thy goodness has been with me during another year, leading me through a twisting wilderness, in retreat helping me to advance, when beaten back making sure headway.

Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead; I hoist sail and draw up anchor, with Thee as the blessed Pilot of my future as of my past.

I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.

If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation, thou wilt be with me in them;

If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation, I shall not drown;

If I am to die, I shall see thy face the sooner;

If a painful end is to be my lot, grant me grace that my faith fail not;

If I am to be cast aside from the service I love, I can make no stipulation;

Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial, as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use.

(From The Valley of Vision: Puritan Prayers and Devotions. Emphasis mine.)

Book Report: The Casual Vacancy (No Spoilers)

Judge me if you will, but I’m a big Harry Potter fan. I don’t think being a Christian and enjoying Harry Potter are mutually exclusive. The books are wonderfully written stories of good triumphing over evil. (And seriously, if you’re boycotting them because they involve witchcraft and magic, you had better boycott The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and The Wizard of Oz, too. At least be consistent about it!)

I read the Harry Potter books over and over again, and every time I’m more in awe of J.K. Rowling’s craftsmanship. The plot is foreshadowed two or three novels in advance. The story lines are complex and intertwined, but never confusing or clumsy. The characters are wonderfully developed: real and flawed, but still likeable.  When I think that Ms. Rowling imagined the entire story on a train ride and then so skillfully put it on paper, I’m absolutely amazed.

So, when I heard that she was writing an adult novel, I was obviously interested. I didn’t pay much attention to the press or the book reviews, because I trusted her as an author. (And honestly, she was so secretive that no one really knew what the book was about until it was released.) I picked up The Casual Vacancy (at Kroger, of all places!) and planned to read it on our anniversary trip. The problem with that plan, however, was that I couldn’t wait to begin reading the book. By the time we left for vacation, I was halfway through; and by breakfast time on the second day of our trip, I had finished.

The Casual Vacancy is set in the small town of Pagford, England. After town council member Barry Fairbrother dies of a sudden brain aneurysm, the town is left reeling. His friends grieve his loss in their own selfish ways. His opponents labor to fill his council seat with someone on “their” side of the issues. His political allies attempt to champion the causes for which Barry fought passionately.

Interestingly enough, there is no main character. We see the story unfold from the vantage point of five or six teenagers and about a dozen adults. I truly enjoyed the shifting viewpoints and voices, but quickly learned that every character is deeply flawed, extremely selfish, and not very likeable. Deceased Barry Fairbrother becomes the protagonist and the only truly likeable character. (Mainly because he’s dead and we never hear his inner thoughts or see his motives.) The characters may not be likeable, but they are very relate-able. I know people like some of them. I see myself in some of them.

The Casual Vacancy is a very well-written character study that is part coming-of-age-story and part mid-life-crisis. The storyline intertwines and overlaps on its way to a heartbreaking climax. In its gritty social commentary, the novel brings up questions of how we help those who can’t (and won’t) help themselves and how we treat the poor. In missions and in ministry, I have met these people and seen these same hopeless, hard situations. At the end of the book, I wanted Rowling to offer hope, but she doesn’t. The reader is left with a tragic conclusion to end a depressing story. But it’s real life. And it’s extremely well-written.

So, here’s my caveat: I’m not exactly recommending this book. It is FULL of profanity, sex, and vulgarity. I understand the author’s desire to describe a real, profane, and vulgar society. I understand that this gave further insight into the characters, their viewpoints, their problems, and their motivations. However, this makes me very hesitant to recommend it to other readers. If you’re under 18, don’t read it. If you’re very sensitive to profanity, don’t read it. If you’re looking for a feel-good pick-me-up, don’t read it. If you’re in the field of social work, you might want to check it out. If you think you can handle the grittiness, the vulgarity, and the gravity of the story, give it a try. And let me know what you think.

I’m very much looking forward to Ms. Rowling’s next book. I hope it’s a little lighter and happier, but I know it will be well-written.

Pick-up Lines and Literature

This week something very sad happened ….. I finished reading a book series. As a bookworm, this is a frequent occurrence. While I’m reading there’s always an internal struggle between devouring the book as fast as I can and trying to slow down and make it last longer. Usually, speed wins out over savoring, and after a whirlwind of plot and sub-plot, crisis and conclusion, I’m finished and left thinking, “Now what?”

Since I couldn’t decide what I wanted to read next, I started re-reading The Hobbit. Yes, I’ve already read it multiple times. But, 1) it’s been several years, 2) the movie is coming out in a few months, and 3) JD bought a beautiful new copy with Alan Lee illustrations. So, last night I opened the fresh new copy, listening to the spine crackle and breathing in the new book scent (what? is that weird?) and was greeted by this opening sentence:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat; it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Okay, that’s two sentences. But those two sentences set an amazing tone for the rest of the novel. In just a few words Tolkien gives us a setting, a main character, and even a foreshadowing of the tension of the story. (If a hobbit-hole means comfort, then a hobbit is a creature who loves comfort; thus, leaving his hobbit-hole is the height of discomfort and the great challenge he faces.)

I LOVE a good opening line. There’s nothing better than reading the first sentence and knowing that you’re in for an excellent read. Opening sentences are the pick-up lines of literature. A great opening sentence makes me want to pick up the book and read it cover to cover. Speaking of books I read cover to cover, here’s another of my favorite opening lines from Pride and Prejudice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Oh, the sarcasm! The social commentary! And again, the theme of the book foreshadowed in a single sentence.

Larry McMurtry, one of my favorite authors, may not reveal any themes or theses in his opening lines, but he sure knows how to “pick up” a reader. In Lonesome Dove he writes:

When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake — not a very big one.

If that opening line doesn’t peak your interest, I don’t know what will. It raises so many questions: Are the pigs really blue? Why does it matter how big the rattlesnake is? (Isn’t a snake a snake?) And most of all, what kind of mother would name her baby Augustus?

As a bookworm, I get very excited about a good opening line. And I’m even more thrilled when the book lives up to its first sentence (as all three of these do.) What about you? Read any good pick-up lines lately?

The Emancipation of Domesticity

This morning Piper slept in. Really slept in. I got up, had breakfast, worked on my Bible study, and still didn’t hear a peep from her. I decided that if she was still sleeping at 10, I would wake her up. (I know – how lucky am I that my child sleeps that late?) A few minutes before 10 as I was putting laundry away, I walked by her closed door and heard her little voice say, “Hi, Mommy!” When I opened the door, she was sitting there smiling at me, and repeated, “Hi, Mommy!” It’s moments like this that make me love my job as a stay-at-home mom. Moments when she runs up to me and hugs me, moments when I see her learn something new, and moments when she just wants to be near me make it all worthwhile.

But, if I’m honest, in a normal day there are more difficult moments than sweet moments. Being a stay-at-home mom is hard. It’s hard because toddlers are busy, grumpy, fussy, hyper, cuddly, clingy, needy, energetic, and demanding. And sometimes they experience all of those moods within the span of a few minutes. Being a stay-at-home mom is hard because I lack adult company and conversation. And when I am around other adults, all I have to offer in conversation is what I learned watching Nick Jr. this week. But, most of all, being a stay-at-home mom is hard because I live in a society that looks down on stay-at-home moms.

No, no one openly berates or belittles me. It’s more subtle. It’s the commercials where all moms do with their time is shop. (I mean, come on Kohl’s. Give us a little more credit!) It’s the television shows that portray working mothers as smarter and more fulfilled and stay-at-home moms as more depressed and “desperate.” It’s the teachers and professors who discourage girls from wasting their talent and intellect by staying at home and serving their families. It’s the job market that discounts the work experience of a woman who has stayed at home to raise her children. It’s the strangers who subtly take on a defensive or superior attitude when I tell them I choose to stay at home. It’s the comments of acquaintances who say, “I wish I could stay at home and relax all day instead of working.”

Usually, because I know that staying at home instead of pursuing a career is the right decision for my family, these things don’t get to me. But sometimes I see a facebook post about a friend’s promotion or academic success, and a small voice says, “Corrie, you’re getting behind. They’re all beating you. Look – she’s in grad school. And she’s just gotten her dream job. Your friends are winning! People are going to think those women are smarter than you. You’re never going to be able to catch up.” And I start to second guess everything. Because I am smart. I am driven. And I’m so selfish. Because for me and my family, to go back to school or back to work right now would be selfish. I would be doing it for me, not for them.

When I start to feel discouraged or looked down upon in my position as a stay-at-home mom, I need help to regain a proper perspective. Over the past months that help has come from various books, sermons, and articles. Last week my help came through a passage written by G.K. Chesterton that I just happened to run across.

Chesterton was a writer and theologian, and wrote about the position of a homemaker and mother a century ago when women were just beginning to feel the pressure to have a career and success outside of the home. This article, The Emancipation of Domesticity is an excerpt from his book What’s Wrong with the World. He begins by explaining that our career-minded culture centers around specialization. We find a field and become the best we can be in one specific area. This specialization, however, runs contrary to the traditional role of wife and mother.

“The woman is expected to cook: not to excel in cooking, but to cook; to cook better than her husband who is earning the coke by lecturing on botany or breaking stones. […] The woman is expected to tell tales to the children, not original and artistic tales, but tales–better tales than would probably be told by a first-class cook. Woman must be a cook, but not a competitive cook; a school mistress, but not a competitive schoolmistress; a house-decorator but not a competitive house-decorator; a dressmaker, but not a competitive dressmaker. She should have not one trade but twenty hobbies; she, unlike the man, may develop all her second bests.”

Before we 21st century women get offended, he’s not telling us our place is in the kitchen. Chesterton is saying that the wife and mother’s skills are broad, not deep. I’m a cook for my family. No, I haven’t been to culinary school, but with every recipe I learn and improve a little more. I’m a nurse. No, I don’t have a degree from nursing school, but I bandage scraped knees and administer medicine to sick babies. I’m a teacher. (Wait! I actually have a degree in this area!) I’m not teaching Latin or Social Studies, though. I’m teaching the alphabet, how to eat with a fork, and manners. I’m a decorator, an organizer, a maid, a gardener, a photographer, a librarian, and a zookeeper. I’m not as good a decorator as a professional with a design degree, but I’m better than someone who spends all their time cooking professionally. I’m not as good a nurse as an RN with a degree, but I’m a better nurse than a professional decorator has time to learn to be. You see? As a full-time wife and mother, I’m developing MANY broad skills instead of ONE deep skill.

“Women were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad.”

“To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets cakes. and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”

My job is big. My job is important. I am not less talented, less enlightened, or less qualified as a woman because I choose to stay at home. And I need to be reminded of this regularly. Thank you, Mr. Chesterton, that I can learn from and be encouraged by your words a century after they were written.

(You can read the full Chesterton article here.)

(Disclaimer: I am not saying that it is wrong for a mother to work outside the home. I am not judging women who choose to do so. I am simply trying to explain my position and perspective on what is right for me and my family.)

A Puritan Prayer

Several years ago I was introduced to a wonderful book called The Valley of Vision. Edited by Arthur Bennett, it is a collection of prayers from a dozen well-known Puritans including John Bunyan, David Brainerd, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon. These prayers all follow a poetic structure (which my inner grammarian loves,) and I love to read through them as my heart echoes their words to God.

A prayer about the family is my current favorite, especially this excerpt:

Let those that are united to me in tender ties be precious in thy sight and devoted to thy glory. Sanctify and prosper my domestic devotion, instruction, discipline, example, that my house may be a nursery for heaven, my church a garden of the Lord, enriched with trees of righteousness of thy planting, for thy glory. (from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett.)

This has been my prayer lately. I need constant reminders that my “domestic devotions” of laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc. are a means that God uses to sanctify me. I need to remember that my purpose in instructing and disciplining Piper is her eventual salvation and sanctification. I love the image of my home being a nursery for heaven where I am raising and training future saints. And the last part reminds me that everything I do as a woman, a wife, and a mother is for His glory.

Good stuff. I’m thankful for the Puritans and the way that centuries later, I can echo their prayers and “amen” their words.