Friday, December 31, 2010

on journaling

Why I journal

1) To have a record of God's dealings with me.  Many of these I would soon forget if I did not write them down.  This includes answered prayers, verses illumined by the Spirit from my Bible reading, or special quotations, or things people have said to me.

2) To think by writing.  Some people think to write, others like me write to think.  There's a joy to putting ideas into words, and a seriousness, too.  Albert Einstein once said, “Have the courage to take your own thoughts seriously, for they will shape you.”

3) To write out prayers to the Lord.  The Psalms are expressions of the heart written down for all time.  I too transcribe my praises, problems and petitions.  Usually they're short, but there's something about seeing a prayer written down that tells me, yes, that's what I mean. 

4) To record events, significant or otherwise: family, personal, church, international, or anything I might deem significant.  Often I just write down what the weather's been like.

5) To have a place to write random thoughts or drawings, or a spot to paste that ticket from the Hokies game we attended.

6) To leave behind for my children and grandchildren a record of daily life and my reflections upon God's grace and goodness to us.

7) To have a way to use all those fountain pens I've been collecting.  There's just something about writing with a good fountain pen -- the way it glides across the paper...

How I keep a journal

1) I get a good journal bound with quality paper (fountain pen-friendly), which lies flat when I open it.  I've used Clairfontaine, Exacompta, Moleskine, and Rhodia notebooks with satisfaction.  Some people keep a journal on their computer or use online resources and that's fine.  If you want to do it the old-fashioned fountain pen and paper way, pick up a good journal and invest in a Lamy Safari. 

2) I write a) when there is something I want to remember (quote, event, thought), or b) when I feel like it.  I don't write when I don't feel like it.  This is not an obligation.  When it becomes that I'll probably stop.  Sometimes I write a lot, sometimes little, and often I go many days without writing anything.

3) I keep my journal with my Bible and within easy reach to jot down things. I carry it with me on trips.  

4) I look back through it from time to time  -- New Years is a good time -- over the past year's notes, and previous years, to see what I've learned.  (Or, if I learned anything...)  I get to marvel again at God's faithfulness, and to remember special events and lessons learned.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

job satisfaction

“I glorified you on earth by completing  the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4)

“Lord, grant us: in our work, satisfaction; in our study, wisdom; in our pleasure, gladness; and in our love, loyalty.”  (William Barclay)  Fred Smith reflected on this prayer, specifically the request about satisfaction in work: 

In our work, satisfaction...”  Peter Drucker told our son , “Let the task be the reward.”  He was saying money isn’t the the full reward.  It is a necessary component, but shouldn’t be the primary goal.  I played golf with a CEO who lost $80 million in a corporate debacle.  His comment to me was, “Fred, I wasn’t in it solely for the money.  When I am gone, what I contributed will live on in my industry."  What a pity it would have been if money had been the measure of his satisfaction.

I asked Seth Macon, the retired Senior Vice President of Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company, what his greatest satisfaction was in
his 40+year career. “The present leaders are men I selected and trained.”  His eyes were on the future; his work was to build continuity.

I have 4 elements necessary in a job that produces satisfaction:


1. Provides a sustaining income.  Money isn’t the object, but it is important.  I have been poor and I have been comfortable- the latter gives me more flexibility.  Money isn’t to be an idol; it is a tool.  Money provides options.

2. Serves a common good.  The Puritans called this “fulfilling our calling.”  Jesus “went about doing good.”
 

3. Produces meaning.  Viktor Frankl wrote that man searches for meaning.  Katherine Graham, CEO of the Washington Post companies said, “To love what I do and know it makes a difference, how can anything be more fun?”
4. Uses our uniqueness.    If we do not contribute our uniqueness to the world, then there is really no reason for us to have been born.  Each of us has a responsibility to identify our giftedness and a stewardship to develop it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

his kindness and covenant

For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee. (Isaiah 54:10)

"One of the most delightful qualities of divine love is its abiding character. The pillars of the earth may be moved out of their places, but the kindness and the covenant of our merciful Jehovah never depart from His people. How happy my soul feels in a firm belief of this inspired declaration! The year is almost over, and the years of my life are growing few, but time does not change my Lord. New lamps are taking the place of the old; perpetual change is on all things, but our Lord is the same. Force over turns the hills, but no conceivable power can affect the eternal God. Nothing in the past, the present, or the future can cause Jehovah to be unkind to me.

"My soul, rest in the eternal kindness of the Lord, who treats thee as one near of kin. Remember also the everlasting covenant. God is ever mindful of it—see that thou art mindful of it too. In Christ Jesus the glorious God has pledged Himself to thee to be thy God and to hold thee as one of His people. Kindness and covenant-dwell on these words as sure and lasting things which eternity itself shall not take from thee." 

-- C. H. Spurgeon, Faith's Checkbook, December 27 entry.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

come, let us adore him!



When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us."  And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.  And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.  (Luke 2:15-20 ESV)
 
[Above: Caravaggio's "Adoration of the Shepherds" (1609)]

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

new book

What a blessing to receive a copy of this new book as a gift from some very good friends!

Gerry McDermott is the editor of this Oxford-published volume of essays, backed by a who's-who list of contributors: Mark Noll, Alister McGrath, Henri Blocher, John Stackhouse, Donald Bloesch, Dallas Willard, Darrell Bock, and many others.  

This is an important work for such a time as this, when the word "evangelical" has come to mean practically anything and often, virtually nothing.  


In the opening essay Mark Noll notes that historically there have been four ingredients to evangelical religion: the importance of conversion, the ultimate authority of the Bible, the inevitable fruit of charitable works (and often social reform), and the centrality of the Cross (substitutionary atonement).

Just getting started...


The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology, Gerald McDermott, editor.

 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

another take on lausanne

Here's Carl Trueman on "A Dissenting Voice on Lausanne III"

First he wonders first if such declarations makes any difference to the world at large: 

Evangelicals typically make the fatal mistake of assuming that the wider world actually cares about what they think. It does not: it increasingly regards us as fringe lunatics, rather as it did in the first century.
  
Then he wonders if anything new or ground-breaking came out of it, especially in light of its great expense...

To read some of the blogs and reports on the conference, you would think that something new and radical was being proposed.  Nothing I have seen could not have been found better expressed elsewhere by somebody else at some point in the past.  The question then becomes: did we need a gathering of thousands of church leaders (though no leader from my own church, local or otherwise, seems to have been present), at huge expense, to tell us these things?

He wonders about how representative it was...

Clearly, the Lausanne movement it is not a church but rather an eclectic collection of leaders from various different churches.  It transcends individual denominations, but does so in a way that is simply not very ecclesiastical.  Now, I know that we want to find ways and means of expressing our unity in Christ; but to do this via a non-ecclesiastical root is not consonant with scripture and also leaves the gathering vulnerable to the accusation that it is self-appointed and unrepresentative. This latter criticism is particularly ironic, given the laudable desire of the organizers to be inclusive and, to quote the webpage, to be `perhaps the widest and most diverse gathering of Christians ever held in the history of the Church.' To play the postmodern card: one wonders who decided which people were `representative' and thus received an invitation, and which were not and were left by the wayside.

His final thought...

Maybe Lausanne III will be significant. I wish I could believe that. More likely, I suspect, it will go the way of Lausanne I and II: it will produce some inspiring documents, an interesting book or two, and perhaps give those fortunate enough to have been present a vision of the kingdom which may last for a few months or maybe a year. It certainly will not have any impact at local level: it does not have the mechanisms attached to it to do so.  Thus, for most of us, life will go on as normal, in all of its boring, mundane routine: we will ensure that the gospel is faithfully preached week by week from our pulpits, we will attempt to apply God's word to the routine pastoral problems of our congregations, we will seek to reach out to the community where God has placed us, and we will, in these straitened times, strive to meet our modest budgets. In this context, a context very familiar to most Christians, some of us will wonder if the money and time spent in Cape Town might not have given a better return if invested elsewhere.
Trueman may be overstating the case, but these are valid questions.  I think there is value to such gatherings and to documents that help refine, clarify, and articulate clear doctrinal and missional positions.  It gives a reference point for agreement, even though they may not be "binding".  I felt the Manhattan Declaration, for example, did an excellent job at defining and defending the biblical view of marriage. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

sunday quotes

 
"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."  (Luke 1:31-33 ESV)

"This is a wonderful promise, because it means that Jesus is just as much King now as He was when He ascended into heaven; He is ruling His people today just as much as Barack Obama or David Cameron or Vladimir Putin or any other world leader are governing, and He will continue to reign long after they are in their graves, and until He returns to establish his kingdom." (David Kingston)

“If Gabriel has spoken the truth, the issue in 2010, no matter where you live on this planet, is: Will you bow before the kingship of Jesus and obey the rule of his kingdom?”  (John Piper)

And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."  And the angel departed from her.   (Luke 1:38 ESV)

“Every time I read Mary's response to the angel's announcement and explanation, I am awed: 'I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said.' Here is a teenager facing misunderstanding and rejection from her family, her betrothed, and her townspeople. And yet she agrees. Mary affirms the bedrock truth that under-girds our discipleship: 'I am the Lord's servant.' After all is said and done, after we have explored all the possibilities, we still must decide: am I a servant or a master? Is my allegiance to the Lord or to my own desires?”  (Ralph Wilson)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

redeemed for a purpose


"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,  training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."  (Titus 2:11-14 ESV)

In my own words: Jesus died for sin that he might destroy sin.  Or put another way: he died for my sins that he might deliver me from my sins.  To redeem is to set free from bondage in order to bring us into a glorious, life-giving relationship with God.

Trust in Christ for salvation also means obedience to Christ for a new life.  This too is included in "grace".  Grace instructs us to renounce ungodliness and worldliness and lawlessness.  There is a negative aspect to it -- but for a positive end: that we might have room for self-control, righteousness, godliness, hope, purity and zeal for goodness. 

When the Lord removes something from my life it is so that he might replace it with something better. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

leaving church, part 2

See the previous post.  And now the search for a new church has begun for my friend, and he's having a difficult time of it.

My insight for today is that people don't go to church because those in charge of church make it too unpleasant. This is a distressing discovery as I loved going to [a previous church] every Sunday for about 5 years.  Here, after 1-1/2 years I've come to dread much of the experience.

In our immediate area (10-mile radius) we are surrounded by Baptists, with a smattering of liberal Methodists and Presbyterians.

There are some Roman Catholic churches, but they keep pretty quiet, which is probably a good thing considering the kinds of things the bishops have been up to with the homosexual priests over the past several decades.

The local Presbyterian church is in a state of collapse following the pastor's affair with a member of the congregation.

One of the Baptist churches publishes on its web site a demographic survey showing the education levels and annual incomes of its members. What do we make of that? Is that a warning to stay away if your income is too low or you spent too much or too little time in school?

Most of the Baptist churches are tiny and might consist of not much more than a grouping of a few extended families.

One of the non-affiliated churches we tried treats the worship service like a coffee shop gathering where everyone feels good about God.

We were in one church a couple of years ago where the coffee and donut bar was in the vestibule as you entered and the Communion buffet was down the aisle at the front of the church. You could walk up and partake as you saw fit.

An elderly friend attends a church near here that teaches that God is love and that She will save everyone. You just have to think loving thoughts and be kind of good to others.

We attended another church in a storefront (by mistake as it turns out when we took a wrong turn) where several people with prayer requests spent 15 or 20 minutes lying flat on their backs on the floor after the minister and some others had prayed over them. Reminded me of a Benny Hinn TV program.

And, of course, our former church has been cranking up the decibels during the past year so that if they were a factory OSHA would require us all to wear ear protection. I wonder that OSHA doesn't have requirements for church employees in this environment.

I was thinking at supper tonight that this church has a considerable fortune invested in electronics with all the audio equipment, remote control video cameras, giant flat-screen TVs in the auditorium and throughout the building, and production studios and the full-time staff it takes to run all this. At least the Catholic Church put its money into gold goblets, which could always be sold when money was needed. The electronics is worth about zip the moment it is installed.

Out of its nearly $4 million budget, our church spends $200,000 on missions, mostly in the form of sending money to support the Missions Board. A couple of dozen people did go on short term mission trips this summer. $700,000 goes to salaries and benefits for the staff of the education ministry, meaning the youth, education, missions, and children’s ministers and staff. Almost $400,000 goes to salaries and benefits for the Media Ministries staff. 

And every one of the church web sites I look at has the most obvious technical and content errors after just a couple of clicks. Doesn't anyone ever look at what they publish? On some you cannot get a consistent statement of the time at which some events will occur since different pages have different times.

I'm hoping to come out of my stewing funk by tomorrow.  My wife and I will celebrate our anniversary on Sunday. Time to thank God for that blessing and let things develop as He leads.



Monday, November 29, 2010

from a friend leaving a church (not ours)

I followed with some interest a longtime friend who is leaving his church.  Here's one installment of what he wrote me, with a few things changes or omitted to protect the innocent (and the guilty)...

I'd appreciate prayers for our family as we search for a new church.  We are quitting our church this week.

Our misgivings about this church have been growing for the past several weeks. Things came to a head this past Sunday. The worship service was a preview of what will be a new service starting soon. It was basically a rock concert with smoke filling the auditorium, chanting of mindless phrases, and the prancing around of our new worship leader who came from a mega-Church several weeks ago. He seems to think he is a performer rather than a leader.

As it turned out the whole experience adversely affected all of our family, both spiritually and physically. After the service I learned from the pastor that the sound level was adjusted to 92 decibels, which turns out to be normal practice and why I have been complaining about the painful volume and ringing in my ears after the service for the past several weeks. My son-in-law, who also attended, says OSHA requires ear protection for employees working in environments at that level.

I approached several of the members of my small group about my misgivings about where the church was headed in trying to adopt the styles of the day to sell the product. I asked if they could help me resolve the turmoil in my heart and mind that followed this Sunday service. Several responded that they didn't understand my questions and if I didn't like it I should go elsewhere. This from a group I have been meeting with weekly for about 18 months. What an eye-opener.

The pastor got wind of my questions and responded in such an un-pastoral manner that no one in our family could ever again consider him our pastor. This has been kind of devastating for us all. We have invested a lot in this church and we have made many friends.

So, we will be searching for another church. We would appreciate your prayers that we should be more successful in finding a good Bible-based church that is not driven by the numbers game...

[Second installment to come.]
 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

grace

Lately I have been thinking about grace and coming across good quotes (so random it might seem) on the topic...

First, this from Fred Smith, former Dallas businessman:

Grace was genuine, real, personal, and palpable to the great saints.  Brother Lawrence, Frank Laubach, Francois Fenelon…these Christian mystics never doubted they were the constant recipients of God’s amazing grace.  Grace was a practical part of their every day lives.

For example, Brother Lawrence said when he made a mistake, he didn’t spend time agonizing about it - he just confessed it and moved on.  Before I read this, I spent a lot of time trapped by guilt.  Immediate grace was too good to be true.  Brother Lawrence released me.

Nevertheless, legalism appeals to our common sense and reasoning.  I find it necessary to remind myself that the very Scripture that makes me know my guilt lets me know His grace.  By refusing grace, we play God striving to discipline ourselves.  We view events as punishment.  We see correction coming when, in reality, it isn’t correction at all --- it is just the cause and effect sequence.  We try to read into our circumstances interpreting them as God’s judgment. 

Why do we do this?  Because we feel we deserve judgment rather than grace.  But, grace brings freedom.  If we could only, like Brother Lawrence,  repent and experience the joy of grace, then we could move on, released from guilt.

Grace cannot be earned or deserved, so why do we think some are worthy and others not?  Why do we think we cannot be the “object of grace?”  The Bible tells us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but it doesn’t advocate “worm thinking,“ either.

To grow in Christ means growing in grace.  What do we do with this faith gift?   Humility and gratitude are the responses of the mature Christian.  Anything else is foolish arrogance.
Why can we think in the way of grace?  It is because of the super-abundant, fully sufficient work of Christ.  This quote from Jonathan Edwards in his third sermon on the History of the Work of Redemption:

"The manner of God's saving those persons when all the world besides was so overthrown was very wonderful and remarkable; it was a wonderful work of God and a remarkable type of the redemption of Christ, of that redemption that is sealed by the baptism of water and is so spoken of in the New Testament, as 1 Peter 3:20–21 ["In the days of Noah … eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us"].  That water that washed away the filth of the world, that cleared the world of wicked men, was a type of the blood of Christ that takes away the sin of the world. That water that delivered Noah and his sons from their enemies is a type of that blood that delivers God's church from their sins, their worst enemies. That water that was so plentiful and abundant that it filled the world and reached above the tops of the highest mountains was a type of that blood the sufficiency of which is so abundant baptismal for the whole world's baptism, to bury the biggest mountains of sin. The ark that was the refuge and hiding place of the church in this time of storm and floods was a type of Christ, the true hiding place of the church from the storms and floods of God's wrath."


And finally a wonderful excerpt from Isaac Watts' "The Invitation of the Gospel"...



Dear God, the treasures of thy love
Are everlasting mines,
Deep as our helpless miseries are,
And boundless as our sins.

The happy gates of gospel grace
Stand open night and day,
Lord, we are come to seek supplies,
And drive our wants away.



 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

he himself

Just noticed that the opening and closing teaching sessions by our Lord Jesus, according to Luke's Gospel, have a striking similarity:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."  (Luke 4:16-21 ESV)

And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.  (Luke 24:25-27 ESV)
From Jesus' opening proclamation in Nazareth at the beginning of his ministry to his post-resurrection teaching, Jesus reveals that he himself is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament hopes and promises. 
 
Sometimes when we do sermons people ask, well, what's the application?  (Meaning, what two or three practical things should I be doing?)  I think the point here is-- before we get practical we must get personal: Jesus himself is the application!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

the dry rot of boredom

I like Fred Smith's advice on how to live life.  Here he writes on dealing with boredom.

Boredom is the dry rot of our souls. It is a sure sign of poor self-management.   It comes when we feel what we’re doing isn’t worth the time, isn’t interesting, or isn’t challenging enough.  Boredom can be the result of living too efficiently and less effectively.  When our life becomes a series of habits and routines, our creative juices dry up.

Oftentimes I hear my grandchildren say, “I’m bored.”  My response is always the question, “So, what are you going to do about it?”  We must learn early on that the cure for boredom is our responsibility, not the job for others. We live in an entertainment culture.  We too quickly cry “foul” if the TV screen goes blank for a few seconds.

A prolonged stay in boredom allows us to fall into pseudo-sophistication, grow melancholy, or adapt a lifestyle of ennui.  If we stay there too long, we lose the ability to pull ourselves out of the quagmire by our emotional bootstraps.

Here are three steps I recommend for the release from the bondage of boredom:

1) Break up the repetitions of life.  Sometimes the simplest change will help because it activates our engagement and takes us out of the “life on autopilot” thinking.  When I was speaking constantly and I found a talk becoming rote and routine --- bordering on boring---- I rearranged the points to increase my interest and concentration.  Routine is necessary for efficiency, but that cannot be the highest priority. Effective living requires more juice.

2) Add something good to your life.  Start a new activity, take up a new hobby, see old things in new ways, open up new friendships, or do something special for someone each day.  As my body becomes less cooperative, I have to think of mental activities.  When I could still get “out and about” I thought about enrolling in courses, signing up for a foreign film series, attending musical or athletic events.  But most importantly, do good for yourself and others.  Remember:  the more bored you are, the less energy you will have to begin the process, but just start.  And the more interested you are, the more interesting you will become - to yourself and those around you.

3) Take something out of your life.  We all have junk that needs to go…things we needlessly carry around.  The first on my list is the sedentary life.  Wasted calories are another good candidate for jettisoning.

Understanding the difference between rest, relaxation, and goofing off can be helpful in this exercise.  Do an audit of your lifestyle and ditch the stuff that drags you down.  Make room for the good.  I fondly remember Naples, Italy, on New Year’s Eve .  Traditionally, the citizens stand in the window and hurl all unneeded items to the ground ---- rather a shocking experience .  But a tremendous illustration.  That’ll preach.

This week think about:  1) What should I sell in my mental garage sale? 2) How can I do intentional good? 3) When do I find myself fighting boredom?

Words of Wisdom:  “Boredom is the dry rot of our soul.”

Wisdom from the Word: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10a  NET Bible)
 
  

Monday, November 8, 2010

Some quotes old and new

On the topic of seeing Christ -- that faith is a miraculous work of God, and that we should be seeking to see more of Christ's glory: 
 

Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven."   (Matthew 16:16-17 ESV)
 

"Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world."  (John 17:24 ESV)



Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

(Dallan Forgaill, 8th Century)


“One of the greatest privileges of believers, both in this world and unto eternity, consists in their beholding the glory of Christ. This, therefore, Christ desires for them in this solemn intercession [John 17:24], as the complement of all his other requests in their behalf: ‘That they may behold my glory’… ‘that they may see, view, behold, or contemplate my glory.’  This glorious privilege is not only for the heavenly state, but also for believers living in this world.” (John Owen, Meditation on the Glory of Christ, 1684)

"There is such a thing as a spiritual and divine light immediately imparted to the soul by God, of a different nature from any that is obtained by natural means...  it may be thus described: a true sense of the divine excellency [beauty] of the things revealed in the word of God, and a conviction of the truth and reality of them."  (Jonathan Edwards, "A Divine and Supernatural Light", 1734)



If at any time you fall into doubts about the state of your soul, in dark and dull frames of mind, it is proper to review your past experience. But do not consume too much time and strength in this way. Rather, apply yourself with all your might to an earnest pursuit after renewed experience, new light and new lively acts of faith and love. One new discovery of the glory of Christ's face will do more toward scattering clouds of darkness in one minute, than examining the best past experiences through a whole year.  (Written by Jonathan Edwards to Deborah Hatheway of Connecticut, 18, who came to Christ during the first Great Awakening.)


I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I've been set free
  


(John Newton, "Amazing Grace", 1779)

Then I saw Your face
One glimpse of Your face, it's a whole new game
Then I saw Your face, and I was changed forever
Yours forever now

Change, rearranged 'cause I couldn't maintain
The heart it took to even stay in the game
One look in Your eyes even I realized
A fellow like me had been put down to size
To be built up in a better way, Your way
Yahweh ain't about to fade
Bombastic, ain't no way to mask it
I saw Your face, and my old way's blasted
I'm Yours forever now
 

(TobyMac, "Changed Forever", 2010)


And now look at us all out of Eden,
Wearing designer fig leaves by Louis Vuitton
Make-believing
But God sees through my foolish pride,
And how I'm weak like Adam, another victim of Lucifer's lies
But then, in steps Jesus...

They said you came for the lame,
I'm the lamest
I made a mess, but you say you'll erase it,
I'll take it...
They say you came for the lame,
I'm the lamest
I broke my life, but you say you'll replace it,
I'll take it.  


(Lecrae, "Just Like You", 2010)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

postmodern power plays

“Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.” 

So said G. K. Chesterton, who is one of the most quotable writers in history, though I think C. S. Lewis still holds first place in that category.

I finished reading an excellent quote on education by Chesterton here. This struck me as so relevant that it could have been written this week on our own campus.  

Many liberal arts professors today would tell me that my own view of truth is absolute, dogmatic, and ultimately leads to domination.  Instead, any "truth" should be seen as subjective and relative. Absolute truth claims only serve to subjugate others -- all truth claims, then, are power plays.

Except their own, they think.

I hear often from Christian students how their views are frequently belittled and berated by teachers who would otherwise say truth is relative.  So even the postmodern professor ends up being exclusive, domineering, and power-playing.  They simply do not see the contradiction.

All teaching, according to Chesterton, is based upon some dogma, whether classical or postmodern.  The notion of authority always lies at the base of any truth claims in the classroom.  He saw his clearly in 1910...


"The truth is, that there is nothing in common at all between these
teachers, except that they teach. In short, the only thing they share is
the one thing they profess to dislike; the general idea of authority. It is
quaint that people talk of separating dogma from education. Dogma is
actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It is education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching."  (G. K. Chesterton, from What’s Wrong with the World, 1910.  Italics added.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"move it, brotha"

Fred Smith on motivation. This applies to work, marriage, ministry or child-rearing...

Many people think of motivation as a quick, easy blast ---- a shot to the solar plexus to spur action.  Not in my book.  I hear a lot about the time Knute Rockne stayed out of the Notre Dame locker room at half time until the very last second.  He then poked his head in the door and yelled, “Let’s go, girls!”  Of course this story is famous because the Fighting Irish went on to victory.  Somehow, I think this bleeds over into manipulation rather than motivation.

What is the difference?

1. Motivation is the process whereby a mutual interest is developed between two people.  This is usually recognized by both as they work together for success.  Motivation involves a long-term healthy drive in a psychologically friendly atmosphere where people are developed, not used.  There are common goals and positive outcomes.

2. Manipulation is the process used by one who gets others to do what he wants through the unhealthy use of fear, tricks, or devious plans.  Manipulation is often thought of as a fast way to achieve results.  However effective the short term is, it is a management strategy with a short life.  Performance by trickery is quickly recognized by others.

The word motivation can be replaced by the word “thirst” when we truly understand the process.  The motivator should identify the thirst in another and find ways to satisfy it.  I like to think of motivation as a fertilizer, as well.  Fertilizer doesn’t create the natural growth process --- it enhances it.  Motivation should enable another to do a better job at what they are already wanting to do.

Creating a cause big enough to involve others is highly motivational.  People will belong and even make sacrifices for something with meaning – something larger than themselves.  We want to belong; we want to contribute; we want to make a difference.  But, we want to do it because it satisfies our thirst, not because we were conned into it.  Motivators grow people; manipulators grow old.

 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sheaffer Imperial desk pen

This desk set I received from my father-in-law.  It's a Sheaffer Imperial fountain pen with white onyx (or marble) base and monogrammed brass plate.  Steel inlaid nib, a very smooth fine.  1960s.



 

Monday, November 1, 2010

mortification

Here's the last portion of my review on Dr. John Hannah's notes on spiritual growth:

10. Mortification: How is the believer to put to death the deeds of the flesh?

      “To be Spiritually Minded is Life and Peace”(Rom. 8:6).
      “Watch and Pray that You Enter not into Temptation” (Matt. 26:41).

We began our study of the spiritual life stating that there are three important ingredients with numerous ramifications: Know your God, Know yourself, and know your situation. Vivification is about the first of these; Mortification is about the latter of these.

a)    Some General Reflections on Sin in our lives.

1) Most people are bothered by the symptoms and consequences of sin, not its causes.

2) Sin is not resolved by avoidance and neglect, nor inadequate, unfruitful remedies.

3) Sin is most often revealed in its fruitful state (i.e., “death” as personal wastefulness), not in its inceptive or casual stage.

4) Sin is rooted in our fallen natures (i.e., disruptive characteristics), but manifested in our social relationships.

5) Sin works in us in subtle and insidious ways. We must become students of ourselves to know how and when we are most liable to it.

b) Specific Principles for the Mortification of Sin; or, what are some helpful things to do when “sin crouches at the door” of your life.

1) Consider the dangerous consequences of sin (guilt of sin, loss of peace and strength, grieving the spirit, wounding of Christ).

2) Load the consciousness with the guilt of sin (consider God’s infinite patience and forbearance).

3) Consider the state of one’s self at all times in total depravity and thoughts of one’s vileness. A common characteristic of the circumstance of sin in our lives is that contemplated action is seen as having good potential and this will improve us. Remind yourself that sin never pays long-term positive dividends.

4) Trace the particular manifestation of sin to its root.

The Meaning: The cause of poor behavior is often hidden. Another way to say it is this: that which bothers us is often a fruit of a deeper cause. To make progress we must search out the underlying causes and deal with them:

“Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it”. – Jonathan Edwards

“I have concluded to endeavor to work myself into duties by searching and tracing back all the real reasons why I do them not, and narrowly searching out all the subtle subterfuges of my thoughts and answering them to the utmost of my power, that I may know what are the very first originals of my defect, as with respect to want of repentance, love to God, loathing of myself – to do this sometimes in sermons”. – Jonathan Edwards

The Illustration: Add to the forest image another; it is “the river and the canoe” metaphor. When you discover a “tree” in your forest, do not merely deal with it. If you can, try to figure out what triggers this course of action. Imagine the “river “ to be your life; the “canoe” the means for searching out your life. Get into your “canoe” and paddle up the “river” of your life and deal with the problem at the deepest cause you can discover. Problems are normally brought to our attention in the fruitful stage, not the causative stage. To root out a problem is to attack the root, not the fruit.

     •    This is no easy task. It requires hard reflection and honesty.

     •    There are things hidden deep in your mind that you have purposefully hidden to avoid the pain of it. Reflection over time will generally make these known. This is where a skilled counselor can help. When things got hidden in our memory bank as children, we have adopted a non-confrontative approach to dealing with things. That is often all a child can do; however, to employ the same mechanisms as an adult leads to greater problems in handling social relationships.

5) Do not hurry to gain relief for your sin. Think about it before you shrug, delight yourself in your forgiveness, and go your way.

6) Act quickly against the first temptations toward a sin. Learn by self-study how and when you are susceptible to solicitations. Deal with them immediately; do not delight in them though we all have a natural tendency to do so.

7) Allow God to speak peace rather than assuming you have it. A lot of lessons are missed in hurry. Do not claim a verse and claim more than you should have.


c)  Be attentive to temptation. Learn the circumstances of solicitation. Solicitation is not evil inherently; it is the signal of the approach of what can turn into evil.

To quote a line from Calvin Coolidge, a former president: “The Lord gave us two ends- one to sit on and the other to think with.  Success depends upon which one we use the most.”

d)  Ask yourself what you have learned from your failure. Say to yourself, “How did this happen to me? … What were the circumstances the accompanied this in the first place?”


“Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.” —Jonathan Edwards

e)    Because complexity complicates and simplicity simplifies, take on only one or two trees at a time. Too many “trees” leads to frustration and defeat; too many “canoes” rides in the “river” of your life makes for frustration.

1) As an individual pick a “tree” and work on it. Search out its root, learn the circumstances of its troubling present, fight against it with prayer and Bible reading, good company, and resolve.

2) Pick a tree as a couple and work on it together. Discuss it, find out how it got started in the first place, search for ways to minimalize its impact, and hold each other accountable.

3) At work pick a tree that needs addressing.


11. Conclusion and summary: Vivification and Mortification.
a)      The right weapons in the mental struggle with sin.  Though there are things we can do in our walk with the Lord, it seems to me that it can be summarized in the title of the hymn, “Trust and Obey”. We must fill our minds with good things in order to act correctly before the Lord.  Correct doctrine leads to correct behavior; incorrect doctrine leads to license.

1)    Whole-hearted trust
2)    Faith
3)    Obedience
4)    The presence of right thoughts; a recognition of some basic truths:

    •    God’s sovereignty
    •    The effects of sin
    •    The love and kindness of God
    •    The wonder of Calvary

b)    The reality of indwelling sin.  Thoughts from a fellow “tree” cutter and “canoer”.

1) Progress in spiritual things comes from two realizations: the realization that God has  made provision (“if you by means of the Spirit…”) and that we must cooperate with Him in the endeavor (“ if you…).

2) It is a life-long process; there are no short cuts; it is hard work to talk to yourself.

3) It is the path to a contented life; the struggle with sin is a good one for all of us.

               “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
               Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.
               Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
               Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts…” (Calvin Coolidge)

c) A life motto:  “Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.” —Jonathan Edwards

d) Final thought. 
“The road to success is not straight
There is a curve called failure…
A loop called confusion…
Speed bumps called friends…
Red lights called enemies…
You will have flats called jobs

But…

If you have a spare called determination…
An engine called perseverance…
Insurance called faith…
A driver called Jesus..
You will make it to the place called success!”  
(Unknown)
       

Monday, October 25, 2010

vivification

Continuing my arranging of notes by Dr. John Hannah, from our recent spiritual life conference.  [See previous post.]  Now his section on "vivification", or what God gives us and what we do related to the new life being manifested in us: 

8. Vivification: How do you get good thoughts into your mind? How do I determine what is right to think about since the spiritual life is so connected to mental activity? This is vivification, doing those things that promote and help us to grow. A healthy spiritual life is the result of healthy thoughts. But, how do I get healthy thoughts in a God-opposing world?

“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, what ever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

a)    Right thoughts require virtuous input: This is the place of the Bible.  If you desire to think correct thoughts, you must good ideas in your mind. You simply cannot avail yourself to what is not there.

1)    It not about the length of time in reading daily; it is about frequency.
2)    It is not about remembering what you read. Remember that growth is only seen over time with time-lapse photography.
3)    Slowly and carefully read a verse or paragraph, but read daily until it becomes a habit.
4)    If reading is hard, get tapes or a CD and listen. Most drive to work; use the time to think good thoughts.


b)    Right thoughts require the mental expression of good ideas; good ideas come from good input.

1)    Meditation, thinking about God intentionally. Try to think about the passage of Scripture you read for the day.

2)   Memorize Scripture.
3)    Prayer, verbalizing your thoughts to God.
•    Make a list of prayer needs.
•    Pray through portions of Scripture (the phrases of Psalm 23 or Matthew 6, the Lord’s model prayer).
•    The posture of prayer is not important.
•    The place of prayer is at your discretion.
•    The length of prayer is not the point. Is it sincere and God-focused?
•    Some people pray best with another or others. Join a prayer group.
4) Hearing, listening to thoughts about God.
•    Regularly attend to the preaching and teaching of the Bible.
•    Reading good books; listen to tapes or CDs, such as…
          Donald Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life (NavPress, 2003)
          Ken Gire, The Reflective Life (Chariot Victor Publications, 1998).
         Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (NavPress, 1978).
•    Get into a Bible study.
•    Attend the Lord Supper meeting regularly.
5)    Right Thoughts require good company.
•    Engage with Christian friends and fellowship.
•    Make a friend so that you can share your thoughts.
•    Become active in your church.
•    Experience the Lord’s Day as a time of rest and refreshment.
6)  Right activities promote right thoughts.
•    Consider assisting a teacher in a Sunday School class.
•    Think about a short-term missions trip.
•    Engage in a serious class at church.
•    Find a widow or orphan to help, become a surrogate parent.

 

c) Concluding thoughts on vivification:

1)   Growth is a process; a tree does not become mature in a day. The spiritual life is a marathon, not a sprint; it is a life-long process.
   
2)    None of us can do all these things. We must have limited, reachable goals for ourselves. We must endeavor to do what we can rather than too much.  Remember the goal is progress, not perfection.

3)    When you stop doing what you should, start over again. When we fail, simply start over again. Henry Ford said it well, “Success in progressing from one failure to the next without a loss of enthusiasm”. You may fail, but do not quit! The chief characteristic of the saints’ life is not how well we are doing, but what we do when we are not doing well.

4)    The Lord is more interested in the development of our lives as spiritual mirrors than we. Therefore, He brings things into our lives both negative and positive events to shape and mold us. Pain and disappointments are wonderful surgical tools in the hands of an infinitely wise, all-powerful, and deeply loving friend (Gen. 49:20, Ex. 3:10, Judges 6:3).

5)    There are several positive ingredients of a maturing Christian walk, though there are no hard and fast rules about frequency, posture, location, or duration. These include Bible reading, meditation, and memorization; prayer; Christian fellowship; attendance to preaching and the sacraments; and expressing faith in service to others.
 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sheaffer Lifetime Balance, 1930-31

Haven't posted here on fountain pens in a while...  

Here's a flea market find that I'm putting back in my rotation for daily use.  It's a Sheaffer Balance, with gold-filled Lifetime nib, fine.  It's a standard size pen, made in a marine green marbled celluloid, which is a pleasure to look at and to write with.  Uses a lever filling system (and internal bladder, which is relatively easy to replace).  

This pen was manufactured in the U.S. in 1930-31.  I got it from a flea market for $3.  In my opinion American Sheaffers had excellent nibs, smoother generally than Parkers. 


Read more about the history of the Sheaffer Balance here

Friday, October 22, 2010

glorifying God in spiritual growth

Continuing to edit notes from John Hannah's teaching on spiritual life [see previous post]...

6.    What does God do to cause us to glorify Him more?

a)    God graciously redeems us from sin’s condemning power and grants us the Holy Spirit. He provides the basis for spiritual growth (John 3:6).

b)    God provides His children with protective mercies and preservation.

c)    God chastises us to curb our dangerous tendencies and humble us. This is often expressed in the consequences of moral failure. For the child of God, this action is always remedial in nature, never punitive (Heb.12:5-6).

d)    God brings disappointments into our lives to shape us spiritually in that the design is that through them we depend on the Lord more (John 9:1-3).

e)    God uses the evil actions of others upon our lives to shape us to reflect His glory (Genesis 50:20).

f)    God helps us to understand that this world is but a shadow of a world yet to come. This gives us perspective of the things we see. Like Abraham, we “seek after a city whose builder and maker is God”.

7. What should we do to cause ourselves to glorify God more? Radiating the character of God involves positive action and negative action: Vivification and Mortification, the positive increase of spiritual strength and dying progressively to sin. 
 
“Sanctification has a double aspect.  Its positive side is vivification, the growing and maturing of the new man; its negative side is mortification, the weakening and killing of the old man” (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life [1990]).  Some initial observations follow…

a)  The spiritual life requires discipline; it is hard work and is a product of time and repetition. The spiritual person is described in Hebrews 5:13 as one whose “senses are trained to discern good and evil”. Habits are routines that are not easy, but over time become a delight. What you are doing is replacing one set of routines for another. Love makes the burdens of habit-building less a burden.

b)  We are individuals, so remember that we connect with the spiritual disciplines in different ways, proportions, and times in our lives. By personality and spiritual giftedness, we are naturally given to some disciplines more than others. Our goal should be to incorporate those disciples we find helpful and needed at different times in our lives.

c)    Length of time in devotional exercises not an issue and often detrimental, particularly if we do not progress slowly. What we most value is not what we most invest time in doing; it is what we think about and most frequently return too.

d)    Remember, generally, we are better at doing than being. However, it is dangerous to confuse the two. Doing is important because it is evidence of a spiritual reality in our lives, but it must grow out of a relationship that is rooted in a love relationship.

e)    Do not be discouraged by the fact that you simply cannot do one or another of the disciplines no matter how hard you try. Some cannot memorize Scripture; some find fasting unimportant; some find it hard to pray; some find it hard to read the Bible daily.  The important thing is to find something that you can start doing; the spiritual life is a process (what you can manage at 25 is surely not the same as 65!).

f)    Do not get discouraged by your lack of doing it right; it is more important to be doing. No one has their act together; we all have areas of spiritual success, areas needing improved discipline, and areas of failure. Join the “club” of fallen, redeemed humanity!

g)    Discipline is a fruit of a love relationship; the deepest issue is that of love. It is not about how well we are doing; it is all about loving. Love is not merely an emotion; it is a state of being. That state for us is the presence of the life of God, the Holy Spirit, in our very beings.  Do not become discouraged by what you cannot do; delight in what you can and in the progress you see over time. This is not “bean counting,” it is a love relationship.

[More to come...] 



Friday, October 15, 2010

working through some notes

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?"  "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?"  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.  (Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

Some notes from the Spiritual Life Conference with John D. Hannah...

1.  There is a lot of confusion in the churches concerning the practical side of walking with the Lord. Some teachers paint an idealized picture that simply is fiction, yet such teachers can lead the serious listener to guiltiness and the naive to misplaced confidence.

2.  Walking with God must begin with the recognition four things:

a)  We must become students of our God and ourselves (the mental).
 

b)  We must come to grips with divine sovereignty and splendor (the
ever-first priority).
 

c)  We must realize the fact that the struggle with sin is an ongoing,
never-in-this-life over (the ever-present fact of sin).
 

d)  We must constantly remember that we are “in Christ;” we are perfect in the mind of God (the wonder of redemption).

3.  Some preliminary observations about the spiritual life:

a)  The Christian life is a mental struggle. What you entertain, what you
focus upon, is what you will become and do. Therefore, right thoughts
are of utmost importance.


b)  The spiritual life boils down to actions based on priorities. The
internal manifests itself in the external.


c)  Walking with God is a process; we are all on a journey. There is no
beatific plateau in this life. There are plateaus, but life is exceedingly
complex.
 

d)  It is confusing to realize that there are godly people believing very
diverse things about how to walk with God. This suggests that the key
ingredient is not any particular method. All methods entail “trust and
obey;” that is the insight of all of them.

4.  What does it mean to glorify God? How can finite creatures glorify God when we have absolutely nothing to offer Him, even on our better days?

a)  The fundamental dilemma: a command that is impossible. How can
God show forth himself in the creature since we have been blighted and twisted within? What did God give us in our blightedness?


b) The term “glory” in Scripture literally means “heavy,” something deep and profound ("awesome"). It has two primary meanings in Scripture: it is used as a synonym for the character of God (Ps.8:1); and it can mean the outward shining of inward characteristics, the effulgence or manifestation of God’s character (Ezek 43:2). 
 

c)  What is God’s final, chief, and ultimate end (Rom.11:36)?
“All things,” the whole, the totality.
“From” -- he is the origin (John 1:3).
“Through or by” -- he is the sustainer.
“To or for” -- he is the goal.
“Him,” the focus, repeated four times.
See also Is.48:11, Rev.1:8.
A Fact: Life is not about us!

5.  Five key questions and answers:

a)  What does it mean to glorify God? God is glorified in his creation
when it reflects His character. We are to be mirrors of what God has
granted to us of Himself by the Spirit. We glorify God when we reflect the beauty of God's character back to God. Does God see God when he looks at me?


b)  What is the point of the Bible? The focus of the Bible is the glorification of God; the Bible begins and ends with divine and creaturely harmony. The fall brought disharmony, but God is sovereign and patiently bringing a restoration when creation will glorify Him fully once again. Christ, the anticipated lamb, came in the incarnation, and purchased a people for God by paying the debt that prevented their assimilation into God‘s family and God declared them righteousness in Christ. God, by His Holy Spirit, is drawing the redeemed family together. When complete the “garden” will be perfectly restored. God will be eternally glorified in his creatures.


c)  What is the experience of redemption? The experience of redemption is an affectionate embrace of the beauty of Christ, a life of transforming delight in God as revealed in Christ.


d)  What is the nature of the indwelling of the Spirit? The Spirit resides within us morally. Indwelling is in the nature of the nine fruit of Spirit (e.g., love, joy, etc).


e) What is the practical import of all this? The Bible reveals Christ who makes the spiritual life possible through His death for us. The experience of redemption is a sense of awe in the wonder of divine forgiveness and the beauty of a wonderful savior. Salvation is the life of God, the Spirit, within us. The indwelling Spirit is the basis of glorifying God because God beholds the Spirit in us in His glorification. It is the life of the Spirit’s moral character that we are to reflect.


Thus says the LORD: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls." (Jeremiah 6:16 ESV)
 




[more to come]


 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

a mighty magnet

I enjoyed this word from C. H. Spurgeon, from Faith's Checkbook:

"And I, if l be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me"   (John 12:32)

Come, ye workers, be encouraged. You fear that you cannot draw a congregation. Try the preaching of a crucified, risen, and ascended Savior; for this is the greatest "draw" that was ever yet manifested among men. What drew you to Christ but Christ? What draws you to Him now but His own blessed self? If you have been drawn to religion by anything else, you will soon be drawn away from it; but Jesus has held you and will hold you even to the end. Why, then, doubt His power to draw other? Go with the name of Jesus to those who have hitherto been stubborn and see if it does not draw them. No sort of man is beyond this drawing power. Old and young, rich and poor, ignorant and leaned, depraved or amiable--all men shall feel the attractive force. Jesus is the one magnet. Let us not think of any other. Music will not draw to Jesus, neither will eloquence, logic, ceremonial, or noise. Jesus Himself must draw men to Himself; and Jesus is quite equal to the work in every case. Be not tempted by the quackeries of the day; but as workers for the LORD work in His own way, and draw with the LORD's own cords. Draw to Christ, and draw by Christ, for then Christ will draw by you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

my favorite marriage quotes

"It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing to a young bride and groom from his prison cell in Nazi Germany in 1943)

"A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers."  (Ruth Bell Graham)

"I didn't marry you because you were perfect. I didn't even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults.  And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage.  And when our children were growing up, it wasn't a house that protected them; and it wasn't our love that protected them - it was that promise."   (Thornton Wilder, "The Skin of Our Teeth")

"What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent, unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting." (George Elliott / aka Mary Anne Evans)


"Common courtesy plays a big role in happy marriages. People who are permanently married are polite to one another. They don't want to hurt one another's feelings, and they don't try to make the other one feel humiliated. People who are married for life are extremely kind to one another." (Frank Pittman, marriage therapist)   
 

"For most people, a life lived alone, with passing strangers or passing lovers, is incoherent and ultimately unbearable. Someone must be there to know what we have done for those we love." (Frank Pittman)
 
"Marriage isn't supposed to make you happy - it's supposed to make you married. A happy marriage is a marriage between two happy people."  (Frank Pittman)
     

"Why is it that people get married?
Because we need a witness to our lives.
There’s a billion people on the planet.
What does any one life really mean?
But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything…
The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things,
All of it… all the time, every day.
You’re saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it.
Your life will not go unwitnessed - because I will be your witness.'”
(Wife in the movie, "Shall We Dance?" 2004)

"When there is love in a marriage, there is harmony in the home; when there is harmony in the home, there is contentment in the community; when there is contentment in the community, there is prosperity in the nation; when there is prosperity in the nation, there is peace in the world."  (Chinese proverb frequently quoted by David and Vera Mace)

"I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail, poisoned in the bushes, blown out on the trail; hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn, 'Come in,' she said, 'I'll give ya shelter from the storm.'" (Bob Dylan)

"I knew couples who’d been married almost forever – forty, fifty, sixty years. Seventy-two, in one case. They’d be tending each other’s illnesses, filling in each other’s faulty memories, dealing with the money troubles or the daughter’s suicide, or the grandson’s drug addiction. And I was beginning to suspect that it made no difference whether they’d married the right person. Finally, you’re just with who you’re with. You’ve signed on with her, put in a half century with her, grown to know her as well as you know yourself or even better, and she’s become the right person. Or the only person, might be more to the point. I wish someone had told me that earlier. I’d have hung on then; I swear I would.”  (Anne Tyler, "A Patchwork Planet")

William Morris wrote a poem called 'Love is Enough' and someone is said to have reviewed it briefly with the words 'It isn't.' . . . , To say this is not to belittle the natural loves but to indicate where their real glory lies. It is no disparagement to a garden to say that it will not fence and weed itself, nor prune its own fruit trees, nor roll and cut its own lawns. A garden is a good thing but that is not the sort of goodness it has. It will remain a garden, as distinct from a wilderness, only if someone does all these things to it." (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves)

"You don't marry one person; you marry three:
the person you think they are,
the person they are, and
the person they are going to become
as a result of being married to you."
(Richard Needham)

"My wife uses fabric softener. I never knew what that stuff was for.  Then I noticed women coming up to me, sniffing, then saying under their breath, 'Married!' and walking away. Fabric Softeners are how our wives mark their territory. We can take off the ring, but it's hard to get that April fresh scent out of your clothes."  (Andy Rooney)

"Try praising your wife, even if it does frighten her at first." (Billy Sunday)

A friend recently told us about a twenty-fifth-anniversary party where the husband gave a toast and said, "The key to our success is very simple. Within minutes after every fight, one of us says, 'I'm sorry, Sally'."  (Cokie and Steve Roberts)

"If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?"  (Unknown)

"A bride should pick her lingerie on whether or not it looks good on the bedpost."  (Pat Brewer)


"The grass looks greener on the other side. . . but it's Astroturf." (From the report, "Does Divorce Make People Happy?")


"No man is truly married until he understands every word his wife is NOT saying." (Unknown)

"When people tell me they've learned from experience, I tell them the trick is to learn from other people's experience."  (Warren Buffett)

"A good marriage is a contest of generosity."  (Diane Sawyer) 

"Choose your love, then love your choice." (Unknown)

"To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the wedding cup, whenever you're wrong, admit it; whenever you're right, shut up." (Ogden Nash)

"No road is long with good company." (Turkish proverb) 

"Writers say that love is concerned only with young people, and the excitement and glamor of romance end at the altar. How blind they are. The best romance is inside marriage; the finest love stories come after the wedding, not before." (Irving Stone)

"Love is seeking to act for the other person's highest good." (Jerry Cook)

A good motto for the bride and groom: "We are a work in progress with a lifetime contract." (Phyllis Koss)