Terri Kraus

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

100 Most Beautiful Words

#7   blandiloquent
Beautiful and flattering.

#8   caliginous
Dark and misty.

Meditation:  Prayer When Words Don’t Come, George Matheson (Scotland/1842—1906)

O my Father, I have moments of deep unrest—moments when I know not what to ask by reason of the very excess of my wants.  I have in these hours no words for Thee, no conscious prayers for Thee.  My cry seems purely worldly; I want only the wings of a dove that I may flee away.  Yet all the time Thou hast accepted my unrest as a prayer.  Thou hast interpreted its cry for a dove’s wings as a cry for Thee.  Thou hast received the nameless longings of my heart as the intercessions of Thy Spirit.  They are not yet the intercessions of my spirit; I know not what to ask.  But Thou knowest what I ask, O my God.  Thou knowest the name of that need which lies beneath my speechless groan . . . Thou knowest that because I am made in Thine image I can find rest only in what gives rest to Thee; therefore Thou has counted my unrest unto me for righteousness, and has called my groaning Thy Spirit’s prayer.

Book Review:  The Help, by Kathleen Stockett

From the cover:
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken. 
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
 Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. 
My review:
With great humor and compassion, Stockett gives us a very intimate, compelling look at southern life in Jackson, Mississippi during the tumultuous 60’s, narrated by a privileged white woman and two black maids—“the help.”  From these two perspectives, we see the relationships between white people, between black people, and between white and black close-up, at a time in which smothering social/racial rules existed.  These rules are about to be broken, but not without cost, and we are caught up in the suspense as we anxiously anticipate what will happen when barriers are crossed and conventions challenged.  This book is heartbreaking, funny, eye-opening, and completely absorbing.  I could barely put it down.  The main characters are so endearing, we come to ache for their struggle, while we come to detest some of the characters around them as their hypocrisy, fear, racism and dishonesty are exposed, and at the same time we’re made to understand how they are products of their environment. The writing is superb, skillfully capturing the essence of the life, language and culture of both the white and black communities. You will find yourself completely engaged in the unique setting and swept up in the story.  I highly recommend this book.  Another great choice for book club discussion.

Quotes:  Walter Wangerin, Jr.
O, Christ!  When you died, you broke the wall that divided us from God; you struck it, you cracked it; you tore it apart—you made a door of that which had been death before.
Quotes:  Wendell Berry
We clasp the hands for those that go before us,
And the hands of those who come after us.
We enter the little circle of each other's arms
And the larger circle of lovers,
Whose hands are joined in a dance,
And the larger circle of all creatures,
Passing in and out of life,
Who move also in a dance,
To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it
Except in fragments.

Sermon Snips:  The Manifold Wisdom of God—Matt Chandler, Sr. Pastor, The Village Church, Highland Village (Dallas), Texas

…So what we want to do here week in and week out is very, very simple. We want to teach the gospel. So what’s the gospel? I think sin, when all is said and done, although it’s viewed very negatively, is really a good thing. Let me you why. Sin gives you framework for why it’s not working. Let me give you some examples of sin that are kind of unorthodox. You’ve got, “Okay, killing someone is a sin,” or “I get the Ten Commandments. Those are sin,” but here’s what I would tell you. Sin is really you taking anything other than God and making it ultimate. If you make anything other than God ultimate in your life, you’re going to eventually be dashed on the rocks. Let me give you some examples.
Yesterday I was in my office working when my five year old daughter ran in. She was just beaming going, “Look! Look! Look!” She has her first loose tooth, so she’s showing it off. So I play with her little loose tooth in my office. And it would be so easy for me to take my daughter, take my son and make to make them ultimate in my life. But here’s what happens if they become ultimate. If they become ultimate then my identity is built on what happens with them. What happens if one day they just turn their back and walk away? I get dashed on the rocks.
…So what’s going to happen when they leave and they start their family? Well now I have no identity anymore. I love my wife. I way out-punted my coverage. I have a very, very beautiful wife who is fun and brilliant and one of my best friends. But women make horrible gods. They can’t fulfill, they can’t sustain, they can’t transform. Husbands make horrible, horrible gods. But here’s what I would tell you. If you’re tying to make your husband your god and he doesn’t fulfill you and he doesn’t satisfy you, the sin is yours, not his. He is not God. To find your fulfillment or even seek it in him is in the end preparing you to be dashed on the rocks.
So take money, take your career, take any good thing and make it ultimate. It’s just a matter of time before it betrays you. Not only that, but you’ve got to become very insecure and very manipulative and very greedy because you have to protect your god. So anytime somebody flirts with your spouse or anytime your kids look bad or anytime you get demoted or anytime somebody gets promoted above you, there are these things that happen, jealousy, anger, bitterness, rage. Why? Because your identity is in temporary things that will always fail you. That’s what’s gone wrong. That’s why it’s not working. And not only that, it’s a blatant offense to God on High, who has created you to worship and love Him, to make Him ultimate. And when that happens, it just works. Because now I’m not putting a weight on my wife that’s unbearable. Now I’m not putting a weight on my children that’s unbearable. Now I’m not making more of my job than what it is. Now money doesn’t define me anymore; I get to give it away. Power doesn’t define me; I get to use my power for good, for the glory and kingdom of God. This what happens, you just get free.
There’s a difference between religion and the gospel. Religion would say that God accepts me because I do; the gospel says God accepts me because of what Christ did. That’s why we celebrate the cross. It’s the wrath absorbing work of God that forgives us. That’s why it’s such a weird thing to watch Christians boast. They have nothing to boast in. I’ve heard people say that Christians are more moral. That has not been my experience. I have met many a pagan who are more moral and better people than some Christians, which makes sense because when you come to Jesus, you come all busted up and He starts sanctifying you over a period of time. This is the gospel.
…This is the gospel, it’s what we want to teach here. Week in, week out, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, the cross of Christ. What you’re about to see is men and women show this to you by being buried with Christ and resurrected. He’s making Him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteous, perfect life of Christ. What an exchange.

About Books:
While readers are stampeding to buy Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol, the critics of his writing are no less harsh than they’ve been about his last two books.  I think you will enjoy the humor in the following from an article in the British publication, The Telegraph by Tom Chivers:

The Lost Symbol and The DaVinci Code author Dan Brown’s 20 worst sentences
…Edinburgh professor of linguistics Geoffrey Pullum says, “Brown's writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad.” He picks out some excerpts for special criticism. The female lead in Angels and Demons learns of the death of her scientist father: “Genius, she thought. My father . . . Dad. Dead.” A member of the Vatican Guard in the same book becomes annoyed by something, and we learn that "his eyes went white, like a shark about to attack."
Below we have selected 20 phrases that may grate on the ear. It’s not a definitive list. It couldn’t be: he has published five novels, each around 500 pages long, and the arguments over which are the worst bits will go on for a while. But it’s our list. Add your own in the comment box below.

20. Angels and Demons, chapter 1: Although not overly handsome in a classical sense, the forty-year-old Langdon had what his female colleagues referred to as an ‘erudite’ appeal — wisp of gray in his thick brown hair, probing blue eyes, an arrestingly deep voice, and the strong, carefree smile of a collegiate athlete.
They say the first rule of fiction is “show, don’t tell”. This fails that rule.

19. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 83: "The Knights Templar were warriors," Teabing reminded, the sound of his aluminum crutches echoing in this reverberant space.
“Remind” is a transitive verb – you need to remind someone of something. You can’t just remind. And if the crutches echo, we know the space is reverberant.

18. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: He could taste the familiar tang of museum air - an arid, deionized essence that carried a faint hint of carbon - the product of industrial, coal-filter dehumidifiers that ran around the clock to counteract the corrosive carbon dioxide exhaled by visitors.
Ah, that familiar tang of deionised essence.

17. Deception Point, chapter 8: Overhanging her precarious body was a jaundiced face whose skin resembled a sheet of parchment paper punctured by two emotionless eyes.
It’s not clear what Brown thinks ‘precarious’ means here.

16. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: A voice spoke, chillingly close. "Do not move." On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly. Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.
A silhouette with white hair and pink irises stood chillingly close but 15 feet away. What’s wrong with this picture?

15. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: As a boy, Langdon had fallen down an abandoned well shaft and almost died treading water in the narrow space for hours before being rescued. Since then, he'd suffered a haunting phobia of enclosed spaces - elevators, subways, squash courts.
Other enclosed spaces include toilet cubicles, phone boxes and dog kennels.

14. Angels and Demons, chapter 100: Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers glorified the four major rivers of the Old World - The Nile, Ganges, Danube, and Rio Plata.
The Rio de la Plata. Between Argentina and Uruguay. One of the major rivers of the Old World. Apparently.

The Da Vinci Code, chapter 5: Only those with a keen eye would notice his 14-karat gold bishop's ring with purple amethyst, large diamonds, and hand-tooled mitre-crozier appliqué.
A keen eye indeed.

13 and 12. The Lost Symbol, chapter 1: He was sitting all alone in the enormous cabin of a Falcon 2000EX corporate jet as it bounced its way through turbulence. In the background, the dual Pratt & Whitney engines hummed evenly.

The Da Vinci Code, chapter 17: Yanking his Manurhin MR-93 revolver from his shoulder holster, the captain dashed out of the office.
Oh – the Falcon 2000EX with the Pratt & Whitneys? And the Manurhin MR-93? Not the MR-92? You’re sure? Thanks.

11. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: Captain Bezu Fache carried himself like an angry ox, with his wide shoulders thrown back and his chin tucked hard into his chest. His dark hair was slicked back with oil, accentuating an arrow-like widow's peak that divided his jutting brow and preceded him like the prow of a battleship. As he advanced, his dark eyes seemed to scorch the earth before him, radiating a fiery clarity that forecast his reputation for unblinking severity in all matters.
Do angry oxen throw their shoulders back and tuck their chins into their chest? What precisely is a fiery clarity and how does it forecast anything? Once again, it is not clear whether Brown knows what ‘forecast’ means.

10. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: Five months ago, the kaleidoscope of power had been shaken, and Aringarosa was still reeling from the blow.
Did they hit him with the kaleidoscope?

9. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 32: The vehicle was easily the smallest car Langdon had ever seen. "SmartCar," she said. "A hundred kilometers to the liter."
Pro tip: when fleeing from the police, take a moment to boast about your getaway vehicle’s fuel efficiency. And get it wrong by a factor of five. SmartCars do about 20km (12 miles) to the litre.

8. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 3: My French stinks, Langdon thought, but my zodiac iconography is pretty good.
And they say the schools are dumbing down.

7 and 6. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 33: Pulling back the sleeve of his jacket, he checked his watch - a vintage, collector's-edition Mickey Mouse wristwatch that had been a gift from his parents on his tenth birthday.

The Da Vinci Code, chapter 6: His last correspondence from Vittoria had been in December - a postcard saying she was headed to the Java Sea to continue her research in entanglement physics... something about using satellites to track manta ray migrations.
In the words of Professor Pullum: “It has the ring of utter ineptitude. The details have no relevance to what is being narrated.”

5. Angels and Demons, chapter 4: learning the ropes in the trenches
Learning the ropes (of a naval ship) while in the trenches (with the army in the First World War). It’s a military education, certainly.

4, 3, and 2. The Da Vinci Code, opening sentence: Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery.

Angels and Demons, opening sentence: Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own.

Deception Point, opening sentences: Death, in this forsaken place, could come in countless forms. Geologist Charles Brophy had endured the savage splendor of this terrain for years, and yet nothing could prepare him for a fate as barbarous and unnatural as the one about to befall him.
Professor Pullum: "Renowned author Dan Brown staggered through his formulaic opening sentence".

1. The Da Vinci Code: Title. The Da Vinci Code.
Leonardo’s surname was not Da Vinci. He was from Vinci, or of Vinci. As many critics have pointed out, calling it The Da Vinci Code is like saying Mr Of Arabia or asking What Would Of Nazareth Do?

Psalm 13:5-6

But I trust in your unfailing love.  
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.

Psalm 107:33-35

He changes rivers into deserts,
and springs of water into dry, thirsty land.
He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands,
because of the wickedness of those who live there.
But he also turns deserts into pools of water,
the dry land into springs of water.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

100 Most Beautiful Words

#5  beautific
Befitting an angel or saint.

#6  bealeaguer
To exhaust with attacks.

Meditation: Thomas Watson (England)

A true christian grows in beauty. Grace is the best complexion of the soul; it is at the first plantation, like Rachel. fair to look upon; but still the more it lives, the more it sends forth its rays of beauty. Abraham's faith was at first beautiful; but at last it did shine in its orient colours, and grew so illustrious, that God himself was in love with it; and makes his faith a pattern to all believers.
     A true Christian grows in sweetness. A poisonous weed may grow as much as the hyssop or rosemary, the poppy in the field as the corn, the crab as the pearmain; but the one hath a harsh sour taste, the other mellows as it grows: an hypocrite may grown in outward dimensions, as much as a child of God—he may pray as much, profess as much—but he grows only in magnitude, he brings forth only sour grapes, his duties are leavened with pride; the other ripens as he grows: he grows in love, humility, faith, which do mellow and sweeten his duties, and make them come off with a better relish. The believer grows as the flower; he casts a fragrance and perfume.

Sermon Snips: John MacArthur—'How to Get in the Game"

When I played college football, my coaches constantly drilled our team with the admonition: "Play your position!" They had to repeat it often because when we saw the play develop toward another place on the field, we were tempted to dash over and try to tackle the guy with the ball. About that time the play would reverse direction to the spot we had just left.

One of our best players was very aggressive and often strayed far from his position. He was all over the field tackling people, and invariably the wrong ones. Finally, he was benched. Though he was a good athlete, he proved worthless to the team because he wouldn't stick to his position.

Since we all tended to make the same mistake, the coach would take us back to the locker room to draw the plays on a chalkboard. He would first make everyone's position plain to see, and then he'd explain how the plays were supposed to run. There's a parallel to that in Christian experience. God has put you on His team and given you both the resources and the obligation to "play" your position in the Body of Christ. He has given you spiritual gifts for carrying out your assignment.

Your first obligation as a Christian is to learn about your position in the Body of Christ. You've got to study the chalkboard, so to speak, and see where you stand; see who's on either side of you, who's behind you, who's in front of you. Unfortunately, many Christians don't know how to live, partly because they don't know their position. I want to draw your position on the spiritual chalkboard so you can be an effective player in the game.

Basically, God's gift of salvation in Christ brings a believer into a position of righteousness. God imputes the perfect righteousness of His Son to the believer, and thereby declares him righteous positionally. But as you know full well, believers still have sin in their lives--Christians are not practically righteous, 100 percent of the time. However, it is on the basis of our positional righteousness, that we are exhorted to strive for practical righteousness in our daily lives.

If you can set your personal struggle with sin aside for a moment, I want you to consider what the Bible says about your position in Christ. As a Christian you are: spiritually alive unto God, dead to sin, forgiven, declared righteous, a child of God, God's possession, an heir of God, blessed with all spiritual blessings, a citizen of heaven, a servant of God, free from the Law, crucified to the world, a light in the world, victorious over Satan, cleansed from sin, declared holy and blameless, set free in Christ from the power of sin, secure in Christ, granted peace and rest, and led by the Holy Spirit.

You're probably thinking, "The Bible may say all that, but I sure don't always live up to those descriptions." That's why in the New Testament, for every one of those statements about your position, there is a corresponding practice you're to follow. For example, the New Testament tells you:

- Since you are spiritually alive to God, live according to that new life.
- Since you are dead to sin, don't give sin any place in your life.
- Since you're forgiven, count on that and don't go through life feeling guilty.
- Since you've been declared righteous, live righteously.
- Since you're a child of God, act like one of God's children.
- Since you are God's possession, yield to Him in humble submission.

I'm convinced that if you will honestly study your position in Christ, your life will change. You'll understand that failure in some aspect of Christian living doesn't mean you lose your position. The position of a true Christian is settled forever--it's unchanging and permanent. And on the other hand, just as stumbling won't change your standing for the worse, growth won't add to it for the better either. God's favor doesn't depend on your works. God "has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity" (2 Timothy 1:9).

Positionally, you cannot increase or decrease in the favor of God. As a genuine Christian, nothing you do, or fail to do, can change to the slightest degree your perfect standing before God--for "in Him you have been made complete" (Colossians 2:10).

Thankfully, that completeness does not mean that when you understand your position you will remain as you are--no, you will see changes in your life. The New Testament continually emphasizes your identity as a believer and urges you understand and apply your spiritual resources. As you continue to mature in Christ, you will not only come to a greater understanding of who you are, but you'll also rely more consistently on your resources--those granted to you as a result of your position in Christ--to handle the practical aspects of Christian living. That's the thrust of Paul's appeal in Ephesians 4:1: "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called."

So what about you, Christian--do you know your position? If not, go back to the locker room and study the chalkboard--your Bible--and you'll discover afresh the joy of who you are in Christ. If so, get in the game, play your position, and become in practice what you already are in position.

Passages:  From Cold Tangerines:  Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life, by Shauna Niequist

“There is a way of living, a way of harmonizing and hitting a balance point, a converging of a thousand balance points and voices, layering together, twisting together, and there are moments when it all clicks into place just for a split second— God and marriage and forgiveness and something deep inside that feels like peace—and that’s the place I’m trying to get to.
I have glimpses every once in a while of this achingly beautiful way of living that comes when the plates stop spinning and the masks fall off and the apologies come from the deepest places and so do the prayers, and I am fighting, elbowing to make more of my life that life.  I want that spirit or force of happiness that is so much deeper than happy—peace that comes from your toes, that makes you want to live forever, that makes you gulp back sobs because you remember so many moments of un-peace. I search for those moments the way I search for beach glass, bits of glitter along a desolate expanse of sand, and I want those moments to stretch into hours, into days.
            The word I use for it is shalom, It is the physical, sense-oriented, relational, communal, personal, ideological posture that arches God-ward.  That’s the best way I can describe it.  It’s an equilibrium and free-fall, balance and shake.  It’s a new dance, and new taste, the feeling of falling in love, the knowledge of being set free.  It’s that split-second cross between a d fact and a feeling, something you would swear on in a court of law but couldn’t find words for if you tried. 
To get there, I’m finding, is the hardest work and the most worthwhile fight. Shalom requires so much, so much more than I though I would have to sacrifice, and it scrapes so deeply through the lowest parts of me, divulging and demonstrating so many dark corners.  It’s something you can’t fake, so you have to lay yourself open to it, wide open and vulnerable to what it might ask of you, what it might require you to give up, get over, get outside of, get free from.  I feels sometimes like running farther than you thought you could run, legs shaking and lungs burning, feeling proud and surprised at what little old you can do…
Shalom is about God, and about the voice and spirit of God blowing through and permeating all the dark corners that we’ve chopped, locked down.  It’s about believing, and letting belief move you to forgive.  It’s about the whole of our lives becoming woven through with the sacred spirit of God, through friendship and confession, through rest and motion, through marriage and silence.
            Shalom is the act of life lifting up and becoming an act of worship and celebration, a sacrament, an offering….
            I have been surprised to find that I am given more life, more hope, more moments of buoyancy and redemption, the more I give up.  The more I let go, do without, reduce, the more I feel rich.  The more I let people be who they are, instead of cramming them into what I need from them, the more surprised I am by their beauty and depth.
            When we can manage to live this way of shalom, even for a moment, we pull each other up toward something bigger, wider, more beautiful, because left to my own devices, chances are, I will spiral down until life is nothing more than the mildew smell on my kitchen towels and the guilt I feel about all the things I thought I’d be.
            The truest thing, it seems, is the biggest:  the big idea of making a life with God, with honor, with honesty and community and beauty and the fragile delicate recipe of those, searching for the place where they all come together, where hope and struggle and beauty and tears swirl together into the best, brightest moments of life.  That’s wheat I believe about God. 

Quotes:  A. W. Tozer

Many ordinary treasures may be denied the man who has God, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness.  Or if he must see them go, one after one, her will scarcely feel a sense of loss.

A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals.  We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God.  We read our chapter, have our short devotions, and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar.  The tragic results of this spirit are all about us.  Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit; these and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul. 

Book Review:  A Thread of Grace, Maria Doria Russell

This extraordinary historical novel is the kind of book that I found myself thinking about long after finishing the last page. It is the little-known story of a group of Italian citizens that sheltered more than 40,000 Jews from the horrors of the work camps and executions during the Italian resistance to the Germans in the last two years of WWII. Three cultures mingle uneasily in Porto Sant'Andrea on the Ligurian coast of northwest Italy—the Italian Jews of the village, the Italian Catholics, and the occupying Germans invited by Mussolini. While there are several narrative threads, the book moves swiftly, and we come to know a cast of vibrant characters, set against meticulously researched historical detail. The intensity and intimacy of Russell's storytelling, her sharp character writing and fierce sense of humor bring fresh immediacy to this riveting wartime saga.
     The book is extraordinary in that, unlike other dark novels about this era that leave one with a feeling of hopelessness, it reminds us that even in the worst of times, there are good people who willingly sacrifice themselves when they see the suffering around them.  We witness with the characters both the heartbreaking journey they will make in their struggle for survival, and the grace extended to them by the Italian people, which crosses the boundaries of faith and ethnicity.  An incredibly compelling read.  I highly recommend it!  P.S.  Let's hear it for the Italians!!!

Song Lyrics:  I Know My Redeemer Lives, Nicole C. Mullens

Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning
Who told the ocean you can only come this far?
Who showed the moon where to hide 'til evening
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

Well I know my Redeemer lives 
I know my Redeemer lives
All of creation testify
This life within me cries
I know my Redeemer lives

The very same God that spins things in orbit
He runs to the weary, the worn and the weak
And the same gently hands that hold me when I'm broken
They conquered death to bring me victory

Now I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I know my Redeemer, He lives

To take away my shame
And He lives forever I'll proclaim
That the payment for my sin
Was the precious life He gave
But now He's alive
And there's an empty grave
And I know my Redeemer, He lives

I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
This life within me cries
I know my Redeemer lives

Watch the video of this song:

Scripture:  Psalm 19:1—4 (NLT)

The heavens declare the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth.
and their words to all the world.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

100 Most Beautiful Words

#3 aestivate
To summer, the spend the summer.
#4 ailurophile
A cat lover.

Reflection:  Menno Simons (Netherlands,1496-1561)

"He [the Holy Spirit] guides us into all truth; he justifies us; he cleanses, sanctifies, pacifies, consoles, reproves, cheers and assures us; he testifies to our spirit that we are the children of God. The Spirit all receive who believe on Christ."

Fiction Book Review:  Jayber Crow, by Wendell Barry

This tender story, about the barber and church sexton of the small town of Port William, Kentucky in the late 30's to late 60's, is not only about a person, but more so about a place and its people. Beautifully told, against the backdrop of the winding Kentucky River and its rolling hills with compassion, rare insights and both humor and sadness, it brings you poignantly back to a more simple time, a rural way of life and its gentle rhythms.  After his parents' death, Jayber is sent to an out-of-town orphanage at the age of 10, and returns 13 years later to the place of his birth and carves out a spare life for himself there.  We are along for his gently journey, to see how a community shapes a man and how a man shapes a community, in times of war and peace, poverty and plenty, seasons of the year and seasons of the heart.  Jayber's unrequited love for Mattie, another man's wife, remains pure and bears the fruits of faith and serenity in his life. We are privileged to be in on his observances of a town and its people on the brink of change, as the twentieth century rolls on and threatends to obliterate an agricultural way of life in the wake of progress.  We get to know and love, along with Jayber, a cast of truly memorable characters.  The prose can only be described as elegant, exquisitely reflective and fine-tuned, and resonates with the very heart of the land itself. There are so many beautiful passages that I could share, it's hard to choose.  The following will give you a taste of Barry's incredible skill at descriptions:
I came to feel a tenderness for them all.  This was something new to me.  It gave me a curious pleasure to touch them, to help them in and out of the chair, to shave their weather-toughened old faces.  They had known hard use, nearly all of them.  You could tell it by their hands, which were shaped by wear and often by the twists and swellings of arthritis.  They had used their hands forgetfully, as hooks and pliers and hammers, and in every kind of weather.  The backs of their hands showed a network of little scars where they had been cut, nicked, thornstuck, pinched, punctured, scraped, and burned.  Their faces told that they had suffered things they did not talk about.  Every one of them had a good knife in his pocket, sharp, the blades whetted narrow and concave, the horn of the handle worn smooth.  The oldest ones spoke, like Uncle Othy, the old broad speech of the place; they said “ahrn” and “fahr” and “tard” for “iron” and “fire” and “tired”; they said “yorn” for “yours,” “cheer” for “chair,” “deesh” for “dish,” “dreen” for “drain,” “slide” for “sled,” and “juberous” for “dubious.”  I loved to listen to them, for they spoke my native tongue.  (Page 127)

I highly recommend this book.  It is a superb choice for a book club discussion. 

Here's the link to it on Amazon:

Sermon Snips:  Mark Batterson, Pastor—National Community Church, Washington, D.C.

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.  Grab life by the mane.  Set God-sized goals.  Pursue God-ordained passions.  Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions.  Keep making mistakes.  Keep seeking God.  Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution.  Stop repeating the past and start creating the future.  Stop playing if safe and start taking risks.  Expand your horizons.  Accumulate experiences.  Consider the lilies.  Enjoy the journey.  Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can.  Live like today is the first day and the last day of your life.  Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshipping what's right with God.  Burn sinful bridges.  Blaze a new trail.  Criticize by creating.  Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks.  Don't try to be who you're not.  Be yourself. Laugh at yourself.  Quit holding out.  Quit holding back.  Quit running away.Chase the lion.

Quotes:  Mark Twain
"It's better to keep your mouth shut and give the impressions that you're stupid than to open it and remove all doubt."
"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and the lightening bug."

Quotes:  Jim Elliot, Missionary/Martyr
"Wherever you are, be all there."

Quotes: A.W. Tozer
"The sovereign God wants to be loved for Himself and honored for Himself, but that is only part of what he wants.  The other part is that he wants us to know that when we have Him, we have everything—we have all the rest."

Song Lyrics: Revelation Song, Jennie Lee Riddle
(most recently recorded by Kari Jobe and Phillips, Craig and Dean)

Worthy is the
Lamb who was slain...
Holy, Holy, is He.
Sing a new song, to Him who sits on
Heaven's Mercy Seat.

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come.
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And I will adore You…


Clothed in rainbows, of living color,
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder.
Blessing and honor, strength and
Glory and power be
To You the Only Wise King,


Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come.
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And I will adore You...

Filled with wonder,
Awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your Name.
Jesus, Your Name is Power,
Breath, and Living Water,
Such a marvelous mystery.


Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was, and is, and is to come, yeah
With all creation I sing:
Praise to the King of Kings!
You are my everything,
And I will adore You!

Link to the video of this song:

Scripture:  Psalm 145

I will exalt you, my God and King, 
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord!  He is most worthy of praise!
No one can measure his greatness.
Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts;
let them proclaim your power.
I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor
and your wonderful miracles.
Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue;
I will proclaim your greatness.
Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness;
they will sing with joy about your righteousness.
The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
slow to anger and filled with unfailing love.
The Lord is good to everyone;
He showers compassion on all his creation.
All of your works will thank you, Lord
and your faithful followers will praise you.
They will speak of the glories of your kingdom;
they will give examples of your power.
They will tell about your mighty deeds
and about the majesty and glory of your reign.
For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
You rule through all generations.
The Lord always keeps his promises;
he is gracious in all he does.
The Lord lifts the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.
The eyes of all look to you in hope;
you give them their food as they need it.
When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst
of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
he is filled with kindness.
The Lord is close to all who call on him,
yes, to all who call on him in truth.
He grants the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cries for help and rescues them.
The Lord protects all those that love him,
but he destroys the wicked.
I will praise the Lord , and may everyone on earth
bless his holy name forever and ever.

(New Living Translation)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

          100 Most Beautiful Words:         

          #1 — adroit  
          Dexterous, agile

          #2— adumbrate  
          To very gently suggest.  

Reflection: Longing, John Chrysostom (Antioch)
Prayer and converse with God is a supreme good: it is a partnership and union with God.  As the eyes of the body are enlightened when they see the light, so our spirit, when it is intent on God, is illuminated by his infinite light.  I do not mean the prayer of outward observance but prayer from the heart; not confined to fixed times or periods but continuous throughout the day and night.
Our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God, not only when it is engaged in meditation; at other times also, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the needy, performing works of charity, giving generously to the service of others, our spirit should long for God, and call him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God's love, and so make a palatable offering to the Lord of the universe...
Prayer is the light of the spirit; true knowledge of God, mediating between God and man.  The spirit, raised up to heaven by prayer, clings to God with the utmost tenderness; like a child crying tearfully for its mother, it craves the milk that God provides.  It seeks the satisfaction of its own desires, and receives gifts outweighing the whole world of nature.
Prayer stands before God as an honored ambassador.  It gives joy to the spirit, peace to the heart.  I speak of prayer, not words.  It is the longing for God, love too deep for words, a gift not given by man but by God's grace.

Sermon Snips:  From the current series "The Gospel of Grace and Peace" by Dr. Josh Moody, Sr. Pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL 
August 23, 2009—Galatians 3:15-18

. . . Faith is not a work. It is not a combination of faith plus works, it is the covenant, it is the promise.  It is God’s will. And our faith is not something we “magic up,” or make happen, or project onto some screen of reality in our own innate psychological power, anymore than if I really really believe I have inherited a million dollars, that will make me a millionaire.  But if I have inherited, then faith is simply accepting that inheritance gratefully and living a changed life as a result. 
And so, as we conclude, I want you to see how wonderful if is to live as people of the covenant.  
Perhaps you are someone who does not; perhaps you are someone who is religious but has never understood that it is not by works.  So many Christian people from good Christian homes spend their lives living as it if was a work, a moral effort that will get them to heaven. 
The great evangelist George Whitfield once cried out, “Works! Works!  A man would as soon get to the moon by a rope of sand as get to heaven by works”, which is typically Whitfield in his rather creative use of metaphors, but—he’s right.  But not only is it impossible, it’s not necessary.  It is not how God has designed things in His salvation plan.  He has a will, a covenant, and the seed of that will, that covenant, is Christ.  And if we believe in Christ, then we are the recipients, the inheritors of all that promised blessing. 
But perhaps, on the other hand, you are a person who is a real Christian believer, and is looking at the next few months and weeks with a degree if trepidation; some great new challenge is ahead of you, and you’re not sure whether you are up to it.  Well, remember God’s covenant with you. “The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it.”  I’m not saying that no Christian ever struggles.  I’m a pastor; I know Christians struggle.  But I am saying that whatever the physical struggles may be, every Christian—and that includes you, if you are a Christian—every Christian has a perspective on life because of this covenant, which frees them from the sting of all the troubles in the entire world.  They can walk through fire and not be burned.  They can run and not grow weary.  I’m not being fanciful.  This is not preachers’ rhetoric on a Sunday morning that is no good to cash on a Monday morning.  It is a matter of the Spirit revealing through the Word the real state of affairs.  Christ is God’s promised seed.  I am in Christ.  And therefore, what do I have to worry about? 
A fellow called Jeremiah Burrows put it like this, in his reflections on Christian contentment, which I think in our day we might really call reflections on Christian flourishing.  He writes this:  “It is not trouble that troubles, but discontent.  It is not the water without the ship, but the water that gets within the leak which drowns it.  It is not outward affliction that can make the life of the Christian sad.  A contented mind would sail above these waters.  A mind, with the revelations of the Spirit through God’s Word, that rests in the covenant of Christ.”
We all have our troubles and our own fears, our trepidations about the future.  The Christian can float above them and smile at adversity, not with that "cheesy" Christian smile, you know.  But even if it is not natural for you to beam, inside you’re okay.  The water of adversity is not getting in. You know where you stand in Christ, all because of this covenant and your relationship to Christ, the seed. 
My friends, I think it is a matter of awesome majesty, the more I have reflected upon this this week—this will of God—that He has bound Himself in Christ to rescue a sinful people.  It is a matter of such grandeur and such beauty that if we could but touch a tithe of it, I think it would change our lives and give us such a fresh view of the universe, and our place in it, that we would, as it were, walk on air, and give our lives with sacrificial joy to all that God has for us. 
We are a covenant people, we Christians.  We gather in church—covenanted, promised, guaranteed, willed by God Himself—all the way back to Abraham, all those thousands of years ago.  We are no new creation of the moment, we are not a speck of dust on the guillotine.  You and I, if we are Christians, are born in the mind of God to be included in Christ.  It is His will, His covenant. 
My prayer for you is that it would be of deep encouragement and strengthening as we seek to give God all praise forever and ever. 

Quotes: John Piper

"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Or: The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever. My life is devoted to helping people make God their God, by wakening in them the greatest pleasures in him."
"People that make a difference in the world are not people that have mastered a lot of things; they are people that have been mastered by a very few things that are very very great."

Quotes:  Victor Borge
"Laughter is the shortest distance between two people."

Book Review:  The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

Of all the fiction books I’ve read lately, this has to be one of my favorites.  It caught my attention because of the uniqueness of it’s narrator:  it’s a heartwarming tale told by Enzo, a much-loved, loyal family dog, about his human family.  Enzo is not an ordinary canine.  He’s a philosopher with a human-like soul.  His master, Denny Swift, is a racecar driver, who is trying to make it in the world of professional racing to support his wife, Eve, and daughter, Zoe. Through listening to Denny and watching television extensively, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition.  He’s learned that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast, and knows that all of life’s ordeals can be successfully navigated using the same techniques employed on the racetrack.  When Denny is faced with a series of serious, life-changing crises, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, and realize his dream that Denny will become a racing champion, and that he himself will return after death as a human.  I loved this book, not because I agree with the theology of its ending, but because it is a deeply funny, uplifting story of family, love, loyalty and hope.  You don’t have to love dogs (I do!) or believe in reincarnation (I don’t!) to enjoy this book. The writing is superb.  You will laugh, you will cry, and remember it long after you've read the last page. Here's the link to it on Amazon:


Scripture:  John 14:27
  I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the       world cannot give.  So don't be troubled or afraid. 
(Are there any better words than these?)