Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vacation And God's Grace

Neither John nor I can travel anymore without putting our health at risk, but we seriously need a vacation. As a solution, we've kept September free of all but one medical appointment (pesky oncologist!) in order to take two day-trips a week (weather permitting). Additionally, I plan to blog less so that I can do more drawing and reading.

I praise the Lord for graciously making this vacation possible. Come to think of it, every blessing I enjoy testifies to His marvelous grace toward me! That being the case, I decided that this week's hymn should celebrate His freely bestowed grace.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Plan For Tomorrow Morning

Reading through Ecclesiastes continues, for the most part, to depress me as Solomon drones endlessly on about the futility of life. I guess a life devoid of the Lord does lack meaning. Having been a Christian since age 17, however, I find it difficult to empathize with Solomon's meditations of emptiness. Consequently, the first section of chapter 5, which discusses responsibilities toward God, offered me welcome relief.

Verse 1 particularly caught my eye.
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. (ESV)
Consulting various commentaries confirmed my hunch that this verse supports the primacy of listening to the faithful preaching of God's Word (with an intent to obey it) over ritualistic sacrifice. Applied to present-day evangelical worship services, this verse encourages keeping sermons, not singing, as the focal point. 

Singing, confession and prayer still hold important places in corporate worship, to be sure, but hearing God's Word preached by a man who handles it properly prepares us to live out the coming week in ways that honor Christ. As we prepare for church tomorrow, therefore, let's pray for our pastors to preach clearly and honestly, and let's listen attentively with a commitment to act on what we hear.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Deb's Grand Slam Celebration Of John's 65th

We had our reasons to celebrate John's 65th birthday a week early, none of which need to take up precious space here. I had, in an effort to win the ficticious Wife Of The Year award, decided to give John a Tour of Fenway Park as his birthday gift this year. So, we caught the Green Line at Park Street. Getting off at Kenmore, we saw the iconic CITCO sign assuring us that we'd almost reached Fenway Park.
When we arrived at Fenway, I wanted a photo of all the American League Championship and World Series pennants.
Ain't that a pretty sight? But, because the Red Sox  broke "The Curse of the Bambino" and have won the World Series three times since I moved to the Greater Boston Area (John credits me for reversing the curse), I also required a photo of "my" pennants.
We missed the 12:00 Tour by mere minutes, which gave us time for an Italian Sausage. At 1:00 our group assembled, and one of the guides determined to take us separately (some silly detail about us needing elevators instead of stairs).

Our  tour started on the Concourse level, with our guide telling  us that Fenway, completed in 1912, holds the title of America's oldest ballpark. I felt a thrill getting my first glimpse of the playing field.
I watched the ground crew cover the infield in preparation for tomorrow night's Tom Petty concert. I couldn't help thinking how enormous a Major League diamond is compared to the wheelchair softball diamond I played on (second baseman) during my senior year of high school. Very exciting!

We joined the group (at least 50 people, I'd estimate) to hear about Tom Yawkey, who purchased the Red Sox in 1933. Okay, I didn't retain as much information as I normally do on Freedom Trail, Literary and Museum of Fine Arts tours...but hey, this was John's tour! I concentrated on admiring the field.
 All those people comprised just under a third of the tour group. People from all over the world come for the hourly tours of Fenway, with  some groups as large as 80 people. Frankly, it troubles and saddens me that more people seem interested in touring a baseball park than in Freedom Trail tours, but I digress...

Next, we took an elevator up to the Green Monster, which serves to protect the car dealership on Lansdowne Street from fly balls (broken windshields make it awfully hard to sell cars, doancha know). The views from up there thoroughly delighted me!
 Look at this:
We reluctantly left the Green Monster, moving  toward the Press  Box. On the way, we  stopped at one more section on the 5th Level, where John photographed a wonderful view of the Boston Skyline.
Our tour concluded in the Press Box, giving us a view of the Red Seat. On June 9, 1946, Ted Williams hit the longest home run to that date, sending the ball to Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21. Look down and left from the Ford sign.
Can't see it? Ha! Guess I'll show off my photo editing skills. Try it now:
I returned home with a very happy husband who can't stop smiling. Something tells me I'd better save up money to take him to a day game next year. After all, I'd like to win that fictitious Wife Of The Year Award two years in a row!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Not So Fragile A Salvation

Until recently, I had a habit of understanding Scripture verses or passages in isolation from their contexts. Most evangelicals, sadly, do the same thing, but I really shouldn't use that shameful fact to excuse my bad habit. Having majored in English Literature, I certainly ought to have understood not only the importance of context in interpreting the author's meaning, but also the dishonesty of taking a passage away from the author's broader train of thought.

Reading Scripture in a way that follows the writer's progression of thought has helped me make better sense of passages that once seemed problematic. In my Quiet Time yesterday, I encountered one such passage, which I had often used to support the idea that, if I sinned badly enough, I could actually lose (our forfeit) my salvation.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. ~~Hebrews 10:26-31 (ESV)
If this passage were self-contained, I indeed would have been correct in believing that my sinful works possessed an ability to sever me from the grace of God. And that idea appealed to my pride by permitting me to take credit for maintaining my salvation. I kept myself in His grace through my obedience, thank you very much! Oddly, I convinced myself that realizing the fragility of my salvation demonstrated my humble attitude.

The letter to the Hebrews, however, makes quite  an opposite statement when read in its entirety with an understanding of its historical background. Its writer had noticed that a number of Jewish converts continued to offer blood sacrifices to atone for their  sin, completely missing the message of the Gospel (that Jesus made a once-for-all atonement for sin by shedding His blood on the cross). These professing "believers" knew this great truth, but continued to sin by trusting in the rituals of Mosaic Law.

By continuing to rely on animal sacrifices, these Jews who claimed to be Christians treated the precious blood of Christ with a contempt that absolutely infuriated the Holy Spirit. Their stubborn dependence on their own efforts to please God mocked Christ's  work on the cross, ensuring their damnation. No animal sacrifice could save them.

Similarly, my attitudes of self-righteousness could have made a mockery of Christ's shed blood. Thankfully, the Lord has brought me to repentance by showing me that I must depend exclusively on what He did for me on Calvary...not on  anything I suppose I do in "obedience" to Him. The context of the letter to the Hebrews lets me rest securely as I trust Jesus for my salvation.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The View! The Feast! The Marriage!

To formally celebrate our twelfth anniversary, John and I dressed up yesterday and headed toward the Prudential Tower. We'd made a lunch reservation at The Top Of The Hub on the 52nd  floor, and got a table with a romantic view encompassing (among other things) the Zakim Bridge, Beacon Street and the State House, Boston Common and Logan Airport.
You may want to  download that photo, pull it into a photo editor and view it at 100%. Use your pan tool to move it around.  I apologize that the Zakim Bridge wasn't in John's vision range, but I enjoyed looking at it!

For lunch, we shared the George's Bank Haddock "Rockefeller," which John insists surpasses any fish meal he's ever had. He loves fish, making his praise of the meal quite significant. I very much enjoyed the blend of flavors and textures myself.
We struggled to decide between the Boston Cream Pie and the Cherry Cheesecake for dessert, so John ordered both. (Not healthy, I know, but oh!--so yummy.)
Can you see the Boston skyline around the side of the Boston Cream Pie? I love details like that.

We had, in short, a glorious anniversary celebration, enjoying the city and (more importantly) each other. We can't afford The Top Of The Hub ordinarily, and don't really mind simple lunches at Quincy Market, B.Good or even Subway. But we have a marriage so special that it warrants celebrations as lavish as yesterday's. I suspect you'll agree.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

An Imperfect, Joyous Wife

August 24, 2002
My sister took that picture twelve years ago today, not long after a pastor friend of John's pronounced us Man and Wife.

Wife. At age 48, after decades of wrestling with the Lord and falsely believing He wanted me to remain single and miserable, I became John's wife. I took his last  name, moved 3000 miles from my family and  friends, and adapted my life to his. I struggled with submission, saw more sin in my life than I expected to see, and slowly let go of my past  to join his present. Yet over the years of being a terribly imperfect wife to an almost perfect man, I've grown in my gratitude that the  Lord has blessed me with the joy of being John's Wife.
August 24, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The "Who" Of Our Praises

For various reasons, I choose to post this weekend's hymn a day early. I love its focus on the Lord as it rejoices in His  various attributes. Contemporary evangelical culture, in both preaching and  music, can often neglect rejoicing simply in the various aspects of  His nature by instead emphasizing His ministry to us. As wonderful as that ministry is, however, we must keep Him, not His acts of kindness toward us, as our object of worship.


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