Thursday, December 30, 2010

To Be Continued

New Year's resolutions make little sense, especially in light of the biblical practice of daily confession of sin and repentance. Renewal must be constant in Christian growth. Daily confession cleanses the conscience, and daily Bible reading/study gives guidance and direction, transforming those who apply Scripture into the image of the Lord. Thus, new beginnings need not wait until January 1st. Renewal can start today, if you like!

During the past few months, the Lord has taught me much through my study of 1 Peter. It's been slow; I started on May 10, 2010 with 1 Peter 1:1, and today I finished 3:16. In October, I pulled back from closely examining each phrase to do an overview of the book (as I'd done the first week of May), wanting to remind myself of the context and over-all message. Here and there (especially on days when we had Boston Adventures), I skipped days. But usually, I'll spend between 30 and 60 minutes researching a phrase with Bible Dictionaries (John gave me The Complete Word Study Dictionary for Christmas) and commentaries, typing notes on how I can apply the principles. As slow as the work has been, however, the Holy Spirit has been using it to change my perspective on my earthly life.

Peter's premise is that born-again Christians are aliens to the culture at large. We know that our lives extend far beyond our mortal time-span. As Paul writes in Philippians 3:20, our citizenship is in heaven. Peter's terminology differs only slightly from Paul's, as he writes of our "inheritance" (1 Peter 1:3-9). The overarching idea is that God has regenerated us as His children, and thus we are to resemble Him. We have His values--His priorities. Those values, of course, are foreign to those who don't know Jesus and, consequently, have no interest in Him.

Peter makes the case that, because we are now God's children, expecting an eternal inheritance, we will consequently live according to heavenly standards. Such conduct, of course, invites ridicule. The world sees us as self-righteous, narrow-minded bigots because we reject its celebration of sinful behavior.  Non-Christians, according to 1 Peter 2:12, 1 Peter 3:15-16 and 1 Peter 4:4-5 will not tolerate our opposition to sin.

Recently, for example, I experienced such a reaction on Facebook when I lamented the fact that San Francisco's gay community interpreted the Giants' World Series victory as somehow validating their political agenda. Yes, I felt offended that suddenly the team became champions of a sinful lifestyle, and I verbalized my dismay. My presentation of my anger, I'll readily admit, was more than inappropriate, and I found it necessary to apologize for my outburst. But two women continued making angry posts. Why? Because I refused to embrace homosexuality as being morally neutral. I chose to accept the Bible's claim that it's one of many sins, and can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That's only one instance of how I've begun living differently from those who either don't accept Jesus or have merely a nominal relationship with Him. As I've studied 1 Peter, the Lord has shown me numerous ways that I don't fit in with the world. I will not look at certain paintings at the museum, believing that truly great art doesn't require an abandonment of modesty. I will refuse to participate in gossip. Although anger and its twin sister worry come naturally to me, I will keep confessing them as sin, and will choose to combat them by remembering that God is both sovereign and faithful. In short, I will increasingly live in the Spirit by aligning my thoughts, attitudes and actions with God's Word (Scripture). Sadly, I'll do so imperfectly, as always. But I'll keep on the track that I began this past May. In so doing, I can rest assured that 2011 is a continuation of
"resolutions" that God the Father made by claiming me as one of His children.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Let It Snow," and Other Stupid Sentiments

After our snowstorm Sunday and yesterday, I just don't want to hear how pretty snow is, thank you very much! To me, a "Winter Wonderland" would be...oh, I don't know...perhaps a beach in Tahiti? Some place warm, with nothing knocking out all three Comcast services (TV, Internet and phone) and then (four short hours after Comcast is restored) knocking out electricity for ten hours. 

No, I'm not making things up! We did have attendant care during the blizzard, praise God, but Comcast went out (as I said, TV, Internet and phone) all morning. All was restored at 2:00 pm, but at 6:00 pm we lost electricity in the bedroom, bathroom and much of our living room (our apartment, thankfully, has two circuits). We got a long extension cord to plug in John's ventilator. Power was restored at 4:00 am.

So, please think twice about singing "Let It Snow" in my presence, but enjoy these pictures from our apartment building:
Snowman our neighbors built in back of the apartment building

Tree outside our living room window

Path from the building's front door

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Betty

Before Church of the Open Door (my church in California) finished merging with the group of "Jesus People" called House Ministries, Betty served as a house leader of House Ministries' New Jerusalem House, as well as the manager for Christian General Store. She was in her mid to late forties, a generation older than most of us in House Ministries. When we merged with Open Door on Mother's Day, 1975, she remained the matriarch of New Jerusalem House, and the bookstore had become an established evangelistic outreach.

Over the years, we remained warm toward each other, and her face always brightened when she saw me. Once she overheard me call her "Mother Superior" in reference to leading the house of young, unmarried women. She pretended to be insulted, but I think she secretly found my remark amusing. I'm not sure why we grew apart, but the mutual admiration between us remained sweet.

As she aged, she developed COPD, and retired from the bookstore. By then, New Jerusalem House had closed, and she shared an apartment with another woman from church. She came to Sunday services as often as she could, but didn't stay around much afterward. I don't think she knew I was in a long-distance relationship with John until a few weeks before our engagement (we'd been dating for three years). But her illness had decreased her ability to understand my impaired speech over the phone, so conversations usually limited themselves to me reminding her when she was scheduled to man the Welcome Table at church. 

She missed my bridal shower and (two days later) my going-away party in 2002, but her note with her shower gift to me touchingly expressed her affection for me.

I visited San Rafael in 2005, three years after moving to Boston. At Open Door's Women's Retreat that weekend, Betty literally staggered with shock when she saw me. Knowing she had struggled with poor health, I feared I'd given her a heart attack. While I'd wanted to surprise everyone by my visit, I wish we had prepared Betty. Thankfully, she recovered, and I got someone to take our picture:

Betty passed away a year or two later, and I thought of all the young women she had mentored at New Jerusalem House. What a service she performed! Not all of them have continued with the Lord, but each of them must remember her patient, persevering love for them.

So, as I've persevered in painting her portrait these past four months (using the photo from the 2005 retreat), I've enjoyed memories of this godly woman. Yes, painting her posed challenges, but she overcame so many life challenges that trivialize any difficulty in painting her. I'm pleased that my portrait conveys her joy in Christ and her sweetness.



Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Twas The Cold Before Christmas

'Twas the week before Christmas,
And oh!--My poor nose!
How it hurt from the wiping,
The sneezing, the blows!

Like Rudolph, my nose
Was a bright cherry red,
And my tummy...well, some things
Are just better unsaid.

Sweet cookies were placed
In the kitchen with care.
But eat them? I couldn't!
I just didn't dare!

I wondered if Santa Claus
Ever gets sick.
But somehow, I doubt it.
Wish I knew his trick!

The kids' Christmas pageant
I couldn't attend,
For my sneezing and coughing
Would surely offend.

On Mucinex, Sudafed!
And on chicken soup!
Though not Santa's reindeer,
You make a good group.

"This cold is a Grinch,"
I complained with a sigh,
As I wished, very strongly,
It had passed me by.

The point of the story
That I have just told
Is: The week before Christmas
Is no time for a cold!
 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Scandlous Monarchs and Christmas

Funny how a biographical movie about England's King George VI and his wife Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon can start a progression of thought that ends up as a Christmas meditation, but Masterpiece Theatre's 2002 movie, Bertie and Elizabeth (which we rented from Netflix) managed the feat quite handily.

As the movie portrayed, King George ascended the throne as a result of his brother's love affair with Wallis Simpson, an American woman who was still married to her second husband. Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson made no secret of their relationship, and on December 11, 1936, Edward abdicated the throne in order to marry her once her divorce was finalized. His decision avoided a constitutional crisis of all U.K. prime ministers resigning in opposition to the marriage. As Head of the Church of England, marriage to a twice-divorced woman would have also been obviously problematic.

In his abdication speech, Edward explained, "But you must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love."

Let's leave the story there, at the apex of romantic self-sacrifice. I woke up early this morning, thinking about Jesus leaving the glory He had with the Father in order to take on human flesh. Analogies, of course, only go so far, and there's no way to construe Edward as a Christ figure. His sacrifice for Wallis pales in comparison to what Christ did for His Bride, the Church. To quote Charles Wesley's magnificent hymn:

He left His Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race.
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Beware of Memorizing Scripture

Early in 2010, as I did a topical study of Christ's Incarnation, I took on the task of memorizing Philippians 2:5-11:
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

How's that for ambitious?

This is the cornerstone passage for studying the Incarnation because it describes God coming to earth as Jesus, laying aside His right to be worshiped in order to suffer the punishment for our sins. As I studied this passage all those months ago, Christmas 2009 still reverberated in my heart, and the wonder of God becoming Man grew as I consulted cross-references and commentaries. And that's really the purpose of Bible study: to plunge us into deeper adoration of Jesus.


I'm notoriously bad at Scripture memorization, so I find it necessary to review the passages on my list daily, long after I've "officially" memorized them. So Philippians 2:5-11 keeps fresh in my mind. As I review it, I meditate on its meaning. Lately, I've been focusing on its opening phrase, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." While its crucial not to neglect the great doctrine of the Incarnation, Paul's primary point centers on Christ's humility and our responsibility to follow His example by serving others.

So often, I believe my interests and pursuits should take precedence over the needs of others. But Jesus certainly didn't have such arrogance. Think of it: He was the Word by which God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:3-27, John 1:1-3, Colosians 1:16 and Hebrews 1:1-4), but He allowed Himself to be born in a smelly animal shelter, with a feeding trough as His cradle and a criminal's cross as His destiny. He deserved all praise, and yet those who claimed to love Him most not only failed to recognize Him, but plotted to cover up His resurrection. Still, He willingly gave Himself for us! How dare I ignore His example, when I'm merely human! Truly, Philippians 2:5-11 describes the Incarnation in a context of showing me how to die to myself.

Memorizing Scripture seems like a safe academic practice. But no...God uses the discipline to work His Word into me until I conform to Him. And that's a healthy "danger."

Friday, December 17, 2010

He Used His Illness Well

Bob Winter had wandered far from his childhood faith in Christ, becoming very deeply entrenched in homosexual behavior. His mother, Dorothy, continually sent him Christian literature and cassette tapes, pleading with him to return to the Lord. But Bob stubbornly ignored her, going (in his words) "deeper and deeper into sexual perversion with both men and women."

He reached a point of having all he wanted: a nice house, a car and a boyfriend who absolutely adored him! As he found himself incapable of remaining faithful to his boyfriend, he realized that he had serious problems. At that point, he dug up the literature and tapes his mom had sent him. He read and listened. Finally, he committed his life to Jesus Christ, forever closing the door on his homosexual lifestyle. Excitedly, he envisioned a future as a husband and father, praising God that such a life had now become possible for him!

Two weeks later, he sat in the doctor's office, stunned by the diagnosis: AIDS. His initial reaction was anger towards God. Hadn't he given up everything for Him just two weeks earlier? How could the Lord, who claimed to be so loving and forgiving, treat him this way? But as Bob calmed down, he realized that God had not betrayed his trust. Instead, being a loving Father, the Lord had allowed Bob to suffer the consequences of his rebellion, in order that this obviously severe discipline would lead Bob into holiness (see Hebrews 12:5-11).

Choosing to follow Jesus, Bob moved to San Rafael, CA to participate in Love In Action, a residential ex-gay ministry that has since relocated from San Rafael to Memphis, TN. There, he learned to go to the Lord for the affirmation he had always sought through homosexual encounters. He commented, "I'm learning, when I'm tempted to have sex with a guy, to analyze what my deeper need is. Then I think of all the ways God the Father meets those needs." He began living in obedience to the Lord, even finding various ways to serve others instead of wallowing in self-pity (he was extremely sick, and had one lengthy hospitalization that year).

After completing his year-long program, Bob began speaking to various churches, Youth Groups and high school assemblies about living with AIDS. While candidly admitting his pain (which was physical, emotional and sometimes spiritual), he always emphasized God's goodness. Although he never stopped asking the Lord to physically heal him, he'd tell his audiences, he trusted God's wisdom and looked forward to heaven.

In late November of 1989, after a long illness incurred when he drove back to resume his life in Southern California, Bob entered the hospital. There, he steadily grew weaker. On December 17, he told his mother that Jesus wanted him to go Home...to heaven. That evening, surrounded by his mom, her pastor, and people from their church, he removed his oxygen mask. The group stayed with him, praying and singing praise songs. At about 11:35, he announced, "I see Jesus." He took a few labored breaths, and willingly (perhaps triumphantly) followed His Savior Home.

This post, and yesterday's, are lovingly dedicated to the memory of Robert Winter, 1952-1989.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Compassion In His Eyes

From 1985 to 1997, Love In Action (an ex-gay ministry currently based in Memphis, TN) allowed me to work for them as a correspondence counselor. During the first two years, I typed from my bedroom in San Rafael, CA, using an electric typewriter. Frank Worthen, the founder and then director of Love In Action, decided in 1987 to start a fund to provide me with a computer. In the spring of 1988, the computer was in my bedroom, waiting for me to learn to use it!

Those were the days of DOS, and learning to use WordPerfect entailed much more effort than today's word processing programs do. But Frank assigned Bob Winter to help me. Bob, one of the men in that year's residential program, had AIDS, and was available to help me because his health prevented him from working. As he had predicted, learning to use a computer took roughly ten weeks. And, as he'd further predicted, those ten weeks were indeed rough! Thankfully, Monday through Friday, Bob was usually just a phone call away, able to help me figure out how to do things. I heard him comment to my mom that I was learning quickly.

Evidently, overhearing his praise must have given me a little too much self-confidence, because one Saturday (dismissing the awareness that I wasn't supposed to call Bob on his "day off,") I turned on the computer to practice. I have no clue what I did wrong, but suddenly the monitor's screen went blank!

Of course I called Bob's private phone immediately (those were the days before cell phones, remember). No answer, so I left a panicked message on his answering machine. Still hoping to find him, I called the main house phone, only to be told that Bob was out for the day, and wouldn't be back till late. I asked them to tell him I'd broken the computer. Few people back then had personal computers, but I finally located (of all things) a Mac user with enough computer savvy to help my rectify my mistake and get the computer going again.

Then I felt shame. How arrogant I'd been to try using that computer on a Saturday, knowing that Bob had no obligation to be available to me that day! Although I called his phone again to leave a message that the crisis had been averted, I felt embarrassed by the whole episode. 

As you can imagine, I was incredibly relieved the next day that he sat quite a distance away from me, thinking I would avoid an awkward conversation. Oh, did I praise the Lord during the singing time! By the time I'd see him at Bible Study Tuesday night, I assured myself, Bob would have forgotten all about the frantic messages on his answering machine and everything would be okay.

But as my friend pushed me toward the church's exit after the service, Bob stopped us. He asked her to let him talk to me for five minutes, taking a seat facing me. I began apologizing for my presumption, but he interrupted. His steel blue eyes pierced me, not with indignation, but with compassion as he gently said, "Deb, I'm here to help you. I want you to call me when you're in trouble!"

I knew Bob Winter wasn't the only one speaking those words to me. I knew, as I looked into those earnest, penetrating eyes, that I'd just seen the eyes of Jesus.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Spoiled Gifts

 It seemed, to my ten-year-old mind, very reasonable. As I gazed longingly at the cheerful array of packages, all wrapped in decorative red and green paper, I wondered what treasures awaited me. I wasn't quite sure Mommy had been altogether justified in commanding me to wait. And, after all, it was Christmas Eve, so what difference would it really make if I opened my presents early? I mean, they really were addressed to me! 

So, I scooted over to the Christmas tree, and found a present addressed to me from one of the high school girls that volunteered at the school for "orthopedically handicapped" children that I attended. It was a flat package, leading me to conclude that it as a more grown-up gift. The prospect of a grown-up gift reinforced the idea that I was old enough to determine when to open Christmas gifts!

I ripped the paper eagerly, unveiling a framed, illustrated copy of the Girl Scout Laws (I had recently "flown up" from Brownies to Girl Scouts). I read:

The Girl Scout Laws
1. A Girl Scout's Honor Is to be Trusted
2. A Girl Scout Is Loyal
3. A Girl Scout's Duty Is to be Useful and to Help Others
4. A Girl Scout is a Friend to All, and a Sister to every other Girl Scout
5. A Girl Scout Is Courteous
6. A Girl Scout Is a Friend to Animals
7. A Girl Scout Obeys Orders
8. A Girl Scout is Cheerful
9. A Girl Scout is Thrifty
10. A Girl Scout is Clean in Thought, Word and Deed.
 As I read, Mommy (who also happened to be the leader of my Girl Scout troop that year), entered the room, and the feelings of guilt started. She knelt beside me and said reprovingly, "You broke laws 1, 7 and 10." Suddenly, the present my friend had given with the intention of affirming my good standing as a Girl Scout became my accuser. It reminded me, every time a looked at it, that I had been untrustworthy.

I don't remember any more of the incident, but I learned never to open Christmas gifts early again. I never wanted my impatience to spoil another present.

So many of us are like I was as a ten-year-old. Feeling entitled to the things we want, we seize them instead of waiting for the Lord to bestow them in His time and His way. Premarital sex, of course, is the obvious example of opening a gift before the time, but I think there are hundreds of ways besides that to run ahead of the Lord. When I catch myself going ahead of Him, or thinking I have a better plan than His, I remember how it felt to open that Christmas present. Cheating isn't worth it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

No Apology Necessary

Doesn't it seem, lately, that most of these posts revolve around Jesus? For a while, I felt somewhat apologetic about writing so many "religious" posts, and I wondered if this trend explained why my readership has been dwindling lately. Well, perhaps so. Jesus has always offended people, and He told His disciples point-blank that the world would not tolerate His followers any more than it tolerates Him (John 15:18-21).

But lately, I've remembered the title of this blog. It's not The Things That I Think People Want To Read. Nor is it The Things For Polite Company. Maybe such blogs would attract more readers, and I'll admit the cowardly part of me would relish such comfort. But winter has arrived in New England, and the temperatures that sink in the 20s and 30s make Boston adventures quite impossible. So my thoughts turn more toward the Lord. And thus, the things that come out of my head fill the posts of The Things That Come Out Of My Head.

The First Century writers and orators used the word, "heart," to denote the center of our thought life. "Bowels" represented emotions, but in many cases (not all, I admit), "heart" encompassed the center of a person, including the intellect. Therefore, when Jesus said, "For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (see Luke 6:44-46), He essentially means that people usually end up saying what is on our minds. So, it's really quite normal that I would write about the Lord at a time when Boston can't distract me from Him.

So, as much as I'd like more readers, I'm glad I feel such compulsion to write about the Lord. Maybe my head is in the right place!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Smell of Christmas

My family of origin always had live Christmas trees. When we'd set them up, the subtle fragrance of pine would float through the house, and invariably one of us (after breathing in deeply to savor the familiar aroma that we had missed for eleven months) would smile in satisfaction and happily declare: "Now it smells like Christmas!"

Marriage has been a dream-come-true for me, but I always felt a slight sense of longing at Christmas. John's family members all had artificial trees. They were beautiful, but of course they lacked that wonderful smell that I had enjoyed so much at home. I felt somewhat wistful, missing San Rafael Christmases with the glorious pine scent always in the background.

So yesterday morning, when Terry Alli (John's PCA) bounded into our apartment carrying a freshly-cut Christmas tree (he and John had been conspiring for about a week to surprise me with it), my delight left me speechless! Last night, Terry was here till minutes before midnight setting it up.


One of our other PCAs got some LED lights at Walgreen's today, and strung them. Then we hung my Victorian angel ornament that usually graces our front door this time of year, and she looks so comfortable resting on her bed of soft branches. My sister agreed to send "Sister Nicholas," an ornament from home that is in the form of a nun and resembles my favorite English professor from college.  And oh--our sweet little Christmas tree is so pretty!



Best of all, our apartment smells like Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Subject of Angel Songs

"Hark The Herald Angels Sing" has always impressed me with its strong theology of Christ's Incarnation. With the exception of singing angels (Luke 2:8-14 says they spoke), this song really nails the doctrine!

Musically, the version below isn't my favorite, but turn the volume down and focus on the words. Realize the incredible wonder of Christmas--that God would come to earth as a Human Baby! As Christmas approaches, remember that His willingness to be "veiled in flesh" is the real wonder of Christmas. And maybe the angels, in awe of Who this Babe was, sang after all.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Lessons from a White Rose

Seven days later, I'm getting around to posting some of the photos John took at the Museum of Fine Arts Tuesday. I can't post everything, but perhaps it will whet your appetite to check the museum out for yourselves (if not in person, at least online).

The third floor of the new Art of the Americas wing showcases 20th Century art, and is our least favorite. But I got a kick out of the furniture from the 1940s and 1950s, which reminded me of the Danish furniture that my father loved so much. These pieces are American, of course, but have the lines that Daddy liked. Did America influence Scandinavian design, or visa-versa?



The next "treasure" I spotted was Norman Rockwell's New in the Neighborhood, which makes a serious social statement and yet retains the whimsy that characterizes Rockwell. To me, it's the best piece on the third floor!


Of course, I also loved seeing Georgia O'Keefe's White Rose:

Seeing O'Keefe's painting inspired me regarding my own art. Maybe I can take more liberties with my subject matter, exploring shapes and colors, while having enough discipline to actually represent an object. The painting reminds me of writing a sonnet--within a very disciplined structure, there's room to play with language.

I still prefer 18th and 19th Century art, but these three examples of 20th Century art challenge my thinking. Maybe, like these three artists, we can be innovative without breaking rules. Chairs can still comfort tired bodies. Social commentary can still be made with gentle humor. And white roses can be abstract without sacrificing their beauty.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Interrupted Cheesecake

It's been a busy week. I kept wanting to write a blog post, and thought of so many interesting topics. Sadly, there just hasn't been time for blogging, especially when I want this blog to start feeling like cozy letters from me to you. Setting such a confidential tone takes time. I need to feel released from other priorities so I can focus on sharing my thoughts fully, as if you and I were face-to-face, sharing a piece of cheesecake as we reveal our intimate concerns, our treasured experiences, our exciting ideas and our moments of creativity.

The week started busy because, being an efficient wife, I composed our annual Christmas letter, which I'm emailing one at a time so that I can add personal notes. Sure, it takes longer than emailing them in bulk, but hopefully each recipient will feel special.

Not surprisingly, I've had one comment that email isn't nearly as nice as snail mail. Okay, but anything I do through snail mail requires me to ask people to help. With email, I'm totally responsible, able to do all the addressing, personal notes and sending without interfering with anyone else's schedule. So, while I suppose I'm technically violating a point of etiquette by emailing Christmas letters, actually I'm being considerate of John and my Personal Care Attendants, sparing them hours of work.

Tuesday, taking advantage of the halfway decent weather (cold weather has started to arrive), we went back to the Museum of Fine Arts, mostly to see the Scaasi: American Coturier exhibit. I felt a degree of guilt, mindful of all the Christmas letters I needed to send out, but I really had my heart set on the Scaasi exhibit. Here's a photo of Barbra Streisand's "see-through" jumpsuit that she wore to the 1969 Oscars:

I wish I had time to show you the other photos John took that day, but it would take several hours to explain everything. At least, to explain it all as carefully and thoroughly as I'd like. We also saw the Avedon-Fashion exhibit of photographs by fashion photographer Richard Avedon, finding out after-the-fact that it was permissible to take pictures. We did take pictures in the new Art of The Americas wing; maybe I'll post some of them next week.

Wednesday, I worked on Christmas cards and other email. Not very exciting. I wanted to blog about the museum, but other tasks took precedence. Then yesterday John had a check-up with his cardiologist in Boston, which meant using para-transit and essentially being gone all day. I caught glimpses of Fanueil Hall, The Old State House, The Grainary Burial Ground and Boston Common, feeling a lump in my throat.

So, between Christmas letters today, I decided to check in here, at least to make my presence known. But if you'll excuse me, I have more Christmas letters to send. Sorry I can't savor cheesecake with you today.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Every Day

Culture is such that we observe special days and seasons. On a certain level, that's unavoidable, and I guess we can take advantage of the Christmas season by sharing Christ with people who normally aren't open to hearing about Him. I'm sending out our annual Christmas letter, buying gifts online (almost through with that), and am playing Christmas music on my computer as I type this post.

But during our morning devotions today, John read a passage from Galatians that arrested my attention. Paul, concerned that the Galatian believers were being influenced to depend on Jewish rituals for salvation, wrote:

But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. How is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?  You observe days and months and seasons and years.  I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain. ~~Galatians 4:8-11

My immediate reaction was to wonder if, by observing Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, I've bought into the same sort of religious legalism that threatened the Galatians. But the Lord reminded me of a passage in Romans that keeps Galatians 4:8-11 in perspective:

One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.  He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord, and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. ~~Romans 14:5-6

 As John and I discussed the two passages, we realized that special days ultimately derive their specialness as they point to the Lord. Therefore, the more central He is in our lives, the more He makes every day a glorious celebration! We get Christmas every day!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Firm Foundation

For years, "How Firm A Foundation" has been my favorite hymn. It reminds me that the promises of God in the Bible are all I need, for they direct me to Jesus.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving: Directed Toward...?

Gratitude is chic these days, probably thanks to Oprah's "Attitude of Gratitude" campaign back in the 90s. America, by-and-large, considers itself to be a thankful nation, aware of its blessings and committed (at least during the third week of November) to expressing said thankfulness. Well, it is good that we realize how many wonderful things are at our disposal, especially if we realize that much of the world doesn't even have running water or three meals a day. I'm not knocking that type of thankfulness, really.

But as I see it, true thankfulness has two obvious implications, both of which are either ignored completely or receive noncommittal lip-service. Abraham Lincoln mentioned both implications in his October 3, 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation, which I'll quote in its entirety:

   The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.


No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.


I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of thhe United States to be affixed.


Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

Firstly, notice that thanksgiving implies that Someone deserves thanks. No, not "lucky stars" or good fortune. Not even a nebulous "God" of whom we know little, and who really has little claim on anyone. Such thanksgiving becomes thinly veiled self-congratulation, failing to acknowledge any sense of indebtedness. To truly give thanks, a Person must be our Benefactor. Lincoln, without apology, identified that Benefactor as "our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."  

Thanks, therefore, must be given to God in the Person of the Father, presupposing that He purposefully has bestowed blessing. It assumes that He cares for us, and therefore has a relationship with us (regardless of whether we embrace, reject, or remain indifferent toward that relationship). True thanksgiving directs us to praise and adore Him, knowing that He is the ultimate Source of everything we have.

Secondly (and consequently), gratitude implies that humans owe thanks to God, acknowledging dependence on Him. Those who are self-sufficient owe thanks only to themselves. Once again, any attempt at thanksgiving only amounts to self-congratulation under the veneer of humility, refusing to embrace true dependence on the Lord. But Lincoln pointed out that only God could have sustained our nation through the Civil War, and our thanks needs to be expressed in humility...and even penitence. 

Simply put, we remain indebted to Him. Thanksgiving confesses our constant need for His care, and praises Him for His willingness to meet our needs. As we confront His power to provide what (whether we admit it or not) we could never provide for ourselves, we ultimately face our indifference to His commandments, and our need to repent. Even in such humility, however, we end up adoring Him for giving us forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving, then is less about our blessings, and more about our generous Father. It's about praising and adoring Him, remembering His power and mercy. I can list many blessing I've received, and that would definitely be right and appropriate. But my primary focus must never deviate from the glorious One Who gives those blessings. That's the real point!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Open Spaces and Innocent Faces

Having enjoyed artwork representative of the American Revolution during our visit to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts Wednesday, John and I decided to try the New American Cafe in the Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Courtyard. Now, I understand that Angus Beef is high quality, but (I'm sorry) $14.55 (after member's discount) is (dare I say?) a bit hard to swallow.

The Shapiro Family Courtyard, designed to be a meeting place, is 12,184 square feet with a 63-foot high ceiling. If you'll enlarge John's photo by clicking on it, you'll get a glimpse of the New American Cafe on the lower left. You'll also get an idea of the courtyard's immensity!

This next photo, taken from the opposite side (though the same end) of the courtyard, gives an idea of its width. I'm not thrilled with that "sculpture," but I suppose it's consistent with the architecture, so I can accept it. All-in-all, it's a beautiful courtyard...just not our preferred dining venue,

After lunch, while enjoying the At Home in the New Nation gallery, I spotted a charming portrait of an adorable little girl and her kitty (who apparently didn't appreciate being wrapped in a baby blanket). 
When I read that the artist was Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph and Morse Code, I was both surprised and amused. Isaac Horne, an affluent auctioneer in New York, commissioned Morse to paint his five-year-old daughter Susan. Little Miss Horne is, to me, especially enchanting because I'd never thought of "Dot-dash-dash-dot" as an artist who would paint such sweet, tender subject matter.

John and I progressed to the Second Level, and immediately saw John Singer Sargent's best-loved piece, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit
Notice that the Japanese porcelain vases on either side of the painting are the same vases that Sargent painted. We'd seen the painting and vases a few years ago when we attended the Americans in Paris exhibit. At that time, for reasons I frankly don't recall, we didn't take a picture, but I'm glad we waited until Wednesday. It just seems right to share it in its new home!

In the At Home and Abroad gallery, John called my attention to a painting he knew would interest me. As he started to share its title, Boston Common at Twilight, I simultaneously recognized the Tremont Street side of my beloved Boston Common. Although I've never seen it at twilight, nor blanketed in snow, nor in the 19th Century, Childe Hassam painted it so well that I knew it!

As I gazed it, both missing the Common and rejoicing that I could experience it through art, I heard a man introduce himself to John as Malcolm Rogers, the director of the museum. John was able to tell him how much we love the museum, as well as offer a suggestion for improving accessibility for wheelchair users. (His assistant agreed with me that the New American Cafe is overpriced.)

Before leaving, I spotted a sweet painting of a little girl among vases of hydrangeas.

It was John Singer Sargent's portrait of Helen Sears, daughter of Boston photographer Sarah Choate Sears. I'm still deciding which captivates me more: little Helen or the hydrangeas.

John and I are already looking forward to our next visit to the Museum of Fine Arts. So much to see! And another reason I'm thankful to live near Boston. We'll still visit the older wings of the museum (I'm interested in the Scaasi: American Couturier exhibit), but this new Art of the Americas wing has won my heart.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

American Revolution In Brushstrokes

For our last anniversary, John gave me (and himself) a 12-month dual membership to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He did so, knowing that the new Art of the Americas wing would open in November. Indeed, the 53 new galleries, devoted to the art of North, Central and South America, opens its doors to the general public this coming Saturday, but this week the museum has allowed members to preview the collections. So yesterday, we went, very excited.
John Singleton Copley's famous portrait of Paul Revere greeted us as we entered the first gallery, making me feel quite at home with my beloved 18th Century Boston. Winter may keep me away from Freedom Trail walking tours, but I can still visit the Patriots who, over the past few years, have almost become my friends.

You can see silver pieces on either side of the portrait, cast by him and his father, Paul Revere Sr. On the wall to the left, however, was something even more exciting: an early copy of his Boston Massacre engraving, which he circulated to inflame Colonists against England.
Propaganda? Unquestionably! Alas, that's a topic for its own blog post. But it reminds me of some of the more amusing aspects of our nation's struggle for independence (i.e., that killing five people could be seriously called a "massacre," and that Paul Revere and Samuel Adams would use this quite embellished depiction of the event to start a Revolution). As I looked at it, a sense of awe tempered my amusement as I realized that this engraving, propaganda though it was, helped create the country that I love!

We entered an adjoining gallery, finding as its centerpiece Thomas Sully's 1819 "The Passage Of The Delaware." We got to hear a "Spotlight Talk" (ten minute lecture) on the painting, which again would really demand its own blog post. Let me bypass the historic event it depicts (for now) to explain that the 1,000 pound painting is 12 feet tall and 17 feet wide. The  gallery put an extra niche in the ceiling, just above it, to accommodate its height, and a ledge beneath it to hold its weight. It has recently been reunited with its original frame, which is freshly gilded.

That gallery also holds Gilbert Stuart's portrait of 90-year-old John Adams. His son, John Quincy Adams, commissioned this portrait so he could remember his father "as he was." I don't agree with a few things Adams did as president for (particularly the Alien and Sedition Acts), but for the most part I greatly admire both him and Abigail for the multitude and depth of sacrifices they made for our country. Indeed, he is under appreciated. So I gazed at the portrait, feeling as if I could actually talk to him. And I felt thankful to him!

Next time, I'll post other photos from yesterday's excursion, but I've shared the photos John took of paintings that directly narrate early American history. There are, of course, more portraits of American patriots that we'll photograph during future visits to the museum, which means I don't need to wait until spring to have close encounters with my favorite period of American history. 

John sure gave me a great anniversary gift, didn't he?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Becoming The Person

While my Personal Care Attendant put away the laundry this afternoon, I killed time by giving my portrait facial highlights and shadows. I'd originally intended to skip those details (mostly due to laziness), but when I opened the file Saturday night, it was clear that I really needed them in order to shape the lady's face. So, wishing I could progress to the hair (the most interesting part of a drawing for me), I obediently matched the color to her dimple, and proceeded to define her face.

I varied opacity and blend modes. I rearranged layers. Digital art, remember, employs different tools and techniques than traditional artists use. I adjusted blurs, and again adjusted layer opacity. Suddenly, my heart skipped a beat, and I recognized my friend! I'd begun to capture, not just her face, but her personality! As I looked at what I'd accomplished, my excitement about the project returned. At last, the portrait is more than blobs of color on my computer screen, and I'm interacting with a woman I've known since I was in high school and she was one of the few "adults" in our fellowship group. Now as I work, I hear her voice and recall scattered incidents over the 32 or 33 years I knew her (she went to heaven a few years ago).

As shadows and highlights brought her personality to my portrait today, so the Lord uses shadows and highlights to give us personality and dimension. That's something to think about, huh?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lighten Up. I'm Serious!

Lately, serious topics have preoccupied my thoughts, and I really want to write about them. That's fine; it obviously means this old broad is still using that brain, thinking analytically, and using the Internet to research various issues. (Much more productive than posting Status Updates on Facebook about what I had for lunch).

Sometimes, though, my reflective nature can get me in trouble, especially since I'm a Christian and a Republican. So, I'll post my opinions (admittedly not always as gently or diplomatically as I should), creating a firestorm. As I've recently done on Facebook, actually. Even when I apologize for stating my beliefs too brutally, I'm still reprimanded for having those beliefs. I'm judged for being judgmental, and labeled intolerant by those who don't  tolerate opposition to their beliefs.

Nothing novel about people reacting to conservative views with anger, though. Jesus promised such reactions (John 15:18-25). So I'm not surprised, and I try to remember that their outrage is more about them than about me. Not easy, and really uncomfortable, but once I let the Lord deal with me about any sinful attitudes I might have exhibited regarding my presentation (and all to often, I do need to repent on points of attitude), it ceases to be my problem. Those hearing me are, from that point, responsible for accepting or rejecting my perspective.

And then I approach my blog, longing to defuse the tension by posting something fun. During summer months, that's easy. There's always a Boston Adventure to share, with videos of squirrels and photos of odd buildings and stories learned from Freedom Trail Tour Guides. Now, however, it's cold outside, making less opportunities to go out and play. So I have more time to think about what I believe.

Those thoughts come out when I'm staring at the blinking cursor,despite my fervent attempts to think of funny stories or write in the style of Dave Berry and Erma Bombeck. I want to be funny and light-hearted, and maybe I'll succeed next time I post. But if I'm again serious...well, that's where my mind will have been. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

If You Love Me, Hate My Sin Part III

Sin, although it's now inherently embedded in human nature, grieves the Lord so deeply that He came to earth as a Man (while not ceasing to be God) and died as a substitute for us, thus atoning for our sin. He rose again, breaking the power sin has over us. If you think seriously about His action, you'll realize that He doesn't gloss over our disobedience.

God created us in His image. I'm not skilled enough in theology to fully understand all that being created in His image means, but much of it centers on reflecting His character. He created us to be holy, as He is Holy. When we sin, of course, our thoughts, attitudes and actions are anything but holy, and therefore we pervert His image. In other words, we become soiled...we obscure any resemblance to His character. And because His holiness can't accommodate our unholiness, we separate ourselves from Him. Even when we accept Jesus, thus receiving His mercy and wonderful forgiveness, sin still distorts His image in us.

The good news is that the Holy Spirit gives us power to refrain from sin. We have the responsibility to appropriate that power, certainly, and that's what I'm getting at in this series of blog posts. We can obey Him, showing the world that He really does transform lives! We can live in holiness, reflecting Him to a world that desperately needs hope. What we, in our self-absorption, call "responsibility" (heaving a weary sigh of martyrdom) is actually a glorious privilege, and we should rejoice that God allows us the honor of representing Him to experience Him. As 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, we are Christ's ambassadors, showing others that, through Jesus, human beings can be reconciled to God.

When I give into anger, or when you give in to whatever sin that seems to be part of "who you are," God's reputation is maligned by those who reject Him. Thus, we grossly distort His image. Frankly, I hate sin when I see it locking people away from the blessings of God. Often, I'm accused of being judgmental, bigoted, legalistic and (most recently, to my amusement) toxic. But I love people enough to hate the sin that imprisons them.

I hope you'll love me enough to hate my sin.

Monday, November 8, 2010

If You Love Me, Hate My Sin Part II

Yesterday, I argued that anger is, in essence, a sin I commit (all too frequently, I'm ashamed to admit) rather than an unavoidable part of my personality. Perhaps I can't help feeling the emotion, but I very well can help my response to it! In that respect, therefore, anger is not "who I am." It's a choice to act on my impulses in disobedience to the Lord.

In another sense, however, anger is an expression of my sinful composition, which is  innate in all humans. Rather than explaining the doctrine of original sin in this post, I'll refer you to a short article about it at Got Questions? (a nifty little website explaining various aspects of the Bible). One popular catch-phrase says: "We aren't sinners because we sin; we sin because we're sinners."

At that point, the wonderful grace of God, granted through Christ's death and resurrection, breaks into the picture. When I committed my life to Jesus almost 40 years ago, He placed His Holy Spirit in me, giving me the power to resist sin. I am  born again, no longer a slave to the sin that was inherent to my being until I gave myself to the Lord. Jesus has given me the ability, through His Spirit, to choose not to sin.

Sadly, I don't always appropriate the power He's given me. I'm learning, much later than I should have learned, and I grieve that I so often conform to this world instead of being transformed into His image (see Romans 12:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18).  By the grace of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, I am free to turn away from my natural inclinations in order to reflect my heavenly Father's character and values! I pray that I'll use that freedom more consistently, rejoicing in the power He's given me.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

If You Love Me, Hate My Sin Part I

My husband loves me. That's why he hates my besetting sin of anger. He knows, as do I, that while I may not choose to feel anger as often as I do, and while my Cerebral Palsy makes it really difficult for me to compose my physical responses when I feel irritated or angry, what I do with my anger is very much up to me. If I fly into a rage, bullying people with verbal abuse, threats and belaboring my arguments long after they've apologized, I'm sinning. If I refuse to forgive, browbeating someone over a real or perceived offense, I'm sinning. Yes, sarcasm, name-calling and character assassination all constitute sin too. Sulking? Check! Whining and self-pity? Undeniably! Yelling? Oh please!

And I've used all these tactics, in various combinations and degrees of intensity, since I was a small child. Not because of childhood trauma (as one pastor once suggested), but because it generally worked! Early in life, I apparently discovered that temper tantrums controlled people around me, so that they eventually caved in to whatever demands I had at the time.

Although I became a Christian at age 17, it's only been in the last 13 years that I've acknowledged my anger as a sinful attitude. I'm still learning to control it rather than trying to use it to control people, and my progress has been embarrassingly slow.

But 13 years ago, I took the first step by recognizing that anger is not "who I am." Yes, I'm Irish, and come from a family that yells, pouts and punishes with anger. At times, I used that heritage to excuse my sin of anger, claiming, "I'm an O'Conner." Additionally, I internalized an observation that a friend of mine once made. He said, "It seems like those of us with Cerebral Palsy have explosive tempers." (Looking back, a few of us in the school for disabled kids indeed had volatile tempers, but others did not. I suspect my friend made his comment to rationalize his own outbursts.) As I aged, I saw myself as inevitably given to fits of anger because I was an O'Conner with Cerebral Palsy!

But God sees my angry outbursts as sinful behavior, and He takes neither my Irish heritage nor my disability into account. Jesus indeed paid the penalty for my anger when He hung on the cross, but He also gave me victory over it when He rose from the dead. When I offered Him my life as a high school student, He gave me His Holy Spirit---the Spirit who expresses Himself by (among other things) giving me self-control. I've been slow to appropriate that self-control, granted. All I can say about that spiritual retardation is: Praise God for His mercy!

My husband reminds me of Jesus. Like Jesus, he hates my sin of anger. In fact, it fills him with righteous anger! He sees my anger quench God's Spirit in me, distorting me from someone who reflects His values and seeks His honor into a self-absorbed tyrant. It keeps me from being the woman God desires me to be. In short, my husband, like Jesus, hates my anger because he loves me!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Playing With Paint Shop Pro

Last April, I joined PSPFamily. No, it's not a cult. Actually, it's an online forum for digital artists (like me) who use Paint Shop Pro. Summer is gone, and it's been too cold and/or rainy for Boston Adventures...so I'm getting more interested in Paint Shop Pro.

Yesterday, while perusing the forum's topics, I noticed they had a challenge on making background patterns (something I have difficulty doing) and then using the pattern to make a "signature tag." Why not? So, after a few mistakes in understanding the tutorial they supplied, I managed to design a background:

My user name for the forum is Bride48, symbolizing the fact that I finally became a bride at age 48, so I decided to tag that name using the pattern. I really like my results:



Monday, November 1, 2010

An Unenthusiastic Artist and Her Squirrel

Drawing portraits has been successful for me, which is why I'll keep drawing them. I love making the emotions spring to life. I'm not sure why I'm so pleased with my final results. I suppose I could wax theological about men (and, since I primarily draw them, women) being made in the image of God, impressing people with my "deep spirituality," and many would believe me. If that's part of my fascination with portraiture, I am humbled that the Holy Spirit would give me such an attitude. But mostly, to be honest, I'm just amazed that I can actually draw portraits that well. So I'll keep doing them...including the challenging lady that I wrote about in The Hows.

The process, however, is almost inevitably tedious, and I'm afraid I must admit I usually lose my enthusiasm midway through a project...if not sooner. So yes, I'm in that dawdling point of my present portrait, drawing maybe just a bit once or twice a week and feeling quite daunted by all the elements yet to put into the picture. Of course, those very elements capture the woman's 80 years of life, and her joyous (though tiring) decades of serving the Lord. They show both her weariness (indeed, she went Home to Jesus three years after the photo I'm drawing from was taken) and her love for Christ. Obviously, for me to omit them, simply because I'm tired, would disrespect her memory.

But this past weekend, I needed to shift gears in order to write and illustrate one of my Church Mouse Parables for the bi-monthly newsletter that our church publishes. Once the newsletter is published, I'll link to the online version here so you can read the story. The point today, though, is that drawing the mouse and the squirrel taught me that I have spent too much time on serious drawings, and have my playfulness.

Drawing that squirrel took just a couple hours, and I put him together simple by manipulating seven circles and a triangle. Flatten a curve here, make a bend there...use a  cut-out to blend gray fur into brown sheen. Blur that white tummy. And presto: a New England squirrel named Eddie appeared!

Eddie taught Mousie a lesson on thankfulness that I'll share in a couple of weeks, but he also taught me to once again play with Paint Shop Pro. Drawing portraits rewards me in one way, and it's important that I persevere when the work gets uninspiring and tries my patience. I will finish the portrait that I began in September, and I will email it to the woman's daughter as a surprise. But I'll once again draw fun, whimsical things that take less time and more imagination. Such projects remind me to keep my artwork fun. And they restore my enthusiasm for drawing portraits.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Joyful Debt

This time, let's begin with the video. Although I prefer the David Crowder Band's musical arrangement of this hymn (which you can find on YouTube after you read this post), I chose this video to help you focus on Robert Robinson's lyrics:


During my prayer time with John yesterday morning, Robinson's third stanza started running through my head. "Oh to grace, how great a debtor/ Daily I'm constrained to be!" Whenever I sing this hymn, I think about my debt to God's grace. I remember being 17, reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and Matthew 5:8, and feeling horrified by my total selfishness. I knew, just reading those two Scriptures, that I deserved eternal hell for not achieving God's standard. And, 40 years later, I still remember the great relief--the overwhelming relief, really--of hearing that Jesus died for my sin! Indeed, I'm a debtor to His grace.

Most debts, particularly debts that can't be repaid, wear on our emotions. But the more I think about my debt to Jesus Christ, and realize my complete inability to repay Him, the more I rejoice that He actually chose to pay my debt to His Father. Because of His grace, I know His love now, and I will know His fullness when I step into eternity! And, to be honest, I'm glad to have this debt!

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