On this Wednesday Morning

Back in 2012, I wrote a post about the written prayers of Pastor Johann
Habermann from 500 years ago. The little black book that was given to me
is full of the riches of prayers that contain and reflect Holy Scripture
in each sentence. You can read more about them in my former post. (All
of the prayers and hymns from Habermann’s original book are here in a
simple text file if you are interested. Bound copies are also available
online if you do a search.)

Here is the prayer for this morning. These prayers are instructive due to
their being rooted in the Word of God. The further we stray from Scripture,
the more our prayers can err, even if we don’t mean to pray amiss. These prayers
are reverent and humble, the only kind of prayer our Lord will hear. He rejects
the prayers of the self-righteous and haughty, but he hears the pleas of his children
who love him.

Almighty, All-gracious God!

All Thy creatures should praise and glorify
Thee. The birds under the heavens magnify Thee with lovely songs early
in the morning as their Lord and Maker. So will I too heartily thank
Thee, that Thou hast preserved me under Thy shelter and protection
during the night now past, and all my life even to the present hour,
and awakening me from the sleep of the darkness of this night, hast
suffered me to arise again in health and joy. I pray Thee for the sake
of the saving resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that Thou
wouldst ever keep me together with all my loved ones from all danger
and evil.

O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance: feed
them also, and lift them up for ever. Fill me also at this early hour
with Thy grace, that I may pass this day rejoicing in Thy commandments,
and free from mortal sin. Let me experience Thy grace as a dew from the
womb of the morning, and as the refreshing moisture that diffuses at
the break of day, making the land fruitful. Thou wouldest spread Thy
goodness over me, that I may gladly and zealously do Thy will. Govern
me with Thy Holy Spirit that I may serve Thee in righteousness and
holiness of truth, well pleasing in Thy sight. Guard me that I sin not
against Thee, nor defile my conscience with carnal lusts that militate
against the soul. Keep my tongue from evil, and my lips from speaking
guile. Foolish talking or jesting, unbecoming of Christians, be ever
far removed from me.

Grant, that I offend none with my lips, nor backbite,
judge nor condemn, defame nor vilify. O that I might put a
lock to my lips and seal them with a strong seal, that they bring me
not to naught, nor my tongue destroy me. Give me grace that I may know
my shortcomings and correct them, and not fall into Thy righteous
judgment and condemnation. Grant my prayer, O Eternal God, for the sake
of Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

prayer

Elie Wiesel – Remembering Him in a Quote

Christians think there is virtue in silence when someone is being abused by a spiritual leader. When they know wrong is being done and they stay silent, they become complicit. A favorite quote of Wiesel’s. “Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented..”      Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel

A Response to the Movie “Me Before You”

Our culture lives by emotions, not facts or an objective sense of truth. If a movie makes us “feel” and “moves us to tears”, well, then by all means, it must have a good message for us, right? Wrong.

A friend sent this article to me. The movie “Me before You” is yet another death propaganda piece that manages to make suicide look heroic and selfless for a disabled man. He did it for someone else, after all.  I am glad to see this article by a young person responding to the false message the movie promotes. The author begins:

I love romances as much as the next person (perhaps even a little more … I’m a total sap), but I’m decidedly unenthused about the most popular romance in theaters right now. As a disabled person, I really can’t stand “Me Before You.” In my opinion, and in the opinion of much of the disabled community, the film spreads some really harmful misconceptions about life with a disability. In an effort to undo some of the damage caused by this film, I’m here to bust some common myths about disability. (Spoiler warning for “Me Before You,” by the way!)

Read it here.

Remember when movies were filled with things like the triumph of the human spirit against difficult odds, when courage was an admired trait, when steadfastness and strength of character were celebrated? Yes. It seems like a long time ago now.

 

mebeforeyou

A Little Concert Excerpt

Will’s  long awaited Gesu Church concert was on the evening of June 14. He will be a junior at Wheaton College Conservatory in the fall. He auditioned for Eastman School of Music after spending three days in New York this spring, and was accepted, which is a great honor for him!  He has, however, chosen to return to Wheaton, a place he really loves, and we support him  in this. God is in all these details, and we have encouraged Will to seek the Lord in all his decisions about the future.

The video starts off rather rocky as Will points audience members to the program notes he wrote about the piece.  It gets stable quickly when he sits down to play.

The piece by Cesar Franck, Piece Heroique, builds and builds with that theme you hear at the beginning, ending in a powerful crescendo. The video doesn’t do justice to the sound of that organ in the acoustics of the church. It is an exciting piece of music and an exciting organ to hear.

I am sorry the next piece, a great contrast to the first, was cut off, but the camera ran out of space! Some day, we will manage to get someone to help professionally record Will’s concerts on video. Fortunately, the audio was captured on some good microphones, so we’re glad for that. When so much work goes in, it’s worth keeping.

There was a great turnout for the concert, and Tom was surprised by a friend who goes back all the way to high school band days, a fellow trumpet player. Additionally, Tom’s boss and department supervisor came.  That made the evening even more special! Also, a reader of this blog turned out with her husband. That was great!  Will was assisted by his good organ friend, Ryan Mueller, who met Will through this blog. Ryan works on these huge organs for a company that repairs and voices them.  We are looking forward to hearing Ryan play at Gesu next month! His concert is Tuesday, July 12, 2016 at 7:30pm.

These young men are a blessing from the Lord who gave us the priceless gift of music.

 

 

He Gathered the Pieces

Twenty-one years ago, I was getting ready to marry Tom (on the 30th!) . Our lives have taken many twists and turns with six children, many joys and some big losses. The simplest way to express what my husband has meant to me is found in these words below. For some reason I will never understand, Tom valued my “scattered pieces”, and he picked them up, more than once, and glued them back together. I owe the man my life.  I carry a photo of Tom in my wallet and every time I buy groceries or need ID, I see his face, and I am thankful for him. Every day that goes by, I see God’s kindness to me in providing this man, who loved me when other people in my life that I loved  just walked away. Thank you, Tom, for loving the broken pieces like Jesus.

faithfulfriend

Beauty in June

My friend, Kim, is a talented gardener.  The photos of her garden are breathtaking. The poem and photo of one of her roses below are used with permission. Thank you, Kim, for posting such beauty for all of us to enjoy!

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays:
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there’s never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature’s palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o’errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest, –
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

Now is the high tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back, with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
’T is enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes, but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For other couriers we should not lack,
We could guess it all by yon heifer’s lowing, –
And hark! how clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!

~ James Russell Lowell

rose3

Personal Boundaries and the Limits of Compassion

I came across an article today on personal boundaries. You may not think it is relevant to you.  With the benefit of age, my suggestion is that the subject of boundaries is relevant to all. If you don’t need this article now, at some point in your life, you will.

boundaries

The article I am referencing is from a secular website. As a Christian, I want to add something to what the writer has said. Having been born into and raised in a fundamentalist/evangelical Christian (pan-denominational) environment, there was precious little teaching on things like personal boundaries and the limits to compassion. (Those subjects were routinely dismissed as “psychobabble.”) Christianity teaches that, like Christ, we are to pour ourselves out for others. I am not here to contradict that. What I will say is that this teaching, unbalanced with the need for limits in giving, can turn into tragedy and ruin for all involved. It’s that simple.

Some reading this article would say, “How self-centered.  If someone is hurting and causing us misery, well, we’re supposed to suffer for others,” or something like that. Having seen the utter destruction of co-dependency and what it looks like long-term when compassion becomes  enabling ,  I can tell you, with authority, that this is not of God. Why? Because if the results of your compassion efforts are  personal destruction and an inability to live the life God gave you, something is seriously wrong.

Being an empathetic person,  this author’s  words resonated strongly with me. There are some in our lives who do not care in the least that their rotting sin problem is a permanent stench in the lives of those who are trying to show love and compassion. They simply don’t care. We offer ourselves up like some kind of gruesome self-sacrifice when we are not in the least called to do so. But without boundaries, we let it happen and then complain that we have too much stress in our lives. Yes.

We need compassion in our hearts and to be willing to help where we can. I believe that with all my heart.  I have been helped by truly kind people over the years, and for their good sense and sound advice, I am grateful.  That is not the same thing as this good article discusses.

“Imagine you have this house — your dream house. The house and everything in it fills you with joy, and you work diligently to keep it clean and organized. You are comfortable there. One day, your mom/partner/friend is coming for a visit. You see them coming down the road, straining under the weight of a ginormous sack, quadruple their size. You walk out on the porch to meet them. “Come help me with this thing, it’s heavy!” they shout. You suggest they just put it down. They refuse. As they get closer you catch a whiff of what approaches. It smells awful. Putrid. Nauseating. You start to panic. Are they bringing that to your house? They reach the porch with their giant bag of trash and again ask for your assistance in bringing it inside. “Why don’t you leave that outside? It doesn’t need to come in,” you plead. They balk at your insistence. “No, it comes in. I want it with me. I feel better when it’s with me.” You nervously insist. “But I just cleaned, and it seems like it will make a really big mess.” They aren’t having it. “It comes in with me. I need it. It will be fine.” With a sigh of defeat, you open the door and they haul their trash inside…”

Read the article by Shannon Ghallagher.

I’ve learned that drawing  boundaries when there were none is costly.  But the spiritual and emotional cost of not drawing boundaries is far higher.

how-to-set-business-boundaries

Eternity in Sound – A Joyful Anniversary Concert Announcement

Willgesuorgan1Our son, Will, the organist of the family, turned 20 years old yesterday. He is a young man who is focused on music as an organ student at Wheaton College Conservatory where he will be a Junior this fall. I am passing on this information to anyone locally who would like to attend a free concert of some of the world’s great organ music. Will writes:

“It was twenty years ago this June that, as a newborn, I heard the pipe organ at Gesu Church for the first time. Ever since then, Gesu’s music ministry has had a substantial impact on my life, including inspiring me to become an organist. That’s why I am so honored to perform at Gesu on June 14, in celebration of five years of their marvelous “new” organ– which contains 6,800 pipes and is the largest in Wisconsin. I hope to see everyone there!”

The date is June 14, 2016 at 7:30pm at Gesu Church in downtown Milwaukee. The world is a troubled and dark place, and there is a loss of hope everywhere.  In the midst of this, music is the bursting into sound of something eternal, it has been said. Depending on the music, you either catch a glimpse of an eternal hell or the eternal beauty of our God and his majesty. Taking an hour out to listen to the power and also the quiet beauty, the whole range of this orchestra within one instrument, is good medicine in these times. Thank you, Will, for the music. To God be the Glory.

Clips from Will at his recent St. John Cantius Church in Chicago and Wheaton College.

willconcert2016

Needed: Clarity on Forgiveness and Reconciliation

reconciliationThere is probably no teaching so messed up among Christians as the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation. Some subjects may come close , but this one has to be at the top. Rather than clarity and sound counsel, Christians often get mixed messages on the subject from pastors, counselors and articles, making difficult situations worse.

Related to the subject of forgiveness is the issue of reconciling with those who have injured us. Separate issues, but sometimes not treated as such. I will give you just one example of why sorting this out, particularly as Christians who are commanded to forgive others, is so important.

Years ago, a relative in my extended family targeted me for harassment and extreme emotional abuse.  I was barely out of my teen years when he decided specifically that I would make a handy weapon to get back at my father for some long held grievance.  It wasn’t hard to see why I was targeted. With the advantage of age,  I completely get why I was the one, and not one of my siblings. I was sensitive and easily hurt, quick to react and eager to please. I was also too inexperienced and young to know what was really going on behind it all. The extent to which the relative meddled in my private life would shock. He even involved my two little boys.  It went on for eleven years at its worst.

Finally, deciding that the self-created drama and excitement of provoking and harming someone who had never done anything to him was getting old, the perpetrator gave a lukewarm, “Sorry we (he had his wife and son participate as well) got involved.”  Not, “I’m sorry I targeted you in the most vicious fashion possible with  ongoing lies, gossip, slander and meddling. We behaved in an evil fashion and harmed you terribly. I am sorry, will you forgive me?” Just, “Sorry we got involved.”

Young and eager to do the right thing, I reached out, invited the perp and his family to our home, fed them from our table, and tried to let the emotional harm stay behind in the dust. But the story did not end there. It was not long when the trust and attempts at involving these people back in my life were met with further betrayal. This happened several  times in the next few years. Needless hurt once again occurred, trust shattered, emotional pain inflicted. A familiar set of dynamics surfaced,  distracting me from my primary calling as wife and mother and causing old wounds to reopen.

So what had happened?  Hadn’t I rushed to forgive like Jesus? Hadn’t I spent years trying to show that I had put the past in the past and moved on in love?  I recently came upon an article that was tremendously helpful in understanding what had happened in this particular situation.  It also shed a clear and helpful light on other situations I have struggled with as a Christian who wants to live in the light of forgiveness, and, yes, see reconciliation. ( I have seen precious little of the latter in my  life. I can count the time on a couple fingers of  one hand where I have seen real, true healing of relationships. Hatred and pride are the default settings for most professing believers today.)

The excellent article I have linked to below points out something very basic. Letting go of the wrongs that people have done to us is one issue. We are called to do this. We also have to do it or become sick with anger and grudge holding. But reconciliation is something else entirely. THAT is predicated on repentance by the offending party. Real repentance. Not a pragmatic, fake “sorry.” Going back to the so-called apology by the person who targeted me, with the advantage of years gone by, I see now what the problem was. The entire “apology” was a non-apology. The only thing the person was sorry for was that poking me with pins like an insect on a display board was no longer entertaining and had actually screwed up any hope of having family gatherings, something he decided he wanted after all. It served his purposes to say a quick sorry. And I was naive enough to buy it

We must forgive people, but one thing we cannot do is force reconciliation, no matter how much we yearn for it. Those who refuse to see the harm their behavior is doing when confronted with it and instead chose to marinate in the raw sewage  of hate cannot be allowed back into our lives. When those involved claim to be “Christians”, they make an ugly mockery of the Savior they claim to follow. We reward those who mock Jesus when we rush to embrace those who aren’t in the least sorry for what they have done. In fact, many don’t even see that they’ve done anything wrong at all.

Something else happens when we try to force reconciliation.  We bring on ourselves the time- wasting, unprofitable distraction of endless relational drama and emotional chaos. Narcissists, bullies, sociopaths who are in our lives can literally serve as human wrecking balls. They produce false guilt in those who long for reconciliation and healing. Their projection of their sin onto their victims is one of the hallmarks of this kind of person. They are divisive, and they enjoy what destroys a normal person. These people need to be removed from our lives permanently if at all possible. Satan lives in the tumult they create. We are called to peace as believers.

I know there are those reading this blog who are struggling with this in their lives. The article I referenced by April Kelsey is excellent and gives biblical examples. I would also warn, as a side note,  that some things that comes out of the “biblical counseling” movement need to be taken cautiously. Much of it is simply not biblical at all and strengthens abusers rather than get to the core of these situations that can destroy lives—lives intended to bring glory to God, not Satan.

A quote from Kelsey’s article:

When Joseph’s brothers show up at the palace where Joseph is governor, Joseph doesn’t even reveal to them who he is. Instead, he sets his brother Benjamin up as a thief and threatens to enslave him to see how his brothers react. Only when Judah, the one who sold Joseph into slavery, offers to take Benjamin’s place for the sake of their father does Joseph reveal his identity, extend forgiveness, and invite his brothers to be reconciled (see Genesis 44).

Here is what Joseph didn’t do:

– Joseph didn’t hop the first chariot down to Canaan when he became governor.

– He didn’t show up at his brothers’ house and request a private audience with his abusers.

– He didn’t say, “Forgive me for being angry all these years over my enslavement. It was wrong.”

– He didn’t say, “Despite how you might feel about me now, I want us to have a good relationship.”

Joseph didn’t even allow himself to be alone in the same room with his brothers until he saw that they were fully repentant.

The same scenario plays out in many other Bible stories. Reconciliation is only offered when the offending party demonstrates true repentance.

Those who do not repent are not entitled to reconciliation…

Read the whole article here.

And, I would add, trying to force reconciliation, because you want it so much, will ultimately  end up in failure and further spiritual damage.