Happy Birthday, Sweet Abigail!

My little girl is nine. Where, oh where has the time gone? Nine feels so big for some reason. In another nine years, our daughter will be an adult by legal standards. She will likely fly from the nest that year, be off to college and other adventures. I know that as their parents, our goal is for our children to grow and learn, and become adults eventually, but sometimes life feels like it flies by so fast.

We conceived Abigail after almost a year and a half of trying, actually during some fertility tests, a round of which my doctor was conducting to see if there were any measurable “reasons” we had not yet gotten pregnant. During those months we asked a lot of “What if?” questions. What if we never got pregnant? What would we do then? And our answer without hesitation was that God willing, we would most certainly pursue adoption. We desperately wanted children, and a family of our own. After what seemed like forever, but wasn’t actually all that long relatively speaking, we got that positive pregnancy test, and to say we were elated is an understatement. How completely surprised, how excited Jay and I were at the thought of a little Horne arriving to join our family.

I still remember the day of my sonogram so vividly, the day we were to learn whether this little Horne was a boy or a girl. Though I honestly did not care too much about gender, so thankful was I that we actually had a little baby on the way, I had pretty much assumed we would only have boys. I had learned the scientific fact that the father is responsible for determining the gender of the child (see here for a little biology lesson on the topic), and I had done a little family research and learned there were no girls for several generations directly back in Jay’s, his Dad’s, or (I think) even his Dad’s Dad’s generation. His only brother was at that time father to two boys himself (neither we nor they knew that was about to change!). Of course, being the highly trained scientist that I am, I extrapolated and came up with my own theory: that we were not likely to bring any daughters into this world. I was actually pretty convinced of this! So, when the nurse performing my sonogram announced to us that there was indeed a baby girl hanging out in my tummy, my very surprised squeals of joy could be heard all the way back to the waiting room (so they told me). I was ecstatic, and could not wait to meet this little lady of ours.

From the time she was born, Abigail, true to her name, has been a joy to us. I feel as if we were given a very special gift the day God placed her into our care. She is a delight, a sweet, kind and mostly very patient big sister to her three crazy little brothers, an encouragement to her Mom and Dad. She cares tenderly for all the little animals and creatures she comes into contact with, is a loyal friend, and has an air about her that is far older than even her big nine years. It is such a blessing to have another girl in the family besides myself!!

Throughout our next pregnancies, I never again remembered my very false assumptions about children’s gender. And secretly, I sort of wished for another girl to join our family, but that has never happened. Even the little baby whom we lost before ever having the chance to meet him is a boy, whom we someday look forward to seeing face to face in Heaven.

Abigail’s special day took place on Saturday, and her treat was going out with Mommy to have her ears pierced. Afterward, we celebrated with some family in town over pizza, cake, and presents, and it was a wonderful evening.

I am so thankful for our precious girl, our only daughter, our Abigail, our joy. I pray she may grow in grace, in her love for Christ and the people around her, and that she may always know just how deeply her family loves her.

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A crumbling foundation

My brother comments:

Here’s a confession: I actually don’t know what I think about Ron Paul when I think of all the responsibilities of a president. And I, frankly, get tired of hearing about what a perfect document the Constitution is and how it should be followed forever and ever world without end. But sometimes I don’t care. I just want to vote for the guy who will spend his term trying to destroy these bureaucracies.

I’d add a clarification. In my opinion, Ron Paul doesn’t represent the constitution per se, but rather the state of being constitutional. It’s the rule of law that is at stake, not the specifics of the document as currently written. We have a means of amending the constitution, and it has been amended quite a few times. I’m fairly certain Dr. Paul would want to amend it himself if he had his druthers. But the rule of law transcends the particulars of the document, and that is what is at stake today. The rule of law is, as far as I can tell, a necessary foundation for liberty, and as the foundation goes, so goes the house built on it.

Thoughts…

The other day, I dashed into the Home Depot to grab some paint for the desk I am redoing for Abigail’s room. Though I was only in the store for about fifteen minutes, while there, I managed to experience three separate instances where people were “emoting” at another individual quite openly – using language and behavior that was really sad to even overhear, and which I am certain deeply hurt the person who was being spoken to. It gave me pause for thought…

The first incident happened while I stood in line at the paint counter. The lady next to me was on the phone to (I’m assuming) her husband regarding a paint color in their home…and though I did not intend to eavesdrop it was sort of impossible not to since she stood only two feet from me, and given I have almost supersonic hearing, heheh. The wife was obviously frustrated with the guy on the other end of the phone and I caught the line where she told him to “Get off his lazy butt and go look at the color!”. Ouch; I’m guessing that husband didn’t enjoy being spoken to that way by his wife.

Then, while my creamy white paint was being mixed I stayed nearby and browsed paint swatches for our home. A little boy of about four to five came by and desperately wanted to take one of the several hundred color swatches with him, and reached for one. His father quickly intervened, roughly jerking his little arm and growling at him about how much trouble he was causing him, and that he’d better quit it, or else! How my heart sank for this little boy.

Not five minutes later as I checked out, I listened to the woman in the register line next to me who was almost hysterical, crying and yelling at the checker about some terrible mistake he had made. She went on and on and on. It was embarrassing to listen to, though I had had no part in whatever ill had been wrought. You can imagine how I felt for the guy behind the counter, no matter what his mistake.

I exited the store, deep in thought, thankful for the beautiful, spring-like weather, but saddened by yet more evidence that our world, though it certainly has its lovely points, is terribly poisoned by sin and the effects of that on all humanity. It’s not as though those three people in the Home Depot yesterday afternoon are unique. How many of us berate and tear down our spouses with our behavior instead of honoring and cherishing them with our words and actions ? How many of us parents discourage our children, treating them with impatience and anger instead of nurturing and loving them as we train them up? How many of us are quick to lose our temper and get frustrated with people who do wrong to us, whether intentional or otherwise? I myself am guilty of all this and much, much more.

When faced with our sin, particularly sin which hurts and tears down the people around us, we can rejoice that Jesus bore the punishment for all our nastiness and that through him we have forgiveness for our sins, and hope – hope that we don’t have to wallow in and remain trapped in our ugliness, as well as hope that God’s grace extends to heal relationships damaged by sin. While it is true that we will continue to struggle mightily with sin as long as we are upon this earth, we can fall upon God’s mercy to us in Christ’s death and resurrection, and trust his Holy Spirit to be at work in our hearts and lives, renewing us and helping us to put off sin, and instead become more like him.

The Bible uses the phrase “words of my mouth” so many times. I have not done a thorough study on this, but I am certain of this: just as God’s word and the things He speaks have great power, similarly, the speech we use has massive implications for both us and the people around us. How I pray that my speech may be more and more sanctified, helpful in building up those I love and come into contact with, instead of the other way around.

Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

—-Ps 19:13-14

Cussing is for the mature

I have a little saying that goes like this, “Cussing is for the mature.”

I don’t mean it as a joke. Nor do I mean that adults should freely cuss. Rather, it is a specific example of a general pattern I see throughout the Bible, that of a movement from immaturity to maturity, from childhood to adulthood. And one of the key differentiators between childhood and adulthood in the Bible is one’s relationship to one’s tutor, the law.

Is a curfew a good thing? Absolutely… for a child. It could be a disaster for an adult with the responsibilities of an adult. An adult who has not absorbed the lesson of the curfew, who has not learned the lesson from his childhood, is probably an unwise adult. But an adult who remains under the tutelage and dominance of such a rule isn’t fully an adult.

I do not allow my children to cuss. And I aspire to have them learn the lesson of that law by the time they grow to adulthood, at which point I hope they are wise in their speech. But I would be appalled if they thought they were still under my rule, with their conscience bound to never cuss. The point of the rule is to teach maturity. The rule is a tutor for the child. But as adults, if, for instance, one of my sons was married and dealing with another man who was rude to his wife, I would expect him to consider very strong language in his rebuke of that man. I would expect him to cuss appropriately.

In general, rules should become tools in the hands of the wise as a person grows up. But the train comes off the tracks when adults exalt the rule (or process, or program) above the person. Doing so dehumanizes everyone involved. Think of a church program that becomes the end in and of itself, rather than a tool in the hands of the church to help people. When tools enslave their master, the master becomes a child, which is just backwards. And it does more or less the opposite of what the Bible tells us we should be about. As Colossians 1:28 says, our goal is to present everyone mature in Christ. Yet when we enslave adults to the rules of childhood, we put them at risk to remain immature.

Likewise, however, an adult who casts off the lessons of his tutelage is a fool. The point is maturity, not liberty from constraints. The goal is mature, wise speech, not cussing.

There are limits to this approach which I hope are self-evident. I do not mean to imply that adults should set aside prohibitions against murder, adultery, lying, etc. But even here there is some room for the wisdom of maturity. Once again, my children are not to lie, yet I hope they have the good sense (and am trying to actively teach them this) as they get older to lie to a potential kidnapper.

Anti-gnostic Thanksgiving

I recently had some prayers answered quite wonderfully. And when I had prayed, I had ended with something along the lines of “… and if you will do these things, then I will give you thanks and praise.” But when God actually did those things, it felt a little abstract, even gnostic, to simply say (in the quietness of my head), “Thanks.”

Leviticus 7:11-15 (also see Leviticus 3)
And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the Lord. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 4 And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a gift to the Lord. It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning.

The peace offering (used specifically for thanksgiving) did not establish peace, it celebrated it. The other sacrifices found in the early chapters of Leviticus were enjoyed by God and usually the priests, but the peace offering was shared with the worshiper as well.

Additionally, even our spoken thanks have a public context in the Bible. For instance, Psalm 107 introduces four stories that result in thanksgiving and says:

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

In and among these (and many other) passages on thanksgiving, are the countless stories of feasts and parties in the Bible. As one example, the reason the older brother stands out so harshly in the story of the prodigal son is that if you’ve been reading your Bible carefully, once the father accepts the son back into the house, you pretty much knew there was going to be a party. The father was thankful, therefore a party. Par for the course in the Bible.

The aptly named American holiday Thanksgiving, then, seems exactly right, at least in its inception… but perhaps should be typical, not unique. It actually reminds me of the feast established in Esther (see Esther 9:22). And that’s where my thinking finally landed on my own particular thanksgiving. As a rough sketch, it seems appropriate to:

1) Set aside some resources for an offering of thanks
2) give a larger portion as an alms to our church or some other meaningful offering
3) use the rest to have a celebration with others.

Here’s a couple follow up thoughts that have come up as Tricia and I have discussed all of this.

First, it may feel awkward, very nonspiritual, to use part of an offering to celebrate. However, this is exactly how God wanted it done in the past. The peace offering gives us an example of this, and so does the tithe.

Deuteronomy 14:22-27
You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.

No wonder Israelites didn’t struggle with gnosticism. God sanctioned them to use a portion of their tithe to party! He wanted them to enjoy themselves and rejoice in his presence.

Also, flaunting wealth is bad, yet the Bible emphasizes including the poor in your fellowship. Wealth is a relative thing, and I don’t believe our culture gives us much help at this point. It sure seems like if you use resources well beyond what you normally use to have a feast for thanksgiving to God (think of the scope of many of our Thanksgiving holiday celebrations), it could give the impression of a wealth that isn’t even necessarily there. Yet a party to rejoice in the Lord should be inclusive of those with less. Jesus doesn’t leave any wiggle room on this point (Luke 14:13). So we in the church will just have to figure out how to do all this appropriately, whatever the resources with which we have been blessed.

Lastly, I think our thanksgiving is primarily about the past and should not be used to make a claim or boast about the future. Likewise, we should not withhold our thanks based on fears for the future. When the crops came in for the Pilgrims, they had a feast in celebration. I rather doubt any of them presumed there would be no future hardships. But we can’t be stingy with our thanks and praise for the Lord has already done just because his providence may take a different turn in the future. So our thanksgiving should be by faith, that is, without concern for the future, trusting that the Lord will provide. It should be an Ebenezer (1 Samuel 7:12), for the Lord has brought us this far.

It’s Dishpan Hands for Me!!

Well, it looks like we made a very sound decision in purchasing the new dishwasher. Only catch is, it won’t arrive in time to save me from a terrible case of dishpan hands. Because it looks like ours has officially decided to stop working. Last evening the children on dish duty gasped in horror and called, “Mommy! There’s brown yucky water coming out of the front of the dishwasher.” Upon inspection, it was confirmed that the washer appears to be leaking its rusty innards out all over everything. Ew, and gross!!

I rolled my eyes at Jay and remarked that I guessed we’d be doing dishes by hand until early to mid October when our long-awaited new model will be in. He answered, rightfully so, that I was already pretty much washing them entirely by hand anyway, given the “washer’s” cleaning abilities had been mostly gone for some time now. And he’s right. We’ll probably save a nice chunk on our water bill these next few weeks if I am just washing things by hand, instead of first hand-washing it all, then running the dishes through the non-washing KitchenAid for a long, expensive rinse. Or we could just go to entirely disposable dishes for a time. But we probably won’t.

Truthfully, I know just how spoiled I must be to moan about going without this appliance for a few weeks, given that many people in the world today have never enjoyed the luxury of a dishwasher. I am hopeful that in the next few weeks as I am without one, that I may learn to really appreciate this help in life that I have usually taken pretty much for granted. Sometimes it helps to go without something for a time to realize just how thankful we should be for it when it is around.

Burdens

How many of you have been admonished at the beginning of a worship service to set aside your worldly concerns and focus on the worship of God (or some close variant)? I’d like to propose that although there may be some truth to such an admonition, there is also a very real danger that may cause us to turn our hearts from God.

Yesterday, right before worship, I got a bit of bad news and felt like I wanted to vomit as we were driving to church. And it made me realize that to set aside such a concern (or, more realistically, to pretend to set it aside) as I entered worship would actually be contrary to faith. There is no godliness in refusing to rely on God, and it is not faith to hide the concerns of your heart from God.  Randomly open your Bible somewhere within the book of Psalms, close your eyes, and point, and you’ll have a proof-text for what I’m claiming.

Instead of setting aside our “worldly concerns”, I would suggest what matters is what we do with them. Do we continue to think we can solve our problems on our own, focusing on lifting ourselves up out of our problems while in the worship of God? Or do we come to worship offering God not only our songs, our tithes, but also our problems, our fears, our vanities? Faith gives God everything, not just the stuff we think we’ve prettied up.

Thanks, Jay, for this link…

Excellent post by Nancy today for young mothers….something I needed to hear.

If you are interested, you can read it here.

“A wise mother bestows on her children, she does not demand. She teaches with the law of kindness (Prov. 31:26) on her tongue, builds her house (Prov. 14:1) one kindness at a time, looks well to the ways of her household (and behold, there are many “ways”), and treats her children with courtesy and love, considering their frame.”

Warrior-Gardeners

Here are two images from the Lord of the Rings movies:

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For some reason, I’ve been thinking about them. The first comes as the fellowship breaks apart and Frodo seeks to venture to Mordor on his own.

Frodo: Go back Sam! I’m going to Mordor alone.

Sam: Of course you are, and I’m coming with you!

Frodo: You can’t swim! Sam! (Sam struggles to swim then sinks into the water)

Frodo: Sam!!! (Sam sinks deeper and deeper. He sees the sun shimmering up on the surface. His arm floats limply as he descends into the water. Suddenly Frodo’s hand reaches down and grabs Sam’s wrist. . Sam tightens his hand around Frodo’s. Frodo pulls him out of the water and up into the boat and Sam tumbles in)

Sam (dripping and crying): I made a promise, Mr. Frodo. A promise! “Don’t you leave him Samwise Gamgee.” And I don’t mean to! I don’t mean to.

In this scene, Samwise commits himself to sacrificial love, which leads to a death and resurrection, in which he is reconstituted as Samwise the Brave. He is no longer merely a gardener, missing his home. He is now a warrior-gardener, and from this point forward he is largely portrayed as one of the warrior heroes of the story, even doing battle with Shelob, alone in the dark. In fact, this transformation is highlighted in the Two Towers on two occasions.

Faramir: Speak.

Frodo: We are hobbits of the Shire. Frodo Baggins is my name and this is Samwise Gamgee.

Faramir: Your bodyguard?

Sam: His gardener.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sam: I wonder if people will ever say, ‘let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring.’ And they’ll say ‘yes, that’s one of my favorite stories. Frodo was really courageous, wasn’t he, dad.’ ‘Yes, my boy, the most famousest of hobbits. And that’s saying alot.’

Frodo: Huh, you left out one of the chief characters – Samwise the Brave. I want to hear more about Sam.

It strikes me that this is a portrayal of what the first Adam was to be. Adam was to guard and offer service in the garden (Genesis 2:15 uses the same words as used to describe the priestly duties found in Numbers 1:53, Numbers 3:8, Numbers 8:15 and elsewhere). He was to be a sort of warrior-gardener.

In a sense, then, Jesus became the true warrior-gardener who gave himself up in sacrificial love. I’m thinking particularly of the scene on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus even sheds his own blood doing battle (in prayer) against Satan.

The second image comes from the climactic scene at Mount Doom, as Sam saves Frodo from falling into the lava after Gollum has inadvertently destroyed the ring. Now Frodo is the one about to drown (in a lake of fire rather than water) and Sam raises him to new life. This too seems to be a death and resurrection scene, although in this case the resurrected Frodo is no longer suitable for his world and ultimately travels with the elves out of Middle Earth.

Two additional passages in the Bible come to mind as these two scenes of death and rebirth, first from water and then from fire, are compared.

John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Luke 3:16

For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
2 Peter 3:5-7

I don’t have any further thoughts on this parallel. Just noting it as it seems quite strong.