Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Recent Feats of Memorization

Isaiah 12

That day you will say, I give thanks to you, Yahweh.  You were angry with me, but your anger is appeased, and you have given me consolation. See now, he is the God of my salvation.  I have trust now and no fear for Yahweh is my strength, my song; He is my salvation.  You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation, and that day you will say: Give thanks to Yahweh!  Call his name aloud!  Proclaim his deeds to the people!  Declare his name sublime!  Sing of Yahweh, for he has 
done marvelous things!  Let them be made known to the whole world!  Cry out for joy and gladness, you dwellers in Zion, for great in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel!

Psalm 15

Yahweh, who can find a home in your tent?  Who can dwell on your holy mountain?  Whoever lives blamelessly, who acts uprightly, who speaks the truth from the heart, who keeps the tongue under control, who does not wrong a comrade, who casts no discredit on a neighbor, who looks with scorn on the vile, but honors those who fear Yahweh, who asks no interest on loans, who takes no bribe to harm the innocent, who stands by an oath at any cost.  Whoever does these things shall never be shaken.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Lovely Lord's Day Dawning

I awoke to the sun shining through my window.  Outside the leaves were a vibrant green, dew shone like diamonds on the grass, the blackbirds and bluebirds joined together in a sparkling chorus, and my heart rejoiced in the freshness of the air.

I looked over to my sister, sleeping in the twin bed neighboring mine.  "Are you awake?"


"Yes," she said, stretching and yawning.  

"You want to go outside?"

She was game, and, not waiting to shower or get in our Sunday clothes, we made such arrangements as we could in our impatience.  She pulled on her cowboy boots with her mismatched pajamas and I donned a rosebud housecoat over my pink embroidered nightgown, left my feet bare, and we tiptoed through the quiet, sleeping house, all the lights dim except for the grey dawn creeping in through the windows, and ran into our secluded backyard.  


Glorious day!  The neighborhood was almost as still as the meadows down at Grandpa's, and Gretchen and I closed our peripheral awareness and pretended we were indeed in an old, wild field on the brink of the Victorian era.  Skipping over the grass, we sang in our best operatic Julie Andrews impressions from one of our favorite musicals, The Sound of Music.  I executed a couple wild ballet leaps down the slope––very badly I may add––, and, after exploring all the wild places in our yard, we snuck into the woods in our neighbor's lawn.  The only path was a dry creek bed, full of twigs and clay, and Gretchen was quite shocked to find me willing to walk in bare feet down the path.  But I exalt in all sorts of pioneer-esque pastimes, including walking barefeet through precarious places.  I did happen to get a splinter, however.  It was worth it.  

The Red Spider Path, as we call the creek bed, because of its population of spiderwebs with occasional red spiders on them, was quite overgrown since our last excursion down it.  Tree roots stretched voluptuously across, twisting and twining with green ivy and dead bracken, the cane that grew all throughout the forest was dead and brittle, rustling in the wind, and the sun shone through the leaves, painting the brown forest path with polk-a-dots of gold and white.  

Emerging suddenly into the Land of Paradise, as we so name it, the scene took our breath away, for the oppression of the cane and the dark, close trees opened into a long, grassy creek, full of chattering water and wild-flowers growing on the soft banks, and overshadowed by tall, strong, beautiful oaks.  Where before it had had a well-kept, prim prettiness, it was now overgrown and thrilling with untamed loveliness.  

The trees soon grew too open to continue further without the neighbors seeing us, so we skipped back down the creek bed, up the slope, and indulged in a vigorous hoeing of the garden.  The hard labor reverberated in our bones and souls, and the sweat on our brow brought to us a resurrection of hard work and sacrifice for the beautiful plants and their blossoms, promising a harvest of winter vegetables to grace the supper table.

Inside once again, we, having rejoiced in our fellowship with God's creation, prepared for our fellowship with God's Church, our spirits delighting in the beauty that flows forth from the Father's bosom.  As George MacDonald once said, 'All lovely sights tend to keep the soul pure, to lift the heart up to God.  The senses filled with the delights and splendor of creation reveal to us hints of His majesty, goodness, and love.'

Friday, October 17, 2008

Abraham's Lineage

On reading a recent book by Ravi Zacharias about Isaac and Rebekah, I was brought across some new thoughts concerning the family's generational line that struck me considerably.  


This family's amazing spiritual legacy all started when Terah sacked up his family 'to go to the land of Canaan.'  Abram was already married to Sarai at this point, and, when Terah lost faith in the initial initiative and 'settled in Haran', Abram was visited by God, blessed by Him, and left all his family except for his cousin Lot to go to an unknown country full of bloodthirsty barbarians.  Abrahm's faith was considerable.  


Abram finally came to Canaan, and, at the Oak of Moreh, which was regularly used by the Canaanites as a holy place to sacrifice their infants, he is visited by God and boldly builds an altar to Yahweh, thus declaring outright war with the native gods and customs.  Yahweh appears to him and promises that this land, presently populated with terrorists, will be given over to his offspring.  Yet Abram has no offspring.


But there is a severe famine in the land, and Abraham, seeing the starvation of his cattle and people and the demise of his wealth, takes fright and escapes to Egypt, where he lets selfishness and fear overcome him, and falls into a whirlpool of lies and deceit, almost resulting in his wife being raped and the promise of a son being thwarted.  Yet God, through speaking to Abimelech, saved the promise and Abram returned to the famine in Canaan and was given a second chance.

Isaac grows up in a stranger land, full of a people that is completely opposed to the precepts that his father Abraham has instilled in his heart.  Abraham realizes the importance of Isaac marrying a woman from his own flesh and blood and worldview, and, on his deathbed, he sends his eldest and most trustworthy servant to go on a wild-goose chase to find his relatives, relatives he hasn't had much interaction with for over fifty years.  He acts out of pure faith, and the servant, having faith in his master's faith, sets out on his journey.

When he arrives at the well, he asks God to let the first woman who comes out and offers to water him and his camels would be the woman he wants Isaac to marry.  Rebekah comes out and offers to do the work, a labor of watering ten camels who have just come from weeks-long journey across the desert.  The servant is ecstatic, decorates Rebekah with gifts, and, when she realizes that he is apart of the family, she and her whole house welcomes him with the hospitality so indigenous to that culture.  

The servant tells the family what has happened, and, in a culture where dreams and portents and family honor were taken extremely seriously, his words are received as those from God.  Yet Rebekah is given the final word in this––a very strange circumstance in a Middle-Eastern family where women were very little esteemed, and hardly, if ever, given the choice of opinion.  Rebekah was steadfast in her belief that this was God's will, and she, probably a fourteen or fifteen year old girl, left her entire family, culture, and previous life for a man whom she did not know, had never seen, and a nation that was full of pagan ideals.

It must have meant a lot to this religious woman that the first time she sees Isaac he is walking through the fields, praying to God.  Isaac was most likely just as stressed as Rebekah was, for he knew how important his wife would be in the unfolding of God's promise.  But God was in control, and the Bible says that Isaac loved her.

The same fears and selfishness that were in Abraham were bred in Isaac, and he, too, fell under the fear of being killed for the beauty of his wife Rebekah by Abimelech's savage people, and, by calling Rebekah his sister, puts in danger the promise that God has given to his father and himself.  Abimelech sees him fondling Rebekah, and, ascertaining from that the real relationship between the two, he turns Isaac out of the kingdom in anger at his deceit.

Rebekah was barren––a trait that seems to follow this family a lot––and it was not till she was in her thirties that God granted hers and Isaac's prayers for a child, and she conceived.  She felt the twins struggling in her womb, and was given a prophesy that the elder would serve the younger.  

Esau and Jacob grow up, Esau a crude hunter with no respect for the promise of Abraham's line, and Jacob an intelligent, well-read man.  Esau first flagrantly insults his birthright by selling it for a bowl of stew (though the Hebrew word for Esau's hunger literally means starvation), and then insults the promise further by marrying pagan women from the community, which are a great pain to his parents and which marred the promise.

When Isaac is in danger of dying from old age, he calls Esau and tells him to go hunt for an animal, cook it, and bring it to him so they can eat it.  Thus there is labor, sacrifice, and communion prequelling the blessing.  Rebekah hears that Isaac is preparing to bless Esau, and panic fills her.  Not only is she very displeased with he elder son and his beliefs, but she remembers the promise of God back when her children were in the womb that Jacob would be the ruler of the two.  She loses faith in God's ability to fulfill his prophesy, and enters into deceit in order that Jacob will be blessed with the elder's blessing.  The process of labor, sacrifice, and communion is annulled, as Jacob merely stands by as Rebekah kills a lamb from the flock, prepares it, and, after dressing Jacob in Esau's clothes and covering him in goat hair so that he feels like Esau, she has Jacob bring the food to Isaac.  Yet Jacob does not eat with Isaac, thus receiving no communion with him.   He is blessed with the blessing of Esau, and, living under this blessing that was wrongly won, he escapes from Esau's murderous intentions and goes to Laban, where he marries of his mother's stock and becomes very rich,  His life is one of deceit however, not only in his receiving of the blessings that should have been Esau's, but in his wives, his attaining of wealth, and his behavior to his uncle.  

He finally escapes from Laban in the same way that he escaped from Esau, in fear and trembling because of the fruit of his deceitful life.  It is while he is fleeing, when there is hatred behind him in Laban's household and hatred before him in his home country and the inescapable meeting with his brother, when the deceit sown is finally being reaped, that God visits Jacob and wrestles with him.  In such a stressful, painful, and dangerous encounter, God asks Jacob a very important question.  "What is your name?"  And Jacob, who has lived for fifteen years under the auspices of his brother's name and birthright, is forced to confess his real name.  It is only then, when God has gotten him cornered, that God renames him Israel, and gives him his own blessing, one that belongs to Israel alone.  And thus Abraham's lineage and promise is carried on.

And that's all of the fruit of my study…for now.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

From the Heart of George MacDonald: Phantastes

'But it is no use trying to account for things in Fairy Land; and one who travels there soon learns to forget the very idea of doing so, and takes everything as it comes like a child, who being in a chronic condition of wonder, is surprised at nothing.' –George MacDonald, Phantastes

'Past tears are present strength.' -George MacDonald, Phantastes

'Tears are the only cure for weeping.' -George MacDonald, Phantastes

'I learned that it is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to fall and be humbled, than to hold up his head in his pride and fancied innocence.  I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man, that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood.  In nothing was my ideal lowered, or dimmed, or grown less precious; I only saw it too plainly, to set myself beside it.  Indeed, my ideal soon became my life; whereas, formerly, my life had consisted in a vain attempt to behold, if not my ideal in myself, at least myself in my ideal.' -George MacDonald, Phantastes

'My spirit rejoiced.  They left me to my repose.  I felt as if a cool hand had been laid upon my heart, and had stilled it.  My soul was like a summer evening, after a heavy fall of rain, when the drops are yet glistening on the trees in the last rays of the down-going sun, and the wind of the twilight has begun to blow.  The hot fever of life had gone by, and I breathed the clear mountain-air of the land of Death.  I had never dreamed of such blessedness.  It was not that I had in any way ceased to be what I had been.  The very fact that anything can die, implies the existence of something that cannot die; which must either take to itself another form, as when the seed that is sown dies, and arises again; or, in conscious existence, may, perhaps, continue to lead a purely spiritual life.  If my passions were dead, the souls of the passions, those essential mysteries of the spirit which had imbodied themselves in the passions, and had given to them all their glory and wonderment, yet lived, yet glowed, with a pure, undying fire.  They rose above their vanishing earthly garments, and disclosed themselves angels of light.  But oh, how beautiful beyond the old form!  I lay thus for a time, and lived as it were an unradiating existence; my soul a motionless lake, that received all things and gave nothing back; satisfied in still contemplation, and spiritual consciousness.' -George MacDonald, Phantastes

'The very fact that anything can die, implies the existence of something that cannot die.' –George MacDonald, Phantastes

'I knew now, that it is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, and not the being beloved by each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness.  I knew that love gives to him that loveth, power over any soul beloved, even if that soul know him not, bringing him inwardly close to that spirit; a power that cannot be but for good; for in proportion as selfishness intrudes, the love ceases, and the power which springs therefrom dies.  Yet all love will, one day, meet with its return.  All true love will, one day, behold its own image in the eyes of the beloved, and be humbly glad.' -George MacDonald, Phantastes

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


It was a beautiful day.  The sun shone resplendent in its glory, kissing the clouds with pretty pinkness and blessing the blue sky with a golden halo.  The landscape seemed to be waiting for me.  I finished sweeping the kitchen, and, calling Jeremiah to my side, he and I escaped from the house and tripped down the sunroom stairs, our feet bare and my eyelet skirt billowing behind me.  We skipped in the grass, and every once in a while, when the wind's beckoning was especially enticing, we sprinted down the slope, laughing together.  

Jeremiah lead me to a tree trunk, fallen over our fence.  Long vines hung from the tree branches above it, and we struggled for what seemed like a lifetime to balance-walk up the log at a perilous angle.  Just at the very end, when we were a good three feet above the ground, and our bare feet were wobbling on the unsteady plank, we grabbed the tree vine and peered over into the wilderness on the other side of the fence into a jungle of bracken and green balls of fruit littering the ground before we jumped down.

I danced and sang across the field, and then was drawn by Jeremiah to our plum tree, which he tenaciously proceeded to climb.  I looked on from the ground, quite skeptical.  But Jeremiah had faith in my agility abilities, and before long I was huffing and puffing from a painful, dangerous heave into the branches.  I sat down in a little nook until the ants and daddy-long-legs climbing up and down the branches had scared me sufficiently enough to try to get down.  It was definitely harder to get down than to get up, but we both did succeed, with many bark-burns and scrapes, but an invigorating sense of restored childhood in heart.  I envied the squirrels' limberness as they chattered around us, scampering quickly up the trees to gather their autumn harvest.  Little chipmunks squatted on the branches, their cheeks puffed out with walnuts and their tiny hands clutching eagerly at their next mouthful.   

We were almost through with our outside activities, and, as our last salute to nature, went on a hunt for pears in the pear tree.  It was quite through producing, however, and our attention soon turned to an area of ground that was covered in green fruit balls, just like the ones we had seen from the fallen tree trunk.  There must be a tree somewhere that produced these things.  Jeremiah picked one up, timidly peeled away the orange-like crust, and stared at the ridged dark ball inside.  I took it and began to tear away at the specimen, gradually realizing with joy that it was a walnut.  So this was where those squirrels got their winter's food.  I pried my fingernails into the black hull, trying to crack it open, but availed not, and Jeremiah and I soon abandoned the fruit and journeyed back inside.

A shower commenced, and, once the chiggers were well washed away, I dressed and grabbed the fingernail clippers to try to scrape the dirt from under my nails.  The tips were blacker than I had ever seen, and no matter how deep I went or how harshly I scraped, the black would not go away.  It was then that from the storage room in the back of my brain came a memory of a long-forgotten history lesson wherein I had read of the pioneers boiling black walnut hulls to make their ink.  Horror filled me, and I ran to Annie to beg for assistance.  I had dyed my fingertips black.  She painted them red, but the black was much too bold for the polish, and the overall effect seemed to be that of a woman living in the London slums who paints her nails to hide the dirt underneath.  In fact, for the first time in my life I felt like a Dickens character.  Actually, it was just a bit romantic.  It reminded me of the old scrapes I had read in Anne of Green Gables and other like children tomes.  I mentally  added a new chapter to the memoir that runs in my brain, and joyfully awaited the growing out of my nails.  Thank God for calcium!