C S Lewis, English theologian and writer (1898-1963)
Aargh! Another hard one. I've been sitting here at my computer trying to answer this one and I am having a hard time. When I think over the year to come, I find it difficult to find something that will matter in 10 years - and that depresses me.
I might alter a few diabetes drugs to give someone better sugar control so that in 10 years they still have both legs and can see. I might put a patient on drugs to lower their blood pressure and cholesterol so they don't have a stroke. I might be the first one on the scene when a patient's heart stops and manage to shock it back into working again. (Actually I just did this last week - five minutes later, after a couple of shocks and some CPR, he was sitting up asking what had just happened!) But will any of this really matter in eternity? Or am I just patching people up to fall apart another day?
Then I got thinking. My workplace, the wards and the clinics, is my mission field. In God's wisdom, he has placed me there as his ambassador, as his representative there. How I go about my day, how I treat my patients and my colleagues, what I talk about at coffee time is my witness to the work that God is doing within me. Already I have had opportunity to share some of my faith with my colleagues and my patients.
It is this witness that will matter in eternity. It is the people who came a step closer to knowing God for themselves that will matter in eternity. This is an awesome opportunity and one that I must keep at the forefront of my mind every day.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ,
God making his appeal through us.
2 Corinthians 5:20a
This is where our desire for learning comes from and where our learning has its purpose: to know God more and so to fear and glorify him. Taking prime importance in our lives, we should be seeking to read our Bibles, to learn more from Scripture, to pray and to have fellowship with God's people. But the godly men who set up these universities did not want to cloister themselves away to learn about God, but to put this knowledge into practice for the good of the people.
In the case of my own university, a need for "a more educated laity, given the shortage of doctors, lawyers and schoolmasters in the country" was recognised. Its teaching "embraced all the known branches of learning Arts, Theology, and Canon and Civil Law" and was the place of the first Chair of Medicine in the English-speaking world.
Even as I studied for my degree and now study for postgraduate exams, I find it so refreshing to learn new things. In the last few years, I have tried to learn new languages, have completed a course in Christian theology, learned the basics of Art History and now plod away at trying to play the piano!
Constantly learning stretches my brain in new directions so, rather than tiring me out, it exercises and relaxes me. I hope that I shall never stop trying to learn, but that I shall take every opportunity to try new experiences and to learn more. I have had so much fun and had so much more enjoyment from pursuing knowledge outside of prescribed study and am thankful for the small amount of wisdom I can gain from that.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!
It is so interesting to see the words that pop up most often here. I am glad to see that Bible, Biblical, Christian, God, Lord, Pray, and Womanhood all merited big words, but I obviously think a whole lot more about chocolate than I realised! What had I written for 'ordeal' to get on to the word cloud? Where did 'void' come into it?
Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Bertrand Russell, British philsopher and mathematician (1872-1970)
Actually pray! I could begin and end my post there! How many of us struggle with our prayer lives and how much comes down to how much time we spend in prayer? I know that I don't pray enough and, when I do, so often I am not praying honestly and with an open heart. I have to remind myself that it is the Devil who tries to convince me that my prayers don't matter, that my prayers are not needed, and that I am not good enough to pray.
How wonderful that it is on Christ's merits that our prayers are accepted and not our own! How wonderful that, even as we struggle with prayer, the Spirit is working in us, helping us to present our prayers to God in heaven, where Christ is sitting at his right hand intercessing for us! How wonderful that we can bring our prayers of joy, frustration, sadness, anger, hopefulness to a God who knows us so intimately and who knows us so dearly.
After hearing Derek Prime, an Edinburgh pastor, speak on the subject of prayer a few years ago, I bought his little book, Practical Prayer. I loved reading it at the time with its encouragement and very practical guidance in how to improve your prayer life, so I think it is time to get it down from the bookshelf to read again. I am yet to meet a Christian who does not struggle at times with prayer so I would really recommend this book.
One of his big ideas, which he found very helpful in his own life, was to make daily, weekly and monthly lists of the people and situations needing prayer. It allowed him to ensure that he was remaining faithful in prayer and to be purposeful in his prayer life. Over the next few months, I am going to try to slowly and carefully (trying to avoid my tendency to rush into things!) start creating a prayer list to help me both to be more focused in who and what I pray for and to be freed from panicking over who and what I have forgotten to pray for.
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
the soul may not profit by.
As students, we used to stay up late discussing and debating deep theological points, sharing the emotional, spiritual and physical struggles we faced in our lives, reading and praying together, and encouraging and admonishing one another. Since moving away from my university town and living on my own, I really miss that, both for the conversation and challenge but also the accountability it gave me. Living on my own, no-one needs to know how I spend my time or what I do and no-one is there to stretch my thoughts.
I have written before about the importance of a Titus 2 relationship, with the older women encouraging and teaching the younger women. I think that as my desire for biblical womanhood increases, the time has come to be brave!
Over the next few weeks, I will make a particular matter for prayer my desire to have a mentor, an older and wiser Christian woman teaching, encouraging, admonishing and guiding me in the way I should go. I have an idea who I could ask, but I will pray first before going to her to ask her for her guidance and prayer in a more formal and purposeful way. I will also pray that I will be honest with her, not hiding my struggles or failings, but being truthful about where I struggle and where I need to learn.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.
John Vance Cheney, American poet and librarian (1848-1922)
I have been having some really exciting conversations with one of my friends. We originally know each other from work but got to know each other better as we studied for postgraduate exams in a little group.
She is in a difficult situation. She lives with her boyfriend and has done for a few years. They love each other...but he won't marry her. Apparently, he will only marry a Christian. Now, if he is a Christian (I don't know what his own understanding of this is), he has got himself into a terrible situation - he should never have started going out with her, never mind living with her. But she loves him and wants to marry him. So she has tried to read the Bible but got stuck at Leviticus and gave up. At the same time, she is quite scared about reading the Bible - what if all this Christian stuff is really true? What if she has to become a Christian!?!
Now she has been asking me questions as she knows that I am a Christian. She is going to read through the Gospels and then we are going to meet to chat about them. As you read this, please just take a moment to pray for her and her boyfriend that they will both be drawn towards God, that he will rededicate his life to Christ and that she will come to know God for herself. Please also pray that I will be kept faithful in prayer for their salvation and be a faithful witness to her as we discuss the Bible and the Christian faith.
My word...shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
My favourite quotes:
"The man said he had climbed into the tank before becoming trapped waist-deep in chocolate." (What on earth was he thinking?)
"Rescue workers and staff at the Debelis Corporation used cocoa-butter to thin out the chocolate and pull him free." (You learn something new every day!)
And then at the end of the article, as if this explains everything,
"The accident involved dark chocolate."
Maybe I am cheating a little on this one as it is not something I am going to start doing, but I hope this counts as I have just started it and really want to focus on it this year! Just recently the elders in my church asked me to start a Bible study group for young women. There is definitely a void in that area, but I was surprised (and delighted) to be asked to lead it.
We have just started meeting together and have started by studying the idea of biblical womanhood together. I thought we should know and understand the basics first before moving on to consider other issues.
It has been such a blessing to meet together. These are young women who yearn to be women after God's own heart, who want to aspire to godly womanhood, who want to be courted by godly men, who want to raise God-fearing families. Some of the girls are still in university, some have jobs (with some in senior positions in high-powered jobs too), yet it has been so interesting to see that God has indeed placed these desires within all of our hearts! Society's teaching of "gender sameness" is being rejected by these young women. Instead there is the recognition of the equality of men and women as people made in his image, but with different roles and responsibilities.
Please pray for us as you read this, that it might be a blessing to me and to these young women to delve into Scripture for this teaching and for us as together we try to become women who fear the Lord.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
Somebody loves me.
I am not alone.
The majority isn't always right.
Wonderful things happen in dungeons.
Death is only skin deep.
Poverty is temporary and so is wealth.
He who dies with the most toys loses the most toys.
You can always go home again.
Things may look a lot better in three days.
Donna Maclean, quoted in the Court House Courier, Cape May Court House, NJ
When I moved into my own flat, I decided not to get a television. It's not a decision I've regretted. I found it sucks your soul through its mindless drivel and seductive hypnosis.
Sadly, the Internet, for all its wealth of knowledge and shared wisdom and experience, can have the same effect. It brings me into contact with news, people, ideas, friends and places all over the world, all at the tap of a few keys. Through it, I have read classic works of art, seen beautiful paintings, improved my command of various foreign languages, shared my faith with others, and been challenged and encouraged by Christians across the globe.
However, used wrongly, it can draw people more into themselves and away from the world. With the huge amount of information available, it is easy to become distracted to the detriment of other activities.
As a Christian, I am called not only to be accountable for how I use my money but for how I use my time and talents for God's glory. So this is my resolve, while recognising the value of the Internet, I will ensure that I spend a maximum of one hour each evening using the Internet, whether working, writing, chatting or investigating.
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
The main focus for this chapter is first Jesus' teaching in Matthew 19:4-11. Martin Luther wrote that only those people who were physically unable to participate in marriage or who had received a special direction from God to be single were exempt from the creation ordinance of marriage so "apart from these groups, let no man presume to be without a spouse." Maken takes it another step further saying that "Being single without meeting the necessary criteria...is just as unbiblical as sexual activity outside marriage." Strong stuff, but I am not sure that she is justified in taking this point so far.
Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 is tackled too. I agree with her point that we have to take this passage and interpret it in light of the rest of Scripture, including Paul's own writings, where the importance and value of marriage is extolled.
Maken suggests that it was written for a particular situation faced by the Corinthian church so should not be used to form a complete 'policy' on marriage and singleness. It is difficult to know in what circumstances this letter was written. Commentators disagree on what the "present distress" might be. Some suggest that this refers to a particularly difficult period of famine and persecution faced by the Corinthian church, while others say this is the general trouble that comes with following the Lord.
John Calvin, in his commentary that "here you have two things worthy of observation. The first is, for what purpose celibacy is to be desired - not on its own account, nor on the ground of its being a state that is nearer to perfection, but that we may cleave to God without distraction - that being the one thing that a Christian man ought exclusively to look to during his whole life. The second thing is, that no snare must be put upon men's consciences, so as to keep back any one from marriage, but that every one must have liberty allowed him."
I am used to the subtle teaching within the church that there is almost a higher spiritual state achievable by single people, so I was interested to read this chapter. While I want to agree with her basic principles, I have real difficulty justifying this from Scripture. In the meantime, I will be again enouraged by Calvin who said, "the Apostle would wish those who are at present practicing chastity, to continue in it and persevere; but as they have no security for the continuance of the gift, he exhorts all to consider carefully what has been given them."
Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.
I Corinthians 7:17
I am busy ALL the time. At work, I am permanently rushing around seeing patients, arranging and reviewing tests, writing letters, doing paperwork. Even in the quiet moments, I am poised ready to run at the first sound of my bleeper going off. At home, I work, study, read, do housework, write all the time to the background of music or a radio programme. Although I live on my own, I am permanently surrounded by noise, busyness and thoughts. I am never still. Even now, as I write this, I'm on a train on my daily communte, keen not to waste time.
So I am intrigued about the spiritual disciplines of quietness, solitude and silence. Would I manage to be still for an hour, never mind a whole day?
With the help of the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, I am going to take time over the next year to try the tasks it suggests. I have days off next month, so I might even try to go away for a night to give it a go without all the distractions of normal life. Sallie has allowed me to host the Carnival of Beauty in December on the Beauty of Solitude, so I'll hopefully be able to share some of what I have learnt then.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.
But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.
Montezuma, Aztec Emperor (1480-1520)
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
As I now approach a stage in my life where the desire for biblical womanhood has been impressed so strong upon my heart and as I prepare, I hope, to become a wife and a mother, it brings into sharp focus yet again how little I know.
Labels: biblical womanhood
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honour such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.