Thursday, June 26, 2008

praying for our leaders

Lately I've been reading through the psalms at intervals throughout the day. Yesterday I read Psalm 72, and I keep coming back to it--as a prayer for government, it's striking and powerful.

Psalm 72 is marked "A Psalm for Solomon." David wrote it shortly before he passed the throne on to his chosen son. It is part prophecy, part glorious vision of government as it ought to be, reflecting in its ways the heavenly kingdom of God. That government should be an extension of God's rule is clear in David's opening verse: "Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son."

Recently, a good friend who works in a government office challenged me to pray for all our officials, from the Prime Minister through the MPs through everyone else who governs in this nation. Of course, we do not have a single king--but that doesn't mean we can't increase our prayers to include every man and woman in positions of governmental authority.

So what, according to Psalm 72, should we be praying for these people? David's first entreaty, that God would literally give His righteousness to Solomon, mirrors my friend's urgent request: "Pray that our government leaders would get saved." We should pray, first and foremost, that God Himself would enter the lives of individuals in government and transform them by the power of the cross.

Second, we should pray that our leaders would truly care for the needy, poor, and oppressed. This can be reflected in domestic and international policies. How best to care for such people may be a matter of debate, but that we can and must care for them is not:

"He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor ... For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence; and precious shall their blood be in his sight."

(Psalm 72:4, 12-14)

One prayer I have taken up is that our leaders would hear the cries of the unborn and others who are threatened by the growing death culture. When the blood of these very needy, who have no others to help them, becomes precious in the sight of our leaders, then we will see change.

We must pray also that justice would be truly and righteously carried out. We sometimes view justice as a personal matter, but we should not. In a just society, there is peace and safety. In an unjust society is violence, wrong, and growing chaos. David continually asks God to make Solomon wise and righteous in his judgments:

"Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son. He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and the poor with judgment ... In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth." (Psalm 71:1-2, 7) I am struck by verse 4, which declares that Solomon "shall break in pieces the oppressor." In an unjust nation, those who commit crimes against the innocent are not held truly accountable. I pray too that this will change where it is occurring today.

This morning I spent much of my prayer time entreating God for our government. Romans 13:1 reminds me that God has placed them in power: "For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." In prayer, I recognize God as King of kings reigning over all the earth and ask Him to rule through our nation so that the poor, the needy, and the righteous shall be blessed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

virtuous woman

"She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness."

Proverbs 31:26-27

"Who can find a virtuous woman?" Solomon begins, "for her price is far above rubies." This wise man's ideal of a virtuous woman is hard-working, full of faith, skilled, and servant-hearted. She does her husband "good and not evil all the days of her life." And although I can relate to the sting many women feel when they read Proverbs 31--none of us like to see where we are failing--I'm very glad we have her.

I am neither married nor swiftly headed (as far as I can tell) in the direction of marriage, but the heart of the Virtuous Woman is one I desire to share. We are all in relationship with others, from God to our families and friends, and in all of these my desire is to do good and not evil. Proverbs 31 reminds me that being a woman of faith and virtue is not about earth-shattering accomplishments or unflagging perfection. It's about strong character and good habits--a whole direction of life that is disciplined and others-centered.

The verses I've quoted above are an excellent example. As a young and still-foolish member of the human race, there is much wisdom I do not know--but as a general trend, do I open my mouth to rattle on or to speak good, true, wise things? Is my tongue ruled by the law of kindness, or do I allow sarcasm, arrogance, or impatience to direct what I say and how I say it? Do I look well to the ways of my household, or have my habits of procrastination and laziness caused everything to spin wildly out of control? Day by day, is my life marked by idleness or industry? What am I doing with my life, anyway?

Life is made up of hundreds and thousands of little choices, every day, every hour. I am constantly choosing between one action and another. Every choice forms habits and bears consequences. How are my choices affecting my life today?

The Virtuous Woman is not always popular among Christians. Many women see her as a mark of their own failures. They resent her for pointing them out. But the beauty of life in Christ is that our yesterday does not have to determine our tomorrow. The Spirit of God in us chastens, disciplines, loves, and molds us in the image of the Son.

If you made bad decisions yesterday, you can make good ones today. If your habits are destructive, now's the time to change them. It does not take monumental effort or herculean strength. It only takes little choices, little changes, to live as a woman of virtue.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

book announcement - Tales of the Heartily Homeschooled

We interrupt this regularly scheduled programming ...

My cousin Carolyn and I have written a book together, chronicling some of our experiences of the eldest children in large, homeschooling families. It is officially available for pre-order today! The announcement is below :).

* * *

Dear friends,

Tales of the Heartily Homeschooled is now available for pre-order! You can purchase your copy of Tales at Pre-orders close June 30. As a special thank-you to those who order before June 30, we are offering a free Ebook Edition of Theodore Pharris Saves the Universe, the novel Rachel wrote when she was 13!

Pre-orders help us cover the costs of publishing--and they get the book into your hands early! Your books will be ordered and sent to you in the first week of July, when the book is just becoming available to the world at large.

When we started writing Tales as a series of emails to each other, we didn't really imagine how much you'd share with us! We thank you for your friendship, encouragement, and support as we've worked to bring Tales to print. It's been a marvelous journey!

Rachel and Carolyn

authors, Tales of the Heartily Homeschooled

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

wild God

"Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?"

Proverbs 30:4

Two nights ago I was sitting on our front porch. The sky had been blue all day, but as evening came in, dark clouds gathered quickly. A wind began to blow, whipping up the waves on the river at the end of our street. Lightning flashed overhead. Moments before we had lived on a calm city street, watching a few cars drive by, everything ordered and safe. Now the forces of nature invaded, making the world wild around us.

The Bible often talks about the glory of God in storms. Solomon wrote of it in Psalm 30. His words remind me of Psalm 18's powerful depiction of God riding in a storm, coming to save David from his enemies:

"He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.

He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.

The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me."

Day by day, we build little theological constructs that are much like our city street: quiet, ordered, easy for us to grasp. But then the reality of God comes like a storm, the Spirit like a mighty wind, and in the storm of His presence we're forced to worship the wild God whose power and glory are more than we can imagine.

C.S. Lewis wrote of Aslan, the picture of Jesus, that he "is not a Tame Lion." Nor is our Saviour one to be bound by small human bands. He is trustworthy, unchanging, solid as a rock--and wonderfully, beautifully wild.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

out to please

"Many seek the ruler's favour; but every man's judgment cometh from the LORD."

Proverbs 29:26

Like many of us, I was born a people-pleaser. I hate conflict of any kind--even a friendly debate, held in a spirit of camaraderie and used to good ends, will leave me feeling unsettled and sometimes unhappy. Sometimes I will shy away from certain courses of action or even thoughts because I know that someone else would not like it.

There are good elements to this. I want to respect others, truly. I want to honour my parents and other authorities in my life. I want to be biblically submissive, humble and meek. But there's also a lot of bad to it. Often, following God means taking paths others wouldn't take or even understand. It means doing things that will disappoint people or sometimes upset them.

Following Jesus can mean setting yourself up for a cross.

The last few years have held a lot of trials for me--growing pains, stretching, some really hard stuff. I've come to realize that the most common experience of sainthood is that of being misunderstood--and not being able to do a thing about it. And I'm learning, though it's a painful lesson, to embrace that reality. No one was ever misunderstood like Jesus. And no one ever pleased God or did more for people than He did.

Solomon reminds us that seeking the favour of those who are somehow over us may cause us to lose perspective. In the end, it does not matter what anyone thought of your actions. It doesn't matter if people completely misconstrued everything you ever did or said. What matters is that you seek to please God. It matters that you keep your heart pure before Him. It matters that you respect people, honour people, and serve people--and that you do it, not out of fear or the desire to please them, but out of love for God.

It's not an easy lesson, but if we're going to be true followers of Jesus, sooner or later we all need to learn it. The lesson hurts, but I thank God for it. In the end, He's the only One I'm out to please.