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Devotional Literature

Books.Coffee MugAs a young teen, I was introduced to the habit of reading a daily devotional book. I still recall how vividly God spoke to me through those “two listeners” in God Calling. Through the years I’ve found that when placed alongside Bible reading and prayer, devotional literature is valuable to my Christian growth.

            My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers is a devotional classic. On day one the author invites the reader to make an unreserved commitment: “I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and for Him alone.” Page after page, Chambers answers the staggering question, “Can a sinner be turned into a saint?”

Thumbing through the pages of Morning by Morning by C. H. Spurgeon, I remember personal events. The year I read this book we cared for my husband’s mother who was dying with cancer; our first grandchild was born; and my father died. Beyond these personal ties, I value this book because Spurgeon exalts Christ, intertwines Scripture and hymnody, and highlights creation.

Twice I have read Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. Because she compiled this volume during the six years she nursed her sick husband, the lessons speak to the hurting, the persecuted, the doubting. Her theme is assurance, confidence in God who works in all things for the believer’s good.

Although I’ve read other books by E. Stanley Jones, I prize The Way to Power and Poise. His central theme is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, a relationship that produces a Spirit-controlled life.

Hannah Whitall Smith is best known for her book The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. In God is Enough, editors Melvin and Hallie Dieter have compiled daily readings from nine of Smith’s books. Through the heartache and sorrow in her life, she affirms God’s sufficiency.

In my view, you cannot find a better resource on prayer than The Meaning of Prayer by Harry Emerson Fosdick. The chapter on “Prayer as Dominant Desire” made me examine my motives: Did I truly want what I prayed for? Or more exacting: Did I pray for what I wanted?

A few years ago I discovered Disciplines for the Inner Life by Bob and Michael Benson, father and son. The format includes prayers, Scripture, hymns, and excerpts from a broad base of Christian writers. In each week’s topic, I’ve found new truth to pierce my self-righteousness. Keeping a spiritual journal helped root the lessons.

Each New Day by Corrie ten Boom has tied together truths of experience and Scripture. One year I selected Diamonds in the Dust by Joni Eareckson Tada. Through her struggles to accept her disability she has found in Scripture many “diamonds” which have made her “rich in faith and wealthy in hope.”

I’ve introduced you to my favorites. This year I’ll complete The Bard and the Bible by Bob Hostetler. I’ve enjoyed his writing style, seasoned with humor, as he connected Shakespeare’s works with the KJV Bible. I’ve already purchased what I’ll use for 2020: another book compiled by Hostetler, Take Time to Be Holy, a collection of writings from Samuel Logan Brengle, renowned commissioner of The Salvation Army. Now choose for yourself a devotional guide to read on a daily basis by matching the book to your personal, present-day need. God will speak to you through His saints.

Distribution of Goods

Vanitas.HB

In the garage, it looks like we’re back to when we moved into our home over two years ago, for we’re again in the process of distributing goods. A few weeks ago Paul’s mother moved out of her house of 45 years in Blooming, Illinois, and into an apartment. Of course, that meant she did not have room for all her possessions. Much of it came our way.

We have lots of good stuff in the garage and more in a rental storage unit. Of these Becky sent photos to family members. Then some of the grandkids chose some of the furniture, and one granddaughter picked out items for her vintage clothing business.

Distribution of goods is also a term used by publishers. After a book is printed, publishers often use a distribution center to send out the books to various bookstores, including the internet warehouses. Both author and publisher depend on this process to get the product to buyers.

I like that stuff is distributed by the term “goods.” My aunt owned a dry goods shop, and I put to good use all the fabric and notions I bought. We have good stuff – most of the time. Whether as books, furniture, clothing, dishes, or family heirlooms, it’s good. And there’s no fault in getting and keeping good stuff. Life includes our goods.

Learn Contentment

Christ.Life

Saturday morning Bill and I attended a session of Fresh-grounded Faith to hear Jennifer Rothschild. Bill was probably one of a half-dozen men among hundreds of women, but he was not concerned. He’d told me when I invited him to join me that it might be fun.

Jennifer spoke of her need for contentment, and I connected with that need. However, I didn’t hear how to develop that character trait. So Sunday afternoon I did a brief study of Bible verses related to contentment. I first found that “the righteous eat to their hearts’ content” (Prov. 13:25a), and I concluded that provision is made to delight the hearts of the righteous.

Paul in his letter to the Philippian church gave testimony: “I have learned to be content [how did he learn?] whatever the circumstances” [that’s an added advantage] . . . . He expanded that: “I have learned the secret [oh, it’s not obvious] of being content in any and every situation” [there’s that seemingly impossible expansion again] . . . . And he concluded: “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:11, 12, 13). There’s the can-do and reasonable resource.

Contentment is a learned process and the situation doesn’t matter, for the strength to obtain this comes from the Lord. I need to learn Paul’s secret. “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Tim. 4:8). It takes little to be satisfied with the good way of life. I can transfer that satisfaction about earthly possessions to being content about our present situation – responding well to Bill’s dementia. I have recently found victory as I change my tone of voice addressing Bill as if I’m responding to Jesus.

An added advantage: “Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5). I turn my trust onto God, not fearing how life’s been dished out – mental or physical disabilities. God is always with us. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). Contentment goes along with godliness. To gain one I must have the other. It’s a matter of being Christ-like, centering my affections on Jesus.

Sermon Titles

WGC.entryMore than putting something in the bulletin, Bill put thought in his sermon titles as he developed the sermon outline. Thumbing through his sermon notebooks to find references for quotes on the subject of the church, I noticed some unique titles. It was like being in a pew at WGC again. A friend has mentioned one title and sermon as her favorite: “The Man Behind the Shadows,” a Christmas message on Joseph. In that series Bill also preached on “The Irreverence of His Coming.” For Pentecost Sunday, Bill gave teaching on the Holy Spirit: “Putting a Face with the Name” (Acts 19:2), along with “Not Home Alone” from John 14. I like the sermon title “After Easter, What?” and a similar one, “Monday’s Coming.”

Note these titles with Scripture references:

Living East of Eden – Galatians 5:19-21; There’s a Hole in the Bucket – Romans 3:9-25; Hitting the Window (started with a military illustration) – Matthew 7:13-14; Testing the Teachers – Matthew 7:15-20; Dare to Be Average – 1Timothy 1:12-17; What Pulls Your String? – Romans 7:13-20; Let’s Have a Party! (for Easter) – 1 Corinthians 5:8; and Warm Fuzzies and Cold Reality – Romans 6:1-14 and Amos 5:14-24.

During Sunday school recently one member said he had not heard a sermon on the book of Ezra. I spoke up: Bill preached a series on Ezra and Nehemiah and you can hear it on Sermon Cloud. That series had the title: “Where Do You Go from Failure?”

For Philemon, an interesting choice for a series, Bill gave the title “Ripples of Real Faith.” He said: thank God for people who make waves. Do you have a faith that makes waves, or at least causes ripples? One sermon in the series asked: What if the story played out differently? 1) Onesimus refuses to return, 2) Philemon refuses to forgive, 3) Onesimus cannot forgive himself, and 4) Onesimus repents but doesn’t change. To these he gave present-day applications. Bill closed with: Facing facts does not mean forfeiting love.

Do’s and Don’ts

Acorn Figure in Tree.MLeeIn the last several years, especially since my 80th birthday, the don’ts in my life have increased, but there are still a good number of do’s. The big one is I don’t drive on Interstates now. That’s limited how far I drive, but I do get around the southeast part of Indianapolis and Greenwood fairly well. One addition to that, but not new to me, is that I do get lost on occasion, probably not paying attention to the directions given me when I venture into new territory. Not doing Interstates means I find new (yet longer) ways to get somewhere, such as to a movie theater. So when Becky or Paul give me directions, they know my limitations. When we had to see a doctor on the north side, Becky drove. Now that doctor is not in our loop. All other doctors are on the south side and therefore, no problem.

We do have more doctors’ visits, mainly because of specialists. We do see a primary care physician, but also a neurologist, urologist, eye doctor, back doctor, and dentist. We did visit a podiatrist but found out that the insurance will not cover what we wanted. Okay by me that we don’t add another doctor. For medical questions, we do have our daughter, RN. We’re blessed.

I do fewer chores: laundry is done on Fridays and cleaning our East Wing apartment happens most Saturdays. I don’t prepare the evening meals, except on Thursdays when Becky bakes at the church. Bill is the self-appointed dishwasher for all meals, but I do help with drying dishes for he doesn’t know how nor likes to stack them in the drain rack. Since Bill gets his own breakfast, I eat at my desk while reading. Bill lets me know when it’s noon and asks for lunch, but I try to put him off until 12:30 and then we do lunch together. He likes to go out to eat (lunch or supper), but we don’t do that often.

As to daily routine I do have freedom to choose what I do when and for how long. Most mornings I read and most afternoons I write. Evenings we watch TV or movies, and Bill wants me by his side. Occasionally I do go back to my computer to finish what I’d begun, but I don’t want to infringe on our together time. It’s important to Bill.

Gleaning Bill’s Seminar Notes

Books.Old

These notes show the vast resources Bill used while holding seminars, generally for pastors.

Shaped by the Word:

> Studying the Word > Information (history & theology)

> Interacting with the Word > Formation (personal involvement)

Defining Faith:

“The holding of reasonable convictions beyond the possibility of final demonstration and the casting out on one’s life on those convictions as though they are true” (Harry Emerson Fosdick).

“No man really believes so long as he can help believing. True belief is always belief that is under the constraint of the Object” (John Baillie).

“Faith affects much of what we do: It determines the measure of the strength of the will; and accounts for a great deal of our energy and perseverance” (Thomas Upham, Life in Faith).

“Only the practice of faith, resulting in the habit of faith will gradually defeat the ‘fifth columnist of the soul,’ doubt” (C.S. Lewis, “Religion: Reality or Substitute”).

“It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it? . . . Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief” (C.S. Lewis).

“Only those who believe obey; only those who obey believe” (WBC).

“If our Christianity has ceased to be serious about discipleship, if we have watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fails to distinguish between natural and Christian existence, then we cannot help regarding the cross as an ordinary everyday calamity, as one of the trials and tribulations of life. (The idea of the suffering of the cross) has ceased to be intelligible to a Christianity which can no longer see any difference between an ordinary human life and a life committed to Christ” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship).

“In many cases (the saints) were such ordinary, even unpromising people when they began; for the real saint is neither a special creation nor a spiritual freak. He is just a human being in whom has been fulfilled the great aspiration of St. Augustine: ‘My life shall be a real life, being wholly full of Thee.’ And as that real life, that interior union with God grows, so too does the saints’ self-identification with humanity grow. They do not stand aside wrapped in delightful prayers and feeling pure and agreeable to God. They go right down into the mess; and there, right down in the mess, they are able to radiate God because they possess Him. And that, above all else, is the priestly work that wins and heals souls” (Evelyn Underhill, Concerning the Inner Life).

Decisive battlefield for the issues of life (Fosdick)

> Fight out the purposes of life

> Struggle with the desires of the heart

> Hunger and thirst for righteousness

> Strive for power to see and courage to do God’s will

“Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself” (Susannah Wesley to her son John).

“My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise” (Reepicheep in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis). “May the mouse speak for us all” (WBC).

First Day of Autumn

Autumn Carpet.JD      ~ Autumn Carpet ~

I love autumn, the time of year when changes are evident in colorful array. Even as a child, my siblings and I looked forward to the start of another school year. Our children also loved school. Tommy, as a preschooler, would go to each window and watch as his three older siblings went off to school and then wait expectantly for their return. We would play homeschool (before I knew of such), and every activity, even making the bed, became a school assignment.

At Asbury College where Bill taught, we looked forward to students returning, and they looked younger each year. In church, the programs revved up for the fall. At home a more structured routine kept activities in line, connecting members better. In nature, the colors of autumn always delight us with the changes from green to golden hues.

One autumn while driving through town with two young grandsons, I tried to teach them their colors, calling out the various shades. I asked them to look for the yellow, orange, red, and purple leaves. Wes asked me why I did not say brown. “Brown is a color too,” he taught me.

I love autumn, thankful for God’s wisdom in creation. Autumn is necessary between summer and winter, turning the freshness and heat of one season and preparing for the eventual hibernation and cold of the next. Autumn is the chapter before the last one in the cycle.