Posted on Sunday, July 24, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Feminine Threads, Diana Lynn Severance (Christian Focus, 2011)

There are so many awesome women shared in this book (along with some characters).  I wanted to pass on a bit of wisdom from America’s first English poet, Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672).  Anne and her husband, who was the governor of Massachusetts at this important time, had eight children.  Here is a piece of advice from Anne about raising children with different temperaments:

Diverse children have their different natures; some are like flesh [or meat] which nothing but salt will keep from putrefication; some again like tender fruit that are best preserved with sugar; those parents are wise that can fit their nurture according to their Nature (191).

For the most part I think that’s some pretty wise advice.  However, if you have the good kid that I discussed in another article, you might have to throw some salt on something that appears to be pure sugar. 

The whole quote reminds me of an inside joke my girlfriends and I shared in high school.  Whenever a guy was laying the lines on thick, our code for help was, “get out the salt.”  This was in reference to what happens to a slug when you have a salt shaker.

Posted on Friday, July 22, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

[caption id="attachment_421" align="alignleft" width="256" caption="Turns out other churches have used this one :("][/caption]

The other day, I drove past a horrible church sign.  In big, black letters it read:

BE AN ORGAN DONOR, GIVE JESUS YOUR HEART.

It made me sad.  First of all, organ donors have something good to give to someone in desperate need.  This sign in front of an evangelical church insinuates we are a type of messiah, and that Jesus is the one in need.  Where is this message in God’s word?  As far as our heart is concerned, here is what the Bible says:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it (Jer. 17:9)?

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them.  I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them.  And they shall be my people, and I will be their God (Ezek. 11:19-20).

I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart (Jer. 24:7).

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander (Matt 15:19).

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia…The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.  And after that she was baptized, and her household as well… (Acts 16: 14-15a).

Scripture does tell us to believe in Him with our whole heart, but it also tells us that our hearts are corrupt beyond our own repair.  How can a depraved heart believe in and seek a good God for our righteousness?  Paul says we can’t: “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Rom. 9:10-11).  He explains to the Ephesians that we were “by nature children of wrath…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…through faith.  And it is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (2:3b-9).

God’s not in need.  We so desperately are.  “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom: 6:17-18).

I believe this church sign is a result of a misunderstanding between free agency and free will.  Sure, we are free to choose according to our strongest desire.  The problem is, until God in his rich mercy changes our hearts of stone, we do not choose The Righteous One; we choose to glorify ourselves (slaves to sin, children of wrath).  We love to think that we have a free will.  We have free agency.  Our wills are in bondage to sin, until they are made right.  Jesus explained to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3b, emphasis mine).  How can we choose his kingdom if we cannot even see it?  He explains, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where is comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (3:8).  Then it should be no surprise when the words of our Lord in John reveal “You did not choose me but I chose you…” (15:16a).

Freedom isn’t much of a liberty if we are slaves to our sinful desires.  And our deceitful hearts aren’t much of an offering to a holy God.  A sign trying to call unbelievers to faith would do better by inviting them in to hear the preached word.  This is the means that God has given us by which he creates a new heart of faith within us (Rom. 10:14-17).

Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Modern Reformation magazine/ July/August 2011

So I received my last free copy of Modern Reformation since they published my essay last fall.  Sigh.  It was like getting a major reward in the mailbox every other month.  Ralphie’s dad thought his leg lamp was special…

Anyway, I was joyfully surprised to find in my major award an excerpt from the late Dorothy Sayers’ (1893-1957) essay, “Creed or Chaos?,” from her book, Letters to a Diminished Church (2004).  The very first paragraph is the whole reason I’m a housewife theologian:

It is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology.  It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters enormously.  It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe.  It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism.  And it is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it.  The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ.

If we profess to be Christian, then we need to actually know the One whose name we’ve taken.  As Schaeffer said, He is there and He is not silent.   That’s why the whole “deeds without creeds” mentality makes no sense.  Your deeds are based on your creeds.  You act based on who you are, and what you believe.  Christianity is not synonymous with morality.  We are all under the Great Commandment to love God with all of our minds, hearts, and souls; and our neighbor as ourselves.  However, Christianity gives us the only man who ever fulfilled this commandment, so that we will not be condemned.  He also happens to be the Son of God, and in him we are given new life, not just a morally improved one.  Being made into the likeness of Christ, we are now finally free to truly love our neighbor because much grace has been given to us.   

Christians are given the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20).  Jesus tells us something very important about himself in the first sentence: he has been given all authority on earth and in heaven.  That's pretty creedal.  And if we are to disciple and teach, that's creedal as well.  We are told to baptize (with trinitarian doctrine) and He even gives us some important docrine of assurance in his last statement: "and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (v.20b).  So, I would say theology is pretty important.

Posted on Monday, July 18, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I’ve noticed a theme on the radio lately.  There seems to be an obsession with perfection.  And it seems that even superstars are feeling like they can’t live up to this pressure.  Many of our celebrities are showing their own vulnerabilities in this struggle to be perfect.  They are ending up in rehab, reality shows, divorces, scandals, and in a venue that many of us connect through, they are expressing it in their music.  I will discuss just two songs.  One is targeted to a more mature audience, although I imagine it is actually sung loudly by our youth, and one is probably targeted more for the younger crowd. 

First we have Pink.  Her song, Perfect contains lyrics such as:

  • You’re so mean
  • When you talk about yourself, you were wrong
  • Change the voices in your head
  • Make them like you instead…
  • (and the chorus):
  • Oh, pretty pretty please
  • Don’t you ever ever feel
  • Like you’re less than, less than perfect
  • (another chunk):
  • Done looking for the critics, cause they’re everywhere
  • They don’t like my jeans, they don’t get my hair…

This ditty has a great tune to it.  You’ll find yourself belting it out in the car for sure.  But what’s the message?  Is perfection an image?  Is it what you think about yourself?  In her more explicit version, Pink is pretty much saying “F” perfection.  But she’s also saying; don’t think you’re less than perfect.  Can we really all be perfect? 

Next we have Selena Gomez’s, Who Says.  Her father was quoted saying this song goes out to all the haters.  Here are some of her lyrics:

  • You made me insecure
  • Told me I wasn’t good enough…
  • (and )
  • I’m no beauty queen
  • I’m just beautiful me… 
  • Who says you’re not perfect
  • Who says you’re not worth it
  • Who says you’re the only one that’s hurting
  • Trust me
  • That’s the price of beauty
  • Who says you’re not pretty
  • Who says you’re not beautiful…
  • (the bridge)
  • Who says you’re not star potential
  • Who says you’re not presidential
  • Who says you can’t be in movies…

 Here we have perfection held up as a beautiful movie star.  Both songs seem to paint our singers as victims of the haters.  And the haters are anyone standing in the way of your dreams.  These songs strike a chord with us though because they try to encourage their listeners in an area we all struggle: self-esteem.  But is perfection just a state of mind? 

…Fast forward to my pastor’s sermon this week.  It was on the parable in Luke 18:9-14.  You know this one.  The Pharisee goes to the temple to pray, thanking God that he is not like other men.  You know, he’s glad that he’s not a big fat loser like the tax collector beside of him.  His self-confidence was great.  He thought he was perfect in every way.  Conversely, the tax collector can’t even lift his eyes to heaven as he prays for God’s mercy.  He had no confidence in his own righteousness.  Jesus announces that the tax collector went home justified, rather than the Pharisee.

We like to hear this story because we look at all our own haters as the Pharisees.  But I think we so often miss the message.  The above songs promote our worth against “the haters.”  But God gives us our worth in Christ, the great lover.  This God tells us that our own righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), but on account of Christ’s work he will give us a white garment and take us as his bride.  The main message in my pastor's sermon was that how we see ourselves before God reflects how we see ourselves compared to others.  If we see ourselves as righteous enough before God, we will sing with contempt along with Pink and Selena .  Their message is self-congratulatory.  It reflects a flawed understanding of who God is and what he expects.  Yet, these same celebrities contradict themselves with their own exploited cultural perfection as sex symbols in their performances, commercials, videos and photo sessions.

Moving on in Jerry’s sermon; if you realize you’re not righteous (a.k.a. perfect), your prayers will reflect a need for mercy.  God responds by declaring us “just” through the work of his very son, Jesus Christ.  We move from the court room of judgment to the most loving relationship with our Redeemer.  He truly frees us from the bondage of sin.  We are truly accepted.  God doesn’t exploit us for his own entertainment.  He doesn’t care about our jeans or our hair.  He sees us for who we really are and provides our righteous perfection.  Now we too can look at our neighbor with the eyes of grace.  We can finally rest from chasing false perfection.  He makes us beautiful.  The basis of our hope is not empty self-talk, but rather what Michael Horton calls Divine Peosis.

Posted on Saturday, July 16, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Girls Gone Wise, Mary Kassian ( Moody, 2010)

This summer I am doing a mother-daughter book club using this book.  We are about to meet for our second study.  One chapter is on the differing roles of men and women.  This is an interesting subject to discuss with 11 and 12-year-olds.  Kassian spends some time unpacking Genesis 2:18:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

She explains that being created for man doesn’t mean that man can just use women to please himself, but rather that Eve “was created because of him.  His existence led to hers.  It didn’t happen the other way around (129).” This insinuates differences in our roles. Kassian continues,

Being created for someone indicates that God created the female to be a highly relational creature.  In contrast to the male, her identity isn’t based on work nearly as much as on how well she connects in her relationships.  Woman is the relater-responder who is inclined toward connecting with others (130).

What do you think about this explanation of the passage?  How do you consider this amalgamates with what Paul says about wives reflecting the church, and our husband’s mirroring the love of Christ in Eph. 5:22-33?

Posted on Friday, July 15, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

[caption id="attachment_399" align="aligncenter" width="268" caption="Super mom. Super wife. Super woman. Super tired."][/caption]

Women are living in a very strange era.  We’ve rebelled against entrapping traditional stereotypes, and now we are in the aftermath of liberal feminism.  Yet here we are with more choices than ever and even more consternation about our role in society.   Most of us do not want to be identified with Mrs. Cleaver or Hilary Clinton.  Frankly, we want the positive home life and relationships of the Cleavers, but we also recognize our ambition to serve our communities alongside our neighbors.  Striving to find our niche and fulfill our role in both our families and communities, we are growing weary.  This weariness was on my mind as I listened to Tim Keller’s sermon on work and rest.

I believe the latest estimate of a housewife’s worth is about 135 K a year.  Yes, I know, there are so many things wrong with this statement.  But, on the other hand, I think a major struggle for stay-at-home moms is the lack of a pay check.  Hear me out before you judge my greediness or call me a feminist.

I am currently a stay-at-home mom (please don’t make me say homemaker).  I have also worked outside the home earlier in my marriage.  Everyone knows how hard housewives work, and where I am in my own busyness; I admire you mom’s who pull off outside work as well.  You know that when you get off work you are still on the clock at home.  I try to tell the kids that mommy has punched out her time card for the day, but they continue to need me anyway.  We go from short order cook to chauffeur, nurse, fashion consultant, hostess, educator, entertainer, economist, laundry service, housecleaner, conflict manager…moms wear many hats. 

Sometimes we may feel a little jipped that no one noticed our one day feat of cleaning the kitchen seven times, devotions with the kids, entertaining guest, working out, removing gum from hair, washing three loads of laundry, feeding all the neighbors kids, and making dinner with fresh picked ingredients from the garden.  Other jobs offer compensation for time served in the form of a paycheck.  It’s very gratifying.  They also get to be acknowledged for their work in some form of evaluation several times a year.  My only written proof of something I’ve contributed to our family is the amount you saved today typed on my Martin’s receipt.  And I wave it in the air with pride. 

So what do I do?  More.  I do more because I might not be doing enough.  My husband seems to think I’m great, but I have this compelling force inside of me that wants to be better at what I do.  Whether housewives have outside work or not, we all feel compelled to be Superwoman.  I think this is why women on Facebook like to tell us what they’re making for dinner, or that they ran three miles today.  Someone will have to take notice that they made homemade peach cobbler or cleaned the grout in their tile all afternoon.  What a great little resume that can be built on a Facebook profile.  We need to stand out, to get that societal promotion that we rock at this whole pro bono housewife gig.  People may take notice of our stellar contributions.

Keller’s sermon highlights how driven our society is to succeed.  We constantly work for the accomplishment and praise we are seeking.  Many times it is a promotion or some other recognition that will push us ahead.  Hopefully, it will fill us with the meaning and value that we are aiming to receive from our hard labors.  But it doesn’t.  Only Christ can do that.  He is our full satisfaction.  He alone is sufficient.

This lesson may be easier for the housewife.  We can never fully rest from the chores that need to be done, or the kids that need our attention.  We constantly feel like big, fat failures in our attempts to be the perfect wife and mother.  This is particularly when I need to be reminded that God (the only one I need to impress) looks at me, and on the account of Christ, he is utterly satisfied.  I can rest in the work of Christ.  There is no Superwoman ideal that I need to attain.  Now I am liberated to serve him in gratitude, knowing that He is my reward.  Not earning a paycheck and not having specific days off (sigh) may compel me all the more to really evaluate what I think I’m earning for myself.  Then I can realize that I don’t keep the world running, and I can rest in the One who does.

Posted on Sunday, July 10, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I came across a Tim Keller sermon this weekend that’s got me thinking like crazy.  You can listen to it here. **It’s awesome.** I stumbled upon it on Carolyn McCulley’s blog.  The whole theology behind our eternal rest has been an interest of mine lately, so I was eager to hear Keller’s teaching on work and rest.  McCulley outlines the main points for you if you want to check out her article here.  My next few articles are going to be some reflections that have been growing in my head since I took a listen.

We think of rest as taking a well deserved break.  Rest is something we do when we’re tired.  Keller rightly discerns in his sermon that our culture is lacking in proper rest.  Even when we vacation, get extra sleep, and try to incorporate rest into our lives, we find ourselves restless. We just can’t earn proper rest.

The Genesis account of creation tells us that God worked for six days and rested on the seventh.  Did he need a break?  Was God tired?  Of course not.  Keller was so illuminating in this part of his sermon when he explained that this meant God was utterly satisfied in what was done.  That’s true rest.  That’s the eternal rest that we seek.

But we keep falling for the oldest trick in the book.  Adam and Eve were to follow God’s model.  This pointed to what Adam was to earn for his progeny: to sit at the right hand of the Father and rule in true rest. Now there are infralapsarian and supralapsarian theological debates that I am not going to divulge here.  But I do want to affirm that God’s eternal plan was for Jesus Christ to be our sufficiency.  Even when Adam was to earn eternal life by his own righteous obedience, his satisfaction came from God’s work in creation.  The command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has many implications.  One is that Adam was to trust in what God says is ultimately good.  Adam and Eve were not to have that say.  God created man, the heavens, and the earth, and said; It is very good.

Eve, and Adam, lost our rest in God’s work.  Now, we rebel against rest, while at the same time working for it.  We rebel against being utterly satisfied in God’s work for our salvation.  We want to be good on our own.  We want to earn eternal life.  We want to earn our value; our significance.  But Keller explains that only through Jesus Christ can we look at our lives and say it is ultimately satisfying.  Through Christ,
the work is complete.

That’s why the Sabbath has been moved to the first day of the week.  Christ boldly and bluntly said the He was Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:1-11).  He fulfilled its true meaning.  In Christ, God is utterly satisfied with me, apart from my own efforts.  But I need to be constantly reminded because the sin that remains in me wants to trust in my own efforts.  At the beginning of the week, I worship and
hear the gospel preached.

In Revelation we learn of the number of the beast (Rev. 13:16-18).  This number, 666, does seem to be a numerical value for Nero, a dreadful persecutor of believers during the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  But I think by relating it to Nero, John was also pointing to a symbol of the number of man without God in general.  There is no 666 for the Christian.  666 represents man’s constant working without rest.  There is
no rest when you trust in your own efforts.

There remains then a rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:9).  Sunday, the first day of the week, points us to the eternal rest that we will have.  By that, I am liberated to serve during the week, with the proper perspective and knowledge that it is God who is good.  He keeps the world running.  I don’t have to enslave myself by the constant quest for importance and significance.  The only One who I need to impress has already declared me to be good on the count of his Son.  And now, he is working in me through his Spirit.

But just like a baby playing peek-a-boo, I am shocked by this good news every time it is revealed to me.  I find myself constantly with my eyes covered, thinking I’m running the world, and getting stressed out that I can never do enough.  My meaning and value get caught up in my accomplishments.  When God’s face is revealed to me in his gospel every Sunday, I rest in the sufficiency of Christ.  And like that vulnerable baby, I want to say, Do it again!

Posted on Thursday, July 07, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Living in God’s Two Kingdoms, David VanDrunen (Crossway, 2010)

How should I educate my children?  Is there such a thing as Christian politics? Should my church tell me how to vote?  Is it nobler for me to seek Christian employment rather than a secular job?  How can I best serve my community as a Christian?  These are some of the questions addressed in VanDrunen’s Living in God’s Two Kingdoms.  Some are easier to answer than others.

I was very excited to read this book. Christianity and culture has been a passionate topic for me.  Isn’t that something every believer needs to think about—how does my faith affect my daily living?  Well, there is a theology behind that important question.  Many today think it is our duty as Christians to transform the culture for Christ.  While there is both good intent and romantic notions in this cause, VanDrunen points to its dangers.  Those who champion this cause of redeeming culture believe it is part of the Christian’s duty to fulfill the Cultural Mandate (given in Genesis 1).  However, VanDrunen demonstrates how we are not to fulfill the Cultural Mandate’s ultimate goal because Christ already has. We are not second Adams, Christ is, and his work is sufficient to earn the new heavens and the new earth.

The two-kingdoms doctrine teaches how God rules the Spiritual Kingdom (the church) redemptively in Jesus Christ, and rules the Civil Kingdom (the state, and other social institutions) as creator and sustainer. He demonstrates adequately how the Spiritual Kingdom is formally set forth in God’s covenant with Abraham, and the Civil Kingdom is formally established through God’s covenant with Noah.  Therefore, “the kingdom of God proclaimed by the Lord Jesus Christ is not built through politics, commerce, music, or sports.  Redemption does not consist in restoring people to fulfill Adam’s original task, but consists in the  Lord Jesus Christ himself fulfilling Adam’s task once and for all, on our behalf.  Thus redemption is not ‘creation regained’ but ‘re-creation gained” (26).

VanDrunen organizes his thoughts well as he takes the reader through the covenants God has made and how they unfold for us. After the doctrinal teaching, he discusses the authority, responsibilities, and limits of the church, family, educational, vocational,and political institutions at detail. This is a very helpful section by which all Christians will be encouraged in their daily living.  In the end, we can serve our God and love our neighbor with greater confidence and joy in God’s sovereignty.  However, we are made aware of our great responsibility in discernment as we live and worship.

For those of you reading this review feeling unfamiliar with some of the language I’m using, this book is for you.  VanDrunen is a good teacher.  You will be challenged, but won’t drown in a bunch of intellectual speak.  For those of you familiar with this debate already, I highly recommend this book as well. VanDrunen’s tone is well-balanced, not arrogant or sarcastic, but all the while affirming his passion and truth. It is written respectably toward those who hold the opposing view.

With that being said, I did have a few expectations that were unmet in this wonderful read.  I wished he would have wrestled more with para-church organizations in relation to the two-kingdoms.  Instead, he acknowledges the elephant in the chapter and says it will not be discussed in this book.  This makes me wonder if it’s because he doesn’t think his conclusions/opinions would be appealing to most of his readers?  Or maybe the publisher did not want him to address the issue?   Related to this, I wished he would have addressed some thoughts that he has brought up in some conventions regarding the conjunction of Kuyper’s spheres and two-kingdoms.  (Side note: Michael Horton addresses some of these issues well in The Gospel Commission, which I later read.)  Lastly, I would have liked to hear his views of the early and late teachings of Francis Schaeffer, as much of his followers are in the neo-calvinist (opposing) camp. Although I affirm the two kingdoms, I was helped very much through the articulate earlier teachings of Schaeffer.

Posted on Tuesday, July 05, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Last night our family celebrated the Fourth West Virginia style.  Let me explain.

About seven years ago my husband and I, and our two daughters, moved out of our home state.  We had lived in Frederick, Maryland (my hometown) for the first seven years of our marriage.  In search of a bigger yard that we could afford for our family, we moved into the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.  Sure, we had heard the many West Virginia jokes growing up, but hey, Martinsburg is only thirty-one miles from Frederick.  The Panhandle is a bit of a melting pot of its own since its narrow strip boarders both Maryland and Virginia.  After doing our research, it seemed kind of exciting to take the plunge.  Seven years later, I want to share some things I’ve noticed, and connect them with my church’s sermon from Sunday.

Ironically, our neighborhood is named Federal Hill.  That still cracks me up.  I mean really, who are we kidding?  Yet, many of my neighbors have also relocated from Maryland and Virginia.  It is pretty common around here for people to commute to D.C., Rockville, and Frederick.  The natives to this area don’t usually fall into the typical West Virginia stereotypes.  They are well educated, have all their teeth, and keep their front porches clean.  However, I gradually noticed some cultural differences just from my short move.

My first keen observation was West Virginia pride.  It is strong.  I realized that I never really had strong Maryland pride, but now I try to have both.  It seems that no matter where you went to school, everyone around here is a huge WVU fan.  You will see their logo everywhere: on many cars, windows, flags…heck, my son (who technically was born in MD even though we lived here) has a WV room complete with the trademark bedspread, flag on the wall, and, for extra male toughness, camouflage touches.  You live here; you ARE a fan.

The Fourth of July was a difference I learned a little later.  For a while, we were still trekking to Frederick for our usual concert series at the park and fireworks--until we got invited to one of our neighbor’s “picnics.”  West Virginians play a game called corn hole (don’t laugh, well, okay, go ahead).  It is a bean bag toss onto a raised wooden board with a hole.  Of course the ones around our parts are decorated with the trademark WV colors, and the homemade models are way cooler.  Anyway, there’s a serious corn hole tournament on the Fourth.  We draw names and get put into brackets.  The retired Wood Shop teacher next door makes official corn hole trophies that are coveted by all participants.  There is a mini ceremony to present them (yes, they wondered why the ESPN truck was not present).  As the kids swim, we play corn hole, eat ribs, and listen to loud music.

But watch out when it gets dark.

That’s when the crazy WV fun begins.  Fireworks are brought out that were purchased in Chambersburg, PA.  They are the good ones.  They are illegal.  Nobody cares.  Sure enough, grown men find it their duty and greatest pleasure to put on a fireworks display right on their driveway.  I stand amazed at the beauty and intensity, stunned by the pounding boom in my chest, and worried that we all might catch on fire.  As I look around, many surrounding neighbors are doing the same thing.  It’s really quite beautiful and surreal.  I could go on and on, but I need to get to my point.

One of our elders preached a good sermon on 1 Kings 19:1-18.  This is when Elijah was at about the end of his rope.  He was on the run to save his life, and at the same time asking God to take his life.  After his miracles professing the true God and his ministry as a prophet, Elijah felt like he was no more effective than those who went before him.  Mike focused on encouragement as a major application of this text.  In fact, through sleep, strength (food), and a personal encounter, God encouraged Elijah.

During the sermon, I got to thinking about being a Marylander in WV.  I also thought about being a Christian in this world.  Although I’ve been living here for seven years, I still consider myself a Marylander.  Will I ever move back to MD?  Who knows.  But I do know that I am a pilgrim wherever I live.  My true destination is a new heavens and a new earth.  And just like my awesome WV friends, I have some peculiar marks as a Christian.  Christians are stereotyped as uptight and judgmental.  Just like my WV buds, we have to work even harder sometimes to debunk our bad rap sheet.  Are we known for our encouragement?  And is our encouragement in Christ?

In Mike’s Sermon, I was encouraged by Christ, the true prophet who was killed on our behalf.  We are his beloved, to whom he gives strength.  Like Elijah, we are fed by his presence through the Lord’s Supper.  And we wait, we long, for that personal encounter.  Those fireworks reminded me of the strong wind, earthquakes, and fire that preceded God’s encounter with Elijah.  But it was his tender, merciful, small voice that made Elijah aware that he was in the presence of God.  And that is the age in which we now live--the age of God’s grace.  May we continue to encourage each other of this marvelous news.  And like Elijah, be encouraged to continue in our pilgrimage because it is not our work, but Christ’s.  May my West Virginia front porch be one of encouragement.

Posted on Sunday, July 03, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

So I have like three Reading Reflections orbiting around my brain right now.  As I was asking myself which one I wanted to consummate, I had a reflection on reading.  All this talk I’ve done on the rise of ebooks lately got me thinking about the future for reading.  Right now, we have technology moving faster than the publishers can keep up with.  But where is it going?

Much cyber-ink has been spilled about the changes in today’s reader.  With the information age explosion, readers are really becoming skimmers.  There’s just so much to consume.  Many readers spend just seconds on a blog article(are you still with me?).  The attention span is short these days.  There are numerous casualties of this reality.  We have fewer deep thinkers.  Less reflections.  Information has become a commodity.  Adler &  Van Doren must be upset over the lack of syntopical readers.  Are we becoming any wiser or just obese with information?

Two years ago I would have laughably dismissed anyone who suggested blogging to me.  Why are so many people blogging?  Because there are reflectors out there—and they like to blog…and read…and read blogs.  I've already written an article about the invisible audience, which you can read here.  It hit me in my shower today that the future of reading might put the invisible audience right into the book.  If ebooks and the internet marry, would they have bloggie babies? 

We already promote study groups and discussion along with reading these days by incorporating questions at the end of chapters.  What if these became interactive comments?  Anyone reading the same book could have immediate discussion.  Authors will have immediate feedback.

I don’t know if I like where this is going.  Obviously I like blogging.  I even like cyber-discussions.  But I hope we don’t ever dismiss the value of sitting back and letting our book soak in.  Soak into our day, our cup of coffee, our afternoon errands…our night of sleep.  Sometimes (a lot of the time) we need to just chew on our thoughts and our new perspective before commenting, critiquing, and offering our opinions.  That’s the delight of a book club or review.  We have padding, margins in our thought processes that allow them to ripen a bit before offered.  This is the same reason why I try to write a post at least a day before hitting the “publish” button.

And, maybe for another post, how will this affect the way author’s write?

What do you think?