Beyond Stateliest Marble by Douglas Wilson — Book Review

This book is part of the Leaders In Action series edited by George Grant.  The series was recommended in one of the Fanning the Flame CD’s our team listened to recently.  The idea is that leaders should seek out historical and Biblical leaders they can emulate.  I chose this particular book because it is the only one in the series whose subject is a woman.

Anne Bradstreet was a wife, mother, devout Puritan and also a poet.  She, her husband and other members of her family came from England to American in 1630 and eventually settled in Boston.  Both her father, Thomas Dudley, and her husband, Simon Bradstreet served as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The author goes to great pains to show us that the Puritans were not dull, dour or uneducated, and that Anne, as an intellectually curious, passionate and winsome woman was not out of place in their midst.  Her world view was completely Christian and orthodox (in her case, Calvinistic).   Her poems dealt with her own everyday concerns such as family, household possessions, deliverance from illness, and the struggles that come with the death of loved ones.  She considered everything that was happening to her in light of Biblical teaching.  She questioned, but never challenged God.

“Like all Christians, she (Anne) had to strive in her faithfulness to God …. she was a Christian growing in the midst of trials.”

Cotton Mather called her poetry “a Monument for her Memory beyond the stateliest marbles.”  She was the first American poetess before Emily Dickinson, and unlike Dickinson, she wrote while in the midst of a full and rich family life.  However, biographer Elizabeth White says:

“It is as a human being,…. that she can still appeal to us over the centuries.  She had a firm and lively character, avid for knowledge, generous in affection and admiration, with a quiet but perceptive humor….”

Anne is certainly worthy of admiration and imitation.  She was a woman of her time, and she lived in her time and her station with joy.  Isn’t that what we all want to do?  Her personality comes through in her poetry and in the way she conducted her life and influenced others in her family and community.  I would recommend this book as a means of learning more about Anne and the early Puritans.  Verdict:  4 stars — I enjoyed it, but it may be too much of an English major moment for some readers!

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Call Upon the Lord

I posted earlier this month about Job, and how in his distress, he showed faith by continuing a dialogue with God.  Today I’m reading the 22rd Chapter of 2 Samuel, to prepare for our Bible study later today.  These verses are almost identical to Psalm 18, and constitute David’s song of praise to God, who had delivered him from all of his enemies.  Like Job, David  “called upon the Lord” in his troubles, and God answered him.  Not surprisingly, this Psalm has been adapted in modern times, as well, by  Michael O’Shields.  O’ Shields was a young minister travelling in Oklahoma and Texas in the 1970s. He often struggled to make ends meet, and so he was calling upon the Lord for very tangible, everyday needs when he wrote “I Will Call Upon the Lord”.  Remember these words of David in your  own times of tribulation.  Never hesitate to call on Him.

Anne Bradstreet –Faith and Tribulation

I’m currently reading a biography of the Puritan poet, Anne Bradstreet, and I’ll review it in a later post.  However, I came across this poem which eloquently describes Anne’s faith and fortitude during a time of suffering — the burning of her home.  It’s one of my English major moments, but I hope our readers will enjoy it and be inspired by Anne, both as a woman and a Christian.

Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666

Here Follows Some Verses Upon the Burning
of Our house, July 10th. 1666. Copied Out of
a Loose Paper.
In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I wakened was with thund’ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of “fire” and “fire,”
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spy,
And to my God my heart did cry
To straighten me in my Distress
And not to leave me succourless.
Then, coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look,
I blest His name that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just.
It was his own, it was not mine,
Far be it that I should repine;
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the ruins oft I past
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sate and long did lie.
Here stood that trunk, and there that chest,
There lay that store I counted best.
My pleasant things in ashes lie
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy Table eat a bit.
No pleasant talk shall ‘ere be told
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle e’er shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom‘s voice e’er heard shall be.
In silence ever shalt thou lie,
Adieu, Adieu, all’s vanity.
Then straight I ‘gin my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mould’ring dust?
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast a house on high erect
Frameed by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent though this be fled.
It‘s purchased and paid for too
By Him who hath enough to do.
A price so vast as is unknown,
Yet by His gift is made thine own;
There‘s wealth enough, I need no more,
Farewell, my pelf, farewell, my store.
The world no longer let me love,
My hope and treasure lies above.

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!”
Lamentations 3:22-24

The author of this well-known hymn, Thomas Chisolm, did not experience any major tragedies in his life.  He simply wanted to recognize and remark upon the faithfulness of God in ordinary, daily life.  It’s a good reminder that even when our faith falters, His faithfulness doesn’t.

Afraid of all the Things by Scarlet Hiltibidal–Book Review

Scarlet Hiltibidal and I have a lot in common;  she likes to write;  her favorite yogurt is Chobani almond coco loco;  and she’s afraid of many things.  As a child, she kept a journal of all the things that scared her– everything from firenadoes (yes, there is such a thing), plane crashes, drive-by shootings and not getting enough sleep.  As an adult, she recognizes that sometimes we anxious folks need medical intervention — the brain is part of our body, and a problem with it can’t always be overcome by positive thinking, anymore than thinking good thoughts will cure a stomach ache.  However, as Christians, we do have some important tools to help us work through our worry issues.  In other words through, our faith we gain the fortitude to cope with anxiety.

Afraid of All the Things

  • Sometimes we anxious people try to fake it.  We put on a façade of control.  Here’s what Scarlet says about that:

“If your identity revolves around a job, or a person, or what your body looks like, or anything other than Jesus, you will continue to live burdened;  and you will ultimately compound your fear.”

In other words, we don’t have to pretend;  we can rest in our true worth as children of God.

  • Anxious minds are distracted minds;  they wander everywhere imagining all sorts of tragic scenarios;  most of all they focus on the self.  To combat this, we need to become single-minded, focusing on God and His word.

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, think on these things…” Philippians 4:8

Memorizing scripture and repeating comforting verses in times of stress will calm our fears.

  • We can learn to accept help from other Christians.

“It’s scary out there.  We can’t do it without each other.  And the gifts that come from learning to lean on one another are priceless.”

 

  • Finally, when anxiety strikes, we can remember that fear has already been defeated.

“The work of Jesus on the cross has ALREADY saved us and WILL save us forever.”

Nothing that happens to us can affect our ultimate destiny.  Our sins, our fears, even our death will not last forever.

Verdict:  I’ve read many resources on anxiety, and I didn’t learn anything new from this one.  It was a bit repetitive.  However, Hiltibidal keeps the reader engaged with her personal examples and her Christian perspective is spot on.  I give it 4 stars.  If you would like to order this book, follow the link below:

https://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/afraid-of-all-the-things-3/

 

 

Family Faith, Part 2

This continues my post from yesterday about passing on the faith.

I also noticed how children pick up on the special sacredness of the sacraments.. My girls would crane their necks and smile when a baby was baptized.  Then they might ask about their own baptism; one little boy at our current church, stands up straight and tall, like a little soldier, as the Pastor blesses him during the Lord’s Supper.  He’s proud to be one of Gods’ people.

Do you think children aren’t paying attention during the service?  They are.  Here are just a few of the questions my daughters and granddaughter asked me over the years:

Why is one of the advent candles pink?

What is a diadem?

What is that big candle (the Christ candle) and why don’t we light it all the time?

Why does the Pastor turn his back on the congregation while we pray?

And finally (hilariously) ….Why does granddaddy, (the Pastor), need all that money?

These are important, teachable moments, which I cherished and used to initiate discussions about what we believe and why we do the things we do.

Of course, there are many traditions that take place outside of the sanctuary.  Through these my children learned that the household of God is just like any other family. They got together to have fun and learn (Vacation Bible School), eat (Lenten soup dinners), make some money  (annual yard sale), decorate (especially the big Christmas tree!), play games (New Year’s Eve party), take a turn at cleaning the church (not a big favorite) and help others (like the Group Home residents who were members of our congregation).  Memories like these reinforce Christian values.  Little by little they shape our identity.  They influence how we think, what we value and what we do.  Together the separate pieces of congregational life create a beautiful mosaic that depicts the life of Christ in his body, the Church.

So, what can I say? Make the traditions of the church your family traditions.  The foundation you build will last through eternity.