Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Systematic Theology for Children

It's been a long time since I've written about books, and I'm so excited to tell you about this new book! One of the elders at my church, Bruce Ware, has written a systematic theology for children, at the request of his 2 daughters, who have sweet memories of their father's bedtime instruction to them. The Wares are dear friends of mine, and knowing their daughters as grown-ups is such an inspiration to bring up children in the fear and admonition of the Lord!

The new book is called Big Truths for Young Hearts, and is set up in short chapters, designed to be read at bedtime or family devotions. It canvasses the broad spectrum of systematic theology in 9 parts: God's Word and God's Own Life as God, God as Three in One, Creator and Ruler of All, Our Human Nature and Our Sin, Who Jesus Is, The Work that Jesus Has Done, The Holy Spirit, Our Great Salvation and The Church of Jesus Christ.

Here is what C.J. Mahaney wrote about this book: "Imagine a respected theologian devoting himself to training a new generation of pastors and scholars in the seminary classroom. Now imagine him driving home at night to teach that profound theology in simple terms to his children at their bedsides. Now imagine this father compiling those bedside conversations into a book available to all pastors, parents, and chidlren alike. Imagine no more. My friend Dr. Bruce Ware has done it."

This Friday at the bookstore where I work, Dr. Ware is coming to read for Story Hour! He's going to read from his book and sign copies (which we will have on sale), and afterward, I'm going to lead the kids in a craft project based on the selection he reads. If you are a reader from the area, please consider coming by with the kids. It will begin at 10:00 am.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Reflections on Mom -- Leaving a Legacy

I'd been wanting to share the reflections on Mom I read at her funeral, and now that it has been one whole month, it seemed like a good time to do so. Some of the following will be a bit repetitive from blogs I've written in the past month or so, but I want you to be able to read my reflections on her. I miss Sue Benzing intensely, and thoughts and memories of her shadow my day, making me smile, and making me cry. If you have time to read it all, here is what I wrote:

My mom was a beautiful woman. I thought it would be fitting for me to reflect on her character qualities today.

First, Mom was fulfilled in her God-given role as a wife and mother. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, she excelled in the home; her family was a top priority to her. This was not only evident in her life and conversation, but also her prayer-life. While looking through her prayer journals, I was struck by the overwhelming amount of space she dedicated to praying for her children. She always LOVED being a mom. She waited for a long time before the Lord gave her children, and she found joy in that role for many many years. We NEVER heard her complain about her kids, or the amount of time she spent with us, every day, as a stay-at-home wife and homeschool mom, we all agreed about that. Mom and I always got along very well, which I know sounds like I’m trying to say I was her favorite, but the truth is, Mom got along well with all her kids. We probably all felt like her favorites. Her kids all remember times spent cooking for a month in anticipation of our littlest sister’s arrival, making “post people” in the basement for craft fairs, cleaning the house from top to bottom every day whenever the house was for sale when we’d move – Mom taught us to work hard together, and to find the pleasure in being together during those times. I once remember Mom telling us when we moved “You will always have your brothers and sisters, they are friends you take with you everywhere.” which was a great lesson for us, and one I’m so glad she specifically stated.

Secondly, Mom was a lifelong learner. She loved reading, a love she passed on to all of her kids. I cannot begin to imagine how many thousands of books she’d read over her lifetime. Mom loved telling me about books she read and enjoyed, and of course, reading out loud to anyone who listened. She was interested in absolutely everything – anything she read an article on, saw a special on, whatever sport Dad happened to watch on tv, NOTHING was boring to her. In fact, I cannot imagine my mom ever being bored, which is actually quite a virtue. I remember when she had her eye surgeries, and she had to sit for hours and hours with her head straight down. Even then, she did not complain or just waste the time away. She listened to every book on tape I brought her, and even read when she had energy. She was also a woman of the Word, who read her Bible every day faithfully for years. One of the things that we have found precious is the journals and notebooks Mom had written in. We found prayers here and there in notebooks, and whole journals just for prayer, and taking notes in church and her devotions. It is humbling to see how much she prayed for her children (and what she prayed, of course, is even more humbling, because you see what she saw that perhaps you did not see back then). My sister Anna read from Mom's Bible at the funeral, and remarked on how much Mom wrote in it, and how special it was to have Mom's thoughts on the Word as a legacy to us. For example, John 14 "Let not your hearts be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." Mom wrote next to this passage -- "To be comforted". What a gift God has given us through Mom's writings, speaking to us still.In her quiet time this year, she wrote in August "I can walk before the Lord in the light of the living until God's plans for me are finished. My life won't end one minute before God wants it to." She had been reading Psalm 56 "In God I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me." What a treasure these words are to my soul!In September she wrote "No matter how things look, God is in control". Writing this to assure her own soul, and speak truth to her own heart is priceless. It speaks to my heart now, telling me to trust in God's sovereignty.On the Monday before she had her stroke she wrote "God knows and plans everything."These writings are so sweet to my eyes, and honey to my heart. It is a peek into her very soul, showing the intimacy of her walk with Jesus. What a legacy for us! I hoped by sharing them, you would be encouraged to trust God and be comforted, in whatever affliction you are facing. I also hoped to encourage my sisters in Christ to deepen their walk with the Lord, spending time in His Word every day.

Third, Mom was a happy servant in her church. This was so in all the churches we attended growing up, and most evident, perhaps in her service here at Calvary. Everyone thinks of Mom as the nursery director who loves all the kids, making timid ones adjust, the naughty ones obey, and everybody certain that she was happy to see them. I never met a child my mother couldn’t love. She also was a joyful helper to her friends, making food for special occasions, throwing baby showers, and always always entering into their joy with them. Sometimes we would get frustrated with Mom for spending SO much time and energy making someone’s day special – “Mom, you do NOT have to cater that person’s wedding for FREE. You can LET them pay you!” Mom did not think of herself, though. She was only too happy to bless others. Mom also loved hosting in her home, and no number was too large for her to say yes to. “Teen group progressive dinner? Sure! Open house for Bill’s coworkers? Great! 400 people for Gretchen’s wedding? Not a problem!” She embraced our missionary friends, and loved “adopting” their families for holidays and family occasions. She even loved hosting a whole slew of teenagers, which says a lot for her patience and forbearance as well, but honestly, Mom truly enjoyed their company. I’d like to share a little passage from a book I’ve been rereading by Elisabeth Elliot called “A Path Through Suffering”; I think it illustrates Mom well:

“The maturing dandelion has long ago surrendered its golden petals and has reached its crowning stage of dying. It stands ready, holding up it little life, not knowing when or where or how the wind that bloweth where it listeth may waft it away. It holds itself no longer for its own keeping, only as something to be shared. The delicate seed-globe must break up now; it gives and gives until it has nothing left. Think of those whose lives have had the most significant impact on yours. Are they not men and women who were continuously giving themselves, loving sacrificially, and thereby giving us life? The maturing process in the Christian, as in the dandelion, is for one purpose: the giving of life. It gives and gives until it has nothing left – for itself. But it has given life – to new dandelions. So we in whom Christ dwells are the bearers both of His death and of His life. We are transmitters of life to the world.”

Once my friend Misty and I contemplated the beautiful things my mom owned, displayed around her home. Misty said to me “You know what’s different about these things than most people’s nice things? Your mom doesn’t have these just to display and make her house look nice, she uses them to LOVE people.”

I think a word I could use to summarize Mom’s character would be “selfless”. Whether it was caring for her family, pouring herself out in prayer, embracing strangers (which she would just call “new friends”), serving at church or helping a friend – she did so without a thought of herself, only love and joy for others. She related to the Lord in the same way – without selfish wishes for her own advancement, but only desiring the glory to go to Christ. With that in mind, I want to close by sharing a prayer from Blaise Pascal that I think reflected my mom’s heart toward the Lord. May it be our prayer as well.

“Take from me, O Lord, that self pity which love of myself so readily produces, and from the frustration of not succeeding in the world as I would naturally desire, for these have no regard for your glory. Rather, create in me a sorrow that is conformable to your own. Let my pains rather express the happy condition of my conversion and salvation. Let me no longer wish for health or life, but to spend it and end it for you, with you, and in you. I pray neither for health nor sickness, life nor death. Rather I pray that you will dispose of my health, my sickness, my life and my death as for your glory, for my salvation, for the usefulness to your church and your saints, among whom I hope to be numbered. You alone know what is expedient for me. You are the Sovereign Master. Do whatever pleases you. Give me or take away from me. Conform my will to yours, and grant that with a humble and perfect submission, and in holy confidence, I may dispose myself utterly to you. May I receive the orders of your everlasting, provident care. May I equally adore whatever proceeds from you.”

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

This Good Friday I'm reflecting on the last verse of one of my favorite songs for Easter: "The Power of the Cross" by Keith and Kristyn Getty. We sang it last night at our Maundy Thursday service at Clifton.

"Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love!

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross."

Here is a link to a YouTube video of Kristyn singing the song. Take a moment to listen and reflect on the goodness of Christ and the greatness of His sacrifice. Don't pass by His death on your way to the excitement of Sunday!