Monday, 29 August 2011

Beauty at Home

Several years ago, I discovered a box full of old, dusty books. I was exploring in my grandmother's garden shed, which was a rare privilege - we rarely visited her, living six hours away. I love old books, and these were made doubly special because Dad and his brothers had read them as boys - they seemed to have so many memories attached! One book in particular captured my interest, a musty-smelling hard cover with Dad's name written inside. It had the most beautiful black-and-white drawings inside - so beautiful that I took the book off the shelf again today, and looked at my favourite one:

Somehow, I'm always encouraged by this picture. Perhaps it's because I know the story behind it :). The girl you see baking is called Merry, and her nature suited her name well. However, she had one sadness. She loved things around her to look beautiful, but her family did not share this love. They were practical, hard-working people, who used their spare time to rest, eat, and enjoy the fire - not to pretty things up! What was the use of that?

So for a time, Merry was quite discouraged at home. Then one day, a motherly lady spoke a few words of counsel. How a young woman could add real beauty to her home with a countenance and attitude of joy, helpfulness and industriousness - or how a young woman, much as she loved beauty, could take still more beauty away from her home with a sour, ungrateful, discontented spirit. Merry went home, resolved to heed the woman's advice and value real beauty. It was not easy - living in a family that worked from sunup to sundown, she often sighed over the menial, hard, and unbeautifully practical tasks of each day, and instead longed to be tending flowers, or doing pretty embroidery. But in the picture above, the fruits of her labour are evident. With a joyful attitude, she has obviously had the time to do both her tasks and make the kitchen more beautiful! The prettily frilled curtains, apron and cap - even the plants on the window sill - are testimony of this. But most especially - Merry herself looks joyful, industrious and contented!

This story is so simple, yet it encourages me. It reminds me especially of the Proverbs 31 woman. She is industrious: "She... eateth not the bread of idleness". She is cheerful and contented in her role: "she worketh willingly with her hands". She was also virtuous and joyful! "Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come." She is also contented, because (in my experience :)) discontentment manifests itself in peevishness and a sour attitude: "She openeth her mouth in wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness." I love to be reminded of this, because I believe the home is the Lord's mission-field, ministry, and calling for me! In my own strength, I cannot strive to be industrious, joyful and contented. I cannot produce the 'fruit of the Spirit' myself, because it is His fruit - but I can abide in the Lord Jesus, and seek His righteousness today, so that it is not I, but Christ, that liveth. I'm looking forward to the coming day, because Christ Jesus LIVETH!!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Light

It is a dreadfully helpless feeling to be without light. Several nights ago, the boys and I were awakened by Mum's voice, saying "Wake up - there's no power, and the chickens are in trouble. We'll have to ventilate the sheds by hand." Now we weren't talking about a handful of chickens here... over 350,000 little lives were at stake. No power - so no light, temperature regulation, or feed from the silos. There was also another issue: we had no power at home. No light! To make matters worse, it was the blackest time of night, it was raining, and it was cold. In thought as well as in fact, it was a black prospect. The thought of groping around outside, in the dark, cold, and rain, opening up smelly sheds... it was a bleak thought! But worst of all, overshadowing all things, was the helplessness of being in the dark. How truly incapable and helpless we are, when without light! It seems impossible to take a step forward in any way. Little Guy volunteered to find a lantern. So after a few minutes of stumbling, tripping and groping, he secured some light. It made the world of difference to see what we were doing! And just as he found the light, Mum returned to say that power was restored, and we had light again... and the chickens had light, heat and food, and would do just fine without our help. I felt so thankful to the Lord.

Yet, that memory has remained over the last couple of days... the impression of what a helpless feeling it was to be in the dark. Nowadays we are so well equipped - almost every need of daily life is met. This is convenient - but is it truly beneficial? Physically, yes... but spiritually? When we have almost every means at hand to be 'in control', how tempting it is to forget or at least make light of the fact that we live today, by the Grace and Mercy of the Lord. Usually when I wake in the middle of the night and reach for the light switch, I don't even think about what a blessing it is to have light... until it is temporarily taken away. But during that night He reminded me that we live and are sustained only by His mercy. "His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning." "Praise the Lord!".

The Lord also reminded me that He is the Light "The Lord is my Light and my Salvation". In the dark, we stumble around helplessly and hopelessly... hopelessly because we simply can't lift ourselves from this state... and we are all in this place of darkness before He brings us into the Light through the cleansing of the precious, redeeming blood of Jesus. We couldn't really 'move on' until the power came back on that night - and we had no control over that! We can't "walk in the Light, as He is in the Light" without Him reaching down, in His infinite Grace and Love, and 'turning on the power' for us. And He has 'turned it on'! He stumbled through the darkness for us... a darkness we cannot comprehend. And He found the switch and turned it on... He is the Lamp. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. A Lamp unto our feet, and a Light unto our path. (I hope this all this makes sense, and ties together somehow :)

Praise the Name of Jesus! He is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all. May we remember His great mercies today, and seek to walk in the Light! And above all, to sing praises to He Who is most worthy of all praise, making melody in our hearts to the Lord.

Love,

Maddy


Friday, 19 August 2011

In the Home

A family vision for the Lord, serving Him together from the home, is a challenging mission. I came across these quotes about the home today, and was greatly encouraged by them. I pray that you are, too!

Secrets of Happy Home Life

(J. R. Miller, "Secrets of Happy Home Life")

Home is among the holiest of words.

A true home is one of the most sacred of places.

It is a sanctuary into which men flee from the
world's perils and alarms. It is a resting place to
which at close of day the weary retire to gather
new strength for the battle and toils of tomorrow.
It is the place . . .
where love learns its lessons;
where life is schooled into discipline and strength;
where character is molded.

What are some of the secrets of happy home life?

The answer might be given in one word: Christ.

Christ at the marriage altar;
Christ on the bridal journey;
Christ when the new home is set up;
Christ when the baby is born;
Christ when a child dies;
Christ in the pinching times;
Christ in the days of plenty;
Christ in the nursery, in the kitchen, in the parlor;
Christ in the toil and in the rest;
Christ along all the years.

Christ is the secret of happy home life!

~

Home trials

(J. C. Ryle, "Without Clouds")

What careful reader of the Bible can fail to see
that Adam, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac,
and Jacob, and Joseph, and Moses, and Samuel
--were all men of many sorrows--and that those
sorrows chiefly arose out of their own homes!

The plain truth is, that home trials are one of
the many means by which God sanctifies and
purifies His believing people.

These trials are spiritual medicines, which
poor fallen human nature absolutely needs.

By them He keeps us humble.

By them He draws us to Himself.

By them He sends us to our Bibles.

By them He teaches us to pray.

By them He shows us our need of Christ.

By them He weans us from the world.

By them He prepares us for "a city which
has foundations," in which there will be
no disappointments, no tears, and no sin.

The believer looks forward to the final
gathering of a perfect family in which
there shall be . . .
no unsound members,
no defects,
no sin,
no sorrow,
no deaths,
no tears.

~

May we look to the Lord Jesus today, keeping our eyes fixed on Him and running the race with endurance. Seeking and submitting to the refining, renewing, and regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. And remembering that our one hope of overcoming in the home mission field... lies in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

An Epoch in the Life of a Cat

The arrival of two red kelpie puppies has not been a dramatic change for us, but for the three cats, it is proving to be a dramatic, ground-breaking upheaval :)



Over the last 12 hours since the puppies' arrival, Violet, Nessie and Rosie have abstained from food and drink, jumped at the sight of any moving thing, and slunk around like dark shadows. Their change of behaviour (and appearance, as you can see), has been remarkable! Their extreme vigilance in avoiding 'the enemy' is remarkable. It reminded me of the importance of vigilance in my own life: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith..." (2 Pet 5:8).

If a cat is on full-alert to face the approach of its enemy at all times, how much more important it must be, for us to be vigilant and watchful! "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).

Through watching the hawk-eyed cats over the last day, the Lord also reminded me that I don't need to (that in fact, I can't!) fight this great battle alone, but can instead be vigilant to see the enemy's approach and look to Him. May we, in soberness and vigilance, look to Him today... and plead the precious blood of Jesus over us and our households in the hour of great spiritual attack. Praise Him, the battle belongs to the Lord! "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13).


Monday, 15 August 2011

Filthy Cups

A milk-bucket bug is no fun. It arrives uninvited and stays overtime. Last year, we had no idea what a bucket bug was until the bacteria had made itself right at home. By that time, we had a real problem on our hands. It started with a smell. We were sitting at the dinner table, raising steaming cups of tea (with milk) to our lips, when Mum and I simultaneously halted in midair as the steaming smell hit our noses. Unsure as to the origins of the smell, we went ahead and sipped... and hastily put our cups back down (Dad has black tea, so he was spared :). The next step was to smell the jug of milk: again, we hastily put it away from our noses. Then ensued the hunt of trying to find the source of the smell. Was it the straining cloth? The milk containers? The milk bucket? Wasn't I cleaning the bucket properly? Was it something the cow was eating? And so the questions went on. Eventually, we decided that the milk bucket was the bacteria source. I was amazed, because every day I did the proper sterilisation process - the cold rinse, the detergent scrub, the hot rinse, and a day in the sun. What bacteria could survive such a cleansing process? But obviously, it could and was surviving, and thriving. In the event of such a germ crisis (the milk was no longer drinkable, and no amount of scrubbing and cleansing was helping), we had to take action. We debated on what to use, and finally settled on simple old bicarb soda. And after a week or so of consistent, diligent bicarb soda rinses, the milk was pronounced taste-free.

Well... last week, after many months of beautiful-tasting milk, the smell and taste came back... much to our horror. We weren't looking forward to the whole sterilisation process :). Back out came the trusty bicarb soda.

Through this experience which was twice repeated, something struck me. All my diligent scrubbing with detergent, hot water, and cold water couldn't thwart the bug. Yet the simplest, quickest rinse of bicarb soda and water, was enough to thoroughly kill it. Simple though this is, it got me thinking :). About our state before the Lord.

In Roy Hession's book 'The Calvary Road', the human heart is compared to a cup. Jesus passes by, and if that cup is clean, He can fill it to overflowing with the Water of Life. The problem is that in our fallen state, that cup is full of filthy sin. We see that filth, and what do we try to do? Like I tried to scrub away the bacteria from the milk bucket, we try to clean up that sin ourselves. To be 'good people', worthy of the Water of Life, who can scrub away that sin by attempting to change our ways

. But just as my scrubbing did nothing, our cup-cleaning works to no avail. The bug persists, and so does the filth in our cups. But if we ask Him to show us the filth in our cups, and give it to Him, He will cleanse those cups in His precious blood. The bicarb soda killed the germ without any of my scrubbing. Just so, the precious blood of Jesus ALONE washes our cups clean from sin, by His sacrifice - not by any efforts of ours to scrub.

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5)

May we beseech the Lord Jesus to show us the filth in our cups today, and cleanse them by His precious blood, and fill them with His Living Water!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Pausing

In the daily busyness of life, I so easily forget to... pause. Recently, and today especially, the Lord is convicting me of how vital it is to take this pause each and every day. Even during a simple car trip with my Dad and Grandpa this morning, He opened my eyes to the beautiful things I miss and fail to see, when my thoughts are consumed with the next task or pleasure.

A church billboard, containing the words "A day that is hemmed with prayer, is less liable to unravel".

A fleeting but beautiful picture of an elderly lady standing on the veranda of her cottage, gazing at a garden of blooming flowers.

My precious family, sinners, but sinners saved by an amazing Grace, our precious Saviour Jesus Christ, Who is breaking, moulding, using and filling them, through His great mercy.


Four brothers and a little sister, who are in the hands of the Lord, and who bring such joy to every day.



The Lord's beautiful handiwork
















But best and most important of all, is to pause and consider our Lord Jesus.

"Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." Ps 46:10

"... Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will shew to you to day." Ex 14:13.

To day!

In pausing, standing still, seeing... He has so much to show us. There are so many "beholds" in the Bible - "beholds" addressed to His people who seek Him earnestly, and wait upon Him. These are just a few:

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29)

"Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing." (John 20:27)

"Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already with harvest." (John 4:35)

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matt 10:16)

Through the grace of God, may we pause and see His Salvation early!

"And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word" (Luke 10:39).











Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Birth

New life is an amazing gift... one of God's miracles. A couple of weeks ago, Lotus the cow gave birth to a little bull calf, Herbert. I missed his arrival, not discovering him until he was 24 hours old. This brought back memories of Lotus's previous birth, early last year - one that I was blessed to see from start to finish. It was a special memory... one that we captured on camera.

There was great excitement when her waters broke, and out came the fluid (I'm sorry if some of these photos are pretty graphic... they aren't exactly delicate views... but they are pretty amazing!)



Lotus was in calf to a big-framed charolais bull, so Dad was concerned that she would have a hard birth... which she did. We were so glad that it happened during the day, when we could help out. She struggled for quite a while - and then something appeared...



Lotus seemed glad of the help. She was in too much pain to protest, anyway!


And then... out came little Fergus. He needed a good rub. After the hard delivery, it took a while to get him breathing well - as the yellowy-blue hooves testify.


Concerned Mummy, utterly self-forgetful, is instantly on the alert to protect her baby!


As we stepped away, things returned to a semblance of calm and peaceful normality, beautiful to behold.


The good once-over lick


A beautiful caress


The birth of a little creature like this is such a miraculous gift.

How much more precious is the natural birth of a baby!

And how much more amazing and special than this, is a spiritual birth in Christ Jesus! It is the most precious of miracles, a cause for the greatest of rejoicing and thanksgiving to our Lord and Saviour, "being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Pet 1:23).

We were born into a state of the most hopeless death, "as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12). But thank the Lord that we don't have to be forever condemned to this state of death and sin, because our hope lies in the Lord Jesus!

"Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection" (Romans 6:4-5).

Our precious Lord Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man can come unto the Father, but by me" (Jn 14:6).

How blessed it is to hear His invitation, "And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely" (Rev 22:17).

It is so good to remember the preciousness of new life in Christ; for it is the greatest gift we shall ever receive. It reminds me to ask, though: Am I abiding in Christ? Is He the life that flows through me - my joy, my righteousness, my strength? I pray, for you and for me, that He will teach us to abide in Him more every day, and lead us to Calvary where we will see our need for Him. For without Him, we can do nothing. He is our Redeemer, our Saviour, our Friend. Praise Him!