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On Mutual Submission and Unique Roles - From my Reading Corner-

 31.7.12

 When my dear friend Elizabeth mentioned that John Piper's book, This Momentary Marriage, a Parable of Permanence, was perhaps the best book on marriage she and her husband had read, I soon ordered my own copy. And now that I am reading it, I can absolutely say that I agree with her. Thanks for the recommendation, friend!

Here is an excerpt from the chapter entitled, Lionhearted and Lamblike, a chapter in which Piper deals with some of the problems of egalitarianism:

"...[F]ew things are more broken in our day than manhood and headship in relation to women and families. The price of this brokenness is enormous and touches almost every facet of life."

"After declaring that there is mutual submission in Eph 5:21, Paul devotes twelve verses to unfolding the difference in the way a husband and wife should serve each other. You don't need to deny mutual submission to affirm the importance of the unique role of the husband as the head and the unique calling of the wife to submit to that headship.

The simplest way to see this is to remember that Jesus himself bound himself with a towel and got down on the floor and washed his disciples' feet (the bridegroom serving the bride), but not for one minute did any of the apostles in that room doubt who the leader was in that moment. In other words, mutuality of submission and servanthood do not cancel out the reality of leadership and headship. Servanthood does not nullify leadership; it defines it. Jesus does not cease to be the Lion of Judah when He becomes the lamblike servant of the church."
"It is not enough to say, "Serve one another." That is true of Christ and his church- they serve each other. But they do not serve each other in all same ways. Christ is Christ. We are the Church. To confuse the distinctions would be doctrinally and spiritually devastating. So also the man is the Christ-portraying husband, and the woman is the church-portraying wife. And to confuse these God-intended distinctions, or to abandon them, results in more disillusionment and more divorce and more devastation."
"The role of the husband and wife are rooted in the distinctive roles of Christ and his church. The revelation of this mystery is the recovery of the original intention of covenant marriage in the Garden of Eden."

"When sin entered the world, it ruined the harmony of marriage not because it brought headship and submission into existence, but because it twisted man's humble, loving headship toward hostile domination in some men and lazy indifference in others. And it twisted woman's intelligent, willing, happy, creative, articulate submission toward manipulative obsequiousness in some women and brazen insubordination in others. sin didn't create headship and submission; it ruined them and distorted them and made them ugly and destructive.

...Wives, let your fallen submission be redeemed by modeling after God's intentions for the church! Husbands, let your fallen headship be redeemed by modeling it after God's intention for Christ!"



May God help us to reflect in our marriages the deepest meaning of marriage, the "drama of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and the Church."



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The Secret of the Quest

 29.7.12




We cannot find God without God.
We cannot reach God without God.

We cannot satisfy God without God- which is
another way of saying
that all our seeking will fall short unless
God starts and finishes the search.

The decisive part of our seeking is not our
human ascent to God,
but his descent to us.
Without God's descent there is no human ascent.

The secret of the quest lies not in our brilliance
but in his grace.

Os Guinness*

May the Lord bless us this week as we abide in His grace.


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*Quoted by Tullian Tchividjian in his book Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels

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Borrowed Words from Joy at the End of the Tether and a Giveaway

 26.7.12

Canon Press
Ecclesiastes has been  my "prayer book" these past weeks. I have been studying it and to help me dig deeper into it, I have been reading Douglas Wilson's book, Joy at the End of the Tether: The Inscrutable Wisdom of Ecclesiastes. I am half way through it and I can already recommend it to you all. It has been a blessing to me.

Here are some borrowed words from it:


"The great Hebrew philosopher who wrote this book called Ecclesiastes calls us to joy, but to a joy which thinks, a joy which does not shrink back from hard questions. He calls us to meditation, but to meditation which does not despair."

"The meaningless of all things, as Solomon presents it, must work down into our bones. We should let the Word do its work before we hasten to make Ecclesiastes a grab bag of inspirational quotes."

"God is the One who gives things, and God is the One who gives the power to enjoy things.. Only the first is given to the unbeliever. The believer is given both, which is simply another way of saying that he is given the capacity for enjoyment."
"To be wise, a man must know his limitations."
"We are being told that we have been placed in a world that we did not create or fashion, and that this world has various repetitive cycles, to which cycles we have been assigned by someone else. We are under the authority of these repetitions and have been placed under that authority by the hand and purpose of God."

"God only promised a way of escape from every temptations, not from every unpalatable doctrine."

"When calamity comes, and the tears follow, the Lord was in it. When rejoicing brings relief, the Lord was in it. The doctrine has a hard edge and more than one person has cut himself on it. But denial of the doctrine does not remove the light and darkness, the peace or evil. It just removes the possibility of finding any solace."

"Relationships which form under His sovereign will, and relationships which dissolve are all from Him as well (v.8). Euodia and Synthyche were close and had a falling out. No longer under the sun, they are together again. The time for the friendships and the time for the quarrels are all appointed."

"Eternity has been placed in our hearts. God has made us in relation to Him, and nothing we can do will alter this. He is always our Maker and we are always made. He is always Creator and we are always created."

"We must begin with God and not just any old divinity."

"Rejoice, do good, eat your bread, drink your wine. Believe in the sovereign God and enjoy these inscrutable repetitions (3:15). This is a gift (3:13). Remember his judgments (3:15) and sit down to your dinner."

Now, it's been a while since I have not hosted a giveaway here, and I am thinking that this is the time to do so, and this is the perfect book to give away. So if you want to enter the drawing, leave a comment here. The winner will be announced Wednesday, August 1st.

May His grace abound as we live under His sun and by his grace,



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40 + 1

 25.7.12

Annie Pliego Photography


Yes, today is my birthday and I am very grateful to God for giving me one more year of life under the sun and by His grace.  He is good. All goodness is found in Him and it comes from Him.

40 + 1 is a good number to celebrate and today is a good day to share 40 + 1 things I have learned so far, and a few others that are among my favorite things in this God-given life -all are listed in no particular order- :

1. Never cease to see life as a gift from God. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. Every breath. All is a gift from His hand.

2. Sitting in a stool in your friend's kitchen waiting for a pie to come out of the oven is priceless.

3. Take time to see the beauty in the vegetables you are slicing. Make a pretty salad.

4. Red wine, coffee, and chocolate are pure goodness. 

5. I absolutely love being the wife of my Man.

6.  Being a mom is one of my greatest joys. Nothing to compare with.

7. It is not easy to have a disciplined prayer life. Once you start don't break the habit. Not one day. Not once.

8. I believe in magic. I read books.

9. Having friends over and a full table are two of my favorite things on earth.

10. Traveling is always welcome. (note to self: when are you going to learn how to pack lightly?)

11. Relationships are not always easy, but they all are necessary. Every person the Lord brings into our life is there for a purpose. Open your eyes.

12. If you don't want to say something, cover your mouth with your hand -literally-. It does help.

13. Don't stop singing aloud in the car, in the kitchen, in the shower.

14. Cry.

15. Laugh.

16. Death is always in God's hands.

17. We don't need to have all the answers, we are not God. It's OK not to understand all things.

18. Read books you would normally not choose to read. You will be surprised.

19. Don't just think about helping others, or blessing them, or writing notes and letters. Do it.

20. A day without prayer is a day in which I cry to God, "I don't need you, I can do this on my own."

21. Never, never, never, never neglect reading, meditating and memorizing God's Word.

22. When I feel that God is far, the first question I must ask to myself is, "How much time did I spend in prayer and in God's Word today? What about this week?"

23. Read aloud to your children. No matter how old they are.

24. Always listen to the rain and the wind through the leaves.

25. Learn new beautiful words like mistpouffer, adoxagraphy, gumusservi, phosphenes, and petrichor.

26. Write.

27. Don't forget that hearts are very fragile.

28. God is the only one than can fully restore a broken heart.

29. Don't miss the moment your children become adults. Be ready for the change.

30. Embrace the seasons. God has appointed a time for everything under the sun, there is nothing I can do to change His timing.

31. Keeping friendships is hard work. Invest in those you don't want to lose.

32. Believe that people can change. God is in the business of changing our hearts.

33. Kiss tears.

34. Call a friend, no matter if its long distance.

35. Hug those you love.

36. Pray God's Word.

37. Keep a commonplace notebook.

38. Have a drawing notebook and a nice box of colored pencils at hand.

39. Don't stop baking muffins on Saturdays while everyone is still asleep.

40. Fight the sin you love.

41. Live.


Thank you for being part of my life. All my love to you, dear friends.


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Please, Please, O Lord, Be My Strength.

 22.7.12

Just this, from the bottom of my heart...





May the Lord be our strength, our joy, our song.



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Plucking Bird by Bird -Why I Don't Recommend These Books: Part 3: On Writing and Living

 20.7.12


Adriaen van Ostade. Cutting the Feather
Early this summer I came across a quote by Anne Lamott that disturbed me greatly: "If you want to make God laugh tell her your problems."  And one of the many reasons it really disturbed me was that it was quoted by a professing Reformed Evangelical Christian.* At that time, I had not read any of Lamott's books or articles, so I  decided to do some research and one of the first things I found out is that Lamott, a very good writer indeed, was highly popular among many Evangelical Christians who admired her not only because of her writing advices, but also because of her theology and approach to life, which sadly to say, is very far from the Biblical Historical Christianity. Albert Mohler had also seen this problem before, and in 2006 he even wrote an article exposing Lamott's support of euthanasia and abortion.

Normally I would just stop there and I would keep calm and carry on with my life enjoying a cup of freshed brewed coffee along with a good book. This time, however (for some personal reasons that I cannot share here), I decided to get a couple of her books and read them. Yes, I know my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, at times it seems that if you have not read the entire book, or if you have not read more than one book of the same author, you have no right to write a serious review. And as you can imagine, I want to be taken seriously.


Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, is the first book I read and is the book from where the quote that started all this happens to be (it appears more than once). It is a book with some excellent advices on writing, on how to develop your characters, on how to start a piece, and on how to keep a good plot among other things. But to read this book trying to find those great writing advices without getting pretty dirty in the filth is not an easy thing.  Keep in mind the title of the book: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Living. Did you get that? That is where the danger is. Lamott purposely writes to teach us about writing and living. She wants the reader to embrace her approach to life, her worldview. It is not as simple as some would say, "C'mon, just take the good writing advice she gives and spit the rest." You cannot do that easily when the writing instructions are deeply interwoven with her worldview and theology; with her instructions on living this life.


So let's take a closer look at her worldview, at her life instructions, at her faith.

Lamott professes to be a Christian and in her book, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (the second book I read), she tells the story of how she came to live a spiritual life, to have a "deep sense of spirituality." In this book she shares how the singing in a church attracted her to it, how she loved singing too, but did not want to hear about Jesus until one day she had an experience and became a "Christian" (a type of Christianity that is not defined by any kind of Biblical standards):

"After a while, as I lay there, I became aware of someone with me, hunkered down in the corner, and I just assumed it was my father, whose presence I had felt over the years when I was frightened and alone. The feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light for a moment to make sure no one was there -of course, there wasn't. But after a while, in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus. I felt him as surely as I feel my dog lying nearby as I write this...

This experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition, born of fear and self-loathing and booze and loss f blood. But then everywhere I went, I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in. But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk, and then it stays forever."
"I began to cry and left over before he benediction, and I raced home and felt the little cat running along at my heels... and then I hung my head and said, "F*** it: I quit." I took a long deep breath and said out loud, "All right. You can come in.

So this was my beautiful moment of conversion."
As the author continues to grow in her spiritual life, and after her friend Pammy dies she describes how she feels:
"I was terrible erratic: feeling so serene some moments that I was sure I was going to end up dating Dalai Lama..." Traveling Mercies
Lamott never speaks of sin, of repentance, of the gospel. Not even a hint.  The Word of God is clearly nowhere there. It is all about having an experience, about being better people.

"Most of the people I know who have what I want—which is to say, purpose, heart, balance, gratitude, joy—are people with a deep sense of spirituality. They are people in community, who pray, or practice their faith; they are Buddhists, Jews, Christians—people banding together to work on themselves and for human rights. They follow a brighter light than the glimmer of their own candle; they are part of something beautiful." Traveling Mercies
"[B]oth feminism and Christianity have taught me that I am my spirit, my heart, all that I have survived over the years and all that I have given.." Traveling Mercies

One of Lamott's main advisors and from whom she gets her most of her theology (she mentions him several times in both books) is Tom, a friend whom she describes as a "slightly overweight alcoholic," who also happens to be a "gay Jesuit priest." In Traveling Mercies, she describes him as "an extremely funny Jesuit and sober alcoholic, who drank like a rat for years and smoked a little non-habit-forming marijuana on a daily basis. He also did amyl nitrate, although he adds that this was just to get to know people." Yes, and I am sure some would say, "But, Becky haven't you forgotten that Jesus was friend with the sinners? He sat and ate with them? What is the problem with you here?" Yes, yes. But there is a big difference here, Jesus did not learn from the sinners he sat with, they learned from Him. He was not influenced by them, He influenced them. He did not get his theology from them. Jesus did not open a support group for gays and prostitutes who were feeling rejected by the rest (I am getting a little bit off track here, I know. Sorry, but I just couldn't help it...).

In these two books, and in a consistent way, Anne Lamott shows many times through her words that she is a woman with no fear of God. She makes fun of Jesus and takes the name of God in vain. A few examples:

"I worry that Jesus drinks himself asleep when he hears me talk like this..." Bird by Bird
"If we can believe in the Gnostic gospel of Thomas, old Uncle Jesus said..." Bird by Bird
"If you want to know how God feels about money, look at whom she gives it to." Bird by Bird

Her god, even though she capitalizes his name, is not the God of the Bible. It is a god of her own making.

Now, let's move on. What is it that she teaches about motherhood? Read and consider a passage in which she speaks of her relationship with her son, a toddler at that time:
"And the next day Sam was treating me like I was the bunny at his own private Playboy Club and he had run out of drinks half an hour before." Bird by Bird
"Having a baby is like suddenly getting the world's worst roommate, like having Janis Joplin with a bad hangover and PMS come to stay with you."  Bird by Bird
"I would have felt so relieved if there had been a book written by another mother who admitted that she sometimes wanted to grab her infant by the ankles and swing him over the head like a bolo. So I went ahead and started writing one myself, as a present, as a kind of road map for other mothers." Bird by Bird
Really? Can we really spit all these and keep on reading and learning from her?

Now, what do we do when you want to use a real life person as one of the characters in your story without defamation? Here is her advice:
"I tell my students that they should always write of vengeance, as long as they do it nicely." Bird by Bird
"If you disguise this person carefully so that he cannot be recognized by the physical or professional facts of his life, you can use him in your work. And the best advice I can give you is to give him a teenie little penis so he will be less likely to come forth." Bird by Bird
There are through out these books many, many, many more examples of the profanity and crudity of the language Lamott uses, of the way she lives a life far from what the Scriptures teach. How can we learn from her to live a godly life? If she follows a god of her own making, how can we quote her in theological issues?  I still don't get it, and it burdens me to see that some brothers and sisters do.

I pray God will help us grow in discernment. We need it so desperately.



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*I am assuming that I won't have to explain to my readers the reason why theologically, Bible in hand,  this statement is a lie that goes against the way God has decided to call and manifest himself to us. If you still want to read more about this, I strongly recommend Douglas Wilson's book, Father Hunger. In the first chapters he deals in a brilliant way with the theology of God as a Father.




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Editing Our Lives

 16.7.12



I cannot thank God enough for the summer He has given us; for each one of the wonderful friends that have blessed us with their visit -our home is still full and my heart overflows with gladness!- I am also grateful for the family that opened their home and hearts to some of us for a week. My heart is content, it has pleased the Lord to be gracious to us.

The conversations have been many around the table. We have talked about music, movies, arts. We have read many books and excerpts of books aloud. We have conversed about marriage, and men and women and their biblical roles. We have had long conversations trying to define important words such as masculinity and beauty. We have laughed and cried. We have hugged and sang together. We have shared meals and, coffee and tea. And in all these, I have been stretched and challenged in so many ways.

All these moments plus all the books I have been reading (especially those on writing) have made think of something that I want to consider carefully.

When an author writes a book she has to come, like it or not, to the point in which she has to turn her manuscript, her precious work, to someone to edit it -most of the times, that means to tear it apart.-  If she wants to become a very good writer, she won't choose the kind of editor that is easy and merciful. She wants the one that tells the truth, even when it hurts.

Our life is made up of many short stories, all within a bigger story. And we are inside the story, many times entangled in the plot. We simply don't understand complex characters that come into scene; we can't figure out why Mr. D has the power to deceive many and hurt families. We can't understand why Mrs. T said such a thing. We don't even know at times how in the world we got to the place we are now. Other times we forget that our story is part of a bigger one. We are not the main characters. We are here to bring glory to God in all we do and say. We are not ours but His.

And when we are in the middle of the story, when we can not see clearly through all the many words, sentences, through all the lines that are happening around us. When we feel that there is no way out of that climax. When we don't even know what is our role in the play and have forgotten all our lines and are speechless, it is time for us to bring our manuscript to the editors.



First we must come to the main editor who is God the Father. Laying our lives before Him in prayer, literally bowing down and crying out to him, we must open the pages of our lives there, at His feet. Hiding nothing, not a comma, not a word, not an event. Let us ask Him forgiveness for our sins, and light for our paths. Let us ask Him to give us eyes to see what we don't necessarily want to see. Ears to hear what we have refused to hear. Hands to act. Hearts to love. Mouths that speak what edifies and always proclaim truth.

Secondly, we need to find another kind of editor: a friend, a pastor, a brother or sister. But let us be careful, our tendency will be to try to find one that thinks just exactly like we do; one that agrees with all we say. But we must beware. Let us remember that a flattering mouth works ruin and that the man who flatters us is really spreading a net for our feet (Prov. 29:5). We need someone who is not part of the same scene to help us see clearly, to give us advice, to ask us the hard questions and say the hard words. And we must be willing to believe that many times, we are messing things up.
 

God is the God of Grace who can turn the impossible into possible, the meaningless into something beautiful. He can turn our sorrow into gladness. He is the Light and no darkness can prevail against Him. As I read once, He is in the business of making new hearts. And I love to believe that.





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Why I Recommend These Books -Part 2: Living the Gospel-

 9.7.12

¡Hola! Greetings from South Carolina! One of my daughters and I are visiting our dear friends in Greenville -a gorgeous city, by the way-, and let me tell you that waking up to a hot cup of French pressed coffee and many good conversations in the porch with my good friend have been the reason why this blog has been put on hold these past days.

So today, while my friend is in the gym and I am still in my pj's -and not feeling guilty at all-,  I am taking the time to put together my second post on the book recommendations I promised to share with you this summer (the first part -on fiction books- can be found here).

The two books I would like to recommend to you today are books that help us live the gospel in our day to day life. It is my hope that you find these short reviews helpful.


 Ligonier Ministries
First, the kind of devotionals that I would strongly recommend to you above any other are expository commentaries -those that walk you verse by verse through a bible book-. I have found that reading a book of the Bible slowly,  praying over it, studying it verse by verse is a wonderful and extremely helpful way to grow in the Word of God.

R.C. Sproul wrote a series of expositional commentaries that have been very helpful to me. This summer I am delighting in the gospel of John and Sproul's commentary has been, once again, a huge blessing to me.

We cannot live the gospel if we don't know and understand the gospel. That is why it is very important that you may seriously consider putting aside some of the "soul-touching", tea-friendly books,  and start diving deeper into the Word of God. Commentaries like this one will certainly help you as you do so, and the benefits will be beyond what you expect.




Second, Douglas Wilson's newest book, Father Hunger, has been a great and very important read for me this summer. Wilson is a wonderful author and teacher that word by word, sentence by sentence makes his points clear, always in a straight and firm way, but never lacking to point to the grace of the gospel.

Why is it important, very important, that all my female friends read this book about fatherhood? Well, I have sadly learned in the past few months that feminism and egalitarianism are finding their way into the church in a very subtle, seductive and effective way, capturing the hearts and minds of many of our brothers and sisters. In his new book, Douglas Wilson explains in a clear and detailed way the theology of fatherhood, and in doing so, he explains why egalitarianism and feminism -and the lack of masculinity thereof- are not conformed to the biblical frame that God has established.

Please, get this book and read it. Pass it along. Have your sons and daughters read it. We need men willing to do everything the Lord has appointed them to do in order to satisfy the father hunger in which we live today.

Desiring God posted 20 quotes from this book that will certainly give you a very good overview of it (you can read them here). You can also go to Canon Wired and listen to some of the lectures Douglas Wilson has given on this topic.

My friend is back from the gym, and we already drank two cups of coffee. Now I can almost hear the peppered bacon calling my name.

Blessings to you all as you enjoy your summer!



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Who is Becky?

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Becky
If I am happy it is because of God! God, in His sovereign grace, has called me out of darkness into His Admirable light. He has opened my eyes and has shown me the way to Eternal Life. He has set my feet on a journey, and now I am walking Daily on My Way to Heaven. I did not find Jesus, He found me. I did not seek Him, yet He called me. I did not love Him, yet He loved me. I deserved death and He gave me Life. This is the place where I keep a journal of my life under His sun and by His grace!
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Borrowed Words

"It becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven... to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end and true happiness?"

Jonathan Edwards

"I am still pondering God's greatness in His creation. I have so many questions that I would like to ask the Lord about the universe, creation, the fall of man... But when I'm in heaven, I wonder if I will even remember them. At that time, being in the presence of God will be enough. I'm thankful that I can look forward to that day."

-Persis

“Heaven is not here, it’s There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom, where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for.”

- Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart



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