A Christian Community is not a Dream World.

Westminster Bookstore

This year I’ve decided I had to re-read some books on relationships that cannot be read only once. Face to Face by Wilkins is one of them, the other one is Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  In my opinion, these two books complement each other perfectly. Wilkins warns us about the sin of isolation, and Bonhoeffer reminds us that yes, we are called to live in community, but that “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality.”

Here are a few passages of Bonhoeffer’s book where he explains this in more detail:

“…One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere; he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood…”

 

“Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christan, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over like a dream… Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to him…A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community.  Sooner or later it will collapse… He who loves his dream of a community more that the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”

 

“Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly  teaches me that neither of us can never live by our own words and deeds, but only by the one Word and Deed which really binds us together -the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mist of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship.”

 

“What love is, only Christ tells in His Word. Contrary to all my own opinions and convictions, Jesus Christ will tell me what love toward the brethren really is. Therefore, spiritual love is bound solely to the Word of Jesus Christ. Where Christ bids me to maintain fellowship for the sake of love, I will maintain it. Where his truth enjoins me to dissolve a fellowship for love’s sake, there I will dissolve it, despite all the protests of my human love.”

Yes, I have many times built ideal dreams of the Christian community in my mind, and yes, the reality is different; but as I have been given the grace to see the imperfections in it and not deny them, I have loved it even more.

For grace to grow, build bridges, and edify lives today,

Becky

So, I am the Mom of Adult Children; What do I do Now? -And an Invitation to Read a Book among Friends-

There comes a day when three of your children are in college, and right after that comes the day in which the oldest of them bows on his knee to propose marriage to a beautiful young lady. That day you know you are, without a doubt, in a different stage of life. So you smile, swallow hard, and give thanks.

Yes, that’s it. The tiny hands pulling from your skirt, the toys all over, the three-lines songs about chickens and cows are way past gone. No more diapers, no more hours trying to choose the best homeschool curriculum, no more multiplication tables or Latin chants. You are, finally, living in the days which, for the first months in the life of your oldest child, you were sure were never going to come. Yes, oh yes, children do grow up. Pretty fast. In front of our eyes. Eating our food -soul food and body food- And it doesn’t matter if at times we feel like we don’t even know when or how in the world that thing happened.

We believe we are, finally, in the stage in which the sleepless nights are gone…

Oh, wait.

Seriously?

No, not really. We now pray all night while they sleep.

Now, as I see my son and his fiancé planning their wedding; as I listen to my daughter’s deepest heart’s beats as she starts a courtship relationship; as I listen attentively to my youngest son’s dreams; and as I pay attention and watch the way he is building those dreams with his own hands, I find myself asking,  What do I do now? What am I suppose to do now, Lord?

Three words keep coming to my heart (my words for 2014) as I try to answer these questions:

Grow where you are. In this new stage of life, learn and grow.

Build bridges among them and towards them.

Edify their lives with words and deeds.

I know well that in order to grow I first need to learn. Learn new rhythms, new patterns; I must learn how to play on the stage of life the new roles God has assigned me. And just as I read dozens of books on parenting, and childrearing, and potty training, and the reproduction of brain cells in the early stages of life -listening to Mozart, of course-, I now need to sit down again and read to learn.

I want to learn how to be a faithful mom of adult children, a wise mother-in-law, and a good wife to my husband in this new and unknown season of our life together.

Perhaps you too are entering into this new season or maybe you are already changing the diapers of your grandchildren! It doesn’t really matter, I am thinking that we should read this one book along, and then come and sit together here, once a week, to discuss it and encourage one other to learn and grow so that we can effectively build relationships with our sons and daughters, as well as keep edifying their lives.

Will you join me?

Buy through Grace and Truth Books

The book: You Never Stop Being a Parent: Thriving in Relationship with Your Adult Children by Elise Fitzpatrick and Jim Newheiser

The plan: A chapter a week starting on February 5 (there are 10 chapters, a conclusion and four appendixes). I would love, ideally, to finish it on April 2.

You have enough time to order your book and get it before February 5. I really hope you can join me, I am sure it will be a blessing.

Grow, Build, and Edify in Him and through Him,

Becky

Well Worn Paths

Habits, says J.R. Miller, are well worn paths.

It doesn’t matter if at the beginning of this new year you decided or not to set new goals, or to try new habits. You will, by the end of 2014, have made well worn paths. We make habits and they make us. We better be intentional about them.

One day you open your email on your iPhone first thing in the morning, and three months later you keep doing it. You skimmed through “only one chapter” of an assigned book for school,  and when the semester is over you realize you didn’t actually read one whole book. One day you eat more than you should have (hey, it’s only “once a month”), and at the end of the year you are eating in the dark, when no one else is watching. You answer with a harsh word to your husband after dinner, and four months later, you don’t know other way to answer. You are too busy to look on your children’s face when you are at the computer, and a year later they don’t remember your eyes. Habits. And not one of them was planned. Well worn paths that lead to sin, to isolation.

May I encourage you -as I preach this to myself as well-to choose carefully which path you will walk day after day this year?

Print these articles and study them. Read them over and over until you have mastered them, until they become yours:

The Habit of Prayer.

“We should form the habit of praying at every step, as we go along through the day. That was part of Paul’s meaning when he said, “Whatever you do, in word or in deed—do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” He would have us include every word we speak—as well as every deed we do. Think what it would mean to have every word that passes our lips winged and blessed with prayer—always to breathe a little prayer before we speak, and as we speak. This would put heavenly sweetness into all our speech! It would make all our words kindly, loving, inspiring words—words that would edify and minister grace to those who hear. We can scarcely think of one using bitter words, backbiting words, unholy words—if his heart is always full of prayer; if he has trained himself to always pray before he speaks.”

The Habit of Thanksgiving.

“The only way to get thanksgiving into its true place in our lives—is to have it grow into a habit. A habit is a well worn path. There was a first step over the course, breaking the way. Then a second person, finding the prints of feet, walked in them. A third followed, then a fourth, until at length there was a beaten path, and now thousands go upon it.”

The Habit of Happiness.

“The secret of Christian joy—is the peace of Christ in the heart. Then one is not dependent on circumstances or conditions. Paul said he had learned in whatever state he was, therein to be content. That is, he had formed the habit of happiness and had mastered the lesson so well, that in no state or condition, whatever its discomforts were, was he discontented.”

John Angell Adams delivered on January 4th, 1856, an address to young men in England about the force an importance of a habit.This is an excellent read for the family table (especially when there are young adult children).

“Man is a bundle of habits.”

“It is of importance to remember, that though we are made up of habits, they grow out of single actions. And consequently, while we should be careful and solicitous about the habits we form, we must be no less so about the single acts out of which they grow.”

The Habit of Diligence.

James Alexander wrote a series of letters for his younger brother, and in one of them he tells him about the importance of the habit of diligence.

“Even small things are important, when they become habitual. Plato, the Grecian philosopher, once rebuked a young man very severely for playing with dice. “Why do you rebuke me so severely,” said the youth, “for so small a matter?” Plato replied, “It is no small matter to form a habit!”

While you have your books before you—try to think of nothing else. If you find yourself beginning to be weary, rouse your mind by thinking of the value of time, the use of learning, and especially your duty to your God.”

 

“Habit will make those things easy—which at first seem very hard. By constant practice, men become able to do astonishing works”

On the Formation of Habits, from another letter of James Alexander to his younger brother.

“Every habit you form is one stone laid in your character.”

“You are young, and cannot choose for yourself what is best. But your teachers select those studies which will tend to give your mind proper habits. Pay all possible attention to these studies. Be perfect in them. Every hour now is worth more to you than a day is to me. Every day is confirming you in some habit, either good or bad. And if you are not careful to aim at those which are good, you will most assuredly fall into such as are bad. You cannot be too much in earnest then; attend to everything which your teacher advises.”

Praying that I will be faithful in making good habits this coming year.

Becky