With a Little Help From Matthew Henry

Contemplating many things this evening, regarding having and taking care of a family. Meditating on Psalm 127 and 128, I especially appreciate Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Ps. 127. Here is a portion:

For enriching a family. Some are so eager upon the world, that they are continually full of care, which makes their comforts bitter, and their lives a burden. All this is to get money; but all in vain, except God prosper them: while those who love the Lord, using due diligence in their lawful callings, and casting all their care upon him, have needful success, without uneasiness or vexation. Our care must be to keep ourselves in the love of God; then we may be easy, whether we have little or much of this world. But we must use the proper means very diligently. Children are God’s gifts, a heritage, and a reward; and are to be accounted blessings, and not burdens: he who sends mouths, will send meat, if we trust in him.

“Our care must be to keep ourselves in the love of God,” said Matthew Henry. I agree, not that we have to be super Christians to deserve His love, but as Christians, we ought to busy ourselves in reciprocating love towards the LORD. It’s also good to read and study these two psalms in light of Matthew 6:25-34.

I have glossed over this familiar passage simply because it is familiar. It’s easy to do so. In His summation in verse 33, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,  and all these things will be added to you” (ESV). I am going to bed with this on my mind. Must digest it further.

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David Brainerd and G.K. Chesterton: The Diary & Journal and The Everlasting Man

Books are swell things, good books are good things, great books are great things. Being able to read and finish one, on the other hand, for me is a miracle these days. I have been trying to make a go of quite a few titles, probably about a dozen or so in the past year; while I have made prolific attempts, I seem to start one more before I can manage to finish another. Therefore, instead of displaying all the books I have read, it will be much easier, in addition to being more honest with myself, to simply list a handful of titles I am currently reading. Obviously, I have no place in even voicing a complete opinion about these titles, let alone giving off the air of being authoritative, since I haven’t finished the two which follow. As I have made known before, my blog entries are merely exercises, and that also goes for this one. If the book titles I share are of interest to anyone who gets lost trying to find something else to read, that will make this all the more useful.

 

1. The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton

The Everlasting Man

I bought an older copy of The Everlasting Man at Ken Sanders’ Rare Books while on a day trip in Salt Lake City a couple of years ago. This paperback has since spent its time on my shelf, where I casually have picked it up now and again until last week. I have only barely gotten through the introduction and briefly made a dent in the first chapter, The Man in the Cave. I am sorry I have waited this long to get to know Chesterton. I am thoroughly enjoying what I am reading. When I had previously thought of G.K., like many other people, I never got past him as a writer in the mystery genre (which I, surprise, have also never read). When I did a little web sleuthing on Wikipedia (where it must be true because everyone says it is!), it appears C.S. Lewis, among many others, was incalculably influenced by this writer and contemporary of H.G. Wells. As such, I can see a glimmer of Lewis’ Mere Christianity already in The Everlasting Man. A twinkle in Chesterton’s eye, if you will.

 

In the summary on the back of the copy I have, it says, “The Everlasting Man propounds the thesis ‘that those who say that Christ stands side by side with similar myths, and his religion side by side with similar religions, are only repeating a very stale formula contradicted by a very striking fact.'” This was said of a literary work published in 1925, which makes this book timeless and justifies itself as being considered a classic. Below I include a personal favorite Chesterton-ism of mine from this book thus far:

One of my first journalistic adventures, or misadventures, concerned a comment on Grant Allen [who was, according to Wikipedia, “a Canadian science writer and novelist, and a successful upholder of the theory of evolution”], who had written a book about the Evolution of the Idea of God. I happened to remark that it would be much more interesting if God wrote a book about the evolution of the idea of Grant Allen.

 

Pure gold.

 

2. The Diary and Journal of David Brainerd

Diary and Journal of David Brainerd

John Piper’s sermons and book, The Hidden Smile of God, first introduced me to Brainerd when I was a bachelor (of the non-swashbuckling sort) almost ten years ago. For the life of me I haven’t a clue why I hadn’t made an attempt until this past Christmas to acquaint myself with this 18th century saint and Protestant missionary and friend of the New England pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards. The Diary & Journal of David Brainerd is an excellent book. Despite it being a diary, and initially not intended for publication, the way Brainerd cast his cares and woes unto the Lord is a refreshing and humbling turnabout when compared to much of today’s Christian literature. He was not afraid of penning many confessions of his sinful state, of his conversion, and the sins he struggled with until his early death. He described his state before his conversion as

being like the troubled sea, and my thoughts confused, I used to contrive to escape the wrath of God by some other means, and had strange projections, full of atheism, contriving to disappoint God’s designs and decrees concerning me, or to escape God’s notice and hide myself from Him. But when, upon reflection, I saw these projections were vain, and would not serve me, and that I could contrive nothing for my own relief, this would throw my mind into the most horrid frame, to wish there was no God, or to wish there were some other God that could control Him.

 

Upon his conversion, after viewing himself as only a soul broken because of his sin and rebellion against his Creator can, the reality of grace was that much sweeter. Later he wrote,

At this time,  the way of salvation opened to me with such infinite wisdom, suitableness, and excellency, that I wondered I should ever think of any other way of salvation: was amazed that I had not dropped my own contrivances, and complied with this lovely, blessed, and excellent way before. If I could have been saved by my own duties, or any other way that I had formerly contrived, my whole soul would now have refused. I wondered that all the world did not see and comply with this way of salvation, entirely by the righteousness of Christ.

 

David Brainerd is another voice, another testimony of God’s holiness and extension of grace to wretched, filthy, vile man. His life also refutes the fairy tale, starry-eyed misconception that the Christian’s life, if full of enough faith, is always a happy banquet. Like Job, Brainerd experienced hardship, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. But like Job, God did not leave Brainerd. He was with him, as He is with all of His children.

 

More to Come

 

Maybe if I was highly energetic and meticulously well organized, I might lay out a preview of future topics. But I am not. If these posts seem opened-ended, let me know. Feedback is more than welcome. I will say this, that stylistically I am currently an open-ended writer. Hope to continue with this because I enjoy it very much. [Closing inspirational quote from some awesome person goes here.]

The Dad-Type vs. the Swashbuckling Bachelor

Being a father of four children, while perhaps not as hard a job as being a mother of four, is in itself a whole other world unto itself. I may be holding the office of Captain Obvious writing a sentence like the previous, but when I think about it, it sounds as if I’m dusting off some ancient relic within the labyrinth of some Central American pyramid like a domestically responsible Indiana Jones. Placing this in perspective, when I was an unmarried rogue of a bachelor I had as much free time as I had time off from work. The weekends and the hours after work days were totally free. Looking back, I had zero responsibility. The revelatory thing about taking an introspective look back is I practically did nothing remarkable.

I wasn’t a swashbuckling, hunk of a ladies’ man, taking girls out on the town in my two-tone ’83 Toyota four cylinder pickup. I was a 19 year old tire retreader in Auburn, Washington, I drank percolated Yuban coffee at home and hung out at Starbucks or Sherri’s 24 hour diner depending on my mood, and I had a library card- which I used frequently. My wardrobe consisted of whatever I found at the St. Vincent de Paul or Salvation Army thrift store. I was pretty much a loner outside work. I had a 4×4 but I never trekked off road, never went mountain climbing or hunted or fished. I was semi-nomadic on the weekends, talking long walks in the Orting Valley or into Sumner.

I usually had a moleskine notebook tucked in my shirt pocket and a Pilot gel ink pen packed away too. Fancied myself a lone, blue coller writer type who only actually had a couple of free lance pieces published in the Puyallup Herald. I think with both stories combined I made $100. I was living the dream.

By no means am I giving you, dear potential reader, the complete picture; also, I am not implying I actually had this deeper layer of mystique, to quote Shrek, “like an onion” or “parfait”. Not to downplay whatever segment of my life at that time was, but as I look back now, I could have done some dang cool things with my time. I could have fished for salmon in Alaska, fought grizzlies, or fought grizzlies trying to fish for salmon in Alaska. Or I could have worked on an off-shore oil rig thwarting the evil schemes of hostile Greenpeace activists on charter boats- with a squirt bottle. Alas, those things never came to fruition. The best was yet to come.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife, kids and I went up Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains, which are only fifteen miles away from our house, to check on the snow melt and when we might be able to start hiking. We drove about eleven miles in, almost to the end of the road and the trail head, when we hit the snow drift which indicated we wouldn’t be doing much hiking until the middle of July. There were two pickups parked at the snow drift and two men standing out in the sun chatting. I went up to introduce myself and the three of us started discussing the snow melt and trail conditions. One of the fellows was a white-haired old bloke, wearing minimalist hiking apparel-leather boots, khaki pants, long sleeve shirt and a round brim hat. The other was a younger, trendier man, maybe in his mid-thirties, and obviously single. Now, that is an odd thing to say for sure, but any married man with children knows what I mean when I say “obviously single”. If not, let me explain.

There are men out there, like me, who are happily married to a great woman, have a family, and know they’re blessed. Then there are other guys out there, single, and enjoying their singledom to the utmost. They are freewheelin’ types with a good job to support all their swashbuckling adventures. Depending on their context, they may have a muscle car, a nice apartment near a beach and surf a lot, or in this case, a good job and plenty of opportunity to cross country ski, can afford all the trendy, expensive hiking gear but choose to hike the entire Ruby Crest Trail like spartan, with a knife, ceramic pot and a staff made of mountain mahogany. Basically, the guys who are “obviously single” enjoy their freedom, blazing trails before the dad type can get all of his small children out of the family eight passenger car.

I love my family, and honestly, I do not envy those cool, lone wolf guys at all. But that doesn’t mean I won’t live vicariously through their awesome experiences when listening to them talk about reaching the summit of K2 in the Himalayas or Alaska’s Denali. My contentment in my marriage and family also doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes feel sick hearing them talk of all their coolish exploits. I grumble a little. But I rest knowing the lot I have been given is so very good! I try to revel in coming home at the end of a crazy day to the loud noises of my four children and the wife who loves me and also hands me a baby who needs his diaper changed. An epic diaper change.

 

 

Grandpa Elvis, Interstate 40, and England Swings

Silver wings shining in the sunlight,
roaring engines headed somewhere in flight.
                                         Merle Haggard
I remember traveling around with my grandpa across the country shortly after I graduated high school ten years ago. Going through the red dirt vistas of Arizona through the Texas panhandle, the rolling hills of Oklahoma, and meandering though sleepy hollers (no, they are not called “hollows”) of Eastern Kentucky, he’d sing whatever he pleased.
Off-the-cuff lyricism
Some times he would make something up completely. For instance, traveling through Tucumcari, New Mexico brought with it many extemporaneous verses, involving fireworks stands and American Indian references. Even if it sounds racially offensive, it wasn’t; it was funny. “I laughed until I stopped.” That was my grandpa.
Classic Americana
On other occasions, and with his usual near pitch-perfect baritone, he’d almost exhaust all the old country classics from his era. Elvis, Johnny Horton, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Ernest Tubb, Charlie Pride- and on the list would go. One of my favorites he would sing went like this:
Now, if you huff and puff and you finally save enough money
Up to take your family on a trip across the sea
Take a tip before you take your trip
Let me tell you where to go, go to England, ohEngland swings like a pendulum do
Bobbies on bicycles, two by two
Westminster Abbey the tower of Big Ben
The rosy red cheeks of the little children

Roger Miller, known for hits such as King of the Road and Kansas City Star, penned and sang that song. Grandpa just picked it up and made it his own. As a grandkid who thought highly of his grandpappy, I ate it up. He was like a human juke box, and I enjoyed listening to him for free.
On the road, singing, and talking Elvis
We spent many hours and days on the road together that summer after high school. Many hours and days of talking, telling stories and singing; generally, I did most of the listening, and I am more than glad that I did. Whenever I listen to the old stuff, the good stuff, I remember my grandpa. Somewhere around that time, my friends and I would take to calling him Grandpa Elvis. He played along. He was an Elvis fan after all. A Pre-G.I.-Blues Elvis fan to be precise.
“After he started making movies, his music suffered a bit,” grandpa would say, in a voice he generally used when he was making some sort of social commentary.
I took such commentary as a given at the time, but since I’ve grown up a bit, I would have to agree with his sentiment regarding Elvis. Not everyone will, but I have come to.

Let Every Need Bring Praise to God

I just want to provide for my family. I keep telling myself this again and again. I think and pray it, go to bed and wake up to this, and dwell on it throughout the day. I probably dream about it, too. As a Christian, I know ultimately, every need will be met by the God who made me and gave me a family. All the same, I just want to provide for my family. If I have worries, they do not include how many vacations I will be able to take my family on this year or if we’ll be able to buy the latest high end computer. I don’t care about those things. I just want to provide for my family. I’m not crazy about taking one verse of Scripture to emphasize my own point, but I do find solace in this passage from Paul’s epistle to the church in Philippi:  “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, ESV).

Although this was in Paul’s benediction, the theme of God’s providence is a common theme in Scripture. Whether it be of common needs such as clothes or food, or of our greater need of God supplying atonement for sin through Christ, man’s neediness is always shown in the stark contrast of God’s all-sufficiency. He created not because he had to, but because he wanted to. Scripture just flat out breathes these things. I find it profound that in the beginning of the Old and New Testaments, man is shown to be lacking, with God as the remedy. From original sin to the incarnation of God, his lordship over his creation is displayed so beautifully.

Again, I find solace now in my need, the needs of my family; the pattern of needs and their consummation is repeated throughout Scripture, redemptive history, and on a very personal level, in my own life. Food for hunger, water for thirst. Justice for those who have sinned. Pardon for those who have not deserved it. Funny how being able to pay for rent, insurance, groceries, a tank of gasoline, or clothes is an ever-present past-time for us humans- all relevant things for responsible folks to concern themselves with (especially when they are responsible for other people). I find that my needs help point me back again and again to the God who made me.

The desire for one’s family to be clothed, fed and taken care of isn’t some defect imbedded within us. It is only natural. In fact, it’s another part of the realm of nature which paints a picture of the gospel. A man who has a wife and family, and loves them, will go to every length to supply them with care and love.God, who wished to display his glory, displays love toward his people in Christ (see Romans 5:8 and pretty much that whole chapter, OK, the whole book). I realize there are more theological ramifications to consider here, but in the context of need, I cannot think of anything greater than the reconciliation between us, rebellious creatures that we are, and the Creator who made us.

In light of such liberal grace, I am confidant that this man’s prayer for his family’s well being will not be ignored by the God he trusts in. I just want the desire to provide for my family to bring glory to God. Vacations and computers are somewhere way down the line.

 

 

Wash Your Hands Twice and Carry a Wet Bag

“I met a young girl and she gave me a rainbow.”

Bob Dylan, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

“Are you a ‘cool cloth diaper dad?'”

What was that? I had to clean out my ears when my wife asked me that question after I came home this evening from my latest towing call. Apparently, that was a title of a recent blog post from somewhere in the blogging world. I really honestly didn’t know the answer to this question. So it got me thinking, “Am I a cool cloth diaper dad?” That’s a haunting question. What if I’m not?

That’s what I love about my wife- she always surprises me in some measure and on a frequent basis. Questions are fun. “Do you know what day it is?” That’s a personal favorite of mine. She asked me that chestnut this morning before I headed out the door, slightly caffeinated. My back was turned and I was downing my second cup of coffee in one gulp when the question hit my ears. I froze. Time stopped. The Sun seemed to stay in place just like it did for Joshua (if only in my brain). I went through a cataloged list of possible answers, starting with the most important ones.

Then in a clumsy eye blink, not even a twinkling, I thought, “OK, it’s Wednesday.” No, dumb answer! Think, think, think! Keep it together, man! “It’s,” I finally said, more in the form of a question than a confident answer, “trash day.” “Good job!” she exclaimed.That right there, my potential readers, was a good moment, a moment totally made possible by my wife. She only gave me the test answer the previous evening. Little things like that go a long way towards keeping a man on his toes.

I often do not express, in actions, those inexpressible absolutes I have towards my woman; I reckon that’s a lifelong directive. But it ought to be an every day one as well. We’ve been married for almost seven years, and I still can’t keep myself from thinking, “Why did she marry me?” I met her when she was 19 and I was 20. I couldn’t say more than a few words to her nor she to me, but that was all right. When she said that one word when I asked her (not “axed” her) to tie the ol’ knot with me, culminating with those two words at our wedding ceremony, I felt some of what God must enjoy when we take delight in Him in response to His love toward us.

Cloth diapering is a game changer once you have kids and you make the commitment to get your hands even dirtier. You really have to want to save money and love your children in a special sort of way to start it. Once you get going, or once your wife gets the green light and plans it all out and does all the footwork, and you have all the diaper fixings, domesticity amps up another notch. A husband inevitably gets pulled into the subculture of CD (cloth diapers, for the uninitiated) and all the cool vernacular. Terms like, “Fluff,” “All-in-Ones,” “Fitted,” “Wet Bags,” “Micro-fiber,” “Bamboo,” “Pockets,” and “Stripping” can catch a guy off guard. So you have to pay attention to those things. Context is everything.

Here is my confession which I obviously freely lay before you, potential blog readers. Here is my Ebenezer, if you will. I like cloth diapering. Not just because I get to dunk dirty disgusting “pre-folds” and their PUL covers in a toilet when I don’t forget to, but because I genuinely think it’s a good idea. It saves money, it apparently is good for the environment, it hasn’t given any of our children rashes, and my wife gets to use her ingenuity and creativity when she sews stuff up or picks out a new cover. So am I a “cool cloth diaper dad”? Honestly, I don’t know how cool I am. I just found out a couple years ago what a hipster is for crimeny sakes. I am a husband, and a dad, and I happen to change diapers made of cloth. And I wash my hands with hot, soapy water. Usually twice on certain occasions.

Most of all, I love my wife.

 

 

Procrastination and Joel Osteen

Not sure where this post is going, but I thought I would tap on this keyboard thingy here just so I do not forget how to do so. Yeah, I know, what you’re thinking, imaginary reader, you’re thinking, “This guy is an amazing writer! He should be at the top of the blogosphere in no time at all!” Thank you, rhetorically gifted imaginary person, I appreciate the atta-boy very much. It sustains me.

Actually, I really hadn’t dreamed of this post going that direction at all; let’s pretend the first paragraph never happened since I will not be deleting it. It’s about principle, you see.

Lately, I’ve been trying to get around to all (OK, many) of the things I have been procrastinating on. Projects which generally suffer due to my irregular hours as a tow truck driver. Little things such as, repairing my truck’s exhaust system, mowing all of my yard instead of half, repairing a dresser drawer in my daughters’ room, transfering home video tapes over to digital for a family documentary (i.e. home movie) I have wanted to do for about ten years now, and, well, you get the picture.

Excuses abound. Some are pretty amazingly creative, and, I will be honest, persuasive. Not enough time! There’s never time! I can never get around to it! (Exclamation points should not be used to convey sincerity because they’re like raising your voice: if you do it too much no one will listen.) To shorten the word count, and to get out of actually giving you a plethora of examples, I will say this: Excuses are about as useful as e-mail. Everyone uses e-mail once in a while, but no one uses…Just lost my train of thought due to the fact that I am making this up a tad before midnight. I will not go softly into the night! No way!

This has been an exercise in what not to write about. If you read this, you’re probably thinking this was about as profitable as a Joel Osteen sermon is biblically sound. My apologies. Too bad, for it had so much promise. As Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day!”