Field Stone Cottage Blog

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thoughts on Good Listeners

A few days ago, I posted about the sermon we heard at Emily's church in Ann Arbor, MI. The substance of that message (at least to me), drawn from Genesis 16:7-16, is that God wants us to pour our hearts out to Him and that being a fully engaged listener to others honors Him. This message has kept my mind busy in contemplation ever since I heard it. Here are some of my thoughts on it:
  1. Having someone give you the kind of listening ear that Pastor Del Belcher speaks of in this sermon is a very rare thing. In fact, its impossible in our humanness without God's enabling.
  2. The gifts mentioned in His Word are not all there are (as, for example, there are so many, many ways to express love to others) but this one seems so incredibly important to me, although I know there is no hierarchy of importance among the gifts.
  3. But my heart aches for those in need of the benefits of this gift in others. I've been the one who needed the listening ear and had no one to listen to me. I've been the one who offered (in my imperfect way) that listening ear to others.
  4. The benefit of being able to pour your heart out to another and have them really listen is nothing short of healing.
  5. Maybe loneliness and a feeling of isolation is the biggest epidemic in our culture. And in our churches too.
  6. The opposite of this pandemic loneliness is a sense of community, even if that sense of community, of being loved and valued, is with only one other person. Ideally, especially in a church body, it should be with much more than that. It should be unity in the whole body of believers. Not unity of thought necessarily but a unity of underlying love for each other, the love of Christ.
  7. Good listening is only one expression of this underlying love. But I am praying that God enable me to exercise it in increasing measure.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Blue Skies and Open Water!

We got a sneak preview of today's warmer, sunny weather yesterday afternoon after the snow storm but its continuing into promised! Doesn't Crystal Lake look beautiful with the dark blue, open water between the snowy shoreline and the lighter, sunshiny blue sky!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Changes

Almost overnight, it went from this:

to this:

Yes, its that most unpredictable of seasons...Spring. The one we may long for the most but its hide and seek game can be oh, so frustrating! For now, we've got about six inches on the ground in Crystal Lake, IL and its still snowing. Its that wet, dense stuff that clings to everything and is so lovely from the windows but backbreaking to shovel. Thank God for snowblowers! And for the promise of 45 degrees and sun tomorrow!

Sunday's Hymn: I Need Thee Every Hour

I need thee ev'ry hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like thine
Can peace afford.

I need thee, O I need thee,
Ev'ry hour I need thee,
O bless me now, my Saviour,
I come to thee.

I need thee ev'ry hour,
Stay thou near by;
Temptations lose their pow'r
When thou art nigh.

I need thee ev'ry hour,
In joy or pain;
Come quickly, and abide,
Or life is vain.

I need thee ev'ry hour,
Teach me thy will,
And thy rich promises
In me fulfil.

I need thee ev'ry hour,
Most Holy One;
O make me thine indeed,
Thou blessed Son.

Annie S. Hawks, 1872; refrain by Robert Lowry, 1872
Tune: Robert Lowry, 1872

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Good Listeners

We went to Emily's church with her when we were recently in Ann Arbor, MI for the weekend and I've been thinking about the sermon we heard ever since. I wish it was online because, believe me, I'd be linking to it! As it is, you'll just have to put up with me telling you about the aspect of it that particularly interested me.

The pastor, Del Belcher, is working his way through Genesis on Sunday mornings and this sermon focused on Genesis 16:7-16. The passage follows the mistreatment of Hagar by Sarah (Sarai) after Hagar becomes pregnant by Abraham (Abram) at the instigation of Sarah. Here it is:
7 The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?"
"I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she answered.

9 Then the angel of the LORD told her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her." 10 The angel added, "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count."

11 The angel of the LORD also said to her:
"You are now with child
and you will have a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the LORD has heard of your misery.

12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone's hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers."

13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

Five points were made in this sermon about this particular passage but it was the second one that really intrigued me. The pastor pointed out that God gave Hagar an opportunity to tell her story in verse 8 when He asked "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?" Certainly God already knew the answers to those questions just as He also knew the answers to the questions He asked of Adam and Eve following the Fall (Genesis 3:9,11, 13). And God asked the same sort of leading question of Saul in Acts 9:4; "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Furthermore, God gives each one of us the opportunity to come to Him and tell our story, tell our deepest thoughts and feelings to Him in prayer and confession. As if that isn't encouraging enough, there is more.

To be a good listener, to ask leading questions and be willing to really listen, to give someone an opportunity to pour out where they are coming from and where they are going is to behave in a manner that emulates God and honors Him. It demonstrates caring and love to others. This pastor put it even more strongly. He said that this sort of behaviour, this willingness to really listen, is an act of worship. But, he cautioned, you must be very patient if you ask these sort of open-ended questions of another. Be prepared to give generously of your time, your attention...and your love. So don't ask if you really don't want to know!

Note: My personal reflections to follow in another post.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You've Got to Read This One!

You've heard the expression "Truth is stranger than fiction," I'm sure, but the rest of that quote variously credited to Mark Twain or Blaise Pascal says, "but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't." Well, here's a story to prove it. Its at Al Mohler's blog and it leaves me without much more to say than you've just got to read it! Especially if you are over, make that 40. And then tell me if you don't think of another expression..."There's a sucker born every minute." That one's from P.T. Barnum.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday's Hymn: Christ of All My Hopes the Ground

Christ, of all my hopes the ground,
Christ, the spring of all my joy,
Still in thee may I be found,
Still for thee my pow'rs employ.

Let thy love my heart inflame;
Keep thy fear before my sight;
Be thy praise my highest aim;
Be thy smile my chief delight.

Fountain of o'erflowing grace,
Freely from thy fullness give;
Till I close my earthly race,
May I prove it "Christ to live."

Firmly trusting in thy blood,
Nothing shall my heart confound;
Safely I shall pass the flood,
Safely reach Immanuel's ground.

Thus, O thus, an entrance give
To the land of cloudless sky;
Having known it "Christ to live,"
Let me know it "gain to die."

Ralph Wardlaw, 1817
Tune: Hendon, H.A. Cesar Malan, 1827

Friday, March 20, 2009

15 Words or Less Poem

Giant silver tulip glimmers in the sun.
Genetic engineering gone a bit too far?

For more 15 Words or Less Poems, visit Laura Purdie Salas.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

They're Back....And So am I!

A few weeks ago, I posted a picture of the tiniest little shoots of my snowdrops. And then we got some more winter weather. But they are back now and fully blooming, along with some purple crocuses! I love these earliest harbingers of spring, don't you?

And speaking of back, we are back from our weekend with Emily in Ann Arbor, MI. And what a wonderful, wonderful weekend it was! The recital was perfect! I believe even she was happy with how she played. She had terrific attendance, especially from her church. Those people really support and love her which was a lovely thing for this mother's heart to see.

Actually, it was a wonderful weekend in so many ways. Remember I mentioned that it felt funny to be going to her apartment to visit? Kind of a role reversal feeling? Well, it was that but it was also just so comforting to see how much love and effort she put into making us feel welcome there. A glimpse of the things a Mom or Dad hopes for throughout all the years of parenting. More than a glimpse. I am still basking in it!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Irish Quote

So I have come...
where the fields are sharply green,
where a wild beauty hides in the glens,
where sudden surprising vistas open up
as the road rises and falls;
and here I smell for the first time
the incense of Ireland, the smoke of turf fires,
and here for the first time
I see the face of the Irish countryside.
--H.V. Morton

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday's Hymn: Jesus, With Thy Church Abide

Jesus, with thy church abide,
Be her Saviour, Lord and Guide,
While on earth her faith is tried:
We beseech thee, hear us.

Keep her life and doctrine pure;
Grant her patience to endure,
Trusting in thy promise sure:
We beseech thee, hear us.

May she one in doctrine be,
One in truth and charity,
Winning all to faith in thee:
We beseech thee, hear us.

May she guide the poor and blind,
Seek the lost until she find,
And the brokenhearted bind:
We beseech thee, hear us.

Save her love from growing cold,
Make her watchmen strong and bold,
Fence her round, thy peaceful fold:
We beseech thee, hear us.

May her lamp of truth be bright,
Bid her bear aloft its light
Through the realms of heathen night:
We beseech thee, hear us.

Arm her soldiers with the cross,
Brave to suffer toil or loss,
Counting earthly gain but dross:
We beseech thee, hear us.

May she holy triumphs win,
Overthrow the hosts of sin,
Gather all the nations in:
We beseech thee, hear us.

Thomas Benson Pollock, 1871
Tune: Gower's Litany, John Henry Gower, 1891

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Away for the Weekend

We're leaving tomorrow for Ann Arbor, MI. That's where our daughter, Emily, lives. Its about five hours away from the cottage. Usually, she comes here for holidays and vacations but this occasion is her big recital and that's occurring over there so we're doing the traveling. Its kind of an odd feeling to be the visitors at her apartment, her school of music, her church. We'll enjoy it, I'm sure, but it feels like a subtle change in roles somehow. Still, she's actually learned to cook this year and that part really has some benefits! Maybe I just have to sit back and enjoy some of these role reversals more!

Anyway, as far as blogging is concerned, I've got my Sunday Hymn ready to go at the appointed time but other than that, it'll be quiet at the cottage this weekend. See you all again next week.

15 Words or Less Poem

Who lives within the door of imagination?
Fairies, you say? Maybe in May.
In March, leprechauns rule.

Laura Purdie Salas is the hostess for 15 Words or Less Poems each Thursday. To read more poems or submit one of your own, visit Laura here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Computer Mercies

I had a near catastrophe here at the cottage this afternoon. I spilled a full cup of tea as I set it down next to my laptop! You can't imagine (well, maybe you can) the rush of fear and anger at myself that I felt! How could I do anything so stupid and clumsy? I am not even sure exactly what happened--just that all of a sudden tea was splashed on my keyboard and screen and flowing underneath the entire laptop.

So I mopped up the excess with the closest towels I could grab and reached for the phone to call Andy. He's my go-to technology person and I had no idea what to do. All I could remember was a story Emily had told us of a girl at college who spilled hot chocolate on her laptop and tried to dry it with a hair dryer. And the outcome of that story was disaster.

Well, Andy said unplug it right away. I had done that not because I remembered the electricity and water thing in the heat of the moment but just to expedite the wiping up of the tea. Take out the battery was his next instruction. Done, with his help. Turn it over with it opened to let any excess tea (isn't it all excess in a laptop?) run out of the keyboard and leave it until he got home. That was a very long hour and a half!

I met him at the door with a splitting headache. He reassured me that chances are it would be all right, that sweet liquids like coke and hot chocolate are the worst. (I don't put sugar in my tea.) Then he walked into Charlie's room, where I usually use my laptop, and took it downstairs to his workbench while I finished getting supper on the table. He checked out the bottom and said there was no tea in there. The keyboard looked good. We took a break for supper.

Then he opened the part between the keyboard and the hinge for the screen. Some dampness in there. Oh, please God let my laptop live. Andy dried out the excess and took it downstairs again to use Charlie's stand dryer, a professional groomer model that has very low heat but a high volume of air, on it. Back upstairs for the test. All the settings were messed up but Andy fixed that in a few minutes and turned it over to me, fully functional! Thank You, God, for Your mercy in restoring my computer and thank You for such a capable and loving husband! I am blessed.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday's Hymn: Arise, My Soul, Arise

Arise, my soul, arise,
Shake off thy guilty fears:
The bleeding Sacrifice
In my behalf appears:
Before the Throne my Surety stands,
My name is written on his hands.

He ever lives above,
For me to intercede,
His all-redeeming love,
His precious blood to plead;
His blood atoned for ev'ry race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
Five bleeding wounds he bears,
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers,
They strongly plead for me;
Forgive him, O forgive, they cry,
Nor let that ransomed sinner die!

My God is reconciled;
His pard'ning voice I hear;
He owns me for his child,
I can no longer fear;
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And "Father, Abba, Father!" cry.

Charles Wesley, 1742
Tune: Lenox, Louis Edson, 1782

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chinese Garden

On my recent trip to Portland, Oregon to visit with my family, I went to the Classical Chinese Garden in downtown Portland. It is gorgeous! The Garden encompasses a complete city block and, once inside of it, you can almost forget that you are actually in a city. I've set this photo as my desktop and I thought I'd share it with my readers too.

15 Words or Less Poem

Flying on icy currents
Beyond gravity
Until she reaches up with cold, hard fingers.

Laura Purdie Salas hosts 15 Words or Less Poems each Thursday. Visit her to read others or add your own.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Square Root Day?

If you're desperately seeking something to celebrate today, look no further. Its Square Root Day! This big day only happens nine times in a century. Its when the day and month of the date are the square root of the year. Hence, 3/3/09, three being the square root of nine. So how do you celebrate a day like this? Well, you could eat some root veggies cut into squares, you could wear square-toed shoes or you could just walk around with a faint smile on your face waiting for someone to ask why. Or you could blog about it! How do you plan to celebrate this particular day?

Monday, March 2, 2009

I'm Home!

I'm home from my trip to Oregon to visit my family and am starting to feel back in my usual routine. It was a wonderful trip with lots of fun times shared with family. Then, when I got home, Emily was here for her "spring" break! I planned it so she'd be here to walk Charlie the last couple of days of my trip. For me, the fun continued right on through the weekend after my return so there was just no time to blog. Well, all the way through Saturday morning was fun. Saturday afternoon, Andy and I started installation of a new range hood and that project turned out to be a bit less than fun. (Still no time for blogging.) But its up now and tonight is the test of it! I am fixing steak on the grill pan...something that I had given up because our old microwave/range hood just wasn't up to the task.

Anyway...thanks for the good wishes on my little trip and I am slowly catching up on blog reading as well as posting. Its good to be home.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday's Hymn: All Glory be to Thee, Most High

All glory be to thee, Most High,
To thee all adoration;
In grace and truth thou drawest nigh
To offer us salvation;
Thou showest thy good will to men,
And peace shall reign on earth again;
We praise thy Name for ever.

We praise, we worship thee, we trust,
And give thee thanks for ever,
O Father, for thy rule is just
And wise, and changes never;
Thy hand almighty o'er us reigns,
Thou doest what thy will ordains;
'Tis well for us thou rulest.

O Jesus Christ, our God and Lord,
Son of the Heavenly Father,
O thou who hast our peace restored,
The straying sheep dost gather,
Thou Lamb of God, to thee on high
Out of the depths we sinners cry:
Have mercy on us, Jesus!

O Holy Spirit, precious gift,
Thou Comforter unfailing,
From Satan's snares our souls uplift,
And let thy power, availing,
Avert our woes and calm our dread.
For us the Saviour's blood was shed;
We trust in thee to save us.

Translated from German version of Latin hymn, Gloria in Excelsis
Tune: Allein Gott in der Hoh', Geistliche Lieder, Leipzig, 1539
Arr. by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, 1809-1847