Category Archives: Resources

Allegory of Herbert’s “Love (III)”

I’ve been going through some of my old college notes and came across this essay that I originally wrote as partial fulfillment of Dr. Horton’s Literary Criticism class in October 2001. This poem reminds me so much of Psalm 23 and is still one of my all-time favorites. I hope you’ll enjoy the poem and the analysis.

“Love (III)” by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d any thing.

A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

Thesis: George Herbert’s “Love (III)” is an allegory of spiritual conversion.

Outline:
I. “Love” and His actions allegorize God’s part of salvation.

A. God’s initial call to salvation is allegorized by Love’s welcoming the soul and drawing near to him.
B. God’s continued working in the soul is allegorized by Love leading the soul by the hand.
C. God’s free offer of an abundant life is allegorized by the Lord’s paying the debt and inviting the soul to “sit down” and “taste . . . meat” as a guest.

II. The “soul” and his responses allegorize man’s response to God’s call.

A. Man’s initial rejection but tacit interest is allegorized by the soul drawing back because of sin but still entering in.
B. Man’s desire to be saved is allegorized by the soul recognizing his desire to be a guest.
C. Man’s feelings of hopelessness are allegorized by the soul’s realizations of his own unworthiness and his own deserving of hell.
D. Man’s full trust and benefits of salvation are allegorized by the soul choosing to “sit and eat.”

Essay: “Allegory of ‘Love (III)'”

The great religious poet George Herbert wrote many poems using symbolism and allegory to relay his own evangelical protestant beliefs. Herbert’s greatest work is “The Temple,” a collection of religious poems concluding with “Love (III).” Many critics interpret this final poem to be an allegory of receiving communion. In relation to the preceding poem in the series, “Heaven,” this does not seem to be the best interpretation. Also, this poem is a description of a private occasion, rather than a public one. There is no mention of other guests or observers. George Herbert’s “Love (III) is more likely an allegory of spiritual conversion.

“Love” and His actions allegorize God’s part of salvation. God’s initial call to salvation is allegorized by Love’s welcoming the soul and drawing near to him. God continues His work, through Love, by “sweetly questioning” the soul. He takes the “hand” of the beloved and gently leads him to His home. Love is pictured as a gracious host who shows unmerited favor to His guest. God’s free offer of an abundant life is allegorized by the Lord’s paying the debt and inviting the soul to “sit down” and “taste . . . meat” as a guest. If this poem were an allegory of communion, the host would be the priest, and the recipient would kneel rather than “sit.” Love uses rehtorical questions to confirm Himself as the Great Creator and Cleanser who “made the eyes” and “bore the blame” of the soul’s shameful sin.

The “soul” and his responses allegorize man’s response to God’s call. Man’s initial rejection but latent interest is allegorized by the soul’s drawing back because of sin but still entering in. The “first entrance in” implies at least curiosity on the soul’s part. Man’s desire to be saved is allegorized by the soul’s recognizing his desire to be a “guest.”

When asked by Love what the soul “lack’d,” the only response was to be “worthy” of being His “guest.” In the Anglican Church, receivers of Communion had to prove themselves worthy of the ordinance. This, however, is not the case here with the soul. The soul does not have to prove his worth; he merely claims the unmerited favor of God. Man’s feelings of hopelessness and total depravity are allegorized by the soul’s realizations of his own unworthiness and his own deserving of hell.

In the first stanza, the “soul drew back” because he knew he was “guilty of dust and sin.” When Love tells the soul he will be “a guest,” the soul questions Love in startled unbelief, “I the unkind, ungrateful?” The soul feels unworthy to look on Love with his “marr’d” eyes.

The soul then realizes his reasonable duty is service, but Love responds, “You must sit down,” implying that Love will serve the soul. Man’s full trust and benefits of salvation are allegorized by the soul choosing to “sit and eat.” The doctrine of God’s irresistible grace is inferred here as the soul finally succumbs to “sit” after initially resisting God’s call. The guest does not merely “taste” God’s meat but sits down to “eat.” While communion offers a small portion of bread and wine, salvation offers fulfillment and satiety.

That the allegory is of spiritual conversion in “Love (III)” is clearly a better interpretation than that of allegorizing the ordinance of Communion. Although parts of the poem may relate to communion, they only do so as communion on earth symbolizes the believers’ future communion with God in heaven. Only by the love of God may any of us receive salvation and be able to commune with Him.

Book Review and Deal: Conscience by Andrew D. Naselli and JD Crowley

9781433550744Naselli, Andrew David, and J.D. Crowley. Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who DifferWheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016.

This book has literally been life-changing for our family. Bryan and I have been fortunate to hear many of these principles either from JD or Andy or our pastor, Danny Brooks. JD presented some of this material at a missions conference a few years ago. My parents, sister and brother-in-law, and Bryan and I had the privilege of attending this conference together. My parents have been faithful followers of Jesus for nearly their whole lives, but the principles they heard that weekend were a brand new way of thinking–a liberating way of thinking!

A couple of years later, this book came out, and my parents read it together. Then they bought 20+ copies and gave them to their small group friends and to their kids (us) to work through with our spouses. Bryan and I read through this book together over our vacation this past month. We took time to talk through the various chapters, applying them to various situations we’ve come across recently. I went to school with one of the authors, Andy, and have had the privilege of getting to know JD over the past few years. This past fall, I got to hear JD and Andy co-teach the principles outlined in this book at a missions conference in Minneapolis, and it was a boost to my heart and mind.

Reading through the book, my biggest take-away was gratitude that a vital resource like this finally exists for the Church at large! It deals with tough topics and gives a practical and theological way to work through various issues of conscience. If you’re expecting exact answers on what to believe, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, it walks you through every New Testament passage that mentions the conscience and helps you ask the hard questions to calibrate your conscience to the Word of God.

And it’s currently on sale! The electronic version is available on Amazon for only $2.99 for a short time. I encourage you to purchase a copy and dig into God’s Word as you calibrate your conscience (and learn how to love others whose consciences differ from your own).

May God show you His power and true, biblical freedom as you grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, calibrating your consciences to His Word. It’s not easy…but it’s so worth it!

 

 

Helpful Thoughts on What to Read

I recently started a twice monthly book club at my house. It has been SO much fun! The goal is to create a casual space for women to share what they’ve been reading, get book suggestions, hear reviews (or cautions) from other ladies, and encourage one another to read more. And it’s a good excuse for coffee and fellowship…as well as a chance to invite neighbors and community friends in!

The Gospel Coalition recently published a short interview of Noël Piper, Gloria Furman and Kathleen Nielson discussing the topic of reading. These are some of my favorite authors, so I love hearing their perspective! And I thought you’d enjoy it too!

Help! My Friend Is Reading a Dangerous Book from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

My “March Madness Mama” Goals

Winter months are always harder anyway, so I know I’ve had a little extra “mama bear padding” between holiday celebrations and the natural “hibernation process” that occurs in colder months. This last weekend, I stepped on the scale and noticed that my weight has been inching back up over the last few months. After having my son two years ago, I found it relatively easy to drop my pregnancy weight, which I contribute entirely to nursing! Thankfully, I was able to nurse for a little over a year, but as soon as I stopped nursing–you guessed it–I almost immediately gained 10 pounds back! And the scale has been tipping upwards ever since that point. With spring around the corner, it’s time to take control, shed the pounds, and get trim again!

I HATE fad diets and am actually pretty, vehemently opposed to dieting in general, but I do agree with following a healthful lifestyle, which includes a healthful diet (“the kinds of food that a person…habitually eats”) as well as regular exercise, sleep, hydration, etc. (Check out my post about the inspiration of MJTL’s blog banner here.)

My ultimate goal in doing this is not a number on a scale or to look good in a bathing suit (see posts on Biblical views of Health and Beauty), but to be fit for service–service to God, my family, and my community. I debated between Trim Healthy Mama (THM), Whole30, and Paleo plans, and I may be a crazy-mad mama, but starting today, these are my goals for this March:

  1. Be in the Word every single day! (I’m currently studying the Gospel of Mark.)
  2. Get active 5 days per week, at least 25 minutes per day, and I must break a sweat!
  3. Drink 1 gallon of water every day! (That’s 16 cups or 8 16-oz. glasses.)
  4. Eliminate dairy from my diet (I may add this back later, but it’s easier to say “none” than “limited” and be tempted to eat it too often).
  5. Follow the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) basic principles (essentially, keep your fats and carbs separate; eat healthy proteins with every meal; and eat small meals or snacks every 3-4 hours to keep your metabolism up).

Below is a basic overview of THM that I found on Brea Getting Fit‘s blog. And I’ll be saving more tips and recipes on my “THM and Whole30 Inspiration” Pinterest board, if you need some inspiration.

What are your “March Madness Mama” goals? Even if you’re not a “Mad Mama,” will you join me on the journey to be fit for service to God and our communities?

Book Review: Bittersweet, by Shauna Niequist

419sdwuncul-_sx321_bo1204203200_Niequist, Shauna. Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 256 pages.

Shauna Niequist continues to be one of my favorite authors. I found so many parallels in her Bittersweet story to our own story, that by chapter two, I was in tears. Thankfully, that was the “change” part of the book, and the “grace” part was still to come.

This book was raw, relatable, and beautifully crafted. The chapters are short and easy to read on the run–which is perfect as a mom to a very active toddler! I’d read a chapter or two before bed or between tasks during nap time, and it was a retreat in itself. Be ready to do some soul-searching and “self-processing” when you pick up this book–and maybe have a box of tissues nearby.

Her book Bread & Wine is still my favorite, but this was a good companion book. It didn’t get too deep or offer Scripture references for thought, but it was full of wit and insight into the practical side of dealing with emotions during seasons of change and disappointment, while leaning hard on Jesus. It very much felt like diary entries over a season of time that Shauna graciously allowed us permission to read.

My favorite quote is actually found on the back cover: “I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God’s graciousness, not life’s cruelty.”

Book Review: The Pastor’s Wife by Gloria Furman

9781433543838(Furman, Gloria. The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 156 pages.)

The Pastor’s Wife is a quick read and is summed up in its own introduction on page 20: “In case you don’t have time to read the rest of this book I’ll just put my cards on the table–I think wives of ministers need encouragement and refreshment in the Lord, and we find that hope and help in the gospel. This idea isn’t new or scandalous, but with all things clamoring for our attention I think we (I!) could use an opportunity to recalibrate our perspective and set our gaze on eternal things. After all, why would we want to wade around in shallow puddles of man-made ideals when there is the incomprehensible ocean of the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge for us to dive into (Eph. 3:18-19)?”

While this book is called The Pastor’s Wife, with a few tweaks, it could apply to any believing wife (or woman, for that matter). But as it stands, it should still be read by all women (and maybe men too) because it shows at the very least how to pray for and encourage your pastor’s wife in her God-given role.

The Pastor’s Wife is saturated with Scripture and Gospel realities–every section pointing our hearts to repent from our sin and run to Jesus! Over and over, our need for the grace of the Gospel is revealed–not just for salvation but in every moment of every day. In fact, every page exudes Gospel grace. We all need “encouragement and refreshment in the Lord” (20), and this book continually points us back to the reality of our Redeemer and exhorts us to renew our minds in His glorious Gospel.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“‘The Plan’ … was my functional idol, and I couldn’t fathom what life would be like if the plan failed” (44).

“We don’t take up the axe to chop down our idols so that our Father will love us. No, we reject our idols because we are our Father’s beloved daughters. … You know that a ministry opportunity is greater to you than Jesus if, when it is taken, hindered, or altered, you feel rattled, wrecked, preoccupied, anxious, insecure, insignificant, ignored, angry, sad, betrayed, or distraught. …when we design our lives around idols, we are setting up our own little kingdoms in which we insist that we are sovereign” (45).

“Sister, if the Lord is your shepherd, he will not leave you wanting. He provides abundantly for your needs and cares for you in seasons that are frightening. Of all the things we need on this earth, he provides it all, and he restores our soul. There is no shadow in any valley so dark that his Word does not illumine. Sister, you’re being followed. ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever’ (Ps. 23:6). Held in our Shepherd’s unflinching grip, we are safely his at all times and in every circumstance. Your constancy is Christ. And at the end of all things created, in the most beautiful paradox of the ages, the Lamb is shown to be the Shepherd, ‘and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’ (Rev. 7:17)” (54).

My favorite chapter was the final chapter about God being glorified in our weaknesses. Without spoiling the end too much, I found this chapter refreshing. So much emphasis is placed on finding and utilizing our strengths–for the Kingdom, for business, in marriage, etc. But God’s ways are not our ways and He chooses to use the foolishness of man to show forth His immense wisdom (Isaiah 55:8; I Cor. 1:27-31). Life and ministry is not about me or my strengths, but about the strength of Jesus to redeem us from our sin into His righteousness, and to use our weaknesses to show forth His surpassing glory (II Cor. 3:3-10). Amen and amen!

Book Review: Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow

Set in Charleston, South Carolina, during the American Revolutionary War, Celia Garth is a historical fiction novel about a young seamstress learning to make her own way in the new world. Through love and loss, grief and joy, and even a little intrigue, follow Celia through the streets and coasts of the low country. Even though this book is a little over 400 pages, it’s masterfully written and hard to put down!

Charleston is one of my favorite cities in the world, so I could see the steeples and cobblestones, hear the bells and horse hoofs, and smell the salt air as I read this novel. Definitely worth the read! And, please, someone make a movie out of this amazing classic!

Book Review: Word-Filled Women’s Ministry

51wwy59ejal-_sx322_bo1204203200_(Furman, Gloria, and Kathleen B. Nielson, Eds. Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 272 pages.)

My number one resolution for this year is to be a Word-filled woman, so it was only natural to pick Word-Filled Women’s Ministry as my first book to read in 2017. And I was not disappointed. On page 205, the editors describe Word-filled women as “women who clearly understand and pass on the Scriptures through both life and teaching.”

This book is different than many, as it’s a compilation of several authors, edited by Gloria Furman & Kathleen B. Nielson. Gloria and Kathleen add their own chapters too, of course, as they both have unique perspectives on and experience with women’s ministry in the local church. Here’s an overview of the parts, chapters and authors:

Part 1: The Heart of Women’s Ministry

  • 1: The Word at the Center: Hearing God Speak (Kathleen Nielson)
  • 2: The Word on Women: Enjoying Distinction (Claire Smith)
  • 3: The Word Passed On: Training New Leaders (Carrie Sandom)

Part 2: Contexts for Women’s Ministry

  • 4: The Local Church: Finding Where We Fit (Cindy Cochrum)
  • 5: The World around Us: Practicing Evangelism (Gloria Furman)
  • 6: The Ends of the Earth: Thinking Global (Keri Folmar)

Part 3: Issues in Women’s Ministry

  • 7: Older and Younger: Taking Titus Seriously (Susan Hunt and Kristie Anyabwile)
  • 8: Sexual Wholeness: Affirming Truth with Compassion (Ellen Mary Dykas)
  • 9: Gifts and Giftedness: Finding the Place to Serve (Kathleen Nielson and Gloria Furman)

Part 4: The End of Women’s Ministry

  • 10: Ultimate Goals: Heading for That Day (Nancy Guthrie)

I especially appreciated that the forward and several endorsements were written by men. It’s invaluable for men, especially pastors, to recognize the value and unique giftedness that women have among other women and as part of the Church at large. Women and men are equally gifted with being image bearers of God, and we all have the responsibility and privilege to study the Scriptures and share a personal relationship with Christ.

So many young women in the Church are desperate for older women to mentor them–single women, hurting women, young moms, women new to being empty nesters, and the list goes on. We all need to have two levels of accountability: looking to the more mature generations and speaking truth into the younger generation. But so many in the mature generations were never trained to mentor other women, so they feel inadequate or ill-equipped. And so many in the younger generation are tired of asking women to mentor them and feeling rejected when the answer comes back, “I just don’t think I have time right now,” or “You don’t want me to mentor you; why don’t you ask someone else.”

Word-Filled Women’s Ministry challenges each of us to not only pick up our Bibles and read them, but to apply the truths to our lives and then share those truths with those in our sphere of influence–and if we don’t think we have a sphere of influence, it challenges us to find a sphere of influence in our local church and community. It’s about time! And I give a hearty “Amen” to this!

If we are truly filled with the Word, it will naturally spill out of our lives as we move through our homes and classrooms and churches and grocery stores and…well, you get the idea. It’s not just about learning the Word, or even teaching the next generation, but there’s also an exhortation to teach the next generation HOW to teach their next generation! And we need to be willing to give them opportunities to practice this.

This book has lots of perspectives and voices and practical examples of how this can be done. Most importantly, it encourages us to cling to the grace and truth of the Gospel as fresh and vital to every moment of every day, and to use the gifts and abilities God has gifted us with for His glory and to point those around us to His great redemption story!

 

2017 Reading Challenge: Overview

This year, a couple of friends and I are attempting to read one book per week on average. Some weeks may be just a few chapters of two or three different books, and other weeks may be finishing multiple books, but by the end of the year, the goal is to have read 52 books! I was inspired by Tim Challies’ 2017 Christian Reading Challenge (pictured below), so I thought I’d give it a try. And I’m going to attempt to do at least a mini review of the books as I go. I tend to have at least one theology book, one fiction book, and one either self-help or other genre going at any given time anyway, so this just motivates me to finish the books I start (unless they’re really not worth reading by chapter 3), branch out into new topics and authors, and watch TV less. 😉 Who’s with me?!reading-challenge-2017copy

Book Review: Humble Roots – How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul by Hannah Anderson

Anderson, Hannah. Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul. Chicago: Moody P, 2016. 513mja5ds-l-_sx326_bo1204203200_

I was privileged to be a part of the Humble Roots Launch Team this year, which means I got a free copy (and some other goodies to share) in exchange for writing a review. I finally got a chance to read this on a trip I took this fall…and I couldn’t put it down! I read nearly half on the flight to my destination, read every free second I had on the trip, and finished it on the flight home. It was the perfect length!

Maybe it’s the fact that God moved our family to the country this year, or that I had just planted my first garden at the new house, or that He’s been working on my own humility and being grounded in the Word this past year already, but this book was probably the best book I’ve read all year (and I’ve read quite a few).

Hannah uses horticulture analogies, Scripture, and relevant quotes from historic and current authors to weave together a beautiful manuscript of God’s grace in bringing her to a walk of humility as a wife of a pastor in rural Virginia and a young mom. I loved it! Every chapter is filled with beautifully descriptive analogies of food and wine, farming and horticulture–wonderful gifts of our good, good Father!

I found myself relating to Hannah, and feeling like she was sitting next to me, telling me her story (instead of me just reading it). And the message resonated with me–the message that it’s not about me, but it’s All about Him who called me to His marvelous light and is laying the groundwork, preparing the way, and tilling the soil of my soul.

I underlined quote after quote and copied the quotes out onto pages and pages in my journal, and it’s hard to narrow down my favorite parts, because there are so many! But I’ll try to share a few:

“Failure at small things…reminds us of how helpless we are in this great, wide world. When little things spiral out of control, they remind us that even they were never within our control in the first place. … Jesus understood this…when He called the people of Galilee to leave their anxiety–when He calls us to do the same–He does so in context of mundane, very ordinary concerns” (26).

“Left to itself, a field will quickly become overgrown with weeds, the soil will settle and harden, and changes in weather will make it rocky. Hardly a hospitable environment for tender roots and sprouts” (33). “Jesus isn’t calling us to shoulder an extra burden; He is calling us to exchange a heavy burden for a lighter one” (35).

“When we believe that with enough effort, enough organization, or enough commitment, we can fix things that are broken, we set ourselves in God’s place. And when we do, we reap stress, restlessness, and anxiety. Instead of submitting to His yoke, we break it and run wild, trampling the very ground we are meant to cultivate” (42).

“When we are consumed with God’s glory, we forget to worry about our own. When our eyes are fixed on Him as the source of all goodness and truth and beauty, we accept that we are not. When we are enamoured by His worth and majesty, we can stop being so enamoured with ourselves. And fascinatingly, when we seek God’s glory, we’ll be able to appreciate it in the people around us. Instead of seeing them as threats to our own glory, we will see them as beautiful reflections of His” (76).

“Ultimately, by silencing the cacophony of emotion,  humility frees you to hear God’s call and leads you to a place of both rest and flourishing” (110).

“Because ‘God is greater than your heart’ [qtd. I John 3.20], you can trust Him to care for you when your heart breaks through disappointment or suffering. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ you can trust Him to rejoice with you in times of joy and success. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ you can trust Him to correct and lead you through doubt and fear. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ He can handle  the depth of your emotions. He is not afraid of them, and as you bring them back to Him, you shouldn’t be afraid of them either. In this sense, humility does not shut down your inner life; humility redeems it” (114).

“But the world is a complicated, nuanced, unpredictable place, and easy answers aren’t sustainable. In fact, the world is so mixed-up and broken, so complicated, that the only one who can lead us through it is God Himself. Instead of seeking certainty, we must teach them [our children] to follow Jesus in the mist of uncertainty” (131).

“It is precisely the fact that our resources do not belong to us–that they have been given to us by our good, kind Master–that frees us to take risks. When everything is gift and when we learn to trust the Giver of those gifts, we learn a kind of humility that makes us fearless and productive” (148).

“Pride, on the other hand, demands to know God’s will before it will act. It balks and haults and refuses to move until success is guaranteed” (159).

“God only reveals the course of our lives one step at a time. God only makes our paths straight before us with each step of faith. God does not offer us a map so much as a promise to guide us on the journey” (160).

I hope you will pick up a copy of Humble Roots and not just read it, but savor every morsel and be refreshed by the truths it contains, as you continue on your own journey of humility and grace, knowing that you are not alone on this journey.