Our Responsibility to Discern False Teaching

A prophet of God sat under an oak, taking a rest from his long journey. He had come from Judah to Bethel to deliver to King Jeroboam a harsh but needed message.

God had told this prophet not to eat bread or drink water while on this mission, and to return by a different way than he had come. Perhaps the man of God thought these directives were to protect him from the possible diversion by the king, who offered him refreshment and a reward. Or they were to keep him from appearing to show any sign of compromise, as a meal together would indicate friendship and fellowship. Or he might have felt they were a form of fasting, symbolic of his dedication in doing God’s work.

Maybe he should have interpreted them as, “Don’t linger. Do your business and get back as soon as possible.”

As he rested, an older man rode up to him on a donkey, identifying himself as a prophet of God as well. Prophet 2 (let’s call him Henry to avoid confusing pronouns) invited Prophet 1 (George, let’s say) home for a meal. George repeated what he had told the king: he had been told not to eat bread or drink water in that place.

But Henry assured George it was all right. “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’”

George didn’t think he had a reason to distrust Henry: he was a fellow prophet after all. And George was probably tired, hungry, and thirsty. So he accompanied Henry back to his house.

But Henry had been lying.

“As they sat at the table, the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back. And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord and have not kept the command that the Lord your God commanded you, but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, ‘Eat no bread and drink no water,’ your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’”

There’s no record of George’s response. But on his way home, a lion killed him. George’s body was thrown from his donkey, but the lion didn’t eat either George or the donkey. The animals just waited with the body until townspeople passed by and brought word back to the city about what had happened. Henry heard the news and rode back to pick up George, then brought him home to bury in his own tomb.

This is one of the oddest stories in the Bible (1 Kings 13). One of the first questions that comes to mind is, “Why did the second prophet lie to the first?” What earthly reason could he have had? The Bible doesn’t tell us. He didn’t hate the first prophet: he mourned him, called him brother, and confirmed his prophecy to Jeroboam. He even asked to be buried next to him when he died.

We have to remember this is not an isolated story just thrown into the narrative of Israel’s kings. This incident took place within the bigger context of Jeroboam’s awful sins of making golden calves for Israel to worship and setting up a whole different system than what God had given Israel. Perhaps this story is an OT illustration of the NT verse in 1 Peter 4:17: “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” If God would discipline his own prophet who had disobeyed a simple directive, what would He do to the likes of Jeroboam? Perhaps this story was confirmation that God would deal with Jeroboam as the prophet had said.

There are several truths and applications that could be gleaned from this passage. But the one I want to hone in on is this: Know God’s Word. Obey it. Don’t let the surrounding culture turn you away from it. Don’t let even other professing believers distract you from it.

That’s not to say we never ask counsel or receive advice. The Bible tells us to do both. The fellowship of other believers, Bible study books, commentaries, and other aids can open our understanding and point out things we missed.

But we’re to know God’s Word for ourselves so we can discern when someone is telling us something different.

False prophets don’t always look or sound like false prophets at first. They are “deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Paul said in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

Much of the OT warns against false prophets. In one place, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD'” (Jeremiah 23:16).

The NT warns of false prophets and teachers as well. In her book Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity, Alisa Childers writes: “Much of the New Testament, including the entire book of Jude, is dedicated to helping Christians watch out for, recognize, and avoid these sheep-clothed wolves. In researching some of these passages, I discovered that the topic of false teachers and false teaching is addressed directly in twenty-two of twenty-seven New Testament books. Encouragement to keep the true faith and to practice discernment is mentioned in every single one.”

The Bible warns that false teachers will not only come in from the outside, but they’ll arise from within the congregation. In Paul’s farewell message to the elders at Ephesus, he warned, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert,” (Acts 20:29-31a). Peter warned about false teachers arising “among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1-3). This was what happened to Alisa Childers, whose book I mentioned. Her own trusted pastor began undermining longstanding doctrines of the faith.

The Bible gives us the responsibility to watch out for false doctrine. I’ve already mentioned Paul’s admonition to “be alert” in Acts 20:31. Jesus began warnings about false teachers with the word “Beware.” Paul says elsewhere, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

I don’t think this means we need to become unduly suspicious of one another. But we study the Word of God and check whatever we’re taught against it. The Bereans in Acts were called noble because they did this with Paul’s teaching. Alisa followed their example and searched for the truth, nailing down why she believed what she did.

After Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders, he said, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). When he wrote to the Ephesians later, he said God had given the church gifts in “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” in order “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:12-14).

So while we don’t need to get paranoid, we do need to be alert. And we remember that we don’t come to the Bible just for affirmation or comfort or warm fuzzies. We come to it to find truth about and from God. We study God’s Word for ourselves and with others, and as we grow in spiritual maturity, we won’t be deceived and tossed about.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

Here’s the latest thought-provoking reads seen around the Web lately.

In Christ, We Have Direct Access to God, HT to Challies. “Is it inconsistent for the Bible to teach us that God ‘dwells in unapproachable light’ (1 Tim. 6:16), while at the same time exhort us to draw near to him? If God dwells in the white-hot light of his holiness, how can sinners like you and me ever hope to take even one baby step toward him? If God is so pure, so completely undefiled, so sharply separate from sin, how can we approach him? Indeed, it seems, he is unapproachable. Yet the author of Hebrews strongly encourages believers to not only approach God, but to do so with ‘full assurance.'”

Still, HT to Challies. This is beautifully written. “Is it true that the quiet valleys of this world harbour stillness like some treasure to be dug up? Quite possibly. But I’m not convinced that is what the ancient song-writer is calling us to. Rather, it strikes me that there is a tone of command here, a tone better heard if we had sat with the desperate disciples on a wind whipped lake, the night dread gripped their hearts.”

Keys to Knowing God’s Will for Your Life. “Of all the issues related to Christian living, few receive greater attention than knowing God’s will for our lives. Many believers, and especially younger ones, agonize over knowing what God means for them to do and how he means for them to live out their days. Many end up leaning toward a low-grade form of mysticism, longing to receive some kind of a sign from the skies or some kind of a word in their hearts.”

What Makes a “Strong Woman” Strong? HT to Challies. “‘Strong woman’ is a phrase heard often these days, and because I admire both words and women, I’ve been paying attention. It’s used in politics, on campuses, in the media, and even by little girls who know at a very early age to describe themselves as ‘strong.’ It’s made me think about what strong actually means—what is the implication when people say ‘strong woman’?”

We Don’t Need to Rescue Biblical Characters from Themselves, HT to Challies. “If we understand that the Bible is not a book of heroes to emulate, but sinners in the need of Jesus, our outlook changes a bit. We don’t need to rescue the biblical characters from themselves so we can emulate them, we can take comfort in the fact that even our very greatest heroes in the Bible were not perfectly faithful. They, as much as us, needed Jesus. The Biblical characters are not there principally as examples to us to emulate, but as examples to us of God’s grace.”

Two Letters and a Cute Dog Photo, HT to Challies. “My mind turns to the commute home and the evening ahead. Oh, that’s right: tonight is Bible study night. I was already feeling physically and mentally tired, and now I realise I’ve got to get home, do a quick turn around on dinner, then up and out in the cold to head to my home group. Or … I could stay home, get those nagging chores done, quickly watch the next episode of that Netflix series I’ve been enjoying, and get to bed at a time more in keeping with the level of fatigue I’m feeling. I’m sure my group and the leaders will understand. They always do. Here are five quick reasons to intentionally derail that train of thought and go to growth group.”

Not What I Expected, HT to Challies. “One of the most shocking television moments I ever witnessed was on L.A. Law in the 1980s. A character everyone loved to hate, Rosalind, stepped through her law office’s elevator doors mid-sentence and unexpectedly plummeted to her death. That’s kind of how I felt when I became a mom…like I was falling. I stepped forward and the floor wasn’t there. The drastic life change was so much harder than I expected, in ways I didn’t anticipate.”

Teach Us to Number Our Drives, That We May Gain the Hearts of Our Children, HT to Challies. “Even though I know this comes with the territory, I struggle to enjoy it. This season of spending lots of time together in the car is fleeting, and I need to take advantage of having a captive audience. But while I love my kids with all my heart, and I’d jump in front of an oncoming train for them, some days I don’t want to lay my life down to drive them across town.”

And a thought for the day:

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

Wow, this week sure went by fast. I’m thankful Susanne at Living to Tell the Story started this habit of pausing on Fridays to reflect on the blessings of the week. Here are a few of mine:

1. Mother’s Day. My family does a good job making me feel special on Mother’s Day. We had a mostly “man-made” meal, though Mittu said she and Timothy helped with the dessert. Jim grilled his trademark teriyaki chicken, Jesse made homemade baked macaroni and cheese, and Jason made Chocolate Pretzel Pie. Jim and Jesse worked together on corn on the cob. It was all so good! I didn’t get a picture of the whole dinner, but here’s the dessert:

2. Hanging baskets. Jim traditionally gets the baskets of flowers that hang outside the front door, the kitchen windows, and “office” windows for Mother’s Day if I have not gotten them beforehand. I love seeing flowers outside most of the windows.

3. Front door decoration. I finally traded out my spring tulips for a different look. I had this container up before, but the flowers had gotten mildewed. I had more but just got around to replacing them. This hangs beside, rather than on, our door because the door has an oval glass insert.

4. An unscheduled week. It was nice to have nothing on the schedule this week after Sunday and nothing that had to be done besides the regular everyday stuff.

5. A special answer to prayer. I can’t discuss the details, but it was wonderful to see God intervene, in answer to my husband’s prayer, in a situation that, humanly, looked very much like it would go a different direction.

I hope you’re week has been good.

The Girl in the Painting

In The Girl in the Painting by Australian author Tea Cooper, Michael and Elizabeth Quinn are orphaned siblings who immigrated from England to Australia in 1862. Their parents had gone on ahead to take advantage of free passage for married couples and left them with an aunt. But the aunt died before the children left and they had to go to a workhouse until time for departure. Then they found, upon arrival, that their mother had died, and the father passed away, too, before long.

The father had established himself in an area of gold seekers. But he didn’t mine gold for himself: he started a business servicing the miners, especially hauling their things around. Michael, a teenager by this time, took over the business and built it up, leaving Elizabeth in the care of a woman they’d met on the ship until he could establish a home for them..

By 1906, the Quinns were wealthy business people and philanthropists in Maitland Town. One of their outreaches was to the local orphanage, in memory of their own time as orphans. One of the orphans, Jane, has an exceptional aptitude for math. The Quinns offer to take Jane in and pay for her education in exchange for her working for their company. She eventually becomes their bookkeeper as well as taking over many of Michael’s duties.

One day Jane and Elizabeth visit a one of their buildings where they’ve invited an artist to hold an exhibition. Suddenly the ultra self-controlled Elizabeth is on the floor, shaking in terror, hat off, mumbling unintelligible words.

After a while, Elizabeth seems back to normal and insists everything is fine. But she’s not back to normal, and everything’s not fine. Odd snatches of memory and terror keep coming back to her mind.

Jane makes it her mission to find out what caused Elizabeth’s episode and discovers some unexpected long-held secrets.

This was an enjoyable book, especially in trying to figure out the mystery behind Elizabeth’s reaction to a painting. It was nice to read something set in a different time and place than a lot of historical fiction (so much of which centers around WWII). We get a picture of what immigrants were up against in those times, not only the English, but also the Chinese who were treated mainly as servants and the lowest workmen.

I loved the cover.

My only minor complaint is that the change between happy and adjusted Michael and Elizabeth and unraveling Elizabeth and brooding Michael seemed rather sudden. I guess that’s an indication that the past was a well-kept secret. But it just seems that, in a literary sense, there would have been more hints throughout the book that everything was not as we thought. I only caught one, and that was only after finishing the book and going back to reread the siblings entry onto the ship taking them to Australia. But, again, it’s a minor complaint and can be explained by the reaction to the painting that set off that aspect of the story.

I had thought this was a Christian fiction book because I bought it from a Christian site. But it wasn’t in any real sense of the word. That’s fine—I don’t restrict myself to Christian fiction. It just meant the book wasn’t what I expected at first. The orphanage Jane comes from is Catholic. Some of the Chinese religious practices are explained when Elizabeth befriends the Chinese man who works for them. But there’s not much other religious content. I would disagree with one statement that it doesn’t matter what gods people prayed to and one person’s thought that a dead relative was looking out for them from heaven.

The book is remarkably clean for modern secular fiction. Michael took the Lord’s name in vain a couple of times and a couple people said “what the hell.”

But, overall, I enjoyed the story.

Ten Time Management Choices

My husband has no idea how much he owes Sandra Felton.

I did not come to marriage very organized in either my time or my stuff. In college, I wasn’t lazy, but I was always running behind. Many of my grades suffered from late deductions. And I can’t tell you how many times I got frustrated over not being able to find an item or paper I needed.

Sometime during early marriage, I came across Sandra Felton’s book, The Messies Manual. Then I subscribed to her newsletter for years until I knew by heart what each one was going to say.

I put a lot of Sandra’s principles into practice. I can’t say I became a paragon of organizational virtue, but I definitely improved from where I was.

But I learned something else about organization on my own. We can’t make up a workable schedule and put everything in its rightful place and then be done organizing. We have to maintain our systems and adapt them to new demands on our time and new items in our home.

So I have decided organization is not a destination. It’s a journey. And, therefore, I continue to occasionally reads books or articles about organization.

When I saw that Sandra had coauthored a fairly new book with Marsha Sims, and it was on sale for the Kindle app, I got it. That book is titled Ten Time Management Choices that Can Change Your Life.

The authors state that “One of the goals of this book is to help you accomplish easily and quickly those necessary but uninspiring activities that comprise much of our daily lives so you can turn your attention to the significant things you want to do” (p. 9).

They point out how the advent of modern technology eased life in some ways but created a lot more things to do, some necessary and some distracting.

They say some authors “downplay organizing systems and indicate that if you have enough focus and self-control, you’ll be okay. Not so. You need good skills as well” (p 21.) So they point out overarching principles but also offer practical tips.

They remind us often that “time management is not the art of getting everything done. It is the art of getting the most important things done. To put it another way, it is priority management.” (p. 63).

The authors offer a variety of ways to determine priorities, make schedules, etc. I love that. Some time management books promote a very rigid system. I don’t usually like everything about other people’s systems, so I appreciate the variety of methods to experiment with to find one that works best.

They also tackle multitasking, interruptions, procrastinating, delegation, time wasters, schedules, developing good habits.

They apply principles to home and business.

Each chapter has several vignettes of people with organizing problems and the solutions they found.

The end of each chapter and the end of the book contain questions and activities to help implement the principles. The sessions at the end of the book could be done alone or with a group.

Here are a few more quotes that stood out to me:

Creative people have more ideas and interests than any one person can do in a lifetime, and we accumulate the paraphernalia to prove it. (p. 54.)

A word of explanation is necessary to those who fear setting up a schedule because it feels rigid and stifling. Scheduling is not an inflexible list that is written in stone. It is a statement of what regular tasks are important to accomplish each day and when you plan to do them during the day. As you become experienced in using and tweaking your schedule, you will find it meets your needs more and more successfully and will become your friend. (pp. 163-164).

When you create a schedule for routine tasks, you open a tap through which good time management can flow. A schedule is absolutely necessary because 1. It keeps you from forgetting what needs to be done. 2. It protects you from the unsuccessful “What do I feel like doing today?” approach (p. 164).

Although I would not classify this as a Christian book overall, the authors do employ some biblical principles.

There was only one place I strongly disagreed with the authors.

Organized people work dispassionately. That frees them from a lot of stress. Disorganized people wear themselves out by investing emotion in the things they have to do. They work while saying, “I hate making the bed every day” or “Unloading the dishwasher is such a drag.” The way to take the emotion out of doing what you need to do regularly is to make the activity into a habit (p. 196).

I can’t say that making activities into habits takes the emotion out of them. I still chafe at a lot of things that have to be done. However, making them a habit gets them over with rather than pushing them to the background. And I look forward to the satisfaction of getting them done.

I don’t think I learned much that was totally new to me from the book. But many of the principles I had formerly learned were applied in new ways, and all of the book was a much-needed reminder.

If you need to organize your time better or need to brush up on organizing principles, this book would benefit you.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Ministry in the Mundane

Ministry in the Mundane

“If only I didn’t have to [cook, do dishes, sweep, dust, do laundry, go to the grocery store, etc., etc. etc.], I could get something meaningful done.”

Have you ever thought something like that? Or said it out loud?

Life is full of necessary but mundane tasks.

And whatever we do today likely has to be done again in a few days, if not tomorrow.

I was struck recently by how often I have to refill things: the salt shaker, the tea pitcher, the napkin holder, the toothpick holder, the paper towel and toilet paper holders, the pantry, the refrigerator, the dishwasher, the clothes washer and dryer, the toiletry closet.

When we want to write or participate in some kind of ministry, it’s hard to make time without leaving something else undone.

Yet when I look at the “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31, most of her day revolved around what would have been everyday tasks of her time: sewing for herself, her family, and her home (no department stores or online ordering in those days), cooking, seeking food “from afar,” buying a field, planting, working “willingly with her hands” late at night and early in the morning, making items to sell to supplement her family’s income. “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” She fears the Lord. “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” She does all of this with strength, kindness, faith, wisdom and dignity.

A couple of blog friends remind me of this lady. Sadly, they are no longer blogging. But they used to write about their everyday activities in their homes: house projects, gardening and canning, sewing, cooking, etc. They didn’t write devotionals or Bible lessons, but they shared observations in passing about God’s dealings with their lives. Their spirit shone through even in the “homey” activities. They brought a “sense of Him” in everything they did, not just the “spiritual” activities.

The one lady I count as my main mentor was the same way. We never studied through a book together. She never sat me across the table for a lesson. There is nothing wrong with those things. But she taught me plenty by how she managed her home (which she graciously invited me to) and conducted her life. She may have said a few things on purpose as a means of guidance or instruction, but if she did, they were so mild and gentle that I didn’t know I was being “taught.”

When my kids were younger, I regretted that I didn’t have more time for just playing with them. Oh, we played. We’d make Lego creations, read tons of books, go to the park, throw a blanket over the kitchen table and picnic underneath. But I felt guilty because it seemed like I never spent “enough” one-on-one time with them.

Then I thought about this Proverbs 31 lady, or Ma Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder writes of times that her mother played with her children, and I am sure the Proverbs 31 lady played with hers as well. But they didn’t spend all day at it. They didn’t just play together: they worked together. And Mother passed on to children characteristics they would need not only by direct teaching, but by example.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do”—ordinary, everyday activities—“do it all to the glory of God.”

Of course, we have to be careful not to be like Martha, so busy that we neglect what Jesus called the one needful thing of spending time with Him.

And It’s fine to seek ways to do our work as efficiently as possible so we do have time for other activities. If God opens the door for writing, speaking, organizing gatherings, or whatever, great!

But we can glorify God and minister to others in those everyday activities as well.
______

For those of you reading this on Mother’s Day, I hope you have a happy day honoring your Mom. If, like me, your mom is no longer living, I hope you have sweet memories.

For those who are moms, I hope your family gives you some relief from those everyday duties and pampers you today.

I realize that though this day is joyous for some, it’s painful for others—those who did not have a good relationship with their moms, who have lost children, who don’t have children but long to. My heart goes out to you, and I pray God will specially minister to your heart today.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

Here’s my almost-weekly round-up of good reads found this week:

The Secret to Not Being Manipulated. “We take it in, often uncritically. Yet right on the surface are aspects that should make us question what’s going on. . . . The key word is uncritically. We don’t stop to question. Thinking critically about what we read or hear doesn’t mean being critical in the sense of finding fault. It means asking questions.”

3 Common Mistakes We Make When Reading the Bible, HT to Knowable Word. “We are Bible people. And as Bible people, we should pursue reading Scripture well by avoiding common mistakes that we sometimes make.”

How to Kill Your Love for God’s Word. ‘Green thumb, black thumb, or somewhere in between—many of us are following these steps, and I’m not just talking about houseplants or gardening. If you want to kill your love for God’s Word, the same steps apply

As You Pray About Roe v. Wade. “But as we pray for America, I want to encourage us to widen our gaze a little bit and pray for the matter of abortion in other countries as well. Because, strange though it may be, the potential overturning of Roe v Wade, which is the law of the land in only one country, is already having ripple effects around the globe.”

Growing Up to Be Mom, HT to Challies. “Little hands on mighty hips, my seven-year-old face-offed with her teacher. The innocent question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ torched the classroom. It seems out of the entire class only my daughter thought the response, ‘I want to be a Mom,’ worth defending.”

A Mother’s Prayers. ‘Being a mother is a great joy—but also a heavy responsibility. And that’s why this Mother’s Day, I wanted to give the gift of prayer to each of our readers. I asked several mothers to share with me a specific way they pray for their children.”

32 Encouraging Bible Verses for Moms with Printable Graphics. These are beautiful!

A Mother’s Day Message for the Childless Woman. “You may not have physical descendants, but you have an eternal legacy that will shape the world you leave behind.”

Finally, this video of cakes that look like other objects is fascinating, HT to Steve Laube. I can’t even make regular old cakes that well. I watched a show with my son and daughter-in-law that was a contest like this: people had to choose everyday objects and then make a cake to look like their objects, then judges were brought in to determine which was the cake and which was the object. Amazing!

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

Yikes! I fell asleep in my desk chair this morning and woke up very late. Thankfully, I had most of this post written yesterday.

It’s hard to believe we’re through the first week of May already. It’s time to stop and reflect on the good things of the week with Susanne and others at Living to Tell the Story.

1. Raises. Jesse, my youngest son, received some new responsibilities at his job, which included a nice raise. Then Jim told me last night that he had also gotten a raise.

2. Celebrations. We turned a family gathering into a celebration for Jesse. Mittu made his favorite meal (hamburger stroganoff) ad some gorgeous and delicious gluten-free lemon cupcakes.

3. Important paperwork. We got our wills, living wills, and powers of attorney all set and notarized this week–something that’s been on our to-do list for ages. It’s nice to have them done.

4. Planters planted. Just today (Thursday), I got my front and back planters planted. We’re supposed to have thunderstorms tonight, so I hope the plants don’t get pummeled. I not only love the flowers themselves, but both areas look neater with plants rather than the residue from last year. Update: we had rain and storms all night, and we’re supposed to have them all day as well. The flowers look okay but a little bedraggled. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of them when I first planted them, and they’re too droopy for photos now. But, my roses are blooming!

5. Ceiling fans. The temperatures have not been high at night, and we have central AC anyway, but I have been waking up very hot. The ceiling fans help without my having to turn the AC down and freeze Jim out.

Happy Friday, and Happy Mother’s Day to the moms!

The Winnie-the-Pooh Books

Winnie-the-Pooh is a creation of A. A. Milne based on the teddy bear of his son, Christopher Robin. Milne had written many other genres: plays, magazine articles, books for adults. But these days he is best known for Pooh and Christopher Robin and their friends.

My kids grew up with the Disney version of Winnie the Pooh and company. There were four individual videos at the time: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, and Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore. The first three videos have since been combined into The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Then there was a Saturday morning cartoon called The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which we watched regularly for many years. We had stuffed Poohs (and Tiggers and Piglets) and Pooh picture books. If there were Pooh sheets or jammies, we would have had them.

But somehow, I never read the original Pooh books by A. A. Milne to my kids, and I have always regretted that. I’m not sure why I never read them. I had not read them in my own growing-up years: perhaps if I had, I would have made it a point to read them to my children just as I searched out some of the Little Golden Book titles that I’d had as a child. I dipped into one of the volumes at some point, but I don’t remember which one or if I completed it.

When I read Christopher Robin Milne’s autobiographies recently, I was reminded that I had never read the original Pooh books. So I set out to correct that lack.

There are four books that specially deal with Pooh.

When We Were Very Young is a book of children’s poems. Christopher Robin’s bear there is named Edward. Some time after that, he renamed his toy bear Winnie-the-Pooh (with hyphens when his whole name is written, though he is often called just Pooh or Pooh Bear. The Disney version dropped the hyphens). “Pooh” was after a swan that Christopher had previously given that name to, and Winnie after a bear by that name in a zoo. Some of the poems feature Christopher, but all of them were probably inspired by him. One of the most famous is “Vespers” about Christopher saying his prayers.

Winnie-the-Pooh is a collection of short stories about Christopher Robin and Pooh and the other animals/toys. The House at Pooh Corner, another collection of stories, was published next, and finally there was another collection of poems, Now We Are Six. “Forgiven” is one of my favorite poems from this volume.

One of the things I had liked about the videos and TV series was that they were quiet. There were conflicts and predicaments and misunderstandings, yes. But the shows weren’t full of noise and razzle-dazzle like other kid’s shows were (that was something I liked about Mister Rogers as well).

The books are the same way. The characters are endearing. Pooh is “a bear of very little brain,” but he is kind, thoughtful, and a faithful friend. He likes to make up rhymes and take time for “smackerel” of “a little something—usually “hunny.” Christopher Robin is the one everyone looks up to and the one who rescues the others when they get in trouble over their heads. Piglet is small and timid, but also kind and thoughtful. Rabbit is bossy, but has everyone’s best interests at heart. Eeyore is gloomy (actually, he’s a little harsher in the books). Owl is wise (he can even spell Tuesday!), Kanga is motherly, Roo is spunky.

One of my favorite quotes is from Pooh in The House at Pooh Corner about how poems come to him: “But it isn’t easy,’ said Pooh. ‘Because Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.” Another is this: “Sometimes,’ said Pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” And these:

Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.

People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.

It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.
 
Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.

I love how Kanga is described as carrying her family in her pocket (something Rabbit thinks strange at first).

And I dearly love this exchange between Eeyore and Pooh, read in Eeyore’s deadpan voice, when Eeyore thinks everyone has forgotten his birthday:

“Good morning, Pooh Bear, if it is a good morning. Which I doubt.”

“Why, what is the matter”

“Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can’t all, and some of us don’t, and that’s all there is to it.”

“Can’t all what?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose.

“Gaiety. Song and dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush.”

I was very glad to see that the films and videos, for the most part, told the stories almost completely as the books did. The series went on to develop their own stories based on the characters, but kept the same tone.

Milne captures childhood innocence and ways of thinking well with playfulness and gentleness. I was very sad to learn that Christopher came to resent the books about him as he became an adult, perhaps due to teasing from others when he went to boarding school. Christopher said in his own books that his father wasn’t very expressive in person: his inner thoughts came out in his writing. But his father’s obvious delight in his son and how he thought shines through in these stories and poems. I think Christopher must have come to terms with that at some point since he provided a favorable introduction to the audiobook of When We Were Very Young, saying family friend Peter Dennis’ narration presents Pooh “as he [Christopher] knew him.”

All four volumes of the books were available as part of my Audible subscription. I listened to the stories via audiobook, but read the poetry collections via Kindle (which included, thankfully, E. H. Shephard’s original illustrations).

One thing I didn’t like about the audiobooks was the long musical interludes between chapters.

But otherwise it was a sweet experience to visit these characters their original settings.

The Back to the Classics Challenge allows us three children’s classics. So I am going to count Winnie-the-Pooh as one for the “Classic that’s been on your TBR list the longest.”

“Don’t Call Me Spry”

It’s a shock to the system when you realize someone thinks of you as “old.”

For me, it happened when a fast-food cashier rang up my order with a senior discount—and I was only 50.

For Win Couchman, it happened when she ran into an old friend who commented, “You’re so spry!” “Spry” was a “compliment reserved for exclusively for old people.”

As the shock of this well-meant statement brought Win to tears, she began to consider aging.

I am at the young end of old: junior-high old. Youth is gone and now, also, middle age. My life at sixty-four is rich, adventurous, blessed, and full of joy (p. 2).

I am not only wrinkling. I am growing. And while I am forgetting some things, I am learning much that is new. This season of my life is as fearsome and exciting as turning fourteen. Nobody told me it would be this way (p. 3).

She decided to investigate “what it means to grow old” from the Bible, culture, the examples of older people in her life (“Not everything I learned from Grandmother about aging was glamorous, but all of it was valuable” [p.84]). She wanted to “notice and enjoy the perks that come with old age” (p. 4).

The results of her study and contemplation is “Don’t Call Me Spry”: Creative Possibilities for Later Life.

Win noted, “The halves of my life each merit my attention. The tension between the material and spiritual aspects of reality are normal. The struggle is to keep a balance: to live in light of the unseen while resetting the washer from ‘permanent press’ to ‘delicate fabrics.’ In order to live for God’s glory and not lose heart, I have the perspective of the eternal as a gift” (p. 4).

In their fifties, Win and her husband, Bob, began to pray and consider what to do when he retired. For many years, they had hosted a ministry called Forever Family which combined hospitality, mentoring, counseling, and teaching. But they were sensing maybe the time had come to do something different.

Through a series of events and contacts, the door eventually opened for them to minister in a variety of other countries eight months out of the year. They enjoyed the novelty and the opportunities to minister, resulting in some never-to-be forgotten experiences.

But they also experienced stresses with travel and continual adjustments, and they handled them differently. She liked to talk things out when stressed or anxious; he withdrew and became quiet. I’m sure those tendencies were always a part of their personalities, but these new experiences brought them to the forefront and required them to meet each other half-way.

Bob’s retirement brought other stresses and adjustments, like sharing space that she had previously had to herself.

Then new stresses arose when Win developed a heart issue which brought not only their international travel to a close, but their full-time active ministry as well. She had to rethink what she could do within her new reality. “It grieved me to give up thinking I could do anything anyone even a generation or two younger than I can do” (p. 45).

It saddened me to give up the illusion that I could always push myself a bit more if I needed to, that pushing was the thing to do. I could no longer be casual about getting too tired. I was newly aware of another true separation between me and those who are younger (p. 46).

She tells how God led her to other types of ministry, mainly mentoring, prayer, being involved with her grandchildren. She still taught and spoke on a limited basis.

One of my favorite chapters is “The Downside,” dealing with some of the negative aspects of aging. “When you ask me how I am, sometimes it is a little hard to know how to answer” (p. 107).

But even though Win describes herself as a pessimist, overall the book is hopeful and positive. The Bible assures that God’s care and love and grace will always be with us. In addition:

As I have looked repeatedly into the mirror of these verses, I have not only been provided with new assurance of God’s caring for me, but I have a greatly enhanced concept of the possibility of lifelong usefulness (p. 136).

While searching for more information about Win, I came across this video of her.

I had not heard of Win before until I read a chapter by her in The Wonder Years: 40 Women over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength compiled by Leslie Leyland Fields. I didn’t discover until recently that her chapter, “The Grace to Be Diminished,” originally came from a magazine here. Then I found her poignant article, “The Beds I Have Known,” about living separately from her husband of 72 years when she could no longer care for him. I saw somewhere that she had written this book, so I searched for it. It’s out of print, but I found a used copy in good condition for $5 at Amazon.

I am glad to have found and read it. It gave me much encouragement as I look ahead.