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Make It Do

14 September 2014

A few days ago, I was hanging out at a neighbor’s house while she was putting newly washed pillowcases on her pillows, which she had set out in the sun for a few hours (to protect against mildew in this damp climate). She said, “These pillows are so old that the insides are starting to fall apart, so I put two pillowcases on to keep the dust in. My mom gave us these when we got married, so I guess they’re at least 10 years old.”

This information caused me to consider: If I had 10-year old pillows which were falling apart, would I not simply replace them? I might replace them well before they were falling apart, simply because they were old. Or because I was bored with them. Or they weren’t as comfortable as new pillows. This is how affluence shapes our thinking – why put up with something old, ugly, and semi-functional when you can replace it with something new? The culture here often reminds me of the old war-time saying, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

Understanding the local culture’s value system, including making do with what you have, has helped considerably as I encounter things that annoy me. We are constantly amazed at the lack of maintenance of hotels, restaurants, and businesses. A new hotel will be lovely and nice for approximately 1 year, after which time it starts to feel grimey. The towels, once soft, are now like sandpaper. The sheets, once crisp, now have some disconcerting stains. The air conditioner, once a source of sweet relief, only breathes out slightly cool sighs of exhaustion. Why?? Well, the towels, though coarse, still dry wet skin. The sheets, though stained, can still be washed and slept on. The air conditioner, though weak, does still cool the room a bit (and even if it doesn’t, people have lived for centuries without it). It is the principle of “waste not, want not” taken to its logical conclusion. And when I consider this, I find it to be a virtuous way to live, as it promotes good stewardship of the resources we’ve been given and allows us not to be wasteful, even if it makes hotel stays a bit less luxurious.

I have been pondering this cultural value and seeking to nurture it within my own value system. In reality, it is my own heritage as well. My great-grandma Elsie (whom I was not fortunate enough to meet before she passed away), was well-known for her hospitality and her frugality. My mom used to tell me stories about her, including her use of yogurt cups as drinking glasses and margarine tubs as cereal bowls. When you have lived through the Great Depression and have 50 grandchildren, you certainly learn to “make do!”

I’m not always very good at this, but I did have the opportunity this week to put this principle into action:

20140914_135409

This blue pair of sandals has been at our house since the day we moved in. Who knows who owned them previously? But they have been a perfectly good pair of sandals for use in the backyard, where I hang up our laundry. During our last stay in the States, the right sandal got paint all over it (though I suppose it’s still usable). Then, the left sandal of my black pair broke in a rather unfixable way, so I tossed it and began using this mis-matched pair around the backyard. Then, just yesterday, alas! The blue strap broke! So, I decided to “make it do” by stapling it together again! Voilà!

I’m not promising to never purchase anything new ever again, nor am I condemning people who replace 10-year old pillows. But in the spirit of this ‘one is silver’ thing, I am seeking to more deeply accept the culture around me and be transformed by its virtues.

How to Not Nag Your Husband

18 May 2013

(Guest post by Dan Coombs)

I think that some of the most helpful advice and ideas Rachel could share with her readers are things she does to be a great wife. But since she can’t say these things herself without sounding presumptuous, I’ve taken it upon myself to share some of Rachel’s wisdom with you all (and I’m pretty proud of myself for managing to hack her account on my first try).

Here are some things I’ve picked up from my wife about how to get your husband to do things without nagging him. In the same way that women want to be treated lovingly by their husbands, men want to be treated with respect, and Rachel is really good at talking to me in a respectful way.

She starts with, “Can you do me a huge favor…”

Never mind that she’s already done way more than me and it’s about time I pitched in; never mind that it’s something I should have thought to do on my own; Rachel’s use of these magic words gives me a way to feel like I’m serving her each time I do the smallest task. She even asks me to do her the “favor” of cleaning up the messes I make. This is the opposite of nagging.

She always thanks me for the things I do

Again, it’s as if every household task was her responsibility and I’m just being the ultimate gentleman by taking some of the load off of her. I never sense that she counts up the amount of work she does for me and weighs it against what I do for her. Take for example the fact that every week Rachel plans our meals, makes the grocery list, and does our shopping at the local market (I HATE shopping). And yet when I drop her off she thanks me for the ride! Never mind the fact that she’s doing me a million favors and I’m not even hanging around to carry the groceries. She’s just thankful. It makes me want to serve her more.

She tells my I’m cute and gives me hugs and says “You’re so great!”

Hmmmm…and now that I think about it, that seems to happen a lot when I’m doing the dishes or working in the garden. She must think that me doing chores is really attractive. Maybe I should do them more often.

She recognizes and respects our differences

Rachel thinks the bathroom needs cleaning about twice as often as I do. She also is much more concerned that everything gets put in the spot “where it goes,” whereas I just want to make sure I can find it when I need it. This could cause a lot of tension in our marriage but Rachel understands that we are different people with different values so she doesn’t try and force her priorities on me. I am of the opinion that most men, when they see something that needs doing, will step up and do it. The reason men don’t do more housework is that they rarely see that it needs doing! Rather than acting like I’m some kind of moron, (“Can’t you see the floor needs mopping?!”) Rachel expresses her requests recognizing her personal preferences (“I would really like to have the dishes done before our company arrives.”)

She laughs with me when I make stupid mistakes

I can be really dumb. I’ve been sent to the store with a list of two items and forgot one of them. I leave the milk out, I misplace my keys, I leave to pick-up dinner and forget my wallet. When I let Rachel down, she could easily shake her head and give me that look that says, “How could you do this?” or, “I’m so disappointed in you.” Instead, she laughs it off with a “Men are so silly” or an “At least you’re cute!” It makes a huge difference.

She asks for permission to do little things

Of course Rachel doesn’t need my permission to buy a present for our nephew or try out a new kind of cooking oil (most of the time it’s not even a serious request), but I sure do feel good when she says it. She could easily tell me, “Let’s have fried rice for dinner” but by asking, “Can we have fried rice for dinner?” she lets me be involved in the decision and gives me the chance to say yes to her. It’s like she’s looking for any little opportunity to remind me that she appreciates my leadership and is willing to follow me.

These are just a few of the things Rachel does to treat me with respect…and that’s really the key issue. Using these recommended “tricks” as a way to manipulate your husband into doing more chores is the opposite of respecting him. But even if your husband isn’t doing a lot to earn your respect, working at communicating your expectations or requests respectfully will be much more effective than nagging.

a poem from isaiah 5 & 27

30 March 2013
tags: ,
a vine bearing fruit (in alto pass, IL)

a vine bearing fruit (in alto pass, IL)

God has chosen me, one small vine,
and placed me in his vineyard.
cleared of stones, a hill so fine,
he plants me & watches.
his desire is that i put down roots,
deep into the soil,
to fill the world with choicest fruits –
he looks for justice.

alas! i can’t, i won’t comply;
i give him wild grapes.
instead of justice, an outcry!
he’s so disappointed.
he leaves me trampled, leaves me dry –
(i’m now a wasteland)
until for mercy at last i cry.
he hears me.

God starts over with a new vine
and i am now a branch.
at last there will be excellent wine
from the best grapes.
i send my roots down deep below;
i abide in the true vine.
together do we grow & grow
bearing fruit that lasts.

one thing from isaiah 27 that i really like that i didn’t manage to include in the poem is from verses 4-5: “i have no wrath [against the vineyard]. would that i had thorns & briers to battle! i would march against them, i would burn them together. or let them lay hold of my protection, let them make peace with me, let them make peace with me.” here God says he no longer has wrath towards his people, but only for their enemies (those who are seeking to destroy his vineyard) – but even his enemies always have the option to make peace with him & come under his protection. let’s never think God is unjust or playing favorites – he always wants everyone to make peace with him!

i think this is my last isaiah poem for a while, since i left my commentary at home (we’re away from home this month) & my photocopy ends with chapter 27. i plan to read romans for a while, borrowing john stott’s commentary (which i love!) from a friend here.

a poem from isaiah 17

21 March 2013
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this is now the fourth “poem” i’ve posted from isaiah – as you may have noticed, they’re hardly original (or even poems, really)! this is an ‘exercise’ i’ve been using during my time reading the Word, as it helps me to process what i’ve read. sometimes, while reading the writings of the prophets, i can get bogged down in poetic language, unclear (to me) imagery, and historical content i don’t understand, so i’ve chosen to read isaiah together with the help of the New Bible Commentary (IVP), and to process what i read by re-writing (paraphrasing) and quoting both of these resources into these ‘poems’. today i’ve added my thoughts on what we can learn from this passage – please add your ideas to the list!

to damascus & israel (ephraim): 

damascus will no longer be a city,
but a heap of ruins – completely deserted.
the fortress of israel & the kingdom of syria will together disappear,
and in their place, a remnant –
gleanings left on a beaten olive tree.

when this happens, people will look to God, their Maker;
they will regard the Holy One of Israel.
they will stop looking to their manufactured gods,
the work of their own hands.
their strong cities will be deserted,
and there will be desolation.

this is because you have forgotten –
forgotten the God of your salvation and
forgotten the Rock of your refuge.
instead, you’ve formulated your plans and
formed your alliances –
planting pleasant plants and imported vines.
and even though you make them grow and blossom
even as you plant them,
know that there will be but one harvest:
only grief and incurable pain.

planting rice"even though you make them grown & blossom even as you plant them..."

planting rice
“even though you make them grown & blossom even as you plant them…”

themes/lessons:
+ the illusion of control – making plans and alliances
+ forgetting God & trusting in ourselves/our idols/other people
+ suffering forces us to look to God instead
+ the things we put our trust in (not God) will ultimately fail and bring us pain
+ it is possible (easy?) to forget God – even his chosen people did
+ not only are we grieved by disappointment when our plans fail, but we are doubly pained because we have become estranged from God
+ the “imported vines” are always pleasant and seem so promising (blooming even as we plant them)

what else can we learn from these verses??

a poem from isaiah 15-16

20 March 2013
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dear moab,

you are so proud, so arrogant, so insolent.
you do wrong when you boast,
and so you are undone – scattered and utterly stricken.

my heart breaks for you, moab –
i weep, i moan, i drench you with my tears.
but it must be this way.

your glory will be brought into contempt.
send your lambs as tribute
and give up the abundance of your vineyards.
you will not prevail through prayer in high places.
sooner, not later, you’ll be undone.

 

and you, my people, receive them –
shelter them and shade them,
giving counsel, justice, and peace.

and when the oppressor has been defeated,
one who judges and seeks justice and does righteousness
will sit upon david’s throne,
established in steadfast love.

a poem from isaiah 14

20 March 2013
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to babylon: how the oppressor has ceased!

the LORD will have compassion on jacob
& will again choose israel.
when the LORD has given them rest
from pain, turmoil, and hard service,
they will take up this taunt against babylon:

“how the oppressor has ceased!”
the whole earth feels unspeakable relief;
they break forth into singing.
“how you are fallen from heaven!”
you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low.

you said in your heart,
i will ascend to heaven,
building my tower and my throne
above the stars of God, i will ascend,
to make a name for myself,
to make myself like the Most High.
but you are brought down, low, lower still
to the far reaches of the pit of death.
the ugliness and brevity of your fatal ambition
are plain for all to ponder.
the LORD of hosts will sweep babylon
with the broom of destruction.

 

to assyria: as God has purposed, so shall it stand

the Almighty God has promised:
‘it shall be as i intend, and
as i have purposed, so shall it stand.’
this is the hand that is stretched out
over all the nations.
God, the LORD of hosts – his plan, his hand:
who can stand against him?

 

to philistia: your strength is in trust

rejoice not –
there is worse to come,
and you are doomed.
true welfare is only in the LORD,
who has founded zion.
your strength is in trust,
not intrigue.

 

*credit to ESV and New Bible Commentary (IVP) for wording

a poem from isaiah 13

17 March 2013
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the fall of babylon – part one

the almighty LORD is mustering an army for battle.
he has summoned his mighty warriors
and commanded his consecrated ones.
they come from the end of heaven –
the LORD and the weapons of his indignation,
to destroy the whole nation.

all hands will be feeble,
every human heart will melt,
and they shall be afraid.

behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel
both with wrath and fierce anger,
to lay the nation desolate
and to destroy its sinners from it.

the sun, the moon, and the stars will fail to give light,
and the heavens will be shaken.

God will punish the world for its evil,
and the wicked for their iniquity.
God will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant,
and lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.

and Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,

‘all these i will give you,
if you will fall down and worship me.’

shall be as Sodom & Gomorrah when God overthrew them.

no one shall ever dwell there, except
the wild beasts of the desert, howling, and
the wild beasts of the islands, crying.
their pleasant palaces are desolate houses,
a haunt for unclean spirits.
Babylon’s time is near – her days are numbered.

 

the fall of babylon – part two

the almighty LORD gathered an army for battle.
he summoned his mighty warriors
and commanded his consecrated ones.
they came from the end of heaven –
the LORD and the weapons of his indignation,
to destroy the whole nation.

human hands were feeble,
the heart of mortal man did melt,
and he was afraid.

behold, the day of the LORD came, cruel
both with wrath and fierce anger,
to lay the nation desolate
and to destroy the sin from it.

the sun, the moon, and the stars failed to give light,
and the heavens were shaken.

God punished him for the world’s evil,
his Son for the wicked’s iniquity.
God put an end to the pomp of the arrogant,
and lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.

and Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,

“be gone, satan!”

is as Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them.

no one shall ever dwell there, except
the wild beasts of the desert, howling, and
the wild beasts of the islands, crying.
their pleasant palaces are desolate houses,
a haunt for unclean spirits.
Babylon’s time has come – her days are numbered.