Sunday, January 30, 2005

Occupied With The Kingdom
Mark 3:7-21

Rev. Greg L. Price

It was observed from the text which we last considered (in Mk.3:1-6) that Christ was anything but inactive on the Sabbath day. The Lord filled his Sabbath day with deeds of worship, deeds of necessity, and deeds ofmercy. It was not a day to be lazy and unprofitable, but rather a day to celebrate the mercy and grace ofGod, a day to feast (spiritually) in joyous communion with God, and a day to advance the Kingdom of God. But what about the other six days of the week? Was the Lord Jesus only occupied with the Kingdom of God on the Sabbath day, but unoccupied with this holy Cause throughout the rest of the week? As we shall observe from our text (in Mk.3:7-21) this Lord's day, Jesus was so busy in furthering the Kingdom of God on the other six days of the week that friends and family members actually thought He had taken leave of his senses (i.e. they thought He was crazy).

His chief end in life was to glorify His Father by promoting the Kingdom of God through His words and His deeds. Nothing was more important to Christ than this goal. He was preoccupied with this grand purpose whether He was teaching, healing, or even sitting down to rest and seeking to quench his thirst (as in the case ofHis speaking to the woman who had come to fetch water out of the well in Samaria, Jn.4). The Lord Jesus was indeed unique in many ways as the God-man, but we should not make Him so altogether different that we easily dismiss His single-mindedness of purpose and mission in life with words like, "Well of course He was single-minded and preoccupied with advancing the Kingdom of God, after all He was the Son of God." There are many things that we cannot in this life imitate in the life of Christ: for example, His miracles, His omniscience, His omnipresence, and His substitutionary death for His people. But dear ones, the pages of Scripture are filled with many footsteps of Christ, footsteps which we are to seek out, footsteps which we are to cherish, footsteps which we are to desire with all of our heart, and footsteps inwhich we are to walk by God's grace (1Pet.2:21).

I submit to you that Christ's desire and drive to promote and advance the righteous Cause of Christ in all that He did (even in the other six days of the week) is one of the paths He has left for us that we should walk therein. Whether you work at home, or whether you work in a trade, or whether you are employed by others, or whether you are self-employed, dear ones, your chief calling in life is to glorify and enjoy the Lord by advancing the Kingdom of Christ in all that you do. There is nothing more important than this. However, we all too often become so preoccupied with the cares and pleasures of this world that we forget and lose sight of this high and holy calling to which all who have embraced Jesus Christ by faith alone have been called.
Dear ones, as those who have received the free grace of Christ, our attitude cannot be, "Yeah, yeah, I know that is what I should do, but.... (you fill in the excuse)." To the contrary our attitude must be, "By God's grace, I earnestly desire and will wholeheartedly endeavor to live my life with Christ's Kingdom ever before myeyes."

Christ was occupied with the Cause of His Father.
This is the path in which the Lord walked, let us follow Him. The main points from our text for this Lord's day are the following:

I. Christ Was Occupied With Mercy(Mk.3:7-12);
II. Christ Was Occupied With Teaching andTraining His Disciples (Mk.3:13-19);
III. Christ Was Occupied More With The Needs Of Others Than With HisOwn Needs (Mk.3:20-21).

I. Christ Was Occupied With Mercy (Mk.3:7-12).

a. Mark 3:6 tells us that after Christ healed the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath day, that the Pharisees conspired with their hated enemies, the Herodians, as to how they might destroy Christ. Whereas the Pharisees despised the Roman occupation ofIsrael while the Herodians supported the Roman occupation of Israel, both groups hated Christ more than they hated one another.
(1) This is an example of the politics of the world,where causes are not so much supported because of the agreement amongst its members, but rather because of the mutual hatred they share for a common enemy. Dear ones, all such political or social causes are ultimately doomed to failure because the members do not share in common a like precious faith and agreement in the truth. When the common enemy is disposed of, the members then turn upon themselves and devour one another so that the cause for which they stood crumbles from dissension within the ranks. Jesus said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Furthermore, the effect upon those who have the truth of God and yet unite with those who do not share the same convictions in such political, ecclesiastical, or social causes is almost always the weakening or softening of the truth rather than the weakening or softening of error. Such alliances are contrary to the Word of God and to our Solemn League and Covenant even if the cause is a just one(Ps.106:35-with the heathen; Ez.22:25-29-with professing believers).

b. Our text in Mk.3:7 states that Jesus withdrew Himself from the immediate plotting of the Pharisees and the Herodians (this is made more clear inMt.12:14,15). It was not because Christ was a coward or because He was unwilling to stand for the truth, or because He was unwilling to be persecuted for the sake of the truth that He withdrew, but in order that He might avoid persecution and might have more time and opportunity to take the gospel to those who desired to hear Him (Mt.10:23). Dear ones, it is not always a sin to avoid direct confrontation with the enemy. In fact, at times it is the wise thing to do so that we might have more opportunities to proclaim the truth subsequently. Although we should not allow our fears to keep from being faithful to Christ and His Word, nevertheless, we must always be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Mt.10:16).

c. Jesus withdrew from the immediate danger that thePharisees and Herodians posed for Him and yet He did not withdraw from advancing the Cause and Kingdom ofGod. When He couldn't advance the Kingdom of God in one area (due to persecution or due the unbelief of the people), He went to another area. He never lost sight of His chief mission in life.

(1) Dear ones, if the door is closed for the present in advancing the Kingdom of Christ with one individual or with one family are you so discouraged or afraid that you take no thought of advancing the Cause ofChrist with others?

d. Great multitudes of people followed the Lord ( Mk.3:7), yet His fleeing the persecution of the Pharisees and Herodians did not distract Him showing mercy to those who followed Him. They came from all regions of Palestine (not just of Israel). They came not only from the Jewish Provinces of Galilee and Judea, but also from the Gentile areas ofTyre, Sidon, and Idumea. They had heard of the wonders He performed and had come to Him because of needs they had. The crowd became so great and the pressing to hear Him and to touch Him so intense that Christ prepared a boat into which He could stand before the people without being forced into the sea.

e. Whether all the people who pressed in upon Christ had genuine saving faith in seeking to touch Christ or not, they, nevertheless, demonstrated the rightm action. For those who earnestly seek the Kingdom ofChrist will take it by force and with violence (in a figurative sense) acc. to Mt.11:12. Are you taking the Kingdom of Christ with ease and comfort or by force? The the Kingdom of Christ should be of so much value to the Christian that he is willing to sell all that he has in order to secure it (The parable of pearl of great price, Mt.13:45,46). Dear ones, if there is no aggressive desire or action on our parts to touch Christ, to be healed of Christ, to grow in Christ, to commune with Christ, we are in a backslidden state. We cannot be apathetic or indifferent in the things of Christ and not be backslidden in our faith and love toward Christ. This sin is so subtle. Let us continually beseech the Lord to search out our hearts for apathy, and to grant us a holy aggressiveness in the things that concern the Cause of Christ.

f. Observe how willing Christ was (even when His own life was in danger) to show mercy to those who were in need. These designed acts of mercy (not random acts of mercy) were freely offered at the expense of His own well-being. It would have been easy for Christ to isolate Himself from all people due to the threat upon His own life (if He were thinking of His own comfort,His own convenience, His own well-being). But He didn't. And because He didn't, you who have received the mercy of Christ. Is not the Kingdom of Christ manifested to us in the undeserved mercy offered to us in Christ? Is not the mercy of Christ the substance of the gospel of Christ? The Lord did not exclude the multitudes who came to Him for help. His undeserved mercy did not draw lines and boundaries, but was extended to all who came to Him. He mercifully healed those who came to Him (not only on the Sabbath, but on the other days of the week). He mercifully cast demons out of those who came to Him (not only on the Sabbath, but on the other days of the week).

(1) Dear ones, the Kingdom of Christ will not advance nor will it flourish apart from a Christianity that is filled with mercy toward others. Nor will we enjoy the blessing of God upon our lives apart from advancing the Kingdom of Christ by designed and repeated acts of mercy even to those whom we judge not deserving of mercy (Mt.5:7; Jms.2:13; Jms. 3:17).

(2) I know of no quicker way for a Christian to incur the holy displeasure of God in his/her life than to withhold mercy from others (the parable of the unmerciful servant, Mt.18:21-35). Remember that we do not have to do someone harm in order to destroy them. According to Christ (in Mk.3:4), we need only withhold acts of mercy to those who have legitimate needs.

(3) Christ advances the Kingdom of God by acts of mercy and so must we. Beloved, mercy begins at home. Men, if we are not characterized by mercy at home in seeking to help and care for our wives in their physical and spiritual needs, we are in a backslidden state of sin. Husbands, wives, and children, if we are more concerned about our own convenience and comfort than we are about those who are need, we are living a life of hypocrisy like the Pharisees (who were more willing to help their animals on the Sabbath to help people with legitimate needs, Mt.12:11,12). Dear ones, being occupied with mercy is something all of us can do regardless of our financial situation or status in life. No one will be able to say to God, I couldn't show mercy to those who were in need. You may not financially be able to help as you would like to help, but you are never prevented from showing mercy to some degree. To show mercy is to extend and advance the Kingdom of Christ.

II. Christ Was Occupied With Teaching and Training HisDisciples (Mk.3:13-19).

a. The second way in which Christ demonstrated that He was occupied with the Cause and Kingdom of God was in His commitment to instruct those who followed Him. Out of the many that closely followed Him, He chose twelve that "they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal the sicknesses, and to cast out demons"(Mk.3:14,15).

b. Apparently, this was the time in which the Lord selected and ordained His twelve disciples, but the actual commissioning of them to go out and minister awaited a period of instruction and training (Mk.6:7). Here we see another extremely important way of advancing the Kingdom of Christ: instructing disciples and followers of Christ. The Lord would not send the disciples out until they had been with Him long enough to be able to teach others concerning theKingdom of God.

c. Dear ones, the Kingdom of Christ will not advance without knowledge of Christ and His truth. Young men may have the necessary zeal to preach the gospel, but without a proficient knowledge of the truth, they will only cause confusion and division within the body of Christ. I would rather see one man adequately trained in the truth and sent out to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ only after that has been achieved than to see one hundred men sent out to preach the gospel before they have been adequately trained in the truth. Certainly God can choose to use even the unprepared minister to bring people to Christ, but the work of lasting reformation and unity amongst the churches of Christ will only be achieved by men who have been diligently prepared to take, promote, and defend the truth of Christ against all false doctrine.

Christ considered the calling of these men to full time Christian ministry that He spent all night in prayer(acc. to Lk.6:12) before selecting them and ordaining them (cf. Acts 13:3). How prayerfully we ought to take such steps as well, before placing any man into the office of minister of Jesus Christ.

d. Men, we are advancing the Kingdom of Christ when we take the time to instruct our wives and our children in the truth. Ladies, you are advancing the Kingdom of Christ, when you homeschool your children and nurture them in the the things of Christ. As with mercy, so with instruction-it must begin in the home. As with mercy, so with instruction-if you are not diligently, patiently, and lovingly instructing your wives or your children, you are not only not advancing the Kingdom of Christ, but you are destroying the Kingdom of Christ. Again, instruction is a means of advancing the Kingdom of Christ that we can each one do regardless of our ordinary calling in life. What we have learned of the mercy and truth of Christ, we can pass on to others.

III. Christ Was Occupied More With The Needs Of OthersThan With His Own Needs (Mk.3:20-21).

a. After the Lord came down from the mountain, having ordained the twelve apostles, the multitude again flocked to Him. The crowd was so persistent and so needy that the Scripture says "they " (i.e. Christ andthe disciples) could not so much as eat bread"(Mk.3:20). The needs of the people were so great that Christ and the disciples had to forego their own bodily needs and comforts. This is the third way in which Christ advanced the Kingdom of God in the passage before us this Lord's day. He was more concerned for the needs of others, than He was concerned for His own bodily needs. He was willing to be deprived of certain bodily needs, He was willing to be inconvenienced, He was willing to be stretched beyond that which was comfortable for Him in order to minister to others.

b. He was so involved in advancing the Kingdom ofChrist and in helping those who came to Him that His"friends" (or more likely his kinsmen) came to layhold on Him by force so that He would take the time at least to eat and care for His bodily needs. Christ was so occupied in advancing the Kingdom of God that He deprived Himself of certain bodily needs, and for that they thought He was out of His mind. Oh that theLord would give to us the grace to be so out of our minds-to be so consumed in promoting and advancing the Kingdom of Christ in our homes, in our extended family, in our neighborhoods, in our city and nation, in our places of employment, and in the Church of Jesus Christ that it would appear that we are out of our minds for the Cause of Jesus Christ. Not out of our minds because we are offending others in the manner in which we advance the Kingdom of Christ, but out of our minds in how we so subdue the flesh, subdue our own desires, are willing to alter our own schedules or our own routines if necessary, so as to care for others in the name of Jesus Christ.

I close with giving you a parable with which you are all familiar-the parable of the talents (Mt.25:14-30). Is it your supreme desire to be used in whatever way possible to advance the Kingdom of Christ? If so we must willing to be spent, to be deprived, to be inconvenienced for the sake of others.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Some "Garnet-isms"

Garnet is our five year old ball of fire.

Last week his father put five strips of bacon in a frying pan to cook and then walked away to do something for a few minutes. When he returned there were only three strips of bacon in the pan.

Marc: Where did the bacon go? I put five strips in and now there are only three!

Garnet: Dad! Didn't you know that bacon shrinks when you cook it??!?

Later in the week my son Ben was explaining to me that he only tells the people who count that he loves them. Garnet, who overheard this conversation, said, "I can count. Are you going to tell me you love me?"

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Practical Mothering Wear

Buying maternity clothes can be an expensive proposition for clothes that you only wear for a few months at a time. This is one reason why I shop at the local Value Village, a second hand chain store that is set up much like a department store. I can nearly always find something that I like at prices I like even more. I recently bought six maternity outfits that fit and look all right for $40. This also makes me feel less guilty about passing them on or recycling them. Sometimes there is nothing more depressing than wearing the same maternity clothes time after time since the repetoire one has is generally small and limited. I can get a whole new wardrobe each time without breaking the bank.

One item of clothing that I intend to get more of in the future are uniforms. By this I mean the "scrubs" that nurses and hospital staff wear. They have been making them in attractive patterns and colors for some time now, and they are extremely comfortable and durable. I bought one set of scrubs the other night for only $9.99. It is a pretty forest green and is in new condition. In fact, it is in such good shape, that I won't mind wearing them out in public when I am going grocery shopping. If people mistake me for a health care professional, well I am one, just one of the alternative sort. Scrubs are eminently practical for wearing around the house too. They have convenient pockets on them and the material is hard to stain and easy to clean --an important consideration when raising small children or doing heavy housework or gardening.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Laughter As A Disguise For Emptiness

Ecclesiastes 2:1,2
Covenanted Reformed Presbyterian Church, Albany NY
Rev. Greg L. Price

Laughter is a divine medicine to the soul when used properly. It lifts the spirit and improves the health of the body. Many studies have been done showing the relationship of laughter to good health. For example, Nicole Nisly, M.D. from the University ofIowa Hospital writes in her article entitled "LaughterIs Medicine From Within" (September 2003):"Laughter recently got a boost when researchers announced at an American Heart Association meeting last November that heart-healthy people are more likely to laugh frequently and heartily than those with heart disease," says Nicole Nisly, M.D., UI Hospitals and Clinics Complementary and Alternative Medicine Clinic.

The benefits of laughter go beyond heart disease. Laughter has been found to decrease tension and reduce pain. It also appears to boost the body's production of infection-fighting antibodies. Laughter even has the potential to help in the treatment of depression and other emotional illnesses. God's people should be those who are unafraid to express their joy with laughter. Yes, there is a time to weep, but there is also a time to laugh (according to Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:4). Solomon raises the matter of laughter for our consideration this Lord's Day.

What role does laughter play in the life of a Christian? Are there any boundaries that we should set around our laughter? Will immersing ourselves in laughter bring contentment and peace of heart?Let us consider this Lord's Day the following mainpoints from our text:

(I) Solomon's Experiment WithLaughter (Ecclesiastes 2:1) and
(II) Solomon's Conclusion Concerning Laughter (Ecclesiastes 2:1,2).

I. Solomon's Experiment With Laughter (Ecclesiastes2:1).

A. By way of review, let us remember that in the last few verses of Chapter One, we saw how Solomon gave himself to a study of all the activities, employments,and pleasures of man from a mere earthly perspective of one who lives "under the sun." And all Solomon could discover by way of his thorough investigation was that all of man's activities were both physically and mentally exhausting with nothing by way of true happiness to show for it. It was all unending activity and meaningless movement as it relates to finding a peace of mind and contentment of the soul that endures. King Solomon even investigated the value of worldly wisdom and perverse folly to see if true joy might come from a pursuit of these. But to no avail. Worldly wisdom had no superiority over perverse folly in bringing true happiness to man. A worldly wisdom only increased his grief and sorrow over not finding the joy that he so much desired.

B. Now Solomon turns in Chapter Two to various pleasures which he personally investigated in order to bring an enduring satisfaction and fulfillment into his life. The first pleasure in which Solomon immersed himself was that of mirth (or gladness) which issues forth in laughter. Perhaps Solomon reasoned from a mere earthly perspective as follows: "If any particular frame of mind might be geared toward enjoyment, it would seem to be that of outward glee and amusement. If tears and sorrow bring pain to the soul, then laughing and feasting must bring joy to the soul."

1. Solomon turns again to reasoning with himself about the place where he might find true joy and contentment: "I said in mine heart" (Ecclesiastes2:1).

a. There is certainly nothing wrong with this type of self-talk wherein you carefully weigh the advantages and the disadvantages of a particular decision. This is precisely what a godly person should do. One who is godly will not run quickly into important decisions, but will rather meditate, reflect upon God's Word and Providence, and will pray. Important decisions are not made rashly, but patiently. When making important decisions, we should debate and argue ourselves into the right decision by carefully weighing all of the advantages and disadvantages of that decision in accordance with God's Word. The problem here occurs because Solomon is not using God's Word to help give him direction,but is rather reflecting on what will bring him joy apart from a consideration of the Lord Jesus Christ and His revealed will. Solomon is thinking and acting as though God has nothing to say about the matter of joy and contentment in his life.

b. Dear ones, this is the starting point of Solomon's defection from the Lord. He has forgottenthe Lord and has left his first love. The Scripture tells us very specifically that when Solomon devoted himself to his idolatrous wives that they turned his heart away from the Lord his God (1 Kings 11:4). You can tell that you are heading for a fall away from the Lord when Jesus Christ and His glory and Jesus Christ and His Word are not in your affections, nor in your thoughts, nor in your decisions. When all that is important is that you get your own way you have forgotten the Lord. You may even argue with yourself that you are not being selfish, but are really thinking of what is best for everyone involved (what is best for the greatest number ofpeople--utilitarianism). But dear ones, whether you are purely self-centered in your decision or whether you sincerely want what is best for the greatest number of people, you have begun to backslide if Christ and His Word are not in your affections,thoughts, and decisions.

c. What is amazing about Solomon's fall away from God is not only the fact that he enjoyed a greater measure of divine wisdom than any other man (except Christ), but that he seems to have enjoyed such a blessed communion with Christ for the greater part ofhis life. For 1 Kings 11:4 states that when Solomon was "old" his idolatrous wives turned his heart away from the Lord. Furthermore, the loving marital relationship between Solomon and his bride in the Song of Songs beautifully signifies that blessed communion he and all believers enjoy with Christ by faith. What a warning to us all that even though we have been faithful Christians for many years, if we allow our desires and the pleasures of this life to overwhelm us, we too will fall away from the Lord and reap the sorrow and grief that Solomon reaped. But the story of Solomon does not end on that note thankfully. For Solomon speaks in Ecclesiastes as the restored and repentant Preacher. Christ had surely gone after Solomon with an everlasting love and by His almighty power rescued him from his rebellion and idolatry. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). 2. What did Solomon say in his heart according to our text?

a. First he said, "Go to now" or literally "Go now"(Ecclesiastes 2:1). Solomon commands himself to go now, get busy, and be resolved in getting on with his investigation. This verbal phrase denotes a settled determination on his part. If true joy was to be found in partying and laughter, Solomon had set out to find it.

b. The second thing Solomon says in his heart is this: "I will prove thee with mirth" (Ecclesiastes2:1). Solomon is saying here, "I will test you, my heart, with gladness, festivities, and laughing to see whether your hunger after true satisfaction can be realized by these means."

c. The third thing Solomon said in his heart is this: "therefore enjoy pleasure" (Ecclesiastes 2:1). Literally, Solomon said, "And see (or enjoy) thou with the good." Let me unpack that for you.

(1) Just as Solomon had said that he had determined to provehis soul WITH MIRTH (which includes gladness,amusement, and laughter) to see whether true joy might be found in them, so now he adds a command to his soul to see or enjoy itself WITH THE GOOD (namely, with mirth, amusement, and laughter). Solomon here calls mirth a "good thing." In what sense did Solomon refer to mirth as a good thing?

(2) Now remember that Solomon is not evaluating that which is good from God's perspective at this point, but from man's perspective (as one from "under the sun"). Solomon calls mirth (or gladness, amusement, and laughter) good because he thinks mirth will bring him lasting joy and happiness. No doubt, there is a sense in which mirth, gladness and laughter is good and beneficial to the health of even those who live their lives apart from God (as noted in the article to whichI referred earlier in the sermon). But, dear ones, the mirth, amusement, and laughter of the world without Christ will not bring a satisfaction that endures forever. It will only bring such a person whistling to the brink of destruction, and then he will realize all too late that he has laughed himself all the way to hell and everlasting torment.

(3) Let us be clear that the Christian, according to Solomon in Proverbs 17:22, should be one who has a MERRY heart ("A merry heart doeth good like amedicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones"). The same Hebrew word used for MERRY in Proverbs 17:22 is here used for MIRTH in Ecclesiastes 2:1 (the only difference being that the word is used as an adjective in Proverbs 17:22 to describe a particular kind ofheart, a MERRY heart, whereas it is used as a noun inEcclesiastes 2:1). Thus, there is a godly mirth that we as Christians should know in our hearts. There is a godly laughter that we as Christians should express in our lives. What is the difference between a godly mirth and an ungodly mirth or between a godly laughter and an ungodly laughter? Let's first consider godly mirth and laughter and that mirth and laughter that is ungodly.

(4) Godly mirth and laughter should be an expression of God's goodness to us as God's people(Psalm 126:2; Deuteronomy 16:11; 1 Timothy 6:17). When we see how good God has been to us, we must share our joy with gladness and laughter. Thus, times of celebration as at birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, promotions at work, or gatherings for fellowship should be filled with mirth and laughter for by our laughter we should be giving thanks to God for all His undeserved blessings to us. Wine is said by God to make the heart of man glad in a godly sense (in Psalm 104:15) and sweet smelling ointment and perfume so likewise (in Proverbs 27:9)where the same Hebrew word is used as in Proverbs 17:22 for these are all undeserved gifts from our gracious God that we are to use for His glory. That which is moral and upright brings godly mirth to the heart of man (as a wise son in Proverbs 15:20;Proverbs 29:2).

Encouragement brings gladness and mirth to a soul that is stooped over with heavy burdens (Proverbs 12:25). Days of God's people gathering to praise the Lord should be days of mirth and joy in the Lord (Nehemiah 8:9-12--Feast ofTrumpets, see also Deuteronomy 12:7--Bringing in the tithes to the Lord, Deuteronomy 16:11--Feast ofPentecost).

(5) Ungodly mirth and laughter is that which is directed in derision against God, against God's people, against God's blessings, and against God'sWord (Psalm 22:7; Genesis 18:13; Proverbs 15:21). It is an ungodly mirth and laughter that is used inexcess or is used at inappropriate times (James 4:9). If we laugh at sins (whether in the form of coarse jokes, or sinful behavior in person or in movies) we are using an ungodly mirth and laughter. Dear ones, how much of the humor of the world (whether jokes onTV, or in movies, or at the workplace) either has the audience laughing with mockery at that which is righteous or laughing with approval at that which is wicked. Laughter is a gift from God, but it must never be used to imply our approval of that which is immoral. We must not be entertained by that which is morally repugnant to God (profane or blasphemous speech which drags through the gutter that which is holy, or coarse or filthy jokes, or lewd behavior). If we laugh with disrespect when we are justly corrected or disciplined by God or others, we have sinned against the Lord. It is also an ungodly use of mirth and laughter to place in them our hope to bring us true joy and satisfaction.

(6) When we think that we can fill up the emptiness in our lives by merely introducing laughter or partying into our lives, we have deceived ourselvesand have fallen into the same sin as did Solomon. Laughter is not an end in itself. For if we make laughter an end in itself, we will find it to be a dead end. Laughter should lead us to enjoy God, enjoy God's blessings, enjoy God's people, and enjoy God's salvation. Not everything must be spiritual (in a narrow sense) before we can enjoy it. We can enjoywith much laughter playing with our children or grandchildren. We can enjoy with mirth various hobbies or lawful forms of recreation. We can enjoy(with gladness) whatever God has blessed us with(according to 1 Timothy 6:17). However, when mirth and laughter lead our hearts away from God, away fromHis commandments, away from a proper enjoyment and respect for God's blessings freely bestowed upon us, we have fallen into a sinful use of mirth andlaughter.

(7) Doesn't the Lord Himself laugh at the wicked? Yes, it is true that God laughs at the wicked(according to Psalm 2:4). But it is clear that it is not with any approval of their sin, but rather with complete disapproval of their vain attempts to overthrow his Anointed One whom He has seated upon His throne. Certainly, in the same sense we may laugh at the vain attempts of our enemies to overthrow the kingdom of Christ.

(8) How do we reconcile this godly mirth and laughter with what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 7:3? (a) First, the mirth and laughter of the godly isnot opposed to the sorrowful heart of the godly. There is no contradiction here at all. For there can be no true joy in the heart of the godly if they do not first know what it is to mourn over their own sin and the sin of others. Jesus said, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matthew5:4). It is through our sincere grief of sin that we are brought to see with a believing joy and mirth that our only hope in overcoming sin in our lives is Jesus Christ.

(b) The contrast in Ecclesiastes 7:3 is not between a godly sorrow and a godly joy, but between a godly sorrow and an ungodly mirth. For we see the proper contrast in verses 4-6.

(c) Thus, the true Christian religion is not filled with all gloom and doom. It is a religion to be taken seriously because life and death, heaven and hell will stand or fall upon one's faith or unbelief in Jesus Christ. But Jesus came to bring life, peace,and joy to man and to bring it more abundantly. He came to make our joy full. He came that we might enjoy all that He has created to a much more full capacity than any unbeliever is able to do (1 Timothy6:17). God is not a kill-joy. Satan is the ultimate kill-joy who brings on momentary laughter so that people laugh themselves all the way to the lake of fire. Jesus Christ is the ultimate joy of man's desiring. To enjoy Christ is the only way to find true joy now and for all eternity. Let us not follow our sinful hearts to find joy, but let us know our Savior, commune with Him through His Word and prayer, cherish and practice His Word in our lives, and then we will have a merry heart.

II. Solomon's Conclusion Concerning Laughter(Ecclesiastes 2:1.2).

A. The conclusion to Solomon's thorough search into mirth and laughter (apart from communion with Christ) is the same as every other pursuit Solomon made to find joy: "this is also vanity" (Ecclesiastes 2:1). Dear ones, if the joy (or mirth) of the Lord is not your strength, you will not enjoy a godly laughter in anything else that you do. You will find what Solomon found: all such mirth and laughter is vanity, a mere vapor that is so short-lived and passes away so quickly and what is left in the soul is simply that same vacuum or absence of true joy.

B. Solomon goes even further in stating the conclusion to his pursuit of true joy and contentment in verse 2.

1. First, to pursue laughter in order to find true joy is madness or foolishness. It is like starving oneself in order to fill the belly. Or like jumping into an icy river in order to get warm. For in pursuing laughter in order to find true joy only reveals to a man that he has not found true joy. Laughing that is separated from Jesus Christ is in effect laughing at the very chains that shackle you and enslave you to an eternity of hopelessness andhelplessness in everlasting torment. One who can laugh at that which is immoral, profane, and sinful is mad for he is laughing at that for which men will be tormented forever (without relief for even a second) in hell.

2. Second, to pursue mirth in order to find true joy leads nowhere. That is the point of the rhetorical question: "and of mirth, what doeth it?" What does mirth (apart from the joy of the Lord) accomplish in satisfying the soul of man? Nothing. Dear ones, Solomon with his wealth had more opportunity to realize true joy if it could be realized by means of mirth and laughter. For he could afford to hire the best entertainers, the best comedians, the best plays, and he could afford to keep them coming for 24 hours a day if he wanted to do so.

So many people seek to bury their sorrow, their discontentment, their emptiness within by filling their lives with entertainment, amusements, and laughter. All they are doing, however, is coming to realize more and more that true joy and lasting satisfaction is not found in these things. The world learns where true joy is not found and that is why the world continues its search because it never is satisfied. However, the one who drinks of the water of life that is found in Jesus Christ learns that true joy is found only in Christ. The search is over. We have found it. Let us come daily to Christ to drink of the wells of salvation, joy, and peace that are in our Savior. The joy of the Lord is our strength.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Back in the Harness

Things aren't quite how I want them yet, but I am making progress. Progress is slightly impeded by a little girlie who has decided to use destructo-chick methods of getting my attention. Examples include emptying out my travel makeup case on the floor and painting the carpet with a combination of mascara, foundation and toothpaste. She also tried to get my attention when I was speaking to my husband by tossing pencils and crayons over her shoulder while watching me to see if I would notice what she was doing. I did, and in short order she was picking them up in a very disgruntled way.

This is mild to what she did while I was gone, however. One day I am told she removed a loaded diaper in my office, rubbed some of the contents into the carpet, and then cut the rest of it into sushi-sized pieces with a pair of scissors. Life with Elodie can be interesting.

I have had some opportunity over the last few days to ruminate a bit over my recent visit back home. First of all, my trip turned out to be a very enjoyable and relaxing time. My mother reminded me that this is the first time in my 24 years of marriage that I have been back on a visit without a baby and other children in tow. I love my children, but sometimes the duties of caring for them and keeping them entertained small cuts into meaningful interaction when visiting with those you don't see often or for very long, but whom you love just as much.

This trip was a gift from my parents as the financial costs of flying me home is beyond our family at this time. Originally, the idea was to fly me home for what looked like the immanent departure of my paternal grandmother for Eternity with Christ, but Grammy rallied and is beginning to eat and respond again. Instead, it became a delightful birthday present from Mom and Dad, and an opportunity to spend some quality time with them and my sister.

Grammy Hannah is living in a nursing home run by one of the Baptist conventions. The staff there is friendly and kind and it was nice to watch them interact with the patients, even those who seem to be beyond responding. One reads horror stories about some nursing homes where the inmates are abused by the staff, but this is not one of them.

It was instructive to watch my Dad with my Grammy. Both Mom and Dad have taught me many things over the years, not the least of which is how to love my spouse. In the past few years they have been teaching me what it means to love my parents as I have watched them care for their elderly mothers. It is touching to see the tenderness and respect they treat them with. If it hadn't been for my Dad, my Aunt Maudie, and my Aunt Mae, it is likely that I wouldn't have been able to see my grandmother alive. They came in every day to make sure that Grammy ate her meals and got enough to drink to stay hydrated after she had her latest stroke. Dad invariably stroked Grammy’s hair and kissed her and cajoled her into taking a few bites of food or sips of liquid. According to Aunt Maudie, Dad has the best success at being able to get Grammy to respond. I am not surprised after watching Dad interact with some of the other people there. All the elderly ladies love him and he always has a kind word or small joke for everyone. Dad also informed me that he always takes my mother with him to visit those in the hospital because she also has a way with her when talking to the sick and infirm.

Because of the strokes that Grammy has suffered, she really doesn't know me any more. I found that this really doesn't matter. It was still easy to caress her head, rub her neck and do a few small things to convey my love for her. After all, it is the indestructible soul that is being loved and ministered to, not the damaged hardware which inhibits her ability to function. She doesn't remember me, but I remember her and all the good times that I had with her.

They say you can't go home any more. If home is defined by being the physical place where you used to live, then I believe it. Moncton has changed out of recognition in the 24 years that I have been gone. What was once a smallish but comfortable city is now a sprawling commercial hub that has doubled in population. Strip malls, stores and other commercial endeavors, and endless streets of subdivisions have replaced Fields, trees, and country. I didn't feel at home at all there until we headed out into the countryside towards my Aunt Mae's and Uncle Sherman's. There has been some growth and change there as well, but not as much so that it is still recognizable as the place I used to know.

If, however, we define home in terms of relationships, then I did go home. The foundation of parent/child/sibling relationships is laid in the life of a child during the formative years. Maturity and a like-minded faith help to build on that foundation so that love, respect, affection, and bonding increases and deepens. It was joy to share not only a common history and all the memories that go with it, but a common love of the Lord and the lessons He has taught us over the years. I am blessed immeasurably by the fact that the Lord has given me parents and a sister who love and serve Him. This particular circle will be unbroken by and by some day. The contrast between now, with the love and mutual respect that my sister, Darlene, and I have compared with the intense sibling rivalry of yesteryear is stark. I used to hate her when we were growing up. Thankfully I got over that as well as all the jealousy I used to feel over the differences in how we related to our parents. Darlene was my chauffeur a good deal of the time, taking me around to visit people and places between her various duties. It was good to spend so much time with her yakking about old times and discussing life's issues.

I am so glad that I have learned how to do emotional balancing. I was sorely in need of it myself while I was there. Because I am not available to help my sister with this on a regular basis, I taught her how to do a "brush down" for emotional balancing. It is really amazing how well this works, even though it looks strange. By manipulating the electromagnetic energy field of the body through the meridians and spine, it is possible to lessen emotional intensity over stress-causing incidents and occurrences. The last two days before I left to go home was spent partially in the company of my parents and partially hiding in the bathroom and bedroom while I cried because I didn't want to leave them. It is terrible to be torn between dearly loved family on two opposite coasts and know that you won't be seeing some of them for some time. We had to leave early in the morning for the airport so that I could catch my 6:30 flight to Montreal. Mom and Dad went to bed before I did and I stayed up to talk to my sister who had stopped in to say goodbye. I requested a brush down because I know I was stressing out over the combination of leaving Mom and Dad and Dar and her family and the prospect of flying. (I don't travel very well.) Darlene obliged me by doing the brush down while I held the appropriate hand poses, and I was able to say goodbye the next morning without tears. Not only that, I had the best night's sleep that I had had since I had arrived. Since I started having children, there have been very few nights when pregnancy-induced insomnia or small children needing attention haven’t awakened me. On this night however, I went to bed, slept through the usual 2 am awakening and didn't open my eyes until 4:30 am when it was time to get up and get dressed.

It was an entirely positive experience and one I wish I could repeat more often. Now if I could only just get things back on track here at home…

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig...

I'm home, I'm jet-lagged, I'm tired, my luggage has gone missing, and I feel overwhelmed by the thought of getting back into the routine. But tomorrow is another day and hopefully I'll have the energy to dig in and get things whipped back into shape and on track again once I have a good night's sleep.

So who's been messing with my counter?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Leavin' on a Jet Plane...

...but Lord willing, I'll be home on January 18th.

I am leaving this evening on a "red-eye" flight to travel home to the Maritimes. My parents have generously made provision for me to spend some time with them over the next 12 days. I am NOT going to fuss about the condition of my house while I am gone, nor will I fuss about what the kids are or are not doing with regard to their schoolwork. There will be plenty of time to fuss when I get home.

The possibility still exists that I'll be able to blog while I am gone, providing I can get a local dial-up number. I am now the proud owner of a Toshiba laptop, bought for business and school purposes. That means I get to lug it around the airports worrying my head off about losing it, but it also means that I might get the odd chance to connect and keep up with my friends, relations, and cyber pals.

If I don't make it back, due to the Providence of God (and always a constant thought whenever I fly somewhere or go somewhere on my own without the security blanket of a kid or two), please know that I wish my testimony for the love of God and the truth of His Word was as shining as Grant's. We hold these treasures in earthen vessels, and some earthen vessels are more cracked than others.

BTW, for those who are interested, I am now 18 weeks along and baby is fluttering away in my tummy as I type. How's that for being completely disjointed in my thoughts?
A Final Testimony

I am reproducing two pieces of correspondance that Grant wrote shortly before the Lord took him Home. They stand as shining examples of how the grace of God is able to shine through an earthen vessel, revealing His glory.

Grant's email from Saturday Oct.30th

Dear All,How y'all doin'? I hope you're all in good health with a suitable measure of strength to go along with it.

But I can hear you all saying, "We're OK, but we really want to know how you are!"

Well alright, but I must first tell you how I am, and later tell you how I feel. They really are two different things. First unless the pain gets to be real predominant, I have through God's grace been able to keep my mind about as intact as ever (we all know it's somewhat deficient anyways!) I still know who I am and my purposes in this life, both primary and secondary. To know the one true and living God as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and to enjoy Him forever, is the chief purpose all men are responsible for from birth to the day of Divine Judgment, when all men will face that dreadful scene. I accept that duty and enjoy its sublime privilege; I rejoice with you who likewise recognize the duty and correspondingly have ordered your lives in keeping with it. I on the other hand weep for those of you who through fear and ignorance and unbelief cast sins back in God's face as if somehow our faults were really His, or who ignore Him completely saying He doesn't exist and who sin as if He'll never know nor care.

God has not given us exhaustive knowledge about anything, any more than men have been able to attain to infinite knowledge about any of their endeavors; the best men can do is to find out a thing which then brings up a whole new round of questions, almost an infinite number of them. But God has indeed given men enough knowledge to know our duties and the attendant blessings on those who obey what He has revealed, the curses upon the disobedient. He has verified His word by giving it to faithful witnesses, prophets, priests, kings, apostles, elders, teachers, and to the One who fills all these offices perfectly, Who is called the faithful Witness, our Lord Jesus Christ. This knowledge, suppose it had been given to petty criminals who live down your street. Or to some tyrant emperor of Rome or Saddam. If it was the most pure knowledge in the world, would it have ever been transmitted so you could know it? Never! God being faithful by nature, has always made Himself known through faithful witnesses. It is up to men to figure out who tells the truth and to thereafter listen up.

So since the realizing of these things and that "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God," I have endeavored to follow that way as most faithfully as I could. Not at all without the shame of my own sins, I say, but faithfully. So from the matters that pertain to true and false worship in the 2nd Commandment, to the 3rd Command and its relation to personal and social covenanting, to the keeping of the Christian Sabbath of the 4th, the relations of superiors, inferiors, and equals to each other of the 5th, and the ramifications of all the other ones, besides the everlasting Gospel of our Lord which makes all the above even possible, these things all being understood as faithful men and churches of the past and present teach.

Knowing that my religious practices have greatly affected our ordinary everyday life has no doubt made some of you to withdraw to more comfortable territory, but please do not be offended at me; I hold what I believe not from wild-eyed fanaticism, or because some other person or institution holds my conscience bound, but freely, from well reasoned thought and would not be afraid to defend myself or to answer any question.

Now the reason I write this stuff is because it seldom or never otherwise gets told. I'll tell you how I feel. For the last two years as both my broth Danny and I have both noticed, I have been really slowing down (we work together),not because of willfulness or laziness or old age, and now I think I know why. About 25 years ago I had what I would consider a minimal exposure to an occupational hazard of airborne asbestos, as a machine brake material. Recently I wrote telling you of extreme pain coming from the pleura sac of the left lung. The biopsy proves mesothelioma, a class of cancer that spreads by taking over one kind of tissue at a time, so after it destroys the pleura it would move over to the lung or the diaphragm or both; it is caused by asbestos and a couple of other kinds of silica I've never heard of. The sharp rock fibers of the asbestos migrate, through gravity and natural use of the lung as it breathes, from the lung to the pleura.

Patients with this type of condition do not usually last very long. Treatments range from the extreme to almost useless but the results are mostly the same. The most promising results for other cancers at an extended stage has been the use of chemotherapy along with hefty use of the glyconutrient complex Ambrotose.I

n any case the 6th Commandment calls on men to save their life, as opposed to giving up and throwing it away. So during my time in the Royal Alexandra Hospital I learned the tremendous God-given benefits of that derivative of the Oriental Poppy, morphine, and how to use it so that the rest of me will at least function. Pain drives one crazy! Appointments with an Oncologist (cancer Dr) will be made this week. The future is unknown, shaded in darkness.

Oh yes! I learned something from old Samuel Rutherford, a great albeit forgotten minister of the 17th Cent. "Be not ashamed of your guiltiness;necessity must not blush to beg. It standeth you hard to want Christ, and therefore, that which idle on-waiting cannot do, misnurtured crying and knocking will do."

Crying out to Christ, my hope and comfort, for the restoration of soul and body,
Grant Soles

This was penned by Grant while we [note that "we" refers to his dear wife, Cathie--CG] were in Southern California in order to attend a Cancer Clinic. Grant loved studying Church History.

Nov. 14, 2004

I had Cathie read a letter of Samuel Rutherford's to James Hamilton dated July 7, 1637. I was reiterating afterward to her what I had heard, saying that in the affliction of Rutherford having been removed by the Stuart government then 180 miles from his congregation, forbidden to preach,to a place where there were none that Rutherford could in conscience go and hear, and if I recall forbidden from such an act, anyway by authority of the King. Rutherford had finally stopped blaming Providence and began giving thanks in his affliction. He had begun to see Christ's smiling face toward him, behind the darkness of his trouble, the Lord chastens every son that He receives.

I can't help but think of my trouble; pain makes it ever present. It is admittedly very difficult to even blurt out thanksgiving or praise; at times it seems as if all is darkness. Yet at other times focusing on these are easier, more welcome. Things make better sense, the words and actions of brethren are seen as the smiles of Christ.

It's all very humbling. We know from Christ's word that the most insignificant act done for even the most insignificant brother or sister is like having been done unto Christ Himself. We know our own shame and unfaithfulness, our corruption, our own running and hiding from Him, our excusing ourselves. Our brethren don't know but an infidesimile fraction of it. But here they smile on us by their love and encouragement. That's humbling, for so much favour, yet, how much more when Christ, who knows us infinitely better than we do, smiles on us.

What blessing! What glory! For all of heaven smiles with Christ.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A Tribute

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.
Psalm 116:15
Yesterday, my brother in the Lord, Grant Soles, passed from this life into the presence of the Lord. He will be sorely missed.
As the flame of his life burned lower, his love of Christ and testimony of God's grace shone brighter and brighter. I spoke with him several weeks ago and at the time he was reading a book on the doctrine of assurance of salvation, and his words were both an inspiration and a comfort to me, especially as I could see he was taking them to heart. Those same words come to mind to comfort even as I mourn, though not without hope. You see, Grant is Christ's and so am I, so we will meet again one day.
Grant leaves behind a rich legacy of a faithful wife and five daughters who have all manifested that they too share in the same Fountain of Life from which Grant drank. One of his most outstanding characteristics was his humble approach to people. Life had taught him some hard lessons, but rather than becoming bitter, or being too proud to learn from them, they humbled him and raised him to a closer dependance upon the Lord. These lessons were ones he was quick to share with others that they might learn from his example. It takes a big heart to acknowledge faults and mistakes so that others might profit from what you have learned. It is a rare grace to see someone say, "It was good for me that I was afflicted."
Grant didn't compromise the truth and was most bold in declaring it, yet it was a boldness born of a desire to be pleasing in God's sight and out of love for those with whom he spoke.
The trial through which Grant just passed, was a firery trial, yet it wrought pure gold in him. The increase in his faith in God and the sanctification it worked in his soul was beautiful to behold. Should I ever be called upon to experience something similar, I pray that God grants me the same grace.
To quote my beloved pastor, Greg Price, "Grant's race here upon earth is finished. Ours continues. Let us run the race that is laid up before us with patience and perseverance ever trusting in Christ , the author and finisher of our faith."
Farewell for now, dear brother.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Lord our God is merciful,
and he is gracious
Long-suffering and slow to wrath,
in mercy plenteous.
He will not strive continually,
Nor keep his anger still.
With us he dealt not as we sinn'd
Nor did requite our ill.
From Psalm 103: 8-10, Psalms of David in Metre
The Lord God also in the heav'ns
did thunder in his ire;
And there the Highest gave his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
Yea, he his arrows sent abroad
and them he scattered;
His lightnings also he shot out,
and them discomfited.
The water's channels then were seen,
the world's foundations vast
At thy rebuke discover'd were,
and at thy nostrils' blast.
Psalm 18:13-15, Psalms of David in Metre
I haven't been able to write much of substance of the current catastrophic happenings in south east Asia. The tragedy is too large and too overwhelming for trivial comment, but it is one that has caused me to pause and ponder on the ways of God.
Can any doubt the power of God and the terrors of His judgement? Yesterday in church we sang Psalm 103 and I couldn't finish singing. Half way through it I was overcome by tears. The hand of the Lord has been heavy against those in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and their neighbors. Why does He stay His hand against our nation? Dare we think ourselves more righteous when daily we mock His laws and make them of no effect? We are a Christian nation in name only and idolatry and perverse living leaves just leaves tidier and less visible carnage in its wake.
Some of the pictures of this tragedy are obscene. It is obscene to see so many of the image bearers of God, tossed like so much garbage amongst the wreckage, and yet so many will perish like cordwood in the flames that know no end some day. That is what our sin and rebellion calls for.
I don't ask why God has done this. I know why. I do ask why He has reserved mercy for me. That is what overcomes me.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Wise Words

I am most blessed to sit under the preaching of Greg Price, one of the best elders I have ever had. Lately, he has started a series on the book of Ecclesiastes, which I am enjoying. Last week's sermon had some things in it that I need to remember on a daily basis, especially when faced with the temptation to sin, grumble, complain, and feel myself hard done by.

"a. Dear ones, isn't it truly amazing that Him forwhom the world seeks without realizing it is the One who has graciously revealed Himself to us by opening our eyes to Christ and all of His benefits. The world has this inner desire for truth, for reality, for hope, for meaning and purpose, for joy, peace, and contentment, but the world will seek and will never find by its sore travail.

Why are you any different than the rest of the world? What was in you that made you any different than those who come up empty-handed? You are no different. You and I would be in exactly the same spot if it were not for the grace of Christ who supernaturally filled that void and that emptiness in our lives. What do you have that you did not receive from Christ? And if you did receive it fromChrist, why do you live as if you found it by your own searching?

b. There is affliction and travail in this life that come to the Christian, it is true. But dear ones, you know where to find the help you need. You know where there is a river of life from which you can daily drink. You are no longer searching for joy. You have found it through faith alone in Christ Jesus. Having found the river of life (wherein is found righteousness, forgiveness, love, joy, purpose,and hope), it is simply a matter of daily enjoying the benefits which Christ has already purchased for you.

c. If as a Christian who is trusting in Christ alone for your eternal salvation, you are not experiencing the blessedness of joy, peace, and contentment in your life, it is not because your search for these blessings continue. It is because you must grow in faith in learning how to enjoy these blessings from this river of life everyday of your life. The joy of the Lord is yours. The peace that passes all understanding is yours. The contentment in prosperity or poverty is yours. You simply need to learn to drink daily by faith of that which is already yours. The enemy may try to convince you that you are still searching and never finding. But dear child of God, nothing could be further from the truth. These blessings in Christ are not out of your reach, they are as near to you as the words that you utter. Reach out and receive by faith that which is your inheritance in Christ. "

Cheryl's HouseKeeping Tips of the Day

Yesterday I had a phone call from a friend with a daughter who has 8 children. I was informed that I was a role model because her goal in life is to have at least 12. Her eldest is 12 years old, and considering that she is younger than I, and only 4 kids behind me, I'd say she is well on her way.

One of the things she asked was if I had any tips to pass along. I mentioned the importance of training children to do housework from an early age so that they learn to keep house for when they are older, and mother doesn't become the household drudge for everyone. (I believe mothers are to train their children, and part of that training is to teach them how to live in the real world, which does not involve having mother there to clean up after you for the rest of your life.) The system we finally worked out was to have the children each do one chore and then rotate to a new job the next day. Older children, who are more competent at their work through practice, are interspersed with younger children who are less competent. This works better than assigning a child one job for the week or month because this way, if a job isn't done well on one day, the next child who comes along can make up for it (theoretically). You only have to suffer with a poorly done job for a day as opposed to a week or a month, and the tendency to nag the less competent lessens.

One thing I am picky about, besides how my laundry is done, is the state of my floors. We have oak hardwood floors in the downstairs which has the fashionable "stressed" and "antiqued" look from all the wear and tear that hordes of children can cause. That doesn't bother me. What does bother me is when it is dirty, as in clutter, dust, and sticky jam marks and hot cocoa spills. This means that the floor is swept several times a day, and usually washed at least every two days. (We have messy eaters in this house.) A few months ago I went out and bought myself one of those Swiffer wet mops that has the bottle of solution in it and a button to press to squirt it out on the floor ahead of where you are going to mop. A pad is attached to the bottom and it catches all the dirt. It's a very nice system which has eliminated the need for a mop and bucket which usually gets knocked over and spilled by the baby.

Unfortunately, these mops are designed for two people households in small apartments where the wear and tear is likely to be a lot less than what is seen in a household of 11. Not only that, if you buy the solution bottles and the special pads that are to be used with them, the cost can add up quickly, which in my mind negates the benefits. The velcro pads on the bottom of the Swiffer also come off easily. It is such a nice system, though, I didn't want to give it up, so here's what I did: With a large vice grip I was able to remove the top of the special solution bottle and now refill it with water and a heavy duty degreaser solution. The bottle is now able to be used multiple times. I also got some better velcro and not only attached it with a glue gun to the bottom, but also placed strips on the top. Instead of buying the expensive cleaning pads for the bottom, I got some terry cloth shop rags that stick quite nicely to the velcro, and now I have washable floor pads that do a better job at cleaning the floor than any mop I ever had. All in all, I am quite pleased with myself and the results, and the kids like mopping the floor this way too.

Just as an aside, this all seems too too trivial and mundane and ridiculous in the face of the tsunami aftermath.