Posted in theology

Dis/Contentment in your life and how to overcome it

By Elizabeth Prata

Are you discontent? Discontent because you’re single? Discontent because you’re married? Didn’t get the job you wanted? Lost the job you loved? Hate where you live? Didn’t make the grade? Your boss hates you? You hate your boss?

Life is hard, it always has been. “In this world you will have trouble” Jesus said. (John 16:33). But lately it seems that the trouble is increasing, and coming from directions we had not expected. It’s a lot to keep up with.

We’ve always been a people to attach our happiness to comfortable or satisfactory circumstances, even though the Bible warns us to keep our eyes on Jesus and remain heavenly minded. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us, said Paul in Romans 8:18. But us puny humans forget, and we weep, we complain, we grumble. I know I do, before I have to metaphorically slap myself and say ‘Snap out of it!’

I listened to two podcasts yesterday that were on opposite ends of this spectrum, one was about severe and deep suffering, the kind that no husband or parent should ever have to deal with. But we do deal with it because, I refer again to John 16:33.

“The Cellar of Affliction” was episode 7 in Season 1 of The MacArthur Center for Expository Preaching, “The Expositor: The Story of How John MacArthur Became the World’s Premier Expository Preacher.”

L-R-Austin Duncan, Narrator, and John MacArthur, interviewee. Source: MacArthur Center for Expository Preaching
The episode is described thus: John Donne called them Job's sick days. They are days of unexpected, and often unimaginable, suffering. They are part of life in a fallen world, both for believers and nonbelievers. And they are a constant reality in the life of a preacher. John MacArthur is certainly no stranger to suffering. This episode describes a dark day in the MacArthur family, and how that suffering shaped his life and ministry. And it looks at how John's life and preaching have cared for those in what Samuel Rutherford called "the cellar of affliction." 

The episode also shared about other parents and families going through a trial and suffering. What they went through and how they came to the other side without complaint, or grumbling, clinging to joy in the darkest of days, is inspiring.

I also listened to The Women’s Hope podcast with Dr. Shelbi Cullen and Kimberly Cummings discuss “Contentment in the Midst of Chaos

Episode Description - Episode 125, Oct 14, 2021- Shelbi and Kim open up about times when they’ve battled discontentment. What passages of Scripture helped them navigate life's most challenging moments? What did God teach them through trials? Listen to find out.

In addition to discussing the issue that brought discontentment into their lives and the realizations they discovered as they walked through it to the other side, the two women offer practical advice at the end as well.

I found these two discussions helpful. I tend to tie my happiness to my circumstances. Last week, my car broke down. That is one area I have a hard time accepting disruptions. It may not be a huge issue to others but it is to me. I worked hard to focus on Jesus during that week and not complain, even under the guise of ‘asking for prayer’. It all got resolved in providential ways and the Lord even took care of me financially afterward. I need to do more of that for when the next circumstance changes, and it will. Whether it’s a minor disruption like the car issue or something major like the sufferings discussed in the MacArthur Expositor podcast, the advice remains the same.

Listen to these two podcasts and see if you think so too. 🙂

Posted in theology

This woman spoke volumes by not speaking

By Elizabeth Prata

When I was a young adult my social sphere overlapped with a group of women who liked to party. Individually they were fine. But when they got together they were loud, raucous, lewd, and coarse. Because they got so loud at times they were dubbed The Deci-Belles.

I’m extremely sensitive to noise. I don’t like loud noises. When women get together their voices go up several octaves. Loud, high-pitched laughter or raucous conversation is just plain old hurtful to my ears. When I was with these ladies, I’d often stand on the sidelines and just watch in amazement at the goings on.

Today’s secular society proclaims these kind of women “strong”, “assertive”, or “powerful.” Nor does Christian ministry escape from the cultural twisting of what God wants women to be. We are constantly being told that we have “influence”, “potential”, or that we need “activating” (Are we inert robots with an ‘on’ button?) Christine Caine’s organization, Propel Woman is such an example of this attitude. Her Propel Woman “is a woman who leads—and believes she was made to lead. She gives all that she has. Puts it all on the line. Leaves nothing behind.” Caine’s Propel Woman sounds more like an Amazonian Nomad than a quietly serving Christian wife…

Caine’s website declares that the Christian ‘Propel’ woman is-

BOLD + DARING
CLASSIC + MODERN
IMAGINATIVE + INTELLIGENT
PLAYFUL + PROFESSIONAL
PRESENT + VISIONARY
EFFORTLESS + EVERYDAY
COMPASSIONATE + STRONG
COURAGEOUS + TENDER
TRUSTWORTHY + TENACIOUS
INFORMED + HOPEFUL
PASSIONATE + COMMITTED
LEADER + LEARNER
LOCAL + GLOBAL
AUTHENTIC + ACCOUNTABLE

That’s a lot of things. Who can live up to THAT? I certainly can’t. I don’t focus solely on Caine’s Propel Woman, many ‘Christian Women’s Ministries’ these days have the same attitude about what a woman should be. Do you notice what’s missing from Caine’s list? Some key words. Titus 2:3-5 words, for example-

Reverent
Self-controlled
Pure
Kind
Submissive (to their own husbands)

and…

Working at home.

Hard to do when we’re propelling all over the place.

Women were not “made to lead”. This is in direct scriptural opposition to the reason God made woman. (Genesis 2:18-25). It was to help, not to lead. As Christians in general, man or woman, we are made to serve our Lord by glorifying Him, but women especially serve. We serve our husbands, if we have one. We serve our home. We serve in our church. We don’t lead.

Sadly, Christian women’s ministries these days are perpetually claiming that we do. Worse, they are acting like unless you possess a speaking gift, which they say is the best one of all, you’re nothing. Unequal. Marginalized. Invisible.

Paul spends most of 1 Corinthians 12 chastising the members at Corinth for envying the members who have more prominent gifts. Note the first four words of this verse from 1 Corinthians 12:28,

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, and various kinds of tongues.

God appoints his people to do various functions in the church, including speaking. GOD does. To disdain what God has appointed is to disdain God.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. (1 Corinthians 12:4-5).

And there are the other two members of the Trinity. The God-head is fully involved in His church, and if He designated men to be the main speakers in the church so be it. Women are to be quiet/silent.

Contempt, hatred, envy, and strife, are very unnatural in Christians. It is like the members of the same body being without concern for one another, or quarrelling with each other. The proud, contentious spirit that prevailed, as to spiritual gifts, was thus condemned. ... The Spirit distributes to every one as he will. We must be content though we are lower and less than others. We must not despise others, if we have greater gifts. How blessed the Christian church, if all the members did their duty! Instead of coveting the highest stations, or the most splendid gifts, let us leave the appointment of his instruments to God, and those in whom he works by his providence. Remember, those will not be approved hereafter who seek the chief places, but those who are most faithful to the trust placed in them, and most diligent in their Master's work. Matthew Henry on 1 Corinthians 12:27-31.

I was a new Christian, saved maybe 5 or 6 years but losing the first 18 months by not being in church and in following Joel Osteen. There was a woman in my Sunday School class. It was a small class, not many members, and only a few women. This one woman was older, and long time married. She appeared each week to church. This in itself was pretty noticeable for a church with a small membership. Regular attendance these days seems like an optional event.

When she appeared, she was always dressed for church. She didn’t dress lavishly, nor casually. You could always tell she put effort into her outfit and that it was a church outfit.

She sat next to her husband, of course, and was perfectly attentive. She looked, listened, took a few notes, occasionally touched her husband’s elbow. She remained silent. She did not speak. Even when the Class teacher invited comment, she waited until her husband spoke, and only spoke if directly asked a question or encouraged to share an insight. It’s not that she was shy. Not at all.

This kind of church woman, or any kind of woman in or out of church, was new to me. As a person having grown up during the feminist 1960s and 70s, having been pressed by my own family to be a feminist, having been a teacher and used to speaking and teaching, her silence was resounding. She wasn’t invisible. Silence did not render her invisible. In fact, she was more visible than if she had brashly offered comment after comment. Her meekness didn’t mean weakness. No, far from being marginalized, her gentle and quiet demeanor broke through to my newly Christian mind and still resounds across my soul all these years later, now that I myself am older.

Ladies, Peter wrote our adornment is not in our tongue, in speaking great things and strutting around a stage. Our adornment is inner, by our spirit, and,

should be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. (1 Peter 3:4).

God does not look with favor on loud, brash, footloose women

She is boisterous and rebellious, Her feet do not remain at home; (Proverbs 7:11)

The word boisterous is hamah in Hebrew and it means to be in a stir, be in a commotion; to be boisterous, be turbulent. This bespeaks an unquiet spirit, a woman characterized by constant unrest or disorder. To be this way, live this way, is exhausting to your family, your church, the people in your sphere whether online or real life. In other words, don’t be a Deci-belle. Speak God’s language. Be quiet, peaceful, gentle, attentive, humble, meek, with an attitude of service. This is precious in the sight of God. I want to be precious in the sight of God. Don’t you?

Posted in darkness, jesus, sin

‘It’s a darkness that claws at your sanity…’

By Elizabeth Prata

Darkness is a primal thing. No one likes it. No one seeks it. We think we have beaten our ancient fear of it, but it is only the fragile light bulb that makes us think we are less primitive than we are.

Darkness is disorienting, you cannot see the ground ahead of you nor the prey sneaking up on you. As a child, the prey is the alligator living under the bed. As an adult, the darkness is a thing to be laughed at in the light and a thing to be dreaded while in the dark.

For generations and centuries, man hated to see the sun set, having no candle to ward off the night spirits. Even with a candle or kerosene lamp, its flickering glow seemed too meager to combat the oppressive night.

Sailors for millennia will tell you that the night watch from 2-4 am is the most chilling. Terrifying is the night, especially if there is no moon and the stars are obscured. Samuel Taylor Coleridge captured this in the stanza about sailing at night in his famous Rime of the Ancient Mariner,

Rime of the Ancient Mariner,

The Sun’s rim dips; the stars rush out;
At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper, o’er the sea,
Off shot the spectre-bark.
We listened and looked sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steersman’s face by his lamp gleamed white;
From the sails the dew did drip—
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The hornèd Moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.

The River Styx is the Greek mythological river that separates the outer world from the underworld. It is a kingdom lorded over by Hades, and guarded by Cerberus the three headed dog. Charon is the ferryboatman who brings the lost souls across the river to their eternal doom. The term ‘stygian darkness’ comes from the Styx.

In Stories of the Ships, author Lewis R. Freeman described ‘the darkness you could lean against’ … so apt!

I was in total darkness once. I do not mean the dark night, or even the dark when I was sailing, though that is very dark. I mean under-the-earth kind of dark where there is no spot of light nor any particle of brightness nor any beam of luminosity…just oppressive dark. It was when we toured the Queen Copper Mine in Bisbee Arizona. The tour takes you down under the earth and as you go along, they explain about mining. Sitting in the little rail car, the tracks clacking, we rattled further and further away from the sun, from the warm light, into gloom that closed in upon us with the earth.

[I]f thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.

~Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil/Chapter IV

When we got to the bottom, the tour guide told us to turn off your headlamps, and for 5 to 8 seconds we sit in a darkness so black is it alive. It suffocates, and permeates the brain to the extent that you want to scream and scrape your way out. It is a darkness that is palpable, suffocating you with its wild dementia. It is a darkness that claws at your sanity. When the lights come back on your mind relaxes at the soothing balm that brightness brings.

In darkness such as this, your eye has no opportunity to grasp a single detail, and instead, the mind is floating as a raft upon the darkness, free-wheeling and unhinged from the anchoring light.

The Bible frequently uses light and dark to contrast truths. John 12:35 says “So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; also, the one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.

Sin is darkness. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11)

The power of satan is darkness. (Acts 26:18)

The LORD spoke much in the Old Testament about the Day of Darkness. His judgment brings darkness.

“Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light” (Amos 5:18).

But Jesus IS THE LIGHT!!

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

How wonderful we can follow Him, a Light that never goes off and never dims. We will never walk in darkness if we follow Him. He knows the way, because He IS the Way!

If you do not follow Him, O, my heart aches in sadness to say, but there the person will remain in outer darkness all their lives throughout eternity. A person who dies in their sin, will remain in that clawing, palpable, screaming darkness forever- in hell.

Hell is a place of outer darkness (Matthew 22:13) where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12). I dare not even try to imagine the stygian darkness of the hellish place Outer Darkness is. That it is named for its very absence of light indicates how dark it is, indeed.

But people, the precious Light has come!

“Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” (John 12:36)

What an inexpressible joy to know we will have the Light, we will be in Light for all eternity, pure, bright glory Light, brighter than the sun and shining forth from the face that looked down upon his people and took pity on us, with compassion died for us, rose again to minister to us, and saved us from the terrible darkness.

EPrata photo
Posted in drift, exhortation, love

Drifting…Alas, and did my Savior bleed

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

It’s really easy when we’re stressed, or depressed, or confused (or any time, really) to drift away from the throne. We might skip church once. Then twice. We might leave off praying, or not focus on it and make the prayers short. We might stop reading the Bible. I know I’ve had seasons like that.

Continue reading “Drifting…Alas, and did my Savior bleed”
Posted in theology

Jesus, the High Name Over All

By Elizabeth Prata

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.” (Matthew 17:1-8)

The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to point to Christ (John 16:13-14). Christ is the pre-eminent Person in all the universe (Colossians 1:18). Peter, in his boundless and sometimes unthinking enthusiasm, wanted to make a tabernacle for all three of the glorified beings he saw before him. One for Moses, one for Elijah and one for Jesus. In verse 4 Peter makes it clear, he says it twice, ‘three tents’ and then explains, ‘one for you and you and you…’

Continue reading “Jesus, the High Name Over All”
Posted in bible, encouragement, scripture

Some encouragement: The Long and Winding Road ends at Jesus’ feet

By Elizabeth Prata

I really enjoy photography, looking at photos and taking them. I have many photos that I enjoy digging out and looking at and playing with as digital software technologies continue to be made available.

As I look at them, more often than not, a Bible verse comes to mind. like the Penobscot Bay schooner I’d snapped it was while passing by the schooner we were on, the ‘do not drift away’ verse from Hebrews. It’s here.

I’ll be doing this more often. A short burst of encouragement from a verse, with photo. Here is today’s-

Friends, the road is long and we cannot see around the curve. However we know the end of the story. It ends in glory. Keep walking in Jesus’ name, rejoicing as you go.

New song by Matt Papa and Matt Boswell at the Getty’s site, “Almost Home”. Every day that passes is one day closer to seeing Jesus, our eternal Rest, and reunion with loved ones. Hang in there, walk joyfully toward the Great Light!

Posted in theology

Are Daisy Duke Shorts modest?

By Elizabeth Prata

The answer is no. But I’ll get to that shortly. See what I did there?

I wrote about modesty in general earlier today, here. This is a little addendum.

Daisy Dukes were coined back in the late 1970s when the actress playing the character Daisy Duke in the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard sported short-shorts. The style became synonymous with her character, hence, the name of the garment stuck.

Continue reading “Are Daisy Duke Shorts modest?”
Posted in theology

Modesty: what are the limits and what does scripture say?

By Elizabeth Prata

Usually the discussions about modesty come in late spring as the temps heat up and we enter the summer season peeling off some layers of clothes. When bathing suit season approaches, the discussions online often turn to the limits of skin being shown, where to obtain modest clothing, and what the Bible actually describes modesty as.

Continue reading “Modesty: what are the limits and what does scripture say?”
Posted in theology

Pop Tart

By Elizabeth Prata

The first task I do at school every day is to be at my station at opening bell, having unlocked the door so car riders can come in. I am to greet the students, by name if possible, and generally be pleasant and welcoming. By 7:10am the kids may already have been awakened dog-tired, fussed at, rushed, and generally hustled to the car so mama or daddy can get to work. My job is to be calm, smiling, and joyful to see them. I love this duty because I genuinely love seeing the kids come in. Each of them, every day.

They are so cute. The kids enter at different speeds, displaying different emotions, some shy and looking away from me, some shrinking against the wall, some literally bounding in.

Continue reading “Pop Tart”