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Posts Tagged ‘trust’

A Very True Story

She stood on the edge, one foot raised above the rug.  That rug captivated her attention so that she first stared, turned shyly away, then went back to watching it ponderously.  She had to choose, and she couldn’t forget that.  But once she chose, she couldn’t know what the consequences would be.  She lowered her foot, close to taking the step, then drew back.

Daddy had made her a deal: If she stepped on the rug, she might get pinched – or she might get candy – or she might get both.  Without the step, no candy, for sure!

Her daddy loved her.  Whether pinch or candy, he would be doing good to her.  She trusted him, but she still hesitated.

She tried to figure it all out.  What did “might” mean?  Was Daddy making a rule with a punishment for breaking it – or was this different somehow?  Would Daddy pinch hard?  How much freedom did she have?  Could she go away and do something else (as if she’d be able to long forget ‘the deal’)?  Was the whole rug implied?  She wanted to be sure she wasn’t inadvertently getting herself into the risk.

She climbed on the couch beside the rug.  She sat on Daddy’s lap for a while, held from the portentous tapestry by his strong arms until she was ready to make her choice.  Then she was back on the edge, testing whether her chances were better if she made a covert move towards touching it.

Daddy spoke, “If you step, I don’t want you to do it timidly.  I want you to run out onto the rug and say, ‘I’m touching it!’ ”

A little more consideration, and there she was – feet across the rug, yelling like her daddy said.

He caught her up in his arms and gave her his choice.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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On Friday night I asked some friends which Bible character they related to most. Mine was Mary sister of Martha. 

 

On Sunday I sat on a porch, the last trickles of rain spilling off the roof-edge, noise from a busy kitchen through the door at my back, and a still, sad friend sitting next to me. 

 

I’ve never thought before whether Mary felt the tug to get up and do/work/help, but chose over and over, that night, to be still and sit at Jesus’ feet, to do what appeared to be nothing, because it was the one thing needed – the good part. 

I am struggling to learn the lesson of stillness, of trust, of prayer, and of waiting.

 

Work and waiting have the same source for the spiritual man: dependence on God, abiding in Christ.  They have the same end as well: bearing fruit.  

 

Later on Sunday night, some friends looked up this Hebrew word sometimes translated “wait”: chuwl.  It has so much nuance of meaning and implication that I could just swim in it!  

 

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

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Philippians 4:6-7

We can put it off, the praying

Sometimes,

Afraid to make ourselves vulnerable

To a God who might

Say no.

But when we do pray,

The trust wells up

And knowing the goodness of our God

Brings peace.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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At the bottom of my Blogger website, I have a quote that I consider to be both great insight and fair warning.  Jane Austen wrote,

“A lady’s imagination is very rapid;

it jumps from admiration to love,

from love to matrimony, in a moment.”

That is to say, when a woman sees signs of admiration in a man, she imagines he is in love with his object of admiration and begins to plan what to wear to the wedding.  This is true, though rather conceited, even of ourselves.  To feel admired by a man suggests marriage to us.  I don’t know why.  And to confess the truth, we hear a woman admiring a man and think she is destined for him.  Or we do imagine ourselves in love when we have experienced only the slightest flutter of respect or attraction.

Girls are like that.  Jane Austen knew it.  I have not found many girls who could refute it. In Fiddler on the Roof the eldest daughter sings, “There’s more to life than [happiness in marriage]… Don’t ask me what!”  We’re a little obsessed, even when we are striving to focus on other things.  We see the world in matches, even our forks and spoons are paired off into couples or families.

And even though this is just how things are, life is not made simple by these unfounded convictions.  The rapidness of our imaginations does not only make it awkward for men to be around us (and more so when we act on these emotions or ideas without checking them against what we ought to do); it makes determining the actual sources of our emotions and regard rather difficult.  With these expectations come frequent disappointments.  Some people even teach that we ladies ought to quiet our hearts, to “guard them”

from feeling and hope and imagination.

I’m not talking about lust, but a way of sorting out and reacting to life.  Most men and women will marry, and the origins often are something like admiration, then love, then commitment to marriage.

So we have this option, to prevent our rapid imaginations.  We can go into a nunnery until the knight in shining armor rides by to select his bride.  Or we can treat the world as though we consider ourselves nuns (often complete with vows of silence).  I have, in the past, tended to be unwilling to do the work it takes to relate to men without assuming things about them that are not significant, or that are even untrue.  Part of this was for my own sake, as I said: life is much simpler when you do not let yourself interact with or admire others.

Another part is that we presume men take similar imaginative leaps, and that they are not to be trusted with any them.  And good little girls who are trying to be modest, well, we do not realize that men are not quite as rapid as we, and we assume that sparking admiration will make a man desperately in love…  It goes something like this:

If I smile at him, he’ll think I like him.  And if he thinks I like him, he will fall in love with me.  When he falls in love with me, he’ll want to marry me.  But I don’t want to marry him!  I barely know him!

So the good little girls don’t smile.  Never mind that if I smile at his compliment, courtesy, or joke he might think I was pleased – and I was, but I don’t want him to know.  In the words of the “faultless” Mr. Darcy, “Disguise of every sort is my abhorrence.

I know it is risky, but wouldn’t it be better to be honest?  I dare say that a woman can trust a man with a smile or a laugh.  We need to stop trying to control the situation.  What I have practiced, before I learned this, was rejecting people, not rejecting suitors.  When someone is being themselves and meets with no response, or no attentive audience, his identity is being torn down.  My heart has been my idol, so that I guarded it and exalted it at the expense of people.

What about this?  If I don’t smile at him, he’ll think his joke wasn’t funny, and he’ll try something else or give up relating to us entirely.  For a woman frustrated with the reluctance of men to marry, it is rather contradictory to be discouraging them from even interacting with us.

It is now my goal to be the woman of kindness and quietness that God has called me to be, to do the extra work it takes to contain the eager imaginations and assumptions that are my tendency as a female.  I will trust God with the consequences of being myself – in modesty and discretion and humility – but also with being myself as a sister, an emissary of God sent to build up (even nurture) those around me.  If I do fall in love, I will trust God.  If a man falls in love with me, I will trust my good Lord Jesus.  These situations are not impossible even when they are unwelcome.  And I would rather suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I read a story last week: Return of the Guardian King.  Fourth and final of a vividly epic fantasy series written by a woman who knows my world, my type, and my God.  Her name is Karen Hancock, and her stories have invaded my imagination permanently.

It is a book about temptation, I told a friend.  Resisting in the slow way, wearied by the persistence, common days, small things.  And massive temptations: to betray all you have believed in, to denounce the promises of God for the power of ruling kingdoms, to trade love in the good God and His simple gifts to the extravagant suit of the alluring devil.  But the large and the small are the same. 

The characters are strong against deception and temptation when they have been faithful in the daily denying of self.  To live for others, in kindness and patience, prepares each person against bitterness and despair.  Immersion in the truth and promises of God is comfort and hope.  Even if their prayer is a single cry for help from God, bad things trun to good when people talk to their God. 

The story isn’t about what is happening on the outside as much as it is about whether the characters are trusting God, whether they know with all their might that He loves them and that His plans for them are good.  When they are rebelling against him, they are miserable.  So are those around them.  So am I. 

Kiriath is in the hands of the jealous and vengeful brother Gillard, possessed by a demon rhu’ema.  Already they treat and ally with the archenemy, Belthe’adi, Abramm had warned them of.  Abramm is known to be dead.  But Abramm is also walking the mountains, chafing under the waiting in a snowed-in monastery.  Maddie is back at her childhood home, a palatial life she never embraced, and her newest royal duty is to marry some rich aristocrat who can offer troops to defend the last stand of her homeland.  But her dreams linked with her beloved’s are back, and something tugs hope alive in her that maybe Abramm survived after all. 

Shapeshifters, dragons, and the critical people who are supposed to be his friends plague Abramm on his Odyssey-like journey back to his wife and sons.  Trap and Carissa mirror Abramm’s struggle with pride and longing but in a quiet domestic setting.  Detours take the exiled king and longed-for husband to places of faith and doubt he never would have imagined – and sometimes wishes he had never asked for. 

Every character learns the power of friends: locking them against temptation, praying for their dearest concerns, teaching and challenging with the truth, dividing the attacks of dragons, delivering messages, watching with unbiased eyes, guarding against betrayal.  Again Abramm learns that it is not his strength that conquers, and that God has not gifted him with leadership and military prowess to fight God’s battles for Him.  He is but a vessel. 

Maddie meets a charming man who is attractive in all the ways Abramm never was.  Tirus wants her, wants to help her.  He understands her and shows her off, showers her with gifts and protects her from scorn.  How long can she wait for her husband whom even her dearest friends still believe is dead?  Will she believe the light-born visions and promises from God, or the technological, repeatable sight from the stone sent to her by her suitor?  Will she change her mind about regal living and the purpose of marriage?  The things that stood in Maddie’s way when she wanted to marry Abramm, and the undeniable need they had for each other – will she forget those? 

When things go from bad to worse, whose job is it to protect the ones they love?  At what cost will they buy safety and love?  Will the armies of the Moon, and the powers of the air – dragons winging terror across the skies – will they succeed in doing their worst, in taking everything from those faithful to God?  Or will they be utterly defeated?  If they cannot be defeated, what is the point in fighting and sacrificing? 

And when God’s people fail, bitterly weak, The Return of the Guardian King resounds with display of God’s mercy.  God knew we were weak when He chose us.  He knew we would fail when He sent His Son to suffer for those sins.  And a single prayer, sometimes the end of God’s longsuffering chase, brings grace empowering His servants to do the right thing.  He cannot deny Himself.  His promises will be true, however faithless we are. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Proverbs 22:7, “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

 

The Bible is fairly clear that debt is a bad idea.  The Jews were allowed to loan money to each other, and even to take a deposit – but they could not charge interest.  Only outsiders were to be a source of profit to the Jews.  Proverbs teaches that giving to the poor is much better than lending to them; it is compared to lending to God, who will “repay” the generous man. 

 

Proverbs 19:17, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”

 

Luke 6:35, “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”

 

With this in mind, I have chosen to be neither slave nor master, borrowing nor lending.  I don’t have a credit card, bought my car with cash, and prepay my auto insurance every year.  The most money I owe is paying my share of our family cell phone plan each month, and I try to never get even a day behind.  As a result I have a no credit rating, but I defy an economy built on spending tomorrow’s dollar.  Isn’t it rather foolish of them to base trust on the fact that people are NOT responsible enough to save money ahead of time? 

 

I don’t want to lend money, either.  But living in modern America, to have any sort of normal life one must have a bank.  Banks are institutions that take my money and your money and loan it to others in order to profit from the interest.  The banking crisis of 2008 was precipitated by a ratio of loans to interest received that was too disproportionate to maintain a profit.  The expenses of banks were not being paid by the interest on loans because too many loans were “bad.”  Payments were not being made.  Banks can’t reinvest foreclosed property immediately.  Their funds became tied up, invested in non-liquid assets.  And this is not a bad thing except that they had been too greedy, and left insufficient cash in hand to meet the demands of their customers.  Some of their customers were the depositors, some the borrowers (small businesses were a big concern; apparently they function on future dollars almost exclusively), and many bank clients are paradoxically both.  That this is bad for the economy as a whole is becoming more and more evident. 

 

The practice of profiting from loans (associated with shady characters for centuries) to people in need is hurting individuals as well.  Obviously to give an interest-free loan, or even a “hand up” gift in hard times would be much preferable financially.  Traditionally this would be done relationally, by capable friends who would be able to assess the legitimacy of the need and the efficacy of the gift.  To those not in need loans ought to be less available.  Politically and economically the Levitical law on charging interest to foreigners corresponded to the idea of duties (benefiting the people directly, rather than the government).  To participate in the God -directed and –blessed economy of Israel, a Gentile could borrow money from a Jew, but the Jew was allowed to charge him for this privilege, taking the form of interest.  (This is as covered in the law; it is plausible that Jews could charge other things like duties or rent for market space.)  I suppose that business loans resemble this category, but it is not sound business to rely so heavily on borrowed cash. 

 

Here is where I would like to introduce the concept of investment.  What is commonly considered investment today is more accurately called “speculation.”  It is a risk, calculated or wild – a gamble.  Either a bank is taking a risk on a loan, betting that the interest yield will be profitable and that the debtor will not take off with the money; or an individual or institution is throwing money into stocks hoping the value of the stocks will go up, and that they can sell at a higher price in the future.  Investment is different.  Investment relies on dividends for profit.  Dividends are a share of the profits less than the total profits divided by all the “shares” of stockholders, so that some of the profits may be reinvested in the company for continuing productivity, like farmers not selling all of their produce, but saving some for seed and planting a portion of it the next season.  Sound investing is to give (as in not expecting or requiring the money to be returned) a sum to a company that one believes will be making profits long enough that dividends will meet or exceed the amount of the investment.  This happens over time. 

 

Another type of investment is in assets, which ought to appreciate through supply and demand.  This property ought to have inherent worth by reason of usefulness.  A few common kinds of investment are land, houses, and gold.  A person may also invest in a service, like education, which makes his skills greater and his labor more valuable.  Investing this way does not always require the sale of the investment to profit.  There can be “dividends” on this as well: rent money from rental property, use of a house or farmland, or application of the skills acquired through education. 

 

I understand how the sale of stock arose, and how useful it is.  I’m not opposed to that being an option.  It should not, however, be the common practice of banks, investment companies, or sound long-term investors.  There would be two reasons to sell stock: 1) You can no longer afford the investment.  Liquidity is more essential to you than long-term profit.  2) Your share in the company is losing value in a way that makes you think that no profit will ever proceed from it again.  In this instance, to sell is to take advantage of another investor, profiting from selling them an asset worth nothing.  Like loaning money or running a casino, it is preying on the risky ambitions of foolish men.  It ought to be legal in a free market, but it is not moral. 

 

All this to say that the ideal bank for me would be one that does not loan money, nor speculate in stocks.  Picture a community of people.  Many of them have money to spare, which they wish to store in a safe but accessible location.  They get together and store their money in a bank.  This bank is managed by a man who guards their cash and processes transactions: deposits, withdrawals, checks, debit cards, transfers.  To pay for his services, the depositors allow him to use a portion of the total money in the bank to invest.  At least a portion of the dividends, if not all of them, would pay for the building, the administrative fees, and the banker’s salary.  The investments ought to be diverse, and published to the depositors for review.  If there was sufficient concern that the investments were imprudent, the depositors could attempt to advise their banker or transfer their money to a more trusted banker.  Depositors would understand that not all of their money would necessarily be available for withdrawal or transfer at once, but at a contractual set period after such a request is made.  As always, more deposits are an insurance against a misjudged investment or a large withdrawal.  If the investments are consistently successful enough, a bank may offer its own dividends to all of its clients, or to those whose deposits are large enough (this is done today through “interest-bearing” checking accounts). 

 

This is slightly simplified.  A larger bank would obviously employ more than one investment manager, for example.  I don’t know all the laws involved.  Many banks, I believe, were begun by one wealthy man (or a few partners) who put up his own money to ensure both initial liquidity and sufficient funds to participate in the market at a profitable level.  In fact the whole idea is similar to a trust, in which multiple parties get together in order to make investments too large for their individual capital.  (If I wanted to invest in gold, I am pretty sure the smallest portions I can buy in a portfolio situation are ounces, so if I don’t have enough extra cash to buy one ounce, I cannot invest in gold.  But if my brother and I pool our investment money, we could afford the ounce and participate in that market.)  Trusts are strictly regulated by contracts defining shares, inheritance, selling out, and management. 

 

I don’t think owning stock in a company should be restricted to corporations or investment firms or banks, nor should it take an expert to understand the buying and selling of stocks.  There is a place for the investment firm that lets investors manage their own portfolios as well as for an investment bank such as the one I describe.  If a client is benefiting from the bank-like services of an investment firm, it is fair enough to let those employed by that company control the investments made, even if in the form of creating a list of acceptable investments or advising on investments (veto power), for the security of their business and thus the continued availability of the demanded services. 

 

My idea here is not brand new.  Think of what banks are called.  You can still find some today called such and such “bank and trust,” or “investment bank.”  I want a bank that does not loan money, and one that does not speculate in stocks.  Do you know of any? 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Marriage is like dancing with no music.  There is still an art, and still the beauty; there is also that dimension of more going on that you have in dancing.  But instead of the music being enough to give a girl an idea of where life is going, there is none; she must simply follow.  Give and take, go and come.  Trust.  Responsibility.  Cry for help.  Confidence.  Smile her delight.  Swing out, spin in.  Submit.  Dance. 
 
The hobbits watch in dreamlike fixation as a woman beautiful beyond their experience weaves her way around the table, in and out of the kitchen, gracefully dodging a man equally unique to the hobbits: big, clumpy, capering and energetic.  Styles so different, the two manage to make a fascinating dance of contrast and complement. How do they make it work?  What force prevents collision? 
 
Tom Bombadil sang about his lady when he thought no one was listening, and when he knew they were following, straining for his every word.  He praised her as beautiful and trusted her to be ready with hospitality.  Brave and free, each with few friends, the couple shared life and interests with each other.  Perhaps many nights were spent crafting a tale to spell his lady.  He gave her gifts and she did the washing.  They each remained who they had been before they met, but they sacrificed things and changed also, making a brand new life together.  When the hobbits asked Goldberry about her husband, she spoke with quiet respect, “He is the master.”  Perhaps there is no satisfying explanation of Tom Bombadil because he was a man who needed to be known rather than described.  There are no memorized steps of the dance with him.  Their house is full of the comforts of community: ready beds, generous tables, and long conversation by the fire.  Goldberry and Tom knew the value of relationship. 
 
Main characters in Lord of the Rings are unmarried.  Nine companions, the fellowship of the Ring, had the freedom to risk their lives and tramp across the world because they were not married.  A man or two was moving towards marriage, dreaming of the woman he’d left behind.  Tolkien was a real romantic, the kind who understood the pull of adventure and of chivalry, as well as of courting and of marriage.  This last is not too common in literature, that real married couples would be glimpsed in story and lifted up for their simple virtue and hard submission.  Immensely happy in marriage to Edith himself, this author did not shy away from representing marriage in his stories. 
 
Another example is found in The Fellowship of the Ring before the hobbits encounter Tom Bombadil.  Still in the Shire, they meet a hobbit couple, the honored Mrs. Maggot and her intimidating husband, Farmer Maggot.  It’s a dreadful name to inherit, let alone acquire, so Mrs. Maggot must have loved her husband, and made the most of it.  She too embodied hospitality.  Spin in.  Feeding a large working farm and family of sons and daughters, she didn’t mind at all to include three hungry strangers at her table, presenting them with heaping helpings of farm fare, mushrooms, and good homebrew.  Farmer Maggot was a good provider, a defender of his property – maybe less because of what it grew than of whom it harbored.  And when in the service of doing what was right he risked his own safety for newfound friends – this round hobbit reminiscent of the American rednecks – his wife stood at the door and cried out for her husband to be careful.  Swing out.  This isn’t just something people say.  Do you see women encouraging their husbands to do the right thing even though it is dangerous?  Do you hear people in unhappy marriages nervous about the other’s safety?  No, it comes from a heart of love, natural – yes, and common but only because the simple heart of marriage is common.  Isn’t that how it should be? 
 
There are other examples, men and women whose wedded bliss was interrupted by wars, disease, or accident.  Take Frodo’s parents.  Rumors ran wild that Drogo didn’t get along with his wife, and that she thought his girth was too large even for a hobbit.  They died together, though, out boating – and as far as the Gaffer was concerned, that was their only crime.  It left Frodo to the wildness of youth, an orphaned rascal living with an extended family too big to take good care of him and to teach him responsibility.  This again was the implication given by the sturdy gardener, who had carefully raised his own son under his eye and apprenticeship.  What an unlikely beginning for the Ringbearer, whose sense of responsibility called him into the darkness, surrendering forever the possibility of home!
 
Elrond’s marriage does not appear to have been happy.  His wife early (well, thousands of years into their relationship) grew weary of their home and left.  Why didn’t she stay for him?  Why didn’t he go with her?  Should he have gone, the Halfelven whose work was so large in preserving the Middle Earth for which his father had risked much more than happiness and comfort?  Should she have stayed, enduring without music, just for the following?
 
Many characters seem to have lost their mothers or fathers early, including Samwise, Frodo, Aragorn, Boromir & Faramir, and Eowyn & Eomer.  It was a hard time, and even marriage did not guard against sorrow and loss.  This is evidence that Tolkien’s ideal of marriage was not unrelated to the real world in which he moved.  His stories exemplify love and commitment in the midst of the hard times to which we can relate. 
 
Another splendid example of the exertions of marital love and the roles each person takes is the marriage of Earendil and Elwing.  Earendil, on behalf of his people, sought to reach the undying lands and plead for the help of the Valar.  He was lost at sea, hopeless, when his elven wife flew to him in the form of a white bird with a silmaril at her breast, and, lighting the way to Valinor, saved her husband and delivered his mission from doom.  He initiated risk, and she accepted the separation and the danger.  In this story the husband led the way on a mission to save the world (as all husbands should), and she supported him with strength of her own and encouragement.  I believe the story goes that the couple now above Middle Earth sails till time ends, in the heavens, her silmaril doomed to light the way for all men as the evening star. 
 
Many people in Tolkien’s tales are related to Luthien and Beren, who stole that silmaril from the crown of Morgoth.  Luthien was the daughter of Thingol (a high elf, one of the first to see Valinor) and Melian (a Maia).  Their marriage is another inspiration.  King Thingol loved Melian and worked his whole life to make her happy.  But he also respected his bride and took her advice.  This position Melian wielded to moderate her husband’s temper, thereby making him the best man, father, and king that he could be.  Ruling together, they preserved and protected a kingdom of peace, beauty, and, until fate started to unravel the spell of protection Melian had woven around Doriath, of justice. 
 
Thingol and Melian’s marriage is somewhat reminiscent of Celeborn and Galadriel, both strong and wise, with strong claims to the leadership of their people.  Yet they ruled peacefully side by side, together attending councils of the wise.  Again they both offer hospitality, but are cautious to protect their country against harm, for love both of land and of friends inside.  All the wives in Tolkien are beautiful, and all the husbands are valiant.  But not all the men are wise, nor are all women hospitable.  Celeborn and Galadriel represent together the best of Tolkien’s ideal.  They are happy and sad, serious and celebratory.  They are wise and strong, beautiful and kind.  People love them and follow them, not only in war, but also in peace.  Memory is important, and yet there is always curiosity to meet new things.  And so it ought to be in marriage.  Such I believe was Tolkien’s experience. 
 
My favorite marriage in Tolkien is one that hadn’t yet taken place.  Eowyn was independent; she was not free – not because she was a woman at home, but because she wanted things impossible for her to have.  Faramir pushed, and she took a small step away.  He pulled and she came close.  Before she knew what was happening, the simple steps were increasing in difficulty until she cried out, “My hand is ungentle!”  The princess grew frightened in the face of love and submission, though she had stood proud as the shieldmaiden of her king even against an enemy as terrible as the Lord of the Nazgul.  She cried out to one who seemed to know what he was doing, who was leading her into a place where she was less confident, where her only choice was to follow.  And the crying out was trust.  Her heart changed, or at last she understood it.  She chose freedom, stepped willingly away from her independence, and chose to love, like her partner, to see things grow well.  “Then I will wed with the White Lady,” he laughed.  She smiled her delight, and on the wall of the city their hands met and clasped, and they faced darkness and light together. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn 

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