As we go through times of suffering and sorrow, we inevitably come into contact with those who would seek to comfort us. Some offer true help and true hope while others, unfortunately, do not. In this short but sweet quote, Theodore Cuyler reflects on what we need most in our times of affliction.
There are some of us who have known what it is to drink bitter draughts of affliction, and to have the four corners of our house smitten by a terrible sorrow. At such times, how hollow and worthless were many of the stereotyped prescriptions for comfort!
“Time must do its work,” was one of them. As if time could bring back the dead, or cruelly eradicate the beloved image from the memory!
“Travel,” is another of these quack recommendations for a wounded spirit. Just as if God had ever made an Atlantic wide enough to carry us out of the reach of heart-breaking misery!
Wretched comforters are they all. The suffering heart heeds not the voice of such charmers, charm they never so wisely.
Never, never have I been able to gain one ray of genuine consolation until I lifted my eyes unto the hills from whence cometh the Almighty help. As soon as I have begun to taste of God’s exceeding great and precious promises my strength has begun to revive. As soon as His everlasting arm got hold around me the burden grew lighter,—yea, it carried me and the load likewise. God opened to me paths of usefulness which were in the line of His service, and also of blessings to my fellow-men. And so help flowed down to me from the hills like the streams that make music from the precipices to one who climbs the Wenzern Alp.
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By Tim Challies — 1 year ago
I have done a couple of interviews in the past days and wanted to link to them: Equipped with Chris Brooks on Moody Radio; and No Lasting City podcast.
Today’s Kindle deals include a very long list of works, many of them academic.
(Yesterday on the blog: A Conversation with Alistair Begg & Bob Lepine)
The Fight of My Life (Listener Discretion Advised)
The Fight of My Life is a tragic yet well-written, well-produced, and immersive “podcast experience that journeys with Ruby, through the hell of an online sex trafficking den and out again to the light of justice, healing and restoration.” It is difficult to listen to, yet tells a story that is shockingly common. Though it is written with appropriate discretion, it deals with a difficult topic, so listener discretion is advised.
A Prayer for the Smartphone Hooked Christian
Eddie Ssemakula’s prayer could probably speak for just about any of us.
Kevin DeYoung: “It is not uncommon to meet people who seem to know only three verses from the Bible: ‘Judge not’ (Matt. 7:1), ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:16), and ‘Let him who is without sin . . . be the first to throw a stone’ (John 8:7). These people—professing Christians or not—are not really interested in understanding the Bible on its own terms. They are happy to sloganize the Scriptures if it suits their purposes.”
The Need for Confession in a “Copy” and “Edit” Age
“God, in His infinite wisdom, has made transparency and confession a necessary component of spiritual health. If we are to grow in Christ, then we must allow someone, or a few someones, to see beyond the cropped and edited version of ourselves.”
On Losing Consciousness In Public
Seth’s old habit of suddenly losing consciousness in public has him thinking about other matters.
We Remain Stagnant Under Unrepentance
“My friend wounded me again. As he perused my recent Facebook posts, I sank in my chair. Post after post was harsh, antagonizing, and self-aggrandizing. I wrote and spoke as though I was an authority figure on any and every topic I engaged with on my page. He graciously called me to repentance as we sipped hot coffee in his loft apartment.”
Flashback: The Ministry of Being a Little Bit Further Along
The great majority of the help people need as they navigate life’s trials, the great bulk of the counsel people seek as they encounter life’s questions, does not require the input of experts, but merely the attention of someone who knows God and who knows his Word.
It is easier to build temples than to be temples to God. —Matthew Henry
By Ref Cast — 2 years ago
Many years ago I discovered a set of tools and procedures that allowed me to be most productive. Since then, I have pretty much stuck with those same tools and with that same system, save for a few minor tweaks here and there. (See Do More Better)
In the past year, though, I have discovered a few new tools that have swiftly made a big difference to my life. These have not replaced any of my existing tools, but instead settled in alongside them. Knowing that some of my readers are interested in such things, I thought I’d share about them. The first two pertain to reading, retaining, and engaging with information while the third pertains to time management.
Roam Research is a note-taking tool that allows you to enter, organize, and then re-discover information. It is, I suppose, a tool for personal knowledge management. Some call it their “second brain.” It has proven truly life-changing for me and I keep it open at all times.
I have long used Evernote to store notes, receipts, and other important information, and it follows a standard hierarchical method of putting notes in notebooks and notebooks in notebook stacks. It’s perfectly suited to that purpose. But what it doesn’t do well is relate one piece of information to another. This is where Roam Research comes into its own. It uses a non-hierarchical method of relating notes to one another with its “bi-directional links” creating relationships between related pieces of knowledge.
Consider, for example, this note I took while reading Carl Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self:
The brackets and hyperlinking of “Philip Rieff” show that I can click on his name. This will open a page displaying all the other references to Rieff across the entirety of my Roam database—both the links I have made deliberately by employing those brackets and others one that I may have missed. These links may have come from books or articles I’ve read, articles I’ve written, podcasts I’ve listened to, or just about any other source of information. The same is true of “psychological man” and “safe place,” and could be true of any other word I care to bracket. If I do click on “Philip Rieff” I can see that I have also run into him and bracketed his name in Rod Dreher’s Live Not By Lies and the multi-authored Myth and Meaning in Jordan Peterson, and can read the contexts in which his name appeared.
Additionally, I can see a “graph view” which shows the relationships between terms. So, for a term like “Critical Social Justice,” I can see which resources and terms it most relates to.
Roam Research also has a daily notes function which is extremely useful in its own way. To be honest, though, it’s all quite hard to explain, so instead of writing thousands of words, I’ll link to a couple of explanatory articles and then suggest that you check it out, especially if you work in areas where relationships between knowledge could be helpful. And then be sure to read about Readwise and how it interacts with Roam. (Introductions to Roam: 1, 2; as an alternative, you can look at the similar app Obsidian)
Roam Research is free for 31 days, then has a moderate subscription fee. “Scholarships” are available to researchers, people under 22, and people in financial distress.
Readwise is an app designed to help you get the most out of your reading, and especially reading on the web or e-reader devices. Again, let me tell you how I use it so you can take that as a test case.
I read the great majority of my books on my Kindle. As I read, I highlight important passages. Readwise’s job is to collect those highlights and to do two things with them.
The first is to build a daily newsletter which is sent to me in the morning. This newsletter contains a selection of highlights from the books I have read in the past. It selects them randomly from all the books in my library, except the ones I have specifically unselected. I can weight some books as more important than others, or books I’ve read recently as more or less important than books I read a long time ago. These daily newsletters have been an extremely helpful mechanism for helping me re-encounter and retain the information from those books. I have Readwise send me 6 highlights per day and I take the time to read each one. It is 2-3 minutes well invested.
The second thing Readwise does is export all the highlights from my books into Roam Research. So what I highlight on my Kindle is automatically entered into Roam Research a few hours later. Here, for example, are some highlights from Theodore Cuyler’s How To Be a Pastor:
After the highlights get exported, I go through them briefly to bracket keywords (or add hashtags, which accomplishes the same thing). Each highlight includes the Kindle reference so I can easily navigate back to that spot in the book with a single click. If I read books the old-fashioned way, I can still add my highlights, but either have to type them in manually or use Readwise’s scanning function, which works middlingly well.
Readwise is free for 30 days, then has a modest subscription fee.
The final resource is an email app called Tempo. Its unique feature is that it delivers email in batches based on a customizable schedule. So for those who, like me, struggle with email self-control and seem unable to stop themselves from checking it all day and every day, Tempo allows you to determine the times of day at which it will fetch your email. This has proven to be exactly what I needed to wrestle back control over my email habits.
I have Tempo setup to check email in the early morning, at noon, and at the end of the workday. That is all I need and it works absolutely perfectly. It has other features as well, including a wonderfully minimal workspace, but batching is its best one. Its iPhone app is in beta, but works very well. Android and Windows support is coming in the future.
Tempo is free for 30 days, then requires a subscription.
By Tim Challies — 2 years ago
The young man had forsaken his father, claimed an early inheritance, and blown it all in reckless living. Having fallen from riches to poverty, this prodigal son was now in the most desperate of straights—working hard, eating little, spiraling ever downward.
But on one brutal day, when he was as low as low could be, a thought suddenly flashed into his mind: “At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and I’m here dying of hunger!” The thought birthed an idea: “I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.’” He understood that though he was no longer worthy to be considered his father’s son, he would gladly take a place as his father’s slave.
So he set out to return home and at last arrived at the outskirts of his father’s holdings. As his foot hovered beside the boundary marker, he paused for just a moment to run over his plan and rehearse his words. “I have sinned. I am not worthy. Make me your servant. I have sinned. I am not worthy. Make me your servant.” With a whispered prayer, he steeled his gaze and began to shuffle forward.
He had taken only a few steps when suddenly, in the distance ahead, he saw someone approaching, running, almost sprinting in his direction. His arms looked to be open wide in a gesture of embrace. As the form came closer, there was a flash of recognition: his older brother. He must have been overseeing the field servants nearby when he spotted his younger sibling and came running toward him. Now, as he approached, the younger man saw that his brother’s arms were not open in embrace, but open in the universal gesture for “stop.” In just a few moments the two stood face-to-face.
The older spoke first: “What on earth are you doing here? After all you’ve done, how dare you set foot on this land?”
“I know I blew it,” the younger replied meekly. “I know I sinned. But I have nothing left. I’ve come to ask dad if he will let me be his servant.”
“Do you know what you did to dad when you left? Do you know how badly you shamed and embarrassed him in front of the entire community? He wants nothing to do with you.”
“I know he won’t ever take me back into the family. I wouldn’t even ask. But I know that he’s kinder to his slaves than most people are to their sons. I don’t need privileges. I just need kindness.”
“He doesn’t love you anymore. He doesn’t want you anymore. You’re dead to him.”
“I just want to talk to him. I just want to plead with him. I have seen him extend mercy to others—maybe he’ll extend it to me as well.”
“Mercy? To you? You’re an absolute disgrace. You disgust me and you’ll disgust him. You’re filthy. You stink.”
“I know. I know I do. I’ve been sleeping in barns. I’ve been eating with animals. I’m starving. I’m broken. I’m done.”
“I’m the future of this family. I’ve done everything dad has asked of me. I’ve obeyed his every word. It’s me he loves.”
“I know. I know you’re worthy of dad’s love. I know I’m not. But maybe dad has some love for the unworthy. I just want to ask. I just want to beg.”
“Come on! You know how just and fair dad is. He can’t just pretend you didn’t betray him. And he certainly hasn’t forgotten what you did to him. He won’t forget. He can’t forget.”
“I know. I can’t either.”
“None of us will ever forget what you did. None of us will ever forget who you are.”
As a tear cascaded from the young man’s eye, his older brother spoke once more: “Tell you what: You march yourself back up that road. I don’t want you to even think about coming back until you’ve cleaned yourself up, until you don’t stink anymore, until you’ve put on some decent clothes, and until you can reimburse dad every single penny you took from him. Then maybe, just maybe, he’ll be willing to see you.”
“I guess it’s only fair.”
“Go. Get out of here. You’re lost—don’t come back until you’ve found yourself.”
“You’re right. I’ll go. I’ll try to clean myself up. I’ll try to earn it all back. And if I do, I’ll return and prove myself to dad.”
And with that, the younger son turned around. He headed back up the roadway and past the boundary marker, each step extending the distance between himself and his father. His brother stood and watched him go, a satisfied grin on his face.
“I think I’m going to throw myself a little party,” he said. “I deserve it.”
(Author’s note: Have you ever considered what might have happened if the prodigal son met his older brother before his father?)