Monday, November 29, 2010

Ahead of Schedule

November 29, 2010.

Outside my window...dark, but not too cold. Friends of ours moved to Finland. Right now it gets dark by four p.m. and it'll get dark even earlier as winter deepens. Oh, those Arctic winters.
I am thinking...our dinner party went well. See the pictures of the food below. We did ballroom dancing as well. That was fun. We're all decorated for Christmas. We got a real tree. It's perfectly symmetrical, seven feet tall, full and fresh. It smells amazing. I'm also finished all my Christmas cards. I feel ahead of the game, since it's not even December yet. I need to do my Christmas shopping, and a bit of baking once both girls are home. They don't want to miss that.
I am thankful for...the many blessings we enjoy.
From the kitchen...I used leftovers from the dinner party to make pork fried rice.
I am wearing...jeans, a grey long sleeved top, and a burgundy cardigan. No boots yet.
I am reading...What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert.
I am hoping...that we can settle this dining room buffet/hutch situation tomorrow. A year ago we ordered a custom built one from Amish Furniture. A week later, they announced their bankruptcy. Thankfully, we had put the deposit on Visa, so we got it all back after a few months. Then we went to a similar store and ordered another one. They said they could do it, but after they built it, they weren't happy with the quality, so we'll either get our money back, or buy a floor model. Frustrating.
I am hearing...the train.
Around the house...just life; go to work, come home and sleep; repeat.
One of my favourite things...when my plans go smoothly.
Some plans for the three nights, settle this furniture issue, buy a tv for my mother-in-law and one for our basement, attend the Elders and Wives' Christmas dinner on Friday, host a friend from out of town on Saturday, church on Sunday, and attend a party on Sunday night.

Dinner Party Food

My seven course meal menu was as follows:

1) Amuse-bouche: baked cherry tomato on basil leaf, with thyme and Parmesan.
2) Appetizer: Five scallops with cayenne, on horseradish and beet compote, with scallions.
3) Soup: Butternut squash soup with a hint of curry.
4) Salad: Mixed greens with pear and herbed goat's milk cheese with creamy poppy-seed dressing.
5) Pasta: Angel hair pasta with sliced crimini mushrooms in white wine sauce.
6) Main: Spinach stuffed pork tenderloin with caramel/ginger/garlic glaze, basmati rice, carrots, parsnips, and asparagus.\
7) Dessert: Bavarian Apple Cheesecake with caramel sauce, and Hazelnut coffee.

Monday, November 22, 2010

SGF Assembly

Outside my window...a rainy day. At least we don't have to shovel rain. The first snowfall was yesterday, but in usual Toronto fashion, it melted right away. It's so dark outside, I can't make out anything through the train window.
I am thinking...we had a good Sovereign Grace annual general assembly in Ottawa over the weekend. It was a good thing we had already been to Ottawa as tourists, or I would have been disappointed to be indoors the whole time. Ideally, we would have travelled on Thursday, rather than Friday, but my husband is in a busy time at work. Anyway, it was encouraging to hear of new church plants, missionary work and growth in our sister churches. The preaching, food and fellowship were good as well. We stayed at a nearby hotel. I over packed: four pairs of shoes for one night. Best to be prepared for every fashion eventuality. :)
I am thankful for...the blessings of the Sovereign Grace Fellowship of Churches over the years. We've made many close friends and have been fed spiritually at the many conferences and retreats.
From the kitchen...pulled pork sandwiches.
I am wearing...jeans and a dark purple sweater.
I am reading...A Voice in the Wind, by Francine Rivers.
I am hoping...our emergency lights at church get fixed. Only a few of them worked. It's something you wouldn't know about if you're not there when the power goes off. It happened on Sunday night. Pedro Rodrigues was preaching from his iPad, and I remember thinking, "What if the power goes out?" Well, halfway through his message, it did, and his iPad and a few emergency lights were the only things still running. He was able to finish the message on David and Bathsheba, and then we sang Create in Me a Clean Heart, based on Psalm 51, from memory. It was good to be there. It was like an adventure.
I am hearing...conversations on the train.
Around the house...I started addressing our Christmas cards and decorating our house for Christmas this morning. I'm hoping to get it all done by this weekend when we have our dinner party. I talked with our eldest daughter on Skype today. I remember when only the Jetsons could see the person they were talking to, on the computer. It seems so space age. And the fact that it's free is a a bonus. Also, my oldest daughter is turning twenty on Thursday. Hard to believe. My youngest had friends over from out of town, over the weekend. The guest room bed arrived. I only need a few more articles and then that room is finished.
Some plans for the three nights, shop for our dinner party, buy a real Christmas tree, decorate it, and prepare for the party. My seven course meal menu is as follows: 1) Amuse-bouche: baked cherry tomato on basil leaf, with thyme and Parmesan. 2) Appetizer: Five scallops with cayenne, on horseradish and beet compote, with scallions. 3) Salad: Mixed greens with pear and herbed goat's milk cheese with creamy poppy-seed dressing. 4) Soup: Butternut squash soup with a hint of curry. 5)Pasta: Angel hair pasta with sliced crimini mushrooms in white wine sauce. 6) Main: Spinach stuffed pork tenderloin with caramel/ginger/garlic glaze, basmati rice, slice orange carrots, parsnips, and purple carrots. 7) Dessert: Bavarian Apple Cheesecake with caramel sauce, and Hazelnut coffee. Then we'll sing some Christmas Carols. One of the men plays piano. Then I'm teaching them how to do the tango, waltz and cha-cha. It should be fun.

Monday, November 15, 2010

NaNo No Mo?

November 15, 2010.

Outside my window...darkness. It's been relatively mild for November; even pleasant and sunny during the day so it's not so depressing for us solar-powered people.
I am I hit a wall with my NaNo novel. Not a writer's block, because I still have plenty to say, but I've run out of hours in a day. I suppose it didn't help that I chose this past week to paint the guest room. It needed to be done, but I'm only one woman. Maybe I can get some writing in during our travel time to Ottawa this weekend. It's five hours one way. I like the concept of NaNo, but I just can't keep up with the daily word counts in the busy month of November.
I am thankful for...the sacrifices of those who fought and died for our freedom, including my grandfather who fought in the trenches during the Winter War against the Russians. Because of that, I was born into a free and independent country (Finland). It was Remembrance Day this week, and our eldest sang the National Anthem at the service held at the Scott Mission Camp, honouring homeless vets.
From the kitchen...spaghetti a la carbonara and salad.
I am wearing...jeans, a grey top and a burgundy sweater.
I am reading...Treasure at Blue Heron Lake by Susan Page Davis.
I am get my Christmas letter printed this week. I've written it already. I also bought photo cards and printed copies of our favourite family picture that was taken on Thanksgiving weekend by Sarah West.
I am hearing...delay announcements on the GO train.
Around the house...winding down from the fall; packing away lawn furniture, throwing out dead plants, and gearing up for Christmas; wreaths on door, evergreens on front doorstep, and garland on front pillars. I bought curtains for the guest room and we ordered a headboard, frame and mattresses for it. I also chose hardware for the chest of drawers I painted, to correspond to the iron bed. My poor husband is the "putter-together-of-things". My Mom bought a tv stand, so that's his project this evening. The girls are busy with school, and I edited a paper for each of them. I actually enjoyed doing it. Is that weird?
One of my favourite family. When they're home, there's laughter in the house. I love my husband and daughters. It's nice to have a peaceful home life.
Some plans for the three nights, clean, then pack for Ottawa. One night there for the SGF Assembly. Three other couples are attending from our church as well. Our daughter has friends coming over this weekend from out of town.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Women in the Genealogy of Christ: Part One: Tamar

The Women in the Genealogy of Christ

Read Matthew Chapter 1:1-17

A genealogy is a list of descendants; a family tree. Could anything be more boring than reading a list of names of people long dead? Even our most recent person on the list, Mary, lived over 2,000 years ago. In the ancient world, only male descendants were listed in a genealogy. You see this in the early chapters of Genesis.

If it were only a matter of their importance or impact in the world, I’m sure many women would have been included, like Eve, the mother of all living, who gave birth to many children over 900 years; Noah’s wife, whose name we don’t even know, who was on the first sea voyage, that lasted a year. Sarah, who received the promised child, Isaac in her old age; or Esther, the queen who saved her people from slaughter.

However, that’s not how genealogies generally work, which is what makes the genealogy we find in Matthew so fascinating. It mentions five women as ancestors of Jesus Christ; Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary. If you wanted to boast about your ‘ancestors in the attic’, you probably wouldn’t list the scandalous, the scoundrels, or the low-lifes. Every family has skeletons in the closet; the children born out of wedlock, the dead-beat dads, the criminals, the drunks, and the unscrupulous.

Yet this genealogy rejoices in these women and their place in history as the forbears of the Messiah: Tamar, who posed as a prostitute to have an incestuous relationship with her father-in-law; Rahab, a Gentile prostitute who lied about hiding spies; Ruth, a poor widow and foreigner, who, according to the law, could not enter the temple for six generations, but became the great-grandmother of King David; Bathsheba, the woman who had an adulterous affair with King David, and Mary; a young teen, pregnant before marriage, in a culture that demanded she be stoned.

Why are these women included in the genealogy? Why boast about them when they have nothing to commend themselves? Or do they? Can their presence in such a noble family offer hope to those of us who feel we wouldn’t make the cut? Can we learn something from these women whose actions, both good and bad, led to the birth of the One promised to Adam and Eve when they fell?


The two main players in this story are Judah and Tamar.

What do we know about Judah?

Read Genesis 37-12-36

He was one of the sons of Jacob by Leah. (Gen. 29:35) He was the one who suggested they sell Joseph, rather than just kill him, in order to profit from him and be rid of him at the same time. Judah had fled to the land of Canaan to live after they had sold Joseph to the Midianites. He lived there many years. Judah married a Canaanite woman, who bore him three sons; Er, Onan, and Shelah.

What do we know about Tamar?

Read Genesis Chapter 38 She was a Canaanite. Judah chose Tamar for an arranged marriage to his eldest son, Er. She was probably very young, not much past the age of her first menstrual period. She was expected to produce sons. For a young girl, if she didn’t have a husband and sons, she’d be destitute. Er was evil, and we were told he was killed by God as a result. The tribe to which Tamar belonged prohibited a childless woman from remaining a widow. They did not want a man’s name to go into oblivion. Tamar remained under her father-in-law’s authority, so he needed to arrange her second marriage, as he had her first. He told his second son, Onan to marry Tamar and produce a son that would be heir of his brother, Er.

The idea of a brother marrying his brother’s widow was not yet established until the laws were given to Moses. At this point in history, the people of Israel were limited to one family. This was a Canaanite practice, but Judah would be anxious to extend his family line. He was aware of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. However, the idea of the father-in-law impregnating the widowed daughter-in-law was a Canaanite practice that Judah would not have considered, had he not been tricked. We see this by the fact that he never again slept with Tamar after he took her under his care and protection.

Her marriage to Onan was in name only. Onan resented the fact that the children would not be his. He would not honour his dead brother’s memory, nor provide a future security for Tamar through the birth of sons. He purposely prevented the pregnancy. This displeased God, and he took Onan’s life as well. Tamar was now a widow for the second time, and still childless.

Why was Onan so reluctant to father a child on behalf of his brother, since only the first son would be Er’s and any subsequent children would belong to him? It wasn’t just the name, which would be the same as his. It was that Er’s inheritance would pass to his son, and Onan would have to share it. He was selfish. He didn’t care to build up the family line of Judah or give Tamar a future. He used her only for his own pleasure but deliberately avoided her chances of conception. This narrative raises issues of contraception that we’ll leave for another day.

Judah sent her back to the care of her father, promising her that she could marry his third son, Shelah, once he was older. Soon after, Jacob’s wife also died, so he was grieving the loss of two sons, and his wife. The death of his wife also meant he could have no other sons. He may have been superstitious, blaming Tamar for their deaths, rather than his sons’ own misbehaviour. (Gen. 38:11) He feared giving
her his one remaining son. Tamar waited. It was the only thing a widow could do. She couldn’t live an independent life. The months turned into years, yet she was never sent for, to marry Shelah.

She believed God would vindicate her and provide justice. Yet she took matters into her own hands. She heard Jacob was nearby so she prepared to meet him. She concealed her identity with a veil, and exchanged her widow’s garments for those of a harlot. Notice she didn’t seduce or even proposition Judah; he approached her and demanded sex. While she waits for Judah, she doesn’t proposition other men who were on their way by. She doesn’t stay on afterwards. She doesn’t brag about her actions. She agreed to the price, but took some personal items to identify him, as a pledge that he’d send payment. At this point, she probably wasn’t sure he could be trusted to keep his word. She changed back into her widows garments and went home to wait and see how God would judge between Judah and herself.

The Bible often records events without commending or condemning the actions of those involved. It was a true record of what happened. Whether or not she should have done it, is debatable, but Judah’s willingness to use her for his pleasure is clearly wrong. The idea of the incestuous relationship itself, willingly done with Tamar’s knowledge is also a question we’ll leave with the scholars.

However, when Judah sends payment by his friend, they find there is no such woman in that town. Judah then feared for his reputation; something that had not been on his mind when he first saw Tamar. He hoped it would all be forgotten and he could get on with his life.

Three months later, he hears that Tamar is pregnant. He is indignant. As the widow of two of his sons and the ‘future bride’ of his youngest son, Judah must act to judge the actions of his family. Although he’s probably secretly relieved that this makes her marriage to Shelah unnecessary, without inquiring into the circumstances, he orders that she be burned for her actions. Did he have any feelings of self-accusation because of how he had treated her with regards to Shelah? Did he hope that her death would ease his conscience?

Calm and dignified, Tamar comes to her fate, but sends along the evidence of the paternity of her child. They didn’t have DNA tests, but the personal effects she had from Judah, proved he was the father. Notice Tamar asked a question rather than make a proclamation. “Do you recognize these?” Why do you think she did that? It gave Judah an ‘out’ to still deny it and save his reputation, even though it would result in her death. She would not bring shame to Judah.

In light of the evidence, Judah admits his sin. He had to confess with shame, that Tamar had vindicated the legal rights that he had kept from her. “She is more right than I am, because I refused to keep my promise to give her to my son Shelah.”

Judah had used a double standard and wanted to see Tamar killed for an offense he had also committed. Judah’s sin of hypocrisy is something with which all people struggle. In Romans 2:1 Paul condemns those who judge others for sins they themselves commit.

Judah never showed Tamar any pity; when she lived with the wicked Er, when she was defrauded by Onan; when he abandoned her to her father’s house; when he withheld Shelah from her. He blamed her for the death of his sons, feeling she was somehow cursed or a curse. He would have allowed her to die a horrible death without any feelings of remorse.

Meanwhile, Tamar did not publicly embarrass him by demanding her rights. She could’ve told how she tricked him and make him a laughingstock of his peers. Even after her pregnancy was exposed and she was condemned to die, she did not expose his sin, but returned his personal effects privately, through her servant, protecting his reputation. Tamar was a Canaanite, but she was honourable and loyal.

He then took her under his care again, but did not have sexual relations with her again. A marriage with Shelah was no longer necessary, as Judah had served as his replacement. Tamar hoped for a son, Judah hoped for an heir. What did God do? He doubled their blessing. She gave birth to twins, Perez and Zerah. Justice had been done. The promised seed would come through the line of Judah, by way of Tamar, through Perez. The Messiah is referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Tamar is the first woman mentioned in the genealogy of Christ. This does not mean that God approves of sin, but that He can draw a straight line with a crooked stick, as the Puritan saying goes. God uses even our sins to further His purposes, without condoning the sin.

Her story also shows us that God cares about injustice, and that his purposes will go forward in spite of men’s plans to the contrary.
This story has always seemed to me like an odd thing to include in Scripture. It brings up uncomfortable topics that are not usually discussed in polite society, let alone in church. Yet I’ve found that as I researched this story I’ve learned to have a new respect for Tamar. She was a brave woman who insisted on her rights. Her actions also brought Judah to the breaking point. He stopped trying to run from his guilty conscience and returned to his family.

Francine Rivers says,

“Judah then moved back to Mesopotamia and renewed his relationship with his father and brothers. When they were confronted by Joseph and he demanded that Benjamin be left as his slave, Judah stepped forward, claimed the disaster upon them was due to their own sins, and offered his life in place of his brother’s. Seeing the change in Judah, Joseph wept and revealed his true identity.”

God used this pagan woman to be included in the purposes of God in bringing the Messiah into the world. Her story offers hope for all those people who feel they’ve suffered injustice. Tamar’s story gains the proper perspective when the light of Jesus Christ shines on it. In spite of everything that can be said against her, she had the honour of becoming a mother in the early history of His earthly family.

Her Name is Woman Book 2 by Gien Karssen pg. 65-75
A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers pg. 14-118

Monday, November 8, 2010


Outside my window...a cool, but sunny day.
I am thinking...that NaNoWriMo is coming along, in spite of the busyness of life. I've managed to write 10, 294 words in seven days. It's a little short of the 11,669 I should have by now, but I'm mostly pleased that I'm learning the discipline of writing every day; due to the quota and deadline. So far it's flowing smoothly, with no real writer's block yet. I've heard the second week is when most people quit. I hope and plan to keep going. Writing historical fiction so quickly has its pros and cons. In favour of it, there is so much real info out there that is often stranger than fiction. Just telling the story as it happened is exciting enough, and then I have to flesh out the characters. I've got unlimited material to work with. On the down side, I want to stay accurate. Although I've done the research previously, I find when I'm writing a particular scene where I have the actual words spoken at my fingertips, I actually quote them. It makes it easier for me to do the dialogue on those parts, but I'm slowed down by typing from my sources. I think when you write historical fiction there's an accountability. I can make up the other stuff, but for things that actually happened, I want to represent it accurately.
I am thankful for...learning to write directly onto my lap tap. I can't say enough how big a deal this is for me. I thought I wouldn't be able to "create" directly on a keyboard. I said, "I'm a pen and paper person. I'm old school. I can't change." But I did. For that, I'm thankful for the NaNo experience.
From the kitchen...Lick's burgers, at home. This is not a day for fussing in the kitchen.
I am wearing...jeans, a purple sweater, my coat (with a poppy).
I am reading...Lonestar Homecoming by Colleen Coble.
I am keep up with my NaNo novel, and come up with a plot.
I am hearing...the train on the way to work.
Around the house...I'm painting the guest room. Not because I have extra time, but because we have guests coming in a few weeks. I went shoe shopping with my daughter. She bought a pair of boots, I bought three pairs of shoes. One for you; three for me. Words to live by. (Not really. I don't get the shoe thing. I just buy them when I need to). We visited our other daughter in Hamilton on Saturday. She ran her 10 km race in 1:04, then we went to an antique store. I didn't find a chair, but we got a nice globe on a stand, for the living room. Then we went to a nice bistro, called Koosh which had amazing food. Then we went to her church, Harvest Oakville. Great preaching. I'm glad she chose well.
One of my favourite things...antiquing was fun. It's kind of like a garage sale, but a lot more expensive.
Some plans for the three nights, bake for the students at TBS, finish the second coat in the guest room. Hopefully buy a bed for that room. Speak at the Ladies' Meeting on Saturday, on the Women in the Genealogy of Christ: part one, Tamar. I'm ready, I just have to review it. I also need to finish reading the book of Genesis by Saturday. It was a challenge from the last ladies' meeting, and I like challenges. Sunday, a providential dinner at church.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Outside my window...a sunny, but cool day.
I am thinking...the College and Careers group went well on Saturday. There were ten of us, two were missing. We had pizza and I spoke on Radical Hospitality. It was a good discussion.
I am thankful for...yesterday. The induction for my husband and Glen as elders at our church was very good. Carl Muller delivered a sobering message. "When persecution comes, they come for the elders first." Then we had Carl and Heather over for dinner, then our Pastor finished preaching about John Newton, as part of Reformation Sunday. It was also Hallowe'en, but since we don't celebrate it, my husband and I went out after the evening service to a restaurant. We had a good talk. I still like his company.
From the kitchen...Atlantic salmon, broccoli, crudites and dip.
I am wearing...long johns (it's cold), jeans, two sweaters, gloves, scarf, coat and even boots.
I am reading...Secrets of Harmony Grove by Mindy Starns Clark.
I am make some progress on my NaNoWriMo novel, even if I can't keep up with the daily quotas due to my busy life. It seems we have something planned every weekend for the next two months, but I suppose that's what makes a good life. I started my NaNo novel today. I'm supposed to write 50,000 in 30 days. That's 1,667 words a day. Today I wrote 1,743 words in one hour and 35 minutes. It actually flowed smoothly, but then I had heard that would happen at the beginning. I'm even working directly onto my computer, which is new for me, but saves me the step of transcription. The only thing about writing was it cut into my pre-work nap time. That's one of the reasons I'm not sure if I can do it. It was fun to start, though. It's historical fiction set in WW2 Finland. It's a story that's been on my heart for a long while, even more than the romances I've been writing. I had planned to write in in third person, but my protagonist insists on telling her story in first person. These characters can be so bold, sometimes. I guess I have to let her. I may just have to make it first person, from three characters, so I can cover the battles as well. Wish me luck.
I am hearing...the train.
Around the house...our coffee tables for the basement arrived. My husband had just finished assembling my mom's dining table and chairs. He says he is the "putter-together-of-things". We laughed because the diagram for the coffee table assembly had only two steps. The first showed it upside-down, with all the parts separate. The next picture showed it upright, fully assembled. Should be easy, eh?
One of my favourite things...a new writing project. That is sometimes a problem, because instead of finishing, I move on to the romance of the 'new thing'. I really need to finish something.
Some plans for the four flippin' nights. Excuse my language, but some weeks, I'm just not ready for them. Friday night; recover, shop, date night. Saturday, clean while my husband is at the men's breakfast, then head to Hamilton as a family, to visit our eldest. We plan to go to an antique store, hopefully to find a chair for the guest room, then we'll go out for dinner and then to her church. Sunday, church. Not sure yet if we're having anyone over, but I'll plan as if we will.