Monday, February 23, 2009

Book Club ~ Institutes of the Christian Religion

*a long post for a single occasion*

I'm all ready to do my final post on Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. I told you one of these days I'd pop up and tell you I had finally finished the whole thing. I finished it yesterday morning and marked it at the end, "The Lord's Day, February 22, 2009." I had really wanted to finish it on a Lord's Day so I had to mark it that way :)

So yesterday someone asked me, "ok, so what did you take away from it?" She's also reading it (just started in January and is hoping to get it read this year so we've been talking about together lately.) Ya know, I think there are a couple things I've taken away from it.

I really do think that it was written to be read all the way through at least once. It builds on itself. Book One speaks of the knowledge of God as Creator. Book Two speaks of of the knowledge of God as Redeemer, first in the Old Testament under the law and now, in the New Testament under the Gospel and Christ Jesus, our Redeemer. Book Three speaks more of us and our duty as believers under that Gospel and that Redeemer that is described in Book Two. It also speaks of the benefits and the blessings that come to those who are in covenant with that Redeemer. And Book Four speaks of the Church: that body of those individuals (spoken of in Book Three) who are redeemed by the Savior (spoken of in Book Two). So, it really builds: from God, as Creator, to God, as Redeemer and His covenant with a sinful people, to man, as a sinner, and then as a saved sinner, and then that body of saved sinners and their life in the church and in the world.

One of the things that I loved about the book was how thorough it was. Ya know, I know a lot of this stuff. It's not like there were whole sections of the book where I was learning new things. Maybe that's just my environment, I don't know. But it's not like fireworks were goin' off all the time. But it was really helpful in how thorough it was on every point. So when he was talkin' about infant baptism he covered why we believe in infant baptism, positively and negatively (why we don't believe in believer's baptism) and then he covered every argument of the Anabaptists and every argument that anybody else had ever brought up. And it wasn't just on baptism. He was thorough on every point. I mean, sometimes I was reading a section on one particular point and I was thinking, 'is he gonna talk about "this"?' And he did...and covered all the arguments for and against it. So that was really helpful.

I have heard that Calvin is remembered for saying "You can't know yourself unless you know God. But you can't know God unless you know yourself." I saw that to be very true all the way through the Institutes. I mean, from the beginning of Book One. We can't know God as our Creator unless we know that we have been created. But, we can't know that we've been created unless we know that there's a Creator. And that whole thought filters down into the particulars of each Book. I was thinking of it particularly in Book Three, on the Christian Life. Chapter Twenty (one of my favorite sections in the whole book) on prayer: ya know, we can't see our need to pray unless we see how dependent, how sinful, how un-sovereign (yeah, a totally made-up word :) we are. And then at the same time, we can't see our lack of sovereignty and our need for dependence until we see that there is one that is above everything we could ever imagine. One who is so "other" than us. And we see Him more and more in prayer! It's awesome!

Ok, so after I've read the whole thing (which, in case you hadn't gotten the message, I'm so glad I did), but anyway....after I've read the whole thing, I think it'll be really helpful as a reference now. Now I know where all the best quotes are (they're all marked, bulleted, underlined, stared, bracketed, are you getting the point? :) and I know what sections were my favorite. So I think it'll be helpful now as a reference. When I'm really struggling with something, I know where the section on prayer is. I know where the section on self-denial is. Or, if there's ever a question that I'm having a hard time answering, I know where the sections on the sacraments are (oh, and they were rippin' sections, too). I know where the sections on church government are. And they're all marked so I can go right to what I need and what will be most helpful. So in that way, it was really worth reading.

Ok, now, (some of) my thoughts on Calvin are done (for now) and you have to have some quotes to close out the book club (of one member) posts on John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. By the way, I love it that the last words of the book were so good they were worth underlining, so the last quote I give you is the close of the book.

"...Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God." ~Book One, Chapter One, Section Three
"Additional sweetness is given to divine grace, which comes to our aid without the law, and additional loveliness to the mercy which confers it, because they proclaim that God is never weary in doing good, and in loading us with new gifts....divesting [our]selves of of an absurd opinion of [our] own virtue, [we] may perceive how they are wholly dependent on the hand of God; that feeling how naked and destitute [we] are, [we] may take refuge in His mercy, rely upon it, and cover [our]selves entirely with it; renouncing all righteousness and merit, and clinging to mercy alone, as offered in Christ to all who long and look for it in true faith. In the precepts of the law, God is seen as the rewarder only of perfect righteousness (a righteousness of which all are destitute), and, on the other hand, as the stern avenger of wickedness. But in Christ His countenance beams forth full of grace and gentleness toward poor unworthy sinners." ~Book Two, Chapter Seven, Sections Seven and Eight
"...We have obtained what was fit for us, the Lord having so often and so surely engaged to take an interest in all our troubles from the moment they have been deposited in His bossom....For the trials by which the Lord proves and exercises us are severe, no, he often drives us to extremes, and when driven allows us long to stick fast in the mire before He gives us any taste of His sweetness....What could they here do but become dispirited and rush on despair, were they not when afflicted, desolate, and half dead, comforted with the thought that they are regarded by God, and that there will be an end to their present evils. But however secure their hopes may stand, they in the meantime cease no tot pray, since prayer unaccompanied by perseverance leads to no result." ~Book Three, Chapter Twenty, Section Fifty-Two
"...We are redeemed by Christ at the great price which our redemption cost Him, in order that we might not yield a slavish obedience to the depraved wishes of men, far less do homage to...impiety." ~Book Four, Chapter Twenty, Section Thirty-Two

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Contrite Heart

This poem really impacted me today and I wish to share it with you now!

The Contrite Heart
by William Cowper

The Lord will happiness divine
On contrite hearts bestow;
Then tell me, Gracious God, is mine
A contrite heart or no?

I hear, but seem to hear in vain,
Insensible as steel;
If aught is felt, 'tis only pain
To find I cannot feel.

I sometimes think myself inclined
To love thee, if I could;
But often feel another mind,
Averse to all that's good.

My best desires are faint and few,
I fain would strive for more;
But when I cry, "My strength, renew,"
Seem weaker than before.

I see thy saints with comfort filled,
When in thy house of prayer,
But still in bondage I am held,
And find no comfort there.

Oh, make this heart rejoice or ache;
Decide this doubt for me;
And if it be not broken, break,
And heal it if it be.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Book Club ~ Institutes of the Christian Religion

One of these days I'm gonna pop up and be done with this book and there won't be any more posts on Calvin's Institutes. But that's not this time. Believe me, I can't wait to say that I've finally finished it. I mean, yeah, I am really enjoying it but it will be great to finish it. Hopefully that will happen in the next week or so. Last night I got under the "100 pages left" mark. This morning, I only have 90 more pages to read!!

I was debating whether to do this post or not. Ya know, should I just wait until I finish and then do one final post? But this morning I read these two awesome quotes so I had to do the post, right?

So, here ya go. Calvin's startin' your day with a cup of tea at the chatty tea table. May the Lord richly bless your week.

"How sweet is it to pious minds to be assured not only by word, but even by ocular demonstration, that they are so much in favor with their heavenly Father, that He interests Himself in their prosperity! Here [in baptism] we may see how He acts toward us as a most provident parent, not ceasing to care for us even after our death, but consulting and providing for our children. Ought not our whole heart to be stirred up within bless the Lord for such a manifestation of goodness? Doubtless the design of Satan is assaulting paedobaptism with all his forces is to keep out of view, and gradually efface, that attestation of divine grace which the promise itself presents to our eyes. In this way, not only would men be impiously ungrateful for the mercy of God, but be less careful in training their children to piety. For it is no slight stimulus to us to bring them up in the fear of God, and the observance of his law, when we reflect that from their birth they have been considered and acknowledged by Him as His children. Wherefore, if we would not mailiciously obscure the kindness of God, let us present to Him our infants, to whom He has assigned a place among His friends and family, that is, the members of the church."
"Having become with us the Son of man, He has made us with Himself sons of God. By His own descent to the earth He has prepared our ascent to heaven. Having recieved our mortality, He has bestowed on us His immortality. Having undertaken our weakness, He has made us strong in His strength. Having submitted to our poverty, He has transferred to us His riches. Having taken upon Himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were oppressed, He has clothed us with His righteousness."
For a conference countdown: my sweet little buddy, Ethan, counts it down for me every morning. I was doing it and then he figured out that he can do that too. So every morning he lets me know: "Sarah, 22 days until the conference and in 22 days, it'll be less than 1 day until the conference." So there ya go: 22 days!

Have a great day!


Monday, February 9, 2009

Temples of the Holy Spirit, pt. 2

Oh, it's such a beautiful "winter" afternoon here in Charlotte, North Carolina. I went for a run this morning and actually wore a t-shirt for the first time in months...and was hot! But it was so beautiful outside. It's 64 degrees. The breeze is blowing. All the windows are open. The sky is a gorgeous, crystal blue color. The sun is shining. There's a daffodil in the front bed that bloomed yesterday morning. The birds are chirping in that special spring-time way that says "even though you haven't been outside yet, you know it's not cold out here." It's such a perfectly delightful day!

It's this kind-a day that is just mercy-abounding. It's just so "clearly seen" that you woke up and His mercies were new to you this morning and His faithfulness is great. It's on this kind-a day that I love a good healthy snack. (continuing our Temple of the Holy Spirit "series" here.)

In the Blair house I am the Smoothie Master. Everyone always wants me to make them smoothies and I love to make them. They're such a yummy, healthy snack. So, I wanted to share my recipe and variations with you so you can enjoy healthy snacks all summer. And hey, they make really great breakfasts, too.

I make my smoothies by weight. We set our blender on a kitchen scale and measure it that way. However, I will give you rough estimates in case you don't have a scale that is blender-conducive. ;)

Smoothie Sonatinas, Opus One

Strawberry Lemonade Smoothies
Makes 2 16-oz. glasses

6 oz. frozen strawberries (between 8 and 10 strawberries)
12 oz. lemonade (about 2 cups)
5 oz. plain yogurt (about 5 tablespoons)
1 oz. honey (just do what looks good :)
5-6 ice cubs I estimate 1 ice cube per oz. of strawberries. But, I do like my smoothies really thick so I usually do more like 10-12 ice cubes. It depends how thick you want it.

Combine all ingredients in a blender. You may need to add more lemonade (do you like them really thick or not?) Blend for about 1 minute. I usually do more like 1.5 minutes but you have to be careful not to overwork it because then it becomes runny. Enjoy!

Smoothie Sonatinas, Opus One, Variation One

Instead of using lemonade, our favorite is orange juice. My sis, Leah is a particular fan of the Strawberry Orange Juice Smoothie Sonatina.

Smoothie Sonatinas, Opus One, Variation Two

Last summer we had fresh blueberries from our garden. I froze 12 oz. of them and made blueberry lemonade smoothies. They were really good. The blueberries gave them a sweet flavor and the lemonade made them sour. It was a really interesting combination. So, for the Blueberry Lemonade Variation use all the same measurements and ingredients (above) but instead of strawberries use blueberries.

Smoothie Sonatinas, Opus One, Variation Three

I also like to put a spoonful of protein powder in my smoothies. There are also other vitamins that you can get in a powder form and throw into your smoothie. I like to do that better when I have a smoothie for breakfast but it really doesn't matter.

Smoothie Sonatinas, Opus One, Variation Four

I have never tried this smoothie but a dear friend of mine loves to make a smoothie using a mixture of frozen fruit, or just plain frozen blueberries, with water and protein powder. That sounds like a good breakfast smoothie.

So, this week, do you have any great smoothie recipes. If you mail them to us at we'll post them this week! Who cares if they sound gross? I'm sure you're thinkin' a smoothie with water and protein powder sounds gross. But it would be fun to post it and see what kind of comments we get. Maybe the whole world loves Spinach Smoothies and you just had no clue! So, come on, mail us your recipes. Then we can all dig in on each other's smoothie ideas and have a great sugar-free, variety-filled summer of smoothies!


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Temples of the Holy Spirit, pt. 1

Good afternoon Talk Time readers. I don't know when part 2 (and any other parts) of this series will come because it was Lily that promised the posts on eating healthy and exercising and Lily has been busy on Facebook, and trying to convince me (and getting no where) that I need a Facebook. Thus, Lily's absence on the blog.

But, I did promise (I think it was in a comment) a post on my new year's healthy resolution. I hadn't really intended to make this resolution, it just sort-of happened....thanks Mrs. Posvar!

So Mrs. Posvar is one of my sweetest sisters at Redeemer, and my Monday morning running buddy. Right after Christmas and New Year's we were running one morning (actually, walking, getting ready to run :) We were talking about all the sugar we had eaten and how unhealthy and "ick" sugar makes us feel. But ya know the problem with not eating sugar? There's no one there to make sure you didn't have that oreo, or that milk shake, or that HUGE bowl of ice cream with TONS of hot fudge sauce. I mean, come on, everybody's doin' it! Who cares?

So while we were "running" and talking about how lacking we are in self-control we just said, "hey, let's go on a sugar-free diet." So, since the beginning of January we've been on our sugar-free diet. We can have dessert on Sunday (it's a day set apart, right?). And ya know, it's not good for your body to completely get rid of something. We just have to learn self-control and have things in moderation.

And of course, there are 3 Blair birthdays in January (all the boys) so I did have a small serving of dessert for each of those days. And for Ethan's birthday he had pizza and root beer and I did have 1 glass of root beer.

It's been great. I feel so much better. Ya know, it's great to come into the kitchen for a snack and to know that you can't have all that unhealthy, sugary stuff. It's easier than I thought it would be. Of course, the past few days everyone's been having ice cream with hot fudge sauce for dessert after dinner and that's just been torture. And the left-over birthday cakes have been brutal but it's easy when you just know that you can't have it.

And it's really fun to come into church on Sunday morning and make our weekly confessions to each other:

"Oh, I had an oreo one day this week."
"Oh good, because I had a handfull of chocolate chips this week and I needed you to balance me out."
So this resolution goes until the Greenville Conference. That's a free-for-all. I mean, come on, I've only been waiting for this conference for a year. And then after the conference I suppose I'll resume the one-dessert-a-week routine.

You guys should definitely join us. Just see how long you can do it. I tell ya, it makes Sunday a sweet day. (no pun intended) It's so worth it, because..."our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit."

Have a great afternoon and enjoy your dessert tomorrow!

Sarah for the Novelteatalkers

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


It's a busy week here at the Blairs. Oh wait, I think every week is a busy week at the Blairs, but anyway....

I just have time for a quick update before I go get ready for my piano lesson:

35 days until the Greenville Seminary Party...I mean, Conference and 168 pages of Calvin to read!

I figure if I read 10 pages a day (50 pages a week) I'll finish by February 28. So far, I'm on track. I just finished my 10 pages for today.

I do hope you are all have a great week. I can't believe we're already half-way through! Just keep counting all His mercies to you...they're new every morning!

In our Faithful Redeemer's grip,